HC Deb 10 November 1942 vol 383 cc2268-9
77. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether the inquiry into the allegation regarding labels on cargoes intended for various theatres of war has been completed; whether the findings of the inquiry will be published; and whether pending the result of the inquiry cargoes are still being labelled with the port of destination?

80. Sir Adam Maitland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether the examination into the question of the marking of goods destined for shipment in convoys has been completed; and whether he is able to assure the House that suitable action has been taken to avoid leakage of information?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The investigation has not yet been completed, and until the findings have been received and considered, my Noble Friend does not intend to change the present practice which I described in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) on 22nd October. The investigation is confidential and the findings will not be published.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my hon. Friend give some attention to the labelling of packages taken on board at Port Said, destined for Malta?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will certainly give attention to any evidence my hon. Friend submits to me, but I do not want it to be understood that I agree that the present practice involves any avoidable risk to the security of our convoys, and I have not yet received any evidence which supports that view.

Colonel Arthur Evans

Is the practice of labelling deck cargo for its port of destination being discontinued?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Not to my knowledge. No change is being made in the present practice until the investigation is completed.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my hon. Friend not aware that practically all shipowners are against the Ministry of War Transport in this matter, and have submitted heaps of evidence of which the Ministry have taken no notice?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am not at all aware of what my hon. Friend says. I am not aware of any evidence which goes to prove the point which he is trying to make. I venture to suggest that the success of our convoys to Madagascar and Morocco proves that the present system works pretty well.

Mr. A. Edwards

Is the Parliamentary Secretary seriously saying that he can discount the evidence which I have submitted to him?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I do not think the evidence which my hon. Friend has sent to me proves that the present practice involves an avoidable risk to the security of our convoys.

Sir A. Maitland

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that lorries have been seen in the middle of England carrying packages giving the name of the ship and the destination? I myself have had that experience, and I am certain that other hon. Members have had the same. I am horrified that the Parliamentary Secretary says that there is to be no change in the present practice.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Of course, I am aware that these things are seen, and, of course, it is common knowledge that war materials are being sent by convoys to many destinations throughout the world. The question is whether the present practice gives away the position of the convoy, the date of sailing, or the route it will follow, and there is no evidence to show that that is true.

Colonel Evans

What is the objection to a code letter or number being used instead of the actual name of the port of destination?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Code labels are used for such destinations as Madagascar and Morocco, and have been used with great success, but if they are used generally, it is believed by my Department that the whole transport system would go into confusion.