Skip to main content

Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Malta (Teachers)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in the forthcoming revision of basic salaries of the teachers of Malta, consideration is to be given to long-standing anomalies, particularly to the wide differences which exist between the salaries paid to teachers and other classes of public servants.

I understand that the final report of the Malta Salaries Revision Committee, which I am still awaiting, will recommend a new system of salary scales designed to eliminate anomalies in the present salary structure; and I have no doubt that the committee will prove to have given careful consideration to the position of teachers in relation to that of other Government servants.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the proposed scales will discriminate against teachers even now, and will he not intervene to see that the children of this very gallant island are taught by the best teachers who can be attracted to the service?

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the low salaries paid to the teachers of Malta, long-service increments will be paid to teachers who have spent a lifetime in the service of child education, so as to enable them to obtain the new maximum salaries and so retire upon a reasonable pension.

As a result of the introduction of the long grade system in 1943, teachers in Malta Government Service can now reach their maximum after 13 years service. In these circumstances, I do not think that any special arrangement with regard to long-service increments is called for.

Does, my right hon. Friend not think that, in the new scales of salaries now coming into force, something can be done for teachers who have not benefited by them in the past, but who, nevertheless, have worked long and loyally for the Maltese children?

This is largely a problem for Malta itself, but I will look into it.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the Malta Union of Teachers is denied all representation on the local Board of Education; and if he will intervene to remedy this state of affairs.

There is no bar to the appointment of a member of the Malta Union of Teachers to the Malta Board of Education whose numbers are fixed by local legislation. When a vacancy next occurs, the Governor will consider members of the union for the appointment.

Is the Minister aware that my friends in Malta will be grateful for his promise, and will he endeavour, when the vacancy occurs, to see that his promise is carried into effect?

Colonial Empire

Food Subsidies

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies which colonial Governments are still providing food subsidies in order to prevent further rises in the cost of living; and what sums are set aside from taxation for this purpose.

As the Answer is rather long, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the Minister say what the future policy of his Department regarding subsidies in the Colonies is going to be?

Following is the answer:

The following Colonies subsidise foodstuffs from ordinary local revenue to the extent shown:

Colony and estimated expenditure on subsidisation for the financial year 1947 or 5947–48.

£
Kenya100,000
Tanganyika20,000
Zanzibar10,000
Northern Rhodesia92,000
Malayan Union2,700,000
Singapore817,000
Mauritius300,000
Malta620,000(a)
Palestine2,500,000(b)
Cyprus650,000(a)
St. Helena10,000(a)
Trinidad306,000(b)
Jamaica231,000(a) (b
British Honduras23,000(a)
British Guiana250,000
Barbados55,000(c)
Fiji96,000

The following Colonies subsidise foodstuffs from sources other than ordinary local revenue. e.g., commodity marketing funds:

  • Aden.
  • Seychelles.
  • Leeward Islands (d).
  • Windward Islands (d).

In a few of the above cases it has not been possible to exclude the cost of subsidies to certain commodities other than food.

Footnotes.
  • (a) These territories receive certain assistance from United Kingdom funds.
  • (b) Estimates for the financial year 1946 or 1946–47.
  • (c) Estimates for the period April—June, 1947, when the position will be reviewed.
  • (d) The position regarding food subsidies and the means of financing them is under review
  • Civil Aircraft Routes

    8.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether consideration is being given to regulating the flights of individual aircraft over Colonial territories which are deficient in landing facilities, with a view to minimising expensive and inconvenient searches for aircraft which make forced landings in uninhabited areas.

    Yes, Sir. All Colonial Governments have been asked to indicate whether they would wish, under the terms of Article 5 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation concluded at Chicago in 1944, to exercise the right to prescribe routes to be followed by civil aircraft in their territories.

    Transfer Of Sovereignty

    10.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what reply he has sent to the House of Assembly in Bermuda in answer to the request of that House that he should confirm that His Majesty's Government does not propose to offer the Colony to the U.S.A.

    The Governor of Bermuda was authorised on 7th March to state that His Majesty's Government do not contemplate any transfer of the sovereignty of the British Colonies and Dependencies in the Western Hemisphere. Subsequently, the Bermuda House of Assembly asked for confirmation that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have not the right to transfer the sovereignty of a British Colony unless the subjects of that Colony request it. The Governor has been asked to inform the House, in reply, that the cession of a Colony to a foreign Power would be a matter of the Royal prerogative, but that any instrument of cession would require the sanction of an Act of Parliament. In stating that a transfer of sovereignty by this means would be valid in law, the Governor has been asked to add that His Majesty's Government feel justified in stating that they regard it as inconceivable that any Government of this country would be willing to agree to any such transfer without the consent of the inhabitants of the Colony.

    Will my right hon. Friend see that this answer receives publicity in Bermuda because of the fact that it is now generally believed that we intend to cede some parts of Bermuda to meet the American Loan? Only this week, I have read statements about it in the American Press.

    We will give it publicity, because some disturbing statements have been made.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman also see that it is given publicity among certain sections of his own party?

    Economic And Development Council

    13.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the Colonial Economic and Development Council was set up; how often it has met since that time; and if it is proposed to publish periodical reports of its activities.

    The Colonial Economic and Development Council was set up in September, 1946, and has held 14 meetings. It exists to advise the Secretary of State, and some reference to its activities will be included in the annual reports presented to the House by the Colonial Office.

    In view of the great importance of this council, is it not desirable that it should publish its own reports, so that the House and the country can have some knowledge of what it is doing and recommending?

    The council has been set up to advise the Secretary of State, and in the annual report—which will become, a regular feature—submitted to this House, some section will deal with the deliberations and recommendations of the council.

    Broadcasts (Languages)

    36.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will issue in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the principal languages, other than English, understood in the Colonies and Trust Territories, showing the estimated number of persons understanding each language, the languages in which the B. B. C. broadcasts and the estimated number of persons respectively within and outside the Colonies, etc., who listen to such broadcasts.

    Yes, Sir. The statement will be issued as soon as the information can be assembled in the form required. The hon. Member is no doubt aware that the last part of his Question especially covers a very wide field, and that in any reply to it there must be a large element of conjecture.

    Broadcasting Service (Salaries)

    39.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will decide not to implement the recommendation in the Harragin Report that, while wireless engineers and other engineers in the Posts and Telegraphs Department are to receive salary Scale A, broadcast officers are to receive Scale C, which carries £280 per annum less basic salary at the maximum, and £50 per annum less overseas pay, as the conditions of their appointment specified that they should be properly trained radio communication engineers with at least two years of varied practical experience.

    The recommendation to grade broadcasting officers on Scale C has already been adopted. The question whether they should be placed on Scale A was carefully considered, but in view of the fact that the holders are not required to possess qualifications equivalent to those required for appointment to the Colonial Engineering Service, it was decided that the Commission had correctly graded these posts on Scale C. On promotion to the rank of senior broadcasting officer, these officers enter Scale B, which carries a maximum only £100 less than that of wireless engineers in the Posts and Telegraphs Department.

    In view of the tremendous importance that broadcasting will play in mass education and other developments in the Colonies, and also in view of the fact that some of the officers now on this lower scale were seconded to the broadcasting service from the Posts and Telegraphs Department because of their special knowledge, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the position with regard to those who have equal qualifications with Posts and Telegraphs officers?

    Certainly, but I was under the impression that all these difficulties had been cleared up.

    West Indies

    Air Services

    9.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement in regard to the development of air services in the West Indies.

    I am in consultation with my noble Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation about the integration of the services operated and projected by the British South American Airways Corporation in the West Indies with those operated and projected in the area by the various Colonial airlines. The recent Colonial Civil Aviation Conference in London afforded an opportunity for some useful discussions on this matter, and the chairman of British West Indian Airways is expected in London shortly for discussions about this company.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he can make a more complete statement on this matter?

    I do not know how soon, but if another Question is put down in about a month's time, I hope to be able to make a statement then.

    Is the Minister aware that, while these long deliberations are going on, the French and Dutch are coming in and starting air lines to British territories?

    Agricultural Workers (Bank Accounts)

    14.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the arrangements for the repayment to Jamaican agricultural labourers on their return from the U.S.A. of money paid into their accounts in the Agricultural Workers' Branch of the Government Savings Bank.

    In accordance with the contract into which each worker enters with the United States Government, 25 per cent. of his earnings is deducted at the source and paid to his account at the Agricultural Workers' Branch of the Government Savings Bank in Jamaica. While he is in the United States, monthly payments not exceeding £3 are made to his dependants from this amount. On his return, the balance is paid to him on the production of satisfactory evidence of identity.

    Could the Secretary of State say whether these men on their return from America are able to obtain a full written statement of their accounts?

    I should want notice of that question. I think there has been some little difficulty up to now because of delays, but we are trying to speed matters up.

    Are they allowed to keep their dollars, or are they forcibly converted to sterling?

    Dominica (Exports)

    29.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether in the case of the Colony of Dominica, and with special reference to lime juice, cocoa and cocoanuts, he will make a further statement in regard to the products of certain Colonies which were exported to the exclusive order of various Government departments in the United Kingdom who also fixed the price to he paid for such products.

    None of these products is exported to the exclusive order of a Government department. Lime juice is exported by producers in Dominica to their agents in this country, import licences being issued by the Ministry of Food on a quota system. Dominica can and does export lime juice elsewhere. The price is fixed by the Minister of Food in consultation with the Government of the Windward Islands and myself. All Dominica cocoa is at present being bought by the United States according to the allocation arrangements of the International Emergency Food Council. Coconuts are not being imported into this country from Dominica.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the growers in Dominica are not being prejudiced by the price fixed by the Ministry of Food?

    I believe that is the case, but I would like to look into the matter further.

    30.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the position in regard to the export of limes from the Colony of Dominica; why the volume of export has fallen since 1921; whether the Colony is free to export limes to the U.S. at world prices; and what is the difference between the world price and the price fixed for limes exported to the United Kingdom.

    The serious decline in the Dominica lime industry after 1920 was due partly to hurricane damage and the inroads of plant diseases, but also to the development of cheaper sources of citric acid. Since 1934 there has been a partial recovery, principally owing to the increased value of juice and distilled oil exported. The years 1944 and 1945 were the best since 1920. The export of fresh limes remains small. The Colony is free to export lime products where it wishes. No price is fixed for limes exported to the U.K.

    Oil Output And Exports (Trinidad)

    32.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the total output of Trinidad oil; what proportion is imported into this country and into Canada, respectively; and at what rate Trinidad oil imported into Canada enjoys preference.

    The total production of crude oil in Trinidad in the year 1946 amounted to 2,890,000 tons. For the same year, imports of Trinidad oil products of all types into the United Kingdom totalled 965,000 tons; imports into Canada totalled 25,000 tons. Trinidad oil is imported into Canada at a preference rate varying from a third of a cent to three-quarters of a cent per gallon, according to the type of petroleum product.

    Jamaica Bananas (Shipping)

    33.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered representations from the Jamaica Banana Producers' Association for shipping for the export of the banana crop; and with what result.

    Yes, Sir. I have considered representations from the Jamaica Banana Producers' Association and am laying certain proposals before the Governor of Jamaica.

    No. It is a problem of shipping; the volume of exports does not arise.

    Is it intended to enable the Jamaica banana producers to maintain their own shipping line, as in the past?

    That is one of the points which the Governor is asking the producers to consider.

    Government Appointment, Trinidad (Protest)

    38.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what reply was given by the Government of Trinidad to the protest of the Trinidad and Tobago Trades Union Council against the decision to appoint a South African to the post of superintendent of survey-training in the Civil Service.

    The suggestion made by the Trades Union Council was that the appointment of this officer, who has the necessary qualifications and experience for the post, should be cancelled solely on the ground of his South African origin. I could not agree to any such principle being followed, and the council were accordingly informed that I was unable to accede to their representations.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer will give great satisfaction to those in Trinidad itself who wish to have the best possible people appointed to these technical positions?

    African Colonies

    British Somaliland

    11.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he proposes to reassume responsibility for the administration of Somaliland.

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and I recently agreed that the time had not yet come for the Colonial Office to resume responsibility for British Somaliland. The matter is, however, being kept under constant review by the two Departments.

    Can the Secretary of State say whether he has any plans for the future of this very difficult country?

    Yes, Sir. There has been a considerable amount of thought given to the future development and governmental planning of Somaliland.

    Cocoa (Produce Board's Surplus)

    12.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is his estimate of the surplus funds of the West African Produce Board at the end of this season; and whether he intends to increase the price paid to African producers of cocoa or to reduce the price charged to manufacturers.

    I estimate that the surplus funds which will accrue from the current crop are likely to exceed £10,000,000. The producers' price is fixed for the present season, which will shortly be completed. The determination of next season's producer price will be a matter for the new cocoa boards in West Africa. The price charged by the board to buyers of British West Africa cocoas is determined in the free market.

    The first part of my Question was not intended to ask about the surplus of this season's working, but what the total surplus would be at the end of the season. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us that figure?

    I cannot be too accurate, but I imagine that it will be in the neighbourhood of, probably, £22 million.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say what he proposes to do with that £22 million?

    In view of this large surplus, can the Minister say why the price has been put up to home manufacturers?

    I think that this House is entitled to know what the Government propose to do with this huge surplus which has been obtained at the cost of either the producers or the consumers.

    The answer has appeared in a White Paper which has had very considerable publicity in the Press, and which has frequently been noted in this House.

    If that is so, is there any objection to the right hon. Gentleman saying, briefly, what it is?

    It is another question, and I am not anxious to exhaust the patience of the House.

    Nyasaland Legislative Council

    15.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the reconstitution of the Legislative Council in Nyasaland.

    Local opinion is being consulted in regard to certain proposed changes in the constitution of the Legislative Council of Nyasaland, but I am not yet in a position to make any statement on this subject. I shall hope to do so in due course.

    Tea Planting

    16.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether, in view of the possible shortage of tea, it is proposed to remove the present limitation of acreage now in force so as to permit increased acreages to be planted with tea in the East African territories and Nyasaland.

    Yes, Sir. File East African governments arc taking steps to amend existing legislation, where that is necessary, to permit increased acreages to be planted.

    Food Imports (East Africa)

    17.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what tonnages of foodstuffs have been imported into Kenya and Tanganyika, respectively, in the last three years; from where have these foodstuffs been obtained; what was the cost to each territory in each of the three years; and if the East African Governments have examined the question and cost of modern methods of storage for locally-produced foodstuffs.

    I have asked the Governors of Kenya and Tanganyika for supplementary information on the points raised in the Question, and will communicate with the hon. Member as early as possible.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Nigeria, Rhodesia and East Africa this question of the conservation and preservation of food by methods of cold storage is totally inadequate, due to private enterprise ruining the whole issue; and, further, that this is a very serious matter, and will he look into the whole range of the Colonies on this issue?

    The question of cold storage is receiving the attention of the local Government.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that private enterprise is holding it up?

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that biscuits and jams are being exported from this country to Kenya and are being sent back in food parcels to people in this country, and will he look into the matter?

    Transport Situation

    26.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action he intends to take to alleviate the transport situation revealed in the Oil Seeds Mission Report, Colonial 211; and what priority he will secure for locomotives and rolling stock for the Nigerian railways.

    As the reply is rather long and contains figures, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    I think it is quite comprehensive.

    Following is the reply:

    The question of alleviating the transport situation in West Africa has received, and is receiving, my personal attention, and I have, in conjunction with Ministers concerned, done everything possible to speed up delivery of the large and various requirements.. As the hon. Member is, no doubt, aware, demands on manufacturers for the production of railway materials have, since the end of the war, been extremely heavy. No system of priorities, as understood during the war years, is now in operation; but close contact is being kept with firms concerned in the manufacture of all kinds of materials required by the Nigerian Railways, including locomotives, and wagons, track laying material and spare parts, and every effort is being made to get supplies out to the Colony with the least possible delay.

    As regards the important question of locomotives, I am glad to say that the 14 locomotives ordered from Canada have now been completed, and it is expected that shipment of these will commence this month. The delivery of the 20 locomotives on order from the United Kingdom, which was scheduled to begin in August, has, I regret to say, been set back owing to the fuel crisis, and may not now be possible before the end of the year. On the question of the future requirements of the Nigerian Railways, orders have been placed for 42 locomotives and some 1,400 wagons for delivery between 1947 and 1952. It has been requested that equal consideration may be given to these requirements with those accorded to British Railways.

    Nigeria (Development)

    37.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the central board for the administration of Nigeria's development plan is composed entirely of European officials; and what steps it is proposed to take to associate the people of Nigeria with its work.

    The members of the Central Development Board have until now been European officers, but the Governor is adding two Africans to the Central Board. African interests are already represented on the Provincial Development Committees, and decisions of the Central Board concerning the allocation of development funds are subject to approval of the Legislative Council, on which there is now an African majority. Publicity has been given to the proposals and the local government is improving public relation facilities: It is alive to the importance of associating the people of Nigeria with the programme, and the recent constitutional changes will contribute to that end.

    Eur-African Children, Nyasaland

    43.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what separate educational provision is made for EuroAfrican children in Nyasaland; and why these children are not educated in African schools.

    After careful consideration by the Nyasaland Government of the educational needs of the Eur-African community a small day school for Eur-African children at Blantyre was started last year on an experimental basis. Elsewhere Eur-African children attend African schools.

    While realising the difficulty of this problem, may I ask if my right hon. Friend is aware of the representations made about it by Africans, and of the danger of building up, not merely one kind of racial prejudice, but a whole hierarchy of castes based on colour?

    As my hon. Friend knows, my effort is directed towards eliminating discrimination altogether.

    Approximately, over the whole of Nyasaland, I believe 1,800 such children. In this school, I think, there are about 100 of them.

    Is not the asking of 43 Questions today of the Secretary of State for the Colonies sufficient evidence that the statement sometimes made in the Colonies that this House takes no interest in the Colonies is quite untrue?

    Cyprus

    Press Law

    20.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he approved the statement of the Colonial Secretary of Cyprus that he might have to suppress some newspapers in the island for attacking the Government; and whether he proposes to assent to actions under laws passed in 1931, during a period of violence, at a time when no violence is occurring.

    After consultation with me, a warning was issued to the Press by the Colonial Secretary of Cyprus to the effect that the continued use of the Press to subvert the machinery of government or for incitement to disorder might entail the use by the Colonial Secretary of his power, which was first conferred upon him by Law No. 26 of 1934, to cancel or suspend any permit granted under the law where he is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so. So long as the existing Press law of Cyprus remains in force, the Governor must be left free to take action under it at his discretion, especially when, as was the case here, he is satisfied that the ownership of a newspaper was being regarded as a free licence to indulge in deliberate falsehoods in an attempt to bring the machinery of government to a standstill. The warning was given after a campaign of this nature had been carried on in certain sections of the Press for some months, and it did not relate to attacks upon Government.

    Does my right hon. Friend think that it is a reputable democratic practice to suspend newspapers because they attack the Government, and does he not think that Cyprus is entitled to some form of democratic Government?

    Cyprus is being invited at the present time to consider a democratic Government. This warning was not given because of attacks on the Government. I quite agree that to suppress a newspaper for such attacks would be quite wrong.

    Would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no Cyprus newspaper will be suppressed just because it publishes former speeches of Commander Fletcher?

    Would it not be much better, in cases of this kind, not to proceed under these special Press laws, but, where offences can be proved, to proceed by the ordinary process of law through the courts?

    But there has been no suppression here. All that has happened is that the Colonial Secretary has issued a warning in regard to subversive attacks.

    Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a very serious matter, and can he, at any rate, give the House an assurance that there will be no prolongation of this state of affairs, and that he will consult with the Governor as to when full freedom can be restored?

    No freedom has been denied; complete freedom is enjoyed at the present time by the Press in Cyprus.

    Can my right hon. Friend tell the House on how many occasions newspapers in Cyprus have, in fact, been prosecuted for subversive activities, and with what results?

    I am fully aware of the lamentable history of the Press law in Cyprus, and I am keeping a most watchful eye on the matter in order to prevent any irregularities arising.

    Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to answer the question? I asked him on how many occasions newspapers in Cyprus have been prosecuted under the criminal law, and with what results.

    As the right hon. Gentleman said he had issued some sort of warning, will he tell the House what sort of warning it was, and what they had been warned not to do?

    I did not say that I myself had issued the warning. I said the Colonial Secretary issued it.

    Did not the right hon. Gentleman say that the Colonial Secretary issued it after consulting the right hon. Gentleman? Surely, he is not going to try to shift all the responsibility on to the Colonial Secretary?

    I am not attempting to shift the responsibility on to anyone. I said the warning had been issued by the Colonial Secretary after consultation with me.

    Would it not be by far the most satisfactory solution to annul these very exceptional and undemocratic Press laws?

    Government Salaries

    22.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he 's aware that the post of clerical assistant in the Commissioner's office, Limassol, was recently advertised at a salary of £60, rising to £96 per annum plus war bonus; and whether, in view of the high cost of living in Cyprus, he will take action to see that Government salaries are improved.

    Appointment to this particular post is at the discretion of the Governor, and I would not be specifically apprised of any advertisement issued in connection with it. At the rates current in March of this year, war bonus would bring the initial emoluments of the post in question to over £160 per annum. All salaries and conditions of service in Cyprus were improved in 1946 after consideration of the report of a special commissioner.

    Is the Minister satisfied that he will get the kind of person he wants for this sort of job at this extremely low rate of pay?

    This matter is within the competence of the Government of Cyprus, but it is a point into which will make further inquiries.

    May I ask what is a clerical assistant? Is it an assistant clergyman, or half a clerk, and, in either event, are not these rates of pay absurd?

    I have just said that as far as the rate of pay is concerned, it is a point which I am taking up.

    Ceylon (Indian Corn)

    21.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the scarcity of poultry food in Europe and of the fact that less than half the land of Ceylon is cultivated, he will consider, with the Ceylon Government, the plantation of large tracts of uninhabitated Crown land in the north and east one monsoon zone, now generally growing trees and scrub of no value even as firewood, with Indian corn, before the next monsoon breaks, the British Gvernment guaranteeing purchase of the corn at a good price f.o.b. Colombo.

    Ceylon is seriously short of food herself, and the Ceylon Government are already doing their utmost to increase the island's production of foodstuffs for her own needs. Large areas of land have been brought into cultivation for this purpose, but sufficiency is not in sight. In these circumstances, I fear there is little chance at present of her being able to grow poultry food for Europe.

    Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government of Ceylon have taken a hand in this matter, or whether they have merely suggested to the cultivators that they should cultivate here and there?

    Is it not a fact that the Ceylon Government, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, Mr. Senanayake, have been breaking up a large amount of jungle land and clearing it in order to grow food for the Ceylon population?

    Palestine

    Terrorism (Preventive Measures)

    23 and 25.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether, in view of the continuance of terrorist outrages in Palestine, more vigorous and sustained operations against terrorists will now be undertaken, including the placing and keeping under martial law of all Jewish towns and settlements;

    (2) whether, in order to impress upon the Jewish population of Palestine the necessity for its full co-operation in the suppression of terrorism, collective fines will in future be levied and prominent citizens taken as hostages in localities in which outrages are perpetrated.

    The maintenance of good order in Palestine depends very largely on the co-operation of the people with the administration and the discharge of the normal requirements of citizenship. In present circumstances, the administration is obliged to carry a difficult and onerous responsibility. It is for the High Commissioner to consider, in consultation with the military authorities, and in the light of events, whether the situation calls for the introduction of military administration in any particular area. The authorities are tackling this problem of terrorism with the greatest resolution and with the most appropriate methods within the capacity of the available resources.

    Collective fines have not, so far, been levied on any groups deemed collectively responsible for terrorism. As I mentioned in reply to a question on 30th April by the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), the question of possible steps to recover the cost of damage done in terrorist outrages is now under consideration, and I cannot, at this stage, add to my reply of 30th April to the hon. Member for Orpington.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these are two separate Questions, and that his answer gave very little information? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that the intermittent operation of martial law which has so far been exercised in Palestine, is far from being effective, that the strain on the troops is very serious indeed, and is being given expression to by the troops, and will the right hon. Gentleman go into this matter much more fully than he has done at present and give a free hand to the local commander to knock out terrorism?

    All I can say is that the High Commissioner is charged with the responsibility of order in Palestine; he is working in the fullest co-operation with the military authorities; there are no hindrances put in the way of either the High Commissioner or the military authorities by London, and so their decisions are made in the light of the local situation.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any new action will be taken as a result of the incident at Acre gaol, which has brought British prestige very low?

    I shall be replying later to a Question concerning that outrage. I have caused very special inquiries to be made, and will be considering what further action can be taken.

    Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the system of hostages advocated by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) was used without success by the Nazis during the war, and will he also bear in mind that vicarious punishment is completely foreign to the traditions of British justice?

    When my right hon. Friend is considering these matters, will he please bear in mind that the towns and villages referred to played a very active part, with the Allies, in the course of the war, and will he see that the innocent in Palestine who are doing their share in attempting to stop terrorism will not be prejudiced by such measures as may be taken to put down the terrorists?

    Obviously, all these points will be taken into consideration, but I am not in a position to make a statement with regard to collective fines.

    24.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many convictions of terrorism have been recorded in Palestine in the 12 months ended 30th April, 1947; how many death sentences have been passed; and in how many cases the death sentence has been carried out.

    Ninety-seven Jewish terrorists were sentenced by military courts to terms of imprisonment, and z8 to sentences of death. There were no convictions by civil courts. Of the Jewish terrorists sentenced to death, two committed suicide while awaiting execution, and four were executed.

    Was not this leniency very misplaced, and cannot the persistence of outrage and murder be attributed, to some extent, to the leniency with which offenders and murderers have been dealt with?

    Could the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the 97 terrorists sentenced to imprisonment have since escaped?

    I am not in a position to say, but I am trying to get that information.

    Does not my right hon. Friend agree that all these lamentable events will never be fully eradicated, and law and order will never be restored in Palestine, until His Majesty's Government announce and introduce a constructive political policy, and that it is impossible for the Government to impose order merely by force without any policy of any kind?

    Police (Amenities)

    31.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what extra amenities he has provided for the Palestine Police during the last six months, in view of their especially arduous conditions of service.

    The Palestine Government are most anxious to increase to the greatest possible extent the amenities available to the Force, whose present task, as my hon. Friend points out, is particularly arduous. During recent months their facilities for recreation and entertainment have been increased, and further expansion of these facilities is being actively pursued. I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving details of these measures.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that until a fortnight ago the chief welfare officer of the Palestine Police had to beg or borrow sports equipment from the Army; and would he see that this is provided by his own Department?

    Following is the statement:

  • (a) Extra amenities provided during the past six months are as follow:
  • (i) Extension of use of Force transport for recreational purposes.
  • (ii) Increase in the issue of Sunday newspapers in conjunction with the Army Sunday Newspapers Scheme.
  • (iii) Extension to British Section of the Force of right of entry to all Army Kinema Corporation cinemas.
  • (iv) Provision of additional furniture fox recreation rooms of Palestine Police.
  • (v) Provision of additional radio sets from Army Welfare sources and by purchase.
  • (vi) Grant for improvements in outdoor amenities, e.g., game shooting, bathing and other sports.
  • (vii) A police mobile cinema to be used for outlying stations.
  • (vii) Use of police horses for recreation.
  • (b) Further measures under active consideration include:
  • (i) Scheme for short leaves in neighbouring territories, e.g., Cyprus, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.
  • (ii) Scheme for local leave for British other ranks within Palestine.
  • (iii) Assistance from Combined Services Entertainments Unit in provision of live entertainment for British Police.
  • (iv) Provision of additional mobile cinematographs.
  • (v) General all round improvements in the Forces' recreation rooms.
  • (vi) Purchase of yachts for a police sailing club.
  • (vii) Book and magazine drive.
  • (viii) Intensification of games campaign
  • Acre Gaol Attack

    42.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the attack by terrorists on the gaol at Acre and the escape of prisoners.

    At half-past four in the afternoon of 4th May a party of armed Jews, some of whom were wearing British military uniforms, arrived in British military transport in the market place at Acre. Simultaneously with their arrival explosions occurred in the town and firing broke out in various localities. Four main explosions occurred in the vicinity of the old Turkish baths which abut on the prison, and as a result one wall surrounding the exercise ground was breached. This attack took place at the time when the prisoners were at exercise, and numbers of Arab and Jewish prisoners escaped through the breach in the wall. At the same time grenades were thrown by the attackers into the criminal lunatic section of the prison, wounding several inmates, and automatic small arms fire was directed at the prison from various points.

    The attackers were engaged by police and troops, both in Acre town itself and in the vicinity. Immediately after the attack military and police patrols were organised, and one of these, a party of paratroops, having been fired on by a number of Jews, returned fire and inflicted five casualties, one of which was fatal. This was a Jew dressed as a captain in the Royal Engineers. Troops also intercepted two vehicles carrying Jews north of the town. After a brief engagement 12 Jews were captured, two of whom were dead and three wounded. One of the dead Jews was dressed in the uniform of a captain in the Royal Army Service Corps. Another dead Jew dressed in British military uniform was found in an Army truck abandoned on the outskirts of the city. After the attack, roads in the vicinity of Acre town were found to be mined. Six soldiers travelling in a military truck were wounded by one of these mines. Other casualties during the attack on police and prison personnel were limited to one officer slightly injured and a British constable seriously wounded in the leg.

    In the action immediately following the attack, 14 Jewish prisoners were recaptured, of whom four were dead and six injured: of the Arab prisoners, 12 were recaptured, of whom one was dead and two injured. Extensive operations have continued for the recapture of the escaped prisoners, and further details are still coming in. My latest report on 6th May states that 29 Jews and 214 Arabs were still at liberty. The fullest investigations into the circumstances of this occurrence are being made.

    Is not the Minister going to give a better explanation than that, of what is surely a unique occurrence in British Colonial history, when a heavily guarded place like a gaol in a country with a garrison of 100,000 men can apparently be attacked with impunity?

    I said in the latter part of my reply that I have called for a full report on the whole incident. I have provided the House with the information which, up to yesterday, had come to hand.

    In view of the very deep public concern about this incident, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the results of the inquiry will he made available to the House, and that we shall have an adequate opportunity subsequently for debate?

    I certainly will see that the information that comes to hand is available to the House. With regard to the facilities for debate that, of course, is not a matter for me, but for the Leader of the House.

    Was the guarding of Acre Gaol the responsibility of the Palestine Police or of the military? What were the orders regarding the arming of the sentries?

    I shall have to await further information from the Palestine authorities. I have asked for more information. I have given the information which has come to hand so far.

    Malaya (Disturbances)

    41.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement regarding the strike of workers on rubber estates in Malaya.

    The only recent incident reported to me is a disturbance which took place on an estate in South Kedah on 28th April. No strike was, however, involved. Inquiries are proceeding regarding this incident, but the situation was reported to be calm on the following morning. There appears to be no evidence to suggest any connection between this incident and the earlier troubles on estates which were the subject of my reply to the hon. Member on 23rd April.

    Why does not the Minister give a comprehensive explanation of all these labour troubles in Malaya? Are they due to shortages of food, or Communist agitation, or what is it? Cannot we have a comprehensive statement?

    I thought that a statement had been made. Certainly, information has been put in the Library of the House.

    Did not the Minister's statement deal only with the Kedah uprising; is not this very much more widespread; is it not due mainly to the fact that the workers have not got enough rice; and is he not aware that without enough rice we shall never get satisfactory conditions in Malaya?

    We appreciate that food and economic difficulties are behind a great deal of this agitation, but it is impossible for one to make a comprehensive statement in regard to the general economic situation in Malaya and the conditions of the workers, which was the request of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans).

    Royal Navy

    Laid-Up Ships

    44.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many of His Majesty's ships are now laid up or could not be ready for service in 14 days.

    I regret that it would not be in the public interest to disclose this information.

    In view of the state of unrest in the world, in view of the enormous commitments of our country, and in view of the increasing menace of Communism, will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Royal Navy, which has saved us so often in the past, will be kept fully equipped and ready for action?

    Is not this a very simple request in time of peace? Is it really against the public interest that this figure should be disclosed?

    It is frequently very desirable that certain information should not be disclosed to the public, and this is one of the kinds of such information.

    Can the Parliamentary Secretary give us some idea when it will be possible to resume the practice of publishing the Admiralty List?

    Not at the moment, but I am perfectly willing to consult my noble Friend to see if, later, it will be possible.

    But was not this information available before the war? Will not the Admiralty take as a guiding rule that the practice followed before the war should be followed now? This secrecy and hush-hush is most disagreeable.

    I thought I had answered that previously, in saying that I will consult with my noble Friend to see if in time it will be possible to release this information.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that any of these ships could easily be repaired within 14 days if he were to get a team of Communist engineers on the job?

    Will the hon. Gentleman make it quite clear that he does not concede the inference contained in the first supplementary question of the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)?

    Strength

    56.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will state approximately the number of officers and ratings on the strength; and how many of them are ashore and afloat at the latest convenient date.

    The approximate total strength of the Navy at 31st March was 190,000, including Royal Marine Police, but excluding Wrens. Of these, some 75,000 were serving afloat, the remainder including men under training, were ashore. The Wrens numbered about 7,400.

    In view of the fact that His Majesty's ships cannot put to sea unless adequately manned, and in view of the fact that I am told it is very difficult for some ships to put to sea, will the hon. Gentleman see that as many ratings are put afloat as possible?

    I am glad the hon. Member has now caught up with his leader, who asked the same question rather earlier. If he will read my statement on the Estimates he will see the explanation of the large number of people who are unavoidably ashore at the present time.

    Scientific Service

    57.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the present strength of the R.N. Scientific Service; and what proportion is this figure of the Scientific Civil Service.

    The present authorised complement of the R.N. Scientific Service comprises 1,127 officers in the scientific and experimental classes. This figure is approximately one-eighth of the total complement of officers in the Scientific Civil Service.

    Rosyth Base

    58.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, if he has considered a letter from the Methil Co-operative Society, sent to him by the hon. Member for West Fife, urging the retention of Rosyth naval base and its continued use for the repair of naval and merchant ships: and what reply he has made.

    Yes, Sir, and I have written to my hon. Friend referring him to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty on 20th November, 1946, to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison).

    Is the Civil Lord aware that a very large number of communications have been sent to him during the past few weeks, and that the answer he has given to them is the same that we have been getting regularly for three years?

    Will the Civil Lord say when a decision can be made on this question, and will he give us an approximate date on which he will receive a deputation to give the final decision—the final favourable decision?

    I am quite aware of the considerable number of communications which are received, and also of the desire of deputations to come along. Indeed, my noble Friend and I have met one or two only recently. I can assure the hon. Member that this matter is under consideration, and that the final decision will be reached as soon as possible.

    Will the hon. Gentleman say whether there has been any consultation with the Minister of Defence in this matter, in view of the strategic advantage in two world wars of having a naval base in Scotland?

    I can inform the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this matter has been considered by the Minister of Defence, and was, indeed, considered by him before he became Minister of Defence. Before any final decision is made he will be consulted in connection with it.

    Will the hon. Gentleman consider the major factor, besides the solvency of this Co-operative Society, in deciding whether they get this port or not?

    Arising out of the Civil Lord's original reply, can the hon. Gentleman say whether, conversely, any communication has been received from Rosyth naval base urging the retention of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)?

    Long-Service Pensions

    59.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is yet in a position to state what adjustments to long-service naval pensions are contemplated by reason of the retiral pensions benefits proposed under the National Insurance Act, 1946.

    No, Sir. I regret I am not yet in a position to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 25th November last.

    Can the Financial Secretary give any indication when he will be able to make a statement on this, in view of its importance?

    I fully realise its importance, but it concerns a number of other Departments besides the Admiralty. I cannot yet give any firm date.

    Maltese Ratings

    60.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why Maltese serving in the R.N. are not allowed to become members of guns' crews.

    It would not in general be economical to train in the more specialised gunnery duties men who are serving on non-continuous engagements for service only in locally employed craft in which there are no such duties to perform. In the case of ships with large power-worked gun mountings, however, it is common practice to use Maltese ratings as part of the guns crews in the turret magazines and shell rooms.

    As the Maltese proved themselves to be expert gunners in the Army, is it not time that the Navy removed this restriction?

    Requisitioned Agricultural Land

    61.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many acres of agricultural land are now held under requisition by his Department for the storage of ammunition; and what plans he has for the early restoration of this land to food production.

    A total of 698 acres of agricultural land is now held under requisition by the Admiralty for the storage of ammunition. It is intended to clear and release 298 acres by the end of this year. Two hundred acres will probably be required for a permanent subsidiary armament depot. The remaining 200 acres are used for storage of large quantities of ammunition being returned from overseas.

    Dartmouth College Entry (New Scheme)

    62.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is now in a position to make a statement concerning the future of the Dartmouth and Special Entry schemes of elevation to commissioned rank.

    Yes, Sir. I will, with permission, make a statement on this subject at the end of Questions.

    Later—

    The Admiralty have for some time been reviewing the methods of recruiting officers for the Royal Navy, with particular reference to the entry through the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that we have every reason to be satisfied with the quality of the naval officer produced by the entry of boys at about 13½ years of age, and their subsequent education at Dartmouth. The Royal Navy can justly claim that its officers have stood the supreme test of war, a claim which my noble Friend, the First Lord, and the Board of Admiralty, are proud to have the opportunity of endorsing. The best tribute to Dartmouth is the distinction with which the product has served the country.

    We feel, however, that, for reasons which I propose to give, the time has come for a change in the present system of entry into the Royal Navy through Dartmouth. This system and the training given at Dartmouth may be regarded as having taken their present form about 40 years ago, though one far reaching change was made in 1941, when my right hon. Friend, who is now the Minister of Defence, introduced the scholarship system.

    When Dartmouth was founded the educational system in the country was very different from what it is now. Inevitably, entry was the privilege of boys whose parents were able to afford to send their children to preparatory schools. The reduced fee system which has been in operation at Dartmouth for many years did little to attract others, and the scholarship system of 1941, excellent as it was, was only a beginning of the broadening of the basis of entry. The new educational system of the country, designed as it is to ensure that every child has an equal opportuity of securing the best education he is capable of absorbing, makes it possible to afford the opportunity of becoming a naval officer to boys from all classes of the community who possess the qualities of mind and potential leadership required by the Royal Navy.

    With this object in view, my noble Friend has decided to modify the system of entry into the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, to provide for candidates to join at about the age of 16 years. Evidence will be required of candidates' educational standard—something approximating to the present school certificate is the standard provisionally in mind—and of their ability to profit by the further education which will be given after entry. The method of selection will also include an interview, the exact scope of which has not yet been determined. Cadets entering Dartmouth under this scheme will be eligible for the Executive, Engineering and Supply Branches of the Royal Navy. It is contemplated that they should spend five terms at Dartmouth before proceeding to sea. The House will, I think, be glad to hear that no fees or charges, either for tuition or board and lodging, will be payable in respect of new style Dartmouth cadets.

    Entry will be open to candidates of the quality required from whatever schools they come. I am satisfied that with such a wide basis of recruitment, followed by nearly two years' further education and training at Dartmouth College, there is every reason to expect that the naval officer produced by the new Dartmouth system will be a worthy successor to the naval officer of today.

    The Admiralty intend, of course, to continue the system of recruiting officers from the lower deck and, as I stated in my speech introducing the Navy Estimates, we hope that it will be possible to select an overall average of 20–25 per cent. of officers in these branches from the lower deck. It is hoped that ultimately the new system of Dartmouth entry will provide one half of the remainder of the officers required for the Navy, the balance coming from the special entry system at about 18 years of age, which it is also intended to continue.

    It is not possible yet to fix a date when this new scheme will be introduced but it is hoped that the first entries will begin in September, 1948. In a new scheme of this magnitude there are bound to be many details to settle. The Admiralty contemplate that in the initial stages the two systems will operate side by side, the numbers under the present system being gradually reduced, and the numbers under the new system gradually increased until the new system is fully operative.

    The House will recognise that the scheme affords for the first time an opportunity to suitable boys from all schools in the country of becoming naval officers; and the Admiralty are confident that they can rely on the co-operation of education authorities, headmasters, arid others concerned in education, in ensuring the success of the scheme.

    As I think I was the first to introduce commissioned entry from the lower deck, I am in sympathy with the general spirit of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I wish to ask him this: Are we to take it that the period of training for the midshipman is now to be reduced from four years to two and a half years, or something like that? There is now four years' very intensive and specialised training. Is that being thrown over, and are we coming down to two and a half years? I may have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, so perhaps he can tell me whether that is so?

    Not altogether; it is not a question of training midshipmen, but the training of cadets. They will receive less training at Dartmouth, because much of the previous training there was of a purely educational nature, which they will now acquire at school. We shall concentrate, in the shorter time, on the technical training which will be necessary.

    Was not a great deal done by way of the vocational training which was obtained during this four years? It certainly produced a marvellous class of officers for the Royal Navy.

    Certainly, Sir. As I have been at pains to explain, it produced a marvellous type of officer, and we think that the new scheme will produce an equally good type of officer, even with the shorter period.

    I would like to make it clear that this matter will have to be debated. We cannot give our accord, at this stage, to the definite reduction of the vocational training of officers of the Royal Navy from four years to two and a half.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that his announcement will be generally welcomed in the Service, not only as a move towards ending an entirely obsolete class discrimination, but also as a means of maintaining that high standard of naval efficiency of which this country has been proud?

    Is my hon. Friend aware that although his statement will give general satisfaction, as far as it goes, further democratisation is necessary in the special entry system from the public schools at the age of 18, which at present is largely restricted to the more expensive schools?

    Is it not the case that we have had for a long time special entry at the age of 18 for officers, and that senior naval officers take the view that after a few years' training it has been impossible to tell the difference between a Dartmouth entry and a special entry at 18?

    Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that I personally was responsible for the outside entry, both from the universities and from the public schools, and that the core of naval officers has always had this intensive training?

    I cannot agree to the separation of naval officers into a corps and something which is not a corps.

    I shall have to instruct the hon. Gentleman in spelling. In this case, core is spelt "core".

    Is not the period of provisional training under this proposal less than two years and not two and a half years?

    We are not definite as to the exact period, but we think that it will be five terms or possibly six.

    As Dartmouth is in my constituency, may I be allowed to ask a question? [Interruption.] I am more closely responsible for it, possibly, than some other hon. Members. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the retaining of the geographical situation of Dartmouth College will bring very great satisfaction to South Devon as being obviously the most suitable place for it?

    Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it has been decided by the Admiralty to keep the existing midshipman system and also the Greenwich system, because these are indivisible when one is considering the training of officers?

    While welcoming the statement, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to assure us that the intellectual content of the education given between i6 and 18 will bring cadets near to the higher school certificate standard? Can he assure us that the curriculum will not be overloaded with technical training upon the excuse that the allotted period is now short?

    While welcoming the statement that the more technical side of the training is to be deferred until r6, may I ask whether the selection from schools will be by nomination or by examination, and whether Dartmouth College is to come in any sense within the ordinary educational system of the country?

    There will be both an examination and an interview, but Dartmouth will obviously not come altogether within the ordinary educational system of the country. The Board of Education have been consulted on this, and they think that it is a workable scheme, with which they are very satisfied.

    While welcoming the general implication of the statement, and having had the Minister's assurance that his object is to produce first-class naval officers, may I ask if there will be any further opportunity of discussing the details of this scheme?

    As the school certificate has been mentioned as a standard of entry, is it intended that the dockyard school cadet scholarships shall be tenable at Dartmouth College?

    Boat Building (Timber Allocation)

    63.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the building of boats required urgently by his Department is being held up by the inability of boat-builders to obtain the necessary timber; and if he is giving priority to these builders within the total amount of timber allocated to his Department.

    I understand that my hon. Friend has in mind the case of one particular boat builder, who is engaged on work for the Admiralty. Inquiries are being made, and I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

    Has my hon. Friend observed that the second part of my Question is much more general; will he answer it, and show that he is aware of the very serious situation in this industry?

    I can assure my hon. Friend that I am aware of the serious situation in the boat building industry, but that is not a matter which is entirely within the province of the Admiralty, as we depend on allocations of raw materials from other Departments.

    Will the Civil Lord bear in mind that what the hon. Member is suggesting would mean considerable unemployment in many boat building centres at the present time, where boats are being built not only for use in this country, but for export?