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Commons Chamber

Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1948

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 5th May, 1948

The House met at Half past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Sheffield) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Palestine

Holy Places (Damage)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the extent of injuries inflicted upon the Holy Places by recent riots and outrages in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and if, before the evacuation of British military forces and civilian personnel from Palestine, full details of the loss and damage incurred will be compiled with a view to rehabilitation following the establishment of an administration under the United Nations organisation.

On 26th April my right hon. Friend was informed by the High Commissioner that no damage of any kind had been caused to the Holy Places in Bethlehem and no structural damage had been caused in Jerusalem. A few stray bullets have hit the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but damage caused is only superficial and external. In these circumstances it is not considered necessary to compile the register suggested in the second part of the Question.

Supposing loss or damage occurred before the conclusion of the Mandate on 15th May, would His Majesty's Government take into consideration any damage which had occurred and compile details with a view to compensation?

That is another question, and is not covered by the Question on the Order Paper.

Casualties

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will give an estimate of the loss of life and grave injury to Arabs and Jews, respectively, during the riots and outrages in Palestine since 1st October, 1947.

Approximate casualty figures for Arabs and Jews in Palestine between 1st October, 1947, and 24th April, 1948, so far as known to the authorities, are as follow: Arabs—killed 1,300, wounded 2,500; Jews—killed 1,000, wounded 2,000.

Have any claims been made on the Administration of His Majesty's Government in Palestine for compensation for those who have been lost on either one side or the other?

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will state, as at the latest date for which detailed information is available, the numbers of British officers and men who have been killed and seriously injured in Palestine during the preceding twelve months; and the numbers of civilians of British nationality killed and injured during the same period.

Records of numbers injured are not readily available, but the following are the numbers of British subjects killed in Palestine between 1st May, 1947, and 24th April, 1948: Armed Forces, 137; Police, 53; Civilians, 11.

Does not the answer to all these three Questions indicate that the sacrifice made by this country in order to preserve the future of Palestine is an inspiration to civilisation?

Is it not perfectly clear that if His Majesty's Government had taken the advice of the Leader of the Opposition in 1946 none of these casualties would have occurred?

Sentences (Review)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will consider remitting part of the sentence of 10 years' penal servitude passed on three members of the Palestine Police Force and charged with the unauthorised possession of firearms and an armoured car, in view of the fact that they are only 19 years of age.

The three men concerned are 20, 21 and 23 years of age. Until the termination of the Mandate for Palestine, the exercise of the prerogative of mercy is for the High Commissioner, who has not seen fit to intervene in this case. After that date, the sentences will be reviewed from time to time by my right hon. Friend.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary seen the statement made on Monday in Palestine that all Arab and Jewish prisoners are now free, and in view of that is it really fair to these men to keep them in continued detention for long periods of this kind, and ought they not to be told that their sentences will be reviewed?

The position is as I have stated. Until the termination of the Mandate the prerogative of mercy is in the High Commissioner. When the Mandate terminates it will then be in my right hon. Friend and we shall consider the position at that date.

Is it not within the province of the right hon. Gentleman to make suggestions to the High Commissioner that the sentences should be reviewed now, or if not, will he give a guarantee that they will be sympathetically reviewed?

This matter will come under the notice of my right hon. Friend when he returns, and he will then consider what is the best step to take.

Oil Supplies (Maintenance)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make about the maintenance of oil supplies and the protection of the pipeline and refinery at Haifa.

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on 21st April, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid).

Are any plans being made to safeguard this vital supply after 15th May?

While the military are in occupation of that part of Palestine their mere presence there, of course, will in itself to some extent safeguard the refineries. Apart from that, no plans have been made.

Are an., arrangements being made to keep the pipe flowing to Tripolis in Syria?

British Property (Damage)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether compensation will be paid to British persons for property in Palestine destroyed by either side, or left behind or rendered irrecoverable by the British evacuation.

No such compensation will be paid by His Majesty's Government who will, however, make every effort to ensure that the claims of British subjects for compensation in respect of damage to their property are expeditiously dealt with by whatever authority is responsible in Palestine after 15th May.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why at any rate there is no liability for damage which occurred while we were masters there?

On 22nd May, 1947, the Palestine Government announced that claims for compensation in respect of loss or damage to property resulting from terrorist acts should be recorded, and it might be that ex gratia payments would be made when peaceful conditions had been established. So far as I know, that is the only announcement that has been made. We cannot undertake to give compensation for damage to property in the circumstances existing today.

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that up to the time of our surrender of responsibility on 15th May the damage suffered by our nationals will have no claim on whatever Palestinian balances are there, before they are handed over to any new authority?

I am advised that there will be no legal claim, but it may be possible to make ex gratia payments. That is a matter which will have to be considered. That was the scope of the announcement made by the Palestine Government last year.

That was last May, and the Mandate will now terminate in 10 days. Would it not be possible to expedite consideration so that by 15th May we shall know whether in fact payment is going to be made or not?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Government will at any rate hold back enough money before the transfer to meet any such claims?

I am not able to make any further statement on this point. [Laughter.] I have said that I will look into it. That seems to cause amusement to hon. Members opposite, although I do not know why, because that is what they ask me to do.

Can the Under-Secretary say whether it is a fact, as indicated in his answer, that our nationals in Palestine will have no means at all of getting any compensation for injury inflicted upon them during the riots and the happenings in Palestine during the last few years? Is that the answer of His Majesty's Government to an honest claim for compensation?

Colonel Karl Eichenau

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when it was known to the British authorities in Palestine that the former German S.S. Colonel Karl Eichenau was engaged in training Arab forces in Palestine; whether his whereabouts were known to the British authorities prior to his capture by Jewish forces on 22nd April, 1948; what efforts were made to apprehend him; and whether it is known how he was able to get to Palestine.

The High Commissioner for Palestine has informed me that the alleged presence of this German in Palestine has not been reported to the local authorities, nor, as far as is known, have the Jews claimed to have captured him. If my hon. Friend will make available to me the information on which his Question was based, I will endeavour to have the matter investigated further.

Situation, Jaffa

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the present situation in Jaffa; and whether any casualties were sustained by British personnel during the recent fighting in that area.

In the early hours of 28th April a heavy attack on the Arab town of Jaffa was made by the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the method adopted being an indiscriminate mortar bombardment, apparently designed to create panic among the civilian inhabitants. British forces intervened, supported by aircraft, and in the course of the afternoon the Jews retired to their original positions. By nightfall the border was quiet except for occasional sniping. A cease-fire was ordered for both sides by the military commander and was observed. British troops then occupied a line between Arabs and Jews on the Tel-Aviv-Jaffa border. On the evening of 30th April, the cease-fire order was broken by fire from the Jewish side, which was quickly silenced by military action. Latest reports indicate that the town is now quiet. As a rough estimate, some 30,000 Arabs left Jaffa and more are leaving. The Arab mayor is still in Jaffa and municipal services are functioning, although with difficulty. Casualties suffered by British forces were one non-commissioned officer killed, and five other ranks wounded.

Can the Under-Secretary state whether British personnel will be retained in the Jaffa area until all the evacuated Arabs have returned, or whether we are still committed to evacuate Jaffa, come what may, on 1st August?

Well, I cannot make any further announcement at this point, other than that generally made with regard to Palestine as a whole.

Has the Under-Secretary any information about what has become of the 30,000 or more Arabs who have left Jaffa—where they have gone to and what is happening to them?

I am afraid I have not. I can get that information if the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question.

British Forces (Operations)

47.

asked the Minister of Defence what restraints, whether imposed by the Army Council, the Palestine Government or His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, control the operations of British troops in Palestine; and whether similar restraints apply to the Royal Navy and the R.A.F.

As I said in reply last week, the Service authorities in Palestine have full discretion to take whatever steps they consider necessary to assist the Government of Palestine in carrying out the policy of His Majesty's Government, and to secure the protection and final evacuation of our Forces. Naturally, as has also been explained to the House, they seek guidance from time to time on the political aspects of their task from the High Commissioner. After 15th May, the position will be governed by a directive to the General Officer Commanding, a copy of which is in the Library.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say why it is that our Forces are prevented from disarming the Jews and Arabs when, I believe I am right in saying, it is a capital offence for a Jew or an Arab to carry arms?

This is a question which really ought to be addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. So far as we are concerned, we have every confidence in the way in which the military authorities are carrying out their job.

Are there any restrictions on local commanders conducting operations to recapture stolen arms and equipment?

Withdrawal Plans

50.

asked the Minister of Defence whether Jaffa is scheduled as one of the evacuation ports for the British Army in Palestine; and whether any Army or R.A.F. units are to be retained for operational purposes in that area after 15th May.

As was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Debate on 11th December, it would not be in the public interest to give details of the plan for the withdrawal of our Forces from Palestine.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the British commanders in Palestine give every assistance to the Jewish authorities to restore the health and other services of that country, especially in view of the new outbreak of typhoid in the northern part of Palestine?

I think that the British military authorities throughout the history of their connection with Palestine have always given every possible assistance, but I would point out that in present circumstances they are very fully occupied and the extent to which they can serve in this direction must be limited.

Kenya

Chege Kibachia

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when if is proposed to release Chege Kibachia from internment in Kenya.

Mr. Kibachia's case was recently reviewed by the Executive Council, who unanimously advised that it would be against the public interest at the present time to revoke the order requiring him to remain at Kabarnet. The case will be reviewed again in six months' time.

Does my hon. Friend hold out any hope that consideration will be given to the prospect of the release of this man?

I was recently in Kenya, and I made some personal inquiries about this man. The House will remember that he was the man who threatened to cut off some persons' ears if they did not come out on strike. I am glad to say he is making good progress in rehabilitation.

My hon. Friend referred to this man as making good progress. Progress in what?

Kenya-Uganda Railway (Report)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a report of the recent Kenya inquiry into the efficiency of labour on the Kenya-Uganda Railway, sponsored by the Colonial Social Science Research Council, is to be published and when this will be.

My right hon. Friend has nothing to add at present to the answer which he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) on 4th February.

While I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, may I point out that in answer to the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) on 4th February, the House was told that the permission of the management of the railway would be asked before the report was discussed. I understand that permission has now been granted. In view of that, will the Under-Secretary have the report published in time for the discussion on Colonial Affairs?

I was not aware that the railway authorities had signified their approval, but I will look into the matter, and, if they have, I will see that that is done.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will expedite the publication of the report.

Legislative Council (Indians)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the terms of the Bill recently introduced in the Kenya Legislative Council by which two seats in the Central and Eastern Areas are to be reserved for Muslim members; whether these seats are additional to the five already allocated to Indians; if he is aware that four Indian members have resigned owing to the introduction of this Bill; and whether proposals to provide separate religious representation will now be withdrawn.

The Bill, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy, was prepared after full discussion with Indian leaders to ensure the continued representation of Muslims in two of the five Indian seats and is expressed as being for the life of the new Council or until earlier repeal by Resolution. Four Indian members resigned on the instructions of the East African Indian National Congress when the Bill was introduced shortly before the dissolution of the old Council, but the Measure has received widespread support and two Muslims and one non-Muslim have been returned unopposed in the elections for the new Council.

Am I to understand from the Under-Secretary's reply that the four Indian members who did resign had previously assented to the proposals?

I do not know whether they assented to them, but the Bill passed its Third Reading without opposition.

Colonial Empire

Food And Raw Materials (Schemes)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what local State managed schemes, pilot schemes or otherwise, have recently been initiated in the Colonies to increase the production of wealth therein in respect to food or raw materials.

In almost every Colony, Government Departments and research stations are busy on schemes of different kinds to increase supplies of food and raw materials, and I fear it would be impossible to deal adequately with the subject within the limits of this reply. The subject will be covered in the Annual Report on the Colonial Empire which the Secretary of State hopes to make available to the House later in the Session, and I would ask my hon. Friend to be good enough to wait for that.

Will my hon. Friend see that under these schemes, when they are initiated, there will be adequate representation of Colonial opinion on any bodies or corporations that may be set up?

Normally these schemes are in the development plans for the Colonial territories, and these are passed through the Colonial legislatures; and, in every case, the opinions of the various races in the territory are represented on the legislature, so that there is full opportunity for those views to be known.

Mines Inspectors (Recruitment)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many mines inspectors now employed by his Department have been locally recruited from mining engineers with practical mining experience in the Colonies; and whether he will consider local recruitment on a larger scale for these posts.

I regret that the information asked for is not readily available with regard to all inspectors of mines at present employed by Colonial Governments. Since 1st June, 1945, however, 24 new appointments as inspectors of mines have been made. Of these four were actually recruited in one of the Colonies, and 15 had had practical mining experience in the Colonies. There is nothing to stop any mining engineer in the Colonies from applying to the local Government for appointment to the Colonial Mines Service.

Leprosy (Research)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made in the cure of leprosy in the Colonies by the use of sulphone drugs or otherwise.

Much experimental work has been done in Africa and British Guiana with encouraging results. In West Africa a well-known leprologist from India is now planning larger scale experiments in the effects of sulphone drugs, and similar researches are projected in East Africa. A preliminary report from British Guiana describes the trials made with sulphetrone as sufficiently promising to warrant further investigation.

Is the Under-Secretary aware of the tremendous urgency and need for drugs in the leper settlements of Malaya, and will he take steps to see that the drugs are sent from this country to help these people who are in such distress.

In view of the enormous advance made in the treatment of this disease in recent years cannot the Government assume more responsibility for its treatment instead of leaving it in the hands of voluntary organisations such as the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association?

In many cases the Government already accept responsibility for treatment.

Broadcasting Services

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement regarding the number of public loud speakers used in Colonies in connection with their broadcasting services, to keep the poorer people, unable to pay for wireless sets, informed of current events and problems.

Complete details of public re-diffusion of broadcast programmes are not available. It is known, however, that there are in the Colonies at least 625 communal wireless receivers, operated for the most part in connection with local broadcasting services. There are also public address systems in the Gambia, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Seychelles, Uganda and Zanzibar. Broadcast programmes are also distributed by wire to some 30,000 households in six territories at a small monthly subscription.

Would this not be partially met if it were possible to persuade the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. de la Bère) to make a tour of those Colonies?

"Nigerian Daily Times" (Controlling Interest)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what circumstances and on what terms he has approved the sale of the "Nigerian Daily Times" to the proprietors of the "Daily Mirror."

The acquisition of a controlling interest in the "Nigerian Daily Times" by the proprietors of the "Daily Mirror" was arranged between the parties, and does not require my right hon. Friend's approval.

Is it not the case that the local Government are interested financially, and otherwise in the "Nigerian Daily Times," and may it not be supposed that they are interested in its future destiny? While it is obviously desirable to introduce the highest traditions of British journalism into Nigeria, is there any reason for introducing them in this particular form?

Would it not be possible to have some reciprocal arrangements whereby intelligent Nigerians from Africa could be brought over to control the "Daily Mail"?

The Government do not wish to control the Press either in Nigeria or in this country. I am rather surprised at the suggestion of the hon. Member the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) that we should do so.

Malaya And Hong Kong (War Damage Claims)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will defer submitting the supplementary estimates for the war damage claims for Malaya and Hong Kong to Parliament until the detailed scheme for the payment of claims has been announced.

I would invite the hon. Member's attention to the statements made on Monday, 26th April, m reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid). It will be seen that details of the Malayan war damage compensation schemes are to be announced shortly, whereas the first instalment of assistance from His Majesty's Government will not be requested until 1949. The position as regards Hong Kong is given in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the statement concerning that territory.

Is it not the fact that the Supplementary Estimate has to be laid before this House, and is it not outrageous that we should be asked to pass that Supplementary Estimate without having the least idea of the basis on which compensation is to be paid?

I think the hon. Gentleman made up his supplementary question before he heard my main answer, because it is clear from my answer that the compensation schemes will be known first.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the arrangements regarding war damage compensation in Hong Kong provide no compensation for the destruction of personal property; whether he is aware that many persons who lost all their personal possessions have suffered permanent injury to their health in Japanese internment camps and are therefore seriously handicapped in their efforts to re-establish themselves; and why there is so large a discrepancy between the treatment of individuals in Malaya and in Hong Kong.

The reasons for the general policy which has been adopted in Hong Kong with regard to war damage compensation are given in paragraph 2 of the statement relating to Hong Kong circulated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 26th April. As regards the second part of the Question, it was announced in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas), on 30th October, 1945, that British subjects who had been repatriated to this country after release from captivity in the Far Eastern territories, and who intended to remain here permanently, would be eligible for consideration for ex gratia grants for the purchase of furniture and household goods on the lines of, and within the limits of, the free cover provided in the United Kingdom Private Chattels Scheme. My right hon. Friend is now considering, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Trade, the extension of this scheme to other British subjects who have suffered hardship through losses of private chattels in the occupied British territories in the Far East, and who have returned to this country and intend to remain here permanently. Neither under the existing scheme nor under this suggested extension would any distinction be drawn between Malayan and Hong Kong claims.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask if he can say when this consideration to which he referred in the latter part of his answer will be completed?

Cyprus

Illegal Immigrants

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give the number of persons now detained in Cyprus for attempting to land illegally in Palestine; and how many of them came from U.S.S.R. or from Soviet occupied territory.

There were, on 21st April, 24,574 Jews detained in Cyprus. Since it is the common practice for immigrants to destroy all personal documents before interception, precise information about their countries of origin is not available, but it is known that the great majority came originally from Eastern Europe.

That does not answer my Question. Is it not the fact that U.N.R.R.A. reported regularly through 1946 that these people were swarming over from the Soviet area at the rate of 1,000 a day? Have the Government no knowledge of what has been happening?

We know that the majority came from Eastern Europe, but, as I have said, they have destroyed any identity cards or personal papers that they may have had, and it is impossible to say from what country in Eastern Europe they came.

Does the expression "Eastern Europe" include Poland? Is it not the case that very many have come from Polish territory?

Ought it not now to be admitted, in justice to the individual concerned, that the statement made by General Sir Frederick Morgan, which led to his dismissal, was, in fact, substantially true?

Will the hon. Gentleman say how and when these people are to be transported to Palestine from Cyprus after 15th May?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is not possible that a large proportion of these refugees from Russia had to leave Russia on account of their anti-Communist views?

Is it not the fact that these Jews have been sent from Eastern Europe or the Soviet zone by the Russians with the connivance of the Americans?

This Question deals with numbers. I have given the answer with regard to numbers. I suggest that the supplementary question of the hon. Member does not arise out of the Question on the Order Paper.

Does not my hon. Friend know that allegations made recently were definitely denied by an authoritative report from Cyprus, which report stated that there were no, Soviet Union people coming into Cyprus at all—or, at any rate, only a few very exceptional cases?

Constitutional Proposals

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether constitutional proposals have yet been laid before the Cyprus Consultative Assembly.

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the constitutional proposals for Cyprus will be made public; and what is the present state of the discussions thereupon.

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in the position to make a statement with regard to the Constitution of Cyprus.

This matter was discussed with the Governor, Lord Winster, during his recent visit to London. The proposals of His Majesty's Government will be communicated to the Consultative Assembly in Cyprus in the very near future, and the terms will be communicated to the hon. Members and published in this country.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Colonial Secretary gave the same answer, that the proposals would be communicated to the Consultative Assembly, when a similar Question was asked in January; and that there is some concern in Cyprus at the delay that has occurred since that time, without proposals being put before the Consultative Assembly?

Since then the recent visit of Lord Winster to this country has changed the situation considerably.

Fiji

Constitutional Issues

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if in view of the new Governor's announcement on arrival in Fiji that constitutional issues would receive immediate consideration, he is yet in a position to make any statement as to the setting up of a Commission to investigate the present position and advise both the Governor and himself accordingly.

The present Governor of Fiji, before his departure for the Colony, was asked to report to my right hon. Friend on these matters after he had had an opportunity of studying the problem at first-hand. I am not in a position to make any statement at present.

Will the Under-Secretary give an assurance that such organisations as the European Electors' Association of Fiji will have full and fair opportunity to express their views and make representations both to the Governor and to the Colonial Secretary, and will he make a point of seeing that any original reports that this organisation may wish him' to see will actually receive his personal attention?

Planning (Representations)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in the economic, educational and cultural plans to be drawn up under the new Governorship of Fiji, he will ensure that the fullest considerations be given to any representations made on behalf of the native Fijians, and see that such representations are at least considered equally with those coming from the Indian and other sections of the community.

Maldive Islands (Treaty)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the recent Treaty with the Maldive Islands.

The Agreement to which the hon. Member refers redefines, without substantially altering, the relationship between His Majesty's Government and the Sultan of the Maldive Islands as originally set out in an exchange of Letters in 1887 between the then Governor of Ceylon and the then Sultan. It provides, however, for the relations between His Majesty's Government and the Sultan to be conducted in future through the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Ceylon.

Cameroons Mining Corporation

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give details of the recently formed Cameroons Mining Corporation; and what are the terms of the articles of agreement with the London Tin Company in respect of the return to the company in the event of prospecting proving successful.

The Corporation is not yet in being but is to have an initial capital of £60,000 and is to carry out mineral prospecting in the Cameroons. The Government of Nigeria and the London Tin Corporation will both participate, voting control resting with the Government of Nigeria, which will also appoint the Chairman and 50 per cent. of the other directors. As regards the second part of the Question, arrangements for working deposits discovered by the prospecting Company will be a matter for discussion with the London Tin Corporation.

Gold Coast Disturbances (Report)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the report of the inquiry into the Gold Coast disturbances is likely to be available.

The Commission of Inquiry has completed its public sittings in the Gold Coast, and the members are returning to this country next week. I am unable to say at present when their report will be presented.

In view of the importance and urgency of this matter, would the Under-Secretary give some indication of when this report will be published as hon. Members are very desirous of securing it.

I am sure that the Commission of Inquiry have an equal knowledge of the urgency of this matter and will present their report as soon as practicable.

Can we have an undertaking that when the report is presented it will be published?

I would not give that undertaking without consulting my right hon. Friend.

Can the Under-Secretary say whether the cause of this disturbance has been diagnosed and is being treated?

Royal Navy

Prize Money (Army Personnel)

30.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will investigate the possibility of Army personnel which served in landing craft and other ships flying the White Ensign during the war, sharing in the payment of naval prize money, together with those already qualifying in the R.N. and the R.A.F.

I understand that it is just possible there may be a small number of soldiers who will qualify for naval prize money as a result of service identical with that of members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and the Admiralty will be prepared at a later date to consider on their merits applications from soldiers with such service.

Pensioner Clerks

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether, in view of the agreement in principle, arrived at in September, 1946, for the assimilation of naval pensioner clerks into the General Clerical Class, the terms under which this class of Admiralty servants are to be so assimilated have now been fixed.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) on 21st April last. The proposal to which I then referred has been made to the Staff side of the Admiralty Administrative Whitley Council: but, as indicated on that occasion, further time will be required to negotiate the detailed arrangements for the application of the scheme.

But are such negotiations now approaching their close, because these people have waited a very long time?

As I said on the last occasion, they are much nearer their close than they were, and we are getting on with them as rapidly as possible.

Temporary Officers (Income Tax Accounts)

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether temporary officers were supplied with a statement of their Income Tax accounts upon demobilisation.

Statements of their Income Tax accounts on demobilisation were supplied to those officers who asked for them.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that many officers are now, three years after demobilisation, receiving Income Tax claims covering the years 1939–40 and 1940–41; and if I put down another Question can he tell me when such accounts were transferred to the Inland Revenue?

Yes, certainly, Sir, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put down a Question.

Post Office

Accounts, Northern Ireland

33.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will give the total revenue of the Post Office in Northern Ireland for the year ended 31st December, 1947; the total cost of all services connected therewith; and if the Government of Northern Ireland defray the entire cost of the staff which they keep for the purpose of censoring letters in Northern Ireland.

The total revenue of the Post Office in Northern Ireland, including Broadcast Receiving Licences sold, for the year ended 31st December, 1947 was 2,535,000, and the total cost of the services was £2,370,000. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department that the Government of Northern Ireland defray the entire cost of the staff referred to in the latter part of the hon. Member's Question.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Post Office authorities are paying for the use of rooms, light, and fire used by those engaged in censorship in the Belfast Post Office?

We do not pay these people. That is rather a detailed question, and if the hon. Member wants an answer on those details he had better put down a Question.

What kind of censorship is referred to in this Question? Can the Postmaster-General tell us?

Tasmanian Food Parcels (Return)

34.

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that parcels sent by the ex-Service men's organisation in Tasmania, addressed to branches of the British Ex-Service League in Great Britain, and intended for branches of the British Legion in Great Britain, were without inquiries returned to the senders; why were not such inquiries made; and will he take steps to find in future the persons intended to receive such parcels.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply on this subject which I gave on 28th April to the hon. Members for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom), South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser).

Communications, Palestine

36.

asked the Postmaster-General what postal arrangements exist for communication with civilians in Palestine.

I regret that, owing to circumstances beyond my control, all postal facilities to civilians in Palestine are suspended for the time being.

In view of the very natural anxiety of people in this country who have relatives in Palestine, could my right hon. Friend say what steps are being taken to restore this service?

My hon. Friend knows what the conditions are in Palestine. As soon as conditions allow us to restore the service we shall do so.

Could the Postmaster-General say whether it is impossible to send air mails to Palestine?

I do not think air mails can be sent; but there is a certain possibility of telegrams.

If difficulties are caused by conditions in Palestine what are the objections to ordinary mail going by ordinary routes to Palestine if they can go by air?

Will the Postmaster-General discuss this matter with the First Lord of the Admiralty to see whether signals relating to injured British personnel can be sent via British battleships.

National Association Of Postal And Telegraph Officers

37.

asked the Postmaster-General if he will state the reasons for the refusal of the Post Office to grant the usual special leave this year for staff association purposes to members of the National Association of Postal and Telegraph Officers; and if he will make a statement, in view of the difficulties thereby created for the delegates to the annual conference in London.

42 and 43.

asked the Postmaster-General (1) on what grounds 70 delegates of the National Association of Postal and Telegraph Officers were refused special leave to attend their Conference on 26th and 27th April, when hitherto such leave has normally been granted without question;

(2) whether it was on his instructions that the Regional Director, Cardiff, sent the Head Postmaster, Rhyl, a telegram forbidding leave to be given to Postal and Telegraph officers to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Postal and Telegraph officers and cancelling any such leave already given.

Special leave was refused on instructions from Post Office Headquarters, because the National Association of Postal and Telegraph Officers is not officially recognised. Special leave for association purposes is confined to members of recognised associations.

Quite apart from the merits of the various unions involved, does not the Minister think it most inequitable that the Government of the day should use their power to withdraw from one particular union facilities which they are granting to another union? Will the Minister not reconsider this matter on the grounds of equity?

No, I do not think there is anything inequitable about it. It is a recognised custom in the Post Office that unions cannot be recognised until they have a certain percentage of the organised members of the staff, and this union has not that percentage.

Would it not be true to say that this is the first occasion upon which this privilege has been withdrawn?

No. There is nothing new about this business. It has been in operation for years upon years.

Is not what the Postmaster-General has said incompatible with the Treasury circular, which says that leave may be granted to any bona fide organisation? Not "recognised" but "bona fide."

Could these individuals have attended if they had taken a few days out of their normal entitlement of leave, or would they have been prohibited in any case?

In cases like this, where they go to the conference in spite of the fact that they cannot get leave under the regulations, it is taken out of their ordinary annual leave.

38.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will permit the Kingston branch of the National Association of Postal and Telegraph Officers to take part in negotiations with the postal authorities on a local basis.

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) on 21st January.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer in no way relates to the office referred to in my Question. This Association contains a majority of the staff in this office and, as such matters have in any event to be negotiated locally, what are the objections to their being negotiated with a body representing a majority of the staff?

An arrangement of this kind was in operation for some time some years ago and was found to be unworkable.

Is the Postmaster-General aware that his decision to refuse recognition in this case, where the majority of members of the grades concerned are members of this Association, seems most unfair to the men concerned and not in accord with principles of proper democratic representation?

If one had to recognise associations in every office where there happened to be a majority belonging to a particular association, we might have to recognise a multiplicity of associations. In time, confusion would follow.

Telegram, Newport (Refused Tender)

41.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that a citizen in Newport tendered a £1 Treasury note at the general post office about noon on 7th April for the despatch of a telegram; that the attendant refused to accept the telegram on the ground that no change was available; that the offer to leave the £1 note and return for the change later was also refused; and what steps are being taken to remedy this grievance.

Yes, Sir, and I have already expressed my apologies to the citizen in question. With the present shortage of silver coin, a good deal of local initiative has to be used to make ends meet. I regret that the action taken in this case was misguided and suitable instructions have been given to prevent repetition.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a frequent occurrence at some post offices all over the country to say that no change is given? In view of the fact that the whole of the business of the post office is conducted on the basis of cash transactions—the post office is one of the largest bankers—could these reasonable facilities be provided to meet the demands of the ordinary citizens?

I have already stated that I have given instructions so that this incident will not be repeated.

Can the Postmaster-General say to whom this telegram was addressed? Was it handed in prior to the Italian elections?

Will the Minister consider the case of a friend of mine in Paisley who tendered a 10s. note for the purchase of a stamp. My friend was refused the stamp on the ground that there was no change. Because of this the posting of an important letter was held up?

Is it not a fact that post offices all over the country are suffering from a serious shortage of silver and that, until this matter has been settled with the Treasury, difficulties of the kind enumerated in the Question are bound to arise, and that the staff have no option in the matter?

Telephone Service

Kiosks, Leicester

35.

asked the Postmaster-General what arrangements are being made for telephone kiosks on the new Parks housing estate, Leicester.

A telephone kiosk was brought into service on 8th April in the Parks Housing Estate, Leicester. Two more kiosks will be provided, but it may be some time before they can be installed as there are no further spare wires at present in the cables serving the locality.

In view of the fact that this is a very large area, and that there have been some incidents of fires in that area, will my right hon. Friend see that these kiosks are installed as rapidly as possible?

As I have indicated, it is a question of laying more cables. When the cables are laid the kiosks can be put up immediately.

Applications (Priority)

39.

asked the Postmaster-General on what basis he allocates telephones among applicants in any particular area; whether he operates a points system in deciding the priority to be given to applicants; and to what extent business needs are taken into account.

As I explained in my reply on r8th December, 1947, to the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) and on 30th January last when I introduced the Post Office and Telegraph Money Bill, priority is given to certain categories of subscriber for whom telephone service is regarded as essential in the public interest. Business applicants not in these categories are in general given preference over residential applicants. The idea of a points system has been carefully examined, but is considered impracticable for deciding relative priorities for telephone service.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when subscribers move to a new area and wish to transfer their telephone they are in every case told that the senior awaiting applicant has priority? Does this mean that the first person on the list has priority regardless of the fact that the telephone may be needed for business purposes?

Can my right hon. Friend tell us what priority is given under this system for a person who have been serving abroad continuously for six years, who has had no opportunity of applying for a telephone, and now makes application for one?

If a person had been serving abroad for six years and because of that, might have had to give up his telephone, he would have priority. Disabled ex-Service men have some priority also.

Is any preference or priority given to business or private users who take over properties or premises in which a telephone is already installed; or is it at all times insisted that the telephone should be first removed and that the persons then take their place on the list?

Because there is a telephone in either an office or a house into which a person moves it does not necessarily mean that he will have the telephone that is already there. There may be a person on the list whose claim is much stronger, and in such cases the telephone would be removed.

Would my right hon. Friend make known to the public the categories which his Department consider to have priority, in order that the applicants themselves may know that the allocation is fair between one individual and another?

Will the Postmaster-General explain why, when a person moves out of a house, the telephone is taken away and, when the next tenant comes in, another telephone is installed? Would it not be much easier to leave it where it was in the first place?

If the hon. Member knows of such a case I should like to hear about it. I have not heard of one.

Under the system described by the Postmaster-General might there not be so many men engaged in taking away telephones that there would not be any left to put them in?

The matter of taking a telephone out is not, as some people seem to imagine, a matter of days or weeks.

Domestic Instruments (Disconnection)

40.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider the possibility of adapting the domestic telephone instrument so that it can be disconnected by the subscriber during the night or at any other time that calls are likely to prove an inconvenience.

I regret that it is not possible to devise any reasonably simple arrangement which would enable subscribers to disconnect their telephones at will without seriously interfering with the service generally. Subscribers' lines could be disconnected at the exchange, when desired, subject to suitable notice and to payment of a charge to cover the work involved.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that such a device would be widely welcomed and that what people do at present to get rid of this tyranny is to take the receiver off the hook, which causes a lot of inconvenience to the exchange and to incoming callers? Would it not be simpler to institute such a device?

The inconvenience caused by adopting the suggestion made by the hon. Lady might be more appreciable.

Is not the correct explanation not that the Minister is not willing, but that he has not the materials to meet the demand?

British Broadcasting Corporation (Aliens)

44.

asked the Postmaster-General how many aliens are now employed in the B.B.C. for whom he has given specific written authority.

As the Government have now publicly condemned this menace, will the right hon. Gentleman review those authorities already given and use great discretion in the future?

I will use discretion, of course, but I am not going to review what has already been done.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that we do not accept the implication that the words "alien" and "communist" are synonymous.

Church House Commemoration Ceremony (Speeches)

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange for the speeches made by himself and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in Church House on Wednesday, 28th April, to be printed as a White Paper.

I have been asked to reply. The unveiling in Church House of an inscribed panel commemorating meetings of the House of Commons during the war years was a memorable occasion, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not think that the suggestion made by the hon. Member would be suitable.

While I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply and appreciate the reasons for his refusal, may I ask him if he will invite his right hon. Friend to consider recording in some way in the history of this House the temporary occupancy of Church House?

I understand that there was a report. Perhaps it would meet the wishes of the hon. Member if we were to put a record in the Library so that it may be available.

Central Office Of Information (Annual Report)

46.

asked the Lord President of the Council when he will announce the decision as to whether the Government propose to publish an annual report of the activities of the Central Office of Information.

Will the statement of accounts be included with the report? I understand that the Office of Information buys and sells articles. The finance of this should be very interesting.

I will consider that point but I should have thought that the estimates would appear in the ordinary way in the Civil Estimates.

Imber Village And Training Area (Use)

49.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement indicating all the uses to which it is the intention of the Government to put Imber village and training area.

It is the intention that Imber village and training area shall be used by the War Office and Ministry of Supply. The Army need the village for instruction in street fighting and the training area for general field training, including infantry exercises and demonstrations by all arms with aircraft co-operation. The Ministry of Supply need parts of the training area as ranges for bombing, rocket gunnery, parachute dropping and various other tests and trials. No live bombs would be dropped, although fuzes and exploders may be fitted.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the first time this information has been made public? Is he further aware that considerable apprehension has arisen as to the intentions of the Government, particularly in regard to rumours about bombing, which apparently are not without foundation, and that there is apprehension in the neighbourhood that if, for instance, high-level bombing is indulged in a short error in calculation may cause damage to life and property outside the area? Can he give an assurance that every step will be taken to prevent anything of that nature happening?

We will do everything possible in that matter. It is a most reasonable request to make. The hon. Member will now know that we do not intend to use live bombs, and, therefore, there will be little danger from that point of view. In connection with ballistic trials and the like, we will take every step to avoid danger.

The right hon. Gentle-ma: will realise that even a dummy bomb falling outside the area can do considerable damage.

Food Supplies

Creameries, Northern Ireland

51.

asked the Minister of Food when it is intended to revoke the concentration scheme under the Emergency Powers Act, 1942, by reason of which the creamery concern of Mr. Patrick McDermott, Dromore, Co. Tyrone, had to be closed down in October, 1942; if he will be allowed to reopen his creamery on the revocation of the scheme; and when it is intended to compensate him for loss of business during the past five and a half years.

The future of the concentration scheme and of creameries in Northern Ireland will depend on Northern Ireland Government policy. No decisions have yet been taken. Compensation for loss of business is not payable under the scheme, but an offer of an annual payment was made to Mr. McDermott in respect of the rental value of the premises and the depreciation and upkeep of the equipment. Payments on account of sums calculated on this basis have been made to him for the period since the creamery was closed.

Can the hon. Lady say, in view of the fact that this proprietor is losing thousands of pounds a year as the result of a Government order, whether her Department is considering the question of some form of compensation?

I think my hon. Friend knows that we have looked at this case very carefully. All other owners of creameries have accepted our terms, but Mr. McDermott refused, and we cannot make special terms for him.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that payment for upkeep of machinery is not compensation? I ask her to review the matter again.

If the responsibility for these schemes of concentration is not really in the hands of the hon. Lady's Ministry, is it not the case that the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland merely act as agents for the Ministry of Food?

The Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland formulates the policy a