Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 436: debated on Monday 28 April 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Monday, 28th April, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Supply

Power Stations And Plant (Priority)

1 and 17.

asked the Minister of Supply (1) if he will indicate the type of priority that has been given to electric power plant and power house construction; how many hours a day are worked; and how many shifts are engaged on the power house supplies;

(2) if he will give a report of the meetings which he has held with representatives of industry who are manufacturing electric power plant and all that is required for the construction of power houses; and if he will make a statement on the speeded-up programme of electric plant supplies, on how many times the heavy plant committee met during 1946, on the old and new delivery dates, on the old and new dates on which it is intended that the new power houses will be in production and the proposed increase in kilowatts each year until the needs are met.

Four meetings of the Heavy Electrical Plant Committee were held in 1946. Two have since been held under my chairmanship, and as a result, a progressing organisation has been set up to help manufacturers in overcoming production difficulties; the highest priority has been given to the supply of labour and essential materials needed for the manufacture, installation and repair of plant; and arrangements have been made to ensure that export orders do not inter- fere with home requirements. The number of shifts and hours worked varies considerably and details are not available centrally. It is too early yet to say the extent to which delivery dates will be improved by these arrangements.

Is it a fact that the gap between production and the peak load will not be bridged for two or three years, and if that is so, is it not a serious state of affairs? Will my right hon. Friend undertake to have investigations made in order to see if the programme can be further speeded up?

I can assure my hon. Friend that every effort is being made to do everything possible to speed this programme to the maximum extent and an investigation is made into that very thing every time the Committee meets.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Germans and Italians were mainly responsible for dealing a deadly blow at our economy; and in view of our difficult economic conditions, will he agree to consider the need to bring over German and Italian engineers in order that they can make their contribution to the economic rehabilitation of Britain?

Can the Minister tell us upon what date this progressive organisation was first established?

The first day it met when it was reconstituted. I think that was about two months ago.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these power stations, when the machinery is finished, will not be able to operate without a special type of flooring being made for them, and that the floor manufacturers are not yet receiving similar priority? Will the Minister look into that matter?

Baling Wire


asked the Minister of Supply what increases in the supplies of wire for baling hay and straw have been arranged this year as compared with last year; and how much of the additional supply is being imported.

About 10,000 tons, including imports of 500 tons, were available in 1946. It was hoped to increase this to about 13,000 tons this year, including imports of some 2,000 tons, but fuel difficulties may make it impossible to reach this target.

Will the Minister do his utmost to get an increase, because it is really vital that farmers should have this extra wire?

Is the Minister aware that it is said that there are some supplies in the country, and that the farmers who want this wire very urgently for baling hay and straw cannot get permits to buy it?

I do not think that that is so. Everything is done to get it to the farmers.

Motor Tyre Depot, Madeley


asked the Minister of Supply what action is being taken to deal with the large dump of motor tyres at Madeley, near Crewe; if he is aware that manufacturers of civil engineering equipment and agricultural machinery are paying £10 per tyre while others are held up for the tyres that form the dump; and what arrangements are there to link up dumps, stores, etc., with industrial needs.

Some of the tyres from this depot have already been sold and the remaining tyres not required by the Service and other Government Departments will be released very shortly. All surplus tyres are disposed of as they arise through normal trade channels.

Has there been a dump of good tyres at this place for some considerable time and, if so, seeing there has been a serious shortage in the country, is not something wrong with the arrangements between the need and the availability of tyres?

Yes, Sir, there are dumps of tyres and there have been for some time, but they are not the same tyres. Since these depots began, 200,000 tyres have passed through them.

Does that reply mean that there have been no dumps of tyres for any considerable time at this place, and if I supply my right hon. Friend with the document which came into my hands will he undertake to give it personal consideration?

Steel Industry, South Wales


asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement on the iron, steel and tinplate industries in Wales; and, in particular, on the future development of the Margam Project and of Messrs. John Lysaghts, Limited, Newport.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) on 21st April last.

Before any final decision is made on the future of cold roll, sheet steel, and the tinplate industries in South Wales, will my right hon. Friend undertake that both local authorities and trade unionists will be consulted in regard to the whole matter?

13, 14 and 15.

asked the Minister of Supply (1) whether, before any final decision is taken to erect a new cold reduction plant at Margam in substitution for the existing plant at Newport, the House will be informed of the reasons for such a decision and the expert advice upon which it is founded;

(2) the amount of money which has been spent since 1943 in the development of the existing wide cold reduction mill at Newport;

(3) the estimated cost in dollars, and the number of manhours involved, in the erection of a new cold reduction plant at Margam in substitution for the existing one at Newport.

The Iron and Steel Board have not yet received detailed recommendations from the promoting companies concerning the proposed cold reduction sheet mill, and I am not, therefore, in a position to give the information asked for by the hon. Member. I will make a statement to the House as soon as possible.

Steel Industry (Nationalisation)


asked the Minister of Supply when he expects to be able to make an announcement as to the Government's plans for taking over the steel industry.

No legislation on this subject will be introduced during the present Session.

Mobile Reme Workshops


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that, at the Mount Farm Depot, near Dorchester on Thames, there are hundreds of mobile R.E.M.E. workshops as well as mobile generators rapidly deteriorating from exposure to the weather; what steps he proposes to take to stop this waste of valuable and scarce equipment; and what transport is allotted for the personal use of the officer commanding the depot.

There are six mobile workshops and 31 mobile generators at this depot. They will be sold at the next auction in June, if not needed for other Government purposes. The officer in charge is allowed the use of a car to carry out his official duties.

Is not the Minister aware that the lathes and similar engineering machinery with which these lorries are equipped are rapidly deteriorating, and that, since many of them have lost their canvas tops, the generators are deteriorating too; and that the officer in command uses a large Packard, which seems to be a waste of petrol?

The Packard is an old car which they happen to have. Very large numbers of these vehicles have been sold and these will, no doubt, be sold off at the next auction. They come in and out.



asked the Minister of Supply what is the estimated proportion of railings removed during the war that were used; and what is going to be done with those still in stock.

Railings are not separately distinguished in the returns of scrap stocks made by iron and steel works. So far as I am aware, the whole of the 600,000 tons of railings collected have been used by the steel works, but if the hon. Member knows of any stocks unused and will let me have particulars, I will have the matter investigated.

What about those which are of artistic merit, such as those which, I understand, are to be replaced in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh; does the Minister know anything about them?

Is the Minister aware that I have been in correspondence with the Ministry of Works on this subject, and that there are a considerable number of dumps of railings, which have not been melted down or used for anything else, and the owners cannot get them back?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me have particulars, I shall be very pleased to look into the matter.

Will the Minister make further inquiries into the case of Mr. Alwen, of Cudham, Kent, whose ornamental railings, valued at between £30 and £40, were removed and ascribed an estimated value of 13s. 10d., which is a disgraceful form of confiscation by this Government?

If the hon. Gentleman will send me particulars, I will certainly look into this case, but he will appreciate that it happened before my time.

Can the Minister give the House an assurance that he is willing to consider the return of any ornamental railings of artistic value which have not yet been smelted and are still available?

I think that is a matter for the Minister of Works, but I will certainly look into it if I may have particulars.



asked the Minister of Supply if he will issue a statement showing the stocks of cotton, wool, rubber, tin, zinc, lead and timber, both in weight and value, on 1st January, 1947, as compared with 1st January, 1946.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would not the Minister agree that in so far as there is reduction in these stocks that really falsifies the export figures which were issued for last year's trade; and will he say whether the Government are satisfied with the stocks of those raw materials which are under the right hon. Gentleman's control?

I think I had better have that on the Paper before answering. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me notice of the Question?

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman can say if he is satisfied with the stocks in hand now?

Following is the answer;

Stock figures, by weight, for tin, zinc and lead are published in the Monthly Digest of Statistics, to which I would refer the hon. Member. United Kingdom delivered prices at the dates mentioned are:

Tin.Virgin Zinc.Refined Lead.
1st January, 1946.30000315030
1st January, 1947.380100700070

The other raw materials to which the hon. Member refers are the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Steel Allocation (Agricultural Machinery)


asked the Minister of Supply whether priority for the supply of steel has been given to manufacturers of agricultural tractors, machinery and spare parts and to structural engineers for the erection and repair of agricultural buildings.

No, Sir. The Government have restricted the list of priorities to programmes directly contributing to the expansion of fuel and power resources. But in allocating steel the importance of agricultural equipment is taken into account.

In view of the recent disasters which have befallen agriculture, could not the right hon. Gentleman see if this matter can be reconsidered, because important though fuel and power is it is even more important to have the food with which to produce the fuel and power?

Is the Minister aware that there are large quantities of agricultural machines lying idle all over the country owing to a shortage of small parts, and will he look into this matter?

Yes, Sir. I should be glad if the hon. and gallant Member would send me particulars of any cases he has in mind.

Is the Minister aware that many building licences are granted for contractors to erect Dutch barns and so on for farmers, but that the builders cannot then obtain the materials, and will he try to improve this state of affairs?

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware, the shortage has various causes, but we are doing all we can for agriculture.

Is the Minister aware that the failure to allocate priorities of steel has obliged several big firms to stop their production of tractors, and does he not really think that at this stage it is time we started to give priority to agricultural implements and tractors?

As I have already said, the vital importance of agricultural implements, including tractors, is recognised and is given consideration in the allocations of steel, but to dilute the fuel programme by additions would not serve a useful purpose.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would look into this matter again, because it is causing wide concern throughout the agricultural areas, and will he see if he cannot give a further allocation so that these tractors may be made available?


Requisitioned Premises, Kensington


asked the Minister of Works the number of houses, flats and hotels in the Kensington area which are still under requisition by Government Departments.

Two hundred and twenty houses, 157 flats, and 10 hotels in the Kensington area were held under requisition by Government Departments on 31st March, last. In addition, 323 houses and 390 flats were held by the Ministry of Health for housing purposes.

Has the Minister calculated the number of families for which those figures would provide housing accommodation in the area, and does he not consider that, in the existing housing shortage, it is a great scandal that the Government should be occupying so many residential premises?

No, Sir, I have not made the calculation but we are anxious to release as soon as possible all accommodation that could be used for families.

Can the Minister give the figure for the number of garages used for storage purposes which are held by the Ministry?


asked the Minister of Works what quantities of coal and coke, respectively, were delivered during February and March to 34, de Vere Gardens, at present occupied by his Department and the Admiralty; and what amount of coal and coke would have been available for these flats if they had been occupied by private householders.

These premises are near a loading depot and are used for stocking balances of fuel cleared from trucks. The actual consumption in February and March was 17 tons of coal and 16 tons of coke. The permitted quantity of fuel per annum on the ordinary domestic user's scale would be 32 tons of coal and 38 tons of coke.

May I ask the Minister why the permitted consumption for these Government Departments is so much higher than that for domestic premises?

The number of persons catered for in the use of these establishments for office purposes is far higher than would be the normal number in ordinary occupation.

Does the Minister consider that a valid reason for the higher consumption permitted, since the more people there are in any given space the less need there is for heating?

That is not true if one considers—as one should—the health of the people who are working there.

Is not the Minister prepared also to consider the health of the residents of the area who in many cases are unable to obtain enough fuel even for heating water?

Hollow Clay Blocks


asked the Minister of Works whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the position of hollow clay blocks in view of the fact that the production for housing is only about half the prewar capacity; and what steps are being taken to augment the supply.

Most of the blocks made before the war were of the non-load bearing type, for which there are suitable substitutes, such as breeze blocks, and in these circumstances, the rapid expansion of the clay industry during 1946 has tended to be in the manufacture of bricks, roofing tiles and other items for which alternatives are more difficult to find. Every effort is being made to expand the over-all production of the clay industry, and I have no doubt, if adequate fuel supplies are available, that there will be considerable expansion in the manufacture of hollow clay blocks of this type. Before the war, there was a considerable manufacture on the Continent of loadbearing hollow clay blocks. In the last year, my Department has undertaken a considerable amount of work in the location of suitable clay deposits and the preparation of plans, and I am hoping to promote the manufacture of similar blocks in this country.

Will the Minister consider pressing his right hon. Friend to see that adequate fuel is made available to the china clay industry, and not use the word "If?"

I can assure the hon. Member that I shall fight for all the fuel it is possible to get.

Ministry Of Works

Tile Drains


asked the Minister of Works what steps he is taking to see that lack of fuel to brickworks does not prevent the manufacture of an adequate supply of tile drains.

So long as there is a lack of fuel, the output of the clay industry is bound to be less than adequate, but I shall do my best to maintain a proper balance between the different types of production, including land drain tiles.

Bird Sanctuaries, Royal Parks


asked the Minister of Works if he is taking steps to restore bird sanctuaries in the Royal Parks and to appoint bird observers.

Yes, Sir. I have reconstituted the Committee on Bird Sanctuaries in the Royal Parks, and I am considering suggestions made by the London Natural History Society for observers. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the membership of the Committee.

Can the Minister assure the House that these bird observers will keep an eye on the activities of the green woodpecker?

Is the Minister aware that I knew that this Question would inevitably cause something of a flutter?

The Committee will consist of the following members:

  • Sir Cyril Hurcomb, G.C.B., K.B.E., Chairman.
  • Mr. Collenette, F.R.G.S., F.R.E.S.
  • Mr. C. Carmichael Low, M.D., F.R.C. P.
  • Mr. E. M. Nicholson.
  • Mr. Philips Price, F.R.G.S., M.P.

Major I. K. B. Hobkirk, the Bailiff of the Royal Parks, will act as Secretary of the Committee for the time being.

Terrace Houses, Regent's Park


asked the Minister of Works how long he will take to repair the Nash houses in Regent's Park.

The work of repairing and adapting some 200 Nash houses in Regent's Park for temporary use as Government offices will, I hope, be complete before the end of the year. In addition a certain amount of repair work is being done for the Office of Crown Lands in respect of 186 houses occupied by private tenants, but I cannot yet say how long this work will take.

Will the Minister give an assurance that Government Departments will be more zealous in getting rid of the dry rot than they were in preventing it from occurring?

The prevention of dry rot did not fall to my Department, because the properties were under the control of the Office of Crown Lands and not of the Ministry of Works.

When these 200 houses are repaired, how long will it take to free them from the 5,000 civil servants who are to be housed there?

That all depends on how soon other accommodation can be provided for the 5,000 civil servants, or how long the necessity arises for their work to go on.

Can the Minister say whether the conversion to Government offices which has been undertaken is such as to make it quite easy for these houses to be available for private residences when the Government no longer need them?

I would not say that it would make it "quite easy," but it would add no difficulty whatever to the conversion which would be necessary.

Is the Minister satisfied that the progress of dry rot is being arrested in the houses being occupied by the civil servants, because there is some doubt about that?

I would not like to give a positive assurance that it was being absolutely arrested, but we are doing everything we can for the period during which we are responsible for occupation.

Can the Minister say whether the type of treatment now being given by his Department is of a more or less permanent kind, or whether it is merely the temporary emergency treatment referred to in the Committee's Report?

The occupation for which I am providing is only of a temporary character; my responsibility does not arise for permanency.


Secretary Of State's Services


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether any date has been fixed on which members of Indian services must be serving in order to qualify for compensation; and if he will make arrangements for leave to be granted, preparatory to retirement, and ensure that leave prior to the fixed date will count as service qualifying for compensation.

I must ask the hon. Member to await the announcement on the subject, which will be made very shortly.

When will the UnderSecretary's noble Friend be able to give some assurance to alleviate the anxiety as to the future of these splendid men and their families who have given the best part of their lives in the service of India?

The statement to be made will cover those matters which arise as a result of the termination of the careers of members of the Secretary of State's services following the transfer of power.

Will the UnderSecretary make perfectly clear to his noble Friend the anxiety there is in this House as to the future of these distinguished servants in India, and that they should be provided for?

Will the UnderSecretary give some indication when exactly this statement will be made?

Will the Under-Secretary take note of the concern being shown by hon. Members opposite for these civil servants after all the infamous things they have been saying about civil servants?

Non-Asiatic Government Servants (Pensions)


asked the UnderSecretary of State for India if he will make a statement regarding the security of the pensions of the Bengal Government's non-Asiatic servants.

It is intended to negotiate agreements in regard to matters arising out of the transfer of power in India with the representatives of those to whom it is decided that power shall be transferred. One of the questions to be dealt with in these negotiations will be the method of assuring the payment of service pensions, including those to which the hon. and gallant Member refers. I have no reason to suppose that the obligations to pensioners will not be fully recognised by those to whom power is transferred.

Burma (Secretary Of State's Services)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma whether, in arranging for the retirement of the Secretary of State's services, suitable provisions will be made to safeguard the interests of Class I officers in the engineer, forest, veterinary and agriculture departments.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) on 21st April.

International Refugee Organisation


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in setting up the International Refugee Organisation to deal with the 750,000 displaced persons in Europe.

The International Refugee Organisation cannot come into being until at least 15 Governments, whose combined contributions must amount to not less than 75 per cent. of the budget, have signed and ratified its Constitution. I regret to say that so far only 12 Governments have signed, and their total contributions amount only to 70.24 per cent. The Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organisation is to meet again in Switzerland on 1st May, and the problem will no doubt be further discussed there.

May I ask what Governments of big countries have refused to cooperate so far?

Will the UnderSecretary publish the names of the countries which have already agreed?

The countries which have signed the Constitution are Canada, the Dominican Republics, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Liberia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Scandinavian Countries (Shipping Attache)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will consider the appointment of a shipping attaché to the Scandinavian countries.

In view of the need for economy in trained manpower and in foreign exchange, my right hon. Friend does not consider that such an appointment would be justified at present.

Will the Under-Secretary bear in mind that the United States have such an attache in Scandinavia, and that British shipping interests are meeting with very considerable competition from the United States of America in that area?

I agree that this is an important subject, but I think the commercial secretaries are capable of doing this work.

Anglo-Soviet Alliance


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the obligations set out in the second sentence of Article V of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of Alliance are now binding on the parties, either under that Treaty or under some other international covenant.

Before a new treaty is concluded will the Foreign Secretary consider how far these existing obligations have been observed?

Japan (Reparations Material)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the order to General MacArthur to begin the removal of Japanese industrial equipment and material as reparations, issued by the U.S. Government on 3rd April last, was approved in advance by the Far Eastern Commission; if there was any prior consultation with His Majesty's Government; and if His Majesty's Government approved.

This order was an interim directive issued by the United States Government who, under the terms of reference of the Far Eastern Commission, were entitled to take this action without seeking the approval in advance of any other Government or of the Far Eastern Commission. On the other hand, the proposal embodied in the directive had been discussed in the Far Eastern Commission, who, though in general sympathy with its main objective, were unable to reach agreement on details.

Can my hon. Friend say whether instructions of this kind, on which action is taken by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, and which are unilateral instructions, are likely to weaken and destroy the authority of the Far Eastern Commission, which alone should be responsible for policy direction?

The proposal was discussed by the Far Eastern Commission, and the United States Government are entitled to issue interim directives of this kind on urgent matters.

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is about time that the British Government had more to say in affairs concerning Japan? Will he bring pressure to bear, and see that we have some say in these matters in future?

We have been, and are, making our views on this matter quite plain. We are fully in sympathy with the purposes of this plan, but we should have welcomed an extension to cover other British Commonwealth territories which were devastated by the Japanese.

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that a great deal of the material removed was not actually Japanese, but was previously looted from other countries? Can he say whether the Far Eastern Commission gave assent to its removal?

Nile Waters (Distribution)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what political machinery exists or is employed to secure equitable distribution of the waters of the Nile amongst the countries directly affected, the Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, Belgian Congo and Ethiopa, in view of the many engineering projects afoot for extending the use of these waters.

There is no special political machinery in existence for the distribution of the waters of the Nile. In the past, this distribution has been covered by specific agreement between the States concerned.

Can my hon. Friend say whether a proposal to set up a Nile authority to deal with the matter will be considered?

If the normal machinery of inter-Governmental relations is not sufficient in future we shall be very willing to consider that.

Prisoners Of War (International Agreements)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the international agreements providing for the release or repatriation of prisoners of war taken in custody after the recent war by Great Britain, France, U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A., he will press at the Moscow Conference for the disclosure by each of these Powers of the numbers taken in custody, the numbers so far released, and the plans made by each country for the fulfilment of their obligations in this respect.

I am glad of this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the agreement reached by the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow on 23rd April that plans for the return to Germany by the end of 1948 of all German members of the former German armed forces and auxiliary services now held as prisoners of war should be published by 1st July, 1947. This agreement represents the successful outcome of the continued efforts of my right hon. Friend, who, on three previous occasions during the Conference in Moscow, had called upon his colleagues to reach such an agreement.

Can my hon. Friend say whether this agreement replaces the agreement understood to have been reached between the French and the Americans in regard to the return of German prisoners in French hands by 1st October this year?

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the statement he has just made takes account of the total number of prisoners captured? Have they been satisfactorily accounted for by each of the Allies?

Russian-Born British Wives (Children)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the children born to the Soviet wives of British Servicemen are considered to be British subjects.

Yes, Sir, if the father was born on British soil, the children would be considered to be British subjects, but not necessarily by the Soviet authorities.

Will His Majesty's Government ensure that the British status of these children will not be prejudiced by their enforced birth and present compulsory residence in the Soviet Union?

The fact that the children are British subjects does not necessarily mean that they are not also Soviet subjects.

Could the hon. Gentleman ensure that future births relating to these marriages should take place within the British Embassy, as that is not an uncommon occurrence?

Can my hon. Friend say how many such children there are, where they are, and what steps are being taken to bring them within British jurisdiction?

Can the hon. Gentleman say how a child can be a British subject as well as a Russian subject?

Needy Countries (Post-Unrra Aid)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will report on the findings of the Special Technical Committee set up by the General Assembly resolution in connection with post-U.N.R.R.A. aid to needy countries; and if he will make a statement.

Copies of the Committee's report are available in the Library in United Nations Document E/269. Otherwise, I have nothing to add to the answers given on 10th March to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey).

In view of the need for rendering assistance to European countries which will now no longer obtain it from U.N.R.R.A., would not the hon. Gentleman use his efforts to speed up the report of this Committee, which may be the basis for providing this relief?

Can my hon. Friend say whether the Government have yet worked out a programme of relief in accordance with the decision of the General Assembly?

Our action is well known, and we are strictly limited by the shortage of our own resources.

Greece (British Forces, Withdrawal)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the date for the withdrawal of British Forces from Greece has yet been fixed.

Will the hon. Gentleman recall that as long ago as October last he said that he was about to bring all troops home at the earliest possible opportunity? Will he say when that is likely to occur?

I cannot go further than saying that we shall withdraw them as soon as it is practicable.

Can the hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that British Forces will not be withdrawn from Greece before the Greek position, under the American proposals, has been consolidated?

Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the recent American loan will in no way prejudice an early withdrawal of British troops from Greece?

Could the date happily coincide with the withdrawal of Russian troops from Hungary, which has also decided on the form of Government it desires?

German War Criminals (Executions)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many war criminals were hanged in the British zone in Germany in the months of January, February, and March, and up to the latest date in April for which figures are available.

Thirteen war criminals were hanged in January, and one in March. None have been hanged in February, or in April.

Export Policy


asked the Prime Minister whether the views expressed by the President of the Board of Trade at Geneva on 11th April, 1947, now represent the export policy of His Majesty's Government.

Yes, Sir. If the international negotiations now proceeding are successful, His Majesty's Government hope to base their export policy on the principles indicated by my right hon. and learned Friend.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the President of the Board of Trade said on this date, first, that His Majesty's Government have no objection to unrequited exports against payments from sterling balances and, second, that it was no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to encourage exports to hard currency countries at the expense of soft currency countries? Does this mean that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget Statement has no relation to the policy of His Majesty's Government?

That is a complicated question, and I would like to see it on the Order Paper.




asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken to bring about the cultivation of an increased number of allotments.

A circular letter, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. and gallant Member, was addressed to local authorities on 7th January last emphasising how essential it was, in the national interest, that they should once again make the maximum effort to ensure the cultivation for vegetable production of all allotments and private gardens in their area, indicating the lines on which national propaganda was proceeding, anti urging them to support it by conducting their own local propaganda campaign.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider making a broadcast to householders to get busy on their allotments? Will he also consult his colleagues in the Fighting Services, to see that more food is grown in camps, both here and in Germany? Further, is he aware that it is not possible to send seeds to Germany by post, and will he get this rectified?

A fortnight ago I mentioned allotments specially in my broadcast. My Ministerial colleagues are helping all they can to sow the good seeds of digging for plenty.

Will the right hon. Gentleman prevent local authorities from taking away existing allotments, which is happening now?

We have done our best with local authorities, and with a good deal of co-operation, to dissuade them from taking over allotments for playing fields, and that kind of thing, but where it is a question of housing, then it is a 'different matter.

Will the Minister say why nothing was done for allotment holders under the Agriculture Bill? Does he anticipate introducing early legislation to encourage security of tenure for allotment holders?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are I10 Clauses in the Agriculture Bill, which called for 26 meetings of the Committee before we got it through the Committee stage—

—and to deal with every conceivable agricultural possibility in that one Bill would take a very long time.

Will my right hon. Friend consider the launching of a Government campaign for speeding up allotments, similar to that which took place during the war, in order to supplement the efforts of local authorities? Will he consult the National Allotment Society?

There is a campaign going ahead, and to add to that I have promised the hon. Member and his colleagues that I will attend the National Allotment Society's annual conference.

Seed Potatoes


asked the Minister of Agriculture what quantity of seed potatoes are available; and how this figure compares with the last year.

Up to the week ending 19th April, the quantity of Scottish, Northern Ireland and Eire certified seed delivered to growers in England and Wales was 392,000 tons as compared with 441,000 at the corresponding date last year. There has been a slight delay in loading this week owing to stormy weather, but it is expected that deliveries in the three weeks following 19th April will average 22,000 tons per week, in which case the total deliveries of seed from these sources will be in excess of last season. As in previous years, supplies of certified seed potatoes will not be sufficient to meet all demands, but once-grown seed will also be available. To ensure that adequate supplies of the latter are forthcoming a compulsory ware riddle of 2¼ inches has been introduced and the grower's price for once-grown seed of the principal maincrop varieties has been increased by 10s. per ton.

Dispossessed Farmers


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many dispossessed farmers have not received and are not receiving rent; and, in view of the fact that many of them cannot afford to employ a solicitor or a valuer, if he will take immediate steps to come to an agreed compensation with them.

In England and Wales, 811 farmers or owners of farms entitled to compensation rental under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, are not receiving such rental. The usual reason for non-payment is that the party either neglects to make a claim or declines to follow the usual procedure for settlement of disputed claims. Every effort is made to reach agreement, and ex-gratia payments to cover the reasonable cost of employing a valuer are allowed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not answered my Question? Will he take immediate steps to stop this tyrannical treatment of British subjects, because that is in fact what it is?

There is no tyrannical treatment. The reason why rentals have not been made is very largely the fault of the people who have been dispossessed.

Grey Squirrels


asked the Minister of Agriculture what success has attended the scheme operating in Wiltshire by which two 12-bore cartridges are issued in exchange for every grey squirrel tail delivered to the pests officer; and if this scheme is being applied by all A.E.Cs.

I am informed that since the middle of February, when this scheme was introduced in Wiltshire, 412 grey squirrel tails have been delivered to the War Agricultural Executive Committee's pests officer. The reply to the second part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

If the scheme is working well in one county, surely, equally good results may be got in other counties?

Hill Sheep


asked the Minister of Agriculture if, where hill farmers have lost sheep and suffered deterioration in their flocks through malnutrition, he will introduce a scheme for the provision of extra coupons for all stock during the summer months to aid their recovery.

Although it may be necessary in exceptional circumstances, when they are brought down from the hills in severe weather or for lambing, the feeding of concentrates to hill sheep is not a usual practice and such feeding would be detrimental to the characteristics of the flocks. Moreover, it would be impracticable to take such feed to the ewes when they are on the hills.

As it is almost impossible to find any way of helping these people practically, because we cannot give them back the sheep, will the Minister realise that he can help them materially by giving them every possible feedingstuff for their stocks, not only sheep?

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that we have taken all the feedingstuffs we could lay our hands on to the hills to help the hill farmers to feed their flocks and herds; and the hon. Gentleman must also he aware that hill sheep must be as nearly self supporting as possible, otherwise their main purpose fails.

Harvest Workers


asked the Minister of Agriculture at what figure he assesses the labour force necessary to bring in the 1947 harvest; and what steps he is taking to see that this force is available.

It is impossible to give a precise figure for the number of workers required for the harvest. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement which I made in the course of the Debate on the distribution of manpower on 19th March last.

Is the Minister aware that the 1948 harvest will be just as important; and can he assure us that he is looking as far ahead as 1948?

I can only repeat the assurance previously given. I think that, what with prisoners of war, volunteers and other supplementary labour, including the Women's Land Army, there will be an adequate labour force for the 1947 harvest.

However willing the volunteers, they are never likely to be as good as those working with the farmers most of the year, and, that being the case, would the right hon. Gentleman consider urging the Minister of Labour to make some arrangements, whereby prisoners of war who desire to stay in this country may do so?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware that a prisoner of war, whose date for repatriation has arrived, can opt to stay on for a further six months, if he so desires?

Livestock Losses (Floods)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that the Government grants to agriculturists for sowing reclaimed fields where the land has been flooded do not cover the losses of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, he will consider issuing an interest-free loan to be paid out of the farm profits over five years to those who have sustained losses of livestock due to the floods.

No, Sir, I do not consider that such a loan would be an appropriate method of assisting farmers who have suffered losses of livestock through floods. The arrangements which the Government proposed include, first, payments out of the Agricultural Disaster Fund, to which the Government are contributing approximately 5o per cent., and, secondly, the inclusion of livestock in the Agricultural Goods and Services Scheme.

Does not the Minister appreciate that the farmers need cash in order to re-stock; and is not he also aware that however good are the measures which he has mentioned, they are not really sufficiently comprehensive to do all that is required?

They are just good enough to satisfy the leaders of the National Farmers Union.

Why is it that we have always to be dictated to, without this House being consulted?

Imported Grass Seeds


asked the Minister of Agriculture what quantities and what varieties of grass seed are being imported into this country from the dollar countries and why.

Approximately 24,500 cwt. of Timothy seed and 7,500 cwt. of Agrostis seed of the 1946 crops are being imported from the United States and Canada. I am advised that these seeds, which are not produced in sufficient quantity in the United Kingdom, are required for incorporation in grass seed mixtures.

Will the Minister do all he can to encourage the production of these seeds in this country?

We are doing all that we can to encourage the production of such seeds as are most useful in this country, but I understand that a certain variety have to be imported from the U.S.A. and Canada which are necessary, especially for Scotland, and for mixing with other seeds.

Will the Minister get as much seed as he can from New Zealand?

Seed Production


asked the Minister of Agriculture what plans he has for the future of seed production in this country.

The home production of agricultural, vegetable and flower seeds for sowing, insofar as they can be produced at economic prices and are in demand, will be encouraged to the fullest extent.

Sheep Breeding


asked the Minister of Agriculture, in view of the loss of sheep flocks in this country, what steps he is taking to increase the stock of sheep; and if he will consider an increase in the price of wool and skins in order to encourage the further breeding up of sheep stock, or some encouragement to the farmer to keep and breed from all ewe lambs.

I would refer the hon. Member to my statement in the House on 3rd April, to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the Adjournment Debate on 18th April, and to the announcement issued to the Press on Saturday last, of which I am sending him a copy. The various measures therein mentioned should help farmers to tide over the difficult period ahead and encourage them to rebuild their flocks. As already announced, this year's wool clip is again being requisitioned at the same prices as prevailed in 1946. I am considering what further steps can be taken to encourage farmers to keep all ewe lambs suitable for breeding.

Machinery (Repairs)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that the supply of farm machinery available for hire by county A.E.Cs. is inadequate in several districts, and that much of the machinery is in bad repair; and if he will take steps to improve this service, on which many small farmers are dependent for essential cultivations.

I am not aware that the supply of farm machinery for hire by county war agricultural executive committees is inadequate, though it may well be that the abnormal seasonal conditions have caused an unusual concentration of demand that cannot be met all at once. This is, however, being met as quickly as possible. Much of the machinery is now some years old, but it is maintained, so far as possible, in good condition, and replacements are made as they become necessary.

Is the Minister aware that the American loan is rapidly running out; and is he satisfied that he is getting his fair share of the American loan to obtain the implements which will further improve production for the future?

The House has been told from time to time, that there is no shortage of dollars for the import of agricultural machinery from America.

Imported Poultry (Fowl Pest)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the increasing number of cases of fowl pest in the United Kingdom and the seriousness of the disease, he has now decided to stop the import of poultry from countries where fowl pest is known to be, with a view to the early eradication of the disease in the United Kingdom.

The importation of live poultry and hatching eggs from countries where fowl pest is known to exist is not now being permitted. The question of further measures is under consideration.

in view of the fact that 90 cases of this disease have now been notified, that it is a very infectious disease and will have a very great effect on the poultry stock in this country, will the right hon. Gentleman also consider restricting the import of undressed carcasses from those countries where it is known to exist, as veterinary surgeons think it is due to the feeding of offal to the poultry in this country?

I understand a prohibition on the importation of dead poultry would mean stopping the bulk of our supplies, and that would hardly be practicable with the present shortage. However, I can assure the hon. Member that we are at present in consultation with the poultry industry.

In view of the fact that the imports will or must continue, will the right hon. Gentleman first see that some instructions are issued that this offal should be boiled before being fed to poultry; and in future, when imports of poultry have to be made, will he see that they will be dressed and not undressed poultry?

Advice to boil ail poultry waste before feeding to their birds has been "propaganded" amongst poultry keepers, and we are going further in that direction, after consultation with the poultry industry.

Would it not be better to stop the importation of table poultry from those countries where they have this disease, rather than having our own flocks decimated?

Flooding, Yorkshire (Pumping)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the distressing plight of flood victims at Allerton Byewater, Bentley Toll Bar and Selby and district; and whether he will take all necessary steps to ensure that pumping operations are energetically conducted where such action is still a matter of urgent necessity.

Yes, Sir. I am in close touch with the position and can assure the hon. and gallant Member that all necessary action is being energetically taken. Emergency pumps from the resources organised by my Department have been sent in to the area where required.

Seed Import Board


asked the Minister of Agriculture from what date the Seed Import Board will cease to function, in view of the fact that the Board was formed purely for wartime activities, and of the wide dissatisfaction in the seed trade against the continued operation of the Board in its present form, and with its present system of preference and control; and if he is aware that adequate facilities already exist in his Department and the Board of Trade for the control of seed purchases abroad in countries with hard currencies, and their allocation to the seed trade in this country, without the necessity for the continuation of the Seed Import Board.

It is not yet practicable to withdraw the restrictions on the importation of agricultural and vegetable seeds, and for the present I think it is desirable to retain the machinery of the Seeds Import Board, who, I am satisfied, are carrying out their difficult duties very efficiently.

Is not the Minister aware that the Seed Import Board failed dismally to produce in this country any runner bean seeds this year; and that if he had extended the powers of the purchase of seeds abroad to normal distributing houses, such a situation would have been avoided?

I am not aware of any complete failure on the part of the Seed Import Board.

Hill Farming Grants


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the necessary instructions have now been issued to A.E.Cs. to enable them to approve grants under the Hill Farming Act.

Discussions are now taking place locally between officers of my Department and representatives of the county war agricultural executive committees about the part committees will play in the consideration and approval of hill farming land improvement schemes submitted under the Act. Detailed instructions will be issued immediately after these discussions are concluded. Section 33 of the Act precludes the delegation to committees of the approval or making of improvement grants.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many landowners have prepared schemes which they are anxious to put into operation as soon as authority can be given for grants to be approved; and will he try to hurry up that process?

Mr. Williams