House Of Commons
Thursday, 22nd August, 1940.
The House met at Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Clyde Lighthouses Consolidation Order Confirmation Bill
Considered; to be read the Third time upon Thursday, 5th September.
Oral Answers To Questions
Hardships Committee, Ipswich
asked the Minister of Labour the names of the Ipswich Hardships Committee; and whether he is aware that recent applicants have been refused an opportunity to state their case before the committee?
The chairman of the committee is Mr. R. C. Menneer. The other members are selected from a panel containing 40 names, and I shall he pleased to let my hon. Friend have a list of those names if he so desires. I am not aware that applicants have been refused an opportuntiy of stating their case. I have called for a report on the individual case to which I understand my hon. Friend refers, and will communicate with him as soon as possible.
In the event of an applicant not being satisfied with the decision of the committee, has he any right of appeal to any other body? There is great dissatisfaction all over the country.
That is another question.
If I put it down, will the hon. Gentleman answer it?
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that men of 23 years of age who registered as long ago as February, and appealed against the refusal of the local tribunal to register them as conscientious objectors, are still waiting, some of them in idleness, for their cases to be reached by the appeal tribunal; and whether he will take immediate steps, if necessary by appointing additional tribunals, to ensure that a final decision on every claim to be a conscientious objector shall be given not more than three months after a man has registered?
The number of appeals to the Appellate Tribunal for England and Wales has proved to be larger than can be dealt with by the single tribunal provided by the Armed Forces Act. My right hon. Friend, accordingly, obtained power, under the Defence Regulations made on 7th August, to appoint additional divisions of this tribunal, and is setting up three such divisions immediately. This should have the result of bringing the cases up to date.
National War Effort
asked the Minister of Labour how many gamekeepers were employed in Great Britain before the present war; how many of them are now engaged in His Majesty's Forces, including the Home Guard; how many have been transferred to useful occupations such as poultry-rearing; and whether he will take steps to ensure that the remainder shall be similarly employed throughout the duration of the war?
Statistics giving the information desired in the first three parts of the Question are not available. With regard to the last part of the Question, gamekeepers, as such, are not included in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, but I am informed by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries that considerable numbers of gamekeepers are required for essential work in the destruction of rabbits and other vermin. In so far as gamekeepers are not required for this purpose, the Ministry's local offices will give every assistance in transferring them to other work of national importance.
Labour Supply Board
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is in a position to make a statement in regard to the work of the Labour Supply Board, and the inspectors appointed thereunder who have visited Government buildings, factories, etc.; and whether the inspectors have reported on any delay in the execution of contracts, and the causes they attribute thereto?
I assume that my hon. Friend's Question relates particularly to building and civil engineering contracts. The Labour Supply Board advises the Minister on questions arising in this connection, as in others, and has before it the points arising from visits to such works by the Department's building labour inspectors, who at present number six. It is not the function of the inspectors to discover cases of delay in the execution of contracts. They are sent to investigate cases in which there is an alleged delay due to shortage of labour, and to recommend what steps should be taken to supply additional labour, or, it may be, to ensure the more effective use of the existing labour or to call attention to the need for better organisation of the supply of materials. I may add that copies of the inspectors' reports are made available to all Departments concerned.
Am I to understand that the inspectors' inquiries are limited to the question of labour supply?
The inspectors, in making their reports, take into consideration all factors that have any bearing on labour supply.
Is the Minister satisfied that, in connection with any delay that may have occurred on any of these jobs, there has been no "ca' canny"?
I have not suggested that delays are due to "ca' canny." The Government are very grateful for the help that has been given by all sections of the industry towards the war effort, and they count on its continuance.
Contracting Firms (Government Control)
asked the Minister without Portfolio whether, in view of the fact that Regulation 58A of the Defence Regulations gives power to the Minister of Labour to direct any person in the United Kingdom to perform such services as may be specified and to determine the remuneration and conditions of service when such directions are given, the appropriate Ministers have exercised similar powers under the Defence Regulations to take control and direction, together with plant, equipment and materials of, and to fix the remuneration for, contracting firms, in order to ensure that the fullest use is made of these agencies in the nation's war effort; and whether he is in a position to make a statement in regard thereto?
Generally speaking, Defence Regulations 54C and 55 give Government Departments as wide powers in relation to undertakings engaged on war production as are given by Regulation 58A in relation to individuals. In the great majority of cases the desired production is being secured at reasonable prices without the use of compulsory powers under these regulations, but such powers have been used without hesitation on the few occasions when this has been necessary. The fact that Departments possess these powers and are known to be ready to use them strengthens their position in dealing with contractors and makes it unlikely that it will often be necessary actually to put them into operation.
Could my right hon. Friend indicate to any extent where these powers have been used? Labour has now been mobilised, and there does not appear to be the same willingness to apply the Regulations to plant and materials as to labour, and that is causing dissatisfaction, and cutting across the sentiments the right hon. Gentleman has expressed throughout his lifetime?
The Minister of Labour has, as far as possible, proceeded without the exercise of this compulsory power. He certainly has far greater powers than he ever contemplated using. With regard to plant and materials, there is a considerable number of cases where the Supply Departments have requisitioned property and factories, put themselves in charge, ordered production to be taken from one place and put into another, and instructed firms to take orders that they did not want to take.
Is not this mere red tape? Will the right hon. Gentleman apply the Beaverbrook touch?
asked the Minister of Labour whether the wives of refugee internees are treated as eligible to receive unemployment benefit if their husbands were contributors to the scheme while in employment?
Under the unemployment insurance scheme, dependants' benefit in respect of the wives of insured contributors is only payable if the contributor himself is in receipt of benefit. It would, therefore, not be payable in respect of the wives of persons who are interned.
Will the hon. Gentleman consult his right hon. Friend to see whether this gross injustice can be remedied?
The hon. and gallant Member will recollect that cases of this sort can be dealt with under the Prevention and Relief of Distress Regulations.
Are we to understand that if the internee is entitled to receive benefit, the wife will get benefit?
Benefit is payable only to the applicant, and cannot be paid to the applicant's wife.
Are we to understand that the wife and children get no relief whatever?
I pointed out that they are entitled to apply under the Prevention and Relief of Distress Regulations.
If an internee comes within the scope of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, is he not entitled to receive his benefit; and by what right do the Government withhold it?
The Minister is acting under the terms of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. He is not in a position to pay the allowance to the wife. It is possible to apply for assistance under the Prevention and Relief of Distress Regulations.
But will the hon. Member answer my question? If a person comes within the scope of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and is rendered unemployed by Government action, is he not entitled to receive benefit, and are not the dependants entitled to receive theirs?
No, Sir, he is not so entitled in these special circumstances.
Is he not prevented only by the fact that he is unable to register; and will the Government set up offices at the camps, so that these people may register?
I understand that the real difficulty is that these people are not in a position to take employment.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the grounds on which the Austrian Social Democrat ex-deputy and trade union leader Herr Allina, who has already been interned by the Nazis in Buchenwald camp, is now in a British internment camp; and whether, in view of his proved hostility to the Nazi régime, his age and illness, he will at once release him?
This gentleman was interned in pursuance of the general policy applicable to males of enemy nationality. I am inquiring about his health so that I may decide whether his release can be authorised on medical grounds.
In view of the great assistance that this gentleman can render towards the attainment of an independent Austria, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the position of this man?
I propose to deal with the question in the Debate.
Is it not true that the man has rendered very valuable services to the British cause already?
asked the Home Secretary whether he can assure the House that, in releasing from British internment camps those who have been hostile to Fascism, he is not releasing those whose devotion to the cause of Communist world revolution is as great a menace to the peace and institutions of this realm as either Fascism or Nazidom?
Yes, Sir. I can give the assurance asked for.
Are we to take it from the Question and answer that the maintenance of the capitalist system of society, with all its poverty and unemployment, and all its institutions, is to continue? This is a shameful business.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Mr. Walpole, 17, Dartford Road, Bexley Heath, Kent, a British subject, has been detained in Brixton Prison for nine weeks; and whether his case will receive early consideration?
I am informed that Mr. Walpole has made objections to the Advisory Committee. I am not in a position to say on what date the Committee will be able to hear his case, but the Committee has been enlarged so that it can sit in several divisions, and I hope that this arrangement will enable it to dispose of outstanding cases without undue delay.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the information which led to the detention of Mr. Walpole came from a reliable source, and will the informant be required to establish that information at the hearing of the case?
I was satisfied on the information available before I made the order. It will be for the Advisory Committee to decide what evidence they will take in dealing with the application which the gentleman in question has made.
May I again ask whether the informant of that evidence which led to the detention of this man will be required to substantiate his charges?
As I have said, that is a matter entirely for the Advisory Committee; they have full liberty in the matter.
asked the Home Secretary for how many interned aliens have applications for release been made since the issue of the White Paper, Cmd. 6217, in July, or since any other convenient date; how many of the applications have been granted; how many refused; and whether he can now give an estimate as to the approximate number of cases that can be decided per week by means of the existing procedure and personnel?
asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to make any statement with regard to the progress in the review of applications for release of interned alien refugees?
asked the Home Secretary how many cases of interned aliens have now been reviewed by the inquiry bureau; how many have been released; and whether he can give any further information as to the prospects of the many still interned?
Owing to the fact that in most cases several applications are being received on behalf of the same alien, the exact number of individuals for whose release application has been made cannot be readily ascertained, but up to the evening of Tuesday, 20th August, over 3,000 cases had been examined since the publication of the White Paper on 31st July. Of these, 832 were found not to be within any of the categories. Necessary inquiries are in progress to verify statements made in over 1,500 applications, and in 805 cases release had actually been authorised. As regards cases not covered by existing categories, I would ask my hon. Friends to await the statement which I propose to make on the Motion for the Adjournment.
Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my Question, as to the approximate rate of procedure? Surely three weeks is enough to enable him to judge how quickly he can get on with the task?
Not quite. It is not possible to fix a definite rate, because we are constantly adding to the staff, and we are hoping to increase the rate at which these applications can be dealt very materially.
asked the Home Secretary when it was decided to establish the camp for interned refugees at Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham; what preparations were made before the refugees were taken there; whether it is intended that the camp shall be permanent or temporary; whether he is aware that they are sleeping seven in a tent on the bare ground; that the average age of the internees at the camp is over 50; whether he is satisfied that the general conditions are suitable for middle-aged and elderly people; and how long it will be before conditions are improved?
I would refer to the statement made on 20th August by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White).
asked the Home Secretary whether he will have records kept so that hon. Members can obtain information with reasonable promptitude in proper cases concerning the whereabouts and welfare of interned aliens; how long should elapse in a normal case between an inquiry on such a matter and a reply; and whether he can now give the hon. Member for Stretford the information in regard to W. Kaldauke, asked for on 22nd July?
As was announced in the Press and by the B.B.C., an Inquiry Office at St. Stephen's House, Westminster, was opened on 12th August in order to give inquirers information as to the whereabouts of interned aliens, by means of the Central Index now established there. This should enable relatives and friends to get in direct touch with internees in camps in this country. Inquiries are answered with the least possible delay, and, when the initial rush of applications, amounting to many hundreds a day, has subsided, it is hoped that the interval between inquiry and answer will not exceed 24 hours. As regards internees transferred overseas, inquiries should, for the present, be addressed, in the case of Canada, to The Director of Operations, Base Army Post Office, Ottawa, Canada, and in the case of Australia, to Prisoners of War Information Bureau, Melbourne, Australia. The records show that W. Kaldauke left for Australia on 10th July.
Does that mean that the Australian Government regard these internees as prisoners of war?
As I have explained previously, it is merely a postal address.
If we do not know whether a person has gone to Australia or Canada, or even gone abroad at all, how are we to know where he is?
That is the purpose of the Inquiry Bureau.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Australian Government to change that postal address, because to send letters to these people addressed to a prisoners of war camp, casts a slur on them which they naturally resent, as they are mostly strong anti-Nazis?
I will consider that point.
asked the Home Secretary whether he will review the cases of Mr. Paul Rad, a missionary of the Irish Presbyterian Church in Danzig for many years, from which he was driven out by the Nazis, and his wife, who are interned in the Isle of Man, with a view to their release as they are of proved loyalty to Great Britain?
I will look into these cases and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.
Is it a fact that this man has the confidence of the Irish Presbyterian Church, which granted him a pension for faithful services in Danzig after he was driven out of that city?
The hon. Member should inform the Minister of these facts by letter.
asked the Home Secretary whether it is intended to remove out of the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, any subject of His Majesty detained under a Defence Regulation as many aliens have already been?
I regret that I cannot add anything to my answers to previous Questions on this subject, except that the action indicated in the Question could not be taken under the law as it now stands.
asked the Home Secretary what arrangements have been made for dealing with the cases of several hundred aliens now detained in prisons all over the United Kingdom under deportation or detention orders issued in accordance with security Regulations; whether these persons have been or will be given opportunities of knowing the grounds for their detention and of presenting their own case for release, after consultation with legal advisers and with such confirmatory evidence as they could produce from reliable British or other persons; whether a tribunal has been set up to which such cases can be referred automatically or on appeal; and, if not, whether he will now appoint such a tribunal?
As the answer, like the Question, is long, I will, with permission, arrange for it to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give some indication as to what the reply is, since it is important to know this in view of the Debate that is to take place? Cannot we be given some idea as to whether these unfortunate people, some of whom have been in prison for weeks or months, are to be given an opportunity of clearing themselves if they can?
I think that is a matter that can be raised very well in the Debate.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is doing grave harm to our national interests in many countries where it is most important that the name of this country should stand high?
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a growing feeling that in a great number of these cases what the right hon. Gentleman has done is a gross abuse of the powers reposed in him?
That is a matter for debate.Following is the answer: I think my hon. Friend has two classes of aliens in mind. First, there are some about whose record and conduct I have full information which has satisfied me that they ought to be deported, if deporta- tion were practicable, and that they cannot safely be left at large under present conditions. In such cases no useful purpose would be served by further investigation by a tribunal. Secondly, there are others who came to this country recently and could not satisfy the Immigration Officers that they ought to be treated as genuine refugees to whom the hospitality of this country should be offered. In many such cases detention is necessary for the purpose of further inquiries. These inquiries are proceeding as rapidly as possible, and I am anxious that in all such cases the aliens shall be released as soon as it has been ascertained that this can be done without prejudice to the public security. I do not, however, feel that the inquiries which are necessary for security purposes would be facilitated by the appointment of a tribunal such as is suggested in the Question.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that General Torcom, now detained at Pentonville, had offered his services to the British Government, and was drafting proposals related to that offer at the time of his original detention; that General Torcom desires to know of any allegations against him, and to submit to any examination or proceedings; and whether the military records and personal papers taken from him have now been fully scrutinised and can be returned?
I am aware of this gentleman's record, but I am unable to add anything to the reply which I gave to a Question by my hon. Friend on 7th August. As regards the last part of the Question, I will make inquiries and communicate with my hon. Friend.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it is rather unfair that this man, who has done valuable work in the past, should be detained in this way without any kind of allegation being made against him, and would it not be better that he should be acquainted with any allegations made against him or his career?
That goes to the root of the whole question of preventive detention.
Has not this officer fought with the French Army in this war for our cause, and did he not come to this country on the recommendation of British military authorities?
I do not know whether it is so, but I know that his record has been very carefully examined.
asked the Home Secretary whether it will be possible to release Franz H. Weinberger in time for him to leave for the United States of America with his family by a boat sailing at the end of the month, on which tickets have been bought after all other formalities have been complied with?
If this man is in possession of the necessary documents, including a visa for the United States of America, I am anxious that—as in all such cases—arrangements shall be made to enable him to sail on the boat on which a Passage is available for him.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this man has been summoned to attend at the American Consulate in order that he may be given the final papers for America? May we be assured that that will be made possible? The summons was issued on 31st July.
Certainly, facilities will he given.
asked the Home Secretary by whom an application can be made for the release of an interned alien who was doing work valuable to the nation's war effort on his own account?
In the circumstances described it is open to the alien himself to apply for his own release.
Has that been made clear, as it seems from the White Paper that their employers have to apply?
The White Paper is a bit ambiguous in that respect, but the point has been made clear.
Can my right hon. Friend account for the very great delays in releasing a number of these valuable key men? I have some cases myself.
I should be glad to go into any cases brought to my notice.
asked the Home Secretary when he will be able to give a decision as to the release of Julius Bernet, interned at Moorah Camp, Ramsey; Fritz Loebl, Robert Loebl, Fred Lewing and L. Roedelheimer, interned at Douglas; Martin Lion and Hans Frohlich and Alexander Ichenhaurer, also interned at Douglas; and whether he is aware that the employment of over 100 British subjects is dependent upon their release in industries in several instances attracted to this country by British consuls and started with the full approval and after complete inquiries by the Home Office?
I hope to reach a decision on all these cases at a very early date, and will then communicate with my hon. Friend.
asked the Home Secretary whether he will make it a condition of grant from public funds, that all shelters for air-raid protection available to the public shall be provided with sufficient sanitary provision, lighting and a second means of exit, plainly indicated, for purpose of emergency?
The standing instructions regarding the construction of public shelters are that they should be provided with sanitary arrangements, lighting, and emergency exits. I am obliged to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the need for plain indications of the position and nature of emergency exits. I shall look into that point.
Does my right hon. Friend realise the especial need for sanitary accommodation in conditions of panic?
The subject is being dealt with.
Has the Minister any views as to the size of the shelters?
asked the Home Secretary if he is aware of the need for control and protection of young girls and women in the neighbourhood of camps, barracks and factories by women police and of the value attached to their services by the chief constables of certain towns and by His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland; and whether he will issue an Order under the Defence Regulations making such appointments obligatory and extending their work to areas hitherto denied such services?
asked the Home Secretary whether he proposes to exert any pressure, financial or otherwise, on recalcitrant local police authorities which decline to act upon his suggestion that women should be appointed to undertake certain police duties, having regard to the growing call for men for other duties?
I fully recognise the advantage of appointing additional policewomen for the purposes to which my hon. Friend calls attention, and, as I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) on 15th August, I have recently asked all police authorities in England and Wales to consider afresh, in the light of present war conditions, whether further provision should be made for the employment of policewomen or women police auxiliaries in their districts.
The circular suggests that as an alternative. Is the alternative not rather inferior, in that the auxiliary police are not able to do the most essential work of patrolling?
I think it depends rather on the nature of the duties. There are duties for which patrolling is not necessary.
Does it mean that these women are not necessary?
No, Sir, but the real urgency is not for the actual establishment of full-time constables. I think that is made quite clear in the circular. The circular also deals with the all-important question of training women for these rather important duties.
While I very much welcome the new circular as being an improvement on the old, in view of the great urgency of the appointment of these women, especially in the neighbourhood of military camps, where there is a real and definite use for them, cannot the right hon. Gentleman bring rather stronger pressure to bear on local police authorities?
I think that my hon. Friend may be aware that, in the circumstances, the local authorities are asked to consult with the military authorities in their areas, and they have been asked to report to the Home Office what action they decide to take as a result of the circular. I think that that is as far as we can go.
Street Lighting (Newcastle-Upon- Tyne)
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the marked increase in road fatalities and accidents at Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the hours of blackout, it is intended to, permit improved lighting in that city?
In a place so near the coast as Newcastle defence considerations make it impossible to allow street lighting of any kind.
Will not the Minister give this matter more consideration, as this is a densely populated area where the population are steeped in toil and must go about the streets at all hours of the night; and is it any wonder that there is risk of considerable fatalities?
The matter has been considered most carefully. The whole difficulty is, that fixed street lighting in a coast town gives an indication of definite value to the enemy.
Would not the risk be comparatively much greater if the enemy could see where they were?
Would it not be much better if they abolished the tram cars?
Palestinians (Restrictions, Great Britain)
asked the Home Secretary whether, as the mandated territory of Palestine is, in fact, if not in law, equally with this country at war with our enemies, it is now intended to remove the restrictions imposed upon Palestinians resident in this country?
I regret that I am unable to exempt Palestinian subjects as such from the provisions of the Aliens Order; although, as I informed my hon. Friend on 24th July, I am prepared in special cases, on the recommendation of the police, to exempt an individual Palestinian from the provisions of the Aliens (Movement Restriction) Order.
Is it reasonable to continue this tyrannous attitude towards a population with whom we are continually working in harmony?
I do not know why my hon. Friend refers to these provisions as tyrannous. These people are not being treated as enemy aliens. They are being treated on exactly the same footing as the subjects of States allied with us in the prosecution of the war.
Do the Government regard people who live in mandated territories as aliens?
Yes, Sir, for the purposes of the Aliens Order these people are aliens. The conditions under which naturalisation can be obtained are quite different from those which are applicable in this country.
Does that apply to all mandated territories?
Parcels, Public Shelters
asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider a regulation to prevent unexamined parcels being taken into public air-raid shelters during an air raid?
I do not think that such a regulation is necessary.
Does the Minister realise that some parcels may be of an undesirable character?
I think that is a possibility, but I do not think it is proper to deal with the matter in the way suggested.
asked the Home Secretary whether a survey is being made of bombed areas with a view to issuing a confidential statement to each area section of those services concerned, such as air-raid precautions, first-aid, education, etc., throughout the country, indicating in what directions actual raid experiences require the modifying or improvement of measures so far taken?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on Tuesday last to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher).
Does it indicate something on the lines of the Question?
Yes, Sir. It was a very full reply.
Disqualified Motor Drivers
asked the Home Secretary, in view of the numbers of competent drivers available, whether, in the interests of national safety, he will cancel the permission to employ on national service, drivers who have been disqualified for criminal offences, as contemplated in the recent amendment to Defence Regulations?
No, Sir. I am satisfied that a useful purpose will be served by the new Defence Regulation to which my hon. Friend refers. A disqualification cannot be removed under this Regulation unless the Secretary of State so directs; and I can assure my hon. Friend that such a direction will not be given except in cases where it is established that work of national importance is being impeded by the disqualification, and that the person concerned can safely be allowed to drive again.
Even on the plea of national requirements, is it not unwise to restore a licence to a man who has lost it through dangerous driving or some other road crime?
I think the point is really this: Under the law there is power to restore a licence on application, but the application can be made only after the lapse of a certain time, and there are many cases where, if the courts had the power, they would be glad in present circumstances to restore a licence earlier. This regulation enables that course to be adopted.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that licences have been taken away from people for offences which are not criminal in any sense at all, so that disqualification ought not to be taken into account when it is a question of national importance?
That is an additional argument for the regulation.
Air Raids (Civilian Gallantry Honours)
asked the Home Secretary what are the arrangements whereby instances of courage and devotion to duty by men, women and children during air-raids are brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities with a view to the award of an honour in suitable cases?
I have asked Regional Commissioners to make arrangements to ensure that A.R.P. Controllers will bring to their notice acts of gallantry by members of the general public, as well as by members of the Civil Defence Services during air raids.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to announce the Government's policy regarding air-raid warnings; and whether he will consider having a preliminary warning when aircraft are approaching cm are in the vicinity, leaving the taking of shelter optional, and a separate or double warning indicating air raids in numbers requiring the adoption of complete air-raid precautions?
As regards the first part of the Question, I am arranging for a statement to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. As regards the second part, there would be serious practical difficulties in adopting the arrangement suggested by my hon. Friend—even if, as would rarely happen, time permitted of the circulation of a double warning. There are other objections to the proposal, from the point of view of disturbance, which will, I think, be apparent to my hon. Friend when he has had an opportunity of considering the statement which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman advise his friends in the Government, because of their great value to the nation, of the necessity for taking and keeping cover? Last week I saw two Members of the Government walking about and exposing themselves to danger.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will give me particulars.
Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it has a bad effect when sirens give a warning 10 minutes after bombs have actually fallen?
Following is the statement:
There have been two previous statements of Government policy regarding the operation of the air-raid warning system—one made on 25th October last by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then Secretary of State for Air, and the second, which I made on 2nd July in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds). On each occasion it was made clear that the officers responsible for operating the warning system have been instructed by the Government to restrict the sounding of the public warnings to those areas on which it seems likely that attack is actually impending. It remains the policy of the Government that public warnings should be so restricted.
It would, of course, be possible to adopt the alternative policy of giving public warning to every district over which an enemy aircraft is expected to fly. But an enemy raider crossing the coast at Ipswich, for example, may be making for an objective at Birmingham or Manchester; and enemy aircraft, flying singly or in two's and three's, have during past weeks crossed over very many areas in this country, by day and by night, on which no attack has ever been made. It would be possible to have the warning sirens sounded in all the towns in the course of an enemy aircraft which are within bombing range: but to do so on all occasions would mean unnecessary interruption of industry and transport, undue interference with the ordinary activities of the public, and at night constant disturbance of rest and sleep. The effect on our industrial production would be very serious, even though arrangements had been made, in accordance with my statement of 2nd July, for workers engaged in war industries to continue at work after a public air-raid warning until it was clear that an attack was actually imminent in their neighbourhood.
If these consequences are to be avoided—as they must be—public warnings must be limited to the districts which are thought likely to be selected for attack. The officers responsible for giving the warnings, interpreting the reported movements of raiding aircraft in the light of their knowledge of possible objectives and of the enemy's air strategy, are in a position to form a reasonable judgment of the areas on which the attack is most likely to be delivered; and, as I have stated, they have been instructed to limit the public warnings to those areas. Their judgment cannot be infallible, however, and on occasion it may happen that an enemy raider expected to be making for a distant district will drop his bombs elsewhere, and that consequently bombs will fall in an area which has not received a warning. We must therefore be prepared, not only to be warned without being bombed, but also on occasion to be bombed without being warned. As a general rule, attacks which develop without warning will be on a comparatively light scale for where large formations of raiders are reported public warnings will be given more freely. It must, however, be recognised that, so long as we are trying—as we must—to restrict public warnings to the areas most likely to be attacked, there can be no absolute guarantee, even in the case of heavy raids, that every area attacked will always be warned before the raid develops. If we all stopped work and went to ground every time an enemy aircraft was in our neighbourhood, we should ourselves be sabotaging our war production and should thus be playing into the enemy's hands. Wars cannot be won without taking risks; and I feel sure that the people of this country, who know now that they are all in the front line of the battle, are ready to take this risk as part of the price which we must pay in order to defeat the enemy's purposes.
asked the Home Secretary why the "Roma," an Italian Fascist club, situated in Greek Street, London, is permitted to carry on its activities?
This club was already being watched. I expect shortly to receive a report from the Commissioner of Police, after which I will communicate with my hon. Friend.
asked the Home Secretary what action he intends to take regarding the prominent Italian Fascists who are active in London while anti-Fascists are being arrested?
The internment of all Italians known to be members of the Italian Fascist party was ordered on the outbreak of war with Italy. If my hon. Friend knows of any others who have escaped notice, I should be glad if he would let me have particulars.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen the information I sent to him, and also has he not already admitted the existence of a Fascist club in Greek Street?
I did receive a paper which the hon. Member sent to me, but the names given in that paper were, I thought, the names of anti-Fascists who, it was alleged, had been interned, and the suggestion in the paper was that in a subsequent issue the names of people who had been overlooked, as suggested in this Question, would be communicated.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman already admitted this morning that the Fascist club in Greek Street exists? It cannot exist without membership?
I said that it was being watched.
Is there any accuracy in the allegation in the second part of the Question that anti-Fascists have been arrested?
asked the Prime Minister whether, in order to avoid dual responsibility and dual control, he will announce the position of the controlling authority when the Home Guard and the air-raid precautions services are co-operating in time of emergency?
My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Home Security are at present discussing the problem of reciprocal arrangements between the Home Guard and the Civil Defence Services, and in this connection will consider the issue raised by my hon. and gallant Friend.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider adopting the well-established and trusted precedent of giving the Armed Forces of the Crown control in an emergency?
That is one of the points for consideration.
Will not this question settle itself in a particular emergency, in that the Home Guard will come under the orders of the military?
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have under consideration the modification of existing Governmental machinery in such a way as to deal effectively with the many problems requiring immediate local decisions in areas affected by the threat of invasion?
The Regional Organisation for Civil Defence is well adapted to meet the situation which my hon. Friend has in mind, and considerable powers have been devolved upon Regional Commissioners and senior departmental representatives in the Regions with the object of ensuring that necessary decisions may be taken without delay. If my hon. Friend will indicate any particular point on which difficulty has arisen, I shall be happy to have inquiry made.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Regional Commissioners are themselves too highly departmentalised to deal effectively with these local problems promptly?
They should not be.
Is it the fact that they have local controllers who can act?
Evacuation Areas (War Losses)
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have under consideration the difficulties of individuals and of traders, in certain areas, whose means of livelihood has been compromised, and in many cases totally dsetroyed, by the consequences of the threat of invasion; and what steps His Majesty's Government are taking to see that the sacrifices imposed upon individuals so affected should not be borne entirely by such individuals?
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have under consideration the repercussion upon the finances of local authorities arising out of or due to the difficulties of individuals in their areas as a result of voluntary or compulsory evacuation therefrom; whether His Majesty's Government will consider the advisability of ensuring that any deficiency in local revenues arising from this cause shall be considered as a national rather than a local charge; and whether this question will be regarded as one of urgency?
So far as individuals and traders are concerned His Majesty's Government are well aware of the difficulties, often serious, imposed on such persons in different ways by the conditions of war-time, and, in particular by evacuation. Certain action has already been taken in the direction desired. Thus, some protection has been provided for debtors by the Courts (Emergency Powers) Acts, and a moratorium in respect of rents, rates, and certain other local debts is applicable in defined areas under the Defence (Evacuated Areas) Regulations, 1940. The question whether any further steps are desirable and practicable is now under active consideration.The question of the repercussion of the difficulties of individual persons and traders upon the finances of local authorities is also engaging the active attention of Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is in close touch with representatives of the local authorities specially affected. The House will be aware of the undertaking already given that His Majesty's Government will be prepared to come to the assistance of local government if the local authorities are unable to finance essential services from other sources. I can assure my hon. Friends that the urgency of the issues involved is fully appeciated.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, if these burdens are permitted to fall on the ratepayers of the districts concerned, it may mean in some cases that the rates will be increased up to 50s. in the £, to be borne by individuals who have already suffered very considerably financially in consequence of the war, and will he consider the desirability of making a statement at an early date that that shall not be allowed to happen?
Certainly, Sir. That is one of the things that arise out of evacuation, and that is one of the matters that are being considered. I will, of course, have a statement made as soon as possible. The matter is now under consideration.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that individuals and traders are forced to leave these Defence Areas through Government action? Is there not a case for some compensation, apart from such relief as is afforded through the Courts (Emergency Powers) Acts, and will not the Government take steps in that direction very soon?
That is the tenour of my reply, and that kind of thing is now under active consideration.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication as to when he will be likely to be in a position to make a statement?
I cannot name a day, but no time will be lost.
asked the Home Secretary when the duties of an air-raid warden commence; and whether, in view of the distance in some areas between the homes of air-raid wardens and their posts, he will consider the question of allowing the wardens to take their equipment home?
Normally the warden's duty commences from the time when he attends at his post and reports for duty; but in the event of an emergency call it starts from the time he receives that call. Local authorities already have discretion, subject to certain limitations, to make a personal issue of steel helmets and respirators to members of the Civil Defence Services.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that in fairness to these people their duties should start immediately they leave their own homes?
That point is being met as far as possible by issuing these items of equipment to the persons concerned as personal issues.
That does not reply to my Question. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the duties of the wardens should commence immediately they leave their homes?
That is so in the case of an emergency call. Otherwise, I do not think it arises.
Midwives (Respirators And Helmets)
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that midwives in Birmingham cannot obtain service masks and helmets although the committee is willing to buy them; and, as they have to leave their homes during air raids to attend to women, will he take steps to see that such provision should immediately be made?
I am aware that steel helmets are not available in the open market and that special respirators are difficult to obtain. I have, however, arranged with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Home Security for the issue of helmets and civilian duty respirators for the use of midwives from Government sources, and a circular to local authorities on this matter will be sent out within the course of the next few days.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware of the grave concern occasioned by his decision to exclude from the definition of physical injuries, as laid down in the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1939, nervous shock arising out of serious personal injuries due to enemy action; and whether he will reconsider this decision in view of the great hardship and financial loss which the civil population will suffer as a result of this decision?
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. Cases of nervous shock arising out of serious injuries within the terms of Section 8 of the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act are not excluded from the scope of the scheme.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Mrs. Cunliffe, aged 66, desires to go to her son in California; that she has been informed she can have an exit permit, passport office reference P. 271553 L.E./C. 25640; that her daughter, aged 41, also desires to go with her owing to her doctor certifying that her mother must not travel alone, but an exit permit for the daughter has been refused; and will he say on what grounds this has been done?
An exit permit was refused to Mrs. Cunliffe's daughter because the evidence produced did not justify any departure from the general rule governing the grant of exit permits. British subjects between the ages of 16 and 60 are not given facilities to travel abroad for private reasons, unless they are invalids or mothers accompanying young children or wives travelling in company with, or to join, their husbands stationed permanently overseas.
Would it not be in the public interest to allow old people, such as this lady, to remove to places of safety?
Certainly there was no obstacle put in the way of Mrs. Cunliffe's going, but the rules do not admit of her daughter, who is 41 years of age, going to America.
Does that mean that Mrs. Cunliffe, being too old to travel alone, cannot have her daughter to go with her, and that, therefore, because of her health, she must remain here?
That was the evidence, and the evidence was looked into carefully.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the regulations governing the issue of permits for travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are being circumvented by the granting of permits through the High Commissioner of Eire, in London, by means of which travellers can reach Northern Ireland via Eire; and whether he will inquire into this procedure with a view to its immediate cessation?
No, Sir. No person may leave this country for Ireland without an exit permit issued by the Passport and Permit Office, and it is not the case that this requirement can be evaded in the manner which my hon. Friend suggests. If my hon. Friend has in mind the travel documents issued by the High Commissioner for Eire, these documents are similar to the passport and travel permit cards issued by the Passport and Permit Office and do not enable the holder to leave this country for Ireland unless the document bears an endorsement to show that an exit permit has been granted for the journey.
Will my right hon. Friend consider evidence which I can put before him?
I will certainly consider anything which my hon. Friend communicates to me.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that intoxicating liquors are supplied and consumed at bottle parties on a large scale without a licence; and what steps he proposes to take to put an end to this evasion of the law?
If my hon. Friend refers to breaches of the existing law, the police have been active in taking proceedings. A number of prosecutions have been taken, and some are now pending. If his suggestion is that there should be legislation amending the existing law, I should not feel justified in taking up this matter at the present time.
Enemy Occupied Territories (British Subjects)
asked the Home Secretary whether he is prepared to devise some machinery to look after the affairs and property of the unfortunate English people who are marooned in areas occupied by the enemy such as Jersey?
If my hon. Friend will let me know the sort of cases he has in mind, I will consider to what extent they can be dealt with under existing machinery.
asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the effect of the cessation of educational classes in prisons, especially in the case of juveniles; and whether the shortage of staff, which is responsible for this, can be remedied by the temporary re-employment of ex-officers of the prison service or by some other similar step?
The Prison Commissioners are doing what is practicable to strengthen the prison staffs by the recruitment of suitable persons, but there is no substantial reserve of ex-officers capable of resuming prison duties, and the recruiting and training of new officers takes time. I much regret that war time conditions, including the depletion of the staffs by the calling up of a number of reservists, should have necessitated the discontinuance of these classes, but I am satisfied that this step was unavoidable.
Would it not be possible to get an ex-officer for an hour or two to help the prison authorities in order to allow these classes to continue, as it is a matter of very great importance?
I fully realise the importance of re-establishing these classes, if at all possible, and I have given consideration to the matter, but so far it has really proved quite impracticable.
As one who has taken part in many of these classes, may I ask whether it is not possible to have classes with a teacher without the necessity of a warder being in attendance?
I do not think that that arises out of this Question.
Street Collections (Aircraft)
asked the Home Secretary what restrictions exist against street collecting in support of recognised local funds to present aircraft to the nation?
Under Section 5 of the Police, etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1916, street collections for any purpose are governed by regulations made by the local police authority. Such regulations are in force in practically all police districts, and they require the promoters of the collection to obtain permission from the police authority for the collection to be held.
Will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that such restrictions as exist are not enforced in a way that will discourage public enthusiasm for these funds?
No representations have so far reached me, but if it does appear that undue restrictions are being put in the way of these collections, I will look into the matter.
Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind that there is always a number of people who are not averse to turning a dishonest penny and making local collections for Spitfires which never reach the Spitfire fund at all?
That is what the regulations are for.
asked the Home Secretary whether similar arrangements for compensation for loss of life and damage to property through enemy action operate in the Channel Islands as on the mainland of Britain; and, if not, why, and in what respect do they differ?
Any such arrangements would have been primarily a matter for the Island authorities, and so far as I am aware no such arrangements had been made up to the time of the enemy occupation.
Does that mean that the laws passed in this House apply to the Channel Islands?
Certainly not. The Channel Islands have a Legislature of their own and are outside the fiscal system of the United Kingdom.
British War Aims And Achievements
asked the Prime Minister whether he will now set up a Department for the purpose of adequately informing world opinion on the aims and achievements of the British war effort; and whether he will make such a large scale enterprise the direct responsibility of the War Cabinet?
Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that the finest propaganda to-day is the achievements of the Royal Air Force, and will the War Cabinet, or somebody in the Cabinet, take steps to co-relate the various Departments responsible, so that these achievements reach the world's newspapers at the proper time and are not behind Nazi faked information on the Battle for Britain?
Life Of Parliament
asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement about legislation to prolong the life of the present Parliament; and whether he proposes to follow the precedent of the last war in setting up a Speaker's Conference?
No, Sir. I am not at present in a position to make any statement.
Is it not a fact that this Parliament will come automatically to an end on 14th November, and that, therefore, if there is no legislation, there will have to be an election in the middle of October?
Yes, Sir, and action will have to be taken before that.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has yet planned increasing the cheese supply by encouraging the keeping of herds of goats so as to produce here cheeses to replace imported French, Italian and Swiss goats milk cheeses, and at the same time add a branch to the agricultural industry?
No, Sir. While the numbers of milch goats kept in this country may be expected to increase during the war, and I am advised that the demand for them is already greater than the supply, the numbers are not likely to be such as to warrant the institution of any organised production of goats cheese.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend is not aware of the nutritious value of goats cheeses?
Women's Land Army
54 and 55.
asked the Minister of Agriculture (I) the number of members of the Women's Land Army in employment on 31st July, 1940; and the total cost of that organisation from its inception to that date;(2) the number of persons employed centrally or locally on Women's Land Army work whose salaries or wages are drawn from his Department; and the channels through which appointments to salaried posts have been made?
As the answer contains a number of figures, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the reply:
There were 8,810 members of the Women's Land Army in regular agricultural employment on 31st July, 1940, and 808 members of the Women's Land Army Auxiliary Force were then in seasonal employment. The organisation started with the National Service appeal in January, 1939, and prior to the outbreak of war £6,250 had been spent on preparations and recruiting. Between the outbreak of war and the end of July, 1940, the cost of the Women's Land Army has amounted to approximately £195,000. The bulk of this represents the provision of training and working uniforms for volunteers now in employment, but it also includes the provision of substantial supplies of additional uniforms for further volunteers likely to be placed in employment before the end of the year. Headquarters staff engaged on Women's Land Army work numbers 58, and the locally employed staff 147, of whom 37 occupy part-time posts. Appointments are made whenever possible through the appropriate machinery of the Ministry of Labour and National Service.
Domestic Poultry Keepers' Council
asked the Minister of Agriculture what decision he has reached concerning the scheme for augmenting the country's egg supplies from household food scraps submitted to him by the hon. Member for Doncaster on 18th July last?
As the hon. Member is aware, I arranged that this scheme together with others having the same object in view should be considered by the Domestic Food Producers' Council. I have now received the report of the council, which recommended that a central and independent organisation should be set up. In accordance with that recommendation, I propose to appoint a Domestic Poultry Keepers' Council for England and Wales for the purpose of guiding and assisting domestic poultry keeping in war time with special reference to securing the effective use of household and garden waste and organising available supplies of purchased feeding stuffs. I hope to be able to announce the composition of the Council in a few days.
Appreciating the right hon. Gentleman's satisfactory approach to the question, does that mean that the Council can function pretty soon and that, on the announcement of the names, they can go ahead?
I hope so.
Will the Council also have reference to poultry breeding?
All factors will be taken into account.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that backyard poultry-keepers are being charged 3d. a 1b. for mixtures of corn or mash, or a rate of about 30s. a cwt. for a feed which is available to farming poultry-keepers at less than 14s. a cwt.; and will he take steps to prevent this exploitation, either by regulating this type of poultry keeping or otherwise?
The prices charged to backyard poultry-keepers, to which the hon. Member refers, have not previously been brought to my notice, but I am making inquiries on the subject. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the proposal which I have just announced in reply to his previous Question to appoint a Domestic Poultry Keepers' Council.
Is not this an instance where the Ministry of Food could take action, because these prices hit the small man very heavily indeed? Nobody seems to bother about the small men and women of this country to-day.
It is precisely for the reason the hon. Member has given that I have appointed this Council.
I take it that the Council could make representations to the Ministry of Food?
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the extensive depredations of hares, rabbits, deer and other wild game upon crops of necessary foodstuffs, especially in newly cultivated areas, he will take steps for the suspension of the game laws and of all prohibitive customs and restrictive clauses against the taking of game in tenant farmers' agreements, so that all persons who are willing to assist in keeping down destructive game may do so without being penalised?
While I am aware of the importance in the interests of food production of the adequate control of game, I do not consider that action of the kind suggested is necessary to supplement my powers under Regulation 63 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, to require inter alia the destruction of hares, rabbits, birds and deer. Powers have already been delegated to the county war agricultural executive committees in regard to rabbits, pheasants, deer and wood pigeons and the shooting season for grouse and pheasants has been extended.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in his instructions to county agricultural war executives, he will make it plain that the new ploughing-up campaign is not for the present, at least, to interfere with the maintenance of the dairy herds of the country, so that there may be a proper balance between arable crops for human and animal consumption?
The need to secure the maintenance of dairy herds is fully recognised. For this purpose it will be necessary for dairy farmers to grow feeding-stuffs to maintain the herds in winter as well as grass for the summer grazing and hay. Due weight will be given to the production of crops suitable for feeding to dairy cows.
Does the Minister, through the war agricultural committees, retain the right to decrease dairy herds in some districts and increase them in others, where conditions are more suitable?