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Commons Chamber

Volume 433: debated on Tuesday 18 February 1947

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 18th February, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Road Transport Industry (Petition)

I beg leave to present a Petition on behalf of a large number of persons in the Northern Traffic Area against the nationalisation of the road transport industry. The Petition has been signed by 22,752 persons. The Prayer of the Petition is as follows:

"We, your Petitioners, numbly pray your honourable House to reject any proposals which may hereafter be submitted to Parliament for approval, or for legislation with the object of replacing private enterprise in the provision of road transport by a nationalised, or Government-controlled system of trans. port, and your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray "
To lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Pensions

Surgical Boots (Repair)

1.

asked the Minister of Pensions what facilities are available to disabled ex-Servicemen to have their surgical boots and shoes repaired free of charge, particularly in cases where special skill is required in carrying out the repairs.

Normally, when a pensioner finds that his surgical boots or shoes require repair, he sends them to my regional office. They are then sent to the makers, who carry out the necessary repairs. During the war, provision was also made whereby certain repairs, which do not necessitate interference with the surgical features of the boots or shoes, can be carried out by any local firm. The account is paid direct by my office, or it may be settled by the pensioner, who may then claim a refund.

What steps is the Minister taking to inform ex-Servicemen interested of this scheme?

It did receive a fair amount of publicity when it was started during the war. As far as I know, most of the men are aware that it exists.

Personal Case

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions why the widow of 236887 C.P.O. Louis Lake, late R.N., who died of his pensionable disability on 14th March, 1938, has had her claim for a widow's pension rejected, Ministry of Pensions reference No. 8/N/1946.

When it was decided that the widow of a man who died as a result of war service should be eligible for pension although the marriage took place after the disability was sustained, it was explained that the arrangement would apply to deaths occurring from 3rd September, 1939, onwards, but that any further measure of retrospection was not possible. In the case in question, the marriage took place after discharge, and the pensioner died early in 1938.

Does the Minister consider it fair that widows of men disabled in previous wars should be worse off than those of the last war, particularly as, being older, their need is often greater? Is he satisfied that the present position should continue?

We saw this difficulty when this was given, and we discussed it, and decided that we could only go back to the beginning of the last war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It was considered administratively impossible to go back nearly 30 years.

Prisoners Of War

Arrests, Witney

3.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will now make a statement on the circumstances in which four German prisoners of war, working at Bicester, were arrested at Witney, attempting to sell motorcar tyres to a civilian.

As the hon. Member was informed by letter, these German prisoners were arrested by the civil police as they were making their first attempt to sell to a civilian four tyres, stolen from the ordnance depot at Bicester. The prisoners were to have been tried on 6th February, but the trial has had to be postponed until tomorrow.

What reason is there for postponing this trial? The facts seem to be quite clear.

I cannot answer that without notice. But it is a very short postponement, and the trial is taking place tomorrow.

Repatriation

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the concern of the people at the detention in this country of approximately 350,000 prisoners of war some 19 months after the cessation of hostilities; that the present scheme of repatriation of 15,000 per month will compel those captured in 1944–45 to remain in this country for long duration; and if he will consider repatriation of all married men in the immediate future and so allow families to be reunited.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War on what date he expects to increase the rate of repatriation of prisoners of war from this country from the present figure of 15,000 a month to 30,000 a month.

The present scheme of repatriation is on the basis explained in the Government's statement of 12th September, 1946. It was decided that priority of repatriation should be based on political and economic factors and length of captivity alone, with provision for special compassionate cases. There is no intention at present of changing this basis. Similarly the rate of repatriation will continue for the time being at the present rate.

As my hon. Friend has not answered Question No. 20, may I ask him when the Government propose to increase the number to 30,000 a month, which is the rate desired by the Control Commission in Germany? Is he also aware that the feeling of the vast majority of people in this country is that prisoners of war should be returned home before the end of this year?

If my hon. Friend will read the answer I have just given to him, he will see that I did answer his Question in my last sentence. With regard to his second supplementary question, that is a matter of opinion.

In the case of prisoners of war who are likely to remain in this country for some years, will the hon. Gentleman consider using them in industry? Will he also consider bringing their families to join them here?

I am not aware of any prisoners of war who are likely to stay here for some years.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that I am still balloting daily for the Adjournment on this subject?

On a point of Order. May I join with my hon. Friend in saying that I shall seek an opportunity to debate this matter on the Adjournment? It is most unsatisfactory.

Restrictions (Relaxations)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War, what further relexations he is contemplating of the regulations regarding German prisoners of war in this country.

As my right hon. Friend explained to hon. Members last week, he is considering the possibility of further relaxation of restrictions, but details cannot be given at present.

Will my hon. Friend continue to bear in mind the use of public transport, as these men have difficulty in getting back to their camp by dusk, when they have been invited out for a cup of tea?

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the five mile limit operates most inequitably between those stationed near a town and those who are stationed further in the country, and will he see if anything can be done to overcome this handicap for those who are stationed in the country?

European Relief (Subscriptions)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will alter the present regulations so as to allow German prisoners of war to raise money for European relief, if they wish, rather than for their own welfare funds.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the first part of the reply given to the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) on 3rd December, to which I cannot usefully add anything.

Snow Clearance

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many commandants of prisoner-of-war camps in Norfolk were asked by the county surveyor for prisoner labour to assist with clearing snow-blocked roads during the past fortnight; how many supplied prisoners of war and how many refused; and for what reason was the refusal, seeing that the prisoners were unable to do agricultural work.

Two commandants of prisoner-of-war camps in Norfolk were asked to supply labour for road clearance and both did so. None refused.

Toft Hall Camp

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many prioners of war are detained in Toft Hall Camp, Knutsford, Cheshire: and what are their nationalities

There are 1,516 prisoners of war held at Toft Hall Camp, claiming 26 different nationalities. Ninety-five per cent. of these prisoners of war are German, or of German racial origin, with residential qualifications in the countries to which they wish to return

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the prisoners of war themselves complain that they belong to 38 different nationalities, and that the majority of them were pressed into German service against their will? Will please hurry with the examination of their individual cases?

British Army

Personal Cases

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that 2014492 Lance-Corporal Hickson has not received any pay for his rank; that the matter was referred to him by the commanding officer, R.E., Leicester, last May, and by the Grimsby British Legion on 6th December; that to neither communication has an acknowledgment been sent; and if he will expedite the consideration of ex-Servicemen's grievances.

Lance-Corporal Hick- son was not entitled to extra pay, as his appointment was that of local unpaid lance-corporal. It was explained to him at the time that the appointment was made purely to give him added authority in dealing with various units, and that he would not be eligible for additional pay. He signed a declaration that he understood these conditions. There was at no time any question of his being made a paid lance-corporal, and there was no vacancy for such an appointment in the war establishment of the unit. I regret the fact that the British Legion's letter was not acknowledged, and the delay in dealing with the representations, which was due to movement of wartime accounts to a central office.

Quite apart from the merits of this case, is it not making grievances seem worse to ex-Servicemen when those grievances are not looked into properly? Will the hon. Gentleman see that this is looked into promptly in future?

I recognise the implication of the question. There was no unreasonable delay in this case at all. I am sorry that the letter was not acknowledged. But Lance-Corporal Hickson was perfectly well aware of the situation the whole time.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for War when the hon. Member for Ladywood can expect a reply to his letter of 16th January as to whether the sentence of three years' penal servitude imposed upon 2198535 Sapper F. S. Hadley, R.E., C M.F., on 13th August, 1946, has been reconsidered, in the light of the domestic circumstances, particulars of which were forwarded to him on 4th October last.

I understand that Sapper Hadley has now been released from prison and is awaiting posting. As soon as confirmation is received a reply will be sent to my hon. Friend with any further details available.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see that Members of Parliament get more prompt answers to their letters?

I do not think that is fair of my hon. Friend. A considerable speed-up in answers to hon. Members has been achieved in my Department; but I am bound to say that hon. Members' letters to me do not seem to be decreasing.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is yet in a position to give a decision in the case of 7620810 Craftsman Westhead, details of which were brought to his notice by a letter. dated 23rd October, 1946.

Craftsman Westhead's petition has now been fully considered but I am satisfied that no legal grounds have been disclosed for interfering with the convictions.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I received a letter from him, dated 21st November, informing me that the petition was being considered, and 11 weeks later I received another letter stating that the petition was still being considered; and does he not think that the 11 weeks which have elapsed is a long time even for the War Department?

I think the main burden of my hon. Friend's Question was whether a decision has been arrived at. A decision has been arrived at.

Is the Minister aware that I wrote to him about this matter in November, that this man has been serving his sentence all this time, and letter after letter has been sent; and does he now tell this House that it is an adequate explanaation merely to say, "We have come to the conclusion that the matter is not worth considering," without giving any reasons at all?

I do not like discussing these matters publicly, but, as my hon. Friend has asked me, I can tell him that I find no reason to interfere with this sen tence of two years' hard labour which was imposed for stealing machinery.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I asked this Question because I waited 11 weeks for the petition to be considered?

Colour Bar

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he can now state the result of his discussions with the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for the Colonies regarding the abolition of the colour bar against applicants for Regular engagement in the Army and the R.N.

The discussions are continuing but I cannot say when conclusions are likely to be reached.

Are these discussions going on fairly continuously, or just occasionally—once a month or something like that?

Water And Fuel, Long Marston

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the unsatisfactory conditions prevailing in the camp at Long Marston, near Stratfordon-Avon, the supply of water for washing and fuel for heating being particularly inadequate; and if he will cause these conditions to be investigated thoroughly and improved.

Some time ago we thought that it would be possible to abandon this camp, but it is still needed. Consequently considerable improvements that were necessary were put in hand and are still being carried out, particularly in connection with the water supply. We have had no complaints of unreasonable shortage of fuel for heating though naturally the greatest economy is being exercised at present.

Officers (Permanent Rank)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War the policy of the Army Council regarding the continuation, or otherwise, of temporary and war substantive rank of officers; and whether it is proposed to grant any form of higher permanent rank to those who did specially good work in the temporary rank held by them and who are not yet due for substantive promotion.

The question of adapting the wartime rules governing the grant of temporary and war substantive rank to present circumstances is being examined at the moment. We do not propose to grant any higher permanent rank to officers who have done specially good work in temporary rank but such good work is of course taken into account when selections are made to fill appointments.

Is it not about time that this matter was definitely settled, and a decision come to upon it? Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great dissatisfaction and the numberless heartburnings that occurred after the 1914ȓ18 war, when temporary rank had to be relinquished, and will he not take into consideration the possibility of a judicious use of brevet rank, in order to reward these officers?

Of course, we have given consideration to that. It is precisely because of the mistakes which were made last time that we are endeavouring to work this matter out very carefully on the present occasion.

Is it not most undesirable that an officer who has held a rank and provided the pay for his family for many years, should suddenly be reduced in this way?

The problem is that we have to provide a career in the Army for the number of senior officers who can get to the top. It really cannot be dismissed in the manner which has just been suggested

Italy (Leave)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, when the peace treaty with Italy is signed, troops now stationed in that country will be granted United Kingdom leave before reposting abroad.

Not necessarily, Sir. Some men with only a short time still to serve will be posted to this country. Others will be posted according to our requirements and the time they still have left before qualifying for repatriation or release. Some may pass through this country on their way to other theatres and receive leave here, but this will not always be the case.

In order to mark the somewhat unobserved Treaty of Peace with Italy, will my hon. Friend consider giving special leave to certain men who have served for long periods?

No, Sir. There are already arrangements whereby men who have had long service overseas in those circumstances can get leave, and I do not think that it would be an appropriate way to mark the peace.

Land Requirements (Wales)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War why he could not supply the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, on 4th February, information as to land requirements in Welsh counties, in view of the fact that the Public Relations Department of the Western Command gave this information on 3rd February which was broadcast in the Welsh Regional news that evening.

the land requirements of the Services are at present under discussion by the Interdepartmental Committee, and in many cases are also being examined in conjunction with local authorities and other interests. Until this consideration is complete and its results have been examined by the Cabinet, no useful purpose would be served by announcing details of the various proposals made. The publication in Western Command of certain provisional proposals affecting that command was premature and is regretted.

Will the hon. Member indicate when the Government will be in a position to give these figures? Is he aware that a national conference has been arranged in Wales by the Welsh Parliamentary Party, and that we should like to have them before that date?

As there is a Question on the Order Paper to the Prime Minister this afternoon, the question could perhaps be left until then.

Can the information given in that statement now be regarded as correct?

Will my hon. Friend say whether that statement which appeared was true or untrue?

The statement cannot possibly be true as it stands, because the whole matter is being considered. It may well be that some previous information of our hopes may have been published, but whether those hopes will be met is another matter altogether.

Before my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend decide finally, will they consult the representatives of Wales in this House?

31.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of acres of land it is proposed to acquire permanently for battle training in Breconshire; how much they now hold permanently; how much of the total acreage is enclosed land; how much is included in the proposed National Park; how many acres are classed as good agricultural land; and how much of it was cultivated during the period of the last war.

As has already been stated the whole question of Services land requirements is under consideration and it is not yet possible to give particulars either for the country as a whole or for individual counties.

Can my right hon. Friend advise me how my constituents can give evidence before the inter-Departmental Committee and local enquiries unless they get this information?

I think the existing machinery gives every possibility for the local people to know precisely what it is that the War Office or other Service Departments may want.

I could answer that question but I am afraid Mr. Speaker would not allow me to occupy the time of the House by giving the information now.

If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to give the figures because the matter is under consideration, can I ask why the Public Relations Officer of Western Command has issued the figures to the Press?

That has not been brought to my notice, but. it would be quite irregular if he had done so.

Owing to the extremely unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Leave Centre (Düsseldorf)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War on what date it was decided to make Düsseldorf a leave centre supplementary to Brussels; and whether this proposal has now been abandoned.

The decision was taken on 23rd May, 1946. The proposal has not been abandoned.

My Question was addressed to the Secretary of State for War. Might I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that grave concern is felt by people in Germany at this decision to herd into a devastated area a joy centre which is much better kept in Brussels?

With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I am to be regarded as a plenipotentiary. In reply to the second part, the project has not been abandoned but it has a very low priority, and is not likely to be carried out in the near future. It is being re-examined in conjunction with all welfare activities.

Will my hon. Friend make that clear to the Germans, who are very concerned about it?

Will the Minister resist the persistent efforts of certain Members of this House to deprive the occupying British troops of the reasonable amenities to which they are entitled?

Dump Horley

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that since October the Dorking and Horley Rural District Council have been trying to get building materials released from his Department's dump at Horley as these materials are urgently required for the council's temporary housing programme on Horley Garden Estate; that they have now been informed that his Department do not now intend to release any of these materials; and if he will get this decision revised in view of the urgent housing needs of the district.

The surpluses referred to in my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member on 8th October have been disposed of and the dump now contains only component parts of hutting and camp structures and some cisterns which cannot be released since they are required for military use. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works that the surpluses already disposed of were unsuitable for the needs of the Dorking and Horley Rural District Council.

Troopship, "Dunera"

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will inquire into the conditions on the ss. "Dunera" which sailed from India on 9th January and arrived here on 29th January; what was the ship used for prior to this voyage; how many men were on board; how were they fed; why was there such a contrast between how the officers were treated and the men; how many officers brought their wives; and how many servants were on board.

H.M. I. "Dunera" is a vessel specially constructed and fitted for trooping service. and, before the voyage in question, she had been employed on trooping duties in the Indian Ocean. On the voyage to the United Kingdom she carried 354 cabin and 1,345 troopdeck passengers from Bombay and a further in cabin and ten troopdeck from Port Said. According to the official voyage reports, regulations governing the feeding and accommodation of officers and men in troopships were duly complied with and no complaints are recorded, but if my hon. Friend has any special points which he wishes to bring to my notice. I will have further investigations made. There were 19 accompanied and ten unaccompanied officers' wives No servant. were embarked

Departmental Stationery

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War what total stocks of stationery and envelopes are held by his Department.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to stocks held by the War Office itself as a Department of State, as distinct from stocks held by units and establishments of the Army at home and abroad. The total is about 100 tons.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the increasing difficulty experienced by civilians and business organisations in getting supplies of stationery at present and in ordering, further stocks?

Personal Cases

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether 3654359 Private J. Gerrard, Border Regiment, is still under arrest; under what circumstances he was arrested as an alleged deserter after his release from the Service under Class A; whether there is any proof of delivery of papers requesting return to his unit; how long the coalmining in dustry has been deprived of his services; and, in the case of wrongful arrest, what compensation is payable.

As the answer is long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

Private Gerrard is a Regular soldier who, while on a seven years' engagement, was convicted of desertion in February, 1945, and forfeited his previous service. His Colour service therefore is not due to expire till February, 1952. In June last year he was erroneously sent on release leave, clue to expire on 22nd September. The mistake was noticed and action to recall him taken in July. He did not report and was in December arrested by the civil police Whilst in open arrest he absented himself but returned to his unit on 11th January.

He was tried on two charges of absence without leave. the first for the period from the date of his recall from release leave to 7th December and the second for the period from 24th December to 11th January. The first charge was dismissed as there was no proof that he had received the recall notice, which had been sent by ordinary post. On the second charge he was admonished and forfeited 19 days' pay. There is no question of wrongful arrest in this case, nor of the coalmining industry being deprived of his services since he was a Regular soldier before the war.

Woodhall Spa Camps

28.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he now intends to evacuate Woodhall Camp in Lincolnshire; and, if not, for what purpose it is proposed to use this camp.

There are two camps at Woodhall Spa. Roughton Moor and Kirby Moor. Both camps are occupied by the Polish Resettlement Corps, and no date for the release of these camps can be given at present.

Complaints

29.

asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of complaints and grievances coming to his Department from soldiers come through Members of Parliament and newspaper channels.

I have not available separate figures of soldiers' complaints included in the total correspondence received from hon. Members and newspapers or from other sources.

Requisitioned Houses, Northern Ireland

32.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many private residences in Northern Ireland are still occupied by the military authorities.

When will these houses be released in view of the housing shortage in Northern Ireland and the reduction of military personnel?

We have effected a considerable reduction. There are only ten left. I will do my best to get rid of them as soon as I can.

Flame-Throwers (Snow Clearance)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many flame-throwers are at the Army's disposal in Britain; what consideration he has given to their employment for the clearance of snow and ice-bound tunnels and roads; and what action has resulted.

Experiments in clearing snow and ice have been carried out but the results were not encouraging. The equipment which is in this country, however, is available for further experiments or assistance if required.

Brigadier De Winton (Murder)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any statement to make regarding the murder of Brigadier R. W. M. de Winton, commanding 13th British Infantry Brigade, at Pola, on 10th February.

As hon. Members will have heard, Brigadier de Winton was murdered on 10th February I take this opportunity of expressing my sincere sympathy with his relatives in their sad loss. I am awaiting the results of investigations that are being made locally into this dastardly crime.

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny the report which appeared in at least one newspaper, to the effect that information was received that an incident of this sort was likely to occur; and, further, can he inform the House what representations have been made to the Allied Control Commission, who, presumably, are responsible for the administration of law and order in that area?

With regard to the first part of the question, I can neither deny nor confirm it at the moment. I hope to get full information shortly. I should like notice of the second part of the question.

Territorial Officers

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers holding T.A. commissions were commanding T.A. armoured corps, artillery and infantry units on 3rd September. 1939; and, of these, how many were commanding the same units on 1st July, 1940, and how many had been promoted to the rank of brigadier by that date.

To obtain the information asked for would involve considerable research and reference to records. Which I feel could not be justified in present circumstances.

How has the right hon. Gentleman been able to come to a decision whether or not he should appoint Regular officers to the Territorial Army in the future, if he has taken no account of these figures?

The difficulty at the moment is to get the number of gentlemen who can give the time that will be necessary to fill these positions. For the moment we have had to appoint Regular officers. Later on I hope it will be possible for gentlemen who have had previous war service to assist us.

Bearing in mind the right hon. Gentleman's answer to a previous Question in connection with the maintenance of temporary rank, would it not help to solve his problem if he appointed many of the large number it lieutenant-colonels there are at present to command some of the Territorial units?

I do not think that arises from this Question, which asked for certain information which I am unable to give.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it will not be too easy to recruit men to these Territorial units after this change is made, if these units do not possess officers recruited locally, and will the right hon. Gentleman do his best in that direction?

Yes, Sir. I realise the difficulty to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has drawn my attention.

Dutch Troops (Training)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War the numbers of Dutch officers and men who were trained in Britain during 1946; how many are being trained at the present time; and how many of them have left this country for Indonesia since the signing of the truce in November last.

One thousand five hundred and twenty-five Dutch officers and 9,312 other ranks were trained in this country during 1946, and 28 officers and 201 other ranks are being trained here at present. No Dutch troops have been sent direct from this country to Indonesia during 1946 or 1947.

Could my right hon. Friend say why we are giving facilities for the training of Dutch troops for their war against the Indonesians, and how much it is costing the British taxpayer?

The answer is that it is not for that purpose at all. Some of these young men joined the British Army during the war and want to complete their training.

Indonesia (British Arms)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give the amounts and kinds of arms left by the British for the Dutch in Indonesia; and what arms are now being provided by this country.

Arms of the appropriate natures were provided for Dutch units in Indonesia on a normal basis for a force of all arms numbering about 62,00o. We are in the process of providing similar arms for a further 19,000 Dutch troops. It would be impossible, without an excessive amount of work, to separate the arms that were supplied in the Far East from those that came from stock in this country.

Could the right hon. Gentleman now answer the supplementary question which he did not answer earlier, namely, what is the cost to the British taxpayer of our supplying and furnishing a Dutch Army to fight the Indonesians?

If my hon. Friend will put down a Question, I will endeavour to supply him with that information.

Polish Forces

General Anders (Pay)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the amount of the monthly payments made by the Government to General Anders by way of personal salary; from what funds are these payments made; how long is it proposed to continue the payments; and what is the purpose of the payments.

Like other Polish officers and soldiers still in the Polish Land Forces, who served the Allied cause well during the war, General Anders is receiving the pay and allowances of his rank (£88 12s. a month) pending arrangements for his resettlement. The payments are made from Army Votes.

As it has now been established that General Anders is the head of a private army, which has no statutory authority, is it not about time that this payment was discontinued?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the General Officer Commanding in Italy considered that we could not have. won the war in Italy without the help of General Anders? Is it not a pity that such personal matters should be raised in this House?

Arms

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether all members of the Polish armed forces and resettlement forces have been disarmed.

I am looking further into the question of retention of arms by other Polish troops.

Screening

40.

asked the Secretary of State for War what happens to Poles who are screened on seeking enrolment in the Resettlement Corps and are thereupon found to be unacceptable because of their Fascist sympathies.

It is only applicants to, commissions in the Polish Resettlement Corps who are screened before enrolment. No decision has yet been made about the future of those who are found to be unacceptable.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are no Poles with Fascist sympathies, that the term is absolutely improper, and that they are only loyal to their oath to the President of the Republic—to the legitimate President of the Polish Republic?

Resettlement Corps (Numbers)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of Poles in the Polish Resettlement Corps on the latest convenient date and the percentage thereof who have already applied for British citizenship.

On 1st February. 59,50o Poles had enlisted in the Resettlement Corps, and the figure is now rather over 62,000. I regret that I have no figures available of the number of applicants for British citizenship.

Prime Ministe (Australian And New Zealand Invitations)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he proposes to visit Australia and New Zealand during the current year.

The Australian and New Zealand Governments very kindly invited me last summer to visit Australia and New Zealand. I had hoped to do so during the summer Recess, but the pressure of affairs was so great at that time that I had, with keen regret, to inform Mr. Chifley and Mr. Fraser that I should have to postpone my visit. Mr. Chifley and Mr. Fraser most generously kept this invitation open, and it is my earnest hope that I may be able to pay this visit. I am sure, however, that the House will realise that, in view of the urgent pressure of affairs both at home and abroad, it is very difficult for me to suggest at present any firm date for the postponed visit to Australia and New Zealand. I should like to take this opportunity of saying how deeply I appreciate these invitations and how much I am looking forward to visiting the two countries.

Displaced Persons (Employment)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the shortage of skilled labour in many branches of industry, he will arrange for a parliamentary mission to visit U.N.R.R.A's. displaced-persons camps in the British zone in Germany at an early date, to form an impression of the potential labour available.

No, Sir. I do not feel that such a mission is necessary, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is proceeding, in association with my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to set up an organisation in the British zones of Germany and Austria for the classification and selection of displaced persons against opportunities of employment in this country.

Does not the Prime Minister think that it is a great pity that this organisation about which he has just told us was not set up many months ago?

Tree Felling Licences

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the dissatisfaction within the industry with the arrangement whereby the Board of Trade controls felling licences and issues schedules of maximum prices which may be paid for homegrown timber; and if he will arrange an early transfer of these powers to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the exercise of these powers by the Board of Trade is working out in exact opposition to the declared forestry policy of the Government-, as explained to the House by the Minister of Agriculture some months ago?

That is not my information. My information is that the Board of Trade keeps in touch with the Forestry Commission.

Fuel Emergency (U S Offer)

49 and 50.

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he intends to avail himself of President Truman's announcement made in Washington on 13th February, that he is willing to do everything in his power to relieve the present crisis in this country due to the coal situation; and

(2) if he will convey the thanks of the British people to President Truman and the people of the U.S.A. at the President's offer made in Washington on 13th February, to do everything in his power to relieve the present crisis in this country due to the coal situation.

The hon. Member will doubtless have seen my message of 14th February to the President of the United States, in which, while feeling hound to decline his offer to divert colliers to this country, I expressed the warm appreciation of His Majesty's Government for this spontaneous and friendly offer of help.

National Finance

Old Age Pensioners (Investments)

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the interest on capital that is allowed in determining the means of an applicant for an old age pension under the Act of 1936; whether he is satisfied that this rate is reasonable; or what steps are being taken in connection with it.

The rules for calculating means are prescribed in the First Schedule to the Act. As regards the second and third parts of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply on 24th January to the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield).

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer say what those rates of interest are, and whether they are justified in present circumstances?

Yes, Sir. Of course, these figures relate only to the non-contributory pensions, where the whole cost is paid by the taxpayer, and, in such cases, it is not unreasonable that a person who possesses means should be required to pay some of them into a life annuity.

But where the applicants have the misfortune to be railway stockholders, is their reduced income taken into account?

Can the Chancellor say whether there is, in fact, any relationship at all between the assumed yield of investments for the purposes of this calculation and the actual yield of Government stocks at the present time?

The arrangements are laid down, as I have said, in the first Schedule to the Act. [HON. MEMBERS' "What are they?"] Well, it can be read in the Act, and I could read it out, but it is readily accessible. The first £25 of capital is disregarded, the yearly value of the next £375 is taken as 1/20th of the capital value, and any excess over £400 is taken as one-tenth of the capital value.

Smuggling Of Money (Confiscation)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will explain the circumstances under which a sum of £65 was appropriated and confiscated by the Treasury from Mr. M. H. McMurtrie, an ex-Serviceman who had served throughout the war, on the occasion of his repatriation to Brazil in March, 1946.

This man was caught trying to smuggle money out of the country, contrary to the Defence (Finance) Regulations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this money was, roughly, the amount of this man's Service gratuity, and is it not a very savage punishment to inflict upon him to seize this money without any process of law, and, apparently, without any right of appeal?

No, Sir. I think that this is a thoroughly bad case. The man had £65 on his person, and, when asked, he said he had £4. He told a lie, and the money was forfeited—I think quite rightly.

Is it not human nature to err, and can the right hon. Gentleman search his heart and say that he has never gone through the Customs and made a false declaration?

No, Sir. I would not make any extravagant claim of that kind, but I think that, if I was caught as this man was caught, I should deserve to get what he has got.

Us Loan Drawings

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the estimated increase, expressed in percentage, in the volume of exports in 1947 as compared ' with 1938, necessary in order to avoid the exhaustion of the U.S. loan by 31st December, 1947.

Even if there was no increase, the loan would not be exhausted by 31st December, 1947, in the purchase of the agreed import programme.

Non-Sterling Areas (Debts)

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer at what monthly rate this country is incurring further debts abroad in non-sterling areas.

About £30 million, including our drawings on the American and Canadian credits.

Tax Offices (Lighting)

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent modern office lighting has now been installed in tax offices dealing with Pay As You Earn; whether this has resulted in increased output from the same staff; and to what extent this and similar proved business efficiency methods are now being preferred to the employment of additional staff as a means of reducing arrears of work.

I hope to improve the equipment of tax offices as supplies become available. Experiments in improved lighting have already been undertaken in several offices.

Sterling Balances

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to prevent countries within the sterling area from using their accumulated sterling balances in London for the current purchase of British goods.

This question is being covered in our negotiations on sterling balances.

Is the Chancellor aware that, during the last financial year £100 million of sterling balances held by Indians have been used to buy British assets in India?

if the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to have the information checked, I shall be glad to do so.

Can the Chancellor say to what extent the countries to which we owe money at the present time have been able to use their balances for the purchase of goods on current account during the last year?

That is a statistical question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would put it down.

Anglo-Argentine Agreement (Us Representations)

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations, and on what dates, he has received from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in protest against the clause empowering the Argentine Government to dispose freely, within the sterling area, of its sterling balances in the event of a balance of payments un-favourable to the Argentine.

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he reconciles the answers given to questions by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire and the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) on 5th November, 1946, in the last Session of Parliament, that he had received no representations on the subject of the Anglo-Argentine Economic Agreement from the Government of the U.S.A., and that no understanding had been reached between this country and the U.S.A. as to how we were to deal with our sterling obligations, with Mr. Snyder's letter of 31st October, 1946, protesting against Section 10 (ii) of the said Agreement, and his subsequent reply, released to the Press by the Treasury on 5th February.

I would refer the hon. Members to my reply to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) last Tuesday.

Purchase Tax (Invalid Carriages)

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will remove the Purchase Tax from a type of invalid car, to which his attention has been drawn, so as to bring it into line with other vehicles, such as invalid and motor chairs, for the disabled.

All invalid carriages are exempt from Purchase Tax, but all private cars are liable, and I could not make an exception for one particular car.

Is the Chancellor aware that the particular vehicle to which I have drawn his attention is designed solely for disabled men, and is not an ordinary motorcar at all?

If it can be classified as an invalid carriage, it is already exempted from Purchase Tax, but, if it is a car, what I might call a dual purpose car, which could be used by a fit person as well as by a disabled person, then, I am afraid, it has to fall under the tax.

Iraq (Reparations)

64.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount that has been claimed by His Majesty's Government from the Government of Iraq to cover reparations and occupation costs.

Compensation for losses to British subjects in 1941, amounting to £120,000, was received and distributed. Iraq being an Ally, no question of military occupation arose.

Does not the Chancellor consider that since our Forces, irrespective of the question of occupation, did, in fact, take charge of this country to prevent it falling under German sway, the least the Iraq Government can do is to pay their fair portion of the war costs?

That might be argued because the Raschid Ali revolt took place in May, 1941, and, in respect of that, there are ascertainable compensation claims which have to be met.

Palestine (Defence Expenditure)

65.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount that has been claimed by His Majesty', Government from the Palestine Government to cover that country's share in the expenses incurred by this country in the defence of Palestine.

The Government of Palestine contributes £42,797 a year towards the cost of the Transjordan Frontier Forces. It also meets the cost of the Palestine Police, the cost of the Cyprus camps for illegal immigrants, and expenditure on making good property and compensating individuals in connection with terrorist outrages. I am considering with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Palestine should make any further contribution to the cost of keeping order in that country.

Will the Chancellor bear in mind that the Palestine Government should certainly bear their fair share of expenses incurred by the British Eighth Army?

Arising out of his original reply, can the Chancellor say whether the term "property" includes railways?

I should expect so, but perhaps the hon, and gallant Gentleman will let me look it up.

Latin America (British War Claims)

66.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what counter-claims on war balances have been submitted to those Latin-American States which joined the United Nations at a late date, and which benefited from neutrality at the expense of the war effort of this country.

I am not sure what States the hon. and gallant Member has in mind, but, in all negotiations about sterling balances account must be taken of the comparative war effort of the parties.

Territorial Army Allowances (Tax)

67.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the pay, the training expenses allowance and the annual bounty, recently announced for the T.A., or any of these, will be subject to Income Tax.

Is the Chancellor aware that this may be a great drawback to recruiting for the Territorial Army, and will he state whether it is proposed to levy this Income Tax by means of the P.A.Y.E. system, and, if so, who is to keep the accounts and who is to make the deductions?

We do not want, of course, to impose any drawback on recruitment, but, as a matter of fact, I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that expenses in this case, as in the case of civilian employment, are such as would naturally fall under the tax. We have been anxious not to discriminate in any way and, as I have said, I think that he will find that that is the arrangement. As to the method of payment, perhaps he will put down a Question, to which I will let him have an answer.

Banks (Opening)

68.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider instructing the banks to close temporarily on Saturdays to save fuel transport and eyesight.

No, Sir. The saving would be negligible, and there would be great inconvenience to the public.

In view of the fact that paying-in at banks in variably takes place during the hours of the electricity restriction, would the right hon. Gentleman consider classifying banks as essential services?

Postwar Credits (Repayment Cost)

69.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will expedite the payment of Income Tax postwar credits to elderly people and to those who have been forced to retire from active employment by ill-health.

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what total of postwar credits has been paid up till 1st February, 1947.

Payments of Income Tax postwar credits for 1941–42, 1942–43 and 1943–44 have been made to men over the age of 65, and women over 6o, during this last year. Some 1,700,000 people have been paid amounts totalling about £56,000,000. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) would not expect me to anticipate my Budget Statement.

In view of the long delay in conferring the benefits of Socialism upon these old folk, might we not do our best to give them the refunds due to them from the outworn capitalist system?

Motor Taxation

70 and 71.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he will substitute, in place of the present cubic capacity tax on private motor-cars, a flat rate tax of £5 per annum, per vehicle, with an increased tax on petrol;

(2) what recommendations he has recently received from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, or from the Motor Advisory Council, concerning alteration of the present system of tax on private motor-cars; and if he will publish such recommendations.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has received a report from the National Advisory Council for the motor manufacturing industry which he has communicated to me and the other Ministers concerned. It is now under consideration. My hon. Friend will not, of course, expect me to anticipate my Budget Statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is by far the best Chancellor of the Exchequer this country has ever had and, therefore, much more likely to introduce this much overdue reform than were any of his less capable predecessors?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the motor trade generally is in favour of the revised form of taxation mentioned by my hon. Friend?

I will promise to give the matter careful consideration, but it would be wrong for me to give any definite undertaking at the moment. I am a little embarrassed with the speed with which the spokesmen of the motor industry change their minds.

In his consideration, will the right hon. Gentleman pay more attention to the views of the motor industry than to the flattery of his hon. Friends?

Taxicabs (Purchase Tax)

75.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider removing Purchase Tax from taxicabs, which are now the only public conveyance so penalised.

Civil Service

Manpower

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to put a check on increases in the Civil Service.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) on 19th December, 1946.

Is the Chancellor aware that the only hope of stopping this appalling increase is to stop socialised control?

I am afraid that decentralised control often takes up even more personnel. We are watching the matter very closely.

Disabled Ex-Servicemen (Dismissal)

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why disabled ex-Servicemen from this war, employed as civil servants, have to take their chance with other able-bodied civil servants for dismissal due to redundancy, when those from the 1914–18 war are the last to be dismissed; and why the agreement made in 1946 to employ only 3 per cent. Service disabled men in Government Departments was not brought before Parliament.

The order of discharge of redundant temporary civil servants is governed by a National Whitley Council Agreement. This embodies the pledge in favour of the ex-Servicemen of the 1914–18 war, but disabled ex-Servicemen from the recent war are not discharged if this would bring the percentage of registered disabled persons in any Department below the figure of 3 per cent. laid down under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944. 4.9 per cent. of Government staffs are registered disabled persons.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, if the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944, definitely says that ex-Servicemen are to be given priority in employment, they should not be given priority to keep employment if there is any necessity for dismissals?

I think that that would be rather straining the word "priority" We are all very anxious that there should be a sufficient proportion of disabled men in Government employment, and, as I have indicated to the hon. Member, we arc at present, I am glad to say, well above the maximum.

Does the right hon. Gentleman apply the same principle as that applied by the Minister of Supply in the case of ex-Servicemen, that is to say, last in first out?

In View of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply to my Question, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Railway Clerks (Wage Claim)

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the Railway Clerks' Association is now demanding a 35-hour week with £1 increase in wages; and what would be the effect of granting this concession upon the purchasing power of the£.

In view of the great need for increased output, would the right hon. Gentleman call the attention of the trade union leaders to the unpatriotic demand at the present time for a 35-hour week?

We must not cross the wires. That is a matter primarily for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. At the moment, of course, it is a hypothetical question.

Is the Minister aware that the unattractive conditions in the railway industry account for the large number of men leaving the service at a time when they are vitally necessary to the transport system and to the country?

Trade And Commerce

Football Pools (Paper)

77.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action is now being taken by his Department to ensure that the undertaking given to him by certain football pool proprietors not to exceed 2½ per cent. of their prewar paper consumption is being observed; and how many of the existing football pool firms did not give such undertaking arid are not bound by it.

In reply to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him on 16th October last. As regards the second part, so far as paper consumption is concerned, we have no record of the number of pools in operation, but the undertaking is obtained from all pool promoters for whose requirements paper is licensed. In the case of promoters who do not obtain paper by way of licence, no such undertaking is obtained.

Am I to assume from my hon. Friend's reply that, so far as the vast majority of football pool firms in this country are concerned, my hon. Friend's Department has no assurance whatsoever and no agreement of any kind to restrict the amount of paper they are able to purchase?

Yes, Sir. These small pools are not licensed to acquire paper and, therefore, they acquire it from merchants who supply it from their stocks. We have no information on the amount they have.

Is it an intended or an unintended result of the Government's policy that football pools are now our most prosperous industry?

South-West Ports (Traffic)

78.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish a list showing the total imports and exports each year to and from Newport since 1932, divided into any convenient classification.

Details of trade into and out of Newport for 1932 and 1938 will be found in Volume IV of the Annual Statement of Trade of the United Kingdom for the years 1936 and 1938. Figures for the war years are not available, and those for 1946 have not yet been compiled.

Mr. Freeman