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Written Answers

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1947

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday, 21st May, 1947

Telephone Service (Outstanding Applications)

4 and 5.

asked the Postmaster-General (1) how many outstanding applications there are for telephones within the London area at the last convenient date; and when he anticipates being able to meet all demands;

(2) how many outstanding applications there are for telephones within the Stockport area at the last convenient date; and when he anticipates being able to meet all demands.

On 30th April there were 136,000 outstanding applications for telephones in the London area and 555 in the Stockport area. In view of present supply difficulties, I regret that I cannot forecast when it will be possible to meet all demands.

Post Office

Temporary Postmen, Blackpool

7.

asked the Postmaster-General on what grounds 30 men, all under 30 years of age and all ex-Servicemen, now employed in the G.P.O. at Blackpool, have been served with notices of dismissal to take effect at the end of this summer season.

A warning that employment may not be available for them after the present summer season has been given to 36 temporary postmen at Blackpool. I understand that whilst 29 of these postmen are ex-Servicemen only one is under 30 years of age. Issue of the warning arises out of current modifications of postal services which are being applied throughout the country and which are designed to save manpower and to release staff for production.

Mails For Jamaica

asked the Postmaster-General why it is that ordinary mails, including newspapers, to Jamaica are taking about six weeks.

Surface mails for Jamaica are despatched every few days, and generally reach Kingston in two to four weeks. I regret, however, that owing to unforeseen delays en route, two fairly recent mails took as long as 34 days.

Royal Air Force

Group Letter (Circulation)

10

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that the author of Appendix A to H.Q. No. 219 Group Letter 219G/20290/ P2, dated 7th September, 1946, concerning passages for the families of men serving in the R.A.F., for wide circulation in the Middle East was not aware of the Air Ministry Order, dated 3rd October, 1945; and if he will see that the matter is put right.

I have examined the letter of No. 219 Group to which the hon. and gallant Member refers, and I find that it has no Appendix A. Moreover, the author of that letter was clearly aware of the Air Ministry Order of 3rd October, 1945, since in the letter he referred to it twice. I should be grateful, therefore, if the hon. and gallant Member would let me know what point he has in mind and I will then look into it.

Meteorologists (Release)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the arrangements that all personnel called up before 1st January, 1944, will be released by the end of this year applies to meteorological assistants.

Yes; all airmen in the trade of meteorologist in the R.A.F., who were called up before 1st January, 1944, will be released by the end of the year.

Training Centres, Southern Rhodesia (Equipment)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what are the types of training aeroplanes and machine guns actually available for training at the R.A.F. training centres at Gwelo, Heany, Kamulo and Thornhill Southern Rhodesia; and if he is satisfied that such equipment is the appropriate type having regard to present standard equipment in the R.A.F.

It is the policy of the R.A.F. to use the same types of training equipment at centres in this country and at centres overseas. The aeroplanes available at the R.A.F. training centres in Southern Rhodesia are Tiger Moths, Harvards and Ansons The machine guns to be used are .5 inch Browning and 20 millimetre Hispano guns. Owing to transport difficulties, they have not yet been sent out but I hope that they will be available very soon

Waaf Officers (Guest Nights)

asked the Secretary of State for Air why an Order was recently issued by his Department prohibiting W.A.A.F. officers from inviting male guests to guest nights in R.A.F. messes.

The main purpose of this Order was to make officers in the W.A.A.F. full members of the officers' messes in the R.A.F. It is a rule that, on official guest nights, officers in the R.A.F. shall not invite ladies to their mess; in accordance with this rule, it has been decided that officers in the W.A.A.F. may only invite officers of their own or of the other Women's Services.

Parliamentary Candidature

asked the Secretary of State for Air if it is his intention to continue enforced A.M.O. A223/1945, issued by his Department on 1st March.

I am considering, in consultation with the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, the revision of this Order, which relaxes the prewar rules governing the Parliamentary candidature of officers and airmen.

Street Lights, London Airport (Screening)

22.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what steps are being taken to screen the lights on the Bath Road which are confusing the airmen landing at Heathrow.

A method of screening the street lights on the Bath Road, which were confusing to pilots landing at the London Airport, has now been evolved as the result of tests carried out by my Department in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport and the local authorities. Owing to fuel restrictions, only two out of the 44 street lights in question are now in use and these have been screened, the remaining lamps are being similarly modified.

Germany

Foodstuffs (Black Market)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement by Sir Gordon McReady, Regional Commissioner of Lower Saxony, that considerable amounts 'of food found its way into the black market; whether he will give an estimate of the quantity of food so diverted; and what steps are being taken to prevent this.

Yes; I am aware of the announcement. It is impossible to estimate even approximately what quantities of food find their way to the black market, but the amounts are substantial, mostly in the form of potatoes purchased illegally from farmers and transported to towns, often by the consumers themselves There are in each German Land, food enforcement teams working under the supervision of the Control Commission. Checks on roads and railway stations, and farm inspections are continually carried out for the purpose of keeping foodstuffs within the approved channels of distribution. Any quantities of foodstuffs found in illegal channels are seized and confiscated.

School Books

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any calculations have been made respecting the available supply of suitable school books in the schools in the British zone; and if he is aware that some schools have no books whatever.

While my right hon. Friend has no evidence that any schools are entirely without books, he is well aware that education in all schools is seriously hampered by lack of them. Great efforts are being made to increase the supply within the limitations imposed by the shortage of paper and other production difficulties. Between July, 1945, and the end of March, 1947, a total of 10,394,400 text books were distributed to schools in the British zone of Germany.

British Women (Marriage)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when British women who were engaged to Germans before the war and now wish to go to Germany in order to marry them will be allowed to do so.

My right hon. Friend cannot give a general permission to all British women who were engaged to Germans before the war to enter Germany for the purpose of marriage, but he will give sympathetic consideration in the light of their particular circumstances to any cases submitted to him.

Foreign Office Official's Statement (Usa)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the political observations made in the U.S.A. on her present visit by Mrs. Mary Agnes Hamilton, director of the U.S. Information Department at the Foreign Office; and whether the observations had his approval.

I am informed that in an interview with the editor of the woman's page of the New York "Herald Tribune" the officer in question made a statement on the lines of that reported in the "Daily Telegraph" of 6th May. It is reasonably clear, however, from the trend of the whole discussion that what the officer intended to convey was that the living conditions of the people of Great Britain were largely dictated by circumstances beyond the control of either party and that the Conservative Party could do little to alter them at present if they were returned to power.

Austria (Russian War Booty)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds and by whose authority electrical and other plant was dismantled and removed from the Alpine Montangesellshaft works at Donawitz, in the British zone of Austria, in the early months of the Allied occupation.

This plant was removed by the Russian authorities as war booty before the British occupation of Styria.

Germany And Austria (Control Office, Overpayments)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the considerable delay in accounting for the expenditure of the Control Office for Germany and Austria; what is the approximate total amount of overpayments made to staff who have since left the service; and what action is being taken to recover such overpayments and prevent them from being made in the future.

Yes, I am aware of the report. The overissues outstanding against staff who had left the service up to 30th April, 1947, totalled £38,271. Of this amount £16,459 has been recovered, leaving £21,812 still owing. Continued applications for repayment are being made and no part of the outstanding amount is yet regarded as a bad debt. Urgent steps have been and are being taken to correct the two prime causes of overpayments, namely, delays in receipt of particulars of local drawings in Germany and Austria and failure to receive prompt record of dates when pay should cease on account of unforeseen terminations of employment.

Food Supplies

Soya Flour (Beekeepers)

49.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that beekeepers' stocks are likely to suffer from the damage done to pollen-bearing plants by the severe winter, he will make supplies of soya flour available for allocation to beekeepers upon the certificate of a recognised beekeepers' association.

The Ministry of Food does not allocate or hold stock: of soya flour, and as it is comparatively scarce we should not be prepared to authorise its use for any purpose other than the manufacture or preparation of human food.

Pickles And Sauces

asked the Minister of Food why the controlled price of pickles and sauces had been lifted, in view of the shortage of these foodstuffs.

From 1941 up to 5th January, 1947, in the case of pickles and up to 11th May, 1947, in the case of sauces, the great majority of pickles and sauces were sold at maximum prices, which, owing to the wide variety, had to be calculated individually for each brand and size after detailed examination of costs. There have been many changes in costs of ingredients of late and it would have been impossible to continue the system of fixing individual maximum prices without a substantial addition to the Ministry's costing staff. Furthermore, the home manufactured product is now exposed to the competition of foreign imports; and, in all the circumstances, as there are prospects of increased production when the container position improves I decided to decontrol prices. The leading manufacturers gave assurances that their new freedom would not be abused and we have no reason to think they are not "playing fair."

Colonial Empire

Attaché For Colonial Affairs, Washington

57.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, what are the functions and the salary of the colonial attaché recently appointed to the British Embassy, Washington.

The officer concerned is attached to the staff of His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington, with the title of "Attaché for Colonial Affairs," and present salary of £1,320 per annum. His duties are, broadly speaking, to advise the Ambassador on all matters which come within the scope of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and, under the Ambassador's authority, to deal with the State Department and other agencies of the United States Government on such matters. He may also be called upon from time to time to assist the permanent U.K. Representative at the Headquarters of the United Nations on United Nations matters which are of particular concern to the Colonial Office and he will shortly take over such duties as remain to the Resident Member in Washington of the British Section of the Caribbean Commission. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and I hope that the appointment of this Attaché will play a part in the furthering of good Anglo-American relations in an important field

Coal Resources (Development)

58.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement indicating the approximate coal resources of each of the British Colonies; and what steps are being taken in each case to intensify the development of these coal resources with a view to assisting the economy of the Colonies and of Great Britain. respectively.

British territories with coal resources are Nigeria, the Malayan Union, British Borneo, Tanganyika and Nyasaland, but only the deposits in Nigeria and the Malayan Union are at present being worked. The full extent of the coal deposits in all the territories mentioned has not yet been determined, but geological work for this purpose is now proceeding or is being arranged. Arrangements are also in hand for an expert investigation of the coal resources of Nigeria, North Borneo and Sarawak with a view to developing or increasing exports. The development of the resources of the other areas is not being neglected, but I am advised that it is unlikely that they will be able to make any contribution towards the alleviation of the present coal shortage

East African Territories (Ex-Enemy Internees)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if it is proposed to allow 73 ex-enemy internees, who recently returned to the Northern Province, Tanganyika, to resume farming and other work in which they were engaged prior to their internment; and if full consideration has been given to the claims of ex-Servicemen and women of the Northern Province who are seeking to engage in similar activities.

A party of Germans, including women and children, recently arrived in the Northern Province of Tanganyika from Southern Rhodesia where they have been interned. All of them are considered, after careful individual examination of their records, to be unobjectionable politically and otherwise. Only 10 of these people were former residents of the Northern Province; the rest are returning to other parts of Tanganyika. In these circumstances I do not think that their return will adversely affect the interests of ex-Service men and women in the Northern Province or indeed elsewhere in Tanganyika.

77.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs it he will make representations to the Southern Rhodesian Government on behalf of German internees from Tanganyika in order to secure temporary sanctuary pending permanent accommodation of decision respecting their future; and whether he is aware that most of these internees are church missionaries and that British religious bodies and organisations desire that these internees shall not he returned to Germany.

These Germans were tormer residents of the East African Territories, mainly Tanganyika. Who were interned during the war and sent to Southern Rhodesia for security reasons. The records of each individual case have been fully examined, and those who are being repatriated are either former members of the Nazi party or persons of known Nazi sympathies, or are considered undesirable residents of British territories in Africa for other reasons. Arrangements were made to defer repatriation in any case in which an application for admission to another country has a genuine prospect of early success. The number involved is, however, small. The remainder are understood to have already sailed. As regards the last part of the Question, I understand that the number of missionaries among those being repatriated to Germany is only a small proportion of the total. Those being repatriated are moreover, persons who fall into the categories referred to above.

Trinidad (Murder Of Oilfield Official)

61.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received any information from Trinidad about the death of Mr. Deryk Ashmead Bartlett, driller at the Premier (Trinidad) Oilfields, Limited, who was shot by masked men on 25th April, what steps are being taken to apprehend the murderers and whether this is an isolated case or connected with other symptom: of unrest in Trinidad.

Mr. Bartlett was working late at night at a well in the San Francique oilfield. While temporarily separated from the rest of the party with whom he was working, he encountered two masked men who, on being questioned, shot him and then escaped. I am sorry to say that although an emergency operation was performed and Mr. Bartlett rallied for a time, he died the same day. Inquiries were immediately set on foot by the police under the direction of the local C.I.D. and a reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Mr. Bartlett's assailants, but I have no information yet of any arrest being made. The motives for the murder are at present unknown, but there is no particular evidence to connect it with other symptoms of unrest in Trinidad.

Royal Navy

U-Boat Sinkings

66.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will now state, after comparing British and German naval reports, the total number of U-boats destroyed by the Royal Navy between 1939 and 1945.

The correlation of German and British records will not be completed for some time but it seems unlikely that the results will differ materially from the figures already published in Command 6751 and Command 6843.

Officers, Bermuda (Subsistence Allowance)

71.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that naval officers sent to Bermuda on temporary service only receive 30s. a day towards their expenses, whereas the cheapest possible hotel at which they can stay in Bermuda costs 50s. a day; and whether arrangements will be made to reconsider the allowances given to officers in such circumstances.

In February last the subsistence allowance for naval officers sent to Bermuda on temporary service was raised to 50s. per day. These allowances are reviewed periodically in the light of prevailing costs.

Employment

Women And Young Persons (Emergency Order)

72.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the Factories Act, 1937, Hours of Women and Young Persons General Emergency Order of 31st May, 1941, for Engineering and Certain Classes of Works, extended in 1942 until further notice, permitting the relaxation of Sections 70 and 74 of Part V of the Factories Act, 1937, is still in force.

Yes, but the Order only authorises relaxations if and to the extent that there is a written permission for the particular factory. The number of factories with permission under the Order has fallen to less than 400, as compared with about 15,000 in wartime.

Uninsured Persons

asked the Minister of Labour the approximate number of employed persons excluded from his Department's monthly statistics of numbers employed in each industry for the reason that they are not insurable under the unemployment insurance scheme; and the particular numbers so excluded in the cases of commerce, banking, insurance and finance, of the railway industry, of public utility companies, and of national and local government service.

The monthly industrial analysis of insured persons employed which is published in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," and to which my hon. Friend no doubt refers, does not include the railway or the national and local government services. Neither does it include uninsured persons (except part-time women) for whom no monthly figures by industries are available. Separate estimates for the insured and uninsured workers in the various industries can only be prepared in July of each year. The estimates of total manpower, however, which are also given in the "Gazette" without an industrial analysis, include both insured and uninsured as well as employers and persons working on their own account. At July, 1946, the total number of employed persons of insurable age who were not insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts (other than women in part-time paid employment and persons in indoor private domestic service) was estimated to be nearly 3,000,000. This total includes the following numbers in the Services named:

Commerce, banking, insurance and finance56,000
Railway service260,000
Gas, water and electricity supply (including local authority undertakings)34,000
National government service280,000
Local government service (excluding trading services but including teachers)430,000
The figures include employers and persons working on their own account as well as employees.

Walker Art Gallery Liverpool

73.

asked the Minister of Works when it is anticipated that his Department will vacate the premises of the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

The Walker Art Gallery will be vacated when other accommodation can be found for the Liverpool local food office. I regret that at present I cannot say when this will be.

Ministry Of Supply

Fishing Embargo (Dorset Coast)

78.

asked the Minister of Supply whether any final decision has yet been reached to place a fishing embargo on a large area off the Dorset coast for purposes of aircraft bombing practice.

Ordnance Factories

asked the Minister of Supply the ratio of office, administrative and technical staff to factory staff, in connection with royal ordnance factories.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) on 19th May [Vol. 437; cols. 213–4].

National Coal Board Payments (Durham)

79.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why ex gratia payments have been made to Durham mineworkers by the Coal Board in connection with recent strikes; what amount was paid and how distributed; and whether he is satisfied that all mineworkers received their fair share irrespective of trade union membership.

Subject to their statutory functions and duties the National Coal Board have the same liberty as any other employer to make such payments to their employees as they consider proper and in such manner as they see fit, and I regret that I have no information on the points raised by the hon. Member other than that contained in the statement issued by the Board on 9th May

Jubaland (Future Nationality)

76.

asked the Secretary of State for War if the residents of Juba-land, which formerly was part of Kenya, have expressed any wish as to their future nationality when the question of Italian colonies is being considered.

So far as I am aware, no wish has yet been expressed by the residents of Jubaland regarding their future nationality, but every opportunity is given them to voice their views through the medium of District and Zone Councils which have been established in Somalia.

British Troops Overseas (Expenditure)

asked the Minister of Defence, (1) what was the amount of the cost of maintaining British troops overseas in the year 1946; and what is the estimated cost in the year 1947;

(2) what was the cost of maintaining British troops overseas in the year 1946 in the various theatres of occupation, giving details for each area.

I assume that my hon. Friend wishes to know the net cash expenditure of the Services overseas. On this basis, the figures are:

1946:
Approximately£216,000,000
1947:
Approximately£123,000,000
the expenditure in 1946 may be broken down broadly by areas as follows:

£
Europe36,000,000
Middle East61,000,000
Far East58,000,000
Other Areas61,000,000

Railway Wagon Repairs

asked the Minister of Transport how many railway wagons are now standing under or awaiting repair; how many have come in need of repair during 1947; and how many have actually been repaired during the same period.

On 26th April, the latest available date, there were 142,311 railway wagons under and awaiting repair. During the 17 weeks to this date, 1,416,828 were received for repairs, excluding 146,375 outstanding at the end of 1946, and 1,420,892 were repaired and returned to traffic.

Old Age Pensions

asked the Minister of National Insurance why Mrs. Alice Crowther, 22, George Street, Cleckheaton, pension No. 38564421, who is insured in her own right and who has retired from work, has not yet received the 16s. pension to which she is entitled; and when this will be received, together with arrears of benefit at the rate of 16s. a week from the first pay week in October

A pension order book at the rates of 26s. a week has now been issued to Mrs. Crowther, together with an adjusting payment on the basis that she was entitled to the increased rate with effect from 2nd January. Until 31st December Mrs. Crowther was in regular employment and her title to an increased pension did not, therefore, arise until 2nd January, the first pension pay-day following that date.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether the pension books of Mr. and Mrs. Rutter. Nos. 26485370 and 45456067, were in order when sent to his Department in September, 1946; and if he will expedite payment of pensions and arrears

The pension order books held by Mr. and Mrs Rutter were in order when, in September, 1946, they were returned to my Department in error. New books were issued in replacement, containing weekly orders at the appropriate rate from 27th February, 1947, and 1st November, respectively. Payments of £10 10s. 0d. and £2 in respect of the arrears due to the dates stated were made to Mr. and Mrs. Rutter on 19th May.

Roads

Transport Rates And Fares

asked the Minister of transport if he will indicate the policy of his Department towards the plea that rates and tares of road undertakings should be raised to bring them into line with rail charges, in view of the fact that this will sacrifice the important advantages to industrial and private individuals of an essential cheap form of transport.

It is not the practice to proceed upon the basis that rates and fares of road transport undertakings should be increased automatically on the ground that they are lower than corresponding charges for rail transport. The relationship between charges by different forms of transport is a question which will no doubt be fully investigated in due course if the machinery proposed for dealing with these matters in the Transport Bill comes into operation.

Trunk Road Maintenance Costs

asked the Minister of Transport what estimates were submitted by each of the highway authorities in respect of expenditure on trunk roads, for the year ended 31st March, 1947; what was the approximate annual expenditure during that year; and what estimates have been submitted in respect of such expenditure for the current financial year ending 31st March, 1948.

with reference to his reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1947, Vol. 437, C. 209], made the following correction:The estimated expenditure on trunk road maintenance for 1946–47 was 6,600,000 and the approximate expenditure was

£6,530,000

Convicted Man (Letters)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Mr. Cymbalist has been informed that he cannot write to his solicitors in relation to the pending application for the quashing or revision of his conviction and sentence except once a fortnight and then only by using his privilege of one fortnightly letter to write to his solicitor instead of to his family.

Mr. Cymbalist has not been informed to the effect stated, and he has in fact been allowed many special letters to his solicitor and to other persons about his case On one occasion, of his own accord, he used his fortnightly letter to write to his solicitor; if he had asked for a special letter on that occasion it would have been granted.

Us Tractors (Replacement Tyres)

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that farmers are having to wait for as long as 12 months to obtain replacement tyres for U.S. tractors; and what steps he is taking to pr(vide these tyres.

Some of the sizes of tyres used on U.S. tractors are now made in this country; others will be made here as soon as material and fuel shortages permit. In the meantime the latter sizes are being imported from U.S.A. Unfortunately, owing to the present abnormal demand, the American manufacturers are unable to supply immediately, and a delay of several month; in delivery is unavoidable. If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any long-outstanding and urgent cases brought to his notice, I will gladly have inquiries made with a view to hastening delivery.