HC Deb 14 June 1944 vol 400 cc1980-1
55. Sir Richard Acland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what steps his Ministry has taken to comply with Section To of the Parliament (Election and Meetings) Act, 1943.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)

All the necessary arrangements have been made for seamen to make their declarations under Section 10 of the Act of 1943, and to appoint their proxies. The declaration and proxy cards have been printed, and a pamphlet explaining the seaman's rights has been prepared. The cards and pamphlets required in ports abroad will be despatched at the earliest opportunity; distribution in the United Kingdom will be begun as soon as practicable.

Sir R. Acland

Could the hon. Gentleman say just what the necessary arrangements are, the point being that one is sometimes asked by merchant seamen what they have to do to get registered, and if one gave them the answer the hon. Gentleman has just given, they still would not know?

Mr. Noel-Baker

We have prepared a pamphlet which will instruct the man what he has to do and it will be available on board ship at home and in foreign ports. In foreign ports the captain of the ship will contact with the British Consul. At home it will be done through the Mercantile Marine Office.

Mr. Maxton

Will the hon. Gentleman say why his Ministry are so far behind compared with the Army?

Mr. Noel-Baker

We have not the same facilities for dealing with personnel that the Services have, and in the last six months the staff of our Mercantile Marine Office have been very busy preparing for the present operations.

Mr. Maxton

Is there no one in the hon. Gentleman's Department who could have written this pamphlet at the time it was called for?

Mr. Noel-Baker

We have done our best. We have been working under very heavy pressure. I think it will be in time.

Sir Irving Albery

Have British Consuls been instructed to deliver the pamphlets on board British ships in foreign ports?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir.