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Commons Chamber

Volume 416: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1945

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 21st November, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o' Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Old Age Pensions (Petition)

Mr. Speaker, Sir, I submit a petition on behalf of the British Federation of Old Age Pensioners Associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Petition is signed by approximately 6,000,000 adults over the age of 21 and calls for the speedy introduction of legislation to ameliorate the suffering and hardships now being experienced by over 4,000,000 old age pensioners.

Wherefore your petitioners pray that legislation should be passed forthwith for the relief of old age pensioners, and of those who may hereafter become entitled to old age pensions, by raising the basic rate of the old age pensions to the extent necessary to meet the essential amenities of life, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Petition to lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

Royal Air Force

Demobilisation

2.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the number of ex-aircrew personnel who have become redundant in their own trade and have been forced to remuster as equipment assistants; if he is aware of the discontent caused by this in view of the fact that by the latest promulgation the release of equipment assistants will only have reached Group 22 by the middle of January 1946, whereas the majority of other trades will be released up to Group 27 by this date.

About 3,075 aircrew have been reallocated to the trade of equipment assistant. They have not been remustered and are therefore released in accordance with their aircrew status—not as equipment assistants. I think that this help to the hard-pressed equipment branch is fully justified.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that there are men who, as the result of war injury, are being remustered from their trades to general clerical duties and so losing their place in the "demob" queue? Will he allow them to retain the "demob" place that they would have had if they had not been remustered as a result of war injury?

There may have been some remustered earlier on when re-mustering was in force; that, of course, has been stopped.

10.

asked the Under secretary of State for Air why, in calculating the period of service in the R.A.F. of those men or women formerly serving as civilians in the meteorological office, a distinction is drawn between those who were given commissions in the R.A.F. and their former assistants who hold non commissioned rank.

Meteorological assistants once called up did not revert to civilian status. The ordinary rules for reckoning service therefore apply to them. Meteorological officers who held civilian appointments have served as mobilised officers or as civilians during war-time depending on their place of work. At one time a meteorological officer might be in the Air Force, later a civilian again. We therefore think it was fair to count all their war-time service in determining their order of release. There were also a few women who first served as civilians in the meteorological office and who later became officers in the W.A.A.F. They were not liable to revert to civilian status as a result of posting and so there was no need to vary the normal rule for them.

11.

asked the Undersecretary of State for Air when he expects that the reallocation of manpower in the R.A.F. will allow complete parity in demobilisation between the different trades.

I cannot say, Sir. That depends on the speed of general demobilisation in the New Year. The faster we are able to go the more difficult it will be to achieve complete evenness between trades.

18.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many men over 40 years of age in groups whose release has been suspended are still overseas serving in the accounts section of the R.A.F.

I am afraid that we could not get these figures without imposing an extra load on those very statistical sections which are already overburdened with work on the release programme. But in all, 2,864 men in the accounts section of the R.A.F. have had to have their release postponed in a greater or less degree.

26.

asked the Undersecretary of State for Air why physical training officers are not allowed to take advantage of the Class B release.

Physical training officers are not barred from Class B releases, and a few have actually been released under Class B. But their rate of release under Class A has had to be somewhat retarded. So we try to find our Class B releases from other trades, in order to help in bringing up the Class A releases of physical instructors to the average.

Has the hon. Gentleman received any representation through the Ministry of Education on the shortage of physical training instructors?

32.

asked the Undersecretary of State for Air what percentage of teachers as meteorological officers have been released under Class B and, taking release as a whole under Class A and B, what has been the percentage loss to the meteorological service and the percentage released to return to other jobs, respectively.

Four per cent. of the teachers who during the war entered the Service as meteorological officers have been released in Class B. Up to the end of November, releases under Classes A and B are 7 per cent. of the wartime entrants. I am unable to divide this percentage between those returning to the teaching professions and other occupations since I have no information as to the jobs to which men released in Class A have returned.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these meteorological officers state that, at both home and abroad, they are more liberally staffed than they need be; and is he aware that a number of these officers are being sent out—who ought to be doing useful work in this country—when they are likely to be demobilised about January, and is not this a waste of time and energy?

The shortage of meteorological officers means serious difficulties in the air trooping programme, and I do not think that the facts bear out the view that there is any overstaffing.

87.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that Transport Command are holding back aircrews from release under Class A after their release groups have been promulgated, and will he make inquiries and take steps to stop this.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply on 14th November to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). These aircrews are, of course, being held under the Military Necessity Clause.

Was it shortage of aircrews which made it necessary for the Prime Minister to travel in an American plane?

Air Trooping Route (Spare Parts)

3.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is satisfied that the supply of aircraft spare parts sited along the air routes between Britain and the Far East is sufficient to avoid delay in the operation of the air transport service on that route; and, if not, what action he proposes to take.

It has been difficult to accumulate adequate supplies of spare parts all along the 5,000-mile air trooping route; but on the whole the services have been maintained.

Can the Minister say whether this reduction in spare parts has reduced the rate of demobilisation? If so, to what extent, and, more important still, has it led to any insecurity in regard to the air transport position on these lines?

No, Sir. The difficulty has been to get the spare parts properly distributed along the long route at the staging posts, and that is certainly one of the things we have had to face in the trooping programme, but safety has certainly not been sacrificed.

Does not the Minister think that any insecurity which arises is much more likely to come from the strain on personnel?

Turnhouse Aerodrome

4.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is able to indicate the future of the aero drome at Turnhouse in relation to the capital of Scotland.

I expect that No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Auxiliary Air Force Squadron will retain Turnhouse as its peacetime home. I understand that the Ministry of Civil Aviation is also examining Turnhouse as a possible civil airport for Edinburgh.

Can the Minister expedite a decision on its possible use as a civil airport, as this matter is one of great importance and interest to the corporation and people of Edinburgh?

Singapore (Conditions)

5.

asked the Under secretary of State for Air whether mosquito nets and bush hats have now been issued to 5714 M & E Flight, R.A.F., Singapore, S.E.A.A.F.; whether he will inquire into the measures taken on 12th October at Tanga aerodrome to establish order in a queue for tea; and whether he will take action in order to improve conditions at this airfield, particulars of which have been sent to him.

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's Question is, "Yes, Sir." I have already told the House that I am well aware of the very rough conditions which met the R.A.F. Units which on the collapse of Japan were diverted to Singapore, and that active steps have been taken to improve matters.

Compassionate Applications

7.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will ensure that disciplinary action is taken against commanding officers who fail to deal promptly with applications for compassionate release from the R.A.F.; and what is the normal time elapsing between the unit's receipt of the completed C Class release application form and the decision of his department.

The average time before we reach a decision on an application for complete Class C release is one month, as reference has to be made to the Air Ministry before release is granted. Temporary release up to three months may be granted locally, while waiting for a decision on complete release. The necessity of dealing quickly with these cases is emphasised in the regulations, and failure to comply with the regulations would, of course, entail disciplinary action.

Is the Under-Secretary aware of the considerable amount of hardship caused by unnecesary delay in handling these matters? Is he also aware of the fact that some of these applications remain at these levels for periods of over two months, and will he ensure that disciplinary action is taken against commanding officers who infringe these regulations?

I think we can only take this up on individual cases, but if the hon. and gallant Member will submit these, I will certainly deal with them.

Is it often the case that the Air Ministry turn down a recommendation that has been put forward by a commanding officer?

I really want notice of that question, but I should imagine it is rare.

33.

asked the Undersecretary for Air if he will give an immediate answer to the relatives of Corporal 1410403, who requested his presence at home on compassionate leave on 22nd October.

The airman concerned is serving in Air Command, South-East Asia. We have referred his case to the Air Commander-in-Chief and have told the airman's mother that the decision reached will be made known to her as soon as possible.

In view of the fact that it is now a month since this request, and that he who gives quickly gives twice, can we have an early decision?

41.

asked the Undersecretary of State for Air at what level in the Service applications for compassionate leave, posting or release can be finally rejected; what standards have been laid down by his Ministry as a guide to those subordinate commanders who have power to reject applications; and if there is any method of appeal against the rejection by an intermediate commander of a compassionate application.

Applications for compassionate leave or posting can be rejected by the applicant's commanding officer; applications for compassionate release only by an air officer commanding. Great care has been exercised in framing instructions for the guidance of R.A.F. officers. I will send my hon. and gallant Friend extracts from these instructions. Anyone who regards himself as wronged by the rejection of a compassionate application may seek redress under the procedure laid down in King's Regulations.

Can the Under-Secretary say what is the right course for a Member of Parliament who has been approached by a constituent whose application for compassionate release has been rejected? What course should I recommend him to take?

The course taken by hon. Members is to write to me, which they do at the rate of 200 a day.

Will the Undersecretary consider increasing the period which can be granted by commanding officers for compassionate leave? That would help considerably.

Personal Cases

8.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will reconsider forthwith the decision announced in his letter of 7th November, regarding the release to his peacetime occupation of Mr. Henry Wright, who, at 52 years of age, three times wounded in the 1914–18 war, and discharged with the loss of part of his right hand as totally unfit, fears that he may lose his peacetime employment to a younger man unless he is promptly released; and why this man discharged from the Army as totally unfit is indispensable to the maintenance of Kelstern aerodrome.

As I said in my letter to the hon. Member, we have always intended to release Mr. Wright as soon as we could find or train another man to take charge of the labourers at Kelstern airfield. Another man is now under training and should be able to take over by the end of the month, thus releasing this experienced rabbit catcher. [Laughter.]

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that because this man is a rabbit catcher, it is no cause of amusement to him that he is being held in the Air Force against his will?

I quite agree that the function of this man is an important one, and we are releasing him.

82.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that 1178084 A.C. Hawkins, G., made five applications through the usual channels before action was taken to secure his remustering to a trade in which he had civilian experience, such remustering having been authorised on 9th May last and that he has now been unemployed for four weeks in a transit camp in the Middle East awaiting a posting to enable him to proceed to a unit stationed one mile from this camp; and whether he will investigate the circumstances of this delay and expedite this airman's remustering.

In spite of an acute shortage of equipment assistants—his R.A.F. trade—this airman was given special permission to be misemployed as a printer, which was what he wanted. I am inquiring into the alleged delay in his posting.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind this evidence that the usual channels do not always work as expeditiously as Ministers hope they will, and will he do all he can really to make them channels and not brick walls?

89.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how far the undertaking given to Sergeant N. E. Carr, R.A.F., Bombay, dated nth September, 1945, a copy of which has been sent to him, has been implemented; and whether he expects to be able fully to implement this undertaking by the end of the year.

Sergeant Carr was sent a copy of the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 22nd August saying that there was a real prospect that the unevenness in the rate of release as between trades would greatly diminish by the end of the year. As I have since told the House, this hope will not quite be fulfilled, although there has been a real improvement, owing to the speed-up of the general rate of release.

By how much does the hon. Gentleman think that his expectations will fall short of his previous undertaking?

It entirely depends upon how much the rate of release can be speeded up.

Jodhpur Station (Incident)

9.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he has yet received a report on the recent refusal of men of a R.A.F. unit in Central India to obey orders and on the action taken in the matter by the authorities.

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, make a statement at the end of Questions.

Later

A report has now been received on the incident at Jodhpur on 13th October. A commanding officer's inspection parade was ordered for 08.00 hours that morning, but when the time came the airmen of two maintenance units stationed at Jodhpur refused to attend this parade and went direct to the technical site for work. The commanding officer sent for 12 airmen to voice the grievances of the men, which they did in an orderly manner.

The airmen had three main complaints:

  • (i) The apparent wide discrepancy between the rate of release in the R.A.F. as compared with the other services as announced by the Minister of Labour on 2nd October.
  • (ii) The quality of the food at the R.A.F. station Jodhpur, where catering difficulties arise owing to the ban on beef in this Hindu State and the fact that frozen mutton and vegetables have to be flown from the nearest ration depot 350 miles away.
  • (iii) What the men considered un-necessary drill parades in an extremely hot station.
  • The commanding officer called upon a detachment of Jodhpur State forces to stand by. This step proved entirely unnecessary, and I much regret that it was taken. There was no hint of violence during the whole incident. The Air Officer Commanding 226 Group visited Jodhpur on the following morning and addressed the men, pointing out the seriousness of their action, but undertaking to represent their grievances in the proper quarter. He also addressed the officers and called attention to their responsibilities. He issued instructions in respect of improvements in messing and arrangements for parades. The airmen were quiet and orderly, stating that they had no mutinous intent but felt bound to draw urgent attention to their complaints. Normal work was resumed on the Monday morning.

    The Air Marshal Commanding Base Air Forces South East Asia is satisfied that no further action is necessary or desirable. I believe that a major reason for the anxiety of airmen in India about release and repatriation has been a lack of adequate information among the men about the progress of the release scheme. As to that I am satisfied that the DEMOBFORM Signals to which I referred in my speech on 22nd October are having a good effect. Another cause of the trouble was undoubtedly the fact that as originally announced the R.A.F.' s rate of release in the New Year did fall several groups behind that of the Army; but that has now been corrected.

    Is it true that armoured cars were employed by the Jodhpur State Forces?

    No, Sir. My information is that they were brought up in ordinary lorries;

    Can the Minister say whether the officer who ordered the Jodhpur State Forces to stand by is still there, or whether he has been replaced?

    Is it not obvious to the Minister that there must have been great neglect of the ordinary interests of these men to cause them to take such action as this?

    I think that misapprehension about the rate of release was the main cause.

    Would not the Undersecretary agree that intelligent leadership at that station would have prevented any such public incident from taking place?

    I cannot judge that, not having been on the spot, but we very much regret the action that was taken.

    Is the Minister prepared to take every proper action in the event of finding that faults were there? Will he remedy them?

    :Does not this incident emphasise the importance of getting on with demobilisation?

    Dependant's Allowance

    12.

    asked the Undersecretary of State for Air, when a man joins the R.A.F., how many persons normally prepare or examine some or all of the relevant papers, before his wife receives the proper allowances; and how many separate operations are required.

    A total of six persons are involved, three at the local unit and three at the Air Ministry. There are six jobs to be done.

    Azores

    13.

    asked the Under secretary of State for Air what are the present functions of the R.A.F. station, Azores; how many R.A.F. personnel are stationed there; and how soon this station is to be closed and these airmen repatriated.

    The Royal Air Force in the Azores provides meteorological, reconnaissance and air/sea rescue services, staging post facilities and navigational aids. Our commitment there is declining, but we cannot give a definite date for closing the station, nor would it be in accordance with present policy to give the numbers of our Forces in particular places overseas. I can, however, say that before long we hope to repatriate the majority of the Royal Air Force who are now. serving in the Azores.

    Can my hon. Friend also give an assurance that there are not now more men there than are needed. to do those special jobs he mentioned?

    What conceivable objection is there to giving the number of men in the Azores today?

    There has been a Government decision that the number of men in particular fields or areas all over the world should not be given.

    Requisitioned Land

    14.

    asked the Under secretary of State for Air if he will consider derequisitioning land on Poplar Grove Farm, North Somercotes, at present used as a football ground, which the owner desires to plough for the growing of corn.

    The final disposal of the airfield as a whole has not yet been decided, but I will see whether we cannot free this piece of land for agricultural use at once. I will communicate with the hon. Member.

    27

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how and to whom his Department makes available airfields which can be used for farming.

    28.

    asked the Undersecretary of State for Air whether he will give an undertaking that, when aerodromes on requisitioned land become available for agricultural use, they will be offered in the first place to the occupier at the time of requisition, and that they will not be put up to public tender until the previous occupier has been given the first refusal.

    When an airfield is derequisitioned the land, of course, reverts to its owners, but at a number of airfields we still hold on requisition temporary arrangements for farming are being made. In these cases we have hitherto put the land up to public tender for letting. We have done this because all the hedges and tenancy boundaries have been obliterated in the making of an airfield, and it would not be practicable to offer the land for temporary farming divided up into its various tenancies. In future such airfields will not as a rule be offered for public tender, but we shall place them at the disposal of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries who will arrange their temporary agricultural use.

    Is this the beginning of collective farming, and the liquidation of the Kulaks?

    Will the hon. Gentleman undertake that, wherever practicable, those whose land is derequisitioned will be given the first choice?

    That is a question of permanent derequisitioning. It comes back automatically to that.

    I was not directing attention to permanent derequisitioning, but I was asking that, where there was temporary derequisitioning for farming purposes, those whose land has been derequisitioned ought reasonably to be given the first choice, where practicable.

    In the case of airfields that have not concrete, but only grass runways, would the hon. Gentleman consider handing them back first?

    Ex-Warrant Officers (Commissions)

    15.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will state the approximate number of ex-warrant officers commissioned who have reached the ranks air vice-marshal, air-commodore, group-captain, wing-commander and squadron-leader, respectively.

    To produce this information would mean at least three days' diversion of men and machines in the statistical section, which is at present working all out on the release scheme. Perhaps the hon. Member would put down his Question again when this special pressure of work is over

    Is the Under-Secretary aware that the pensions of these promoted ex-warrant officers is a matter of great concern to them, and will he have an inquiry made into their conditions of pension when they are released?

    I think I know what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has in mind, and I have asked him to communicate with me on the subject.

    16.

    asked the Undersecretary of State for Air the number of airmen commissioned on or before 3rd September 1939 and of warrant officers commissioned before 3rd September 1939, who are at present in the service, at the latest convenient date.

    One hundred and forty-one ex-airmen and 483 ex-warrant officers who were commissioned on or before 3rd September, 1939, were serving in the Royal Air Force on 1st November, 1945.

    19.

    asked the Undersecretary of State for Air, if he will state the estimated cost of increasing the retired pay of ex-warrant officers promoted to commissioned rank to that of direct-entry officers.

    We cannot give any useful estimate at present, while decisions have still to be taken on the future conditions of service, including pensions, of the Regular Armed Forces. Comparative figures under the old system are not readily available, and in these circumstances I do not think I can add to the information I gave to the hon. and gallant Member in my reply of 7th November.

    Missing Personnel (Far East)

    17.

    asked the Undersecretary of State for Air how many of the 38,000 airmen missing, presumed killed, were engaged in operations in the Far East at the time when they were reported missing.

    Approximately 2,500 members of the Air Force are missing as a result of operations in the Far East.

    Can the Under-Secretary say how long machinery for tracing these men has been functioning, and whether any of them have been found alive?

    The machinery for tracing them is only now getting into its stride—the special search party machinery. I should want notice of the second part of the question.

    Retired Pay

    29.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what is the policy with regard to the settlement and payment of retired pay to Regular officers.

    Our policy is to ensure the minimum interval between the end of full pay and the start of retired pay.

    Aerodromes (Erection Of Buildings)

    31.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether instructions have now been given to stop the erection of hangars on the cliff at St. Mawgen aerodrome; and whether he will assure the House that, in future, both the local authority and local planning committee will be consulted before any such work is put in hand at St. Mawgen or elsewhere.

    Yes, Sir. Moreover, now that the war has ended we shall consult local authorities and local planning committees through the Minister of Town and Country Planning whenever the development of new building sites affects natural amenities.

    Will the hon. Gentleman also consult the appropriate authority in Scotland, because the Ministry of Town and Country Planning does not cover Scotland?

    Siam (Conditions)

    34.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the complaints being received by their relatives from airmen in Siam woth regard to lack of food, soap and boots; that many had not been paid any money for at least five weeks; and what steps are being taken to remove the legitimate grievances of these airmen.

    I am making inquiries, and will communicate with the hon. and gallant Member as soon as we hear from the command.

    In the meanwhile, while these inquiries are being made, does the Minister realise that these complaints are widespread in Siam, and that these airmen, when I got the letter, had not had pay for five weeks, and that they were short of much of the most essential things?

    I would like to say, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, that 22 Questions on yesterday's Order Paper were addressed to us, a great many of them involving inquiries in Siam and distant fields overseas. Almost inevitably I have to give Members the rather unsatisfactory answer that inquiries are being made. If they could give us even 48 hours' notice of putting questions down, we should be able to give them a more satisfactory answer.

    When the Minister finds himself in this position, has he not an excellent Parliamentary Private Secretary who could ask for the Questions to be postponed?

    Yes, Sir. We should be very happy if Members would postpone their Questions when there is a chance of giving them better information if they do so.

    Are we to understand from what my hon. Friend has just said that he only had notice for the first time yesterday of the particular Question which he is now answering?

    Are inquiries of overseas commands made by signal or by overseas mail?

    This Question was put in last Thursday to the Clerk at the Table, and the Minister must have received it last Friday morning.

    Air Defence (Balloons)

    35.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether it is proposed to maintain balloon squadrons of the A.A.F. in the future, and if as a separate command or not.

    This is a question which involves the whole future disposition of the Air Defence of Great Britain. It is a most important question, and I cannot give the hon. and gallant Member a definite date.

    Can the Undersecretary say whether it is proposed to make any statement on this matter in advance of the general statement on Defence policy by the Government, or whether it will be made as part of the general statement?

    The question is whether balloons are to play a part in the Air Defence of Great Britain. I cannot give any notice that an advance statement will be made on that subject.

    Of course I do not know. The right hon. Gentleman does not know either.

    Auxiliary Air Force

    36.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is now able to make a statement about the future status of the A.A.F.

    The squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force are in process of reverting to their auxiliary status and plans are being considered under which they would form a substantial part of our first-line air defence within an operational command. As and when squadron commanders have been appointed and headquarters opened, announcements will appear in the Press.

    Is the Minister aware that a statement appeared in the Press six months ago on this subject, and that the Government are losing many volunteers who want to give their services to the country? Will an early decision be made?

    We are well aware of the importance of an early decision on this matter. It is, of course, involved in the whole shape and disposition of the postwar Air Force. We hope to be able to make a decision at a very early date.

    Students (Exchanges With United States)

    39.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether, in the interests of Anglo-American co-operation in the air, it is proposed to continue the exchange of students between R.A.F. and American staff colleges.

    As the hon. and gallant Member is aware, there are a number of American officers at the Royal Air Force Staff College and several Royal Air Force officers are attending the Staff College course in the United States. The future of these arrangements is under the consideration of my Noble Friend.

    Staff College Course

    40.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what plans have been made for the future development of the R.A.F. staff colleges.

    The wartime Staff College course has recently been extended from three months to six months. We intend to return to the full normal course as soon as possible, and plans to this end are being developed. We are in touch with the War Office and Admiralty with the aim of ensuring the maximum coordination in training of staff officers for all three Services.

    Can the Under-Secretary tell us what the present position is with regard to finding a permanent home for this Staff College?

    We regard that as a matter of great importance, and we are certainly pursuing it.

    Iceland

    44.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that 250 airmen in an airfield construction squadron, consisting of skilled and semiskilled building-trade workers, are engaged in maintaining an airfield in Iceland which is now used by few aircraft; and how soon these men, or most of them, are to be repatriated.

    Accounts Clerks (Training)

    84.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many accounts clerks have finished their training in the past three months to replace men whose release has been postponed in spite of their age and length of service; and how many more, is it anticipated, will have completed their training in the next three months.

    The figures are 1,413 for the last three months. They will be 1,760 over the next three months.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that there is still great feeling amongst accounts clerks, and is it possible to speed up training above the figures he has announced for the next three months?

    I am well aware of the feeling among accounts clerks; the hon. Member keeps me informed and is quite right to do so, and we are doing all we can. It is the most hardpressed section of the Royal Air Force.

    Instructors (Training)

    85.

    asked the Under-secretary of State for Air what is the percentage of trainees who pass the courses on organisation and method at the R.A.F. school of training at Cosford; how many men are now under instruction whose demobilisation group is 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30, respectively; and what are the reasons for sending men in these low demobilisation groups for training as instructors when they expect to be demobilised within the next few months.

    An average of 85 per cent. of the trainees pass the Instructors Technique Course at Cosford. None of the men now under instruction is in Group 26, 28 are in groups 27–30. We urgently need instructors and so we must train all suitable men even though their period of service may be limited.

    Tropical Kit

    88.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether it is still the policy of the R.A.F. to issue Wellesly helmets to airmen as part of tropical kit when embarking for India and collect them again on disembarkation.

    Air Travel Permits

    25.

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what system is in operation to decide who is entitled to priority permits to travel by air where services now exist.

    The allocation of space in British air transport services is the responsibility of the Air Priorities Board which is under the joint chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and myself. Its members include representatives of the Board of Trade, the Foreign Office and the other interested Departments.

    Will the Under-Secretary agree to look into the position to see that this air space is allocated in proper priority?

    I assure the hon. Member that we do look into that at every meeting of the Board, and spend many hours allocating it. There is very heavy pressure on it, and it is extremely difficult to allocate priority to the best advantage.

    Would the hon. Gentleman make clear, what is not clear in his answer, to which Member of the Government Questions on this matter should be addressed, and whether they should be addressed to him or the Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Aviation?

    Surely that cannot be the position. Are we not entitled to know what Minister to address on matters of official policy?

    Would the hon. Gentleman make it clear that the Board of Trade covers the Department of Overseas Trade as well?

    Bills (Explanatory Memoranda)

    45.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will give instructions that all Bills of a technical character shall have a clear statement in layman's language stating the purpose the Bill is intended to accomplish; and to have it printed with the Bill in every case.

    I have been asked to reply. As the hon. Member is no doubt aware the practice of the House imposes certain restrictions on the character of the explanatory memoranda which may be printed and circulated with Bills, and such memoranda are subject to revision in the Public Bill Office. It is already customary to circulate memoranda of the kind referred to with Government Bills whenever it is thought that an explanation within the permissible limits will be of assistance to Members. It seems, therefore, unnecessary for me to give instructions on this subject.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that only last week a Member of the Government who was responsible for a certain Bill in this House, gave an. explanation, and then, when the Bill got upstairs, he had to apologise because he had not given the right interpretation of it? If the Government do not know their own Bills how are other people expected to know?

    Demobilisation System

    47.

    asked the Prime Minister whether in view of the dissatisfaction in the Forces, industry and the general public, he will move for the appointment of a Select Committee to review the existing demobilisation system, to report on the causes of delay and to make recommendations to expedite the release to industry and civilian life of a larger number of Service men and women than are at present scheduled.

    No, Sir. Decisions on these matters should be taken by Ministers responsible to Parliament.

    Can we be assured that the Prime Minister is quite satisfied with the method of working of the demobilisation scheme, or has he some other method of reviewing it?

    There are plenty of methods of reviewing it. The only question raised in this Question was whether it should be dealt with by a Select Committee of Parliament. The view of my right hon. Friend is that that would be unwise.

    Surely because a Select Committee of Parliament is only appropriate when the House of Commons is gravely displeased with His Majesty's Government?

    We have no reason to believe that the House of Commons is gravely displeased with His Majesty's Government. What we do know is that the hon. Gentleman is displeased with his own Front Bench.

    We have no reason to believe that the House of Commons is gravely displeased with His Majesty's Government. What we do know is that the hon. Gentleman is displeased with his own Front Bench.

    War Leaders (Thanks)

    48.

    asked the Prime Minister in what way His Majesty's Government have conveyed their gratitude to the British Service chiefs for their leadership of the Armed Forces during the world war of 1939–45.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) on 8th November, in which I said that the gratitude of this House to the principal leaders of our Armed Forces was expressed in the Motion of Gratitude to the Forces which was passed on 30th October.

    Would the right hon. Gentleman consider following the excellent Socialist example in the Soviet Union of not only congratulating its generals for each individual victory in special Orders of the Day, but also giving large money grants to their families?

    We have considered this matter, and, with regard to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, we considered that this was inappropriate. It has been done in times past, but we considered that it was inappropriate at the present time. I also consider that in a war which involved almost the whole of the population, general thanks are better than making particular distinctions in which there is always a danger of leaving out some individuals.

    When the right hon. Gentleman uses the term "at the present time" does he mean that the situation is not finalised and that His Majesty's Government are still open to consider suggestions on this matter?

    No, Sir. With regard to money grants, I was taking it as referring to the present epoch in which we are today, rather than any future time.

    I would point out that the matter raised in this Question was the subject of Debate about a fortnight ago.

    High Sheriffs (Nominations)

    49.

    asked the Lord President of the Council from whom nominations are received for the office of high sheriff of a county; and if he will consider the desirability of making it possible for future nominations for this and other high and honourable offices to include those from all sections of the people.

    The names of persons submitted for nomination as high sheriff under the Sheriffs Act, 1887, are proposed in the first instance by the serving high sheriff. While I sympathise with my hon. Friend's wish that in the case of appointments of this nature, persons from all sections of the community should be available for nomination, I must point out that legislation would be required, at any rate in the case of high sheriffs, and I can hold out no prospect of such legislation being introduced for the time being.

    Eastern Europe (Evacuation)

    .50.

    asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what reports he has received from the Allied Commission as to the rate of expulsion from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary; and whether he is now satisfied that these expulsions have stopped, in conformity to the terms of the Potsdam Conference.

    About four-filths of the emigrants crossing into the British zone of Germany from the East are people who were evacuated during the war and are now returning to their homes in the West. The remaining fifth consists of people who, though formerly domiciled in the East now want to go to western parts of Germany. Of these, again a small fraction comes from the countries named in the Question, and, so far as the British element of the Control Commission are aware, none of those now crossing into the British zone have been expelled from their countries of origin.

    Really, that is not an answer to my Question. Has the attention of my hon. Friend been drawn to the statements this morning from the Allied Control, and is he satisfied that the Allied Control themselves are satisfied that, having regard to the circumstances of the winter and the number of people milling about with houses to go to, the proposed evacuation expulsions now announced will be carried out humanely?

    The Question asked what reports have been received from the Allied Commission. I have given the reports received up to the last minute today. I have also indicated that, while there are people moving into our zone, four-fifths of these are returning evacuees.

    Are we to understand that information has apparently been given out to the Press by the Allied Commission, but not to His Majesty's Government?

    I have not seen the information in the Press. I have given the information received from our authorities this morning.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is not concerned so much about displaced persons as about displaced landowners?

    Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Potsdam Agreement in regard to this issue has been broken or not?

    If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will read the answer, he will find that point was answered. If I may give the answer again in clearer terms, so far as our information goes the terms of the Potsdam decision are being followed.

    Can my hon. Friend give us any help in determining the source of this continual flow of highly mischievous rumours, which on inquiry turn out to be untrue?

    Food Supplies

    Profit Margins (Wholesalers)

    53.

    asked the Minister of Food if he will reconsider those profit margins allowed to wholesalers which on certain classes do not cover distributive costs.

    I have no information to suggest that any group of wholesalers is receiving margins which are not adequate to cover the costs of their businesses necessarily incurred in distributing the commodities for which I am responsible.

    If I produce some specific cases will the right hon. Gentleman look into them?

    I am always willing to look into any case that the hon. Gentleman will send to me. I am perfectly willing to go into it.

    If I give the Minister information to the contrary, will he also look into that?

    Sardine Tins (Openers)

    55.

    asked the Minister of Food whether he will in future arrange for key openers to be provided with the quarter pound tins of sardines imported into this country.

    I am afraid that it is not possible to arrange at present for a key opener to be provided with each tin of sardines. I hope, however, that keys may soon be available.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of tins of sardines recently imported are still on the shop shelves owing to the natural reluctance of the housewives of this country to attack them with a hatchet?

    Fish Prices

    56.

    asked the Minister of Food when he proposes to announce the winter schedule of fish prices.

    As the Minister made this arrangement six weeks later than he did last year, and as the winter prices represent a considerable advantage to the fishermen, will he make the new prices retrospective?

    Allocations

    57 and 63.

    asked the Minister of Food (1) whether, in connection with the quantity of food and. equipment which has been placed in the girls' school in St. John's Parish, Worcester, and which was to be used in case the building was required as a rest centre, he will give the necessary authority to the local authorities to utilise these foodstuffs, which are now deteriorating, with special regard to the food shortage both at home and abroad;

    (2) whether, in connection with the quantity of food and equipment which has been placed in the girls' school in St. John's Parish, Worcester, and which was to be used in case the building was required as a rest centre, he will now give the necessary authority to the local authorities to utilise these foodstuffs.

    These foodstuffs were taken into the Ministry's general stocks on 9th November, 1945.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to tell the House that these foodstuffs are no longer deteriorating as indicated in the Question?

    The right hon. Gentleman wishes to convey the correct answer to the hon. Member, and that is that they were returned to my stocks on 9th November.

    There still seems to be a good deal of it there now. It is very disturbing.

    62.

    asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that, consequent upon the removal of large numbers of the population from various towns in England and Wales, the amount of food being allocated to these towns is now excessive; and what action he is taking to reallocate these supplies.

    Rationed food supplies are automatically adjusted to population trends. I have no evidence that manufacturers and other distributors of points rationed and unrationed foodstuffs have not adjusted their distribution in accordance with population movements. If my hon. Friend has in mind any particular commodity, I shall be glad to cause investigations to be made.

    Is that adjustment made by the manufacturers or by the Ministry?

    Tomato Imports

    58 and 59.

    asked the Minister of Food (1) why he will not grant trading licences to importers of Canary Island tomatoes, with a view to solving the existing deadlock in the buying and disposal of these tomatoes, which is preventing promised supplies from reaching this country;

    (2) whether he is aware that importers are willing to buy Canary Island tomatoes on the Spanish authorities' terms, but unwilling to agree to the proposals of the wholesale trade obliging importers to sell all tomatoes through a monopoly of wholesalers who will take no risk; and what steps he proposes to end this position and fulfil his undertaking to supply tomatoes this winter.

    In deciding whether to grant licences to would-be importers of Canary Island tomatoes, I am advised by a committee of the trade. The great majority of the trade are of opinion that tomatoes should not be purchased on the terms hitherto offered, and I do not share the view of my hon. Friend that the present deadlock could be satisfactorily solved by the grant of trading licences to a small number of importers who are willing to operate on these terms.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that under the present arrangements the importer who is also a wholesaler makes a gross profit of £250 per 1,000 boxes of tomatoes, whereas firms who are only allowed to import can only sell at cost and must also bear any losses due to wastage, and will he reconsider the matter?

    Gift Poultry, Northern Ireland

    60.

    asked the Minister of Food why there is a prohibition applied to Northern Ireland alone against dispatch of poultry as a gift without licence when above seven-pound weight; and whether, in order to avoid discrimination, he will cither apply it to the United Kingdom as a whole or rescind it.

    I prohibited the despatch from Northern Ireland, except under licence, of gift poultry weighing more than 7 lbs., to ensure that the largest possible number of Northern Irish turkeys become available to consumers in Great Britain through retail shops. It would be impracticable to impose a similar restriction on gifts of poultry produced in Great Britain in the absence of any bottleneck such as is afforded by the Northern Irish ports. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

    Does not the Minister know that the Ministry of War Transport control the railways and that the Post Office control the post, and that it is perfectly practicable, therefore, to put on this control? Is he not aware that otherwise there is an unfair discrimination against Northern Ireland people, where his party will have fewer friends than there are turkeys.

    Soap Rationing

    61.

    asked the Minister of Food if he is now able to dispense with the modification of soap rationing recently announced, as this imposes additional clerical work upon the trade.

    No, Sir. While I appreciate the volume of extra work involved, I am afraid that it will be necessary to maintain the recent changes in soap rationing so long as soap is in short supply.

    Is not the Minister aware that if the industry could get a few more men it could produce enough soap?

    The hon. and gallant Member is no doubt quite aware that oils and fats are among the things which are in the shortest supply in this country at the present moment.

    What steps is the Minister taking to secure that oils and fats which previously went to the armaments industry are made generally available?

    Fish Frying Fats

    64.

    asked the Minister of Food whether supplies of frying oils and fats have improved sufficiently to enable him to increase the present ration to fish caterers in the near future and particularly to ex-Servicemen who have been granted licences to commence this type of business but who are finding it difficult to make a living on the present allocation for such new licences.

    There is no prospect of an early increase in the quantities of oils and fats allocated to fish friers. Any ex-Serviceman who has been granted a licence to open a new business receives an allocation of fat which, I am advised, is sufficient to ensure a reasonable living.

    Is the Minister aware that the allocation permitted to ex-Servicemen having a licence justifies them in opening only on two nights per week, when they may be surrounded with fish caterers who are open for four or five days a week?

    An ex-Serviceman, being granted a licence to open a new business, gets 56 lbs. of fat per week. I am assured that that is sufficient for an annual turnover of £1,000.

    An annual turnover of £1,000? How on earth can a man make a living on a gross turnover of £1,000 a year?