House Of Commons
Tuesday, 20th May, 1947
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[ Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Havant And Waterloo Urban District Council Bill Lords
PRESTON CORPORATION BILL,
As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.
London County Council (Improvements) Bill
Newhaven And Seaford Sea Defences Bill
Read a Second time, and committed.
Oral Answers To Questions
Ministry Of Pensions
Chapel Allerton Hospital
asked the Minister of Pensions the total number of patients in Chapel Allerton Pensions Hospital, Leeds, at present; how many of those patients who are there under observation or for medical examination have been kept longer than one week; the number of those who have been kept there longer than one month; and what steps are taken to ensure that the medical officer in charge visits the patients daily to find out the progress of their cases, in order to avoid unnecessary delays in dealing with them.
On 19th May there were in the hospital 283 patients, of whom three were there for observation. Two of these, including one who is about to be discharged, have been retained for more than a week but less than a month. In accordance with instructions, medical officers keep a daily watch on the progress of patients, and all concerned are fully alive to the desirability of completing the observation as quickly as possible.
Does the Minister realise that, in the case quoted, men have been in the hospital for several weeks without even seeing the doctor? Will he have this case looked into, and see if more regard can be paid to the men's human interests?
As the answer states, there is only one case that has been there for over a week. In this case—there could be others—it is not always necessary and desirable that the doctor should attend daily. They are placed under observation, and the doctor is there when the observations are being made.
asked the Minister of Pensions, in view of the further facts sent to him concerning the pensions appeal of Mr. Alexander Johnston, late R.A.F., of Hayton, Aberdeen, if he will now have his case re-opened and re-considered with a view to his pension being allowed.
I have received the further medical evidence, but I think it desirable to await a High Court judgment now pending on a similar case before reaching a decision. In the event of rejection being maintained, Mr. Johnston's case will be referred to the Special Review Tribunal.
If there is reasonable doubt in the case, is it not the practice of the Minister to give the benefit of it to the patient?
Invariably we give the benefit of the doubt to the patients. In this case there is no reasonable doubt, but, in the man's own interests, we are awaiting the results of the test case.
Can my hon. Friend say whether this man's appeal was rejected by an appeal tribunal; if so, whether that rejection was unanimous, and, if not, whether he will have it reconsidered in the light of Mr. Justice Denning's recent judgment?
The case has already been rejected, but it has been put to us for reconsideration. On the present basis it is not admissible. But, as I say, in the man's own interests we are awaiting the High Court judgment.
asked the Minister of Pensions how many men have been discharged from His Majesty's Forces with diabetes or balanitis which may have been diabetic in type; and in how many of these instances and for what reasons were pensions awarded to them.
Some 3,200 members of the Forces have been discharged owing to diabetes, and of this number about 500 have been awarded pension on the ground that the disease was either precipitated or aggravated by special factors in service. Any case of balanitis occurring in a diabetic would be included in the above figures.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a corporal, released from the R.A.S.C., particulars of whom have been sent him, has been waiting for over 15 months for a supply of shoes as he cannot wear boots for medical reasons; that he had to use his wife's coupons to enable him to purchase a pair in the meantime; when he can expect to receive the shoes; and whether the coupons so used will be refunded.
This soldier is recorded as having received his normal release outfit, including a pair of civilian shoes. He was, however, in addition entitled to keep on release a pair of the shoes which had been issued to him while serving in the Army. It so happened that at the time he left his unit in Berlin to be released he was waiting for a pair of new shoes in replacement of his old ones, which were worn out. These shoes which had to be ordered from London did not reach his unit until after his departure, and I regret that he has never received them. I have, therefore, arranged for a pair of shoes to be sent to him. The issue of clothing coupons is not a matter for my Department.
Will the hon. Gentleman make inquiries to see if such cases can be accelerated to avoid such delays as this of 15 months before a soldier gets his shoes? Can he inform us what steps can be taken to enable the man to reclaim the coupons his wife lost?
As regards the delay, this is a quite exceptional case, in which my Department made a very small administrative error, for which I apologise. As regards the coupons, that has nothing to do with me, but the allotment of coupons which a Serviceman gets on leaving the Service does allow an extra pair of shoes to be obtained.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that 2601138 Lance-Corporal R. M. Smith, No. r Company, War Office Wireless Section, and 2372768 Signalman E. R. Simmonds, Royal Signals, about whom the hon. Member for Gravesend wrote to him on 11th and 24th April, are being retained under the age and service Group 64, while Lance-Corporal Pollard and Signalman Pope, age and service Group 64, have had their group numbers reduced to 39 and 44, respectively, with immediate release, by reckoning their service on W / T reserve as service; whether there is any change in general policy with respect to reckoning W/T reserve for group assessment; and whether he will make a statement on these particular cases.
; There is no change in the general policy with respect to the reckon-ability of periods on Class W or W/T Reserve, nor is any change contemplated. I will, with permission, circulate the detailed information asked for by my hon. Friend in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these men were drafted on call-up to the War Office for service with Military Intelligence, and that their service in that capacity was not reckoned for their age and service grouping, but that at least two of their comrades, who were in exactly the same circumstances. did have their service so reckoned?
In my answer I am explaining that matter, and, I hope, to the satisfaction of my hon. Friend.
Following are the details:
I am aware that in view of their age and service group number, Lance-, Corporal Smith and Signalman Simmonds are not yet eligible for release and are being retained until the date of release of their group. I regret that through an oversight, Lance-Corporal Pollard's group was reduced from 64 to 39 as the result of an incorrect re-assessment of his reckonable service under which the period spent on Class W/T Reserve was allowed to reckon. That period should not, in fact, have been reckoned. I presume that the Signalman Pope to whom my hon. Friend refers is 2601062 Signalman H. Pope. If so, he is still serving, being in group 66. His group has not been altered.
asked the Secretary of State for War why 14497347 Fusilier P. Morris, 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, B.A.O.R., is now serving a sentence in Dartmoor Prison when there was not enough evidence to justify a court-martial on the charge for which he was arrested; and if this soldier's sentence will be reviewed forthwith.
It is not the case that Fusilier Morris is serving a sentence for an offence which did not justify a court martial. While he was under suspended sentence for a previous offence his conduct was unsatisfactory. It was, therefore, decided by the competent military authority that his suspended sentence should be put back into execution. The sentence was due for review recently, and I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as the result of the review has been reported to me.
That answer is most unsatisfactory and I must apologise to the House if my supplementary question is rather long. [Interruption.] I appeal to the House to listen, when the future happiness of a young lad is in jeopardy. Is the Minister aware that so far no information has been afforded to me or to the parents as to the original offence the boy committed; that we understood he committed the offence of being absent without leave for three days, for which he got three years; that the parents were asked by the War Office where the son was, and that that information was given; that the parents then wrote and asked for news of their son and were told he was fit and well, and serving with his unit, while he had been in detention for II weeks under close arrest?
I very much regret that my hon. Friend, in a rather long supplementary question, should give what he purports to be facts, but which are not quite accurate. As it would be intolerable if I took up the time of the House in going into a detailed statement— [Interruption.]—
Say what you used to say in the "Sunday Pictorial."
I will endeavour, as briefly as possible, to give an answer to my hon. Friend. If he wants information as to the sentence, conviction and the offence for which Fusilier Morris was originally imprisoned, I will send it to him as fully as possible in a letter. However, I can say this to my hon. Friend: Fusilier Morris is by no means an angel, as my hon. Friend has made out.
asked the Secretary of State for War the present position with regard to Regular officers wishing to leave the Army; and the number of resignations accepted in the last 12 months and on what grounds.
On the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) on nth March. As regards the second part, the voluntary retirement of some 360 officers has been approved in the last 12 months. These applications to retire at ages under the existing voluntary retirement ages have been either for urgent compassionate reasons or in order to take up work of national importance as civilians. In addition, 77 officers have retired, having reached the age at which voluntary retirement is permitted.
asked the Secretary of State for War what British troops, military establishments and military offices still remain in Italy, Greece and North Africa respectively.
It would not be in accordance with recent practice to give this information.
Is it to be understood that there is still a state of war in Italy or in Greece, and cannot any information be given as to the British troops which it is thought necessary to keep there?
In the case of Italy, yes, Sir.
asked the Secretary of State for War how many houses and buildings in this country are still under requisition by his Department; what is the necessity for their further retention; and when it is proposed that they shall he released.
My Department still holds under requisition in this country approximately 803 houses and 693 miscellaneous non-industrial buildings. These are still required to meet Army commitments which cannot be housed in War Department property, but the numbers are being progressively reduced according to the derequisitioning plan. Ninety-eight per cent. of the Army's total holdings of non-industrial buildings have already been released.
Can the hon. Gentleman give any further information why these buildings are still required in time of peace? Are not the staffs very much swollen, and should not a great many of these establishments, which were necessary in war, now be dispensed with?
No, Sir. I do not think that view is at all in accordance with the facts.
Will the hon. Gentleman not consider the fact that there are a great many civilians at the present moment being housed in military camps, and would it not be far better that houses should be released for them and that the various offices necessary for the military should go into the camps?
That is a different and very much wider question, of which I should like notice.
Could the hon. Gentleman say what steps he is taking to get houses in London derequisitioned for civilians, and does he not think that the troops would be very much better off in barracks or camps outside the London area, such as Aldershot or some other training area, than in private houses in London?
They would be very much better off, and that is why we have, as indicated in my answer, derequisitioned a very large number of properties, and are proceeding with that derequisitioning.
Battalions In Suspended Animation
asked the Secretary of State for War how many Regular battalions it is proposed shortly to place in suspended animation; how these battalions are selected; for how long a time it is contemplated that they will remain in abeyance; and how it is proposed that their officers shall be disposed of.
According to present plans, 27 Regular battalions will have been placed in suspended animation by 1st July. The principal factors taken into account in selecting these battalions are the distribution of infantry battalions between home and overseas commands, and the necessity of keeping one battalion of each Regiment in being. It is not possible at present to say how long the battalions selected will remain in suspended animation. Their officers will be posted in accordance with the needs of the Service and their own qualifications and status, particular care being taken to post Regular officers suitably.
May I ask whether, in selecting Regular battalions for this fate—and it is a fate—junior battalions of regiments should not have been first selected? Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that many very historic Regular battalions, some dating back to the time of Marlborough's battles, are now being placed in suspended animation? Further, if it is propòsed to place a very large number of these battalions in suspended animation in future, will the hon. Gentleman tell us the names of some of them, and say if he is confident that we shall not be very short of troops in an emergency?
That is another question.
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many cavalry regiments will be in a state of suspended animation?
Not without notice
Transit Camp, Calcutta
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that soldiers are being held for six weeks at a transit camp near Calcutta, pending embarkation for the United Kingdom prior to release; and what steps he is taking to bring this waste of manpower to an end.
I am looking into this matter and will write to the hon. Member.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have had this Question down for a fortnight, and, as this concerns a large number of British troops who are getting thoroughly "browned off," will he take steps to expedite the inquiry?
Royal Educational Corps
asked the Secretary of State for War the present strength of the Army Educational Corps; and the required establishment.
The present strength of the Royal Army Educational Corps, including personnel of other arms employed on educational duties, is 2,309 all ranks. The required establishment for the current financial year is estimated at 4,578 all ranks.
asked the Secretary of State for War what response he has had to the offer of short service commissions in the Army Educational Corps.
268 applications for short service commissions in the Royal Army Educational Corps have been received.
asked the Secretary of State for War the present strength of the Army Cadet Force; and the maximum number allowed.
According to the latest available returns, the strength of the Army Cadet Force is approximately 8,000 officers and 113,000 cadets. The authorized maximum establishment is 12,500 officers and 195,000 cadets.
Can my hon. Friend say whether there has been any falling off in numbers?
Not without notice.
South Coast Beach Clearance
asked the Secretary of State for War what estimate he has of the quantity of iron and steel and barbed wire placed on the South coast beaches during the war and still unremoved; and what steps he is proposing to take to use troops to recover this valuable scrap.
I regret that I am unable to estimate the quantity. Although schemes for the removal by local authorities of the bulk of the steel and wire placed on beaches on the South coast have been approved, I understand that progress has been retarded by shortage of labour. There is also material on privately owned beaches on the South coast. The responsibility for removal from such beaches, where it is in the public interest, rests with the Ministry of Works. Resources of military labour are not sufficient normally to undertake this work.
Is not my hon. Friend aware that we have had a substantial Army of about 400,000 at home for the last two years, a great proportion of whom have been doing nothing at all, and does he not consider that it is about time the Ministry of Works got on with this job?
Is the Minister aware that Par beach is not yet cleared, and that the month of May is fast drawing to its close?
Communications To Mps
asked the Secretary of State for War why the regimental orders of the 12/25 Field Regiment, R.A., B.A.O.R., recently carried a notification to the effect that writing to Members of Parliament was a waste of time.
I have seen a copy of the order referred to by my hon. Friend. It does not say that writing to Members of Parliament is a waste of time. After stating that every soldier is entitled to write to his Member of Parliament, it goes on to say, as my right hon. Friend has before now pointed out in this House, that complaints or requests, particularly if they are concerned with compassionate leave or discharge, can usually be dealt with more quickly if the soldier takes them to his commanding officer in the first instance.
Training Area, Netherlaw
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement regarding the proposal to acquire permanently the 5,000-acre tank training ground at Netherlaw, near Kirkcudbright.
The proposal to acquire permanently new land in this area is limited to a fraction of the area mentioned in the Question; the remainder of the training area is already owned by my Department. The proposal is at present under examination by the Interdepartmental Committee on Service Land Requirements.
Is the hon Gentleman aware that his information regarding the ownership of the land is incorrect, that about 1,000 acres of it is some of the best agricultural land in Scotland, and that great public indignation has been aroused, in view of the pledge of the Coalition Government to restore it as soon as possible? Will he appreciate the necessity of coming to a decision as soon as possible, and will he hear all interested parties?
My information is that I already own 3,620 of these acres. [HON. MEMBERS: "You?"]
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that, having got this land, he has some decent tanks with which to train the men?
Harvest Help (Pay)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in connection with help which is to be given by men serving in the Army to assist agriculture during the 1947 harvest, those men who give up their leisure hours will be allowed to receive and retain any payments they may be able to obtain for services rendered in this connection.
May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having said something, for once, that really pleases me?
Vehicles (British Manufacture)
asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent he intends the Army to be equipped with motor transport and armoured fighting vehicles of British manufacture; and when he anticipates that that extent shall be achieved.
It is the intention that eventually the Army shall be entirely equipped with motor transport and armoured fighting vehicles of British manufacture. Designs of a complete new range of British vehicles are well advanced, and these will be introduced as existing stocks are used up. These stocks include vehicles of American origin, which are likely to last for some years, and which we must continue to use as long as they can be economically maintained.
Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that our units overseas at the present time are adequately supplied with transport, at any rate for training, if not for operational, purposes?
Could my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that we are not spending American dollars on any military equipment for this purpose?
My answer indicated that. That is why we are going to produce British vehicles.
Building Material Stores
asked the Secretary of State for War the names of people who asked, and dates when his Department's representatives were asked, for the release of urgently required building materials contained in the dumps in the North-West area; the dates upon which other Government Departments made representations; and the answers given.
Requests from private firms or from individuals for release of building materials are not normally dealt with by my Department. An inquiry was received from the Ministry of Works on 24th April asking whether certain asbestos sheeting and other stores held at Ditton could be made available for a Ministry of Works building programme, which was in danger of being held up. The reply was that, although there were still some surpluses to declare, the majority of the stores were required for Army projects.
Smith asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give a list of the principal building materials held in the dumps at Chester, Woolton, Hale Wood, Ditton and Widnes, and the amounts in each case.
|Item.||Tonnage to be retained.||Tonnage declared or in process of being declared surplus.||Total Tonnage.||Remarks.|
|In linked depots at Woolton, Halewood, Ditton and Widnes.|
|Decauville Track||—||15,000||15,000||Required for export to U.S.S.R.|
|Hutting and Hutting components (including asbestos sheets, etc.)||3,000||—||3,000||These stocks are controlled by the Ministry of Works who are working out distribution Total stocks are below over all requirements of all Departments.|
|Victaulic piping 6" x 4"||5,000||—||5,000|
|Cast Iron stove pipes||—||1,000||1,000|
|At a separate depot in Halewood.|
|Corrugated galvanized Iron.||1,100||—||1,000||Demands exceed availability.|
|Steel section (angles, plate, etc.).||1,000||—||1,000||Demands exceed availability.|
|Water piping 3"||600||—||600||Required for use this year. In process of issue.|
|Square mesh track||250||—||250||Airfield track stores. The question of retention is under Consideration.|
|In Command Depot at Chester.|
|General building stores. Mainly 4" stoneware||400||100||500||A considerable amount of stores have already been declared surplus and re moved from the Depot. It is in course of being closed down and existing stocks are under review for retention or further disposal.|
asked the Secretary of State for War the number of dumps of building materials held throughout the country; the number of dumps of materials in short supply; the amounts of the chief materials at the dump along the main railway line south of Stoke-on-Trent; and why these building materials in short supply have been allowed to deteriorate.
There are in the United Kingdom 73 War Office and command stores depots, almost all of which contain some form of building materials in short supply. I assume that the depot referred to in the third part of the Question is that of Weston and Ingestree; it contains some
As the list contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the list:
The principal building materials held are as follow:
5,500 tons of steel hutting held on behalf of the Ministry of Works, which is required for the Government programme, and some 2,000 tons of assorted and unbalanced hutting components, whose disposal the Ministry of Works is gradually carrying out. Owing to lack of storage space, much of this material necessarily had to be stored in the open, where some deterioration is inevitable, particularly in stores of inferior quality. Lists of unserviceable stores so far produced, however, show the amounts to be negligible
Is it not a fact that these dumps contain materials which are in short supply in the building industry and which are urgently required, and that housing schemes have been held up for the lack of such materials? If that is so, does it not disclose a first-class national scandal, and cannot my hon. Friend make some investigations into the matter in order to have the materials released as soon as possible?
I cannot accept those facts at all. I am informed that we are not holding in the dumps more of these materials than we actually require for our building projects for the current financial year.
I have a list containing the numbers of every material in these dumps, and in view of the fact that camps were built in 1938, 1939 and 1940, in which we housed the whole of our Armed Forces and the American Forces, surely there is no longer any need to retain these dumps, because the men coming into the Forces could be housed in the camps already there? Will my hon. Friend undertake to have an investigation made into this state of affairs in order that this urgently needed material can be released for house building?
No, Sir. It my hon. Friend has information which is at variance with what I have given him, I will, of course, investigate it. On the facts that T have got, I am quite satisfied.
In view of the fact that the Government are making constant appeals to the people of this country to work harder and to have regard to the national interest, will the War Office also have regard to the national interest in this matter?
asked the Secretary of State for War why he has decided to increase to 48 pages the size of the magazine, "Soldier," issued by his Department; what is the circulation of this publication and the profit or loss made on it; how much paper is used for an issue of the present size; and to what extent this quantity will be increased by the increase in size.
I am sorry that this answer is a little long. The magazine "Soldier" was originally produced fortnightly and distributed in Rhine Army only. A number of other overseas Commands also produced periodicals. During 1946, owing to the release of many technical personnel and the reduction in size of the Army, it became impracticable to continue "Soldier" on a fortnightly basis, and a number of periodicals in other overseas Commands had to cease production altogether. It was, therefore, decided to produce "Soldier" on a monthly basis, and to put it on sale to the forces in all Commands. The size of the pages was reduced though their number was increased in order to carry smaller illustrations and more matter of interest to Commands other than B.A.O.R. The circulation of this publication is at present 104,000, and it is sold at such a price as is estimated will cover costs of production. The quantity of paper now being used is approximately 20 tons per issue, and the additional pages will require a further four tons per issue. The total consumption of paper will, however, still be less than when the original magazine was produced fortnightly.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the publishers of this production are circularising potential advertisers with the statement that there is extra advertising space available in this production, and does he in those circumstances, consider that this substantial allocation of paper is justified?
Yes, Sir, I think so. No doubt other periodical proprietors would not agree.
Staff Instructors (Quarters)
asked the Secretary of State for War, what steps he proposes to take to provide the necessary accommodation for the number of permanent staff instructors that will be needed for training the T.A. and auxiliary Forces; and whether he is aware that the complete lack of married quarters when the services of these non-commissioned officers are required will prevent the necessary staff being posted.
There are, approximately, 1,400 married quarters in existence for permanent staff instructors, but many of these are occupied by other users. Provision was made in Estimates for 100 permanent quarters as a start to a long-term programme for quarters. In the meantime, authority has been given for the conversion of hutting to temporary married quarters, wherever possible. In view of the lack of quarters, single men are being posted to the greatest possible extent. Permanent staff instructors who are married will be posted, as far as can be arranged, close to their homes. Where every other expedient fails, they are being given single accommodation in Regular Army barracks until quarters can be provided for their families. Although the situation is difficult, therefore, I hope that the position suggested in the last part of the Question will not arise.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether any negotiations are taking place with the Ministry of Health so as to enable prefabricated buildings to be put up, in view of the urgency of posting non-commissioned officers?
Yes, Sir, we have plans for using prefabricated buildings.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the discontent which arises from the fact that men in this country on leave with only five or six weeks more to serve in the Army are being sent back to Palestine; that in some cases, after a journey which normally takes nine days, the men find themselves with less than four weeks to serve before release date; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent men with such short remaining service from being sent overseas.
No, Sir, I am not aware that this is happening. Soldiers are not normally granted leave to the United Kingdom from Palestine unless they will have at least four months' service to complete after their return from leave.
Is the Minister aware that last week I received a letter from his Department seeking to justify the return of men with five weeks more to serve in Palestine, and indicating that the journey took only nine days, and that they would have at least four weeks more to serve after arrival in Palestine?
If that is so, it must be a rare exception, because it conflicts with the answer I have just given.
If I submit the letter to my right hon. Friend, will he give me the correct information?
I am always willing to give correct information.
Is it not the case that men stationed in Palestine and proceeding on leave must first sign a document that they will return to Palestine at the end of their leave?
I do not know about that, but I should not think that it was unreasonable.
Territorial Army (Cost)
asked the Secretary of State for War what proportion of the total Army grant is allocated to the T.A.
Approximately £6,150,000 net is provided in Army Estimates 1947-48 for expenditure on the Territorial Army, including the pay and maintenance of the permanent military staffs. This is about 1.6 per cent. of the total net money provision in Army Estimates.
Is this a definite decision, or a temporary one until the right hon. Gentleman can see how the matter develops? Could he say whether it is a final figure, or whether there may be an increase?
Like all Army Estimates, they only run from year to year, and are, therefore, I suppose, temporary.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if the Territorial Army is to be responsible for the A.A. defence of the country, it ought to have a considerably higher proportion than has been allotted to it?
We have those matters fully in mind.
asked the Secretary of State for War, whether, in view of the importance attached to the role of the T.A., it is proposed to restore to the Director-General, T.A., the seat on the Army Council which he held before the war.
Tripolitania And Cyrenaica (Food Situation)
6 and 7.
asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what total amount of tonnage of cereals will have to be imported into Tripolitania and Cyrenaica during the coming year; when it will be required; and from which countries it will be supplied; and (2), if he will make a statement regarding the effect on this year's harvest of the drought in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica; and what estimate has been made, expressed in percentage, of the probable loss of cereals.
The drought in these territories has unfortunately had a disastrous effect on the barley crop. In Tripolitania, the crop has been virtually a complete failure. In Cyrenaica, it is estimated that nearly half the crop has been lost. 63,300 tons of cereals will have to be imported into the territories during the coming year. Of this figure 13,200 tons represent normal wheat imports into Tripolitania, the balance being emergency imports into these territories in view of the crop failure. 17,900 tons are required as early as possible, 1,900 tons monthly from June to August inclusive, 5,400 tons monthly from September to March, 1948, inclusive, and 1,900 tons in April 1948. I cannot at present say where all the required cereals will be found. Arrangements are being made for barley to be supplied from Iraq. The requirements of wheat will be met from small stocks held by His Majesty's Government in the Middle East.
In view of the very serious nature of that statement, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind, when making every endeavour, as I know he will, to deal with this acute problem, the fact that this might be used as a means of anti-British propaganda if it fails to solve this very difficult question?
May I ask my hon. Friend what price is being paid for barley from Iraq?
My hon. Friend should address that Question to the Minister of Food.
Prisoners Of War
Civilian Workers Scheme
asked the Secretary of State for War if, in view of misunderstandings and uncertainties among German prisoners, he will cause to be printed in German, and displayed on all prisoner-of-war camp notice boards, precise details of the scheme under which prisoners are to be allowed to remain in this country as civilian workers, of the kinds and amounts of goods allowed to be sent or taken to Germany by prisoners and of other matters of interest to them.
asked the Secretary of State for War how many German prisoners of war in this country have applied for permission to remain here; and whether they have been made fully aware of the procedure to be adopted if they desire to remain.
the number of prisoners of war wishing to remain is not yet known, as the obtaining of names is not yet complete. The precise details of the scheme under which prisoners of war may remain in this country as alien civilian agricultural workers have not yet been settled, but when they are, adequate notice board information on them will be displayed in German. The privileges which well conducted prisoners of war may enjoy are already set out in German on prisoner-of-war camp notice boards, and information regarding the parcels which prisoners of war may send is to be displayed in the same way.
Did my hon. Friend say "is displayed," or "is to be displayed"?
Is to be displayed.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that rumour is usually a lying jade as far as men in captivity are concerned?
asked the Secretary of State for War how many German prisoners of war were repatriated in March and April from this country and the Middle East, respectively.
From the United Kingdom, 15,477 German prisoners of war were repatriated in March, and 15,515 in April; from the Middle East, 3,997 in March, and 2,691 in April.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that other requirements of shipping will not seriously interfere with the continued repatriation of these men from the Middle East?
I think I have answered questions on that matter previously. Speaking from recollection, I think that the rate of repatriation from the Middle East will be expedited in July.
Will the same procedure for compassionate repatriation apply in the Middle East as in this country?
I should think so
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will state the weekly pay of the German prisoners of war in Egypt as compared with the pay given to prisoners of war in this country for work done.
German prisoners of war employed in Egypt are entitled to receive working pay and bonus credits at the same rates and under the same conditions as apply to German prisoners of war in this country.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these slave labourers engaged in building camps on the Canal bank are paid a great deal more than similar slave labourers in this country and will he explain why there is this difference? If he does not know and I give him the information, will he look into it?
I am always ready to receive information from my hon. Friend. But, as I have said in the answer, there is no difference.
Public Servants (Political Activities)
asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to make a statement of the intention of His Majesty's Government to amend the conditions whereby Post Office workers, local government employees, those employed by the Government in the mining and other industries, and other public servants are debarred or prejudiced by standing as candidates or taking part in local or national elections, publicly supporting or opposing any political candidate, or speaking or writing on political questions.
This matter is still under consideration, and I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave my hon. Friend on 6th March.
In view of the growing number of men in Government service, will my right hon. Friend see that they will not suffer any undue civic or political disadvantages?
If any regulations are made, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that any facilities or restriction of facilities applies equally to all grades of the Civil-Service?
No, Sir, I do not think that would be reasonable. There is a great deal of difference between the position of, say, someone in the manual group at the Post Office, and, say, the permanent secretary of a Department such as the Foreign Office.
asked the Secretary of State for War when he will be in a position to supply figures giving the total value of food bought by N.A.A.F.I. in Germany for the years 1944–45 and 1945–46, respectively.
As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State informed the hon. and gallant Member in reply to a Question last week, this information is not readily available, and I understand from N.A.A.F.I. that it could not be produced without a disproportionate amount of work.
New Businesses (Licences)
asked the Prime Minister in respect of how many and what kinds of, new businesses it is first necessary to obtain a licence from a Government Department, and which; how many applications for such licences have been received in the last 12 months and in respect of what categories; how many were granted; and, of the total number, how many were from ex-Servicemen and were refused.
As the answer involves a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that unless an ex-Serviceman is disabled, it is almost impossible for him to start up in business on his own account, and is it not now time, two years after the end of he war, that the whole of this question should be reexamined?
That is another question, and I would like to see it on the Order Paper.Following is the information: A licence is still required to deal in most foodstuffs, to retail coal or paraffin,
|Category||Total applications received||Total applications granted||Applications from ex-Serviceman|
|(a)||Caterers: Cafes, Restaurants, etc.||…||…||21,549||14,488||490||13|
|(c)||Footwear repairers||…||…||7,021 (e)||4,687||1,841||844|
|(d)||Building and Civil Engineering Contractors||…||…||46,624||46,624||Not available|
|(a) for 12 months ending 15.1.47.||(b) for 12 months ending 30.4.47.|
|(c) for 12 months ending 31.3.47.||(d) for 12 months ending 30.4.47.|
|(e) applications received in respect of new businesses, change of ownership and change of address.|
asked the Prime Minister what further steps are being taken to improve and energise the drive for production, the need for which was made so manifest in the Economic Survey, 1947.
My right hon. Friends the Lord President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the President of the Board of Trade have on many occasions explained both the nature of the problems facing us and the action which is being taken in consultation with both sides of industry; and I could not usefully add to their explanations in the scope of a reply to a Parliamentary Question. or to repair footwear. A certificate of registration is necessary in the field of building and civil engineering. The Departments concerned are the Ministries of Food, Fuel and Power, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Works. Figures are not available, without an undue expenditure of labour, for food wholesaling or manufacture, or for coal retailing, for which licences are obtained from local fuel overseers. The information regarding the other licences is as follows;
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the major proportion of organised workers are eager to implement the Economic Survey, and will he see that, apart from national propaganda on this vital matter, a special report is submitted to industry so that it may be discussed at workshop level by workers and employers? Further, while I appreciate the importance of the national psychology, may I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that it is at industry level, in the workshops and in the farms, that the goods are made?
I quite agree with the importance of the points put by my right hon. Friend, and they are all under active consideration with a view to bringing these matters to workshop level.
Government Dollar Expenditure Abroad
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the £300,000,000, shown in Cmd. 7099 as Government expenditure abroad during 1946, represents an expenditure of dollars.
Allowing for relevant dollar receipts, 9 per cent.
Export Credit Guarantees
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements are in force between his Department and the Export Credits Guarantee Department to ensure that money allocated to its use is not employed to finance unrequited exports.
The Export Credits Guarantee Department will only guarantee credits approved by our exchange control.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent the shortage of stamped cheques is due to labour difficulties at the stamping office; and whether he will consider authorising the printers to impress the stamp in their own works under Treasury supervision.
These difficulties have now been settled, and arrears are being overtaken. I do not, therefore, think that the hon. Member's suggestion need be considered at present.
Would not the Chancellor like to save a little of the labour which is involved in the present procedure whereby cheques are printed in one place, sent in parcels to a stamping office where they are stamped, sent back in parcels to the printers and then sent out in other parcels to the banks?
I would like to save unnecessary labour everywhere, but I am advised that the hon. Member's suggestion would not have that effect. I have gone into the question, but the impressing of the cheque stamp is like the creation of money. It has to be subject to rather careful control against fraud, and I do rot think it would be practicable for the Revenue to provide controlling staff in all these various contractors' printing works to see that nothing went wrong. I have already looked at the matter from the point of view of the hon. Member's suggestion.
Us Loan Drawings
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much of the U.S. Loan to the United Kingdom was used during the first three months of 1947; what approximate amounts of this and other dollar credits were used to pay for U.S. exports to the United Kingdom and the British zone in Germany, respectively; and for what other main purposes and to what extent other dollar credits were used.
Drawings were 500 million dollars, supplies from the United States for ourselves 320 million dollars, and for Germany 70 million dollars. Other supplies and services also cost us dollars, but a detailed analysis of these items in this recent period is not yet available.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider taking steps to prevent, after July of this year, sterling balances held by foreigners in this country from being, under certain circumstances, converted into dollars, thereby prejudicing our financial position.
I would refer my hon. Friend to my replies to the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) and to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) on 13th May.
Bank For International Settlements
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to whom the shares in the Bank for International Settlements, formerly held by Axis or Axis satellite central banks, have been transferred; and whether such transfer was approved by His Majesty's Government.
No such transfers have been made so far. German and Japanese owned shares in the bank will be dealt with under the reparation settlements for these countries in-the same way as other external assets.
Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer say what will be the procedure with regard to the Axis satellite States?
I think the Germans and the Japanese were the two principal criminals in the war. The other people were rather minor offenders, and hold rather minor stakes. I think these two cases will cover the point.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will state the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to the continuance of the Bank for International Settlements.
I have been in consultation with the United States Government on this question, but have no further statement to make at present.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is satisfied with the present rules for discharge of temporary civil servants on the grounds of redundancy; and whether any permanent civil servants have been discharged on grounds of inefficiency.
I am satisfied that the Redundancy Agreement negotiated with the staff side is the best way of dealing with what is bound to be a difficult problem. The answer to the second part of the Question is, Yes, Sir.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this redundancy question is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction among these people, who have done great service to the country?
That may be so. Obviously, when someone has to go he feels dissatisfied. These discharges take place under agreement with the Whitley Council, and we are satisfied that this is the just and best way to do it.
Will the hon. Gentleman say approximately how many permanent civil servants hae been discharged in this way?
About 30 in the last 10 years.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in giving effect to those parts of the National Whitley Agreement affecting temporary civil servants, he takes into account the fact that the agreement was drawn up by a body which does not contain one temporary civil servant.
Any Whitley agreements on matters affecting temporary civil servants are negotiated with bodies representing them.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on what grounds temporary civil servants who served in the N.F.S. during the war are excluded from the increment to salaries awarded to those who served in the Armed Forces.
I assume that the hon. Member refers to the recent award of the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal on a claim to allow temporary clerks to count incremental credit in respect of national service during the war. The grounds upon which service with the N.F.S. was excluded from the award is a matter for the tribunal.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether any power resides in himself or his right hon. Friend to reconsider this question?
No, Sir. It has been to the tribunal and, as I say, the tribunal has made its award. We can hardly interfere with that.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether perference is shown for ex-Service personnel in engaging employees for Government Departments and Government-controlled factories; and whether war service is taken into consideration when the question of redundancy arises.
On the non-industrial side of the Civil Service the arrangements for recruitment to established posts during the reconstruction period ensure that generous treatment is given to suitable candidates from the Forces, according to Cmd. 6567; employment is also reserved for ex-Servicemen in certain subordinate grades where possible. As to redundancy, the broad position as laid down by the National Whitley Council Agreement is that discharges shall be in order of shortness of service, and for this purpose any period of service in the Armed Forces counts as temporary Government service; the National Whitley Council also embodies a long-standing pledge in favour of the ex-Serviceman of the 1914–18 war. On the industrial side, the Departments concerned apply the rules agreed with the headquarters' trade unions.
As the right hon. Gentleman is rather indefinite, will he say whether he is satisfied that these men are being treated generously; and will he also say if any distinction is made between the ex-Servicemen of the first and second world wars?
Yes, Sir, the ex-Serviceman of the first world war does get complete right of way in these matters. The ex-Serviceman of the war just concluded does not, although the scales are heavily weighted in his favour
Official Report, House Of Commons (Index)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury when the bound index to HANSARD, Session 1945–46, will be available for the Library of this House.
On 22nd May. I should add that a few copies with paper backs are being placed in the Library until the cloth bound edition is available on 9th June.
Is the Financial Secretary aware that more than six months have elapsed since the close of the Session in question, and that hon. Members are caused serious inconvenience by reason of the bound index not being available, especially hon. Members on this side of the House who desire to-look up speeches of hon. Members opposite?
Trade And Commerce
Healds (Yarn Allocation)
asked the President of the Board of Trade why the allocation of yarn for the manufacture of healds for export has been stopped; and if he will alter this decision
New allocations of cotton yarn for export purposes have been suspended at present in view of heavy arrears of production in the cotton industry. I am mindful, however, of the particular need of manufactures of healds and am taking steps which, I hope, will ensure that continuity of production for export is maintained.
Will they be permitted to have an allocation of yarn in the very near future?
I think so, but I should not like to say definitely.
Could the hon. Gentleman say what is the total amount involved?
I am afraid I could not without notice.
Is it not very small?
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now announce the number of clothing coupons that will be made available in September; and, in particular, the details of the special allocations to be made for children.
I am not yet in a position to say what will be the amount of the next instalment of the basic ration which will become available in November, nor can I yet add to the information which I gave to my hon. Friend on 22nd April about the childen's additional supplements.
Paper Supplies (Propaganda)
asked the President of the Board of Trade the total paper tonnage allocated during the last 12 months to the organisers of the railway company and Road Haulage Association campaign against transport nationalisation for the purpose of this campaign; and whether he will grant a similar paper allocation to any non-governmental organisation or association wishing to reply to it.
No paper has been licensed for this purpose.
Could my right hon. Friend say where all this paper is coming from? Is he aware that hundreds of tons of paper are being wasted for this purpose at the present time; and will he make inquiries to see where the printers are getting the paper, when our provincial newspapers are in need of paper?
The answer, of course, is that merchants and printers hold certain stocks which are not subject to licence, and if they care to sell them to the printers of these posters I cannot do anything about it.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us how it comes about that there is so much paper available for publications of this kind, whereas it is impossible to get paper for the publication of a very important volume of the history of the Miners' Federation?
As there seems to be plenty of paper available for all kinds of organisations, including the Secretary of State for War who has just got an additional four tons, will the hon. Gentleman see what can be done to give newspapers started since 1940 a chance of survival by modifying Paper Control Order No. 70?
I am afraid that is an entirely different question. The original Question was about posters.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to increase, during the current season, the supply of timber from Finland which has vast resources of this commodity and is anxious to increase her quota to this country.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given yesterday to the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant).
Town And Country Planning
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he is aware that the populations of London and Greater London are increasing at the rate of 45,000 persons a month; that the 1938 population will be exceeded by the end of this year; and how he proposes to check this excessive flow of people to the London area which promises to negative the intentions of the decentralisation proposals of the London plans.
I am aware that this was the rate of population increase in the Greater London area during the last three months of 1946, but I understand that the rate decreased somewhat during the early months of this year. The Government have, of course, no powers to prevent people returning to London if they so choose. The Government are, however, restraining the overall increase of population by examining critically any proposal for industrial expansion in Greater London and by encouraging industrial development in other parts of the country which are in need of additional employment.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how an overall increase of population differs from an increase of population?
Daccombe Valley (Use)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether his attention has been called to the proposed use of the highly fertile Daccombe Valley as a housing estate by the borough of Torquay; and what steps have been, or will be, taken by him to ensure the preservation of this valley for agricultural purposes.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. No formal proposal has so far been submitted to my Department by the Torquay Borough Council. In considering any proposal for development, whether for housing or other purposes, full regard will be had to agricultural interests.
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that this comparatively small piece of land produces 76,000 gallons of milk and 630 tons of food annually; will he remember that we shall need every bit of food we can grow in the future; and will he nip this project in the bud when it is referred to him in order that the present occupiers may go forward and increase their production in full confidence?
I will bear these and all other material considerations in mind if and when an application is made to me.
asked the Minister of National Insurance, in view of the fact that an old age pensioner, casually employed at 20S. per week and receiving 46s. a week in total, by working longer hours and earning 30s. still receives the same weekly sum, if he will make regulations before the new scheme under the National Insurance Act comes into force to provide inducements for pensioners under the existing scheme to make their maximum contribution to the national effort without delay.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) on 29th April. The provisions referred to are contained in the National Insurance Act and I have no power to vary them.
Is it not a fact that in his answer the Minister has referred to those pensions which would apply after 1948 whereas the Question I put down is very different? Will he reconsider this matter, since I cannot believe that he is suggesting that this House has not the power to meet the situation?
The pensions now paid to existing old age pensioners come under the provisions of the National Insurance Act. The provisions of that Act must, therefore, apply to existing pensions.
Old Age Pensioners (Complaints)
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will explain the practice of his Department in dealing with letters from old age pensioners complaining that they cannot obtain new pension books; and if he will give instructions that, when further delay is unavoidable, the pensioner shall be informed of its probable duration.
Local area officers of the assistance boards are now acting as my agents in dealing personally with those making a first claim for old age pension and also with pensioners who experience difficulty over renewal of their order books or who claim entitlement to an increase of their previous rate. It is not generally practicable to indicate in advance the time required for settlement of any indi- vidual case, but where it seems that there will be exceptional delay or that a new claim cannot be settled by pension date my Department endeavours to let the claimant know. Now that the difficulties which have created undue delays during recent months are being overcome, I am considering what further improvements in the supply of information can be made.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these old age pensioners have been writing to his Department for over six months, and can they not be sent something more informative than a formal acknowledgement in reply?
My experience has proved to me that any arrangemet by which my Department receives letters from pensioners and writes to them in reply is the wrong way to deal with old people. I am seeking to build up an administration in which if any difficulty arises a pensioner may be seen and interviewed by an officer, which I am certain is the best way to deal with this question.
Is the Minister aware that in cases where claimants have been unable to get satisfaction after two, three or four months, and then approach their Members of Parliament, they are told they should not do so?
That is the first I have heard of this. Members of Parliament have access to the Ministers and to Departments, and we do our best to clear up these matters.
Since we are all agreed that it is not really desirable that we should have to approach the Minister in these cases, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could suggest some form of local procedure whereby these real grievances could be more speedily remedied?
As I have announced to the House, pending the building up of our own organisation, I have made an arrangement whereby officers of the assistance boards receive old age pensioners or visit them in their own homes to clear up difficulties
asked the Minister of National Insurance where a contributor to national insurance ceases work on account of certified ill-health, whether his regulations entitle him to draw sickness benefit under current legislation or will provide for his sickness benefit or retirement pension under the new Act if he settles in Southern Ireland.
A person insured under the Acts in force in the United Kingdom is not debarred from receiving sickness benefit during temporary residence in Eire. Further, if, within a certain time, he becomes insurably employed under the corresponding Eire scheme he can, under existing reciprocal arrangements, count his contribution record in the United Kingdom, for the purpose of qualifying for sickness benefit under the Eire scheme. The question of making reciprocal arrangements with the Government of Eire in relation to the benefits which are to be provided under the National Insurance Act is at present under consideration. There is no contributory old age pension scheme in Eire, but persons who have been insured under the United Kingdom Acts can continue to pay contributions on a voluntary basis if they become resident in Eire and any pension arising there from may he paid in that country.
If the person concerned has spent the whole of his working life in this country and then, on retirement, goes back to live in his own country, which is Eire, can he take his pension with him?
He can take with him the pension for which he has qualified at the time he left this country.
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that a considerable number of men and women over 45 years of age are unable to get work of any kind although they are in good health and often have useful experience; and if he will take steps to prevent this unnecessary loss of valuable manpower.
I would refer my hon. friend to the reply given to the hon. member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) on 29th April, a copy of which I am sending her.
Nfs Personnel (Training)
asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the number of discharge notices recently issued to personnel in the N.F.S. in the South Wales area, he will extend to such discharged personnel facilities for training for other employment.
The facilities provided under the Resettlement Training Schemes are already available to members of the N.F.S. who are discharged.
Prisoners Of War
asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the fact that a considerable number of prisoners of war are anxious to stay in this country as alien civilians in employment other than agricultural, he will consider drawing up a scheme to make this possible in all those cases where there is a shortage of British labour, the prisoners are suitable for the occupation they seek and our own citizens would not in any way be adversely affected by their retention.
No, Sir. The position remains as stated in the reply to my hon. Friend's Question on 13th May.
Will not my hon. Friend look at this question again, because there are a large number of occupations in which German prisoners have experience for which there is a grave shortage of British labour, and in which they might be usefully employed?
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that his answer will enjoy the wide support of the people of this country who feel that it is time that the Germans were allowed to return to Germany and British men brought home?
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is yet in a position to make a statement about the future of the restrictions which prevent aliens resident in this country from earning their living.
I am not clear what restrictions my hon. Friend has in mind. It is necessary, in the interests of British workers, to exercise a certain measure of control over the employment which may be taken by aliens, but I cannot admit that this control has the result suggested in the Question in the case of aliens who are permitted to enter or to remain in this country for the purpose of engaging in employment. If my hon. Friend has any specific cases in mind and will send me particulars I shall he glad to look into them.
Is not my hon. Friend aware that large numbers of aliens arc in this country and have been in this country for many years with a specific restriction endorsed on their visas that they are allowed to remain only so long as they refrain from entering into gainful employment, and is it not ridiculous that we should be scouring Europe for aliens to come here to work while there are thousands here already who are only too anxious to earn their own living and many of whom are prosecuted and imprisoned for doing so?
I do not think it right that an alien who comes into this country on compassionate grounds should then seek to gatecrash into employment.