House Of Commons
Tuesday, 6th May, 1947
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Dudley Corporation Bill Lords
Read a Second time, and committed.
Electoral Registers (Returns)
Address for Return
"showing the total number of electors on the register now in force in each Parliamentary Constituency in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and in each Local Government Area in England and Wales."—[Mr. Oliver.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That an Address be presented for a Return showing the total number of electors on the register now in force in each Parliamentary Constituency and in each Local Government Area in Scotland."—[Mr. Thomas Fraser.]
Mr. Speaker, could we have a little explanation of this Motion?
Usually these matters are dealt with in a purely formal manner.
With great respect, Sir, I was hoping that perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland would give us a few words of explantaion.
If it is necessary, I will say that this is the ordinary routine for the purpose of getting the Return asked for In the Motion. There has never been any occasion in the past either for questions or for debate on the matter.
Question put, and agreed to.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Could anything be done to heat this Chamber so that we can do our work properly?
I share the hon. and gallant Member's feelings, but it is not within my power to do anything.
Would the Minister of Fuel and Power be able to do anything?
Oral Answers To Questions
Industrial Disputes (Negotiating Machinery)
asked the Minister of Labour what steps have been taken to improve the machinery of negotiation in industrial disputes, particularly in securing its operation at the beginning of a dispute.
I am continuing my examination of and discussions on this problem, but I am not in a position to make any statement at present.
Would the Minister consider the question of a general inquiry into the whole system? Obviously this does not work very well in many circumstances, and something ought to be done.
I do not think a general inquiry would be very helpful. It certainly would be very involved. There are about 50 wages councils. We are consulting them collectively and I am meeting their chairman. The trade agreements in the others are very wide in their scope. I hope to get the information and to take it to our advisory council shortly.
Macclesfield And Congleton
asked the Minister of Labour the registered numbers of unemployed males and females in Macclesfield and Congleton at the latest convenient date.
At 14th April, 608 males and 24 females at Macclesfield, and 119 males and 6 females at Congleton. The figures for Macclesfield include 513 males and 23 females temporarily stood off at the date of the count, the great majority of whom were working a four-day week.
In view of the fact that when the Minister last gave me figures there was practically no unemployment at all, will he consult his colleagues to see whether an extra allocation of fuel can be made to try to bring relief to these towns, which are suffering great hardship?
That will be borne in mind.
Apprentices (Maintenance Grants)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that school leavers in rural areas are seriously prejudiced by the fact that no provision has yet been made for maintenance grants to apprentices living away from home and that, as a result, the value of pre-apprenticeship training courses provided by education authorities in rural areas has been seriously detracted from; and whether ho proposes to take any action to meet the situation.
To meet the type of case which the hon. Member has, in mind, a scheme of maintenance grants is being prepared and will, I hope, shortly be put into operation.
asked the Minister of Labour whether displaced persons, including Poles now in the Polish Resettlement Corps, have to submit to political screening before being accepted for employment in British industry: by whom this screening is carried out; arid with what objects.
How can the Minister say, "No, Sir"?
"No, Sir," is the correct answer to the Question.
Is the Minister aware that leading members of the miners' union have publicly boasted of the fact that every Pole coming from the Polish Resettlement Corps into the mines must not only be screened by the authorities, but must be screened by them as well and, if he has not been screened by them, he will not be accepted in spite of the wishes of the Government? Is that true?
The answer that I have given is the correct answer, no matter what may be said outside this House.
May I have a direct answer to my direct question? Is my statement true or not?
I am not called upon to answer allegations of that sort. The Question on the Order Paper is whether or not there is any political screening. The answer is "No."
Road Haulage Strike
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the illegal road haulage strike that occurred during the week ended 12th January, 1947, was largely organised and encouraged by the Revolutionary Communist Party, Trotskyist, British Section of the Fourth International; and what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, to minimise the risk of the repetition of an illegal strike organised by a political party for political reasons.
No, Sir. Although this party may have tried to encourage the strike once it had started, I have no evidence to show that the strike was so organised. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.
Staggered Working Hours
asked the Minister of Labour what has been the response from industry and the trade unions to the Government's request for staggering working hours.
Very good, Sir.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of industry has in fact agreed to staggered hours?
No, Sir, I could not answer that without notice, and even with notice it would be very difficult to give the percentage; but I can say that the answer I have given covers the matter. We have had a very good response from industry.
How can the right hon. Gentleman say "very good" when he cannot give the percentage of the number of industries which have in fact responded? Would he answer that?
I gave the answer which I did give because I know it is correct, but it is another question to hive the percentages.
National Service Age
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that some firms are dismissing youths from their employ a few months before they are liable to report for national service; and if he will take steps to stop this practice.
Only a very few complaints have been received during the last few years that young men have been dismissed from their employment because they have become liable to be called up under the National Service Acts. If my hon. Friend will let me have details of the cases he has in mind, I will certainly see what action I can take.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say how many complaints he has received during the last six months?
Not without notice, but I cannot recall any.
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the growing difficulty of boys under the calling-up age for military service to obtain work; and what steps are being taken to safeguard their interests until they join the Forces.
I am aware that some boys approaching military age are finding difficulty in obtaining employment. The Juvenile Employment Service will give them all possible assistance in finding suitable work, and I would like to take this opportunity of asking employers of labour to approach this matter with a sense of public obligation.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the reason for this is the fear about reinstatement after service, or has it something to do with training, learning and apprenticeships and the fact that employers do not wish to give training to apprentices when they are to be called up for military service so soon?
We have not had any cases reported to us, but we gather it is -mainly that the employer feels that he does not want to go to the trouble of training a lad for the few months before he leaves.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this problem will be permanently with us so long as we have permanent conscription?
It will be permanently with us if employers think of their own convenience instead of that of the country.
Can the Minister say what steps he is taking to safeguard the interests of returning ex-Servicemen as well as those of the men who are going into the Services?
If the hon. Gentleman will put that question down, I think we can give him a very satisfactory answer.
Trawler Crews (Trade Unionism)
asked the Minister of Labour what steps he proposes to take over the ultimatum which is being given to some trawler owners that crews will not be allowed to sail unless all join a trade union.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave him yesterday.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of the Fleetwood branch of the Transport and General Workers Union has issued such an ultimatum to local trawler owners, and would he like me to give him the information I have?
I am not so aware, and I would be very grateful if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would give me the information.
asked the Minister of Labour the number of miners, ex-miners willing to return to the mines and unplaced mining trainees who are registering as unemployed in Ayrshire.
I am having inquiries made, and will write to my hon. Friend.
There are other hon. Members for Ayrshire.
Disabled Persons, Scotland
asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the number of disabled persons registered in Scotland under the Disabled Persons Employment Act, 1944; and the number of these at present unemployed.
On 17th March, 1947, there were 67,899 registered disabled persons in Scotland, of whom 8,123 regarded as suitable for employment under ordinary conditions were unemployed. There were also 1,355 unemployed needing employment under sheltered conditions.
In view of that figure, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the obligations laid upon him by the Act are being honoured? If he is satisfied that they are being honoured, does he not think that the percentage laid down in the Act should be increased?
I think the figures for the time being are a little bit disturbed by the recent fuel shortage, but I must say that, as far as we know, in the main they are being honoured by employers. Therefore, if increasing the percentage is the only way to deal with it, that will be looked at.
asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the unemployment among joiners in the Falmouth area, he will consult with the other Departments concerned to provide work in the dockyard.
I am having inquiries made and will write to my hon. Friend.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many ships which require that type of conversion, which employs joiners, and will he take steps to see that they are fairly distributed throughout the ports? Is it not a fact that there is not that degree of unemployment in other ports that there is in Falmouth?
No, Sir. In the first place, it is no good moving ships about unless you have the timber to do the work. In the second place, having recently had the privilege of visiting the shipyard, I do not think there is any room for any more ships there.
National Service (Fishermen)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will arrange for all home-water fishermen to receive the same consideration regarding call-up as near and middle-water trawlermen.
No, Sir. The arrangements to which reference was made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture on 21st April do not apply to near and middle water trawler men as a class. These arrangements, which are essentially of a temporary nature, provide for the suspension of call-up, for a limited period, of certain individuals, and have been introduced to meet exceptional, and, I hope, transitory difficulties in certain localities. There is no intention of extending them.
Does the Minister know that his answer is entirely unsatisfactory and that this country is in desperate need of food, and will he reconsider this matter in view of the letter which I sent to him yesterday?
Yes, Sir, I have the letter which the hon. Member sent me yesterday to which I will send a reply, but every care is taken in these matters. The District Inspector of Fisheries can make representations where any case of this kind requires his attention.
Does the Minister mean that he will give consideration to this matter?
I will give consideration to the point raised in the hon. Gentleman's letter, but I will not commit myself further.
Land Court Members (Salaries)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will review the salaries paid to the agricultural members of the Scottish Land Court.
The rate of salary payable to lay members of the Scottish Land Court has been under review in consultation with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lord Advocate; but I am not at present satisfied that any alteration is necessary.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these salaries have not altered since 1911 when they were first fixed, and that they were supposed to correspond roughly with the salaries of top grade Sheriff Substitutes whose salaries have been put up?
I do not admit the latter part of the supplementary question, but it is a fact that the salaries were fixed at the date suggested by the hon. Member.
is it not a fact that there has recently been a much greater upgrading of the administrative staff in the Department of Agriculture and that now they are paid more than comparable members of the Land Court?
I respectfully suggest that that has nothing whatever to do with the Question on the Order Paper.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will consider introducing legislation for the purpose of making venereal disease a notifiable disease under the appropriate-Act.
I am prepared to seek any powers which might help in eradicating venereal diseases, but I am not satisfied that making these diseases compulsorily notifiable would do so.
In view of the constant danger of infection, especially for young children with an infected person in charge of them, will the right hon. Gentleman not at any rate follow the policy adopted in England so as to safeguard our young people?
I shall certainly make inquiries as to what the policy in England is, but I know that this question has been carefully considered from time to time so far as Scotland is concerned, and the balance of opinion has been that compulsory notification might hinder rather than help the campaign which doctors, the Government and the authorities are waging against this disease.
Although the right hon. Gentleman means well, I shall have to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
Requisitioned House, Edinburgh
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the fact that 45 Manor Place, Edinburgh, was purchased two years ago by its present owner for the accommodation of the nurses and staff of her nursing home at 49 Manor Place, he will arrange with the Ministry of Works for its immediate derequisitioning.
As I have already explained to the hon. and gallant Member, I appreciate the difficulties of the owner's position, and while it is not possible at present to release the house, which is still urgently required for office purposes, I have arranged that it will be one of the first to be released by the Ministry of Works when the new office accommodation for Government Departments in Edinburgh is ready.
Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate when the Government Departments are likely to start occupying, these offices?
I am sorry, but I am not in a position to give a date when they will be ready, but as soon as we have got the temporary accommodation it will enable us to deal not only with this problem but with several other housing problems.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements have been made by the Herring Industry Board for the marketing of next season's herring catches; and whether contracts have been completed for the disposal of catches surplus to home requirements to the Control Commission for Germany, including klondyked herring.
The Board propose to purchase the whole of this year's production of cured herring in Scotland and England for disposal to the best advantage. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on 30th April to the 'hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby).
While thanking my right hon. Friend for the assurance given in the first part of his answer, I would like to ask him if he is aware of the keen feelings of concern in the North-East part of Scotland in fishing circles about the fact that a contract has not been reached for the export of klondyked herrings, especially from the Shetland Isles; furthermore, whether representations have been made to him by the Scottish advisory panel with regard to the export of herrings; and what further steps he proposes to take to deal with this urgent matter?
I have had representations made in connection with the difficulties facing the herring industry from many sources, but I could not say without notice exactly what those sources are.
Is the right hon. Gentleman proposing to repeat this year last year's Shetland experiment in the buying and marketing of herrings?
I could hardly give a direct answer to that question without notice, but I would be quite willing to discuss the point with my hon. Friend after Questions, if necessary.
May I ask the Secretary of State if by complete purchase he means purchase at 100s. per cran for freshing, kippering or klondyking, purchase at 85s. per cran for curing, or purchase at 17s. per cran for fish meal and fish oil?
Again, I could not give an answer to that question without notice.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the last part of this Question is the really urgent one at present, and that unless there are contracts with the Control Commission the herring industry will be knocked endways this summer?
I am aware of the urgency of the point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.
Teachers (Certificated Status)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to reach a decision concerning the recognition of uncertificated teachers and what steps are to be taken to assist such teachers to obtain certificated status.
I have consulted the National Committee for the Training of Teachers and have recently received from them proposals for the granting of certificated status on certain conditions to uncertificated teachers of technical subjects employed whole time in pre-apprenticeship schools and other continuation classes. These proposals are being carefully considered in the light of the great variety of subjects and technical qualifications involved.
Is the Secretary of State aware that much financial hardship and anxiety are being caused to uncertificated teachers who have been waiting for this decision since July, 1946, and that therefore this announcement will be received with great satisfaction?
I am assured that the inquiries I have made, which are known to the teaching profession, will be received with the greatest pleasure by those who at the moment are uncertificated and who may become certificated as a result of the action I am taking.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give figures to show whether juvenile delinquency in Scotland is increasing or decreasing.
I am glad to say that the statistics of juvenile delinquency for 1946 show a drop of approximately 15 per cent. compared with 1945 in the number of children and young persons in Scotland against whom charges were proved. The total number in 1945 was 20,244 and in 1946, 17,050.
Is my right hon. Friend quite satisfied with that figure, which still shows over 17,000 juvenile delinquents?
No, I am not satisfied, and consequently I am taking whatever action is available to me with a view to reducing juvenile delinquency still further.
That is nevertheless a substantial fall. Has the right hon. Gentleman inquired into the reasons for it so as to encourage it further in the same direction?
I have not had time to make the complete inquiries which I think are desirable with a view to finding exactly what are the reasons for the drop that has taken place.
How do these figures compare with prewar? Are they up much or are they down? What about 1938?
I would require notice of that question so that I could make a fair comparison.
Would the Secretary of State say what recommendations resulting from the conference on this subject organised by his predecessor in Edinburgh, at which he. was present, have been pressed by his Department upon the local authorities?
All the recommendations which would be of real service, in dealing with this problem of delinquency, are being pressed to the utmost with a view to reducing still further the numbers to which I have referred.
New Classrooms, Ayrshire
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new classrooms are required in Ayrshire as a result of the raising of the school-leaving age; how many have been provided; and how many are under construction.
306 classrooms will be required, but only a proportion of these will be required by 1st September. 46 are in course of erection; none have yet been completed.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what is the increase in the classes themselves as a result of this legislation?
No, Sir, not without notice.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he proposes to give effect to the recommendations of the Cameron Committee on Legal Air and Legal Advice in Scotland.
I am in consultation, together with my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, with representatives of the legal profession with a view to the preparation of a scheme of legal aid and legal advice in the light of the recommendations of the Cameron Committee; but I am not vet in a position to make a statement.
Does the answer mean that my right hon. Friend is accepting the recommendations of the Cameron Committee?
Yes, I am accepting the general principles contained in the recommendations.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what will be the effect of the fuel crisis upon the 1947 housing programme for Scotland.
I would ask the hon. Member to await a full statement which I propose to include in the Housing Return for March which will be available on Thursday.
Fair Isle (Sea Service)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the dates on which goods and mails have been landed at Fair Isle since the s.s. "Good Shepherd" was wrecked.
The "Good Shepherd" was wrecked on 13th January last. Since that date goods and mails have been landed at Fair Isle on 16th, 23rd and 28th January, 19th February, 13th and 29th March, and goods on 2nd May. Severe weather and prolonged repairs to the steam drifter "Pole Star" have made it difficult to arrange for calls at regular intervals. It is hoped, however, to maintain a fortnightly service from now onwards.
Ministry Of Pensions
asked the Minister of Pensions if he will consider making grants of unemployability supplement an appealable issue to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal.
I do not think it would be in the interests of the pensioners themselves that the present position in which unemployability can be sympathetically reviewed from time to time on merits by my Department should be replaced by an arrangement involving a final decision by a tribunal.
But is the Minister aware that, while I appreciate the extraordinary care and sympathy with which these cases are dealt with, anomalies exist? For instance, a man living in a London suburb, having to carry out administrative work in London, cannot face the extreme difficulties of travel on some of the suburban lines, and therefore I feel this matter should be reviewed.
I do not think the case to which my hon. Friend has referred would be met by the proposal in the Question, but if he will bring that particular case to my notice I will examine it.
Are not the tribunals already overloaded with their ordinary functions, and is it not impossible for them to take on more?
It is not a question of being overloaded; it is a question of what they can do efficiently in the interests of pensioners, and I do not think a final decision by a tribunal is desirable on the question of unemployability.
Staff Dismissals, Blackpool
asked the Minister of Pensions how many men and women, respectively, have been dismissed, after due notice, from his Department in Blackpool on the grounds of inefficiency since 1st January, 1947; and, of these, how many had been awarded increments of pay during 1946.
The figures asked for in the first part of the Question are 41 and 24, respectively. Of these 38 men and 22 women received the normal annual increment during 1946.
Is it not rather odd that a man should be given an increment of pay in 1946 on the ground that he is efficient and then, at the beginning of 1947, be sacked on the ground that he has been inefficient for a long time?
Not at all. There are two degrees of inefficiency involved here. The increments are a question of the conditions of service, with which we hesitate to interfere unless there is real inefficiency When it comes to dismissing people on the ground of redundancy of staff, we have to take account of any degree of inefficiency in order to get the least efficient out first.
Will the hon. Gentleman see that those who are dismissed on the ground of redundancy are not sent away with a bad reference?
I am not aware that they are, but if that is the case, I will certainly look into it.
asked the Minister of Pensions when ex-Sergeant Hawkins, Ref. No. M2/272759 will have his case reviewed in the light of the Minister's statement of 25th July, 1946, as promised in his letter of 25th November, 1946, to both Sergeant Hawkins and the hon. Member for North Wembley.
In connection with his application Mr. Hawkins made certain statements regarding medical treatment in North Africa which necessitated protracted inquiries overseas. These have now been completed but I think it is desirable to wait a High Court judgment now pending on a similar case before reaching a decision. In the event of a rejection of his claim Mr. Hawkins will still have the right of reference to the Special Review Tribunal.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will once again review the application of Mrs. Dorothy Dickinson, of Blackpool, referred to him for a widow's pension; and if he will bear in mind the principle that a pension should be paid where a husband and wife had been estranged but the chance of reconciliation still existed and the husband was killed before there had been a reconciliation.
I have this case under consideration, and will write to the hon. and gallant Member about it as soon as I am in a position to do so.
Ian Fraser asked the Minister of Pensions if he is aware that extra nourishment is recommended by a consensus of medical opinion for men who have suffered from vitamin deficiencies while prisoners of war and whose eyesight or other faculties have been impaired even after they have finished their normal hospital treatment and have returned to their own homes; and whether he will make arrangements with the Ministry of Food for them to receive what is necessary.
Experience has shown that men under treatment in Ministry hospitals for vitamin deficiency diseases require a well balanced high calorie diet which is provided with the addition of vitamin concentrates. On discharge to their homes, after the necessary treatment, such patients do not in general require diet supplements except in certain specified conditions for which provision is already made in the existing regulations of the Ministry of Food. Certain cases require vitamin concentrates which Fan be supplied.
But is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widespread opinion amongst medical men that additional foodstuffs, especially now that we are all on a bad diet, are required by these people for some years, and will he see that they have it?
I am not aware that there is any consensus of medical opinion in that direction. On the contrary, the opinion which I have consulted, and which I understand the Minister of Food on his side has consulted, is unanimously of the decision that I have conveyed, but if the hon. Gentleman can bring me any evidence to the contrary, I shall certainly be glad to examine it.
Where the patient's own doctor recommends a particular diet, will the hon. Gentleman see that the patient gets it?
Not necessarily, but that, of course, is not for me to decide, and the hon. Gentleman knows the procedure that is followed in such cases.
Railway Transport Officers
asked the Secretary of State for War the number of railway transport officers and their staff employed in each of the London main-line railway stations.
As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would it be possible to revert to the peacetime practice of commanding officers and adjutants arranging for moving of their formations without a very large staff of railway transport officers?
The figures which will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT will show that there is not a large staff of railway transport officers. Considering that they had to deal with more than one million inquiries in the first quarter of this year, I hope the hon. and gallant Member will find that the staff disclosed in my answer is very economical.
Following is the answer:
The numbers of railway traffic officers and their staff now employed in the mainline London railway stations are as follow:
|Station.||Railway Traffic Officers.||Other Ranks.|
|Victoria including Caterham.||3||10|
|Charing Cross including Woolwich Arsenal.|
|Paddington including Marylebone.||2||8|
|Totals: 18 Stations||15||66|
asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason 14289339 B.I. Private Yusof, has been refused permission to re-enlist in the Army, in view of the fact that he is medically fit and it not over the age limit.
I have written to the hon. Member about this case. Private Yusof is above the age limit for a normal Regular enlistment.
Is the Minister aware that according to the man's own Service book the Army have admitted that he is under 30? Is not the real reason why this man is not allowed to enlist because he is of non-European ancestry, and is it not Army policy to exclude British subjects unless they are white?
The hon. Member asked about this particular case. I gave a full answer in my letter, and that answer shows that the suggestion he has put to me is not accurate. As for the man's age, my information is that he is above the age limit.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in his own Service pay-book, which I hold in my hand, the Army has admitted that this man is 2g years of age? Is not the real reason something entirely different, which the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to disclose?
I do not know why the hon. Member should continue with that insinuation. If he will show me that Army book 64 I will have a look at it.
Par Beach Minefield
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that no start has yet been made to re-sweep the minefield at Par Beach, Cornwall; and when the special party referred to in his letter of 25th March to the hon. Member for Bodmin will commence operations.
I regret that it has not been possible to start re-sweeping at Par Beach during April, as had been hoped. The delay has resulted from a shortage of officers, caused by the run-down of the Army, in Bomb Disposal Companies, R.E. The work will be carried out as soon as officers become available. As the hon. Member will be aware, however, the enclosure of the area suspected to contain mines does not prevent access to the beach.
Can the Minister give me a little more satisfactory answer, and some indication that he may be able to have this carried out in May, and is the Minister aware that this matter is very important to our invisible export?
I will endeavour to do everything I can to give satisfaction, but Par Beach was cleared by United States Army troops, and they believed every mine was cleared. Unfortunately, the local inhabitants have an idea that there are still some mines left there. We have to test that, but unfortunately I have not the officers to do that.
Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that the beach is cleared of mines?
No, Sir, I cannot, but I will do so as soon as I can get the staff to make sure there are no more mines there.
asked the Secretary of State for War why he has now decided not to publish information about the numbers and proportion of men of the Army intake posted to each arm of the Service.
I have come to the conclusion that to continue to give these particulars periodically in reply to Questions might enable deductions to be made as to the detailed composition of the Army from time to time which it would be contrary to our present policy to divulge.
In view of the importance to the Army, may I ask first how, in view of the complete blackout on information about the use of manpower in the Army, my right hon. Friend reconciles this step with Parliamentary control over the Army? In the second place, may I ask whether this information will be given, if requested, to the Select Committee on Estimates?
As regards the last part of the question, that is another matter. In regard to the first part, I think we discussed the matter fully on the Army Estimates, and I do not think I can go any further at the moment in question and answer.
Is my might hon. Friend aware that he sends a free copy of the Army Estimates to every embassy in London, from which this could be worked out, and also that we are going to have less information in the Army Estimates next year than this year?
I do not know how my hon. Friend knows that. I have not heard that he has been at the War Office and knows what the policy will be. If he is correct in the first part of his question, perhaps he will have a talk with my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) who wants the information.
May I ask why it has been considered necessary two years after the war ended to keep these matters practically secret? Why should we not publish them?
As I have said, we discussed this at length on the Army Estimates, and I then said that for next year's Estimates I would look into the matter to see if we could have a change of policy.
Am I to understand that the Secretary of State has not decided yet whether he will give the information to the Select Committee on Estimates, or not?
My hon. Friend asked if I would give it to him, to which my answer is, "No, Sir."
Raynes Park Camp
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now release to the local authority, for housing purposes, the camp at Raynes Park, recently occupied by German prisoners of war, and about which the honourable Member for Wimbledon has had correspondence with him.
The future of this camp is under consideration at the moment, and I regret that I am not yet able to make any announcement about it.
Would my right hon. Friend send an answer about it very soon, because it is a matter of great urgency to the district, and it is occupied by squatters to the great embarrassment of the local authorities?
I will do my best to give an early answer.
asked the Secretary of State for War what are the current instructions regarding men desiring to report sick; and whether it is in accordance with those instructions that men at 2 P.T.C., Stoughton Barracks, Guildford, have to march to the M.I. room to report sick.
The current instruction regarding men wishing to report sick is that
Arrangements for transport are of course made if the. M.I. Room is at some distance from the unit lines. My information is that these instructions are being carried out in the unit referred to, and that it is not the case that the men have to march to the M.I. Room to report sick."soldiers … will not parade for this purpose but will inform the orderly N.C.O. and proceed independently to the M.I. Room at a specified hour."
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable number of my constituents are stationed in these barracks, and their information is not the same as that of my right hon. Friend?
If my hon. Friend would be good enough to give me any further information he has, I will look into it.
Fornham Park Camp
asked the Secretary of State for War why it has become necessary to recondition and re-equip Fornham Park Camp, Bury St. Edmund's, which has stood derelict for 18 months; what will be the cost of this work; and if there is no barrack or permanent camp more suitable for peace-time military occupation.
Fornham Park Camp, Bury St. Edmunds is being reconditioned and re-equipped to accommodate a regiment returning from overseas. The camp was evacuated approximately six months ago by Polish Forces when it was certainly not in a derelict condition. The cost of the work being carried out is estimated at £700, and there is no more suitable barrack or permanent camp available at present for the purpose for which it is required.
Could the Minister look again at his answer, because no Polish troops had been there until six weeks ago? In fact, Polish troops in a neighbouring camp were given permission to go and take the stuff out of this camp with the result that the camp is empty. Is it the policy of the Government to allow one part of the Service to take it somewhere else so that money has to be spent to take it back again?
No, Sir, we do not give that permission to the Polish troops, but, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman will know, sometimes they do not wait for permission.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that general negligence in regard to empty camps only leads to looting and destruction of very valuable equipment?
No, Sir, that charge of general negligence is unfounded. The fact is that I have not the large number of troops necessary to guard these empty camps.
Government Expenditure, Egypt
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give an estimate of the sums of money spent in Egypt during 1946 and the first quarter of 1947, respectively, by the Foreign Office, the Board of Trade and the British Council.
Since the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will the Chancellor instruct the Foreign Secretary regarding the amount of money for publicity and propaganda in Egypt, because there is a great deal of anti-British propaganda which is not being answered?
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will read the figures and then, if he wishes to address a Question to my right hon. Friend, no doubt he will do so.
Following are the figures:
|—||1946.||First quarter of 1947.|
|Board of Trade||…||£7,512,000||£2,578,000|
Dollar Purchases (Fruit And Vegetables)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer which clauses of the Anglo-U.S. loan agreement compel Britain to expend a portion of the loan on the purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables from the U.S.A.; and what is the amount involved in sterling in this commitment.
There is no such clause, but in arranging our fruit and vegetable imports, we must respect Article 9 of the agreement. These imports from U.S.A. in the first quarter of this year were millions.
Does not the Chancellor think it was a waste to spend over £1,000,000 on buying pears in these three months, and over £228,000 on grapes, many of which were uneatable by the time they reached this country?
I have given the details. They add up, as I informed the hon. Member, to £2,500,000 in the first quarter. I think that fruit is good for you, and I do not accept the statement that the grapes were not in a condition in which they could be consumed. Even if it were true, it is not my responsibility.
Would not some of this money have been better spent in buying meat offals which were available, and which were sorely needed to help our meat ration?
I think that the Minister of Food would have an opinion about that.
Merchant Navy (Income Tax)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether officers and men of the Merchant Navy at sea are given code numbers for Pay As You Earn; or how are the assessments made;(2) whether officers and men of the Merchant Navy are granted allowances for Income Tax purposes in respect of payments made by them for superannuation, life insurance and mortgages; (3) whether officers and men of the Merchant Navy are granted any allowances for Income Tax purposes in respect of payments made by them for uniforms.
Seamen are given code numbers under P.A.Y.E.; they are entitled to an allowance for the upkeep of their uniforms, and to the same allowance as other taxpayers for superannuation and the other items mentioned by my hon Friend.
Does the code number apply to seamen actually at sea also, or is it only for those on land?
No, Sir, it applies to all of them.
Japanese Goods (Purchases)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether agreement has yet been reached with the U.S.A. regarding the financing of purchases by this country of Japanese products.
No, Sir, but discussions are proceeding.
Since the Board of Trade appears to be negotiating with the United States Commercial Corporation, and the Far Eastern Commission is also concerned in this matter, will the Chancellor say where the final decision will be made, or where the final authority resides in this matter?
That is a question on the elementary principles of Cabinet Government. Ministers co-operate harmoniously, except on very rare occasions, when the Cabinet settles the matter. So far, no disharmony has arisen between my right hon. and learned Friend and myself.
Is the Chancellor aware that there is almost a complete iron curtain so far as information about Japanese economic and commercial affairs is concerned, and will he indicate to the House whether there is likely to be an early settlement of the international exchange rate for the yen? Also, could he place at the disposal of the House some documentation of the activities of this United States Commercial Corporation?
I must have notice of these questions, which do not arise directly out of the Question I have answered.
Us Films (Exhibition Receipts)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he estimates to be the sum received annually by the U.S. film industry from exhibition in Great Britain; and to what extent this is set off by receipts of the British film industry from exhibition in the U.S.A.
About £17 million. On the second part of the Question, I am afraid I cannot add anything to the reply which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) On 15th April.
Yen (Exchange Rate)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what is the official rate of exchange for the sterling in Japanese yen as applicable to British troops stationed in Japan.
200 yen =£1.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that from information at my disposal the local rate is 300—
On a point of Order. Is it permissible for hon. Members opposite to read newspapers in the course of Questions?
It is Government publication.
It is not a newspaper. This is Government party propaganda.
Hon. Members do not appear to be reading the paper, but showing each other the pictures in it which have just been the subject of a Question.
May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that from information at my disposal it seems that the real and local exchange rate of the yen is 300 to the £? Therefore, why should our troops out there suffer this further financial hardship, in view of their present uncomfortable situation?
This rate is the military rate, and prices in the canteens are adjusted to it. Arrangements are in hand for troops in that area to receive vouchers which they can use in canteens, and avoid a good deal of the troubles the hon. and gallant Gentleman has indicated.
Stamping Of Deeds
asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that, in consequence of a change by the Inland Revenue Department in the manner in which deeds requiring to be stamped are dealt with in the North-East, a delay of upwards of 14 days is now taking place in the return of such documents, as against 48 hours previously; that such delay is causing great inconvenience to the professional people concerned and to members of the public; and whether he will revert to the former practice employed in connection with these documents.
I have written to my hon. Friend about the matter.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a document received back on Saturday morning had been away three weeks for stamping? Does he anticipate that there is to be an improvement?
We do regret that here and there is delay. As and when it is pointed out, we do our best to rectify matters. I am grateful to the hon. Member for having pointed out the delay in this case. We shall see what we can do to avoid delay in the future.
Statutory Orders (Changes In Law)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give instructions for the general adoption in Statutory Rules and Orders of the practice already introduced in some Departments whereby changes in the law are distinguished by special type.
I will draw the attention of Departments to this practice, but I would not require it in all cases. Often the explanatory note makes it unnecessary.
British Authors' Royalties (Netherlands)
Walker-Smith asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that British authors have great difficulty in securing the payment of royalties due to them in respect of their books published in the Netherlands; and whether he will make appropriate representations designed to improve the situation.
A Dutch Committee approves contracts and allocates exchange, and I do not think that I could make representations to the Dutch Government against this procedure. But British authors would be wise to make sure, before signing contracts, that their Dutch publishers have made suitable arrangements with this committee.
While I am sure that British authors will take note of the cautionary words of the Chancellor, may I ask if he is also aware that considerable sums of sterling are paid to Holland for the printing of British books by Dutch publishers, and could not some clearing arrangement be made so as to enable payment to be made to the British authors?
We will look into that. Of course it is one of the partial solutions to the book shortage, of which we are all conscious, that a certain amount of printing is done in non-dollar countries, and the books brought over here. I do not think we would want to disturb that arrangement, but I will look into the hon. Member's suggestion.
Basic English (Copyright)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how many prosecutions have been instituted by the Stationery Office in respect of breaches of the copyright in Basic English purchased by the Government at the cost of £25.000.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the use of the word "copyright" implies the possibility of infringement? Is he further aware that there is no way in which these ordinary English words, such as Basic English is, can be infringed, and is it not misleading to say that this handsome sum was paid for the copyright?
That is so. The word "copyright" has crept into replies, and also into questions on this matter. It is not strictly correct to use the word "copyright" in this connection. Mr. Ogden was not paid for copyright, but for his work in connection with this matter.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether this sum of £25,000 is subject to Income Tax or Surtax?
It was £23,000, not £25,000. I imagine that as it was income to Mr. Ogden it was subject to Income Tax, but if the hon. Member would like an assurance on that point, I will certainly find out, and let him know.
Is my right hon. Friend also aware that it is not strictly true to say that Basic English consists only of a list of ordinary English words? It is also a method of using them.
"Coal" (Paper Supply)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how much paper has been put by His Majesty's Stationery Office at the disposal of the National Coal Board for the purpose of the latter's forthcoming publication, "Coal."
About eleven tons of paper have been used on the first issue.
Does the right hon. Gentleman justify, at a time when ordinary newspapers are severely restricted, the use of this Government paper for the portrayal inter alia of pictures of young ladies who, however agreeable in appearance, have remarkably little to do with the output of coal?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say who pays for this paper, and who bears the financial responsibility for this journal, and who will meet any deficit, if there is one?
It is issued, I believe, by the National Coal Board. It is only right to say that it has taken the place of a number of house journals which were previously issued by companies. I take it that any loss thereon will be met by the National Coal Board.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest to the House that these house journals, the place of which this publication is said to have taken, indulged in the same sort of political propaganda as this publication does?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the expenditure on this journal is infinitely more justifiable than the expenditure of money and paper on some of the perpetrations which have been inflicted on a long suffering public by the railway companies and the Road Haulage Association?
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it equitable that what he admits to be an officially subsidised paper should compete for advertisements with ordinary commercial publications?
Quite frankly, many of these questions do not arise out of the Question on the Order Paper. The National Coal Board is entitled to issue a monthly journal of this kind, if it is so minded. We must assume that it knows what it is doing, and that it will get good value for a periodical of this kind.
I beg to give notice that in view of the complete inadequacy of the reply, I shall seek the earliest opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the average annual pension paid to each grade of civil servant; is the actual deduction from salary or nominal proportion of salary regarded as contributed towards the pension; and what capital amount invested in Government securities this annual income represents.,
As the answer is somewhat long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the answer:
The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. The normal Civil Service pension is 1/80th of salary averaged over the last three years of service, for each year of pensionable service, subject to a maximum of 40/80ths. There is also a lump sum additional allowance, payable on retirement, of three times the annual pension. The pensions scheme is non-contributory, but, to build up a fund to provide benefits of the order described, it would be necessary to set aside annually a sum equal to about 18 per cent. of the salaries of established civil servants to accumulate at 2½ per cent. compound interest. At present, the annual cost of these pensions, exclusive of lump payments, is about £13¾ million. A capital sum of £550 million invested, in Government securities, at 2½ per cent. would produce an equivalent income.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is now in a position to give a decision on claims for improved pay for permanent and temporary clerical workers in the Civil Service, in view of the fact that certain of these claims have been under consideration by the Treasury for 10 months, and if he will join with the Civil Service Clerical Association in requesting the Ministry of Labour to refer these claims forthwith to the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal.
I regret that consideration of these claims has proved lengthy, owing to the importance of the issues involved, but I expect that a decision will be arrived at before long. Meantime, it would be premature to refer them to arbitration.
Could the Financial Secretary, in view of the very long time taken in the consideration of these claims, give us some idea of what interpretation will be placed upon these words "before long"?