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Commons Chamber

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 30 July 1947

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 30th July, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions


Exit Permits


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether he has now arranged that persons who have been authorised by the Home Office to visit this country from Germany shall be given exit permits in Germany without delay.

Travel out of the three Western Zones is governed by tripartite agreement, and applications can only be approved if they come within the prescribed travel categories. Subject to this, arrangements have now been made whereby exit permits will in future be issued with the minimum of delay.

Is the Secretary of State aware—as I expect he is—that a large number of the applications for permits are for compassionate cases, and that a good deal of misery has been caused in the past by the delay in granting them, which delay has extended to months?

If the hon. Member comes across cases like that in future under the new arrangements I shall be glad if he will tell me.

Civil Police Force


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the total strength of the civil police force in the British zone of Germany at the time of the capitulation; how many of those then serving have since been dismissed or suspended; what is the present total strength; and on what basis new recruits are selected.

The first reliable figures obtainable are for the middle of July, 1945, when there were 29,758 regular police and 4,321 auxiliary police, in the British zone of Germany. Of these, 12,553 regulars and 2,534 auxiliaries have been dismissed. The present strength of the civil police is 38,456 regular police and 2,294 auxiliaries. New recruits are selected on the basis of educational and physical qualifications, and applicants are screened by special German de-Nazification panels. No former regular officers or regular non-commissioned officers of the German Armed Forces are accepted.

Can the Secretary of State tell us whether any track is kept of these 12,000 or 15,000 dismissed policemen; whether anything is known about what has become of them; and could he explain why service as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer should disqualify a man for police service?

In regard to the latter part of the supplementary question, I understand most of the people who were either regular officers or regular non-commissioned officers in the German Armed Forces were, in the main, Nazis, and were not trusted in the police. I should like to have notice of the first part of the supplementary question and I will get the facts.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look again into this senseless discrimination against the re-employment of ex-regular officers and non-commissioned officers? Some of them, for instance, might have been Socialists, and surely it is unfair that they should be subject to discrimination?

I am looking into it, but in one breath the House wants me to de-Nazify and in the next breath the House wants me to employ them. It is a very difficult problem to handle when a country has been dealt with in the way Germany has been since 1933.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this de-Nazification and discrimination, as it is called, is not senseless; and will he also bear in mind how important it is to build up in the new German police force an entirely different spirit towards the general public from that which obtained in the police force before 1945?

The police in Germany are working on the basis of trying to make a non-political force in our zone for the future good of Germany. If we cannot do that we shall be in danger of creating a police force which can be a ready-made instrument for a "police state" should one arise.

Krupp's Works, Essen


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proportion of Krupp's armament works at Essen is incapable of conversion to non-armament productive work.

It is difficult to say that any plant is completely incapable of conversion to civil purposes, given sufficient time and labour. A proportion of the shops or units at Krupps are, however, specifically designed for war purposes and, as Category I plants, are due for liquidation. I should add that the detailed plan has not yet been finalised by the Control Council.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that expert engineering opinion on the spot puts the proportion at 1 per cent.; and will he bear that or an approximate figure in mind in connection with the recent statement of the Under-Secretary that nothing capable of conversion for peacetime use would be destroyed?

I shall have to look that statement up. We have never agreed that anything is incapable of conversion to peacetime use, because nearly everything is. What we have to do is to study the security of Europe, and not allow a war potential beyond industrial requirements, which may again endanger our security.

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that the whole policy of this blowing up and destruction of plant may very well turn out to be a cutting off of our nose to spite our face?

Is it not a fact that the only part of Krupp Werkefabrik at Essen which is not destroyed is at the present moment producing locomotives, or in the course of being changed over for the production of locomotives?

We are still working on a new level of German industry in which some plant in Categories 2, 3 and 4 will be revised; Category 1 has been agreed by the War Council as war potential, and those in that category are being removed.

Meat (Refrigerating Plant)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the quantity of meat that was condemned in Essen during the first three months of July, 1947, owing to no spare parts being available for the butchers' refrigerating plant.

The Control Commission have no knowledge of meat being condemned in this way. If the hon. Member will supply me with details I will gladly make further inquiries.

Soap Ration


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the quantity of the soap ration in the British zone of Germany during the first three weeks of July, 1947; and to what extent this ration was met in Essen.

The average soap ration per head, taking into account supplementary rations to such groups as miners and children, contains 48 grammes of fatty acids for a four week period. The actual weight of soap would depend on the nature of the soap products which compose the ration. All supplementary rations in Essen have been met, including miners' supplies, but unfortunately there was local maldistribution of supplies to meet the basic ration in the last period. This has caused a shortage in the centre of the city and a surplus in the suburbs. Ration cards are, however, still valid for the subsequent period.

Occupying Troops (Illegitimate Children)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will initiate consultations between zonal authorities in Germany with a view to securing joint action on marital affairs and the care of illegitimate children involving troops of the occupying Powers.

Is there any likelihood of this very important matter being considered either unilaterally or multi-laterally, in the days to come?

I think it would be resented by our Allies if we interfered in the behaviour of their troops within their own zones of responsibility. The care of illegitimate children is a matter which has been left in each zone as the sole responsibility of the German authorities.

Will my right hon. Friend see whether, in fact, we can recommend action of this kind, seeing that in many cases our men are involved?

Poland (Arrests)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has received from the British Ambassador in Warsaw with regard to the arrest of Kazimierz Puzak, for many years Secretary General of the Polish Socialist Party, and the following leading Socialists; Jozef Dziegielewski, Adam Obarski, Wiktor Krawczyk, W. Wilczynski and T. Szturn de Sztrem; and whether he is in a position to make a statement to the House with regard to these arrests.

Three of the six Poles referred to, namely, Puzak, Krawczyk and Wilczynski, were, in fact, only arrested early in June, 1947. The other three were arrested in 1946, Obarski in October, Dziegielewski and Szturm de Sztrem in November. Obarski has been in prison ever since. Dziegielewski and Szturm de Sztrem were released in January and February, 1947, respectively, prior to their re-arrest in June. 1947.

How does the right hon. Gentleman account for the arrest of these leading Socialists by a Government presided over by a Socialist prime minister?

South Tyrol


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the present negotiations for the granting of autonomy to South Tyrol, in accordance with the treaty with Italy, the 70,000 displaced South Tyrolese who were driven out of their country between 1939 and 1943 will be able to return to South Tyrol; and whether the full rights of Italian citzenship will be restored to them, as well as to the optants who remained in South Tyrol, since the Hitler-Mussolini Agreement has no longer any validity

This question is at present under discussion between the Italian and Austrian Governments. I have no reason to suppose that a settlement acceptable to both sides will not be reached, and that is certainly my wish. I cannot, however, associate myself with the statement that these persons were driven out of their country. That seems to me an oversimplification.

But surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that they were threatened that unless they opted for Germany they would be deported to the South of Italy, and that it was under that threat that they migrated?

My information is that a very large number of them went quite voluntarily.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, with regard to the discussions between the Italian Government and the representatives of the South Tyrolean people, the autonomy guaranteed to the German-speaking inhabitants of South Tyrol will be such that control over all police departments will be given to the autonomous government within the autonomous region, in accordance with Section 2 of The Italo-Austrian Agreement incorporated as Annexe 4 of the Treaty with Italy.

I have left the Italian Government in no doubt as to my interest in seeing satisfactory measures taken to honour the Austro-Italian Agreement of September, 1946, once the Draft Constitution which makes provision for certain autonomous regions has been approved by the Italian Constituent Assembly. I understand that the precise measures to be taken are still under discussion by the Italian authorities, who are in touch with representatives of the main German-speaking political party in South Tyrol.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how it is possible to have "autonomous legislative and executive regional power"—to quote the very words of the Treaty—without control of the police.

Well, I think it is possible. The agreement, I think, is quite clear; and there will, I understand, be, in the main, a good deal of local autonomy in the control of the police.

Control Commission Depot, Bletchley (Staff)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the total number of staff now employed at the control office depot and training centre at Bletchley; how many individuals without previous Control Commission experience are being trained at the depot at the present time; and how many other individuals are there and for what purpose.

The staff still numbers 190, but is being progressively reduced to match the reduction in recruitment. Of the present staff, 49 are partly engaged in the provision of common services for other Departments using the camp in which the Centre is situated. Last week there were 95 students, 86 of whom were without previous Control Commission experience, and nine had previously served in the Commission in a military capacity, and are now taking up civilian appointments. Like the others, these nine went to Bletchley for documentation and record purposes as well as for training from which they can still profit.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the presence of all these people at Bletchley is really necessary?

I am looking into it.' I have been watching the Bletchley organisation. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that a lot of the people at Bletchley are not employed by the Foreign Office. Therefore, I am looking into the whole problem.


United Nations Special Committee (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by what date it is anticipated the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine will be able to submit its report to U.N.O.

The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, which was established by resolution of the General Assembly, is required, by the terms of that resolution, to communicate its report to the Secretary-General not later than 1st September.

Could this report be still further expedited in order to avoid prolonging by a single day the appalling policy that His Majesty's Government are at present pursuing in Palestine?

His Majesty's Government are pursuing a policy of endeavouring to get a settlement of the matter, and have referred it to an international tribunal. If all parties would accept that fact and act accordingly, and wait for the decision, then these appalling things that happen as a result of their attempt to defy the United Nations organisation, as well as us, could be avoided.

Pending the submission of this report, will my right hon. Friend avoid intensification of the terrorism in Palestine by not allowing the repetition of an incident like that in connection with the "President Warfield"?

Illegal Immigrants


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what tonnage of British merchant shipping has now been placed at the disposal of the Palestine Government for the interception of unauthorised Jewish refugee immigration.

Seven ships, with a total gross registered tonnage of 26,000, have been made available for the transfer of illegal immigrants from Palestine and for transport from the Cyprus camps to Palestine. Four of these, with a total tonnage of about 5,300, are of corvette type, and could not be employed for normal commercial purposes.

In view of the present heavy demands on shipping space for the con veyance of food supplies to this country, and for the needs of our Dominions, could not these vessels be put to better use than to force the remnants of the gas chambers and concentration camps back into exile?

These are corvettes They are unsuitable for commercial use, and in any case Britain must carry out her international obligations.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about the latest situation of the refugees transhipped from the "Exodus 1947."

The three transports carrying these illegal immigrants arrived at Port de Bouc on 29th July. The arrangements for their disembarkation are under discussion with the French authorities.

Can my right hon. Friend say that no coercion will be used against these hapless people to land so that they shall not be still wandering aimlessly after all their years of bitter experience, and will he say whether he is aware of the fact that 1,800 people, among them children and pregnant women, were kept in one hold without any sleeping requisites or proper accommodation?

This matter is under discussion now with the French Government, and I am not in a position to add to my reply.

is my right hon. Friend aware of British Press reports that should these unfortunate people be unable to land in France they will be transferred to Hamburg? Can he assure the House that there is no truth in those reports?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Jewish Agency has issued any public advice to these people to obey the orders of authority, and so avoid incidents?

Are the Government taking any steps to find out who is responsible for exploiting these people?

Abducted British Sergeants

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the grave anxiety in the House about a report on the tape about the fate of the kidnapped sergeants in Palestine, he has any information to give to the House.

I am aware of the acute anxiety felt by Members regarding the position of the two British sergeants, Paice and Martin, abducted at Nathanya in Palestine on 12th July. I regret that as yet I am unable to give any official information to the House, though I am aware that certain statements have already been issued by a news agency. I need hardly assure the House that this, matter is receiving the close and urgent attention of the Government and the authorities in Palestine, and I will keep the House informed of developments. I am sure the House expresses its sympathy with the relatives of these men in the anxious suspense through which they are passing.

May I ask my right hon. Friend how long it takes him to receive official confirmation either accepting or denying any information of this sort which is given on the tape, and when we might expect some official statement on this matter?

I cannot say how, soon we shall get the information, but telegraphic communication is very quick.

Indonesia (Situation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of events in Indonesia; if the Netherlands Government have made any further response to his efforts to mediate in this dispute; and if he will now give an assurance that no more arms or equipment will be supplied to the Dutch from British sources, and that no facilities will be given for training Dutch troops in British territory, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.

I am afraid that the amount of information officially available on the progress of the military operations in Java and Sumatra is so limited as to render any proper assessment of the situation impossible. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative. His Majesty's Government have prohibited the supply of war material to the Nertherlands East Indies from Singapore and British territories in the Far East, and training facilities in this area. Further, no supplies of war materials intended for the Netherlands East Indies will be permitted from this country.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what report has been received from the British Consul-General in Batavia on his request to the Netherlands East Indies authorities for a respite of 24 hours before hostilities were started.

No such request was made to the Netherlands East Indies authorities by the British Consul-General at Batavia, who was not informed till the evening of 20th July that military action would begin at dawn on the 21st.

Is it not a fact that the Consul-General, Mr. Mitchison, to whose good work everyone has rightly paid tribute, was requested by the Indonesian authorities to ask the Dutch authorities to give them 24 hours to consider the new demands which they were making, and that he did pass this request on to the Dutch authorities?

I cannot recall any telegram to that effect without looking it up. Mr. Mitchison immediately communicated with me, and when I arrived in London from the North, I went straight into the office to try to do what I could that night.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that use is not being made by the Dutch armed forces of the Port of Singapore for the transport of arms and equipment to Java.

His Majesty's Government have prohibited the supply of war material to the Netherlands East Indies from Singapore.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to see the world knows that the stories being spread by certain Indo- elements, and passed on by certain elements in this country, are quite untrue?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a request for mediation in Indonesia has yet been made by the Dutch Government; what other action is contemplated by His Majesty's Government in this matter; and whether His Majesty's Government are prepared to arrange for medical and other necessary supplies to be made available to the Indonesian forces.

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative. As regards the second part, His Majesty's Government have been in consultation with interested Governments, including the United States, but I am not in a position to make any statement. So far as the despatch of medical supplies to the Indonesian authorities is concerned, His Majesty's Government have already approached the Netherlands Government in this matter, and the latter have readily agreed in principle to such supplies being despatched with the permission of the Dutch authorities in the Netherlands East Indies, to whom they have sent appropriate instructions.

While appreciating the answer to the last part of the Question, may I ask, in regard to mediation, whether the Foreign Secretary will bear in mind the possibility of mediation and reference to the United Nations going on at the same time? Does he not agree that there is a plain duty in regard to reference to the United Nations, and that we should not withhold our moral duty in this matter and leave it to Australia and India?

Any Government has the right to refer to the United Nations, but I think it is difficult for me to pursue mediation and reference at the same time. India has a perfect right to refer to the United Nations, and so has Australia.

Are we to understand from that answer that the right hon. Gentleman's offer for mediation is open and remains open?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to give an assurance that no war material will be supplied to the Dutch Government while hostilities continue in Indonesia.

His Majesty's Government have suspended all military supplies and facilities to the Netherlands authorities from the Far East.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many Dutch military and naval troops are now being trained in this country, and whether any steps can be taken to bring that arrangement to an end pending cessation of hostilities in the East Indies?

No, Sir, I cannot do that. After all, Holland was overrun by the Germans, and we entered into a very solemn undertaking to re-equip and train the Dutch Army which had been destroyed. I am entitled to say to the Dutch Government, however, that we are not doing this for the purpose of this war in Indonesia. I cannot go beyond that.

Prisoners Of War (Compassionate Repatriation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what machinery exists whereby the applications of individual prisoners of war to return home early on compassionate grounds can be considered.

Prisoners' relatives may apply to the German local authorities for compassionate repatriation of prisoners. The local authorities, if they approve, forward the application through the occupying authorities to the German Section of my Department, which authorises the return home of those prisoners who have the most urgent compassionate grounds for repatriation, up to a total of 500 a month.

Can my right hon. Friend say how many applications have been granted, and whether this is widely known among prisoners of war and their relatives?

I have not the figures immediately available. Perhaps the hon. Member will put that down.

The right hon. Gentleman said that relatives of prisoners of war can apply; are we to infer that prisoners of war cannot apply?

I think my hon. Friend has misunderstood the answer The relatives of prisoners of war may apply. I will inquire whether prisoners of war may also apply.

Why is there this maximum figure of 500, when there are urgent pleas beyond that figure for repatriation which cannot be granted?

We have to provide transport, and we have a lot of administration to do in handling these cases. It is a pretty big task.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the procedure he has outlined is very slow moving indeed, and will he take some steps to try to speed up things in really compassionate cases?

American Legion (British Visit)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the National Commander of the American Legion and his party, numbering 150, are arriving in this country on 8th September; that the British Legion will have the honour to give them a reception; and if His Majesty's Government will mark this occasion in a suitable manner.

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government have learnt with pleasure of the proposed visit of the National Commander of the American Legion and his official party of 150 Legionaries to this country from 8th September to nth September, and are aware that the British Legion will entertain them. His Majesty's Government have decided to mark the occasion by giving an official dinner in honour of the National Commander and his party on Tuesday, 9th September, to which they have already been invited, and at which the Minister of Defence has consented to take the Chair.

Mauritius (Food Cultivation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what assistance is being given by the Government of Mauritius to plans for the growing of foodstuffs on sugar estates; and whether he is aware that there is considerable discontentment in Mauritius arising from the high cost of food.

The Food Production Board, which was appointed by the Governor of Mauritius in February last, has voted 7 million rupees for bonus payments during the present financial year to sugar and other planters who grow maize, sweet potatoes and other root crops. Locally grown root crops are already being sold at reduced prices. The principal imported foodstuffs are already subsidised, and it is hoped that complaints regarding the lower purchasing power of money will decrease as a consequence of the Board's activities, and steps recently taken by the Price Control authorities to reduce the cost of other foodstuffs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at the moment there is widespread discontent in this Island, and that there has not been a Royal Commission appointed since 1910 to investigate conditions there? Does he not think it would be worth while to appoint a Royal Commission to go into this problem?

We are fully alive to the conditions in Mauritius, and I am in active discussion with the Governor at the present moment regarding the economic affairs of the Island.

Colonial Empire

Parliamentary Delegations


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many parliamentary delegations have visited the countries within the Colonial Empire during the preceding 12 months; and how many Members of Parliament went thereon.

During the past 12 months, one parliamentary delegation visited the four British Colonies in West Africa, under the auspices of the Empire Parliamentary Association. It included six Members of this House and a Member of the House of Lords.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that during the last year 114 Members of this House visited European countries, and that while it is very important Members should visit European countries, that it is equally important that they should be given an opportunity to visit the Colonial Empire? Will he see that more facilities are given in future to Members to visit the 60 million people for whom we are responsible?

I am fully aware of the desire of Members of Parliament, and I am already discussing possibilities of arranging further delegations.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is ample opportunity for Members to visit the Colonial Empire at their own expense and not at public expense?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many parliamentary delegations to the Colonial Empire are planned for the next 12 months; and whether he will bear in mind the great benefit to be derived from delegations which include Members with trade union experience who can advise on trade union problems and policy within the Colonial Empire.

The planning of visits by parliamentary groups is usually a matter for the Empire Parliamentary Association. I am, however, examining the prospects of possible visits, and have little doubt that Colonial Governments will assist in facilitating any which are practicable during the next twelve months.

Linseed Oil Substitutes


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what practical steps have been taken up to date to develop projects for producing substitution for linseed oil in the Colonies.

As the reply is rather long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

I am aware of the need to increase production of drying oils in the Colonial Empire, and I have already communicated on this subject with the Governments of all territories where climatic conditions may be expected to allow of the cultivation of linseed. As a result, up to 4,000 acres in Kenya are to be planted experimentally this year, the resultant crop being used for seed bulking, and trials are also being conducted in the Gambia and Mauritius. As seed becomes available, these tests will be extended to other suitable territories. As regards substitutes for linseed, tung oil which has an even higher iodine content than linseed, and is, I understand, regarded by the paint trade as the measuring stick of performance of all drying oils, including linseed, is already widely grown in Nyasaland where there is a scheme for the extension of growing on a large scale in the Vipya highlands, if the experiments now proceeding show that it promises to be an economic proposition. These trials are also being studied by the Governments of Northern Rhodesia and Tanganyika, and tung growing will be encouraged in these territories if they are successful. As regards oils with a lower iodine value than linseed oil, but which are possible substitutes, the Colonial Empire can produce rubber seed oil, soya oil, candlenut oil and conophor oil. The position regarding rubber seed oil is given in my reply of today's date to the hon. Member. With respect to soya, the Governments of all the territories which are suitable for soya bean production have been circularised, and trials Will be undertaken. Whether extended cultivation will be encouraged depends upon the results of these trials. Candlenut oil, which is produced in Fiji (and to a lesser extent in Ceylon and Malaya), and conophor oil, which is derived from a jungle plant in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, are both technically suitable as linseed oil substitutes, but there are difficulties over collecting them similar to those in the case of rubber seeds.

Colonial Projects Research Committee


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will give a list of the main projects now under consideration for development as a result of recommendations from the Colonial Projects Research Committee; and whether he will give an assurance that everything possible is being done to bring these recommendations to fruition at the earliest possible opportunity.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the information given in the recently published report on Colonial Research (Cmd. 7151). The answer to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative.

British And Foreign Capital (Investments)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies approximately the total amount of British and foreign capital, respectively, now invested in British Colonies; the last annual estimate of the value of goods produced through this capital investment; and the approximate aggregate amount of profit received in this country from the British Colonies according to the last available annual statistics.

I regret that the information is not immediately available. I could not supply it without considerable research.

Will my right hon. Friend be able to provide it in due course, for the benefit not only of the Colonies, but Members of this House?

We have a great deal of information, but it would be very difficult to compile it in a paper.

Military Forces (Strengths)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how the comparative strengths of military Forces shown on page 116 of Command Paper 7167 for 1st May, 1945, compare with similar figures for 1st May, 1946, and 1947; how the decrease, expressed in percentage, compares with similar decreases in United Kingdom Forces; and, if the dates concerned are inconvenient, if he will make a statement comparing any convenient dates in 1945 and 1946 with the same date in 1947.

I regret that for the reasons explained by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in his statement in the House on 20th March, it would not be in the public interest to give this information.

Jamaica (Ex-Service Men)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that Jamaican ex-Service men of the first world war are dissatisfied with their treatment by previous Jamaican Governments; that these men were promised on demobilisation good land for cultivation and that they would be cared for by the Imperial Government; that the land which they were actually given is little better than a stony desert; and whether he will cause their complaints to be looked into and their grievances to be redressed.

The grievances of the Jamaican ex-Service men referred to in the hon. Member's Question are the subject of representations recently laid before me by the Jamaica Ex-Servicemen Trade and People's Labour Union. I am at present in communication with the Governor of Jamaica concerning their complaints and I will communicate with the hon. Member when I have received the Governor's reply.

African Colonies

Maize Production, Nyasaland


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government of Nyasaland will provide long-term, low-interest Government loans to assist large-scale maize production schemes undertaken in response to their appeal for increased production of maize.

The Nyasaland Government will no doubt consider all possible suggestions for encouraging maize production, but there would appear to be no reason why such schemes should not be financed on normal commercial lines. No request for such a loan has been received.

Non-Official Organisations, West Africa


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are taken to encourage and receive representations from non-official organisations in West Africa respecting economic and political matters and clearly to acquaint them with Government's short- and long-term policies; and if he is satisfied that everything possible is being done to convey to West Africans the immediate steps now being taken to implement these policies.

The steps taken to this end are, of course, many and various including the prior publication of legislation in the form of Bills for comment, the issue of statements of Government policy as Sessional Papers presented to Legislative Council, the appointment of representatives of non-official organisations to bodies such as local development councils, labour advisory committees and boards of education, the establishment of public relations organisations charged specifically with the task of interpreting Government policy to the public and the explanation of Government's intentions and actions by means of broadcasts, Press conferences and Press statements. I regard the existing arrangements for this purpose as generally satisfactory, but I am sure that the Colonial Governments are constantly on the watch to improve their machinery in this respect.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of any impediments which are put in the way of unofficial organisations approaching local Governments with a view to securing further information? Is the initiative taken by the Governments to reply to non-official organisations?

A great deal of initiative is shown by the information departments in the respective Colonial Governments. That information is available to representatives of non-official organisations, which are brought together in order that it may be passed to them.

Unemployment, Bathurst


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many unemployed were registered at the employment exchange at Bathurst on the last available date; and what increase this figure shows as compared with that of 12 months previously.

As there is no employment exchange in Bathurst the figures requested are not available. Such unemployment as occurs is mostly seasonal, and does not appear to be developing into a serious problem. In fact, over the past 12 months unemployment has, I understand, probably decreased as a result of Government works started in the vicinity of Bathurst.

Is it not high time that a register of unemployed was instituted in Bathurst, even if the Labour Adviser there may have to place himself at the head of the list?

One of the officials has produced a register of ex-Service men, but we cannot do everything at the same time. In most Colonies employment bureaux are being established.

Hong Kong (Trade Union Council)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the efforts to institute a central trade union council in Hong Kong; and whether the rules and constitution of the proposed body which were submitted to the Hong Kong Government have received Government approval.

I am informed by the Governor of Hong Kong that no proposals for the institution of a central trade union council in Hong Kong have yet been submitted to him.

British Honduras (Food Crops)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress had been made in schemes for the local production of food crops in British Honduras; and what plans have been made for future encouragement of subsistence farming.

The local production of food crops in British Honduras, with the exception of a small Government managed rice scheme, is undertaken by the farmers themselves. The Department of Agriculture is fostering sound farming practice, and measures such as guaranteed prices and loans have been adopted to encourage a much greater output of the staple food crops, particularly rice and maize. The need for increased food production is fully recognised by the local development planning Committee and a co-operative officer has recently been appointed by the Government. His duties will include the stimulation of increased food production.

Is it the intention of the British Honduras authorities to arrange for settlements along the new West road, so as to increase the number of farms in the colony?

The Governor is particularly active in getting on with development plans, and this aspect of his problem is very much in his mind.

Royal Navy

Dockyards (Whitley Councils)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will arrange for regular weekly or fortnightly meetings of the Whitley Councils in His Majesty's dockyards for the purpose of achieving, through regular periodic discussions with representatives of the management and workers, schemes for the more efficient working of the dockyards and for utilising to the full any suggestions of value which operatives may desire make; or whether he will set up production committees in each of His Majesty's dockyards to work to the same ends.

Suggestions for improvements of methods and organisation of work are among matters which may be discussed at meetings of the yard committees. So far as workpeople are concerned, the Whitley constitution provides that these committees may meet as frequently as once a month, if necessary, at the request of either the staff side or the official side; and evidence shows that yard committees in each of the three home dockyards have met on four occasions during the past twelve months. In addition, following discussion with the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council, in 1943, machinery for setting up joint production committees was agreed, and is still operative. Non-industrial Whitley committees in the dockyards are also empowered to meet as often as necessary, and full provision is made for the receipt and examination of suggestions for improvements in methods and organisation of work.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many men in the dockyards are of the opinion that the present machinery is not efficient enough to bring organisation and production up to the level at which it could be brought? Will he overhaul the machinery, to add to the efficiency of the dockyards, and at the same time give a lead on behalf of the Government to other backward industries?

This Question concerns the setting up of joint production committees. I have said that agreement has been arrived at with the trade union side that these committees will be operative. We shall be only too glad to welcome any assistance from the staff side.

Will my hon. Friend say what initiative will be exercised by his Department in ensuring that committee meetings take place more frequently than once a quarter? Is he aware that the opinion of many trade unionists in the Royal dockyards is that the facilities in those dockyards are not being used to the best advantage?

There may be that opinion, and there can be opinions about various other industries. We are trying to make the dockyards most efficient. The question of calling meetings oftener has been left to the staff side, for them to make application if they think that a useful purpose would be served by holding a meeting. I think it is far better to do it in that way than to call a meeting merely for the sake of having a talk.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the trade unions concerned were signatories to this machinery, and that there is a clause in it whereby, if necessary, a special meeting can be called at the request of either side?

That is true, and I think it is far better to deal with the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council rather than pursue this matter by question and answer.

Flying Exercises, Port Phillip Bay (Accidents)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a statement on the casualties sustained during the recent exercises of the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia.

The series of accidents to which my hon. Friend refers occurred on 20th July during the course of flying practices carried out by the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, in preparation for subsequent exercises with ships of the Royal Australian Navy. In the first of these a Firefly strike fighter from H.M.S. "Theseus," collided with another Firefly in the same formation and both crashed into the sea locked together. It appears that the aircraft failed to see each other, one pulling slowly up into the other from below. The body of one of the pilots was recovered but the other pilot, together with an observer and a telegraphist air gunner are missing and they too must be presumed to have lost their lives. Shortly after this accident, a Seafire fighter also from H.M.S. "Theseus," in the final approach to land on, drifted and ran up the extreme port edge of the flight deck before entering the safety barrier, striking and killing a rating of the aircraft handling party who was in the walkway. The third accident occurred on board H.M.S. "Glorv" when a Seafire fighter, on landing, bounced and failed to catch the arrester wires, cleared the safety barriers and crashed into the deck part at the forward end of the flight deck, resulting in the death of an air mechanic and slight injuries to another rating. Boards of inquiry into the causes of these accidents have been convened. I would wish to take this opportunity to express the deep sympathy of the Board of Admiralty with the relatives of those who lost their lives in these accidents.

In view of the high ratio of accidents on this particular day, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is completely satisfied that the postwar training of the Naval Air Arm is satisfactory or adequate for its present task?

I am quite satisfied as to that. The process of landing on and taking off from an aircraft carrier is of necessity a hazardous one, and one must expect that, from time to time, there will be accidents. Everything possible is done to prevent accidents. As regards this particular accident, a court of inquiry is inquiring into the cause, and will report in due course.

Seamen Ratings (Releases)

65 and 66.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1) if he is aware that for the purpose of demobilisation, the seamen's branch of the Royal Navy is placed in Group 66 and that this group is considerably behind other categories; and if it is proposed to adjust this disparity:

(2) if he is aware that Royal Marines in Group 72 who were called up approximately 12 months after seamen in Group 66 will be released several months before the latter group; and what is the reason for this disparity.

All seamen ratings are not in age and service group 66. They are given age and service groups according to age and date of entry in exactly the same way as other ratings. It is not possible, at present, to release the age and service groups of seamen ratings at the same speed, group for group, as ratings of other categories. For this reason it is possible, but not certain, that Group 72 of the Royal Marines will be released two months before Group 66 of Seamen. No dates for the release of these groups have yet been published. Since the first announcement of the release scheme, it has been made clear that it would not be possible to release age and service groups in the different branches at the same rate. The disparity has been reduced by the transfer from time to time of men from surplus branches to shortage branches, but at this late stage adjustments of this nature are not practicable because of the time occupied in re-training and the short period of further service to be expected from the ratings concerned before their turn also comes for release.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider issuing a Fleet Order clarifying the position, because there is a lot of disquiet and confusion about it?

I am satisfied that in this case it is quite clearly known, but if for any reason I thought it was not, naturally, I would consider the suggestion. My information, however, is perfectly clear that the people do know about it.

No 24 Map Review


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty by whose authority No. 24 Map Review, published on 29th March, 1947, issued by the Bureau of Current Affairs, was distributed to the Fleet; and if he will see that no further such issues are made.

No. 24 Map Review was distributed to the Fleet in accordance with normal practice. I can see no objection to the contents as such, and I am unable to give any assurance that similar Reviews will not be issued in the future.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this map, of which I sent him a copy and which I see in his hand, contains party political propaganda and that the principle of putting party political propaganda on the notice boards of sea and shore establishments is entirely wrong and should not be allowed to take place?

I emphatically deny that. The only thing that could be called political propaganda in this pamphlet is a reference to what is called the Butler Education Act.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.

Warrant Officers (Status)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a statement after consideration of the report of the recent committee on the status, etc. of warrant officers.

Yes, Sir. I will communicate with the hon. and gallant Member when I am in a position to make a statement.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say when the statement can be expected, and also will he give an assurance that all reasonable demands put forward by the warrant officers themselves will be given every consideration?

All reasonable demands will be given every consideration, but I naturally cannot make any promise as vet. I hope we shall be in a position to make a statement shortly after the Recess.

Compassionate Leave


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what are the regulations which debar a man from getting compassionate leave to see a dying father when other relations are near home to give the parent attention; in particular, whether such regulations absolutely debar a son from getting the opportunity of compassionate leave merely because of the number of other members of the family who reside in the district; and if he will consider granting immediate compassionate leave to P/KX 797029 Stoker T. Brennan, Mess 23, H.M.S. "Theseus," to enable him to see his father who has had several strokes and is in a serious condition.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 22nd May last to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). I understand that. Stoker Brennan is the youngest of 12 children and that the rest of the family are available to help and are, in fact, doing so. In the circumstances, I regret that he cannot be given compassionate leave.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there are more things in life than mere attention when a father is dying, and that there are special reasons why a son in the Services should be allowed to go home on such occasions?

I do realise it, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I get no pleasure at all from making such a decision as this nor does my noble Friend, but we have to consider the fact that we are short of men and that we must strictly keep to our commitments.

Can my hon. Friend say when the Royal Navy will show the same compassion in these matters as is shown by other Services?

Surely, if the state of affairs is as stated in the Question and that this man is dying, it is possible for the Navy to arrange for a short period of compassionate leave for this rating.

There are a great many men in the Service who from time to time have relatives who are dying, but we have got to keep the same rules operating for one as for another, and we cannot send some men home and not do the same for others in similar circumstances.

Is not the Minister aware that the regulations now existing have been commented on by hon. Members in this House who have asked that those regulations should be made more elastic?

Will not the Minister allow humanity to cut red tape and in all such cases give leave when someone in the family is dying?

It has nothing to do with red tape, but rather with the fact that the Navy has got to continue. I will convey the views of the House to my noble Friend but I cannot hold out any assurance of any change.

Government Departments, Wales (Designation)


asked the Prime Minister, whether he will give instructions that all Government Departments operating in Wales shall be designated as Welsh rather than Regional.

Some time ago the attention of all Departments was drawn to the desirability of avoiding the word "regional" in the designation of their offices in Wales, and I do not think that any further action is required.

Will the Prime Minister have a similar arrangement made with regard to Cornwall?

Armed Forces



asked the Prime Minister, whether he expects to announce before the recess the result of the Government's reconsideration of the numbers of men to be retained in the Armed Forces as at March, 1948.

I hope it will be possible to make a statement on the estimated strength of the Forces on 31st March, 1948, before the House rises.

British Personnel, India


asked the Minister of Defence, what is the estimated number of all ranks British personnel, Royal Navy, R.A.F. and Army, stationed in India, who will be released from duties in that country as a result of the new defence arrangements in the two Indian Dominions.

I have been asked to reply. Over and above withdrawals already planned, the total number involved is rather more than 30,000.

Can my hon. Friend say if in the statement which we have been promised on the new figures for the Armed Forces regard will be had to this reduction in our military requirements?

Closed Roads


asked the Minister of Defence how many roads are still closed to the public on account of their being taken over by one of the service departments; and under what powers are these roads still retained.

The number of roads still closed by the War Department and the Admiralty is 214. I regret that it is not possible in the time available to make an analysis of the 1,350 orders, made by the Air Ministry for the closing of roads, footpaths and bridle paths, which are still in force. All such roads are retained under Defence Regulation 16.

Has not the time now come for further consideration of this matter in view of the complicated number of orders, and will my hon. Friend look into it?

Yes, Sir, on a particular case one can look into it in detail, but many of these roads were closed for reasons of airfield reconstruction and so forth, and it is impossible to solve these problems at short notice.

Will the hon. Gentleman give consideration to releasing the land around the roads owned and appropriated by the War Office?

Food Supplies

Bread (Vitamin Content)


asked the Lord President of the Council whether he has consulted the Medical Research Council on the effect that the extraction of vitamins from the bread now obtainable throughout the country has had on the increase of meningitis and infantile paralysis; and if immediate steps will be taken to reduce the extraction and to ensure that the bread content shall be the same as in 1939–40.

I am advised that the vitamin content of the bread obtainable in this country since 1942 is in fact much greater than in 1939–40, since a higher proportion of the nutrient materials in the grain is retained in the flour. There is no evidence of any relationship between diet and the incidence of meningitis and infantile paralysis, but it is a fact that the death rates from cerebrospinal meningitis and from infantile paralysis in England and Wales were much lower in 1945 than in 1940.

Am I to understand that the quality of the vitamins in the bread today is better than it was prewar?

If that is so, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a great deal of misconception throughout the country? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I say that if the increase in mortality as a result of this unfortunate epidemic is in no way due to lack of vitamins in the bread, it would be a consolation if he would give his answer in a way which is perhaps more easily understood by those concerned.

I am all for answers that can be more easily understood by all concerned. I would not wish to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman. I am assured that there is no connection between this particular disease and the subject of the Question. I am scientifically assured that that is so.


asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that the vitamin content of the bread now on issue throughout the country provides adequate nourishment; and whether, under the circumstances of improving wheat production, he will consider reviewing the whole position so that the nutritious value of bread may be restored at any rate to that obtaining in 1939–40.

The question of the best extraction rate for flour has already been fully reviewed and the findings of the Conference on the Post-war Loaf were published in Cmd. 6701 in November, 1945. The vitamin content of the present 85 per cent. extraction flour is higher than that of the flour available in 1940.

Usa Wheat


asked the Minister of Food to what extent gift shipments of wheat have been made from the U.S.A. to the United Kingdom.

So far as I am aware, there have been no gift shipments of wheat from the United States of America to the United Kingdom during or since the war years.

Is the hon. Lady aware that my Question was put down at the request of two American visitors from the Middle West, who informed me that two shiploads of wheat had been sent to this country?

I have no knowledge of them. The Americans kindly sent a small amount of flour during the war to the Women's Voluntary Service and the British Red Cross. Apart from that, there have been no gifts, and no shipments of wheat under Lend-Lease.

Meat Allocation, Devon (Quality)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the unsatisfactory quality of much of the meat now being distributed to butchers in the county of Devon, resulting in both hardship and waste; and what action he proposes to take.

The quality of meat at present being distributed to butchers in Devon is not below that for the country as a whole, and I cannot agree that much of the meat is not of satisfactory quality.

Does the hon. Lady realise that some of this meat is absolutely unfit for human consumption, and in view of the relatively poor quality of the meat, does she not feel that it is a shocking waste of hard-earned foreign currency to spend it on the importation of low quality meat?

I think that the difficulty is that the people of Devon have been used to very high-quality home-produced meat and now they are having to share in the imported meat. So far as the second part of the Question is concerned, I would like the hon. Member to know that recently an official of the Ministry has been in Devon, and other places, and has contacted 90 per cent. of the chairmen of retail buying committees, none of whom has made any grave complaint.

Oatmeal Production


asked the Minister of Food whether any steps will be taken by his Department to encourage the millers to install machinery for the production of oatmeal in England as is the practice in Scotland, so that oatmeal may become an increasing quota in the diet of persons in the south of England.

The processing capacity of the oatmeal industry is fully adequate to meet demand. About one quarter of the total production in Great Britain is milled in England.

Can the hon. Lady say why it is almost impossible to get oatmeal in England?

I cannot say, because there is no difficulty in transport between Scotland and England, and there is no shortage.

Would it be possible to bring some Scottish housewives to teach housewives in England how to make porridge?

Is the hon. Lady aware that oatmeal made in England could never possess the quality of Scottish oatmeal?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The constituents of oatmeal in England are exactly the same as the constituents of oatmeal in Scotland.

Usa Canned Fish


asked the Minister of Food how much tinned fish has been imported from the U.S.A. in the first six months of this year; and the total cost in dollars of these imports.

About 39,000 tons of canned fish were imported from the United States of America during the six months ended 30th June, 1947. The approximate total cost was 22,450,000 dollars.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this American tinned fish is being sold in my constituency and that the fishmongers on the other side of the street cannot sell their fresh fish, and is not this importation a gross waste of our dwindling dollar resources?

I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that 85 per cent. of the imports consists of salmon and pilchards used for points rationing, and that the demand for salmon and pilchards has not yet been met in this country.

Can the hon. Lady say how much silver hake was imported and does she consider that is essential?

Could the hon. Lady say if it is not a fact that in the case of this tinned fish the tin often costs as much as the fish?

Consumption Levels (Report)


asked the Minister of Food when the promised publication on food consumption levels will be available.

It is 11 weeks since the Minister said the figures were ready and what is the explanation of the delay? Will the hon. Lady see that when the world food review which was promised nearly a year ago is ready in the autumn the delay does not recur?

I recognise that there has been some delay, but I must remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there has been a good deal of editing and setting up to do because this is the first time that the British figures have been published alone.

Wholesale Fish Merchants, Grimsby


asked the Minister of Food how many new wholesale fish merchants have established themselves at Grimsby since the control of licences was abandoned.

Since my right hon. Friend relaxed the qualifications for wholesale fish licences on 1st July, one licence for herring has been granted at Grimsby to an established white fish merchant. A decision has not been reached on the remaining 89 applications for provisional white fish licences, largely because of the need to satisfy my Department that the applicants have suitable premises.

In view of the fact that there are several hundreds of merchants at Grimsby and that control of fish distribution still persists, can the hon. Lady say what advantage her Ministry expects from the increase in these merchants?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Food reminded the House that perhaps in the fish industry at this stage a little healthy competition might be introduced.

Street Trading Licences


asked the Minister of Food whether, in the light of a recent case in which a street trader was heavily fined for breaking the law, he will, in this and similar instances, cancel the licence under which such people operate.

My right hon. Friend can only decide whether to revoke the licence of a trader convicted of a food offence after carefully considering all the circumstances of the case. If my hon. Friend will let him have particulars of the case which he has in mind, he will notify him of his decision.

National Milk Cocoa (Price)


asked the Minister of Food, why the cost of National Milk Cocoa was increased on 1st July last from 6s. 9d. per 6 lb. container to 10s. 3d., and from 18s. 4d. per 20 lb. container to £1 10s.

The price of National Milk Cocoa was increased by 7d. per lb. on 1st July, 1947, to cover increased costs of materials and manufacture.

Is it the full economic cost which is now being charged in the new price?

There was a temporary subsidy which covered the period of price negotiations.



asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that unlicensed slaughterers are doing an extensive trade in horseflesh at high prices which is sent to London for use in sausages and meat-pies; and whether he will look into this traffic in horseflesh to ensure that there is no evasion of the law and that young healthy horses are not slaughtered for this traffic.

We have no knowledge of the traffic in horseflesh, which would, if it exists, constitute a breach of the regulations governing the sale of horseflesh for human consumption. If the hon. and gallant Member will let me have particulars of any case of illegal slaughter or disposal of horseflesh of which he is aware, I will see that the matter is followed up with the utmost vigour.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that scores of young colts are reported to have been loaded for killing in Devonshire and would it not be in the national interest that these horses should be turned into the rich pastures of Cheshire and Lancashire instead of being turned into sausages and meat-pies?

I saw this information in the "Sunday Express" last Sunday but I have no other evidence.

Milk Bottles


asked the Minister of Food what is the present rate of production of milk bottles; and what is the unsatisfied demand.

The total production of milk bottles for six months to 28th June last was 644,777 gross, showing an average weekly rate of production of 24,799 gross. I am informed that there is no unsatisfied demand at present. If, however, my hon. Friend knows of any particular case of local shortage and will give me particulars, I shall be happy to look into it.