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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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Food Supplies

British Sugar Corporation (Staff)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the British Sugar Corporation are refusing to negotiate with the appropriate trade union to which many members of its staff belong; and whether he will consider withholding the subsidy until the refusal has been withdrawn.

No, Sir. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service that there is established negotiating machinery on which the appropriate trades unions are represented. The question of the constitution of the workers' side is for the trades unions

Cakes And Pastries (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food what was the reason for the recent substantial increase in the prices charged by confectioners for cakes and pastries.

The maximum price for cakes of a defined quality was raised from 1s. 6d. per lb. to 2s. 6d. per lb. on 16th February, to enable bakers to meet recent increases in the cost of many ingredients and to make use of some of the more expensive ones, which are now becoming available again.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that housewives do not find that the increase in prices is reflected in the increased quality of the cakes; secondly, does he know that it is credibly believed that the bakers are already making higher margins of profit than most other retail traders?

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, we only allowed this increase in prices under a defined list of ingredients which must be contained in the more expensive cakes in a defined amount. We shall certainly endeavour to enforce that. I should very much like to hear of any case where that is not being complied with. With regard to the second part of the question, this means a diminution and not an increase in confectioners' margins.

New Catering Licences, Cardiff


asked the Minister of Food how many licences have been granted to new cafés and restaurants in Cardiff in the last 12 months; and on what principles the grant of a licence is decided.

Twenty-two new licences were issued in the 12 months ended 15th April, 1947. Licences are granted on priority grounds to ex-traders who had to close businesses in Cardiff because of the war. The Food Control Committee also recommend the grant of licences where there is a public need and particularly to reduce queuing and congestion in existing catering establishments. In these cases preference is given to suitable disabled ex-Servicemen and ex-traders from other areas.

Inshore Fishermen's Catches (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that, owing to the price rise in all gear, particularly nets, the catching of mackerel, skate and ray at today's prices is uneconomical; and if he will consider an adjustment in the maximum price of these fish which are caught by our inshore fishermen.

I know that the cost of fishing gear has increased, and will take this into consideration together with other relevant facts if and when price schedules are revised.

When the Minister uses the expression, "if and when", can he give any indication when the "if and when" is likely to come about, and will he also take into consideration the price rise in coal apart from the question of gear?

Prices of fish have been changed in the past, I am glad to say in a downward direction. We should be reluctant to increase maximum prices in this or any other respect. Another possibility, of course, would be to take this class of fish out of price control altogether. There are some advantages but also some difficulties in that.

Is the Minister aware that this state of affairs is affecting the livelihood of all inshore fishermen, and that unless something is done, we shall lose them?

In view of what I consider to be a most unsatisfactory reply, I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

Imported Cheddar Cheese


asked the Minister of Food whether he will arrange, as soon as possible, for imported cheddar to be matured after importation in order to make it more palatable to those who acquired a taste for other cheeses before restrictions on their manufacture or importation began.

I am afraid that, under present scarcity conditions, the time we can hold cheese in store before distribution depends entirely on the volume of stocks and arrivals

Does not the Minister realise that it is just as important to improve the quality of cheese as to improve the quality of cakes, and that to do so would do not a little to cheer people up and stop them from calling this cheese "mousetrap"? Would he look into the matter again?

Calorie Intake


asked the Minister of Food the average calorie intake per person per day for the year 1946, including all consumption of food whether at home or outside.

Is the Minister able to say how these figures support the oft-repeated boast that we are better off than before the war?

I do not know to which boast the hon. Member refers. What I have said repeatedly is that, on the way we calculate the calorie intake—that is, per capita of the population—it is 6 per cent. less than before the war. I have added that there is now a far better distribution of foodstuffs, which means that the poorer section of the people are undoubtedly better fed.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how those figures compare with the estimates of a certain calculation given in another place the other day?

Naturally, they are the same. [Interruption.] Yes. The figure was given as 2,880, and the actual calculation comes out at 2,887, to be exact.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, obviously, the housewives of this country must think that they are fed well, hence the falling flat of the great demonstration which took place in Trafalgar Square?

Surely, it is a question of the food coming into the country, as against the total number al persons, and not in any way the individual intake of the consumers, which is what matters?

As I understand the point put by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman it is that certain individual consumers are obviously consuming less and certain others are consuming more. The figure I have given is an average, and that must be true of any average figure.

But the fact is that these high figures are given for the total intake, which, of course, takes into account every single thing brought into the country, whether eaten or not. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter again? Will he agree that the result of his own dietary survey has been to show an intake of nothing like that, but a very much smaller intake?

I could not possibly agree with any of those statements. Of course, the figure is calculated on the total amount of food available, and the most careful allowances are made for wastage in distribution and other factors of that sort, and use for other than food consumption. That is always most carefully taken into account, and it is an average figure, and, of course, it must be true of any average figure that certain individuals were above that figure and certain other individuals below it. That is the only qualification.

Does not the Minister agree that the figure of 2,900 is very much higher than the figure of 2,300, which he gave as the result of the dietary survey?

I agree that 2,900 is a higher figure than 2,300. That is undoubtedly true, but the 2,300, of course, leaves out certain things, such as foodstuffs distributed to catering establishments, canteens and the like.

Fruit And Vegetables


asked the Minister of Food whether he will take steps to eliminate the profit margins on the sale of fruit and vegetables which are accruing to certain classes of middlemen who have ceased to perform any useful function.

I share my hon. Friend's anxiety to reduce the price of foodstuffs wherever possible, but I do not think that profit margins are provided under the fresh fruit and vegetable price orders for middlemen who are not performing a useful function.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that the profit margins, indeed, any profit at all, should be determined by the functions performed today, and not those performed before the war and before the very considerable degree of bulk buying and selling was introduced?

I take my hon. Friend's point, but we believe that, on the whole, the middlemen engaged in the trade at the moment—I do not say in every instance, but by and large—are performing a useful function.

Will my right hon. Friend look into the position regarding certain commodities, where it appears that payments are made to wholesalers who are performing no function at all, even though they may have performed some function before the war? Will he look into this point, with a view to rearranging the system or bringing this pernicious system to an end?

I am not suggesting that the present system will do as a permanent basis of distribution for the long-term future. That is certainly another matter.


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the supply of fresh fruit in Croydon is inadequate and compares unfavourably with other areas; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this situation.

Fruit is not plentiful anywhere at this season, but Croydon has had as many allocations of the fruits controlled by my Department as the rest of the South of England.

In view of the fact that that statement would not be agreed to by any person in Croydon, will my right hon. Friend look into this matter again, because I think there is a definite inequality now?

Condemned Meat, Croydon


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that approximately 5,388 lb. of offal, together with 3,579 lb. of beef, 978 lb. of corned beef, 440 lb. of pork, as well as other items, were condemned by the public health department in Croydon from 17th March to 19th April last and destroyed; what were the reasons for this loss of foodstuff; and what steps he proposes to take to avoid similar wastage in future.

These condemnations were mainly due to disease which could not be detected in the live animals. The quantities condemned represented a very small proportion of the meat and offals handled. The loss of canned corned meat was due to the blowing of tins. The proportion condemned was one quarter of 1 per cent, which is not abnormal and would not indicate any undue deterioration because of the time or conditions of storage.

Linseed Oil


asked the Minister of Food whether his Department has made any attempt to secure surplus linseed oil in Holland.

Recent reports that Holland had some surplus linseed proved to be untrue when we tried to buy it for sowing. Holland is short of linseed oil herself.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the allocation, as between Holland and this country, is fair in all circumstances?

I am seldom, if ever, satisfied with an allocation, and we are always pressing to get a higher one.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a report in a newspaper this morning that bulk purchasing arrangements had enabled us to buy linseed oil much more cheaply than our competitors?

I have not seen the report to which my hon. Friend refers, but it is perfectly true that many of our competitors consider that we have purchased a very much larger share of the linseed oil available and at a very favourable price.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman always mistrust what he reads in the Press?

Special Diets Advisory Committee (Decision)


asked the Minister of Food for what reasons his Department over-ruled the recommendation of her family doctor that Mrs. Ward, 93, Turnpike Lane, N.8, shoud receive extra meat and butter by substituting milk which, in her case, was actually harmful; why this decision was taken without consultation with her medical attendant; why two months' delay took place between the issue of the certificate and its refusal by the divisional food office; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent a recurrence of such a delay with its possible harmful effects.

This case was considered twice during the two months by the Special Diets Advisory Committee, on different certificates from the family doctor, but she was unable to produce any reasons for the suggestion that the usual allowance of milk would be harmful' or that there were any special reasons for an allowance of butter and meat for this particular patient. In these circumstances, I am unable to overrule the decision of the eminent medical authorities of the Special Diets Advisory Committee.

Is the Minister denying that his Department did, in fact, overrule the recommendations of the family doctor, and did take two months before they actually gave a decision?

Yes, Sir, in the sense that my Department did it apart from the advice of the Special Diets Advisory Committee. They, of course, made the decision and the recommendation on which we acted. But they did not take two months to do it. During the two months mentioned, they twice considered recommendations from the family doctor, but these eminent medical specialists were unable to agree with her.

Did the eminent medical specialists, on whom the right hon. Gentleman relies, ever see the patient?

No, Sir, they asked the family doctor to provide reasons why this case should be treated differently from the rules laid down for cases of this condition. In their opinion, the family doctor was unable to produce any prima facie evidence why it should be treated differently.

Is not this the second occasion on which this particular Committee has bungled—the first being that on which a man died—and should not their operations be closely watched?

I distinctly resent that imputation. How does the noble Lord suppose that he can judge whether this Committee has bungled or not?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if he were to give way in the slightest degree on this matter, 30 to 40 per cent. of the people who claim to be sick would all be producing certificates in order to get extra rations, when the whole thing would become fantastic?

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to certain rules which bind the Special Diets Advisory Committee; will he say what those rules are, and who makes them?

If the hon. Member will look up the answer I gave on Wednesday, 22nd January last, he will see a very full statement as to exactly what these rules are, that there is a right of appeal from these rules to the Special Diets Advisory Committee, and the members and composition, together with their qualifications, of that Committee.

Has the Minister made any inquiry as to whether this lady was benefited or injured by the treatment of his Committee?

The Committee did not treat the lady; the Committee made her a special allowance of milk and fats, and no doubt she benefited by that allowance.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I feel compelled to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Soap Ration (Supplies, Taunton)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that in the Taunton area there is an extreme shortage of white and carbolic soap for cleaning and washing, but that toilet soap is more easily obtainable; and if he will take steps to remove this inequality, so that housewives can use their soap coupons to better advantage.

I have asked manufacturers to increase the proportionate output of hard soap, but their difficulty is that they have not yet caught up with the production lost during the fuel crises. I believe they will be able to do so now, so that there should be a gradual improvement in deliveries to the shops.

Is the Minister aware that some manufacturers of toilet soap are making offers to retailers who have no entitlement, and is there not some connection between that fact and the present shortage of white and carbolic soap?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the general shortage of soap flakes and soap powder in this regard, and will he look into that matter at the same time?

Would my right hon. Friend also make some provision for those who have not been able to get their ration during the current period?

We did, in past periods, extend the availability of the ration documents to the following period in order to meet those cases.


Selby Toll Bridge


asked the Minister of Transport if he has now received the special report on the negotiations for the purchase of Selby Toll Bridge; and whether he has a statement to make.

I have received the special report for which I called, and am satisfied that there has been no avoidable delay on the part of my Department or on that of the Valuation Department. In view of the negotiations that are taking place, I do not think it would be in the public interest for me to make a statement at present.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long these negotiations are likely to take?

No, Sir, not exactly. They are very complicated. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, I am just as anxious as he is to expedite them.

Dismissed Roadmen, Cambridgeshire


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the Cambridgeshire County Council have dismissed 30 roadmen arising out of the reduction of expenditure on Class III roads that are in need of immediate repair, owing to damage caused by the severe winter and floods and are in a dangerous condition to the users of these roads; and if he will reconsider the matter, with a view of granting to the local authorities money from the Road Fund to keep these country roads in a decent condition.

I understand that a number of men engaged on the maintenance of Class III roads in Cambridgeshire have been dismissed. The council have since been informed that the amount of grant from the Road Fund for the normal maintenance of classified roads will be increased by £8,500, which, if they so desire, may be allocated entirely to Class III roads. In accordance with the arrangements outlined in my reply to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) on 19th May, my divisional road engineer is also discussing with the council how much additional money can be made available towards the cost of repairing damage to roads caused by frost, snow and flood.

Is the Minister aware that these roadmen have given very valuable service to the county council, and does he think it fair that councils should be compelled to dismiss hundreds of roadmen throughout the country owing to these drastic cuts in expenditure; and, further, is he aware that the motorists, through the Road Fund, provide the money for the upkeep of the roads? Will he look into the matter again, because it is certainly a serious one so far as agriculture is concerned?

I would like to remind my hon. Friend that the additional grant for Class III roads was only introduced last year, which is very recent indeed. I do not think that it can be argued that these dismissals are entirely due to that.

Will the Minister consider making additional grants to other county councils who are being compelled, owing to the drastic cuts, to reduce their staffs?

I have already indicated that the discussions taking place between my divisional road engineers and county surveyors are not limited to any particular county.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that one of the greatest causes of hardship is that these drastic cuts were made after the start of the financial year?

I regret that it was not possible to give longer notice, but, after all, the discussions with regard to estimates cover a fairly long period.

Road Fund (Administration Statistics)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is now in a position to publish those statistics ordinarily appearing in the Annual Report on the Administration of the Road Fund which have been omitted during the war years but of which records have been maintained.

The information has been obtained so far as it is readily available, and is at present being collated.

Will this information be published in so far as the particulars are available to the Minister?

Yes, Sir, that is what I have tried to do, but many local authorities have not replied to the requests for information.

Driving Examiners (Overtime)


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that his Department has instructed all driving and traffic examiners from 9th June to work overtime; that such a requirement, in some cases, will lead to severe strain; and if he will issue instructions that this order is not to be enforced where the examiner feels unable to carry out such orders.

In order to overtake the arrears of applications for tests, driving examiners have been instructed to work limited overtime, for which they will be paid, and I do not consider that an extra 1½ hours' work on five day a week for a fortnight at a time will unduly strain them. I cannot agree to leave it to an examiner's discretion whether he should carry out tests booked for him.


Holidays, Midweek Travel


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in addition to the staggering of hours of work and of holidays, he will urge, in order to relieve weekend congestion on the railways, that firms should arrange for a proportion of staff holidays to start in midweek.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) on 27th March.

Is not this weekend congestion being rapidly adjusted by the rise in railway fares?

Staff, Doncaster (Tea Facilities)


asked the Minister of Transport if he will inquire into the reasons for the delay in providing suitable arrangements for providing the railway staff at Doncaster Central stations, numbering 180 workpeople, with cups of tea during working hours, in accordance with the request made by the N.U.R., Doncaster No. 2 branch, in February last; and if he will expedite the provision of this necessary welfare facility.

The staff can obtain tea at reduced prices from the refreshment room between 7.30 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. As soon as additional refreshment room staff are available, a 24-hour service will be provided, as an experiment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, during the war, excellent facilities were provided on the station for the troops and the Armed Forces, that these facilities could easily be transferred to the staff, and that his Department has failed to do that? What action does he propose to take to expedite the matter?

That is not a question for my Department. I cannot deal with what happened on this station during the war, but I have stated in my reply that the matter is under investigation.

If the Minister treats the staff with the same priority as he treated the troops, everything will be all right.

Staff Resignations


asked the Minister of Transport how many railway employees have left the service of the railways in 1947 up to date; and if they represent a normal or an abnormally high percentage of the total number of railway employees.

I regret that it has not been possible to collect all the information in the time available. With my hon. Friend's permission, I will circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that on reaching the retiring age and electing to take their pensions, for some unknown reason, railway staffs are subsequently refused re-employment by the railway companies, and, in view of this very serious loss to the railways of experienced men and women, will he look into the matter to see if it is not possible to allow retired members to be re-employed?

Obviously, I cannot answer a question like that at a moment's notice. If my hon. Friend will communicate such evidence to me, I will look into the matter.

Service Breakdown, London—Southend


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the chaos which existed when the London to Southend railway service broke down on Whit Monday with the result that nearly 30,000 people were stranded and many of them forced to sleep on the beach: and whether he will make a statement.


asked the Minister of Transport, if he will make a statement on the circumstances by which 10,000 persons were marooned at Southend, on Monday 26th May, consequent upon the failure of water supplies for L.M.S. locomotives; why no assistance was asked from the Southend waterworks until 6 p.m., although the trouble was known to the railway company at 3 p.m; why the suggestion to boost water supplies to the engines by hoses with the aid of the N.F.S. was turned down; and why the restaurant room at Fenchurch Street was not kept open to provide drinks for the incoming passengers.

About 36,000 people travelled on, this line to Southend on Whit Monday. A failure in the locomotive water supply at Shoeburyness depot first became evident at 2.30 p.m. and the Shoeburyness Council was immediately asked for a supply from their mains. Unfortunately, this proved ineffective owing to a defect in the tanks. Arrangements made for engines to take water at Southend also failed to produce adequate supplies and it was ultimately necessary to by-pass the meter. No suggestion to any railway official that the N.F.S. might have been able to assist can be traced. The last train left Southend at 1.48 a.m. and I am informed that there were no passengers left on the station or in nearby streets at that time. The staff serving the refreshment room at Fenchurch Street who live in the Southend neighbourhood had been on duty throughout the day and were not asked to stay after 10.30 p.m.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this water problem has been known to the railway company at Shoeburyness for a long time, and why have no steps been taken previously to deal with it?

Would my right hon. Friend indicate why his Department are responsible for incidents of this kind, as many of us are under the impression that the railway companies are responsible, at least until they are nationalised?

That is the point I have been making in my reply. In reply to the first supplementary question, I could not say, but I will make inquiries as to whether this defect was known before the incident occurred.

District Railway Trains (Lighting)


asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the inefficient lighting in some of the District Railway trains, which becomes so much worse when the train is in motion that it is impossible to read; and if he will take steps to have it improved.

With the smaller number of lamps now in use in order to save electric current and coal, the reduction in lighting which normally occurs when a train is accelerating inevitably becomes more noticeable. The lighting in those cars in which the reduction may have been excessive is now being examined and steps have already been taken to effect an improvement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this defect is especially apparent at the ends of the compartments, because the lamps do not throw their light to that extent?

Yes, Sir. As I have indicated, any deficiency below the average is now being examined.

Locomotives (Coal Traffic)


asked the Minister of Transport what is the approximate proportion of railway company engines normally engaged in hauling coals.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the proportion will be adequate to ensure that all the coal trucks do not remain in sidings for a long period?

I do not think there is any justification for the inference that coal trucks do remain in sidings for any length of time. In any case, that is not the Question I have been asked to answer.

Charges (Increases)


asked the Minister of Transport what is the approximate annual loss on the running of the railways at present; by what percentage, approximately, railway fares and freight rates have been increased since 1939; and to what extent the loss is caused by transfer of traffic to road vehicles plying for hire.

In regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) on 12th May last. Main line railway fares and freight rates have been increased since 1939 by 33⅓ per cent. for ordinary passengers and merchandise by passenger train; and by 25 per cent. in all other cases. I have no information on the last part of the Question.

Dock Strike, Glasgow (Undischarged Cargo)


asked the Minister of Transport, if he is aware that a U.S. ship, ss. "Eucadia," which arrived in Glasgow on 18th March, carrying tractors and spare parts, was unable to unload this cargo owing to the dockers' strike; was diverted to Avonmouth, where the dockers also refused to unload it; returned to Glasgow and, as the strike was still continuing, finally sailed for New York with the tractors and spart parts still on board: what steps were taken to ensure that this badly-needed cargo was landed, and what action he is taking to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

I am informed by the Glasgow port authorities that this ship, carrying 8,225 tons of general cargo for Glasgow and 2,462 tons of steel for Liverpool, commenced discharge in Glasgow on 18th March. When the dockers' strike began on 24th March, there was still on board 1,306 tons of cargo for Glasgow, consisting of foodstuffs and 15 cases of machinery, including agricultural machinery. Authority had been given for the use of military labour to unload perishable and rationed foodstuffs, and I understand that in the circumstances at the time, it was considered that the use of military labour for unloading the machinery would be liable to add to the difficulty caused by the strike. Rather than delay the ship longer, the owners sailed the "Eucadia" for Liverpool on 26th April, but the Liverpool dockers refused to handle the cases of machinery. The "Eucadia," having completed discharge of the steel consigned to Liverpool, sailed to New York with the cases of machinery on board. The last part of the question envisages hypothetical circumstances upon which I am unable to comment.

Did the right hon. Gentleman's Department make any attempt to point out to the strikers that this cargo of argricultural machinery was, at least, as important as perishable foodstuffs?

My Department were in consultation with the Ministry of Labour and the War Office. These arrangements were made in co-operation with all the Departments concerned. As I have stated, this decision was taken because it was thought to be the best one in view of the gravity of the circumstances of the dispute.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us who made the decision that the unloading of agricultural machinery would be an aggravation of the dispute?

That decision was arrived at as a result of the experience and the knowledge of the circumstances of the port officials on the spot.

How does the right hon. Gentleman explain the disparity between his treatment of the dockers on the one hand, and of those wretched driving licence examiners on the other hand?

In so far as the Scottish Transport Workers Organisation is separate and distinct to Glasgow, it was an official strike.

King George V Memorial (Unveiling Ceremony)


asked the Prime Minister what arrangements are being made for the unveiling of the Memorial to His late Majesty King George V in October next.

His Majesty The King has graciously undertaken to unveil the memorial to His late Majesty King George V on 22nd October next. Detailed arrangements are being made by the National Memorial Committee with the assistance of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works and will be announced later.

In view of the world wide affection in which the late King was held, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that representatives of the Empire will be present on this occasion?

That will be a matter for consideration and, no doubt, will be considered by the National Memorial Committee.

Inventions (Examination)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the provision of an office to which persons can submit inventions, ideas and suggestions which they are desirous should be used for the benefit of their country rather than for themselves, so that these might be critically examined in that office and only referred to a Department of State should they seem promising.

The whole field of patent law and inventions is being reviewed by the Departments concerned, and my hon. Friend's suggestion will be borne in mind.

National Insurance And Health Schemes (Operation)


asked the Prime Minister when it is intended to bring the rest of the National Insurance schemes and English and Scottish National Health Service schemes into operation.

The preparatory work necessary to arrange the transition from existing schemes and agencies and to create the organisation to operate the new provisions effectively is very heavy. Considerable progress has been made with these preparations, despite great difficulties of staff and premises. The various schemes are closely linked up with each other, and with proposals for completing the break-up of the Poor Law and providing a comprehensive scheme of national assistance standing behind the insurance provisions. The Government consider that there are compelling reasons in favour of bringing all these schemes into operation on the same date. They have reached the conclusion that by giving high priority to the legislation which it is hoped to introduce next Session to complete the breakup of the Poor Law, this will be possible. On a consideration of all the factors involved, they have decided that the best date for this purpose is 5th July, 1948, which coincides with the end of the next contribution year for health, pensions and unemployment insurance.



The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. YORK:

48. To ask the Minister of Agriculture if he will obtain an increased allocation of steel for the agricultural industry for the second quarter of 1947, as he is aware that the makers of tractors, machinery equipment and spare parts and also structural engineers working on agricultural buidings are either slowed down or at a standstill through shortage of steel.

Mr. Speaker, may I draw your attention to an error in this Question? It should read "the second half of 1947" instead of "quarter."

I am well aware of the needs of the industry, but, in view of the general steel supply situation, it has not been found possible to increase the allo- cation of steel at the disposal of my Department for the second quarter of this year.

Is it not a fact that unless the Minister of Agriculture pushes this case, agriculture will not get more steel, and will he undertake to push all he can for a higher allocation?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am one of many Ministers who are pushing for steel.

Can the right hon. Gentleman at least give an assurance that when steel for agricultural machinery arrives in this country, it will not be sent back again?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if he wants any help in fighting his colleagues in this matter, he can count on hon. Members on this side of the House?

Does the right hon. Gentleman concur in the decision by which agricultural machinery was sent back to the United States, in view of the position which he has just mentioned?


asked the Minister of Agriculture what arrangements he has made with agricultural machinery manufacturers, in view of the much lowered output in February and March, to give priority to the urgent needs of home food producers for tractors and other farm machinery, thus implementing the undertaking given to them.

in order to assist farmers with this year's urgent tasks, agricultural machinery manufacturers have co-operated by directing a larger volume of machinery into the home market during the last two or three months. In consequence, the estimated average value of the machinery going to the home market increased from £92,000 a day in January, 1947, to £100,000 a day in March and £131,000 a day in April.

Is the Minister aware that, while the home production of agricultural machinery fell from about £3,480,000 worth in January to £2,520,000 in February, the exports of tractors in the first four months of the year increased by over 3,000 tons, as compared with those in the same period of last year, and that the exports of all farming machinery in the first four months of this year were £835,000 worth greater than in the same period of last year?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware that exports of agricultural machinery fell from £24,000 day in January to £19,000 a day in April.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the need to see that there is a sufficient supply of spare parts for the existing machinery, let alone the new?

Yes, as fast as we can persuade the manufacturers to produce spare parts, we are doing so.

Does the re-export figure the right hon. Gentleman gave include the figures of the re-exports in the s.s. "Eucadia"?

Would the Minister consider making application to his colleagues to stop the exportation of all agricultural machinery as long as there is a demand for it in this country?

Milk (Regulations)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that a large number of farmers are having their milk returned from collecting centres because of deficiency in butter fat content and solids; that this trouble has been largely unavoidable owing to the hard winter and lack of feedingstuffs; and if he will take steps to modify the present regulations, and so avoid a considerable waste of milk.

I appreciate that the decline in the solids content of milk, which is a seasonal feature, has no doubt been aggravated by the poor harvest last year and, in particular, the poor quality of hay, as well as by the delayed growth of grass this spring; but I have no evidence that any significant quantity of milk is being returned to farmers on account of a deficiency of milk solids. The Sale of Milk Regulations, 1901, are designed as a guide to the authorities administering the Food and Drugs Acts, and do not govern the return of milk by a buyer, which is determined by ordinary commercial practice. I do not consider that any modification of existing regulations would be justified.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the amount of milk returned in this way is not negligible, and that in one part of Somerset in one day milk was returned to eight different farmers? Will he look into the matter to see how commercial milk depots are applying the regulations, because at present there is considerable loss of food and financial loss to the farmers for reasons beyond their control?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have looked into this matter, and that I have found that in each case where the milk has been returned it has not been returned before the farmer has received one, two, or even three warnings of the quality of the milk, and that, despite the warnings, there has been no improvement. Hence the return, unfortunately, of some of the milk.

Pig And Poultry Rations


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is in a position to state the basic ration for poultry during the next winter period; and whether the basic ration for this period will be less than the present ration.


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will announce as soon as possible the scales of pig and poultry rations for the next period in order to enable stockkeepers to plan ahead.

No, Sir. I am not yet in a position to announce the scales of pig and poultry rations next winter, but these will be decided as soon as possible in the light of the available feeding-stuffs supplies, the national need for a steady expansion of pig and poultry breeding and of the production of pigmeat and eggs, and, in the case of poultry, the normal practice of autumn culling.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of how soon he will be in a position to make an announcement on this subject? Could he possibly answer the last part of the Question whether the ration for the next winter will be, at least, not lower than the ration that prevails at this moment?

I am sure the noble Lord will be aware that I am entirely in the hands of the Ministry of Food, who are responsible for importing feedingstuffs; and as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food is in the hands of those who sell and transport feedingstuffs, no assurances or guarantees could be given until the feedingstuffs arrive.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the present shortage of feedingstuffs is really the biggest obstacle of all to further output in agriculture, and that stockkeepers—pig and poultry keepers—have really had a tough time?

I can assure the hon. Member that we are as fully aware of that as he is himself. The Minister of Food has done all he can to provide the maximum quantity of feedingstuffs from wherever those feedingstuffs have happended to be.

In view of the statement the right hon. Gentleman has made about the Minister of Food, will he reconsider the suggestion that I made some time ago to remove the Minister of Food from the Agriculture Committee?

Fowl Pest


asked the Minister of Agriculture the latest figures as regards the number of cases of fowl pest which have been notified, and the number of fowls which have been slaughtered.

Up to and including 4th June there have been 359 outbreaks of fowl pest in England and Wales, involving the slaughter of about 17,200 birds.

Water Supply Schemes


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the slow progress being made in carrying out agricultural and domestic water supply schemes; and what steps are being taken to secure bigger delivery of pipes for these purposes.

The hon. Member will appreciate that the progress of many desirable developments in agriculture, as in other fields, is affected by the over-all shortage of steel. It is hoped that supplies of pipes for farm water schemes will improve as soon as production of steel increases and it is possible to increase allocations.

Is not that a further reason for taking my advice to ask for a larger allocation of steel?

Floods (Public Inquiries)


asked the Minister of Agriculture when he proposes to set up public inquiries into the cause of the recent floods.

Reports have been received by my Department from all but a few of those Boards in whose areas abnormal flooding occurred this spring. Discussions with the individual Boards are in progress and will continue this month. It is clear, however, that in all areas substantial works of rehabilitation will need to be completed before next winter which will make heavy demands on the technical staffs and resources of the Boards. I am not satisfied that any general need exists to hold public inquiries, and would be reluctant to divert the energies of the Boards from the urgent and important works which are now in progress.

While I fully appreciate the point made by the Minister about the work begun by the catchment boards, and while not desiring to detract from it, may I ask him to bear in mind three things? The first is, that the destruction of people's houses in some of the flooded areas is appalling; secondly, that the Government, by giving £1,000,000 out of public money raised through taxes, virtually, I submit, are bound to give some account to the taxpayers who subscribed that it is necessary to give that amount; and third, that there are a great many people who are calling for these inquiries. Whether or not the catchment boards' report indicates it, I do ask him to have these inquiries as soon as possible.

I do not see what the first two questions have to do with public inquiries. As regards the last supplementary question, inquiries may or may not be held later on, but it seems to me that flood prevention work is of far greater importance at this moment than inquiries.

Baling Wire


asked the Minister of Agriculture how much baling wire has been allocated for use in Berkshire during the current quarter; and how this compares with the amounts for the previous quarter and the same period last year.

An allocation of 39½ tons of baling wire was made to Berkshire in the current quarter, as compared with 64 tons in the previous quarter, and 85 and 80 tons in the second and first quarters of 1946 respectively.

In view of that very deplorable statement that Berkshire is getting only one-third of what it had before, can the Minister give us an assurance that we shall have enough baling wire to keep pace with the coming harvest?

I am hopeful that there will be imports from Belgium at an early date, and I hope Berkshire may have part of that allocation.


asked the Minister of Agriculture why farmers who have invested in hay balers, are not allowed baling wire unless they certify that it is to be used exclusively for hay or staw to be sold and not used on their own farms.

Because the current shortage of baling wire makes it necessary for the present to conserve supplies for the most essential purposes.

Tillage Acreage, 1948


asked the Minister of Agriculture when he will notify the C.A.E.Cs. and farmers of the acreages of such essential crops as wheat and potatoes that they will be required to grow in 1948; and to what extent he intends that the total tillage acreage should be reduced next year.

County war agricultural executive committees will be notified of the target acreages at which they should aim in 1948, in the course of the next few days. I hope that the total tillage acreage in 1948 will not fall below 10 million acres in England and Wales, and I am considering measures to that end.

How does that 10 million acres compare with this present year's tillage acreage?

Hill Sheep Scheme (Order)


asked the Minister of Agriculture the date upon which the Hill Sheep Scheme Subsidy Payment (England and Wales) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 667) was made; the date upon which it was laid on the Table of the House; and the reason for the delay in this Order being laid.

The Order was signed late on 3rd April, the day before Good Friday. Nothing further could be done till after the holiday, i.e., on Tuesday, 8th April, when the Order was sent to the Ministry's Stationery Section for printing. It reached His Majesty's Stationery Office on 9th April. Some further delay was caused, I regret to say, by a misunderstanding in my Department in dealing with the printing of the Order. As it was a short Order it was intended that it should be printed immediately after signature and without a proof, but a proof was obtained. This was received on 14th April and returned approved on the same day for urgent printing. The prints were received on 21st April and forwarded to both Houses of Parliament on 22nd April.

Vegetables (Growers' Prices)


asked the Minister of Agriculture to what extent lettuces, cabbages and cauliflowers are being ploughed in by growers because they cannot obtain remunerative prices; and, in view of the present high retail prices and unsatisfied public demand, how he explains this situation.

I am not aware that any of the vegetables mentioned are being ploughed in by growers owing to unremunerative prices, but if my hon. Friend will send me particulars of any cases which have come to his notice I will make inquiries.

In view of the shortage and the extremely high retail prices of greenstuffs, has my right hon. Friend taken any action to esure that such ploughing in does not take place?

As I understand it, there is no possibility of ploughing in, because the supplies are not too good on certain vegetables at the moment.

Kew Gardens (Hours Of Opening)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in the presence of summer time, he will arrange to keep Kew Gardens open to the public after 7 p.m.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange for Kew Gardens to remain open to the public until 10 p.m. during the months from May to September in view of British double summer time.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will revise the closing hours of Kew Gardens from 8 p.m. until dusk, so that people can take advantage of them for longer periods during double summer time and summer time; and whether he will also arrange for the various hothouses to be open to the public later than 4.30 p.m

I have again reviewed this question. The Royal Botanic Gardens are primarily a scientific institution, and adequate trained staff must be on duty whenever the gardens are open to the public in order to safeguard the invaluable scientific collections from loss or damage. Between the middle of May and the middle of August, the gardens are open until 8 p.m. This throws a heavy burden on the staff, who have to be on duty for more than 60 hours a week at this time of the year, including every Sunday and most Saturdays. Although I am anxious that the public should he able to enjoy the amenities of the gardens to the greatest possible extent consistent with their scientific purpose, I do not consider that I should be justified either in requiring the present staff to work still longer hours, or in recruiting and training the considerable number of additional staff that would be required for the sake of keeping the gardens open a little longer in the summer evenings. At this time of year the hothouses are closed at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Certain cultural processes have to be carried out on the plants after the houses are closed, and it would not he practicable to keep them open until a later hour without endangering the plants and placing heavy burdens on the staff

Is the Minister aware that there are thousands of members of the public who derive great pleasure from their visits to Kew Gardens that that pleasure can be given to thousands by the addition of very few to the staff as extra door-keepers; and if the Minister is unable to find those few extra door-keepers, would he not transfer some people from the hothouses, or make some other arrangement for a few extra people, in order that these thousands may derive this enjoyment.

I fully agree that large numbers of people do enjoy the luxury of a visit to Kew Gardens. But since the technical employees are now working a 10-hour day, with usually an extra hour per day overtime, I do not think it would be reasonable to expect them to work extra hours. Indeed, were the gardens to be kept open it is very doubtful whether those who remain between eight and ten o'clock would be able to get transport back to their homes

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the same consideration to the farming community as he is giving to the gardening staff, because they work very long hours?

is the Minister aware that in some of the Royal Parks they had precisely this problem and managed to solve it; and if this difficulty is merely a question of staff, will he consider the possibility of getting volunteers who would undertake this work, because there are many who would want others to share their pleasure?

Coastal Fishing Area (Service Requirements)


asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries whether he has been consulted in regard to the proposal to close a large area off the Dorset and Devon coast to fishing; and whether he is aware of the grave concern among fishermen and among residents in these counties at the prospect of a serious reduction in the supply of fish available to them.

No, Sir. So far as I am aware there is no proposal under consideration which would involve closing a large area off this coast to fishing vessels. Any proposals involving the permanent use of sea areas for Service purposes will come before the Inter-Departmental Com- mittee on Services Land Requirements, on which my Department is represented, and the interests of the fishing industry will be fully considered.

South Africa (Development Schemes)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs what arrangements exist for the interchange of information and expert personnel between the Union of South Africa and the High Commission Territories; and whether there are any plans for development schemes in these territories, to be operated jointly with South Africa, for the improvement of agriculture, water supplies and livestock.

Close co-operation exists between the High Commission Territories and the Union of South Africa in nearly all fields of activity, and Union technical advisers are readily made available by the Union Government to visit the territories to give advice. Facilities at the Union Research Institutes are at the disposal of the territories, and the Administrations of the territories have representatives on various Union control boards. There are no special joint schemes of the kind referred to in the second part of the Question

Swaziland (Food Supplies)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is satisfied that the food supplies of Swaziland are adequate; whether there is any evidence of malnutrition; and whether famine conditions have existed within the last 10 years.

It is expected that this year's crop will be adequate for Swaziland's food requirements. There is some evidence of malnutrition in Swaziland. Further investigation is, however, necessary before the nutritional position can be accurately assessed. A Nutrition Council has been constituted in Swaziland which maintains close contact with the National Nutrition Council in the Union. Serious conditions existed in the early part of 1945, owing to the failure of local and Union crops. In other years it has been possible to supplement Swaziland crops when necessary by importation from the Union. Grain storage facilities are being provided from the Colonial Development Funds to conserve supplies against future periods of scarcity.

Dominion Gifts To Uk


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent assistance rendered to the United Kingdom in money, food and in other ways by the Dominion members of the Commonwealth.

As regards monetary gifts, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 28th April to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison), in which he gave a list covering the period 1st August, 1945, to 1st April, 1947. Since the latter date gifts totalling in value some £1,500,000 have been received or promised from the Dominions for the Lord Mayor's Flood Relief Distress Fund, for use by the British Red Cross Society and the Women's Voluntary Services, and for other similar purposes. In this are included gifts both of money, and of food and clothing. I know that the House will wish to join me in expressing our sincere gratitude to the Governments, institutions and private citizens of the Dominions for their continuing generosity.

What acknowledgment are His Majesty's Government making to the Dominions for their great generosity to this country?

Suitable acknowledgment has been made to all the organisations and Governments for the gifts they have made.

Is Eire making any contribution towards these gifts? May I have an answer to a very simple question?

There are many organisations. Whether there is in Eire a similar organisation to some of the institutions which contributed from other Dominions, I could not say at this moment.

As regards the latter date which my hon. Friend has mentioned, would he intimate the nature and extent of the assistance given by each Dominion?

It is a long list, and from time to time the Press has given reports. If necessary, of course, I will circulate the information, but I would much rather leave it as it is. I think that if we acknowledged that, it would avoid missing some.

Royal Ordnance Factories (Civilian Goods)


asked the Minister of Supply whether it is the intention of the Government that Royal Ordnance factories should continue indefinitely to manufacture civilian goods.