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Commons Chamber

Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 15th April, 1947

The House—after the Adjournment on 3 rd April, 1947, for the Easter Recess—met at Half-past Two o'Clock.


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For the County of Durham (Jarrow Division), in the room of the right hon. Ellen Ciceley Wilkinson, deceased.—[ Mr. William Whiteley.]

Private Business

Felixstowe Urban District Council Bill

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

Forth Road Bridge Order Confirmation Bill

Considered; to be read the Third time To-morrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Armed Forces (Voluntary Re-Enlistment)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many men demobilised since the end of the war from each of the Services, respectively have subsequently voluntarily re-enlisted in the Army.

Approximately 12,500 men released from the Army since the start of the release scheme have since voluntarily re-enlisted in the Army. Figures for men released from the other two Services who have re-enlisted in the Army are not readily available.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that in the circumstances 12,000 is a sufficient number?

No, Sir; on the contrary, I am very dissatisfied. I wish I could get more.

Is the Minister satisfied that the terms of service and the various attractions that can be given to the men are sufficiently publicised in the Army?

Yes, Sir. We are taking very comprehensive and wide steps to make known the conditions of re-enlistment.

British Army

Letters To Members Of Parliament


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that under company orders exhibited at 240 Training Regiment, R.A., Tonfanau, Merionethshire, North Wales, soldiers are forbidden to write to their Members of Parliament without the permission of the commanding officer; and if he will take steps to remedy this.

Instructions were given orally to the men in this Training Regiment that letters to their Members of Parliament should be passed through the commanding officer, who would add his remarks before forwarding the letters. These instructions were incorrect, and I have taken immediate steps to have them cancelled.

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of several decisions by this House that soldiers are free to write to hon. Members, the impression is still very widespread in the Army that they are not so free, and will he take steps to make it plain to every soldier that he can write to his Member?

If the hon. Member had an opportunity of looking at my postbag from Members of Parliament themselves, he would readily understand that soldiers are under no illusion about their right to write to Members.

Education Corps


asked the Secretary of State for War what is the present strength of officers and men in the A.E.C.; and how many of each category are now being trained in addition to these.

The present strength of the R.A.E.C. is approximately 400 officers and 1,14o other ranks. In addition 25 officers and 380 other ranks are now being trained for transfer to the R.A.E.C. and arrangements are being made for the further training of 65o officers and 2,800 other ranks in the Army schools of education and instructional wings of Army colleges at Home and overseas during the 12 months started 1st April, 1947.


asked the Secretary of State for War what medical and other conditions are required for officers and men wishing to serve in the A.E.C.

All applicants must be fit for service at home or overseas. Officers must possess at least one of the following qualifications: a degree of a British university, or a qualification accepted by the Army Council as equivalent; recognition by the Ministry of Education as a qualified teacher; outstandingly successful experience under the Army Education Scheme. Other ranks must have qualified for admission to a British university or possess some other qualification accepted by the Army Council as equivalent; in exceptional cases evidence of outstanding work under the Army Education Scheme may be accepted.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that he is likely to obtain the number of recruits that he proposes for training in the current financial year?

Yes, Sir, I think so. These figures rather indicate that I ought to be able to get them.

Overseas Personnel (Newspapers)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that newspapers produced and edited overseas for the use of British troops serving overseas are presenting a fair picture of home and foreign affairs free from political bias.

Can it be, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman is too easily satisfied, and will he say whether the officers who run these newspapers are appointed from a political or a purely military point of view?

They are certainly not political appointments. We have no politics in the Army.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, by way of testing this, take in the "Morning News" from Austria every day and then tell me whether he is of the same opinion?

I will certainly take an opportunity of looking at some of these newspapers.

In view of the answer which the Minister has just given, will he kindly instruct M.I.5 that there are no politics in the Army?.

Dangerous Explosives


asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent there is still danger to the public and to children from unexploded bombs, drifting mines and exposed ammunition.

About 230,000 acres of land in this country are still retained owing to the presence of explosives. Notices round the perimeters warn the public of the danger of interfering with objects found in the areas. As regards drifting mines, this is a matter for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. Some ammunition is still stored in roadside dumps which are regularly patrolled by mobile guards. These dumps will be cleared as soon as possible, but owing to shortage of manpower this will take some considerable time.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the Charnwood Forest district of Leicestershire these roadside dumps are spread all over the area, that there is very little evidence of supervision, that serious incidents have occurred, and that it is impossible to keep children under constant supervision in a great natural playground like this? Would he take special steps to clear up the problem as soon as possible?

I am endeavouring to do so, but the more I am pressed to release personnel from the Army, the more difficult becomes my task of clearing these ammunition dumps.

Can the Minister say whether it would be possible to take the fuses out of ammunition which is stored by the roadside, as that would help?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it will be 1951 before the dumps in Perthshire are removed?

I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for that information. I was not aware of it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of the ammunition on roadside verges has been removed because it is dangerous, and has been placed in the vicinity of houses? Will he take action about it?


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will direct that the clearing of the Penmaenmawr-Aber area of unexploded bombs be expedited so as to be completed by 1st June instead of 30th August as previously announced in view of the fact that thousands of holiday makers and overseas visitors are expected during the summer in this tourist district.

I regret that I cannot undertake to have this area cleared by 1st June or indeed give any precise date for its release, although every effort will he made to clear it and other similar areas with the minimum delay. The clearance of these areas depends entirely on the availability of the necessary skilled labour, of which the Army's resources are extremely limited.

When the Minister refers to "similar" areas, does that include the area in Norfolk called the Battle Area of Whetting?

I do not know, but I know it includes a very large area in my constituency which I cannot get cleared yet.

What steps have been taken by the Secretary of State for War to clear away unexploded bombs from the neighbourhood of Ebbw Vale?

We are making every effort we can to clear every area of exploded and unexploded bombs, but unexploded bombs can be so deep that they are of no danger to anybody unless they go digging down to find them.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I call your attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is reading a newspaper?

On that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I think you know what is contained in this newspaper, and that I propose to raise the matter immediately after the end of Questions. I hope, therefore, you will be satisfied that there was neither discourtesy to you, nor breach of Order.

Personal Cases


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the case of 117727 Private M. A. Andrews, who was recently discharged but made application to rejoin the R.A.O.C. in order to complete his 12 years' service; that he was turned down because of some temporary unfitness; and if he will make inquiries and see whether he can allow this man to be re-examined medically at a later date.

Mr. Andrews was medically examined last November and again during March at his own request. Unfortunately, he was on both occasions found to be definitely unfit for re-enlistment and I am afraid that no useful purpose would be served by examining him again.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider the claim of Mr. William Amos, details of which have been sent to him, in respect of an accident on 14th September, 1946, as a result of which the driver of a military omnibus was convicted for carelessness; if he is aware that Mr. Amos's solicitors have been informed that it is the duty of all claimants to minimise their losses and that he has been offered £30 for necessary repairs estimated to cost more than £80; and whether he will accept liability for payment in full.

On 22nd March an offer of £80, without prejudice to the question of liability, was made to Mr. Amos's solicitors, who have refused this offer orally, but have not so far confirmed their refusal in writing or indeed formulated their client's claim in detail.

Short Service Commissions, West Africa


asked the Secretary of State for War what is the average length of time taken to deal with applications for short service commissions sent in by officers stationed in West Africa Command.

Applications for short service commissions are not maintained by separate theatres or commands, and it is not, therefore, possible to state the average time for applications received from officers serving in West Africa Command.

Is the Minister aware that cases have arisen where these applications have not been dealt with until nine months afterwards? Will he look into this particular matter?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be good enough to give me particulars of any of these cases, I will certainly look into them.

Court-Martial, Port Said

15 and 16.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) if the peti- tion of Corporal Stannard against his conviction for mutiny at Port Said in December, 1946, has yet been heard and with what result; and whether the hon. Member for Silvertown will now have an opportunity of reading the evidence submitted at the court-martial;

(2) if he is aware that, at the courtmartial of Corporal Stannard, charged with mutiny at Port Said in December, 1946, defending counsel was alleged to have refused to call essential witnesses for the defence although requested to do so by the accused man; and whether, in view of this and other allegations, he will have the whole conduct of the court-martial proceedings personally investigated.

I have not yet heard the result of Corporal Stannard's petition against his conviction and have called for a report from M.E.L.F. on this and on the points referred to in my hon. Friend's second Question. I have taken steps to expedite the report and will write to my hon. Friend when it has been received. The Proceedings of Trial have been kept in M.E.L.F. pending review by the Commander-in-Chief. I do not wish to divert them until the overseas Command have completed their action, but they will be reviewed on arrival in this country. As I have already informed my hon. Friend, I will consider letting him see them when I receive them.

Sheets And Pyjamas


asked the Secretary of State for War to make a statement on the issue of sheets and pyjamas to soldiers.

Enough sheets have been sent to tropical stations to enable all British troops there to be provided with them. Sheets are being made in Germany for Rhine Army. It is the intention to provide sheets for all troops at Home, but, unfortunately, the supply situation will make this impossible for some considerable time. Pyjamas will be provided for all British troops as soon as enough can be produced. In the meantime the fairest method of distributing the very limited quantity at present available is being considered.

Permanent Commissions (Ex-Officers)


asked the Secretary of State for War if the regulations have now been amended to enable ex-officers over 35 years of age to be eligible for permanent commissions in the Army.

As I indicated in reply to an earlier Question by the hon. Member the possibility of allowing released officers to apply for permanent commissions in certain cases was being reexamined. The decision has been taken that such released officers shall only be eligible to apply for permanent Regular commissions if they have first been granted short service Regular commissions. The reason for this decision is that it is considered inequitable to the candidate, who is still serving and who intends to make the Army his career, that he should have to compete for a permanent commission with candidates who have returned to civil life and wish to come back to the Army. In any case an officer over 35 would not be eligible for a permanent commission in one of the fighting arms except in very special 'circumstances.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why his policy is different from that of the Air Ministry, which gives permanent commissions to men who have been in civil life and come back into the Service?

It may be that my particular Service is a little different from that of the Air Ministry.

Is the Secretary of State for War satisfied that he can get all the permanent officers he wants for the Army without adopting the suggestion made in the Question?

I think—and I hope I am not being unduly optimistic—that in time we shall get all the officers we shall want from the young age groups.

Would my right hon. Friend look at this as far as the Army Educational Corps is concerned, where a number of older officers are leaving the Service because they feel that their Service commission is not sufficient for their permanent needs and, if they could take a Regular commission, they would now probably stay in the Service?

There, again, I am not pessimistic about the situation in the Army Educational Corps, but, at any rate, there is no age limit in respect of that Corps.

Military Tattoo, Berlin

20 and 21.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he has authorised the preparations now being made in the British zone of Berlin for a Grand Military Tattoo lasting four days to be held in August, 1947; how many man hours of training time will be spent in B.A.O.R. in the next three months in preparation for this event; and how many officers and men will take part;

(2) how many special trains it is proposed to run between Hanover and Berlin for spectators of the Grand Military Tattoo to be held in August, 1947; and how many tons of coal will be needed for this purpose.

I am aware of the proposal to hold a tattoo in Berlin from 11th to 16th August. I have called for the particular information asked for by my hon. Friend and will communicate with him when I have it. The financial proceeds of the tattoo will be devoted to the welfare of German children.

Is not this proposal a gross wastage of manpower and resources? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Will not the Secretary of State reconsider it, and adopt some better policy for the troops in Germany at the moment?

No, Sir. I think it will be conducive to morale and discipline,. and I know from my own experience of the result of a similar tattoo in Austria that not only was it popular with the Army, but it was widely popular among Austrians as well.

Will the Secretary of State deny that it is proposed to run a number of special trains, and to use German rolling stock and coal for this purpose?

I am not in a position to deny that, but it is a piece of information which I will try to ascertain for my hon. Friend.

Prisoners Of War

Hospitality (Undesirable Contacts)


asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been called to the fact that a number of British Fascists have recently been sentenced to terms of imprisonment for helping escaped German prisoners; and if he will consider circulating to commandants of camps a list of active members of Fascist organisations, instructing them that it is undesirable that offers of hospitality to prisoners should be accepted from such persons, or take other steps to ensure that his relaxations of the regulations concerning prisoners are not abused in this way.

The answer to the first part of this Question is "Yes, Sir," but this fact cannot be attributed to the permission given to prisoners of war to accept offers of hospitality, since the prisoners of war in question escaped and were harboured some months before the relaxations were introduced. Everything possible will be done to ensure that prisoners do not make contact with undesirable persons and particular houses are already. in appropriate cases, put out of bounds, but, of course, the increased freedom now allowed to prisoners of war necessarily involves some risk of their making undesirable contacts.

Screening Categories


asked the Secretary of State for War how many men there are in each category resulting from the screening procedure applied to German prisoners of war.

7,600 have been categorised as A, 240,600 as B. 32,000 as C. and 1,000 as C plus.

Ukrainians, Italy (Guards)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many British troops are employed guarding Ukrainian prisoners of war in Italy.



asked the Secretary of State for War how many German prisoners have so far indicated their wish to remain in this country as free paid workers; how many have been granted permission to do so; and for which industries and trades such recruitment is being considered.

As stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge), the possibility of allowing some prisoners of war to stay in this country as free agricultural workers is being studied, but a detailed scheme has not yet been fully worked out and consequently the number of prisoners of war who would wish to take advantage of it is not known.

Have they so far been asked if they would remain? Has any inquiry been made whether they will stay?

The procedure is that a prisoner is not invited to stay in this country until his turn comes round for repatriation to Germany.

In view of the importance to the individual farmer of having a particular prisoner who has worked well with him, could this be expedited before they leave?

Although this is not a matter for my Department, I should have thought it would be possible for a farmer through his war agricultural committee to make application for a particular prisoner of war if the prisoner of war is desirous of staying.

Can the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a conference in the localities between the commandants of the camps, the farmers' unions and the agricultural committees on this matter?

Until the details are worked out by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Labour, I think that would be a little premature.

Would the Minister consider taking a census of the prisoners of war in this country with the object of finding out how many are willing and anxious to remain here as free workers?

I must know the conditions under which they will be permitted to stay before I can take that census.

Can the Minister make arrangements whereby prisoners of war who have signified that they are anxious to stay in this country, and whom farmers in the localities are prepared to employ, are not moved to some other district?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much better work will be got out of prisoners of war if they can have some certainty about this?

My information and experience go to show that most of these prisoners want to go home.



asked the Secretary of State for War how many German prisoners have been repatriated, or are to be repatriated in the immediate future, in accordance with the assurance given by his Department on 15th February to the hon. Member for Maldon, because their continued detention is anomalous in view of their previous release or of unfulfilled promises of release; what percentage of the total number of claims made in this category these repatriations represent; and if he is satisfied that no reasonable claim has been rejected not only at camp 180 but also at camp 29 and other camps.

1,300 of these prisoners of war have already been repatriated and 400 will sail this month; the balance of 250 will follow later. Eighty-eight per cent. of claims of this nature were allowed and I am satisfied that no reasonable claim was rejected. No claim has been submitted from camp 29.

Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to look into the position at camp 29, because I gather that there are several hundred men there in exactly the same kind of situation?

I will do what I can, but I should have thought that the initiative should come from the prisoners themselves who know what their rights are in this matter.

Is it not possible, With all respect to my right hon. Friend, that though they know their own rights in camp 18o, which is a special type of camp, they may not do so in camp 29?

Very well, Sir; I will endeavour to do my best to see that the prisoners of war in camp 29 know all their rights.

National Insurance

Old Age Pensions


asked the Minister of National Insurance when Mrs. M. E. Butler, pension No. 03474675, Mr. W. G. Cogger, pension No. 08404445, Mrs. F. B. Foot, pension No. 33831098, and Miss Florence Rose, no pension number, all of South sea, and about whom the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South, has previously made representations, may expect their old age pensions or new pension books as the Case may be.

As I have already informed the hon. Member by letter, the first three cases have already been satisfactorily cleared. The fourth, on which difficult issues arise, is still under investigation, and as promised, I will write to the hon. Member again when inquiries have been completed.

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that the last case has been going on for eight months? Surely, it could be hurried up?

Yes, I appreciate that. It is a difficult case, and we are making exhaustive inquiries to try to give it personal attention.

Is the Minister aware that Portsmouth, South, is by no means the only place where people have not got their pensions books, and that every Member of Parliament gets some half-dozen letters a week on this very sad subject? Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House when this is going to end, and when those people who are entitled to pensions books will have them?

As far as that is concerned, I would refer the hon. Member to the very full and comprehensive statement made by my right hon. Friend on 11th March.

Approved Society Membership (Applications)


asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that some approved societies have refused applications for membership from insured persons on the ground that their affairs are to he taken over when the national insurance scheme comes into operation; and what steps he is taking to secure that these persons shall not be at any disadvantage as a result.

Difficulties of the kind indicated have not been numerous, but my hon. Friend will be glad to know that after consultation with approved society representatives I have now made regulations dealing with this matter. As from 21st April, insured persons who are not members of approved societies will in general be entitled to statutory benefits on an insurance basis in the same way as members of approved societies and the Navy, Army and Air Force Insurance Fund. Their benefits and those of the members of the latter Fund will in future be paid from special offices which my Department is opening for the purpose in 43 centres as part of the arrangements for transition to the new scheme.

Extended Benefit, South Wales


asked the Minister of National Insurance the number of applicants in South Wales who have applied for extended unemployment benefit, giving separate figures for men and women.

The total number of applicants for extended benefit in the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire up to 11th April, 1947, was 17,741, of whom 11,464 were men, and 6,277 were women.


asked the Minister of National Insurance the number of applicants in the Aberdare Valley, Aberdare and Mountain Ash Employment Exchanges who have applied for extended unemployment benefit; and how many of such claims have been allowed.

The total number of applicants for extended unemployment benefit for the areas mentioned in the Question is 3,472, of which number 3,404 were admitted. With my hon. Friend's permission, I propose to circulate the figures for the individual areas in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could the Minister say how many of those people who applied for extended unemployment pay are single men and women?

Following are the figures:

Applications received.Applications admitted.
Aberdare Valley1,0237131,016686
Aberdare E.E.767425764410
Mountain Ash E.E.256288252276

Retirement Pensions


asked the Minister of National Insurance when it is anticipated that claims for increased pensions on retirement will be dealt with immediately; and what the delay will be at the end of April.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to claims for increased pensions on retirement from regular employment after basic pension has been awarded. These are being dealt with as quickly as circumstances allow. The average time which elapses between receipt of a notification from the pensioner and the issue of a new pension order book if the claim is admissible is at present about six weeks; I hope that by the end of this month the time will have been reduced to four weeks. Substantially, speedier handling than this depends on the establishment of a comprehensive network of local offices. I would urge pensioners whenever possible to give notice of impending retirement at the earliest opportunity. As regards new awards of pension, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Members for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) and Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon). on 11th March last




asked the Minister of Labour how many unemployed ex-miners are registered in each coalfield; and how many of them have been offered to the National Coal Board for employment in the mines.

It is not possible to identify amongst the unemployed those who have at one time or another worked in the coalmining industry. It is known, however, that a large majority of ex-miners are now unfit for underground employment in the industry. No figures are available of the numbers who have been offered to the National Coal Board for employment.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the present arrangements for absorbing these men into the mining industry?

I admit frankly that I am not satisfied with the arrangements for their absorption at the moment, but those arrangements are being rapidly dealt with, and the difficulties overcome, and we are satisfied that shortly we shall be able able to place every man who offers himself.

Trade Unions Dispute (Inquiry)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will place before the House the Minutes of the Court of Inquiry set up under the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, which was held under the chairmanship of Sir Charles Doughty, K.C., between 11th and 14th March, 1947, in respect of the dispute between the Amalgamated Society of Wire Drawers and Kindred Workers and the Transport and General Workers' Union.

No, Sir. The Court of Inquiry sat in private, and it would be contrary to usual practice to publish the Minutes. The Report of the Court, which has been published as a White Paper (Cmd. 7079), includes a summary of the evidence given.

Electrical Trades Union (Claims)


asked the Minister of Labour what action he proposes to take on the representations which have been made to him by the E.T.U. regarding their claims insofar as they relate to the electrical contracting industry.

The terms and conditions of employment in the electrical contracting industry are a matter for settlement by the constitutional machinery of the industry. The services of my Department have been offered to the parties to facilitate joint discussion.

Is there not some dissatisfaction at the delays which have taken place in regard to these negotiations?

I think one side or the other is often dissatisfied at delay, but, in this case, apparently, there is a real difference of opinion between the parties. They are making an effort to solve it themselves. We have offered assistance, but we still hope that they will be able to settle it themselves.

Collective Agreements (List)


asked the Minister of Labour when he will publish an up-to-date list of collective agreements provided for sliding scales based on movements of the cost-of-living index similar to that published in the June, 1944, issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette."

I am arranging for a list of the industries in which cost of living sliding scales are in operation to be included in the April issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette."

House Building Trainees, Scotland


asked the Minister of Labour how many ex-Servicemen have been trained for house building trades at the Labour Training Centre at Granton in Scotland; and how many have been absorbed into the building industry or ancillary trades.

Four hundred and ninety-nine ex-Servicemen have been trained for the building trades at the Granton Centre, and 265 have been placed in employment. Action to place the remainder is in hand.

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the case of 30 trainees at this establishment at Granton who, after a course of training, could not find a job at all? Is there not a shortage of manpower for house building?

My attention has not been drawn especially to that case, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give me particulars, I will look into it. Very often the problem is that labour is available but not required in that immediate area at the moment, but if we move it away, we find the men have to be brought back. The training covers all the industries, and, therefore, while we may be placing work for builders and carpenters, painters and plasterers have to wait a little time before we place them.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what sort of period elapses on the average before the men are absorbed in the way he has described?

I will admit that what I am saying is plainly a guess, but, as a rule, the men are placed in employment very quickly after they come out of the training centres.

Can the Minister give an assurance that when ex-Servicemen have completed training at labour centres, they are accepted into the appropriate trade union without any reservation?

I would like to answer that by putting it the other way round, and to say that, if the hon. Member has any instance where it has not happened, I will be glad to look into it. My information is that they are welcomed in before they leave the training centres.

National Service (Ex-Fire Service Personnel)


asked the Minister of Labour why ex-N.F.S. and ex-A.F.S. personnel now called up under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act are not allowed to reckon their previous service in these fire-fighting organisations when calculating length of service for demobilisation group numbers.

The claim that service in the N.F.S. and A.FS. before enlistment in the Armed Forces should count for priority of release from the Forces has already been fully and sympathetically considered. It would, however, be impossible to allow this service to count without making a similar concession for many other forms of pre-enlistment service and this would completely undermine the release scheme. Moreover, the concession could only be made at the expense of men who have served longer in the Armed Forces.

Is not the Minister aware of the difference between this service, and certain other forms of national service, and that in this particular case there was the same discipline, or similar discipline, as in the Armed Forces?

The matter has been raised and discussed in the House on more than one occasion, and has been reconsidered repeatedly, but I see no grounds at all for changing the decision which has been reached.


Timber For Houses


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the quantity of timber required to build a traditional type permanent house and a Cruden house of similar size.

A maximum of two standards of softwood is at present allowed for a traditional house, and 1.5 standards for a Cruden house of similar size. For all types of houses, a maximum of 10 cubic feet of hardwood, and 450 square feet of plywood, are allowed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the Cruden housing programme in Scotland, with a view to getting a larger number of completed houses in 1947, and increasing the present 1,000 to a higher figure?

I am certainly willing to take anything into consideration with a view to helping housing, but there is a real shortage of timber. I realise that Cruden houses require less timber, and I am giving full consideration to these points as far as the allocation to nontraditional types of houses is concerned.

Could not the Government put their heads together, in order to provide this wood?

In England and Wales the amount of timber for traditional houses was reduced by the Minister of Health to 1.6 standards per house; why is more timber required in Scotland than in England?

It has always required more wood than in England because of the climatic conditions—the conditions have always been different.

Shop Tenancies (Security)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to prevent any action prejudicial to the interests of tenants of shops being taken before the recently appointed committee of inquiry reports.

As the law stands, I have no power to intervene in settling the terms of shop tenancies, and I could not anticipate the recommendations which may be made on this subject by the Committee of Inquiry.

Electric Conduit Tubing


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied that electric conduit tubing is being obtained in sufficient quantities in Scotland to avoid holding up the housing programme.

Difficulties in getting electrical conduit for housing schemes have been, and still are the subject of complaints received in my Department, and local authorities have been recommended to consider the use of substitutes, including tough rubber-sheathed cable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking all the steps he can to get this conduit tubing from England—because there is practically none manufactured in Scotland—and so prevent this very thin tail from wagging the very big housing dog?

I am taking all the steps possible for the speedy completion of the houses under erection.

War Service Grants


asked the Minister of Pensions what is the approximate number of Servicemen and women on whose account war service grants are now being paid by his Department.

The number is about 30,000.

Terrace Houses, Regent's Park (Report)


asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to announce a date for the publication of the Report of the Committee set up under the chairmanship of Lord Gorell to consider the future of the terrace houses in Regent's Park.

The Report of the Committee will be available in the Vote Office tomorrow.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government have accepted the recommendations of the Report, and, if so, when will they put them into effect?

Government Departments (Staffs)


asked the Prime Minister what direct instructions he has given to Departments regarding the need for economy in the numbers of civil servants employed.

Instructions in this sense have been issued in the form of Treasury circulars from time to time as required, the latest being that referred to by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his reply of 4th March, to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan).

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is satisfied at the recent rise by 8,000 of civil servants? Can he indicate whether there will be a move towards the reduction of that number, as indicated in the White Paper "Economic Survey for 1947"?

Yes, Sir. I have made a personal examination of this matter. Some increases are inevitable, and decreases will follow in the course of the winding-up of various war operations. It is not possible to make an exact statement at the moment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at present we have more people in the public service than in coal mining, agriculture, and the fishing industry, together, and is he aware that the growth of this parasitic body will upset the economy of the country?

I very much resent the adjective "parasitic." These people have taken over very important work, including large businesses, such as the Post Office, and to suggest that they are people sitting doing nothing is utterly wrong.

Is it not the case that the number of civil servants in Britain bears a direct relation to the amount of legislation passed by this House? Is not the need for economy in this direction the need for economy in legislation?

I think the House realises the need for legislation, and where legislation is passed by this House it is the duty of the Government to see that it is carried out with the necessary Civil Service staffs.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the total numbers of civil servants in each of the Ministries created since the beginning of World War II; and the expenditure of each Ministry in the last financial year.

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

Following is the answer:

Department.Staff in post at 1st Jan., 1947 locally recruited staff overseas excluded).Approximate total expenditure in Financial Year 1946–1947 (Exchequer Issues from the respective Votes).
Ministry of Food43,813283,178
Ministry of National Insurance13,17877,160
Ministry of Fuel and Power6,82712,855
Ministry of Civil Aviation3,57722,200
War Damage Commission2,5981,430
Control Office for Germany and Austria1,873*105571
Central Office of Information1,5972,283
Ministry of Town and Country Planning947520
Ministry of Defence46974

*Excludes Control Commission staff in Germany and Austria

Home Guard Medals


asked the Prime Minister if he will consider the issue of medals to Home Guards at an early date, in view of the fact that some men of this body are getting advanced in age.

The manufacture of the Defence Medal will, I hope, be started later in the year. As large numbers are required, some further time must elapse before issues can be made.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give special consideration to the fact that these men did great work during the war? They are of an advanced age, and require some outward and visible sign of recognition for the work they have done.

I quite agree, and the matter is being pressed on as quickly as possible.

Uk And Australia (Defence Arrangements)

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements for common defence were made with the Government of Australia prior to the introduction of the measure for conscription in this country.

Consultations on Commonwealth defence problems, both with Australia and the other Dominions, take place as a matter of course. No special arrangements were made, prior to and in connection with the introduction of the National Service Bill.

Russian-Born British Wives


asked the Prime Minister if it was with Government sanction or in keeping with Government policy that the Minister of State wrote to Mr. Kuznetsov regarding internal affairs in the Soviet Union while Mr. Kuznetsov was in this country as an invited guest.

I quite agree, and April the Minister of State invited the attention of Monsieur Kuznetsov to the comment in the British Press on the Soviet-born wives of British subjects who have not yet been given permission to leave the Soviet Union in order to rejoin their husbands. Although these women have not been released from Soviet citizenship they have become British subjects by marriage, and the British husbands have a very legitimate desire that their wives should be permitted to join them. I, therefore, cannot agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) that a request for the removal of the obstacles placed in the way of their rejoining their British husbands is an interference with the internal affairs of the U.S.S.R. I associate myself warmly with the hope expressed by the Minister of State in his letter to Monsieur Kuznetsov that he will do what he can, on his return to the Soviet Union, to permit these women to rejoin their husbands.

On a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, quite irrespective of the issue involved, whether it is not treating you and this House with a measure of contempt that your and our guests should be approached by a Minister on such a matter, and in such a manner; and is it not your desire that working-class guests from the Soviet Union should receive the same courtesy and consideration from Ministers as any other guests from any other country?

I do not think there is any point of Order in what the hon. Member has said. After all, a Minister is entitled to write to a high Soviet official, if he so pleases. I do not mind telling the hon. Member—I do not think I am saying anything I should not—that at the farewell luncheon I sat next to Mr. Kuznetsov, and I spoke to him myself about this matter.

Is not the Minister of State to be congratulated on having utilised the good relations now being created as a result of this visit to remove one of those causes of friction between ourselves and the Soviet Union, which the Communist Party always try to magnify and exploit?

Further to that point of Order. I wish, as I say, quite irrespective of the issue, to ask if it is not your duty, Sir, and our duty, in this House, to protect a guest—I am speaking about a guest of this House and a guest of yours—from any interference of this kind while he is a guest?

Would it not be more in keeping with public opinion in this country if the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) would add any influence he has in trying to get a solution of this problem? Is not the real reason why these people are not being released because they would tell the truth of what is actually happening?

National Finance

British Films (Dollar Proceeds)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what dollar income was produced by British films sold or rented in the U.S.A. as a set-off to the expenditure of dollar credit for the hire of U.S. films to be shown in Britain.

I am glad to say that this income is increasing, though it is still substantially less than the cost of American films shown here. I should not like to commit myself to a firm figure at present.

Has the Chancellor, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Trade, any plan for further increasing income from this source?

Yes, Sir. My right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I are in close touch on this matter, and we are, of course, very anxious that British films should have a full opportunity of being displayed, not only in this country, but abroad. We feel that the standard of British films is now rising, and that there is every reason to hope that that will come about in the near future.

What is approximately the difference between the sterling income produced by United States films here and the dollar income produced by the sale of British films in the United States of America?

I would be glad to give an answer a little later, but it is a little early to do so yet, because, as the hon. Member will appreciate, there are gross takings and net takings after the deduction of certain expenses in the United States. I do not wish to conceal anything but, as I say, I should not like to commit myself to a firm figure now. Perhaps, later on.

might be able to give an estimate.

British-Owned Railways, Argentina (Sale)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the terms of the recently concluded agreement for the sale of British-owned railways to the Argentine Government; and, in particular, what are the arrangements for the purchasers obtaining their supplies from the United Kingdom.

The terms have already been fully published in the Press, for example, in the "Financial Times" of 13th February. Arrangements for future supplies are now under discussion

Exchequer Returns (Publication)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that particulars of revenue and expenditure for the year 1946–47 appeared in the daily Press on 1st April but were not available in the form of a White Paper in the Vote Office; and whether he will arrange that important documents of this kind are available to Members as well as to the Press.

Copies of the quarterly Exchequer Return are held by the Vote Office and may be obtained by hon Members at any time.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that they are available to Members as soon as the Press receives the information?

We always try to arrange for that to be so. I think that my hon. Friend will find that he will have no difficulty in getting these papers as soon as they are out. In fact, it has always been the practice to issue them, not as a White Paper, but as a Paper which can be obtained by any hon Member who desires it, at the Vote Office.

Industrial And Commercial Finance Corporation


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give an assurance that he will not interfere, directly or indirectly, in the operations of the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation, Limited, except in accordance with the authority granted to him by Parliament in respect of financial operations generally.

This Corporation is doing admirable work, and I should only intervene if I could thereby help it to do even better.

With regard to the Chancellor's statement on 1st April that he reserves the right to change any arrangements, will he now agree, upon reflection, that no such right exists?

Imported American Toys


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been spent over the last six months on the importation of toys from the U.S.A.; and how much of this was spent on Blow Bubbles?

£11,373 for the six months ending 28th February last. Blow Bubbles are not separately recorded by the Customs.

Will the Chancellor agree that this £11,000 was a waste of dollars, or are we to understand that the song in his heart is "I am forever blowing bubbles"?

No, Sir. I gather that these particular toys were imported for the benefit of some Members of the Opposition.

Is the Chancellor aware that many manufacturers who wish to start business as toy makers in this country are not being given encouragement by his right hon. and learned colleague the President of the Board of Trade? Will the Chancellor see if he can contact the President of the Board of Trade with a view to our manufacturing these toys instead of importing them?

It sounds to me as though that question should be addressed, not to me, but to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Sterling Balances (Italy)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has agreed to exchange some of the sterling balances held by Italy in this country for U.S. dollars.

I would ask my hon. Friend to await the publication, within the next few days, of the Financial and Payments Agreements with Italy.

Trade And Commerce

Surgical Footwear


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will increase the supply of leather to manufacturers of surgical boots and shoes.

The Board of Trade is always ready to give special assistance to any surgical boot makers whose output is limited by lack of materials; and if the noble Lord will let me have details of any particular cases, they shall be looked into immediately.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the fact that there is a delay between the time when a customer orders a pair of surgical boots and the time when they are delivered, he will make arrangements to see that clothing coupons do not have to be handed over until delivery has taken place.

There is no obligation under the Consumer Rationing Order to hand over coupons for any rationed goods until they are supplied. As a matter of private contract, the supplier may require coupons to be deposited as a condition of accepting the order, since he will himself have to lay out coupons to carry it out. I see no reason for interfering with such arrangements.

Imported Timber (Shipbuilding)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that all timber, including African mahogany, now imported, which is suitable for shipbuilding is being allocated to furniture and toy manufactureres; that, in spite of the fact that one third more timber suitable for shipbuilding is being imported than before the war, shipbuilders who receive an allocation obtain only unsatisfactory wood, while many others cannot obtain any allocation and that, as a result, unemployment is created and no small boats are being exported and whether he will take steps to alter this method of allocation.

I think the hon. Member is misinformed. It is not the case that all imported timber suitable for shipbuilding is being allocated to furniture and toy-making, nor is more timber suitable for shipbuilding now being imported than before the war. In a strong sellers' market, it is not always possible to obtain timber of prewar quality, but shipbuilding re- ceives its share both in quantity and quality of the limited supplies of particular kinds of timber, including African mahogany, which are also required for furniture or other essential purposes. The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Is the Minister aware that very many small shipbuilders in this country are severely embarrassed by not having any supplies of timber at all, and that, thereby, a good deal of unemployment is created?

Yes, of course, the embarrassment spreads outside the shipbuilding industry to the furniture and toy making industries, and unemployment would be created if we were to take timber away from them and give it to the shipbuilding industry.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider licensing certain work on ships, to be done in certain countries where we have sterling balances, such as Belgium, so that the ships can be returned to be completed in this country?

I should be interested in having any conversation with the hon. Gentleman that might help in solving the problem.

Clothing Coupons


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now make a further statement on the duration of the next clothing coupon period; and whether any change in the value of coupons is contemplated.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to similar Questions on this subject on 3rd April. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Cotton Imports


asked the President of the Board of Trade what quantities of K.S. and G.S. cotton, of the best qualities, have been, or will be, imported into this country during 1947.

By "best qualities" I assume that the hon. Member is referring to grades 1 and 2. In these grades of Sudan cotton, we are importing the whole 1947 production, estimated at about 10,000 bales.

We are importing it into this country, which, I presume, means we are making it available to British spinners.

Second-Hand Motor Cars (Prices)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he proposes to take to control the prices of second-hand motor cars, in view of the excessive prices at which they are now being sold.

the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Woodburn): I have been asked to reply. The control of prices of second-hand motor cars is not considered to be practicable. As the reasons are varied and long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Does that answer mean that this racket is to continue, and that the hon. Gentleman is powerless to do any thing in the matter?

No, Sir. The point really is that the cure may be worse than the disease; and there is a good number of problems to be solved before that can he done.

Following are the reasons:

The proposal to impose price control on second-hand cars was frequently considered during the war years and was rejected because:

  • 1. In so far as it might have been effective, it would have tended to defeat the object of making second-hand cars available at prices lower than those being paid. Owners of good cars who might otherwise have been ready to sell would have refrained from doing so and those in need of a reliable car would have found it even more difficult to obtain one.
  • 2. It would have been impracticable to fix any upper limit other than the list prices new, and this would have tended to level prices at the maximum with a consequent increase for poor cars other wise obtainable at a lower price.
  • 3. Many dealers had made bona fide purchases at higher prices and it would have been unfair to forbid them to sell except at a loss.
  • 4. A black market would undoubtedly have been created and it would have been impossible to prevent the surreptitious inclusion of additional consideration in transactions
  • 5. To make the control effective a system of licensing all sales whether by private individuals or by dealers would have been required. This would have been difficult to administer effectively, and would have required a substantial organisation.
  • These considerations still arise, though in different degrees, but the most serious objection to imposing price control at the present time is that it would be ineffective. If control were restricted to sales by dealers, as was done in the case of motor cycles, cars would continue to be sold privately at high prices. If control were applied to all sales, a black market would at once develop, and the setting up of a licensing system or other machinery necessary to check such a development would not be justified in present circumstances.

    Railways (Radio Communication)


    asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he will be able to allocate suitable wavelengths to the railways to enable them to carry out preliminary trials and further research into the prospects of adapting radio communication for railway purposes.

    I have been asked to reply. It is hoped to make some wavelengths available to the railway companies during the next few weeks. These wavelengths will be liable to alteration, however, in the light of the conclusions of an international radio-communication conference which is to be held during the summer of this year.

    Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a decision will be made before the conference takes place?

    It is hoped, as I said, to make some wavelengths available during the next few weeks. These are among the proposals which this country has tabled for the consideration of the conference. It may be that some alterations will have to be made when the conference meets, but it is hoped these will be of a minor character.

    Oil-Well Drilling Equipment


    asked the Minister of Supply how much of the oil-well drilling equipment manufactured by Woolwich Arsenal for the British Oilfield Equipment Company has been put into service in this country and overseas, respectively; and what reports have been received on its operation.

    I have no information regarding the first part of the Question, and have received no reports on the performance of the equipment supplied

    Would it not be a good idea for the Minister to get this information, in order to see if the products are satisfactory?

    In this matter we stand in the same relationship as contractors to customers, and so far the customers have made no comments.

    I think the answer to that would anticipate a reply to one of the Questions the hon. Member has in mind for later on this month.

    Coal Miners (Recruitment)


    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many recruits have been obtained for the coalmining industry during each monthly period this year; and how many have been accepted by the National Coal Board for employment.

    Provisional figures of the numbers of new recruits (including ex-miners returning from the Forces and other industries) starting work in January to March this year are:

    January (4 weeks)7,500
    February (4 weeks)7,750
    March (5 weeks)12,680

    No information is available of the number of persons who have offered themselves for employment and have not been engaged.

    Anglo-Russian Trade (Negotiations)

    With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about Anglo-Russian trade. The House will remember that in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on 4th February, it was stated that we had proposed to the Russian Government that the Secretary for Overseas Trade should go to Moscow for discussions. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs saw Generalissimo Stalin on 24th March, he referred to this proposal, and said we should like talks to begin between the Russian Minister for Foreign Trade and our representative so as to see to what extent the two countries could help one another on trade matters. I am glad to be able to announce that Generalissimo Stalin shared this view, and said that he believed that the basis for mutually advantageous trade could be found.

    My hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade is accordingly arranging to leave for Moscow on 18th April. The purpose of his visit will be primarily to have a general exchange of views with Mr. Mikoyan about the possibilities of future trade between the two countries. We are, of course, especially concerned that everything possible should be done to bring about a resumption of the flow of those raw materials, such as timber, which we used to import from Russia and the Baltic States before the war. The ussian Government are no doubt anxious on their side to obtain from this country supplies of the machinery and equipment which they need for their reconstruction.

    I should perhaps make it clear that it is not the intention that my hon. Friend should at this stage conclude any formal trade agreement, but, by reaching an understanding on questions of principle, he should facilitate the negotiation of specific contracts between the buyers and sellers on both sides.


    There has today been put into my hands an article in a newspaper which, subject to your ultimate Ruling, Mr. Speaker, seems to me to contain a substantial and serious breach of the Privileges of this House. I am informed that it is my duty to raise this matter at the earliest opportunity, which is now; but I understand that there are substantial public reasons why the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is about to make should not be delayed; and, furthermore, I think, although I have done my best to inform the hon. Member of this House who purports to have written this document of my intention to do so, he would not have had time to consider any remarks he might desire to make. Therefore, subject to your permission and your Ruling, I ask leave to raise this matter fully tomorrow, and leave it today with the formal intimation that the matter has been raised.

    I think it would be lot the convenience of the House, and certainly for mine, as I have not seen the newspaper article yet, if it were left over until tomorrow. I, therefore, rule that raising it tomorrow would not prejudice the matter.

    Business Of The House

    Proceedings of the Committee of Ways and Means exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House).—[ The Prime Minister.]

    Orders Of The Day

    Ways And Me