HC Deb 06 April 1943 vol 388 cc477-8
22. Mr. Turton

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he is taking to increase the supply of reading matter to troops fighting in Tunisia?

Sir J. Grigg

I regret that no shipping space could be allocated for books and magazines until the military stores and equipment vitally needed for operations in North Africa had been despatched. On 1st February over 100,000 books and over 10,000 magazines and journals were despatched. Since then consignments have been sent regularly at the rate of about 10,000 books and 9,500 magazines and journals a month. I hope, therefore, that the First Army will shortly have a good supply of reading matter. The Eighth Army is supplied with reading matter from the Middle East; 21,000 books and over 70,000 magazines and journals have for some time been despatched to the Middle East every month. I fully appreciate the need of the soldier for as much reading matter as possible and the supplies now being sent will be increased if shipping space is available and if sufficient books and magazines are forthcoming. I take this opportunity of expressing the Army's thanks to all those who have sent books and magazines for the use of the troops. The demand is as great as ever, and I am sure we may count on the continued help of the public in meeting it.

Mr. Turton

While appreciating the great work which has been done in this connection, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that in February there was a very great shortage of reading matter among the troops of the Eighth Army and that this plays a vital part in maintaining morale between battles?

Sir J. Grigg

I would not accept the view that it was the most vital part, although I agree it is a vital part. As I have said, conditions of shipping from time to time make for a certain inequality in the despatch of materials to the Middle East.

Mr. Quintin Hogg

Will the Minister bear in mind the question of quality of reading matter as well as quantity?

Sir J. Grigg

That is in the hands of a body—I have forgotten its full designation—which pays particular attention to that sort of thing.

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Minister make application to the headquarters of the Communist Party so that instead of sending a good supply of reading matter he will be able to send a supply of good reading matter?