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Commons Chamber

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 14th May, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Burma (Temporary Provisions)

The VICE-CHAMBERLAIN of the HOUSE-HOLD (Mr. MICHAEL STEWART) reported His Majesty's Answer to the Address, as followeth:

I have received your Address praying that the Government of Burma (Temporary Provisions) Order, 1947, be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament.

I will comply with your request.

His Majesty's Return From South Africa

The VICE-CHAMBERLAIN of the HOUSE-HOLD reported His Majesty's Answer to the Address, as followeth:

I thank you sincerely for your Address and for your loyal and affectionate greetings on the return of the Queen, my Daughters and Myself from our journey in the course of which we have visited the Union of South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland and St. Helena.

We shall always remember the wonderful and inspiring welcome which we received, and the warmth of the greetings which were extended from all parts of the Commonwealth to our beloved Daughter Elizabeth on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday.

We have been greatly touched by the reception which we have received on our return to this country.

Private Business

Brighton Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Provisional Order Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the Brighton Corporation (Transport) Act, 1938, relating to Brighton Corporation Trolley Vehicles," presented by Mr. Barnes; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 76.]

Mexborough And Swinton Traction (Trolley Vehicles) Provisional Order Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the Mexborough and Swinton Tramways Act, 1926, relating to Mexborough and Swinton Traction Company's Trolley Vehicles," presented by Mr. Barnes; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to the printed. [Bill 77.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Tunbridge Wells) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells," presented by Mr. Bevan; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 78.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Royal Navy

Industrial Workers, Portsmouth


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many civilian workers are employed in Portsmouth dockyard; their annual cost to the taxpayer; and, in view of the fact that their work is unsatisfactory, if he will institute an inquiry into the circumstances, details of which have been sent to him, and publish the findings as a White Paper.

On a point of Order. Is it in Order to ask a Question which casts a slur on good and faithful workmen who carried on very well during the war?

If the Question passed the Table, I am quite sure it is in Order. What may be behind it is not a question for me.

The number of industrial workers employed in the four main professional departments of Portsmouth Dockyard in the week ending 26th April last was 13,606, the annual cost being approximately £3,622,000. As regards the further points raised in the Question, if the hon. Member will furnish me with specific instances of unsatisfactory work I will have the matter investigated.

In view of the fact that I have sent the Admiralty particulars of what is behind this Question, and in view of the national importance of the efficiency of the Royal Navy these days, will the hon. Gentleman do all he can to stop the ca'canny and the waste of public money in Portsmouth Dockyard?

The information which has been sent by the hon. Member contained nothing of a specific nature at all. It was only based on "the following firsthand and reliable information" of which he gave no detail, and I think it would be an absolute waste of public money to institute an inquiry and to issue a White Paper on a matter which has no foundation whatsoever.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the workers in the Portsmouth Dockyard resent the gratuitous insult on the quality of their work coming from this Member of the Conservative Party? Is he also aware that the three Members of Parliament for Portsmouth are fully capable of representing the city without the unsought and unskilled assistance of the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)?

Is it not a fact that Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, has been responsible for fine work—

Foreign Trawlers, British Shipyards


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many fishing trawlers are being constructed in British shipyards on foreign account; and how many of these trawlers are being purchased with blocked sterling.

Twenty-three fishing trawlers are at present under construction in British shipyards for foreign owners. So far as I am aware, none of these trawlers is being purchased with blocked sterling.

Scientific Service


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many applications to join the R.N. Scientific Service have there been since 1st January, 1946; and how many of these have been accepted.

The R.N. Scientific Service is composed of both permanent and temporary staff. The permanent appointments are filled from the Scientific Civil Service, for which there is centralised recruitment. This recruitment is conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners, who are responsible for the allocation of successful candidates according to their qualifications and the vacancies in the various Departments employing scientific staff. The number of staff entered by this method since 1st January, 1946, is 571. Temporary staff are mainly recruited for work of short duration for which special qualifications are necessary.

Could the Civil Lord say whether it was due to a shortage of staff that the Navy were under-spent in the scientific service last year?

I think that point was dealt with on the Navy Estimates; it was not only a question of shortage of staff, it was also a question of the shortage of available buildings for the purpose of employing staff.

Is my hon. Friend now satisfied with the numbers being allocated to the Navy from the central pool?

At the moment we are satisfied having regard to the possibilities of employing them. There is a great demand for scientists at the present time, and I feel that we have our fair quota of them at the moment.

Dockyard Wages, Malta


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what steps have been taken to meet and reopen negotiations with the trade union representatives of the workers employed in His Majesty's Dockyard in Malta, in view of their rejection of his Department's offer of 6s. a week increase in their minimum wage.

Representations made on behalf of the workpeople in His Majesty's Dockyard, Malta, that increases of pay lately approved are inadequate were fully considered, and the Commander-in-Chief was informed that the Admiralty were satisfied that the increases were fair and equitable, and that they were unable to agree to any further increase. No further representations have so far been received.

Is it not the case that the authorities there are endeavouring to impose conditions on the workers without any consultation, or any attempt to get an agreement with the union representatives of the men?

There is not the slightest foundation for that statement. We have joint negotiating machinery there in the same way as we have in other parts of the world and in this country, and the representatives of the men have every opportunity of making a case out in Malta on this issue, but they have not done so since the award was granted.

Might I ask what facilities there are for submitting claims like this to arbitration where agreement cannot be reached through the ordinary negotiating channels?

At the moment there are no facilities for arbitration in Malta, but the whole question of arbitration is being gone into.

Has there been any attempt, since the rejection of the offer, to meet and discuss with the representatives of the men the issues involved in the award and in the rejection of the award?

There has been no attempt because the men have made no application for it, but as soon as the men's representatives make an application, as at all other times, we shall be only too ready to meet them.

Reserve (Fishermen)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a further statement on the reinstitution of the R.N. Reserve; and whether he will give an assurance that fishermen called up for service will, if medically fit, give service with the R.N. so as to qualify for the R.N. Reserve.

On the first part of this Question I am unable to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member's Question on 5th February. The future organisation and functions of the R.N.R. are still under active consideration.

As regards the second part of the Question, the number of National Service entrants required for the Navy is limited. The automatic acceptance of all fishermen for the Navy might therefore result in the exclusion of some men from other walks of life who have higher qualifications for training in the Navy's technical work. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to give the assurance asked for by the hon. Member. Fishermen who express a preference for the Navy are considered on their individual qualifications as indicated in the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on 27th February.

Did not the Minister of Labour on 27th February give an assurance that fishermen, if medically fit, would be called up to the Navy? Is it not most desirable for our defence that men who have a calling for the sea should do their service with the Royal Navy?

I understand that that assurance was given in answer to a supplementary question. In fact, it may not be possible to give a definite assurance that all fishermen, though medically fit, can be taken. I cannot give that assurance because we have other candidates, and we must see that we get the best for the Navy from whatever source.

Is there not a danger, if fishermen are not directed into the Navy, that on the termination of their service they will not be attracted back into the fishing industry? Is it not extremely important that recruitment for the fishing industry should have serious consideration by the Minister?

Yes, certainly. We want to do everything possible to encourage the fishing industry, but I cannot give a definite guarantee on this point. That is what I made clear.

Will the Minister take all these points into consideration and further take note that the whole of the personnel of the fishing fleets is absolutely invaluable to our security whenever it is endangered?

Commander-In-Chief, Portsmouth (Speech)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the speech of Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth Command, on 8th May, 1947, in which he stated that the Royal Navy does not like conscription, but it is the Government of the day that ordered it; and, as this speech was not in conformity with Subsection (2) of paragraph 17 of King's Regulations for the Naval Forces, what action he proposes to take.

The speech to which the hon. and gallant Member refers was made to the ship's company and to the cadets of H.M.S. "Frobisher." The published version was not a verbatim report, but Admiral Layton does not dispute its general accuracy. He has informed my noble Friend that the main point he desired to make was that a national service system involved the entry into the Royal Navy of a certain number of men who, because of the shortness of their service, have not the same interest in Naval life as the long service men to which the Royal Navy has been accustomed in the past and who do not settle down so well; for that reason special efforts are required on the part of officers and men to fit them into the general scheme. Admiral Layton did not intend to criticise Admiralty and Government policy in the continuance of national service as being essential under present conditions and made it clear that it was incumbent on all concerned to carry out that policy.

My noble Friend has accepted the Admiral's explanation, though he has considered it correct to explain to him that his statement was unfortunate and it would have been better had it not been made. He does not regard the occasion, however, as one calling for disciplinary action under Article 17 (ii) of King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions.

Will my hon. Friend make it quite clear that, despite the speech of the Commander-in-Chief, all those who are called upon to perform their national service in the Navy will receive the traditional Navy welcome; and will he give an undertaking that announcements in future on naval policy and attitude, which are likely to give rise to controversy, will be made by the Board of Admiralty and not by subordinate commanders?

With regard to the first part of the question, I have the greatest pleasure in giving the guarantee that all national service men will be welcomed into the Navy as they come into it, and that they will receive quite as good treatment as those who are there as regular Service men. With regard to the second part of the question, naturally I cannot give a guarantee that no person other than the Board of Admiralty will make a statement on policy, but I hope that in future no such statement will be made.

Is it not perfectly obvious, from the context of the speech as published in the Press, that all the Commander-in-Chief was doing was expressing the preference of the Navy for long service as against short service? Was he not acting in the best traditions of the Navy when he pointed out that it was the duty of the Service to act implicitly in accordance with the orders of His Majesty's Government?

I cannot accept that altogether. I think a statement which said that a certain section of national service men or conscripts regarded the Navy as their enemy, looked on it as a nuisance, made themselves a nuisance to the officers and chief petty officers, and spent much of their time in detention quarters, is not a statement that ought to have been made. The fact that, following on that, he then said that the orders of the Government would be obeyed implicitly, does not alter the first part of his statement, and it is that to which exception has been taken.

In view of those officers who cannot reply personally—that is officers in the Service and Whips of this House—are not personal attacks rather unfortunate? Should not the matter be left either to the Admiralty or to the Government as the case may be?

If I may reply to what I conceive to be the question put to me, although it was put rather indirectly, the action of my hon. Friend the Junior Lord of the Treasury is not a matter on which I am called upon to comment in an official capacity, but I think that all hon. Members of the House will agree that any hon. Member, whether in the Government or not in the Government, is quite entitled to comment on a speech made publicly in his own constituency.

Can my hon. Friend inform me when Admiral Layton will be retired, and whether he is likely to be re-employed?

Did not the Prime Minister himself say that he did not like conscription? Surely Admiral Layton is entitled to endorse that statement with the qualification that any decision of the Government will have the loyal support of the Royal Navy?

On a point of Order. In view of the constitutional importance of the whole matter raised by this question, and of the supplementaries from the Opposition, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment.

Instructor Branch (Commissions)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what response he has had to the offer of short-service commissions in the education branch of the R.N.

Two hundred and six applications have so far been received for short-service commissions in the Instructor Branch of the Royal Navy. Eighty-two of these have been accepted for entry.

Dartmouth Entries


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the total number of candidates who presented' themselves for all types of entry to the R.N. Colleges, Dartmouth or Eaton, in 1941 and 1946, respectively; and the number of candidates for grant-aided scholarships and ordinary scholarships, respectively, included in those figures.

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

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether there is rise or fall in the figures?

There are about two pages of figures, and, quite frankly, i could not say offhand.

Following is the answer:

As the entry into Dartmouth by scholarship did not begin until September, 1941, there was only one entry in that year with a scholarship element instead of the normal three. To enable a better comparison to be made, I have therefore ventured to substitute figures for the first complete year in 1942.

Numbers of Candidates.19421946
For scholarship only:
(a) From grant-aided secondary schools.412179
(b) From other schools5114
For ordinary entry only220121
For both scholarship and ordinary entry:
(c) From grant-aided secondary schools.4735
(d) From other schools16174

Hms "Delhi"


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty on what duties is H.M.S. "Delhi" now employed.

Is there any truth in the suggestion that this ship is to be converted as a training ship for a Royal Naval Volunteer headquarters?

I cannot state the exact future of this ship, but at present it is in category "C" reserve.

Post Office

Imperial Cable Service


asked the Postmaster-General for how long his Department undertook the Imperial Cable Service, and on what date it was handed over to the Cable and Wireless Company; and for what reasons.

The Post Office operated a transatlantic cable service from 1917 until 1928, and wireless services to various Empire countries from 1926 until 1928. In 1928 these cable and wireless services were transferred to Imperial and International Communications, Ltd., subsequently known as Cable and Wireless, Ltd., on the recommendations of the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference of that year. The considerations which led to these recommendations are set out in the Report of the Conference, which was published as a White Paper (Cmd. 3163).

Is it not a fact that the Post Office tried to run this Imperial service for a long time and it was a failure and directly it went over to Cable and Wireless it became a roaring success?

Crown Post Offices


asked the Postmaster-General the number of Crown post offices in each of the 12 largest cities or towns in the United Kingdom, giving the populations in each case.

As the answer is rather long, I shall, with the hon. and gallant Member's permission, arrange for it to be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

While I accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, could he give me now the comparative figures referring to Belfast and the city of Edinburgh?

The Edinburgh figures are 18 Crown post offices and 471,000 population—I have given the approximate population—Belfast, five Crown post offices and 447,000 population.

Will the Minister take into consideration the fact that Belfast is a hive of industry, with a large population, and has only five Crown post offices, compared with the beautiful city of Edinburgh, which is largely residential, and has 18 Crown post offices? Will he look into the matter, and see whether he cannot give us more Crown post offices?

Following is the answer:

In the London postal area, the population of which approaches 4,500,000, there are 204 Crown post offices. The figures for the 12 largest cities outside London are:

County Borough of.Number of Crown Post Offices.Estimated population at 31st December, 1946.
Glasgow (Royal Burgh)321,075,744
Edinburgh (Royal Burgh.)18471,192

Parcel Post, South Wales


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the many complaints being made concerning the delay in parcel post delivery to South Wales; and what steps he is taking to remedy this matter.

Very few complaints concerning delay to parcels for addressees in South Wales have been received. If the hon. Member has any particular district or address in mind and will let me have full particulars, I will be happy to have inquiry made.

Northville, Filton


asked the Postmaster-General if, in view of the needs of the inhabitants of the locality, he will favourably consider the establishment of a Crown post office at Northville, Filton.

I regret that the establishment of a Crown post office at Northville, Filton, could not be justified, but I hope that it will be possible shortly to reopen the Northville sub-post office which unfortunately had to be closed recently owing to the resignation of the sub-postmaster.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been very large developments at Northville in recent years, that the population has increased from 3,000-odd in 1931, to more than 11,000 in 1946, that there are large numbers of contractors and sub-contractors engaged on the important Brabazon project, and that the establishment of a Crown post office would be a very great convenience? Will he look into this matter again, with the object of providing that convenience for this large number of people?

I will look into it, but the main trouble was that the sub-post office had to be closed. It is to be opened in the very near future.

Telephones (Cheap Call Period)


asked the Postmaster-General if he will consider the extension of the period of cheap telephone calls from 9.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.

In view of the national manpower situation, I regret that there is no early Prospect of an extension of the cheap call period.

Will my right hon. Friend consider extending it to 10 o'clock, which would be greatly appreciated?

The decision to make it 9.30 p.m. was taken after a lot of consideration, and to extend it to 10 o'clock would mean a lot of extra manpower.



asked the Postmaster-General the numbers of postmen, both permanent and temporary, employed by his Department on 20th October, 1946, 10th January, 1947, and 20th April, 1947, respectively.

The nearest dates for which the information desired by the hon. and gallant Member is available are 1st October, 1946, 1st January, 1947, and 1st April, 1947. The numbers are as follow. Part-time officers have been counted as a half each, and post-women have been included.

1st October, 194682,150
1st January, 194785,178
1st April, 194785,868

Can the Postmaster-General explain why, when there was an increase from October to January, and no decrease from January to April, it has been necessary to make such drastic cuts in the postal collections and deliveries?

I understand that some of these figures are due to certain reorganisation work, in the main.

In view of the fact that these late collection and delivery facilities were reinstituted on 7th January, and there has been a slight increase in the general staff of postmen since then, why did the right hon. Gentleman tell the House last week that the number was reduced because of shortage of staff?

Because we have to make our general contribution on the manpower problem, and we have been asked to do so.

Can my right hon. Friend give a specific assurance that none of the additions to the Post Office staff is to deal with football pool traffic, and a further assurance—

In view of the nature of the reply I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter again.

Royal Air Force

Battle Of Britain (Enemy Losses)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the total number of enemy aircraft shot down during the Battle of Britain, according to contemporary R.A.F. estimates and German official records, respectively; and whether he will give the figures for the biggest days of the battle.

Yes, Sir, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the statement for which the hon. Member has asked showing the number of enemy aircraft which the R.A.F. claimed at the time to have been destroyed during the Battle of Britain, and the actual losses recorded by the German High Command. Between 10th July, when the action began, and 31st October, when the Germans broke it off, the R.A.F. estimated that 2,692 enemy aircraft had been destroyed. The German records show that, in fact, 2,376 of their aircraft had been put out of action; of these, 1,733 were destroyed and 643 were damaged. The figures I am circulating show that during the opening and concluding phases of the battle, while the numbers engaged were relatively small, and the fighting less continuous and intense, the losses actually inflicted on the enemy were higher than the numbers claimed by the R.A.F. When very large forces were in action, and when the battle raged without respite for many days, the estimates were well above the losses which the Luftwaffe sustained.

I am sure the House will agree that this retrospective correction of claims which were honestly put forward, does nothing to diminish the achievements or to dim the glory of the men who fought so bravely against great odds. As the Chief of the German General Staff in the West said in a confidential lecture in November, 1943, the German Army could not invade England until the British Air Arm had been completely beaten; and this, he said, "we were not able to do." There is abundant confirmation of this spontaneous statement in the German records; they show that Hitler's High Command fully recognised that the R.A.F. had inflicted a decisive defeat on their forces, and that, in consequence, their plan for the invasion of Britain could not even be launched, although a great army had been assembled and had been waiting for many days. Looking back to 1940, it is impossible to doubt that one of the decisive battles of history had been won.

As the Polish Air Force took a considerable part in the Battle of Britain, will the Minister, in fairness to them, say what they did?

Yes, Sir. There were Poles and nationals of many Allied countries in the R.A.F. at that time, and, of course, from the Dominions also. If the hon. and gallant Member cares to put down a Question, I will try to particularise.

Does my right hon. Friend intend to publish corrected figures for other air operations?

Yes, Sir. We shall publish all the figures for the operations of the R.A.F. right through the war. We shall do that when the picture is complete, and we can publish the history.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that this victory was won not only by Fighter Command, but also to a large extent by Bomber and Coastal Commands, and that this glorious victory not only saved us from invasion, but made England a secure base for future Allied operations by land, sea and air?

Yes, Sir. The hon. Member may have noticed that I did not mention any particular Command. As he says, other Commands took part with Fighter Command in the battle, and there is evidence from the German naval records that the work of Bomber Command, particularly in attacking the invasion ports, was a very important factor in the German decision.

Will my right hon. Friend say a word about the way in which this very important news was communicated to the Press? Is he aware that these details were released to the Press confidentially two days ago, and that that confidence was honoured by all the newspapers except one?

I thought it had been honoured by all. I greatly regret that it was not.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these battles would not have taken place had the Royal Air Force not been increased for five years before the war, in spite of every opposition by the party opposite?



Date.R.A.F. Estimate.German Losses.
Preliminary Phase of the Battle188192 (63)77
Attack on Coastal Targets 755430 (213)127
Attacks of Fighter Command Airfields643378 (243)127
Daylight attack of London chiefly by Heavy Bombers846435 (134)163
Daylight attack of London chiefly by Fighter Bombers260325 (134)163

Date.Days Most Intensive Fighting.
German Losses
R.A.F EstimateDestroyed.Damaged
15TH AUGUST18376 (32)9
18TH AUGUST15571 (36)23
31ST AUGUST9439 (32)14
2ND SEPTEMBER6634 (23)12
7TH SEPTEMBER10040 (26)13
15TH SEPTEMBER18556 (43)21
27TH SEPTEMBER15355 (38)12

NOTE: Figures in brackets show the losses admitted in communiques issued at the time by the German High Command.

West Indians


asked the Secretary of State for Air for what reason 715136 Corporal M. Nicholson, a West Indian, was not allowed to complete his studies in the R.A.F.; and what restrictions exist regarding the enlistment of West Indians

to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT will include the number of aircraft shot down by artillery in this country?

The figure I have given includes them. If my hon. and gallant Friend puts down a Question, I will give him a detailed answer.

Following is the statement:

in the R.A.F. which are not applied to British subjects from the United Kingdom.

Corporal Nicholson is due for release from the R.A.F., and it seemed unlikely, therefore, that he could complete his studies before the time arrived for his repatriation. It is true that he applied a few months ago to remain in the Service under the Bounty Scheme, but he could not then be accepted because he had not served for the minimum period of two years that the scheme required. He has now finished his two years' service, and has applied again. If, as I hope, his application is approved, he can then complete his studies and take his examination. I am glad to assure the hon. Member that there are no restrictions on the enlistment of West Indians in the R.A.F. which do not equally apply to British subjects from the United Kingdom.

Malta (Overseas Tour)


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is satisfied that the majority of airmen serving in Malta consider that the reduction of the overseas tour compensates for the abolition of eligibility for home leave after 12 months' service overseas; and if he will consider the possibility of reintroducing such a home-leave scheme, especially in view of the frequent air services between Malta and the United Kingdom.

Yes, Sir. I have made inquiries and I am satisfied that the majority of the airmen now in Malta prefer the present shorter tour to the previous arrangement under which they served overseas for a longer time with the possibility of a short period of home leave. As at present advised, therefore, I do not propose to change the existing arrangements.

Aircrew Release


asked the Secretary of State for Air, why H.Q. Flying Training Command's order FTC/67462/4/P of 12th February, 1947, has been rescinded; and whether he is aware of the inequity of debasing the release status of U/T and now redundant aircrews to that of A.C.2s.

The order issued on 12th February by Flying Training Command was unfortunately wrong. By an unhappy confusion, it applied the principles laid down for the release of redundant qualified aircrew to redundant unqualified aircrew cadets. The order was cancelled on 6th March, but I am afraid it had already caused misunderstanding and disappointment, which I much regret. The hon. Member will no doubt recall that shortly after V.E. Day, unqualified aircrew were released from further liability for aircrew training, and were remustered in ground trades. Cadets who were in this category are released from their new trade not according to rank, but on the age and service principle. I hope the hon. Member may agree that this is the fairest plan.

Industrial Workers (Breaks)


asked the Secretary of State for Air how the decision to cut the tea break for civilian employees at maintenance units from 15 to 10 minutes was arrived at; whether the workers were consulted; whether they were invited to put forward further suggestions for increasing the speed and efficiency of their work; and what improvements are to be carried out.

Before the war, there were no breaks for tea at R.A.F. maintenance units. During the war, when long hours were being worked, informal breaks were, in practice, allowed, although no official recognition was ever given. On 3rd April last, an Air Ministry order provided that there should be two ten-minute breaks, one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. This applied in Air Ministry establishments an arrangement which had previously been made for Ministry of Supply establishments by the Ministry of Supply Joint Industrial Council. All Air Ministry industrial workers are invited to make suggestions for improving the efficiency of their work, through their local Whitley Works Committees or Production Committees, in which both the staff side and the trade unions play a part.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Members on this side of the House receive a large number of complaints about the waste of manpower in maintenance units? These complaints come from workers employed in those units who are supporters of the present Government. Would not this have provided an opportunity for fuller consultation with the workers to elicit further suggestions with regard to economy in manpower?

I am strongly in favour of consultation with the workers, but, as I say, either through the production committees or the Whitley Works Committees, the workers can at any time make any suggestion, and I hope that my hon. Friend's Question and my answer might have the effect of stimulating them to do so.

Is it not a tact that in many cases, in addition to the 10 minutes spent on the tea break, additional time is occupied by men going to and from the canteen for their tea?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the redundancy there is in many of these maintenance units?

I think the R.A.F. has done pretty well on redundancy, and my hon. Friend may be aware of our manpower economy committee, which is at present making a most exhaustive study of the whole subject.

Night Flying


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that low night flying still continues over the city of Leicester, that workers are having their rest disturbed; and if he will take the necessary action with local R.A.F. units to prevent flying over this built-up area during the hours of darkness.

No complaints about night flying over Leicester have reached my Department or the civil police since my hon. Friend last asked me a question on the subject on 5th February. I am, however, warning all units in the Leicester area that they should avoid flying over the town at night.

Will my right hon. Friend see that the ban applies not only during hours of darkness, but also during the day?

Education Branch


asked the Secretary of State for Air the present number of education officers; and what is the required establishment.

The establishment of the R.A.F. Education Branch has not yet been settled, but it will probably include about 1,000 officers. There are now 255.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how long it is expected to take to expand from about 250 to about 1,000? How many years will that process take place?

As the hon. Member knows, it is difficult to get people with teaching qualifications at present. We are, in fact, filling about 600 posts with officers and n.c.os. now in the Royal Air Force who have educational qualifications. In that way I hope we shall be able to bridge the gap.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he cannot get these education officers because of the bad treatment that education officers in the R.A.F. received during the war; and will he see that some retrospective justice is done to the education officers who served during the war?

That is another question, which I cannot now debate. I hope that my hon. Friend will help me to make it known to those who might apply that, in fact, conditions now are good.


asked the Secretary of State for Air what response he has had to the offer of short-service education commissions.

Up to the 10th May, 1947, 220 applications had been received for short-service commissions in the education branch of the R.A.F. At that date, 49 officers had been appointed.

We want to get as many as we can, up to the limits which I have already announced.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that he would get a better response if he offered permanent commissions instead of short-service ones?

I think I said in the Debates on the Estimates, that we plan, in the long run, to have an educational branch of which one-third shall consist of long-term officers and two-thirds of short-term service commissions. We think that is the best plan, and I hope that we shall get the men we need.

Can the right hon. Gentleman let us know in the OFFICIAL REPORT, by a tabular statement or otherwise, the academic and professional qualifications of these 220 applicants?

I can let the hon. Member know the qualifications of those who have been accepted, but that is by no means the whole.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether conscientious objectors are eligible for commissions in this noncombatant branch of the Service?

Civil Aviation

Seat Allocation (Priority)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the method of priority allocations of air passage is causing inconvenience and dissatisfaction to those engaged in developing our export trade by last minute cancellations and rushed arrangements; and if he will inquire into this matter with a view to altering this system.

I am aware that inconvenience may be caused to a passenger who is displaced at short notice by someone with a higher priority. I am afraid that this is from time to time inevitable under the present system, the whole purpose of which is to ensure that the passenger whose business is of the greatest importance to the national effort, including our export trade, goes first. In regard to the second part of the Question, priority allocations are under my personal review week by week as chairman of the London Priorities Board.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the cases I have in mind concern business men from Sheffield who have suffered great inconvenience through the last minute cancellation of seats in aeroplanes and will he tell the House what constitutes priority r and priority 2? Will he lift the veil of secrecy which seems to be over this system?

There is no secrecy at all in regard to the system. Priorities are necessary because of the demand and the small capacity with which to meet it. Where there is a person of higher priority, it is virtually a necessity of the priority system that another person shall stand down. Priority I relates to the diplomatic standard—Ministers or foreign Ministers—and there are very few; priority 2 refers to persons travelling for the export trade and other work of high national importance; and priority 3 is of lesser importance. Those priorities are determined by the sponsoring Departments.

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that statement with the fact that these business men are going abroad for the express purpose of increasing our export trade which, I thought, was high priority? In addition, when they have made all their plans and arrangements and are called to the airport at a later date, very often they find that the aeroplane is half-empty.

That is a statement often made. I have not yet, although I have asked repeatedly in this House, had information in regard to plane, date and service of an aircraft in which those circumstances apply. If, in fact, the hon. Member can give me any information at all, I shall give it my personal attention and inquiry.


36 and 37.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (1) if fully loaded Dakota aircraft can be operated on the Cardiff-Bristol-Southampton run, or what machines are to be introduced in the near future instead of the machines now in use;

(2) to what extent a change from De Havilland Rapides aircraft now used on the Cardiff-Bristol-Southampton route would reduce the present fares which are beyond the reach of the average traveller; and if he will expedite a change to enable more people to travel on this service.

As none of the airfields on the Cardiff-Bristol-Southampton route is large enough to accommodate a fully loaded Dakota, that aircraft cannot be operated on the route. No aircraft is immediately in sight which could be expected to replace with advantage the De Havilland Rapides which are at present used. In these circumstances the second Question does not arise.




asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assurance that no decision establishing a combined German Government for the Western zones of Germany will be reached before this House has been consulted.

Discussions are now proceeding between the British and United States authorities in Germany on methods of making more effective the bi-zonal agencies already constituted, including ways of making these agencies more representative of German opinion in the two zones. There is no intention of giving these agencies the status of a government.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an explicit assurance that no political fusion of the two zones is contemplated and that nothing will be done which would tend to harden or make permanent the division between Eastern and Western Germany?

My right hon. Friend has already repeatedly made his position clear on this subject. Such arrangements as we make will allow for unity at any time. There is nothing we desire more than the economic fusion of Germany on equitable terms.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that one of the most sensible things done at Potsdam was to stipulate for a uniform German Government, and is it not under the circumstances an essential precedent to a uniform Government that the three Western zones should first be united?

Exit Permit


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will expedite the issue by the Passport Control Officer, Berlin, of a permit, which has been long delayed, to enable Fraulein Kaethe Alpers, Hanoverschestrasse 12A, Celle, Hanover, to join her fiance in England.

The issue of an exit permit has been approved in this case. A visa, to enable Miss Alpers to enter this country, will be granted as soon as certain guarantees are received from her. These, I understand, have now been depatched by Miss Alpers.

Trade Union Movement (Appointment)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what appointment in the Control Commission for Germany has been given to Mr. J. R. S. Middleton; what salary this appointment carries; and whether the selection for it was competitive.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to Mr. J. R. S. Middlewood who has recently been appointed a chief control officer in the manpower division of the Control Commission for Germany to assist in supervising the development of a trade union movement in Germany. The appointment, which carries a salary of £1,600 with the usual allowances for service in Germany, was made after a number of candidates had been considered.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this man has now got an appointment at five times his present salary, that the appointment has caused widespread annoyance in the county of Durham, and that he only received this appointment because he is chairman of the Labour Party for the Bishop Auckland Division?

I sharply resent any such imputation. The man appointed has had a lifetime of expert experience in the trade union movement and in local government. I am not aware what salary he presently enjoys, but I know that he is competent to do the job which must be done in Germany.

Penicillin Supplies


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many patients there were in the municipal hospital at Bielefeld, Westphalia, Germany, in April, 1947, in need of penicillin to save life; for how many of these cases was penicillin asked for and provided by the Control Commission; and for how many it was refused.

There were, I understand, nine cases in which the medical officer in charge would have given penicillin if a supply had been available in the hospital. The Control Commission were not asked to provide supplies for any of the cases.

If I give my right hon. Friend the names of patients who needed penicillin and the names of those for whom a supply was asked and not received, will he look further into the matter?

I am very concerned about this matter, but the point I want to make is that while I know that at least nine patients needed penicillin on medical advice, no approach was made to the Control authorities.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement as to the present state of progress in the production of penicillin in Germany.

Present production is by surface culture. Although encouraged, it does not exceed 3,600 mega units a year in all four zones. The possibility of production by the deep culture process is under discussion by the British and American authorities.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he expects to be able to give more information shortly about production by the deep culture method?

That is under study, and I will be very glad to discuss it further with my hon. Friend.

Greece (Co-Operative Movement)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider instructing the British Mission in Greece to assist the development of consumers co-operatives in Greece and to supply them with information about the work of the co-operative societies in this country.

The British Economic Mission already have the necessary instructions. Moreover, in addition to the efforts which they have made to assist the cooperatives in Greece I am glad to be able to inform my hon. Friend that the national executive of the Co-operative Union have generously undertaken to pay the expenses of three Greek students at the Cooperative College at Loughborough It is hoped that these young men will begin their studies at the college in the autumn of this year. The experience and knowledge they will obtain there should be of great value to the Co-operative movement in Greece.

British Broadcasts, Europe


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what critical representations have been received in respect of British broadcasts on the European service from the U.S. representatives through either Foreign Office or other channels.

My right hon. Friend is aware of only two representations. which might be termed critical, having been made during the past year by American representatives. The first, in November, 1946, concerned two news reports broadcast in German on 7th and 14th November, and the second related to certain items broadcast in Hungarian during the last week of March, 1947.

Was it made clear at the time that such representations or attempted interferences from a foreign Power were improper and could not be accepted?

Perhaps my hon. Friend would like to see the text of the representations. I assure him that they were not improper.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these few American so called interferences with B.B.C. broadcasting are nothing compared with the number of official criticisms by Russia of the British broadcasting system?

Am I correct in understanding from the Minister's reply that these were the only two representations and, therefore, that there were none from Russia?

Minister's Speech


asked the Prime Minister if the speech made by the Minister of Fuel and Power at Edinburgh on 5th May regarding women's voluntary organisations represents the policy of His Majesty's Government.

I understand from my right hon. Friend that he made reference solely to the Housewives' League and did not mention women's voluntary organisations in general. He was expressing a personal opinion.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Fuel and Power used the expression "Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do—"

The hon. Member knows that that was put down and ruled out of Order. Therefore, he cannot put the question again as a supplementary. We cannot have the gist of that question in another form, because it was ruled out of Order when first presented to the Table.

May I put it this way? Will the Prime Minister dissociate himself from the expression used by the Minister of Fuel and Power, which has given great offence to the people, and which in the opinion of many of them verges on blasphemy?

I have already stated that I am only responsible for expressions which indicate Government policy. No Government policy was involved in this matter.

May I ask the Prime Minister, since he rightly appealed for a national effort at this time, whether he really thinks that statements of this kind by Ministers are a contribution to that effort?

I am afraid there are a great many contributions on both sides that are not helpful.

While I deplore the utterance of my right hon. Friend in this particular connection, may I ask the Prime Minister to bear in mind that the fur-coated members of the Primrose League, who are behind- the British Housewives' League, in no wise represent the masses of British housewives?

Armed Forces

Race And Colour Bar


asked the Minister of Defence, what restrictions of colour, race or religion prevent British subjects from voluntary enlistment in any one of His Majesty's forces.

The present position is that Regular engagements in the Army are confined, as they were before the war, to British subjects of pure European descent. There are no restrictions on religious grounds. The position is substantially the same in the Royal Navy except that non-Europeans are accepted for local service on non-continuous engagements. The R.A.F., however, is now open to all British subjects without discrimination of race, religion or colour. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War has indicated, future policy in this matter is under consideration.

In view of the fact that there was no restriction of colour on British subjects coming to the help of this country during the war, is it not entirely repugnant that there should be any distinction whatsoever?

I have said that the whole matter is under consideration, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wait until that consideration has been completed.

Are these considerations likely to come to fruition, and can the right hon. Gentleman say when?

Can my right hon. Friend say why it has taken over a year for the other two Services to follow the good example of the Royal Air Force?

There are different circumstances in some parts of the Services. I must repeat that the whole matter is under consideration between the three Services, and I will make a statement as soon as possible.



asked the Minister of Defence how the proportion of desertions during the recent war compares with that in the previous war.

Retired Pay (Cost Of Living)


asked the Minister of Defence when, in view of the rise in the cost of living, he intends to restore to all ex-officers whose retired pay was stabilised in 1935 at a level below that of the 1919 basic rates, the small difference between the present rates and the 1919 basic rates.

It is not possible to grant further increases in consolidated rates of retired pay beyond those obtained by applying the terms of the Pensions Increase Act, 1947.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the refusal to make good this remaining small reduction is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction, and that it is looked upon as a breach of a pledge of honour? Further, will he reconsider it in view of the rise in the cost of living?

I do not think I can add any more to what has already been given to the House by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that any further questions on the principle of pensions increases should be addressed to him.

The right hon. Gentleman used the expression "it is not possible." Does he mean that there is some statutory impediment in the way, or that the Government are not willing to consider it?

I suppose that, in this matter, I follow the line of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Families, Germany (Rations)


asked the Minister of Defence what are the food rations per head supplied weekly to the wives and children of British Services personnel at present resident in Germany; whether these rations comprise the only source of food available to the recipients; or by what other means the rations can be augmented.

The wives of Service personnel in B.A.O.R. and their children over the age of 12 receive the same food ration as A.T.S. personnel serving in this theatre. I am sending the details to my hon. Friend. Children aged 5–12 receive five-sevenths of that ration and children up to 5 receive special rations, including an appropriate amount of tinned milk, on a scale slightly more than 2,000 calories a day. Additional tinned milk may also be purchased from N.A.A.F.I. for expectant and nursing mothers and for children aged 5–12. Children attending school receive the equivalent of one-third pint of milk daily free of charge. The provision of mid-day meals for school children is now beginning. No purchases of food from German sources are allowed, but a few items such as sauces, condiments and special baby and health foods are available for purchase in N.A.A.F.I. shops.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Services and civilian personnel are sending food parcels to this country, to the extent, in some cases, of 2 lb. of butter in one parcel? In view of the food situation existing in Germany, does he not think that this practice is deplorable, and will he take steps to see that the sending of food parcels to this country from Germany is prohibited?

I should have thought that it would not have been possible, at any rate, for the kind of quantity mentioned by my hon. Friend, to be sent out of savings in the rations.

I have no direct evidence of a black market. I know that there are some arrangements for troops in Germany to send gift parcels from Denmark, but I will look into the matter especially to see what steps can be taken to curb it. It is already a direct offence for anyone contracted with British troops to engage in the black market, and, in cases of exposure, they would be dealt with.

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that these people should be practising self-denial in view of the extremely serious circumstances by which they are surrounded?

Food Supplies

Condemned Imported Food


asked the Minister of Food the loss to the British taxpayer incurred through Government control of imports which are unfit, or partially unfit, for human consumption, particularly of fruits.

A full statement of the quantities of imported food condemned as unfit for human consumption was given in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport on 15th November. They amounted to a small fraction of one per cent., and in the particular case of fresh fruit to one-twentieth of one per cent. of total imports. To state these tiny quantities in terms of the financial loss to the taxpayer would involve an expenditure of time and labour which I am sure the hon. Member would be the first to deplore.

Is the Minister satisfied that with central control he gets all the information which would enable him to answer my Question?

Yes, Sir, in so far as these imports are centrally controlled, we get much more information about them.

Polish Troops, Stafford


asked the Minister of Food what action he has taken to ensure that extra supplies of rationed food are available in the borough of Stafford to meet the demands of the Polish troops who are stationed at Seighford.

The Polish troops in question are fed in camp by the military authorities and cannot buy rationed foods from retailers. They may, of course, visit cafes and other catering establishments in the area but any increased demand of this kind can be met under the ordinary arrangements.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I was definitely informed yesterday by the Secretary of State for War that these troops are issued with leave ration cards, that this may involve many hundreds of these cards being issued at one time, and that there is a most serious complaint in my constituency, and I believe in others, about the enormous extra demand for rationed goods and the inadequate supply for the local population?

I would be glad to look into the circumstances if my hon. Friend would let me have the particulars.

Poultry Imports


asked the Minister of Food the total value of dead undressed table chickens and hens imported into this country on, and since, 9th February, 1947.

Is the Minister doing all he can to see that, while importing these birds, we do not, at the same time, bring in fowl pest?

Yes, Sir. As the Minister of Agriculture has already stated, these birds are eviscerated before they are imported.

"Food And Nutrition"


asked the Minister of Food what is the paid circulation of the monthly publication of his Department, "Food and Nutrition"; what is the cost in wages and salaries of the staff employed in its production; what is the annual profit or loss; and what special purpose is served by its appearance.

The present paid circulation of "Food and Nutrition" is about 3,500. The cost of Ministry of Food staff employed in its production is estimated at under £30 per month. Taking into account Stationery Office expenses and receipts there is at present a net loss of about £6 per month. The publication is designed primarily to assist Domestic Science Teachers and was originally issued as a free bulletin in July, 1943, at the request of the Board of Education.

Herring Landings, Aberdeen (Sales Ban)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the action of the Scottish Herring Producers' Association in organising a ban on the sale of herring landed by the English herring fleet at Aberdeen and whether he is aware that this prohibition is contrary to the directions of the Herring Industry Board, and in view of the present necessity to ensure maximum supplies of fish in the national interest, if he will take immediate steps to uphold the authority of the Herring Industry Board and secure the withdrawal of this ban.

I am aware that the Scottish Herring Producers' Association have decided to prohibit the sale in Scotland during the summer fishing of herrings landed by certain English drifters. This ban has no legal force whatever and the Herring Industry Board have already made this clear both to the association and to all others concerned. Further, the board have intimated to the association that they will take such steps as may be necessary to prevent the ban, if persisted in, from being effective. In particular the board will arrange, if necessary, for salesmen to handle the catches landed by the English drifters. I deprecate the action which the Scottish fishermen have taken on this matter and hope that on reconsideration they will change their attitude.

While welcoming, on behalf of the herring industry, the statement made by the Minister, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that relations between the English and Scottish fishermen will be seriously prejudiced by this action, and will he do all he can to maintain the authority of the Herring Industry Board throughout the season?

I will certainly continue to maintain the authority of the Herring Board. If its authority is not strong enough, we shall have to consider ways and means. It will be impossible to regulate this industry aright if the Herring Board is allowed to be overruled by the Producers' Association.

Will the Secretary of State consider having a stronger English element on the Herring Board and moving it from Edinburgh to the East coast?

Could my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Scottish fisher- men that this is a double-edged weapon, that Scottish fishermen reap a rich harvest when they go to the South to land their catches, and that this can cut both ways?

Is the Secretary of State aware that the views expressed by the Herring Producers' Association in no way express the unanimous views of Scottish fishermen?

I was perfectly sure of that, and that is the reason I wanted the Producers' Association to understand that, as Secretary of State, I very much deprecate the action they have taken.