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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 437: debated on Monday 12 May 1947

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Us Occupied Islands (British Interests)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what preferential conditions were asked for by the U.S.A. and granted by U.N.O., to Americans in the islands which have been added to the U.S. empire as a result of the war; and in what way these conditions affect the commercial relationship between these islands and the rest of the world, particularly the countries of the British Empire.

I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the Strategic Area Trusteeship Agreement for the former Japanese mandated islands, that is the Marshall, Caroline and the Mariana Islands, naming the United States of America as administering authority, which was approved by the Security Council on 2nd April, 1947, and that he has Article 8 (1) of that Agreement in mind. His Majesty's Government do not consider that the conditions of that Article will have any appreciable effect on commercial relationships between the former Japanese mandated islands and other countries, in particular the United Kingdom.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there will be equal opportunities for British subjects in these islands?

I am satisfied that any apparent discrimination is due exclusively to security considerations, and that there will be no commercial discrimination of any kind.

I prefer to say that no facilities will be denied to British merchants which are accorded to other nationalities.

Poland

Port Facilities

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct the United Kingdom delegation to the Economic Commission for Europe to press for immediate concerted action to assist the Polish Government in improving the unloading facilities at the harbours of Gdynia and Gdansk, so that more Polish coal can be made available to Britain and other European countries.

On the general question of instructions to the United Kingdom delegation to the Economic Commission for Europe I would refer my hon. Friend to the written answer given to him on 7th May. The Polish Government, however, has been informed that His Majesty's Government would be prepared to examine possibilities of help in providing additional facilities in Polish ports.

Bearing in mind the fact that the limiting factor to the export of Polish coal this year is likely to be, not production, but transport, will my right hon. Friend try to get the concerted action of Those European countries, including ourselves, which are anxious to import coal from Poland?

As regards transport, I am not clear whether my hon. Friend is referring to internal or external transport. We have made a concerted effort to see that in general internal European transport is most efficiently and economically provided. In the matter of external transport, His Majesty's Government are considering what mechanical help they might make available to the Polish Government.

Polish Nationals, Uk (Repatriation)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that, of two Polish newspapers circulating widely among Polish soldiers in Britain, one contained no reference whatever in its issue of 6th May to his statement of the previous day with its emphatic endorsement of the genuineness of the encouragement offered by the Polish Government to expatriate Poles to return home and the other published the statement in garbled and incomplete form; and what steps he is taking to convey his views to the ordinary Polish troops still in this country.

Yes, Sir; but I should add that one newspaper carried the full text on 7th May and the other on 8th May.

Germany

Control Commission

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the number of the British personnel in Germany at the latest available date, giving services and civilians separately.

On 19th April the British Element of the Control Commission employed 19,050 civilians and 3,410 Service personnel in Germany.

Why is it that the civilian personnel get better pay and treatment than the Service personnel? Further, is it not a fact that our work of reconstruction is being seriously hampered by Soviet activities?

I cannot see how the second point arises from this Question. As to the first part of the supplementary question, there are many grades within distinct categories; if the hon. Member has any detailed inquiries to make, perhaps he will put them down.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the report which has been sent to him about the unsatisfactory conditions of control in Germany and consequent waste of British taxpayers' money; and if he will make a statement.

I presume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the letter he sent to my right hon. Friend on 3rd May. My right hon. Friend will naturally reply to the letter in the normal way as soon as inquiries have been made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have first-hand information that some of the personnel are quite unfit for the job, and that some mem- bers of the Control Commission are only there to have a good time, and, owing to their behaviour, are lowering the prestige of Britain in Germany as well as losing the respect of the Germans?

I am naturally most anxious at all times to offer all the information which is appropriate and possible in these matters, but I should think it singularly unfortunate if I singled out one letter from the hon. Gentleman opposite and made it the subject of a detailed reply to a Question.

Frau Elisabeth Rolfes

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how soon the hon. Member for Maldon may expect a final reply to his letter of 18th December, 1946, regarding a claim arising from the death of Frau Elisabeth Rolfes, in reply to which the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster advised him on 30th January that the authorities were very much concerned that no time be lost in making the necessary arrangements for such claims to be investigated; and whether such arrangements have now been made.

I regret the delay in dealing with this case, but His Majesty's Government have been anxious to produce an equitable and workable scheme to cover not only this case but all similar ones. I hope, in about a fortnight's time, to be able to announce the details of a panel for dealing with such claims, the subjects which can be brought before it, and the procedure to be followed in making and in settling such claims.

Fish Imports

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements are being, made by the British Control Commission for the exporting of herring by the English fishing fleet to Germany during the ensuing fishing season.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any decisions have been reached by the joint Anglo-U.S. authority regarding the importation of fish to Germany during the remainder of this year.

The British and American authorities in Berlin who are responsible for the procurement of food for the com- pined British and American zones have not yet reached any final decisions on the importation of fish into Germany.

In view of the importance of fish, both to the dietary of the very hard pressed German population and to the industry in this country, cannot the Minister assure the House that there will be, as there was last year, an open market for the herring, particularly in the English herring season? Will he assure the House that the arrangements to be made will be more satisfactory in order to have a better result than last year?

I completely agree about the importance of this source of proteins for the German population and I also think we ought to make better arrangements than last year, if possible. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not press me, because it is completely a matter of costing, and that subject we are examining most closely.

In view of the amount of money British taxpayers are having to put into Germany, and also because the Americans are considering placing this business in Norway, will the right hon. Gentleman see that we get preferential treatment in this matter to make up for the money we are spending?

The amount it is costing the taxpayer is a prominent feature for consideration.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that very superior fish, the Cornish pilchard.

Newsprint Supplies

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the proposed cut in newsprint supplies in the British zone will make it impossible for publishers to present an adequate picture of home and foreign news; and, in the light of this fact, if he will make a statement.

I am aware of the difficulties experienced by the Press in the British zone of Germany. Shortages of coal and pulp with the transport difficulties caused by the exceptionally severe winter have adversely affected newsprint production and stocks have fallen to a low level. Production should, however, now improve and supplies are expected shortly from the American zone in accordance with the fusion agreement. In view of this improvement I am hopeful that the proposed cut of 25 per cent. will not now be of long duration.

Coal Production

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement in respect of the coal production position in the British zone of Germany.

The upward trend in the production of hard coal was arrested towards the end of March, and since then output has fallen from 237,000 to 221,000 tons a day. The average manshift output has dropped from 0.96 to 0.91 tons, and there has been a noticeable increase in absenteeism.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he considers that this is due to inadequate rations for the miners in Germany?

No one can be certain about such a complex subject, but I should imagine that the drop in available food has been a feature. I should point out to my hon. Friend, of course, that the drop, whilst most deplorable, has not been as great as the comparable drop last year.

Will the Minister bear in mind that the important matter here is not only the question of rations for the miners themselves but that of the rations available to their families?

Can the Minister reconcile this drop in production with the agreement to export more coal, thus putting a greater burden still upon the British taxpayer?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what steps are being taken to try to bring about an increase in production once again?

The primary steps, of course, are related to food. There is a Question upon that subject on the Order Paper.

Food Situation

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the increasingly serious food situation in the Anglo-United States area of Germany; and if he will make a statement indicating the steps contemplated to prevent its further deterioration.

The food situation in the American and British zone of Germany is admittedly most unsatisfactory. The present shortages are due in part to difficulties of collection and distribution within Germany and in part to imports of grain falling short of our expectations. The bizonal authorities in Germany are considering what steps can be taken to improve indigenous collections. As for imports, on which the maintenance of the ration largely depends at this time of the year, everything possible is being done to speed up existing programmes and to maintain a sufficient flow of supplies.

Would my right hon. Friend tell me what kind of controls there are on the farms and rural areas of Germany which export to the more industrial areas?

I should not think that was a very suitable question for me to deal with summarily. I should say that in our zone the system of collection has not been bad. For a variety of reasons, which would take some explaining, the system of collection in the American zone has not been quite so successful.

In view of the importance of this question, which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman recognises, will the Foreign Secretary be giving us some fuller information upon it in the Debate on Thursday, because it is utterly fundamental to European recovery?

I hope I did not give any impression that I thought that it was other than of the greatest importance. I will ask my right hon. Friend to consider that point on Thursday.

Will my right hon. Friend take into fullest consideration the necessity for letting the German people know the whys and wherefores in regard to the shortage of food, because in many cases the people seem to be ignorant of the real facts behind the present shortages?

That is one of the reasons why we have been so anxious to avoid the concentrated cuts in newsprint.

Will the Minister realise, taking this Question and Question 14 together, that the Germans would prefer a daily meal to a "Daily Mail"?

Anglo-Chinese Commercial Treaty (Negotiations)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if the negotiations for a commercial treaty between the British and Chinese Governments have now been completed and if he will make a statement on the subject.

I regret that the negotiations are not yet completed, partly because of the necessity for reconciling the British and Chinese draft treaties, and partly because many Departments of His Majesty's Government are concerned with the proposed treaty and all of them have had to be afforded an opportunity for studying and commenting upon the Chinese draft.

Is the Minister aware that these negotiations have been going on since December and we are now in the middle of May? In view of the urgency, will he see that there is no avoidable delay on our side?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I am aware of the comparative urgency of this matter, but I hope that he will appreciate that almost every Government Department has been affected by the proposals.

Food Supplies

Workers' Sugar Allowances

21.

asked the Minister of Food what is the allocation of sugar for tea for factory workers and for those working in offices, respectively.

Heavy workers' category A canteens receive one-fifth of an ounce of sugar for each hot drink served and other works and office canteens one-eighth of an ounce. Where there is no canteen, industrial workers can get one ounce per head per week for communal tea making but none is allowed for office workers.

Can the Minister explain why there is this difference between the allocation to office workers and that to industrial workers where canteens are not provided?

On the whole, industrial workers are favoured in all food matters because it is considered that it is more important to give them increased nourishment.

Does the Minister seriously suggest that office workers ought not to be allowed a ration of tea and sugar and that industrial workers should be given a ration?

We should like to allow the ration to both, but I think it is reasonable to give the industrial worker prority.

Imported Onions

22.

asked the Minister of Food how many onions have been imported into this country during 1947; how many have rotted owing to lack of facilities to discharge the vessels; and what has been the loss expressed in foreign exchange.

Up to 31st March, 55,736 tons of onions have been imported this year. I have had no complaints of loss through lack of discharging facilities, but if the hon. Member will let me know of any reports which have reached him, I will gladly have them looked into.

Siamese Rice

27.

asked the Minister of Food what shipments of rice have been made from Siam in February, March and April, 1947, respectively.

28.

asked the Minister of Food what price the International Rice Commission is now paying for rice in Siam; and whether expected supplies are now available.

About 20,500 tons of rice were exported from Siam in February, 31,800 tons in March, and 45,000 tons between 1st and 25th April. The Combined Siam Rice Commission do not buy rice; the present export price is about £26 per ton f.o.b.

Would the Minister agree that this total for very nearly three months is well below the contracts signed last year, and what steps is he taking to see that supplies of this vital food from Malaya and other parts of the East are very largely increased? Has he managed to see that the owner and producer of rice gets the benefit of the foreign exchange and not the Government?

I would agree that these totals are not fully satisfactory but they are rising. I would not like to utter any complacent words about the situation. My Director of Rice has very recently been in Siam and we are putting very strong pressure on the Siamese Government in view of the immense importance of this foodstuff and we shall certainly continue to do so.

May I protest against, "My Director of Rice?" The Director of Rice is a servant of the taxpayer and of the country.

If the phrase does not please the hon. Member, I shall be delighted to withdraw it.

Subsidies

29.

asked the Minister of Food the food items on which there is going to be a withdrawal or reduction of subsidy.

I must ask the hon. Member to wait for the announcements which are made whenever controlled food prices change in either direction.

Can the Minister give an indication as to the date of the announcement?

In that case would the Minister recall what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said a few weeks ago when he intimated to the House that we could expect such changes in the near future and that the Minister of Food would be the one to acquaint us?

No, Sir, I know of no such announcement. Various changes of food prices have been made over the past three months of which I gave the hon. Member a list. There may be others.

Will the Minister bear in mind, and also impress it on his colleagues, that this policy of food subsidies has been of tremendous importance both in securing a just distribution of food and in restraining the wages-prices spiral? Will he give this his closest consideration?

Yes, Sir, we regard this as of the utmost importance, and a most substantial figure has already been announced to be expended on food subsidies in the coming financial year.

Does not the Minister agree that it is a great extravagance that the Treasury should have to bear no less than two-thirds of the cost of home-made cheese, the demand for which is far in excess of the supply?

If the hon. Member thinks it would be a good thing to allow the price of cheese to rise to an unsubsidised level, I cannot agree.

Flour (Bakers)

31.

asked the Minister of Food the amount of flour allocation to bakers for each month of the last six months, to the latest available date.

There are no such allocations. As already announced, there is a limitation during the six weeks from 27th April to 95 per cent. of what bakers bought from the millers in February and March last.

Is the Minister aware that this new, limitation is only camouflaged and has the effect of deceiving the public? Is it not simply robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Bread Rationing

33.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement in regard to the continuance or otherwise of bread rationing.

57.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the improvement in the wheat supplies in this country and the potential improvement throughout the coming months of the year, the Government can give an undertaking to abandon bread rationing on or before 30th June, 1947

As I have already said publicly and repeatedly, it would clearly be wrong to make any decision on bread rationing before we see what this year's harvests are going to be like.

When the Minister has reached a decision on this important matter, will be make his first announcement to this House?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that bread rationing is really very largely a bureaucratic farce and is wasteful of bread and manpower, and would it not be better to do away with it?

No, Sir; it will be very much better to do away with it when the supply situation permits.

Departmental Staffs

34.

asked the Minister of Food the total number of persons employed by his Department at the last convenient date; what proportion of these are established civil servants; and how many are employed as enforcement officers.

Counting two part-timers as one full time worker, in the usual way, the number of industrial and non-industrial staff employed in my Department on 1st April, 1947, was 44,242, of whom 1,258, or 2.84 per cent., are established civil servants and 754 are employed throughout the country as enforcement officers

Is the Minister aware that the figure he has just given is only about 10 per cent. less than it was at the height of the war, and may we now anticipate an increase or a decrease?

It is entirely a question of rationing. If we can abolish, for example, bread rationing and the rationing of other staple foods, of course, we can make a most substantial decrease. The vast majority of this staff is employed in the local offices on rationing.

As the Minister has said that a reduction can only be made if we abolish rationing, will he now abolish rationing?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will abolish the necessity for rationing.

London Dock Strike (Fish Wastage)

35.

asked the Minister of Food how much food has gone rotten at the London docks because of the latest strike of dock workers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these successive unofficial strikes affecting food supplies are adding to the prevalent malnutrition, and is he able as the Minister of Food to do anything about it?

No, Sir; in this particular case I am clad to say there was no loss of foodstuffs because of the strike.

There was 12 cwt. of fish lost, but that might very easily be lost in the ordinary course of distribution.

May I ask the Minister what was the loss of the carrying capacity in food for importation of those vessels through the delay in their turn-round?

The Question deals with how much food has gone rotten and not with carrying capacity.

Cocoa Stocks

39.

asked the Minister of Food what stocks of cocoa were held in this country on 1st January, 1945, 1946 and 1947, respectively.

How is it that it would not be in the public interest to reveal these figures for cocoa when the Minister gave exactly the figures for tea the other day?

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman means. Does he suggest that I gave the figures for tea?

Tea stocks in this country? No, Sir, she said that we were concerned at the level of tea stocks.

Dog Biscuits

40.

asked the Minister of Food if he will improve the supply of dog biscuits in the South Eastern area.

Supplies of dog biscuits are not large because of the shortage of flour. I know of no special difficulties in the South Eastern area.

Is the Minister aware that the British people are determined to keep their dogs alive at all costs, and the only way to do it at the moment is by using their own rations and endangering their own lives?

Farm Workers

42.

asked the Minister of Food whether the special food allowance extended to farm workers for seasonal tasks will be continued throughout the summer, having regard to the impossibility of foreseeing any slackening in work between now and the harvest.

No, Sir, except for the seasonal occupations for which they are ordinarily available. We have already extended these allowances till the end of May and they will be restored for the harvest.

Having regard to the fact that agriculture is as important as the mining industry, and bearing in mind that the miner gets three or four times as much coal as the British housewife, would the right hon. Gentleman consider allocating three or four times more food to farmers and agricultural workers?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman should not forget that, in the case of cheese, the agricultural worker already gets six times more.

43.

asked the Minister of Food for what reason food executive officers are refusing to issue for the month of May special rations for farm-workers intensively engaged in overtaking arrears of seasonal work.

I know of no instance of their doing so, but if the hon. and gallant Member will let me have details of any case, I will look into the matter.

World Situation (Review)

44.

asked the Minister of Food when the next review of the general world food situation may be expected.

We shall not know the 1947–48 position until this year's Northern Hemisphere harvests are gathered. When these can be assessed, I shall issue a further review of the world food position and more particularly of prospects for 1947–48.

Does not the Minister remember that this review was promised as a regular quarterly publication, and it is row something like 10 months since the last edition? Would it not be a good thing to resume quarterly publication?

I must admit that the review is in arrear and should be issued, but I would not like to issue it now until we can see what the harvest situation will be. I quite agree, however, that we ought to produce one in the near future.

Potato Subsidy Claims

58.

asked the Minister of Food what steps are taken by his finance department at Oxford to check the accuracy of claims submitted by potato merchants in respect of subsidy; and, in particular, whether he is satisfied that there is any satisfactory check on claims with regard to variety, grade, class and weight.

Merchants' subsidy claims are scrutinised at Oxford before payment; and afterwards a proportion of them is closely checked in all material particulars, comparison being made with growers' records in selected cases. There have been prosecutions in several cases where wrongful claims have been discovered on subsequent checking.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is commonly believed by honest merchants that there are others who receive large sums of public money to which they are not entitled? Is he also aware that in cases where a bona fide mistake is made, merchants are paid without question?

I cannot say what the common belief amongst merchants is but I must point out that the potato merchants are a carefully controlled body and licences are only issued to merchants whom the Ministry believe are reputable. On the other hand, I agree that it is of the greatest importance that a sufficiently large number of these returns should be checked, and I am looking into the matter.

Glucose (Retail Chemists)

60.

asked the Minister of Food whether a greater proportion of the available supplies of glucose will be allocated to retail chemists, in view of the difficulty they have at present in honouring prescriptions.

I will see whether an increased proportion of the available supply can be diverted to retail chemists, although this can only take place at the expense of some other medical use. It would be helpful if all retailers of powdered glucose would take care to sell this scarce article only against medical certificates.

In view of the fact that a great number of retail chemists, especially, for instance, in North West Kent, are able to honour only one in ten of National Health prescriptions, will my right hon. Friend consider enlisting the assistance of the Pharmaceutical Society. to prevent the diversion of supplies for medical use to manufacturers?

It is of great importance that these supplies should he reserved for those who need them and I will consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend.

Wines And Spirits (Quality And Prices)

32.

asked the Minister of Food if he has now received reports from the appropriate authorities and trade associations on the quality and prices of drinks offered for sale by the wine company, to which his attention was drawn by the hon. Member for Maldon; arid what action has been taken.

I have received reports from the appropriate trade associations, who say that the wine company is not buying from any of their members. I have not found any grounds for drawing the attention of the local authorities to this particular case, but my Department has issued a circular to all local authorities about the enforcement of the Labelling of Food Order, 1946. Beyond bringing the case to the notice of the Excise authorities I do not propose to take further action.

Has the Minister considered the effect on foreign visitors to this country of seeing shops full of wines and spirits at utterly exorbitant prices?

Sterling Balances

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 6th May, with regard to sterling balances, represents the policy of His Majesty's Government.

Yes, Sir; there is nothing new in this policy which, so far as sterling area countries are concerned, was explicitly set out in Article 10 of the Anglo-American Financial Agreement, approved by this House on 13th December, 1945.

But in view of the fact that only two months now remain before the Anglo-American Agreement will be brought into force, can the Prime Minister say, first, whether he is satisfied that His Majesty's Government will have concluded all negotiations by that time, and, secondly, when we may expect a statement from His Majesty's Government in concrete terms on this matter?

That is a question which ought to be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Indians, South Africa

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether when the treatment of non-European communities by the Government of the Union of South Africa is discussed at the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the representatives of His Majesty's Government will be instructed to give no support to policies at variance with the Charter of the United Nations and the declared policy of His Majesty's Government themselves.

I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind the Resolution adopted at the last meeting of the Assembly of the United Nations in connection with the application made by the Government of India regarding the treatment of Indians in the Union of South Africa. The instructions to be given to the United Kingdom Government's representatives at the next Assembly, the precise nature of which will naturally depend upon the form in which the matter will come up, will continue to be based on the declared policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom which is founded on the Charter itself.

Supersonic Sound (Effect On Workers)

48.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether the Medical Research Council has yet completed its preliminary inquiries into the possible effects of supersonic sound upon the health of workers in the manufacture of turbo-jet aero-engines; and whether a programme of further research has been arranged.

I am informed that the matter is under investigation by the Air Ministry. In view of this the Medical Research Council have not proceeded, with any investigations of their own.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is already in my constituency a case of illness from this cause, and grave disquiet amongst the workers in this industry, and will he, therefore, do everything possible to expedite these inquiries?

I will keep that in mind, and it will no doubt be noted by the Air Ministry who are concerned with this matter.

Agriculture

Advisory Service

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement about the progress which is being made with the development of the Agricultural Advisory Service; and to what extent it will be in effective operation during 1947.

The National Agricultural Advisory Service was set up seven months ago and is now in effective operation though not yet at full strength. The eight provincial centres are in being, and the county staffs have been integrated with the county war agricultural executive committee organisation. In association with the provincial directors of the service the committees are playing an invaluable part in guiding the work of the county staffs and stimulating the interest of farmers and growers in the facilities the Service can provide. The work of the Service is under the general direction of a small staff of senior officers at Headquarters, who are closely associated with my Agricultural Improvement Council and through that body with the Agricultural Research Council. Owing to the severe and general shortage of suitably qualified men and women, the Service is at present one-third below strength; while building difficulties and shortages of scientific and other material are proving obstacles above all to the full equipment of the provincial centres and sub-centres. Everything possible is being done to resolve these difficulties and to bring the Service up to full strength and efficiency at the earliest practicable date.

Fowl Pest

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many cases of fowl pest have been notified; how many birds have been slaughtered during the past week; and what are the results of the discussions between officers of his Department and of the Ministry of Food as to the possibilities of lessening the risk of spreading this disease through the importation of dead poultry.

The number of outbreaks of fowl pest confirmed up to 8th May is 166. During the past week about 1,500 domestic fowls, 180 ducks and 20 geese have been slaughtered because of fowl pest. As to the last part of the Question, arrangements are being made for trial shipments of eviscerated poultry to be brought from central Europe. Pending the results of these trial shipments, none but eviscerated poultry will be imported from any country in Europe where fowl pest is prevalent.

In view of the fact that these figures are still going up, will the right hon. Gentleman try to arrange with the Press and the B.B.C. that full publicity is given to fresh outbreaks, so that the country may be aware of the situation?

I can assure the noble Lord that we are using both the Press and the B.B.C. to notify both commercial and domestic poultry keepers of the danger of this fowl pest.

Could this not be treated as foot-and-mouth disease is treated, so that far greater publicity is given as regards outbreaks in various parts of the country?

I can only repeat that we have invited the B.B.C. to give us all the assistance they can, and they have very readily agreed to do it.

Dairy Cows (Rations)

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that many farmers are dissatisfied with the allocation of rations for dairy cows during the present month; that in many areas, where pasture is not of first rate quality, the ration is insufficient to keep up milk production; and whether he will take steps to increase the ration during this and coming months.

I am not aware of any general dissatisfaction with the present scale of rations for dairy cows or that it is normally insufficient to keep up milk production. The reserves of feedingstuffs placed at the disposal of W.A.E.Cs. for issue at their discretion are primarily intended to provide supplementary rations for individual farmers whose milk output is affected by poor growth of grass, and applications by such farmers for supplementary rations for this purpose are accorded a high degree of priority.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that an increasing number of farmers are having milk returned to them because of alleged deficiency in butter-fat content? To avoid wastage in this matter, which is largely attributable to shortage and deficiency of feedingstuffs for milking cows, can he make some temporary adjustment of the regulations governing the broad question of the quality of milk?

I can assure my hon. Friend that no complaints of the kind have been brought to my notice. Should any such complaints be brought to our notice, and we have supplies of feedingstuffs available, we shall readily do our best to meet the needs.

May I ask the Minister what steps are being taken to increase rations for dairy cows by purchases of feedingstuffs from abroad?

I think my hon. Friend is aware that we are buying as much feedingstuffs from abroad as is possible, and that on 1st May rations for all kinds of animals were increased.

Poultry (Hard Corn)

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when the additional supplies of hard corn for poultry breeding purposes are to be made available this season.

The increased rations for poultry, including poultry breeding stock, came into operation on 1st May. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the announcement. A proportion of hard corn may be obtained, if desired, against the monthly cereal coupons and the chick food coupons issued to poultry keepers eligible for rations.

While I thank the Minister for that reply, can he say when this will be available in the South Western district?

Derelict Land, Kingsbridge

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that there is land lying derelict within the area of the Kingsbridge Rural District Council on which formerly crops of early potatoes were produced; and when he proposes to take steps to bring back this land into cultivation.

I understand that all arable land in the Kingsbridge Rural District Council's area has been scheduled for cropping this year, but if my hon. Friend will send me particulars of the land she has in mind, I will make further inquiries.

River Severn (Navigation Plans)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what progress has been made, since the conference at Gloucester last summer called by the county N.F.U., in the examination by his Department of plans to improve the navigation of the Severn between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire prepared by the Severn Commission.

My Department is in close touch with the Ministry of Transport, the River Severn Catchment Board and the Severn Commission to ensure that agricultural interests are safeguarded in any scheme which may be adopted to provide improved navigation on the river.

Will the Minister recollect that he gave an approximately similar reply to representations made 12 months ago, and will he answer the part of the Question which asks what progress has been made?

I am afraid I can only say that the representatives of my Department have been in consultation with both the Catchment Board and the Ministry of Transport to see what scheme or schemes can be undertaken to relieve that particular area. As to progress, I am afraid I can report very little at present.

Is it not a fact that a decision on the matter of the Severn navigation is not likely to be taken for a considerable time and, meanwhile, the Severn bank erosion is going on pretty rapidly? Cannot some urgent measures be taken in the meantime?

A decision by the Ministry of Transport or the proposed British Transport Commission on the proposals made by the Severn Commission, must be taken before the River Severn Catchment Board can determine finally what step should be taken to improve certain stretches of the river.

Railways

Charges (Increases)

63.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give an assurance that passenger and freight rail rates will not be further increased this year.

I can give no such assurance. I stated in February that the Charges Consultative Committee had recommended certain increases in railway charges, and that the Government had decided to review the position at the end of March in the light of further experience of the trends of receipts and expenditure. It now appears that, apart from the effects of the severe weather and the fuel crisis in the first quarter of this year, other factors are affecting net revenue adversely. To the end of March, the pooled net revenue of the railway companies fell short of the appropriate proportion of the fixed annual sums payable to them by about £18 million. It is estimated that this deficiency will increase to about £23 million by 30th June, and possibly to about £32 million by the end of the year. These estimates justify increases substantially in excess of those recommended by the Committee, and the Government are giving close consideration to the steps necessary to meet the position.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has just given an account of what is a most depressing future for the industry? Is he aware that under nationalisation the charges will be further increased, and, in view of the present condition of the country economically, will he give an assurance to the public and to traders that the charges will not be increased?

I have already stated that I can give no assurance. This has nothing to do with the form of control of the railways. The railways would have been in a worse position if they were not under control.

What becomes of the promise of cheap and efficient transport under nationalisation?

That is a question which, later on, the noble Lord might be in a better position to judge

Is my right hon. Friend aware that paying subsidies to private enterprise on this scale is not justified?

I do not think the question arises. The control agreement is in order at the present moment, and the State must meet its obligations, like everyone else.

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman's estimate takes account of the claim for about £70 million per annum extra pay from the railway staffs?

I do not quite see the connection, and, in any case, these are not my estimates, but the railway companies' estimates.

Employees' Savings Banks

79.

asked the Minister of Transport what will be the effect of the Transport Bill upon railway employees' savings banks, especially regarding trusteeships, powers to invest deposits, persons entitled to make deposits, the rate of interest payable on deposits and the presentation of accounts.

The Commission will inherit precisely the same rights and liabilities as the railway companies now possess. While the Commission would have no power to abrogate any rights of depositors, they will no doubt wish to consider whether as a matter of long-term policy the facilities for saving by their staff should not be assimilated to those provided by the National Savings movement.

Did the right hon. Gentleman consult the National Union of Railwaymen and other unions on this matter before the Transport Bill was presented?

Children's Tickets

81.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is now in a position to make a statement with regard to the adjustment of the age-limit for children's tickets on the railways to correspond with the school-leaving age.

Not yet, Sir. It is necessary to consider this matter in relation to the general financial position of the railways about which I have answered another Question.

Can the Minister say how soon we may expect an answer on this matter, as it affects the summer holidays and is causing muddle and anxiety to people who are trying to spread over their summer holidays?

My hon. Friend knows that this is for general casual travel and not for travel for education purposes, and in view of the figures I have given previously, I am afraid that I must consider this in relation to other financial problems of the railways.

Mid-Week Travel

82.

asked the Minister of Transport if railway fares will be reduced for mid-week travel during the holiday season, in order to prevent congestion at week-ends.

Shipping

Cross-Channel Services, Northern Ireland

83.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that sailing tickets for journeys to Northern Ireland are being brought into use early next month; and whether it is possible to avoid this serious inconvenience to the travelling public by putting more cross-channel steamers into use.

Yes, Sir. Reintroduction for the summer period is necessary to avoid the inconvenience to the travelling public which would otherwise be experienced during a period of heavy travel. All

The following statement, based on information supplied by the Board of Trade, shows the number of vessels that arrived and departed with cargo at the port of London during each month from January, 1946, to March, 1947, inclusive:

Arrived.Departed.
Foreign Trade.Coasting Trade.Total.Foreign Trade.Coasting Trade.Total.
1946.
January191674865256218474
February190621811217225442
March226770996225338563
April269620889301277578
May271711982322290612
June307643950293287580
July3556721,027347246593
August388611999326276602
September4236871,110330253583
October4557611,216399267666
November3937251,118364247611
December4177021,119338256594
1947
January3717361,107312247559
February308682990259221480
March3998011,200296293589

available vessels will be in use at the peak periods.

Does that mean that all the vessels normally employed and built for those services will be used, and would the right hon. Gentleman say what he considers to be the peak period?

I do not wish to convey the impression that it will make their maximum number of sailings possible. We must have regard to the overall coal savings which the railways and similar services must obtain during this period, but undoubtedly they will be augmented.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say if other services besides those carrying people to Ireland will make a similar saving? So far it is entirely confined to services to Ireland.

Cargo Tonnage, London And Glasgow

64.

asked the Minister of Transport the number of cargo-carrying ships entering and leaving the Port of London; and the tonnage weight of cargo carried for each month in 1946–47 to the nearest convenient date.

As the reply includes a large number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The following information has been supplied to me by the Port Of London

Authority and shows the tonnage of imports and exports and transhipments for the quarters ending

30th September and 31st December, 1946:

Quarter ended 30th September.Quarter ended 31st DecemberTotal for six months.
tons.tons.tons.
Overseas Imports2,842,0932,360,1715,202,264
Overseas Exports655,873817,2021,473,075
Total, Overseas Trade3,497,9663,177,3736,675,339
Coasting Imports3,453,4863,616,5387,070,024
Coasting Exports294,074352,693646,767
Total, Coasting Trade3,747,5603,969,2317,716,791
Transhipments Inwards202,602265,221467,823
Transhipments Outwards202,602265,221467,823
Total, Transhipments405,204530,442935,646
Grand Total of Imports, Exports and Transhipments7,650,7307,677,04615,327,776

The analysis of imports and exports was discontinued by the Port of London Authority during the war. It was only re-started on the 1st July, 1946, and figures are available for these two quarters only.

66.

asked the Minister of Transport the number of cargo-carrying ships entering and leaving the Port of Glasgow; and the tonnage weight of cargo carried in each month for a year ended at the nearest convenient date.

As the reply includes a large number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say if his answer includes the size of the ships involved in each

The following statement based on information supplied by the Board of Trade

shows the number of vessels that arrived and departed with cargo at the port of Glasgow during

each month from April, 1946, to March, 1947, inclusive:

Arrived.Departed.
Foreign trade.Coasting trade.Total.Foreign trade.Coasting trade.Total
1946.
April5224930155220275
May5823929750225275
June4728132848261309
July3731134843268311
August5430736155260315
September7725232964227291
October9523533083244327
November8123431573231304
December6423229676208284
1947.
January7220828053218271
February5616522152195247
March5321927237211248

case—that is not specifically asked, but it is important?

Would it be possible in circulating the reply, for my right hon. Friend also to give the total labour force in the Port of London, and in the Port of Glasgow?

Both those supplementary questions raise points that were not in the Question. I shall be happy to furnish that information in reply to Questions put down to me.

Following is the reply:

The following information has been supplied to me by the Clyde Navigation Trust and shows the tonnage of imports and exports for each month from April, 1946, to March, 1947, inclusive:
Foreign.Coastwise.
Imports.Exports Imports.Exports.
tons.tons.tons.tons.
1946
April236,90161,90971,53682,438
May262,33964,54778,20381,336
June242,91260,55575,13979,302
July223,69147,97964,47973,873
August187,16941,95260,12870,061
September272,35852,24370,53380,698
October241,79753,32074,26087,378
November249,50948,69076,10990,117
December348,19054,29368,70387,025
1947
January223,85359,16757,31773,071
February181,56722,75558,53560,976
March209,22560,03459,54865,678
2,879,511627,444814,490931,953

SUMMARY.
Foreign Imports2,879,511
Foreign Exports627,444
Coastwise Imports814,490
Coastwise Exports931,953
5,253,398

Lptb

Staggered Hours, London Offices

65.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress has now been made in the staggering of hours of work in London offices to reduce the pressure upon transport services during the peak periods; and, in particular, what contribution Government offices are making in this direction.

Negotiations are proceeding, and agreement has already been reached with many firms, which are making the necessary adjustments. Government offices have had staggered working hours for some years past and certain adjustments are now being considered to fit in with the general plan.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the population of Greater London is increasing on an average by 45,000 each month, and that by the end of this year it will be greater than the 1938 population, and that that in turn will greatly affect this peak traffic problem? Is he satisfied that arrangements are being made to meet that?

I am aware of the increase of population, but I am not satisfied that we can make an entirely satisfactory arrangement. However, the process of encouraging the staggering of hours does help to lessen the problem

Children's Tickets

67.

asked the Minister of Transport when the L.P.T.B. propose to introduce the two-thirds fare season tickets for juveniles aged 16 and 17 years.

The necessary Statutory Order is now being prepared, but I regret that I am not yet in a position to give the date on which the new arrangement will come into force.

May I ask the Minister of Transport, in regard to this and a lot of other questions, whether he has ever heard of a vicious spiral? If not, will he see that this is a disastrous process?

Tramways Services, South London

85.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the inconvenience suffered by travellers in South London through the increasingly frequent breakdown of tramcars; and what steps are being taken to improve the service.

Difficulties have been caused by a shortage of spare parts. This is being overcome, with progressive improvement in maintenance.

Inland Transport

Increased Fares (Revenue)

68.

asked the Minister of Transport the approximate sum of extra revenue accruing to date to the transport undertakings concerned as a result of the passenger fare increases approved by him during the past fiscal year.

The amount of additional receipts resulting from the increases in passenger fares introduced on the main line railways and the Green Line Coaches on 1st July, 1946, and on the road and rail services on the London Passenger Transport Board on 9th February, 1947, was approximately £14 millions up to 27th April last.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that no part of this increase is going towards the advertising campaign of the railway companies and road hauliers on the subject of nationalisation, and if so, can he give any idea where the quarter of a million pounds is coming from for that purpose?

I cannot determine how railways distribute their dividends. Later on, of course, that will not arise.

European Organisation (Governments' Subscriptions)

72.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he anticipates that the European Central Inland Transport Organisation may have to shut down shortly owing to the failure of certain Member Governments to pay their agreed contributions towards its expenditure; what Governments are involved; what are the amounts outstanding; and up to what date have full subscriptions been paid.

The total amount of unpaid subscription at the present time is £129,500. Of this sum £95,000 is represented by half of the U.S.S.R. subscription for the last financial year and the whole of their subscription for the current financial year. The delay in paying the balance of the other subscriptions arises, I understand, mainly from currency difficulties. The attention of the Soviet Authorities has been drawn to the critical financial position in which the Organisation will shortly find itself if their outstanding subscriptions are not paid forthwith.

Does this organisation serve any important British interests, and if not why are we being asked as one of two Governments to raise our contribution?

We are not one of two Governments. I have replied to a specific Question.

Roads

Safety Barriers, Clevedon

73.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will inquire into the need for safety barriers outsides those schools in Clevedon which are on the main through road, as this matter has now been under consideration for some months by the Somerset County Council, without result.

The local education authority are considering the need for the provision of safety barriers outside schools on the Class II road B.3130 in Clevedon, and as far as I am aware, the negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily.

Is the Minister also aware that if matters are proceeding satisfactorily they are proceeding in such a leisurely way that neither the inhabitants nor the headmaster nor the headmistress of the school can possibly be satisfied? Could he not do something to speed up matters? This has been going on for a year.

This is primarily the responsibility of the Somerset County Council. Inquiries have been made quite recently by the Ministry of Education, and maybe this Question, which the hon. Member has asked, may hasten the matter in some respects.

Tour, Blackpool-Scarborough

75.

asked the Minister of Transport why the Traffic Commissioner for the North-west Area refused an appli- cation from the Batty-Holt Touring Service, Limited, Blackpool, to operate a five days' tour to Scarborough.

According to my information, this application was withdrawn on 30th April before it could be heard at a public sitting.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it rather hard that these people who live in Blackpool should not have the same chance of getting to Scarborough as people from other areas?

I do not think that question arises. I am dealing with a specific allegation which, as far as I can see, has no substance.

If I send the right hon. Gentleman full particulars will he have an inquiry made?

I will certainly look into any information which the hon. Gentleman cares to submit to me.

Selby Toll Bridge

76.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his Department or the county councils of the West Riding and East Riding of Yorkshire are primarily responsible for negotiating with the owners of Selby Toll Bridge; and whether, and on what date, negotiations for the purchase of the toll rights were initiated.

On 20th January, 1947, my Department, which, in agreement with the county councils, is taking the initiative in this matter, requested the chief valuer to undertake negotiations for a provisional settlement.

How is it that the Minister has been able to tell me by successive answers in the last few months that negotiations are proceeding while I have information from the owners of the bridge that the first approach made to them by the Ministry was about a fortnight ago?