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Written Answers

Volume 236: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1930

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Written Answers

Post Office

Savings Bank Deposits (Rate Of Interest)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether in view of the fact that the active Post Office Savings Bank accounts amount to over £225,000,000 and that the interest payable to depositors is only 2½ per cent., he will consider the introduction of legislation which will have as its object the payment of interest to all savings bank depositors at the same rate that is payable to persons who have deposit accounts with other banks in Great Britain?

I regret that I cannot adopt this proposal which would involve constant changes in the rate of interest and would, in my opinion, be inconvenient both to depositors and to the management of the bank. As my hon. Friend no doubt realises, the ordinary rate on deposits in other English banks is at present 2½ per cent., and falls below this whenever the bank rate falls below 4½.

Mails, China (Losses)

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that for the third time this year up to 20th January the Siberian mails to China have been tampered with; and whether he is making any representations to the appropriate authorities with respect to this practice?

Several reports have been received from Shanghai of the tampering with mails sent out to China by the Siberian route. The losses, which do not appear to have been serious, all took place during the period when traffic over the Chinese Eastern Railway was suspended and the mails had to be sent via Vladivostock and Japan. All possible steps are being taken to deal with the matter, and now that the regular route has been reopened, I hope that these irregularities will cease. I may add that, prior to the temporary diversion, the traffic by the Siberian route was remarkably free from losses.

Express Delivery Services

asked the Postmaster-General whether in view of the failure of the Post Office to give accelerated delivery of letters in return for the express delivery fee of 6d., he will now cancel his invitation to the public to send letters by this service in return for an extra fee?

The express delivery services provide facilities which are largely used by the public; and it would not be to the public interest to withdraw them.

Gratuities And Superannuation

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the fact that civil servants employed in the Post Office who may voluntarily resign after about 20 years' service do not receive any gratuity or superannuation, his Department proposes to lay before the Royal Commission a scheme under which employés who have worked for so long a period will at least be entitled to some pro rata payment in respect of gratuity or superannuation?

Mail Contracts, Dominions

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will undertake to see that in any mail contracts entered into in the future between this country and our Dominions provision is made for British postage stamps to be sold on board mail steamers on either the outward or homeward journey?

British stamps are sold on mail steamers under contract with the British Post Office, but I have no control over the terms of mail contracts entered into by the Dominions.

Land Registration

asked the Attorney-General how many local authorities have exercised their optional powers under the Land Registration Act, 1926, and made compulsory the registration of land on sale in their areas?

Registration of title land is compulsory on sale in the County of London and in the county boroughs of Eastbourne and Hastings—the Orders in Council affecting Eastbourne and Hastings having been made at the instance of the county borough councils of those boroughs. The county borough council of Brighton have passed a resolution to apply for a similar Order, and the application is before the Privy Council.

Ceylon (Children, Domestic Service)

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a Report has yet been received from the Governor of Ceylon regarding cases of Ceylonese parents selling their children for domestic service and the alleged cruelty and ill-treatment to which these children are subjected; and, if so, whether he will cause it to be published?

A despatch on the subject was received in August last. I doubt whether it is necessary to issue it as a Parliamentary Paper; but a copy will be immediately placed in the Library of this House.

India (Trade Commissioners)

asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in regard to the proposal of the Government of India to appoint trade commissioners at certain important centres of trade in Africa and Europe, he will state what steps are being taken to fill these posts; and whether it is the intention of the Government to reserve appointments to members of the Indian Civil Service?

The question of appointing these trade commissioners is still under consideration, and I regret that no statement can at present be made.

Trade And Commerce

Fish Imports, North Shields

asked the President of the Board of Trade the quantities and value of fish landed at the port of Shields, North, from foreign merchant vessels for the months of November and December, 1929, and January, 1930, respectively, together with the corresponding figures for the same months a year ago?

Particulars of fish imported by foreign merchant vessels only are not available. The following table shows the total quantities and declared values of fish (not of British taking) imported into North Shields, registered during the undermentioned periods.

Month.Quantities.Declared Values.
Cwts.£
November, 192835,609105,134
December, 192822,85167,101
January, 192930,25164,818
November, 192946,255163,737
December, 192924,59280,244
January, 193050,88699,820
NOTE.—The above figures in respect of 1929 and 1930 are provisional.

Dumping

asked the President of the Board of Trade how-many commercial treaties prevent the prohibition of dumped goods, potatoes and foreign subsidised cereals by means of licences?

A prohibition subject to licence, of the importation of

Articles.Rate of Australian Import Duty on—
Imports of United Kingdom origin (British Preferential Tariff).Imports of Foreign origin (General Tariff).
Pig Iron25s. per ton45s. per ton.
Iron and Steel Sheets and Plates:
Plain:
Up to and including ⅛ inch in thickness65s. per ton100s. per ton.
Exceeding ⅛ inch in thickness48s. per ton85s. per ton.
Corrugated Galvanised, Galvanised not Corrugated, Corrugated not Galvanised.20s. per ton60s. per ton.
Plated, Polished or Decorated, but not including plain tinned.30% ad val.45% ad val.
Plain tinnedFree10% ad val.
Rails weighing 50 lbs. per yard and over50s. per ton100s, per ton.
Rails weighing less than 50 lbs. per yard45s. per ton125s. per ton.

Russian Timber

asked the President of the Board of Trade the volume and value of timber imported into this country from Russia within the last six

goods on the ground that they were dumped or bounty-fed would conflict with the provisions of the International Convention for the abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions which is in force between the United Kingdom and 16 other countries. Apart from this general instrument there are nine treaties in force which specifically provide against the prohibition of the importation of any articles unless the importation of like articles from other countries is prohibited at the same time, and which contain no reservation in regard to bounty-fed or other dumped goods.

Australian Tariffs

asked the President of the Board of Trade what amount of duty is charged on English pig-iron, iron sheets and plates, and steel rails, respectively, entering Australia; and how this compares with the duty on similar foreign articles entering Australia?

The following statement shows the rates of duty levied in Australia on imports of pig-iron, iron and steel plates and sheets and steel rails of United Kingdom and of foreign origin under the Preferential and General Tariffs respectively:months, and the purposes for which this timber is mainly used?

The table appended gives such information as is available regarding the character as well as the quantity and value of the wood and timber imported from the Soviet Union (Russia) during the six months ended

Description.Unit of Quantity.Quantities.Declared Value.
Hewn—Hard:£
OakCubic feet97,31732,558
Soft (Fir, Pine, Spruce, etc.)Loads134,274253,087
Sawn—Hard:
OakCubic feet102,38333,692
Other sortsCubic feet3,648589
Soft:
Deals, Planks and BattensLoads739,5803,490,997
Boards (not planed or dressed)Loads485,4872,265,162
Other sortsLoads88,663276,031
Planed or Dressed:
FlooringsLoads8653,283
MatchingsLoads116517
Other sortsLoads2651,211
Other descriptions:
Pitprops or PitwoodLoads327,402778,236
Staves of all dimensionsLoads6,66361,367
Sleepers of all kindsLoads68,038294,260
Veneers and Panel WoodLoads160
NOTE.—The above figures are provisional.

Companies' Balance Sheets

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will be prepared to give the figures of the number of companies in default in filing their balance sheets if a question is put to him in future once in every four weeks, so that the results of the action taken by the Registrar and/or the Solicitor to the Board of Trade may be seen?

As I indicated in my reply to the right hon. Gentleman on 25th February, I am considering what information can usefully be furnished, and at what intervals, and if the right hon. Gentleman will put down a question in about a month's time, I will endeavour to give him an answer.

Wrapping-Paper Industry

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he can give information as to the increased output, increased numbers employed, and increased plant in operation in the British wrapping-paper industry since the application of a Safeguarding duty on imported wrapping paper?

31st January last. The total declared value of such wood and timber was £7,491,050.

Owing to the incomplete nature of the information available in the Department, I regret that I am unable to give the detailed figures for which the hon. and gallant Member asks. Periodical returns covering a substantial proportion of the trade have been received only since the beginning; of 1929.

Export Credits (Poland)

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department the value of the credit facilities extended to trading operations connected with Poland during each of the last five years?

The total amounts of contracts under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme, which came into operation on 1st July, 1926, in respect of exports to Poland are as follow:21 months ended 31st March, 1928, £98,929.12 months ended 31st March, 1929, £194,937.11 months ended 28th February, 1930, £105,107.I regret that figures in regard to earlier schemes are not available.

Cotton Industry (Hours Of Work)

asked the Home Secretary if he is aware of the attempts which are being made to employ women and young persons in a manufacturing process between the hours of 11.30 and 12 noon on Saturdays in textile factories; and if the inspectors of factories are taking any action in the matter?

The Factory Department reports that the usual and almost universal hours of work on Saturdays in the cotton industry are from 7.45 a.m. until 12 noon, with the manufacturing processes stopping at 11.30 a.m. and the half-hour from 11.30 to noon being set aside for cleaning purposes. There are some few instances, particularly where cleaning is done by a special gang, where the manufacturing processes are extended to 11.45 a.m., but apart from these cases the inspectors are not aware of any movement to continue production beyond 11.30 a.m. Under the provisions of Section 24 of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, regulating the hours of employment of women and young persons in textile factories, the women and young persons may be employed in a manufacturing process up to 12.30 p.m. on Saturday if the period of employment does not commence before 7 a.m., and the cases mentioned where the manufacturing process is continued up to 11.45 a.m., do not therefore involve any breach of these provisions. If, however, the hon. Member has knowledge of any cases where illegal employment has taken place, and will furnish my right hon. Friend with particulars, he will be glad to have them investigated.

Aliens Order (Coloured Seamen)

asked the Home Secretary whether he has received any reports from his immigration officers of the evasion of supervision by coloured alien seamen; and whether he will investigate the recent report of the Chief Constable of South Shields to the effect that although permission to land is refused in many cases the persons concerned none the less manage to do so?

My right hon. Friend has received a copy of the Chief Constable's Report to his watch committee, which I take it is the Report referred to. It shows, what was already known from the reports of the immigration officers and otherwise, that a certain number of coloured alien seamen do contrive to land in this country without permission. The hon. Member will realise that it is not possible entirely to prevent such evasions; but my right hon. Friend wishes to assure him that the matter is one which engages the constant attention of his Department, and that every effort is made by the immigration officers and the police to enforce the provisions of the Aliens Order in this respect.

Potatoes (Disposal)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the large surplus this year of British potatoes, he will assist their disposal, either by requesting the American authorities to remove the embargo that now exists against the entry of British potatoes into the United States of America or assist the consumption of British potatoes at home by restricting the entry of new Algerian and Spanish potatoes for a short period?

I would refer the hon. Member to previous statements on the subject of the United States embargo on British potatoes, to which I am afraid I have nothing to add. With regard to the restriction of imports, the action suggested in the last part of the question is precluded by the International Convention for the Abolition of Prohibitions and Restrictions on Imports and Exports.

British Industries Fair

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he is aware that the British Industries Fair recently held at Olympia was used for party political purposes by the "Overseas Daily Mail," having on their stand a card bearing the words, "Enrol here for the United Empire Party," and that placed in front of this card was a book of enrolment forms which visitors were asked to complete; and what action he proposes to take?

Yes, Sir; immediately the matter was brought to the notice of the responsible officers, the necessary steps were taken for the withdrawal of the card and forms.

Inter-Allied Debts

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much money lent to our Allies during the Great War has been repaid up to date?

The total receipts to date under the Allied War Debt Funding Agreements amount to £41,825,000.

Customs Examinations, Victoria Station

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any negotiations have passed, and with what result, between himself and the railway authorities for the purpose of having Customs examinations of travellers' luggage made under cover instead of on the open platform at Victoria Station; and whether he can now state the result of these negotiations?

The reply to the first part of the question is in the negative. As has been explained on previous occasions, the arrangements for unloading passengers' baggage and the provision of accommodation for its examination by the Customs are matters for the railway company concerned, but a covered enclosure has recently been provided by the railway company for Customs examinations at Victoria Station.

Old Age Pensions

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the total amount of money paid in old age pensions to persons of 70 years and over for the year 1929?

The total amount paid in old age pensions in respect of the means pensions under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924, and the over 70 contributory pensions under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, to persons of 70 years or over in the calendar year 1929 was approximately £34,020,000.

Civil Service (Women, Superannuation)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what is the esti- mated amount, expressed as a percentage of wages, inclusive of the present cost-of-living bonus, which should be paid annually into a hypothetical pension fund in order to secure for the established women staffs of the Civil Service the benefits payable under the Superannuation Acts; and what rate of interest is the fund assumed to earn in arriving at this percentage?

The allowances which may be awarded under the Superannuation Acts, 1834–1919, subject to the fulfilment of the conditions therein laid down are not related to any fund, and I cannot undertake to incur the expenditure involved in setting on foot the extensive and prolonged actuarial inquiry which would be required to answer my hon. Friend's hypothetical question.

Contributory Pensions

asked the Minister of Health whether the number of franked stamps credited to an unemployed insured person is effective in determining qualifications for pensions under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925; and, if not, whether he will consider an amendment of the law so as to render such franked stamps effective under the said Act?

Any franked stamps credited to an unemployed insured person who has had the necessary 104 qualifying contributions paid in respect of him since his entry into insurance are effective for the purpose of the average contribution test under the Contributory Pensions Acts.

Housing (Statistics)

asked the Minister of Health the average superficial area for all A-type non-parlour houses erected by local authorities in England and Wales under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, during the year 1929?

The average superficial area of A-type non-parlour houses included in contracts let by or in direct labour schemes of local authorities in England and Wales during the year 1929 was 766 square feet.

British Ships (Deratisation Certificates)

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the fact that certain Continental ports are refusing to recognise the deratisation certificates granted to British ships in this country on the grounds that the necessary fumigation has not been carried out by hydrocyanic acid; and whether he will take steps to mitigate the inconvenience that is being caused by drawing up a list of the ports in question and by representing to the countries concerned that other methods of fumigation used in this country are equally effective for the purpose?

I have not received any recent complaints of this kind, but if the hon. Member will send me particulars of the cases he has in mind I will cause inquiries to be made.

Officers Training Corps

asked the Secretary of State for War the annual cost to the State of military training in public schools and universities?

The effective cost of the Officers Training Corps in 1929, as shown on page 63 of the current Army Estimates, is estimated at £159,900.

Religious Situation, Russia (Intercessory Prayers)

asked the Secretary of State for War the reason for the instructions which have been issued restricting or forbidding the attendance of any member of the War Office staff at any of the services of intercession called by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the subject of the persecution of religious bodies or persons in Russia?

Orders have been issued which make it clear that no compulsion to attend such services is to be exercised. These instructions apply only to persons under military orders. Both civilian and military personnel are free to attend in a voluntary way any service they wish to attend.

Scotland

Housing (Rural Areas)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of houses completed during 1829 each month in agricultural parishes in Scotland under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924?

The number of houses completed in each month during 1929 in rural areas in Scotland under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, is as follows:

Month.Number of Houses.
January24
February26
March26
April16
May90
June36
July14
August8
September20
October28
November62
December6

Road Work (British Materials)

asked the Minister of Transport if he has issued any instructions to road authorities in Scotland regarding the use of British materials on all work carried out within their areas?

I am supplying the hon. Member with a copy of a circular letter which has been issued to all highway authorities in England, Wales and Scotland regarding the use of British materials in connection with works assisted by grants from the Road Fund.

Slates

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, seeing that, as a result of shortage of orders, reductions in wages and short time are being introduced into the West Highland slate quarries, what steps he proposes to take to ensure that all orders for housing schemes by local authorities shall be given to Scottish slate quarries?

Having regard to the terms of Section 10 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1924, I am not in a position to require local authorities to use only Scottish slates on housing schemes. I am, however, sending the hon. Member a copy of a Circular which I caused to be issued on 23rd December last to all local authorities as to the desirability of utilising materials from home sources.

Local Government

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that members of the new county councils are being put to considerable inconvenience and expense in attending the numerous meetings that are necessary in preparation for the coming into operation of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, in May, 1930; and if he will consider taking action, by agreed legislation or otherwise to amend Section 17 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, and thus make possible the payment of necessary expenses incurred by members in attending such meetings?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As I indicated in a reply to a similar question on 4th February, legislation would be required to provide for the period from December, 1929, to May, 1930. I regret that as a result of inquiries I am led to believe that there would be no agreement to treat a short Bill on the subject as non-controversial,

Claims disallowed at the Portsmouth Employment Exchange on the ground "not genuinely seeking work."
Period.Disallowed by Insurance Officer.Recommended for disallowance by Courts of Referees on 78 days review.
Males.Females.Total.Males.Females.Total.
4 weeks ended 11th Feb., 192977661433939
4 weeks ended 11th March, 192957601173939
4 weeks ended 8th April, 192961329361263
5 weeks ended 13th May, 192981681493535
4 weeks ended 10th June, 19295331842424
4 weeks ended 8th July, 192939367548149
5 weeks ended 12th August, 19295929884444
4 weeks ended 9th Sept., 192950176733134
5 weeks ended 14th Oct., 19292920494343
4 weeks ended 11th Nov., 19291711282525
4 weeks ended 9th Dec., 192934165026127
5 weeks ended 13th Jan., 19302536613030
Total5824221,0044475452

White Paper

and in the present state of Parliamentary business I fear it is not possible for the Government to find time for controversial legislation on this matter.

Sick Workers (Pay)

asked the Minister of Labour whether she has any information showing the number of employers, and the trades in which they are engaged, who grant pay to their employés while absent from work on account of sickness?

I regret that the information desired by my hon. Friend is not available.

Unemployment

Benefit, Portsmouth

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons who were refused unemployment benefit at the Portsmouth Employment Exchange on the ground of not genuinely seeking work for each month during 1929 and January, 1930?

The following statement gives the information for which the hon. and gallant Member asks.House on what date the White Paper dealing with unemployment, which was promised for the middle of February, will be published?

The White Paper will contain particulars of schemes approved up to the end of February, and will, I hope, be issued at the end of next week.

Zambesi Bridge

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether any contracts have yet been placed in this country in connection with the construction of the Zambesi Bridge; and what is the present situation with regard to this project?

Ship Designs (Experimental Tank)

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he can indicate when the construction of the second tank at Teddington for the testing of ship designs will be commenced; if this experimental project has the approval and sympathy of the shipbuilding industry; and what will be the cost of the scheme?

It is not yet possible to state when the actual work will be started, but the necessary plans and designs are now in active preparation. The answer to the second part of the question is in the affirmative. The preliminary estimate of cost is £45,000.

Road Schemes, Northern Counties

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the delay in making a start on the main road schemes in the eight northern counties; and whether, in view of the need for providing the maximum possible amount of work during the winter months that remain, he is taking any steps to expedite operations in connection with these road schemes?

The progress of certain schemes in the northern counties has been delayed by various difficulties and by the necessity for obtaining proper engineering details before schemes can be finally approved. I am anxious to assist local authorities to put work in hand rapidly and have already had a special examination made of the position in this area with a view to expediting the execution of work.

Mersey Docks And Harbour Board

asked the Minister of Transport the total amount of capital borrowings now outstanding in the case of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and the amount of interest being paid thereon?

The capital borrowings of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board outstanding at 1st July, 1929, the latest date for which information is available, amounted to £35,364,323, and the interest payable thereon in respect of the year ended on that date amounted to £1,645,868.

London Naval Conference

asked the Prime Minister whether the recent reductions in the naval building programme are subject to revision and possibly to cancellation should the present Naval Conference fail to reach satisfactory conclusions or should the other naval Powers ultimately fail to make any reciprocal and proportional reduction in their respective building programmes?

I am not in a position to make any statement regarding such a hypothetical situation.