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Commons Chamber

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1947

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 21st May, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Telephone Service

New Cable, Hampton


asked the Postmaster-General, following his communication to the hon. Member for Henley in May, 1946, that a new telephone cable from Kingston Blount to Hampton would be laid within a few months, when it is now anticipated this work will be completed.

I am sorry that owing to the large number of similar cables required throughout the country and to the shortage of materials, I am still not able to say when this particular cable can he provided.

Will the Postmaster-General inform the Hampton parish council that this is part of the programme of "Let Us Face The Future"?

Emergency Repair Service


asked the Postmaster-General whether an emergency repair staff is always ready to repair telephone breakdowns on the lines of doctors, chemists, veterinary surgeons and the like.

Outside normal working hours, emergency linemen are on "call duty" at their homes, which are specially provided with telephones. They arc available at any time to repair telephones likely to be concerned with safety of life.

Waiting Applicants


asked the Postmaster-General how many applicants are awaiting installation of telephones in England, Scotland and Wales at the present time.

On 30th April, 1947, there were 390,104 applications for telephones outstanding in England, Scotland and Wales.

What priority is given to nurses, doctors and hospitals, where necessary?

I think priority is given to people concerned with the saving of life, but I do not know whether nurses are included.

Will the Postmaster-General look into this question again, particularly in regard to district nurses?

Part-Time Work


asked the Postmaster-General whether it is a general practice for full-time local government officers to work in their spare time as Post Office telephone operators; and whether, in the particular case to which his attention has been drawn, he will replace this part-time labour by disabled men or women.

No, Sir. We do not expect part-time staff employed on telephone work in the evenings to he dependent on that work for their livelihood. Preference is given to men who are not in full-time employment during the day, but where these are not forthcoming, we employ men who have other full-time work. Preference is also given to registered disabled men, and over 13 per cent. of the total number of men employed on telephone work are in this category. I am unable to agree to the discharge of the part-time men at the particular place referred to by my hon. Friend. I understand that the local office of the Ministry of Labour has no applicants for part-time employment on telephone work in the evenings.

Is the Postmaster-General saying that it is not possible to get disabled ex-Servicemen, or others who are fit only for light work, to cover these duties, and is it not most undesirable that full-time local government officers should be working part-time in this way?

I have stated that wherever possible we get disabled men, and that 13 per cent. of these people are disabled.

Post Office

Heating, Post Office


asked the Postmaster-General in view of the fact that space heating is prohibited as from 5th May, why the steam heating was full on in the post office at Whittington Avenue, E.C.3, after that date.

The Post Office occupies, as lessees, only a part of the ground floor and basement of No. 5 Whittington Avenue in which is accommodated the Leadenhall Street Branch Post Office. The heating for the Post Office is provided, in common with that for the rest of the building, by the lessors and is not controlled by the Post Office. I am informed that although the system still retained some heat, the boilers were not fired on 5th May.

Does not the Postmaster-General realise that my Question refers to "after" 5th May? Does he not realise also that it sets a very bad example to the rest of the country if Departments do not do their best to comply with the regulations in regard to space heating?

My answer indicated that although the system still retained some heating, the boilers were not fired.

May I ask the Postmaster-General to read the Question again, which states "from 5th May"?

Letter Deliveries


asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce have passed a resolution, of which he has been sent a copy, protesting, in view of the time taken in the transmission of letters from London, against his new proposal to restrict daily postal deliveries there to two forenoon deliveries in the business area of that city and to abolish the after- noon deliveries; and if he will now direct that at least the present number and times of deliveries be maintained.

I have received a copy of the resolution passed by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, but I regret that I should not be justified in excluding Aberdeen from modifications of services which are designed to save manpower and which are being applied without exception throughout the country. I am advised that the changes at Aberdeen will not affect materially the time of transmission of letters from London.

Does the Postmaster-General realise that if letters are not sorted in time for the morning delivery, they miss a whole day, having regard to the hour the train arrives at Aberdeen?

We have had some regard paid to that. I think the train arrives at about 8 o'clock, which means that the letters should catch the 11 o'clock delivery.

Is the Postmaster-General aware that the train generally arrives after 9 o'clock, and that the letters are not sorted in time for delivery that day?

If the train is an hour late, I think the letters would catch the second delivery.

Does the Postmaster-General consider that with the reduction in postal facilities all the requirements of the City of Aberdeen can be met, and in view of the general reduction in postal services everywhere, will he make a corresponding reduction in postal charges?

Royal Air Force

Air Training Corps


asked the Secretary of State for Air the present strength of the A.T.C.; and the maximum allowed.

The present strength of the A.T.C. is about 47,000 The maximum strength allowed is 75,000.

Is it not rather a pity that this excellent corps is being allowed to run down like this? What is my right hon. Friend doing to encourage them?

I think it was inevitable that there should be some drop after the war. But that drop was arrested at the end of last year, and the force is now increasing.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the strength of the force as compared with a year ago?

Considerably less. A year ago it was about 57,000. It fell at the end of January to 46,600, and has since begun to increase.

Oakington And Waterbeach


asked the Secretary of State for Air the number of aircraft operating from the R.A.F. stations at Oakington and Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire; on what service the machines are engaged; the total number of persons employed at each station and the total cost thereof.

One squadron of 20 aircraft is based at Oakington, and another squadron at Waterbeach. The aircraft are Yorks, and they are engaged in the passenger and freight services run by Transport Command to the Middle East, India and Singapore. Nine hundred and thirty-four members of the R.A.F. are stationed at Oakington, and 801 at Waterbeach. The cost of the two stations is about £560,000 a year.

Could not my right hon. Friend see that the personnel of these two stations were all put on one station, which would release about 300 or 400 acres for food production?

My hon. Friend is wrong in thinking that one station could take both squadrons.

Would it not be possible to concentrate our air strength in that part of the world at the old-established prewar stations like Mildenhall, Stradishall and Honington, instead of keeping so many of them on good arable land, which is being wasted?

The whole question of the location of our stations has been under consideration for a long time.

Miho Air Station


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that at the B.C. air station at Miho, Japan, potatoes are issued with only three meals a week; that there was no heating for airmen throughout the winter; that mail from the United Kingdom takes nearly four weeks to arrive; and what steps he proposes to take to improve conditions at this station.

I have received full reports from the British Commonwealth Air Station at Miho on all the matters mentioned in his Question by my hon. Friend. For the last seven weeks, potatoes have been served on the average, 11 times a week; the airmen's messing committee consider that the quantity and the quality of the food are very good. Airmail usually takes a fortnight to reach Miho from the United Kingdom; sometimes it may take a few days longer, when aircraft are delayed by adverse weather. The heating of the buildings at Miho during the winter left much to be desired; the station offices, the messes and the recreation rooms were heated, but for most of the winter most of the sleeping quarters were not. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that temporary stoves have now been provided in nearly all of them; for next winter permanent steam heating will be installed.

Can the Minister say why, nearly two years after the war, conditions in Miho should approximate so closely to the conditions in Great Britain?

Surplus Telephones


asked the Secretary of State for Air if, in view of the delay suffered by the general public in being put on the telephone, owing to shortage of material, including instruments, he will release to the Post Office the many instruments lying idle at Tarrant Rushton aerodrome.

Yes, Sir. The hon. and gallant Member will be glad to know that the Post Office have already been asked to take away all the telephones at Tarrant Rushton that are no longer needed by the R.A.F.

Tarrant Rushton (Guard)


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that the aerodrome and buildings at Tarrant Rushton are practically unguarded, with the result that there is no protection for the large amount of valuable Government property still there; and what action he proposes to take to prevent theft.

The station at Tarrant Rushton is not now in use, but a small detachment of the R.A.F. is stationed there to act as guard. I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for raising the matter, and I have given instructions that careful inquiries should be made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at times there is no one on the aerodrome at all?

I have seen the reports in the Press, and I am inquiring into the matter.

Why was not this done before? Is it not a case of incompetence?

I do not understand what the hon. Member means. There has been a guard on the station. Allegations have been made that on one occasion the aerodrome was unguarded, and I am inquiring into that matter.


19 and 20.

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether he is aware that the theatrical performance, "Wings," produced and presented by his Department, is being advertised extensively, and almost exclusively, by means of fly-posting; and whether this has been authorised by his Department;

(2) whether his attention has been called to the continuous fly-posting of recruiting bills on private property by his Department and to the consequent defacement of existing Government and other posters; by whose authority this has been done, in contra-distinction to other classes of Government advertising; and if he will give instructions for the immediate discontinuance of this practice.

I regret that the practice of fly-posting has been adopted by some local recruiting officers. This was done without the authority of my Department, and I have given instructions that it must stop at once.

Is not the Minister aware that the Labour Movement generally was built up by fly-posting?

I think that the Labour Movement has more solid foundations than that, but in any case the practice has the disadvantage of being illegal, so T have stopped it.

Personal Case


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether 4018804 A.C.2 J. B Starkey, stationed at R.A.F. camp, Bridgnorth, Salop, whose commanding officer has recommended his release from the Service on the ground of the extreme financial hardship suffered by this airman's family, has yet been released

I am considering with every care the application for release made by A.C.2 Starkey, and I will write to my hon. Friend with the least possible delay.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a matter of principle is at stake here? Is he aware that the man's commanding officer, after a full review of the facts, recommended his release, and that during the two months this case has been under consideration conditions have so deteriorated that a grant has had to be made to this airman from the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund?

Yes, Sir, it was because it was thought there was real hardship that it was decided to make a grant from the Benevolent Fund. I fully agree that this is a very important matter, and that is why I am giving it my personal attention.

Civil Aviation

Skyways, Ltd (Chartering)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation how many aircraft belonging to Skyways, Limited, are being operated by B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.C.; what proportion, respectively, this represents of the total aircraft on chartered or scheduled services operated by each of the two Corporations named; whose administrative staff is being used; and what is being paid per aircraft mile for Dakota craft and the latest type of interim four-engined aircraft chartered from Skyways, Limited, respectively.

In order to supplement their awn capacity to India, the British Overseas Airways Corporation have arranged for Skyways, Ltd., to operate one York service once a week between United Kingdom and Karachi on a short-term basis. This is approximately equivalent to the utilisation of one aircraft, which represents less than 1 per cent. of the total number of aircraft in the Corporation's own service fleet. The service is flown by crows provided by Skyways, Ltd., but the Corporation's administrative staff is used. The charter rate is fixed on a business basi between the two companies, and it would be contrary to normal commercial practice to publish it to third parties. No aircraft belonging to Skyways, Ltd., are on charter to British European Airways Corporation.

Am I to understand that Skyways, Limited are concerned only with the Indian route, and that they have no charter planes flying on any European route?

There is only one charter by Skyways, Limited. They are an efficient charter company, and I believe they have direct charters between certain firms in the Far East and in Europe.

Sicily And Malta


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, whether it is intended to use either Castel Benito or an aerodrome in Sicily instead of Luqa aerodrome in Malta; and what additional work is required to extend Luqa airfield in order to make it safe for new types of aircraft.

My noble Friend has already received reports which suggest that Luqa aerodrome in Malta may be unsuitable for continuous use by four-engined aircraft. These reports are under urgent examination by my noble Friend, in conjunction with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Secretary of State for Air. As to the second part of the Question, it would be premature to give a definite reply about the additional work required at Luqa, until the results of the examination are known. Meanwhile, it is probable that British Overseas Airways Corporation services will be re-routed, at least temporarily, to Castel Benito.

Would the hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that so far as possible British money and materials will be spent in the Colonies or Dominions? In a case like this, where the Air Ministry and other Departments are concerned, can the hon. Gentleman say which is the coordinating Department?

My noble Friend takes the initiative in the operation of air services and has the active co-operation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. In the case of a joint-user aerodrome, such as this, he has the co-operation of the Secretary of State for Air. It is the policy of my Department, wherever possible, to see that aerodromes are established on British territory.

Priority Allocations (Continent)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to what extent passages by air to the Continent are made available to those who wish to go on business journeys of importance to the export trade of this country compared with tourists who go there to spend a holiday, thereby absorbing foreign exchange without any corresponding contribution.

Of the 19 scheduled services at present operated between this country and the Continent only six are now subject to priority control. On the question of the method of priority allocations on those services, I refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr Jennings) on 14th May last.

Is my hon. Friend not aware that of first importance to this country at the present time is the export trade and not the export of tourists; and will he try to persuade his noble Friend to get the Corporations to introduce some system of priority, similar to that in force under the Ministry of Transport in connection with sea passages?

My noble Friend and I are the servants of this House, and we desire to express the feeling of this House that, as quickly as possible, all priorities on air routes should be given up. That has been the desire of the House, and it has also been the policy of my noble Friend. I agree that, as soon as all priority control is given up, the person who books a passage, irrespective of the value or purpose of his travelling, takes a seat, and sometimes business people are hindered by this practice.

Can the hon. Gentleman say, where priorities still continue, how much notice must be given to the aircraft companies that a priority seat is to be abandoned?

A priority seat abandoned by the individual who has been given priority?

He is supposed to give up the seat as soon as he knows that he will not be taking it. The same rule applies as to normal commercial passengers. If he gives it up in a period of time which enables a rebooking to be made, he is relieved of the cost of the seat. If he is unable to resell, a percentage charge is made for the seat, according to the period that has elapsed before his giving it up.


Political Prisoners (Relief)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the appeals recently made by the political prisoners in Alcalá de Henares to the International Red Cross for a supply of vitamins necessary to keep them alive in the terrible conditions under which they are imprisoned; and if he will make representations on their behalf

The answer to each part of the Question is: Not yet, Sir. My right hon. Friend is, however, making inquiries and will be glad to receive further particulars from the hon. and learned Member.

Penal Commission (Membership)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will resist the admission of Spain to the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission having regard to the continued violation by the Spanish Government of the principles maintained by civilised countries relating to the treatment of prisoners.

The hon. and learned Member is apparently under a misapprehension. Spain has been a member of the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission since before the first World War. The question of continued Spanish membership is under consideration by His Majesty's Government, but a decision on this point is not a matter for His Majesty's Government alone.

Will His Majesty s Government, so far as they have any influence on the matter, oppose its continuance?

Is it not contrary to the aims and ideals of that Commission to allow Franco ideals to be propagated upon it?

Austria (Food Demonstration)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the recent demonstration of io,000 workers in Vienna who went on strike because of the shortage of food and what steps are being taken to improve the position.

This demonstration was ostensibly against short rations of potatoes and meat which Austrian farmers have failed to deliver in sufficient quantities. The Austrian Marketing Association for potatoes has recently been strengthened but the restoration of the full potato ration is not expected until after the next harvest, as a considerable part of last year's crop has by now been used up irregularly. As for meat, low controlled prices have led to evasion of slaughtering instructions by farmers. As an immediate remedy the Austrian Government have now offered a subsidy of one schilling per on all meat delivered.

Can the hon. Gentleman say if every effort is being made to increase the local production by the provision of seeds, fertilisers and agricultural machinery?

We are making every effort in that direction. On the precise point, perhaps the hon. Member would put down a separate question.

In view of the substantial grant in aid which this country has made to Austria, will my hon. Friend continue to impress upon the Austrian Government the need to secure better deliveries from the peasants, who have been feeding horses in preference to cattle, and pigs in preference to human beings?

Yes, Sir. We are making these suggestions very vigorously, and we are in direct and constant touch with the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture in connection with them.


United Kingdom Creditors


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the announcement that the Polish Financial Agreement is to be ratified, he will give an assurance that before this takes place, all just claims of creditors of the Polish State in England will be safeguarded.

No, Sir: but this matter was discussed during the recent Anglo-Polish trade talks, about which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made a statement in the House on 8th May. A satisfactory understanding was reached, but since it is still provisional and further talks are to follow, I should prefer not to make a detailed statement just yet.

Western Frontier


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the definitive Polish western frontier will be the same as that decided upon at Potsdam.

I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's remarks on this subject in his opening speech in the foreign affairs Debate in this House last Thursday.

Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that a very large number of Poles who were evacuated from the territory East of the Curzon Line are now colonising land East of the Oder; that they are suffering intense anxiety as to their future position, and it is, therefore, essential that some definite steps should be taken?

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are a very large number of Poles in Scotland, and the Scottish people are anxious to know when they will be able to get rid of them?

Is my hon. Friend aware that, on this single issue, the present Polish Government and the Poles opposed to that Government in this country are agreed; and is he further aware that the Poles claim to have a letter written by Sir Alexander Cadogan assuring them of British support for their views, irrespective of what the Americans or anyone else may say?

I have no knowledge whatever of such an undertaking. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question, I will give it further consideration.

Does not the hon. Gentleman consider that unless the frontier is readjusted as contemplated at Potsdam, the pressure of population will force it to be adjusted, and there will be another war in the future?

We approach this question with an open mind. We feel that it is necessary to have a full examination of all the facts involved before any final and irrevocable decision is taken.

Poles, Uk (Repatriation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, since it is the recommendation of His Majesty's Government that all Poles in the United Kingdom and in the British zones of Austria and Germany should return to Poland, what assurance he has received that the many thousands of Poles who fought in General Anders' Corps in Italy after more than 18 months' forced labour in Siberia and other parts of the U.S.S.R., and thousands of other Poles with known anti-Communist views, will be able to live the lives of free men if they accept the advice of His Majesty's Government and return to their homeland.

I have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Member for Belfast University (Professor Savory) on 19th May.

Cannot the Minister understand that Poles who have once experienced Communist methods at first hand, and particularly the methods of the N.K.V.D., may not be very anxious to return to their country in the present circumstances?

That is a decision for the Poles themselves to take. We have made our view plain that they are needed at home and should go home.

Is the Minister aware that he has not made his view plain that they are needed at home, but that they ought to go home, and does he still stand by that?

Yugoslavia (Refugees)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many refugees from the Communist regime in Yugoslavia have arrived in the British zone of Austria; what arrangements are being made for the future of these people; how many of these refugees are so-called Volksdeutsche; what approaches have been made to the Yugoslav Government to stop the expulsion of these people in conditions of great cruelty; what replies have been received to these approaches; and what he estimates to he the future extent of this problem.

As the answer is necessarily very long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT

Can my hon. Friend say whether there is any evidence to support the allegation made in the Question that the Yugoslav Government are, in fact, expelling people under conditions of great cruelty?

I think that they have, at times, been expelled in conditions of unnecessary hardship.

Is the Minister aware that I myself was on the Yugoslavia border about six weeks ago, and I can confirm that they were being expelled under conditions of the utmost cruelty?

Following is the answer:

5,500 Yugoslavs have arrived in the British zone of Austria since the end of the war. Their ultimate disposal will he the concern of the International Refugee Organisation working in conjunction with the zonal authorities. In addition there are approximately 35,000 Yugoslav Volksdeutsche in the British zone who have either fled or been expelled from Yugoslavia.

His Majesty's Ambassador in Belgrade has repeatedly demanded that the Yugo- slav Government should halt these expulsions, which, as the hon. and gallant Member's Question implies, are often carried out in conditions of unnecessary hardship and are not sanctioned by any international agreement. Although the Yugoslav authorities have on many occasions given satisfactory assurances in reply to our representations, the unauthorised movement of Volksdeutsche into Austria from Yugoslavia still continues.

As regards the last part of the Question, it is believed that there remain considerable numbers of Volksdeutsche in Yugoslavia. There has been no international agreement as to their future and it is therefore impossible to estimate the future extent of the problem facing the British authorities in Austria.


Press Representation, United Kingdom


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make arrangements for representatives of the German Press in the British zone to be located in London, with the object of keeping Germany as fully informed as possible as to the policy and outlook of the British people and His Majesty's present Government.

My right hon. Friend is considering the possibility of making some such arrangement. In the meantime, a number of German journalists are visiting this country for periods of six weeks.

Herring Contracts


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the continued failure of his Department to place contracts for cured and klondyked herring on behalf of the Control Commission for Germany is causing great anxiety in the industry; and, in view of the present food crisis in Germany, if he will now state the amount of cured and klondyked herring which it is proposed to export to the Control Commission.

The procurement of food for the British and American zones is the responsibility, not of any British authority, but of the joint British and American authorities in Germany. Those authorities have now authorised negotiations for the purchase of 25,000 tons of cured herring from this country, and, subject to agreement on price, there is every prospect of an order also being placed for klondyked herring.

In view of the starvation in Germany and the amount of valuable nutritious food now available, does not the hon. Gentleman think it scandalous that these negotiations have not already been completed, and can he give any indication when they will be brought to a conclusion?

I fully agree about the urgency of the problem and the value of the fish. I cannot give a definite date when these contracts will be through. All I can say is that it is agreed in principle and negotiations arc taking place with regard to price.

Will the Minister say whether similar arrangements will be made for Cornish pilchards?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the best herring comes from Loch Fine and not from Aberdeen, and will he keep that in mind?

I should be 10th to pronounce upon the relative merits of herring from hon. Members' constituencies.

Repatriation Of Prisoners


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the German prisoners of war, totalling approximately 2,000,000, will be repatriated from each of the allied countries by 31st December, 1948, as arranged at Moscow and what has happened to the balance of approximately 2,500,000 of whom no mention was made in the Moscow report.

It was agreed in Moscow that all German prisoners-of-war located in the territory of the Allied Powers and in all other territories will be returned to Germany by the end of 1948. No figures were specified in this decision, but the figures of holdings tabled at Moscow were:

United States of America15,003
United Kingdom435,295
As regards the second hall of the Question, I am not aware of any well-established set of figures with which to compare those announced by the four Governments at Moscow.

Can my hon. Friend say what has happened to over 2,500,000 prisoners which the Russians had? Have they died of starvation, been enlisted in the Russian Army, or what?

I am aware that there has been some surprise felt by the lowness of the figure given by the Russian Government in view of their great victories in the war.

In order to facilitate the repatriation of the prisoners, will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it is not the policy of His Majesty's Government to exterminate the German people by starvation?

Italy (Repatriated Russians)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the forcible repatriation of some 185 Russians was attempted from camps Nos. 6 and 7 under British control at Rimini on 8th May; whether he will state the number of attempted suicides, the number of deaths and the number wounded now in hospital as a result of this action; and whether he is aware that this forced repatriation is contrary to promises made to this House.

I have received a telegraphic account of the incident to which my hon. Friend refers. My information is that there were no suicides, nor attempts of suicide, nor woundings, nor admissions to hospital. From the party of 180 men, three were excluded before entrainment on medical grounds, and one died of pneumonia. Three men escaped. I am told there were no other incidents. The men repatriated fall within the categories of Soviet citizens who are serving members of the Soviet armed forces or who gave active assistance to the enemy, and who, under the instructions issued to the Allied Command in Italy by the British and American military authorities, fall to be repatriated under the Yalta Agreement on Repatriation. No undertaking has been given which would preclude the repatriation of men within these categories.

As there is evidently some varied evidence, will my hon. Friend examine the evidence which I will lay before him—

Why does not the hon. Gentleman join the hon. Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory)?

I can do without your advice. Is it not outrageous to expect to continue to carry out a policy laid down at Yalta, which clearly adumbrated that there should be a fair trial and return of these people, when there is now no fair trial; and is my hon. Friend aware that these people were got into the train by being told that they were going to Scotland to help the miners?

I will willingly examine any further evidence which the hon. Member supplies. There is certainly a variation in the evidence, but possibly most of the variation is on the hon. Member's side. I cannot agree with his remarks on the Yalta Agreement, which it is our clear duty to carry out.

West Indies

Jamaica (Workers' Bank Accounts)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Jamaican agricultural labourers, on their return from the U.S.A., are able to obtain full written statements of their accounts in the Agricultural Workers' Branch of the Government Savings Bank.

I am making inquiry on this point from the Governor, and will communicate further with the hon. Member



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has considered the possibility of growing groundnuts in any part of the British West Indies.

Groundnuts are frequently grown in the West Indies for local consumption. I do not see much oppor- tunity of early development for export without interference with other export crops.

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a scientific investigation in British Guiana and British Honduras and see if it is not possible to start a similar scheme to that in East Africa in view of the fact that there is plenty of labour available in those places?

A mission is shortly going to British Guiana and Honduras under the Chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Evans and this point is being examined.


Food Export Organisation


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to encourage the proper organisation of the cultivation and packing of food for export in Fiji; and, in particular, what encouragement is being given to the development of co-operative methods.

A recent expert report on the sugar industry has established that it is closely organised on efficient lines. Copra, the other principal foodstuff grown for export, is handled by the Fiji Copra Board. A significant development has been the establishment of a modern copra crushing mill. I have urged the Governor to encourage co-operation in Fiji and, under the guidance of local officers, some advances in this direction are being achieved. The Co-operative Societies' Ordinance enacted this year will undoubtedly provide a further stimulus. In addition, the Government are about to recruit a marketing officer, one of whose functions will be the development of cooperative markets. He will play an important part in promoting greater efficiency in the matters to which my hon. Friend refers.

Banana Exports


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give figures for banana production in Fiji over the last 10 years.

With my hon. Friend's permission, I will circulate the reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Do these figures show any drop in the banana production in Fiji? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is need for an energetic atttack on the problem of the economic rehabilitation of Fiji at the present moment?

Very careful consideration is given by the local Government to the future economic progress of Fiji. In reply to the first part of the question, there has been a considerable drop in the production of bananas, compared with the prewar years.

Following is the reply:

As part of the Fiji banana crop is consumed locally, and cultivation is carried on by numerous small-holders, exact figures of production are not available.

Export figures are as follow:

(cases of 90 lbs.):

During the war years the following bananas were supplied to the Armed Forces:

(cases of 90 lbs.):

Local consumption is estimated roughly at the equivalent of 50,000 cases per annum.

Hong Kong (Appointment Of Chinese)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Chinese in Hong Kong have been appointed to posts in the health department, which used to be staffed by Europeans; and how far other departments have followed a policy of appointing local residents to high-grade posts.

Twelve Chinese have been appointed to such posts, including the acting Deputy Director of Health Services. As regards the second part of the Question, all Departments are actively pursuing the policy of appointing duly qualified Chinese to high-grade posts.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on this side of the House we welcome this policy of increasing the responsibility in the Colonies and handing over so-called European jobs, as in this case, to the Chinese? Will he press every other Department in the Colonial Office to follow the same lines as the Health Department seem to be following?

That is the case in the Public Works Department for engineers, and in the Education Department, where this policy is now being carried out.

Malaya (Government Servants, Grants)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that at the time the rehabilitation grant was made to Asiatic Government servants in Malaya by the British Military Administration under M.U. circular 130/46 and 131/46, it was stated that these grants would not be recovered except from Government servants who were convicted of collaboration with the enemy; and why these sums have been deducted from the grants now being made for back pay during the period of occupation.

These grants were originally intended to represent a settlement of the question of back pay during the period of occupation. There is no question of recovering them, but it is reasonable that they should be taken into account in the much more generous settlement recently decided upon.

Is the Minister aware that there is still considerable dissatisfaction amongst the junior Civil Service in Malaya about the settlement generally, and will he say if he can do anything to allay that dissatisfaction?

There is much misunderstanding, but I think that everyone is agreed that it is a generous settlement.

Imperial Defence


asked the Minister of Defence what postwar defence plans have yet been worked out for the Empire and Commonwealth; and whether all such plans have been agreed by the Dominions' Governments.

Contact with the Dominions. on questions of defence is a continuous and confidential process. I can, however, assure the hon. and gallant Member that the Dominions are consulted as a matter of course on all defence matters of common interest.

In view of the fact that the war, in which the Dominions played such a valiant part, has been over for two years, and in view of the fact that the strength of our postwar Army has already been announced in this House, surely some definite plans have now been drawn up which will satisfy both this country and the Dominions in the matter of security.

That is certainly not the kind of thing which can be dealt with by question and answer.

On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman escaped giving an answer to what I asked, which was to state whether a definite plan was in existence.

The right hon. Gentleman said that that was a matter which could not be answered at Question time, and I think that that is the answer to that.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Food Supplies

Ice Cream Licence


asked the Minister of Food, why Miss Oram, 4 High Street, Pangbourne, Berkshire, has been refused a licence to manufacture ice cream when this business was carried on satisfactorily for many years before 1940 when Miss Oram volunteered for work of national importance.

Local food offices have now been authorised to consider applications from people who claim to have been established as ice cream manufacturers before the war, and who have not hitherto qualified for allocations of controlled ingredients because they did not apply for them earlier. If Miss Oram will now apply to her local food officer he will be able to consider her case.

Milk Strike (Points Expenditure)


asked the Minister of Food if he will consider making a points bonus to those customers registered with the London Co-operative Society for milk who, during the strike of roundsmen, were obliged to expend their points on tinned and dried milk.

I have given careful and sympathetic consideration to my hon. Friend's proposal but I regret that the practical difficulties are insuperable.

Is the hon. Lady aware that a large number of families who were unable to go to Walthamstow for milk had to spend the whole of their month's points on tinned milk for their children who had no fresh milk at all during this strike, and does she realise that they have had to do without points food all this time?

I fully realise that, but I must remind the hon. Lady that it is impossible to distinguish between those who had to go to fetch their milk and those who did not.

Dominion Apples


asked the Minister of Food why the export of apples from New Zealand to this country has been stopped; and, in view of the urgent demand for apples in this country, if he will arrange to import the largest quantity obtainable.

As my right hon. Friend explained in a reply on 2nd April. I am afraid we shall not be able to import any apples from New Zealand this season as there is no refrigerated tonnage available for this purpose after providing for the refrigerated space required to import meat, dairy products and other commodities. The import programme for the second half of the year has not been settled yet, but we shall certainly try to get all the apples that we can.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a shortage of doctors as well as of apples, and will she endeavour to increase home supplies so that there are sufficient to provide us with one a day?

Why is it that there are refrigerator ships available to bring in from the Mediterranean luxury fruits which we could really manage without, but none to bring apples—which are sold at a controlled price—from New Zealand and Australia?

We need much more refrigerator tonnage for apples than for the small amounts of the other fruits which my hon. Friend has mentioned. May I remind him that there has been a strike in the Argentine, a strike in Sydney and a go-slow movement in New Zealand?

But why do we import five times more fruit from the Mediterranean than from New Zealand?

Maize Allocation


asked the Minister of Food if he has pressed the United States Government for a further allocation of maize to Britain, in view of the announcement that 150,000 tons from current stocks are to be made available to France compared with only 25,000 tons to Britain.

I have no reason to suppose that the substantial quantity of maize which we are hoping to obtain from the U.S.A. in the July-September period will not be forthcoming. I understand that the emergency allocation of 150,000 tons to France is to be used as bread grain to supplement the inadequate supply of wheat and flour.

Will the Minister say whether this allocation was made by the International Food Emergency Committee and, if so, whether our representatives on that Committee made due representations to see that we have a proper share of maize?

All allocations to this country are made by the international committee. I cannot speak for France.

Oranges And Grapefruit (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that growers of oranges and grapefruit in Jamaica receive only approximately 6s. and 5s. per box, respectively, for oranges and grapefruit; that the price at which this fruit is sold to the public is approximately 50s. per box; and if he will give figures showing at each stage of the purchase of these fruit by his Department how the difference is made up.

Supplies of oranges and grapefruit imported into the United Kingdom from Jamaica are purchased from the Jamaican Government on an f.o.b. basis and I have no information about the price received by the grower. As I have stated on previous occasions, I am not prepared to disclose prices paid by my Department for particular purchases, but with permission, I will arrange for the other information for which the hon. Member asks so far as it relates to sales within the United Kingdom and to the types of container most commonly used for oranges and grapefruit imported from Jamaica, to be printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

What justification is there for the hon. Lady not producing these figures, since whatever mandate she may have to subject the people of this country to bulk purchase there is no reason why the people of Jamaica should not be given the information?

My Department is the biggest trading concern in the world, and we have the same justification as any astute business man for withholding the prices we pay.

Can the hon. Lady say whether the Colonial Office intervenes in any way between the price paid here for grapefruit and that which the grower receives?

When making bulk purchases of these commodities, would not the Minister consider using the Co-operatives for the purpose of distribution and thus cut out a whole lot of other people?

Is the hon. Lady aware that the analogy she uses is not in the least a fair one because the growers have no


Type of package. F

Weight Group. 79-83 lbs. net.

Average Weight. 81 lbs. net.

Grade 1st Condition

First-hand selling price410 per package
Wholesale margin26 per package
Wholesale selling price436 per package
Retail margin106 per package
Retail selling price540 per package


Type of package. G

Weight Group. 70-74 lbs. net.

Average Weight. 72 lbs. net.

Grade 1st Condition

First-hand selling price360 per package
Wholesale margin26 per package
Wholesale selling price386 per package
Retail margin96 per package
Retail selling price480 per package
NOTE.—The above prices are for containers of the size most commonly used for oranges and grapefruit imported from Jamaica.

East African Groundnuts Scheme


asked the Minister of Food if employees of the United Africa Company working on the groundnuts project will receive pay and work under conditions not less favourable than comparable Colonial civil servants; and whether they will in due course have opportunities for study leave and a sabbatical year.

The salaries and conditions of employment of the staff of the East African groundnuts scheme are being fixed after consideration of the salaries and conditions attaching to comparable appointments in the Colonial Service and elsewhere. The appointments are for the present being made on a short-term basis and the question of the eligibility of staff for study leave and a sabbatical year does not therefore arise.

Destroyed Food, Roxton (Replacement)


asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the destruction by fire of the local store in the village of Roxton, Bedfordshire, he will take immediate action to arrange for

other market to which they can sell their grapefruit?

Following is the information:

the foodstuffs destroyed to be replaced and made available to the villagers so as to safeguard them from all avoidable hardship.

Farm Workers' Rations


asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he has made for the issue of supplementary rations to farmworkers during hay-time when many will be working a 14-hour day away from home.

When a canteen or pie scheme is not available allowances are granted at the following weekly rates per head: tea 2 oz., sugar 5 oz., margarine 4½ oz., cheese 2½ oz., preserves 4½ oz., points 3, bread units 12.

May I point out to the hon. Lady that she has not answered the Question I put to her? We understand that the present arrangements are to come to an end on 30th May and I should like to know what arrangements have been made to take their place.

The arrangements made are those I have just read out to the hon. Gentleman.

By the farmer or, as the hon. Member well knows, the foreman or one of the workmen can distribute them.

Tomato Prices


asked the Minister of Food why he authorised an increase of over 60 per cent. in the mid-June retail selling prices of home-grown and Dutch tomatoes as compared with a similar period in 1946; whether he is aware that substantial margins of profit were afforded to all sections of the trade which handled tomatoes on the control price list of 1946 and that these 1947 prices are comparable to an advance of 110 per cent. on the mid-June prices of 1938–39; and, in view of the importance of tomatoes to the dietary of the average consumer and his purchasing power, whether he will again review the net effect of this new control price.

The increase in the mid-June price amounts to 11s. per 12 lb. chip of which 8s. 9d. is payable to the grower and the balance to the distributive trades. The increase to the grower was made because of increases in wages and other costs of production. Owing to the lateness of the season, the proportion of the crop marketed at these early high prices will be smaller than usual. As regards the distributive trades, the increases are due to increased costs including the higher costs of wastage.

Does not the Minister realise that, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, tea, or supper, tomatoes play a more important part in the dietary of the average citizen than any other commodity; is she not aware that the action of the Minister means a big step up in the cost of living of such people; and what action does she propose to take to deal with those who, by their representations, have brought about this fanciful and fantastic increase?

I recognise the consumer need, although I would not necessarily accept my hon. Friend's dietetic dictum. He must remember, however, that we have also to consider the producer and to see that he is properly remunerated.

Holiday Resorts


asked the Minister of Food for what reasons he is planning to allot to boarding house and private hotel owners in some parts of England, during the holiday season, basic permits for rationed food, insufficient for the full number of persons covered by the catering licences concerned, especially when the boarding houses and private hotel owners have, to the knowledge of the local food offices, received bookings for the total number on their catering licences; and whether he will at once instruct local food offices to issue full permits and abandon the present wasteful practice which requires so many supplementary applications and supplementary permits.

Catering establishments in seaside resorts are granted permits to cover expected fluctuations in consumer needs based on the best estimates available.

Does not the hon. Lady agree that the best estimate of the requirements is likely to be the actual bookings made, and if they have been made surely she can issue full permits? That is the point of the Question.

Certainly, and Blackpool is being given an allowance on the actual bookings made.

Will the hon. Lady consider withdrawing all permits and licences altogether from hotels, such as the Burlington at Margate, which attempt to discriminate against prospective customers on racial grounds?

May I ask the hon. Lady not to discriminate against any particular hotel, since if she does she may well prevent the Foreign Secretary completing his holiday in my constituency. where he is welcome?

I have replied as to the situation in Blackpool, but I should require notice concerning Margate.

The question was not about Blackpool, but about "some parts of England."

Sarawak (Officials' Resignations)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that more than 300 officials have lost their employment as a result of the enforcement of the provisions of Secretariat Circular No. 9/1946 in Sarawak; and if he will make a statement.

The officials in question resigned their appointments in circumstances which were fully explained in my reply to a question on 22nd January last. I have nothing to add to that reply.

Does my hon. Friend realise that what has happened in the case of these 300 officials is nothing more nor less than a form of political victimisation so far as their employment is concerned?

Surely these persons resigned entirely on their own responsibility and they were immediately replaced by other Malays.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 58 out of 60 teachers here are not in schools, and what is being done to give the children their schooling?

I understand that there are 73 teachers but endeavours are being made to fill the appointments.

Malta (Emigration)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the fact that the population of Malta is much greater than the islands are able to support, he will encourage emigration to this country to relieve domestic help and other manpower shortages here.

There is no obstacle to the entry of any Maltese British subject into this country, and many Maltese have in fact come here on their own initiative to take up employment. Inquiries are proceeding regarding the numbers of Maltese willing to come to this country for employment in occupations which are suffering from shortage of labour, but who have not the resources to do so unaided. Should the results of these inquiries justify it, consideration will be given to the making of special arrangements.

But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the surplus population of Malta is said to be in the region of 100,000 and that Malta has a very high birth rate; and is it not therefore necessary for him to take more active steps than he appears to be taking to deal with this problem?

It may possibly appear that I am taking very few steps, but I can assure the hon. Member that I have been very active in this matter.

Royal Navy

Sea Cadet Corps


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what is the present strength of the Sea Cadets; and what is the maximum number allowed this year and in the last financial year.

The present strength of the Sea Cadet Corps is 31,450. In the last financial year provision was made for a maximum of 41,000 Sea Cadets. The number actually reached was 33,251. For 1947, financial provision has been made for a maximum strength of 36,000.

Illegal Immigrant Ships (Bunkering)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what evidence he has to show, in the case of ships intercepted while carrying illegal immigrants to Palestine, from what source their bunker fuel was obtained.

Apart from the supplies taken at their port of departure, certain ships have been known to take on coal at foreign ports on the way. The evidence of these cases has been reported by the consular representatives and Lloyds agents. As the ships' papers are invariably destroyed before interception, there is no evidence available from this source as to where they bunkered.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have received reliable information that these ships were bunkered with fuel and coal from Italy through the black market, and that the supplies probably came from U.N.R.R.A. or its successor? Will he ask the British representative on the spot to have a searching inquiry?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will send me the information first and then I will naturally inquire into it.

In view of the Mandate laying down that Palestine was to provide a- home for the Jews, how can there be such a thing as illegal immigrants?

War Memorials


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many naval war memorials for the 1939–45 war are under construction or under consideration; and whether consideration has been given to constructing a main memorial to all naval and marine personnel who lost their lives.

Proposals are at present under consideration in conjunction with the Imperial War Graves Commission to extend the existing war memorials at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth to include the names of members of naval and marine services, including the Maritime Regiment, who lost their lives during the 1939–1945 war and have no known graves. Further proposals are also under consideration for the erection of three smaller memorials, one at Lee-on-Solent for naval air personnel, one at Liverpool for those from the Merchant Navy who lost their lives whilst serving in the Royal Navy under the T.124X agreement, and one at Lowestoft for members of the Royal Naval Patrol Service. Proposals have been considered for a general memorial to officers and ratings of the naval and marine services to be provided from funds subscribed within the Royal Navy, but these have been found to he impracticable.

Air Mechanics (Training)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why a number of men who joined the Royal Naval Air Service in October last for service as air mechanics spent the first six months of their service, apart from six weeks' disciplinary training, wholly in mounting guard, peeling potatoes, cleaning decks and other semi-skilled work and did not start their course of training until May, 1947.

On completion of their disciplinary training at naval establishments air mechanics are sent to R.A.F. establishments for their technical training Except for a few men whose training was retarded owing to sickness, all the men entered at H.M.S. "Royal Arthur" in October, 1946, passed on to these in the normal way. I understand, however, that in the early part of this year there was some interruption in training owing to the unusually severe weather, and men were employed on other duties.

Would the Minister make further inquiries, because my information in respect of a large number of these men is that after the disciplinary training they have never done anything for weeks and weeks except this business of mounting guard and so on?

I am sorry to appear to be avoiding this issue, but after disciplinary training they go to R.A.F. establishments, so the question must be addressed to the Air Ministry.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree with a number of hon. Members in this House that potato peeling is a skilled occupation and not semi-skilled?

Wrns (Release)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will give any information of the date of release of the higher groups of W.R.N.S., particularly in the M.T. driver and radio mechanic categories, in view of the fact that many of these girls have been in the Service for over two years and are anxious to commence their civilian careers, and especially as there is no difficulty in getting sufficient volunteers for this service.

The latest forecast shows that Group 65 of W.R.N.S. motor transport drivers will be released during the period 16th August to 30th September and Group 64 of radio mechanics (A.R.M.) and (A.W.M.) during the period 1st October to 15th November. It is not possible at present to forecast releases beyond these dates. Although there is no difficulty in obtaining volunteers for the W.R.N.S., the speed of entry is limited by training capacity. We are, however, doing what we can to bring all categories into line by increasing training capacity for entries in those branches which are behind the average level of releases or in which large numbers have to be released in the near future.

Would the Minister give an assurance that everything is being done to expedite these releases?

Engravers (Wages)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that, in considering wage awards to inside engravers on the basis of individual merit, the Admiralty Wages Board have decided that no merit rate shall exceed 405. above the standard minimum rate; and if he will take steps to remove this handicap to ability and effort.

The standard rate of wages of these men is determined in accordance with the agreed practice in the printing trade in the London district from which the hydrographic supplies department was transferred to Taunton during the war. I do not consider that a range of individual merit rates up to 40s. above this standard can reasonably be regarded as a handicap to ability and effort.

Is my hon. Friend aware that chart engravers can obtain employment only with the Admiralty and that the merit restriction is unfair to them as they are left without a choice in the matter? Is he also aware that it is utterly contrary to the declared policy of this Government to fix a ceiling on wages, and will he have another look at the matter?

Whether it is considered to be sufficient or not, I take the view that it is so, but this matter can be raised through the appropriate channels, namely, through the Shipbuilding Trades Joint Council. If the Engravers' Association so desire, they can communicate with that council for it to receive further consideration.

Instructor Branch