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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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Ministry Of Supply

Ordnance Factory, Radway Green (Output)

1.

asked the Minister of Supply what civilian commodities are now being produced at Radway Green Royal Ordnance factory; what is the current monthly output; and how many men and women are engaged on the work.

The principal civilian commodities in production at this factory are oil engine components, cookers and brass strip. It is not the practice to give the distribution of employment and details of output at individual factories.

Will the Minister tell us when it is expected that the factory will be in full production?

Can the Minister say why the House is denied information on the points mentioned by the Minister in connection with the goods produced for this purpose?

It has not been the practice to give this information about individual factories.

There are security reasons for the distribution of the labour force over the Royal Ordnance factories, which it would not be right to give.

Short Wave Wireless Transmitters

2.

asked the Minister of Supply why short wave wireless sets are being destroyed at his Department's Ruddington depot.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to short wave wireless transmitters. It would be contrary to the public interest to sell them to private operators as it might lead to chaos in wireless communications. Some of them were previously destroyed, but they are now dismantled and sold when certain parts have been removed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that it would not be worth while to set men to work dismantling these parts rather than smashing them up?

Low Flying Aircraft, Wainfleet

5.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that aircraft are in the habit of flying at low levels over the Wainfleet district on Sundays, and that the noise of these aircraft is a source of annoyance to those attending Divine Service in the area; and what steps he proposes to take to abate this nuisance.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why his Department has become involved in this Question?

Surplus Motor Cars (Disposal)

6.

asked the Minister of Supply the number of motor cars, surplus to requirements, disposed of by him either to Government Departments or to Government-sponsored corporations', and how many of these motor cars were of 14h.p. and under.

Two hundred and ninety-one surplus motor cars were disposed of to Government Departments and 25 were sold to Government-sponsored corporations. Two hundred and forty-five were of 14h.p. or under.

Can the Minister say why these vehicles were disposed of to these corporations when there are disabled ex-Service men waiting for such vehicles?

Does not the Minister realise that many of these disabled men need these motor cars in order to get to their place of work and that they cannot get to their work without them?

Is the Minister aware that the Minister of Transport will not even accept names from 100 per cent. disabled men so that they can get reconditioned cars, and will he not review the matter?

I have reviewed this matter and I have decided that when cars are suitable for disabled ex-Service men they will be given to them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say why these corporations should get preferential treatment in this matter when they get priority for new cars as well?

10.

asked the Minister of Supply what arrangements he has made to supply reconditioned ex-Service motor cars to Government corporations; whether these vehicles would otherwise have been offered to the public by auction and whether inquiries are made as to the purpose for which these motor cars are to be used by the corporations.

Twenty-five cars, of which three were reconditioned, have been supplied from surplus Government stocks to the Airways corporations. My information is that these cars are being used for the corporations'- official business.

Public Health Service Vehicles

asked the Minister of Supply (1) if he is aware of the long delay being experienced by local authorities in the delivery of public service vehicles, especially cesspool emptiers; and if he will ensure priority for the production of- such vehicles;

(2) if he will make readily available to local authorities supplies of spare parts urgently required to maintain in service vehicles used in the interests of public health.

Owing to very heavy demand, there is delay in the delivery of all vehicles, but there is no evidence to show that it is greater with these than with other types. There is no Government control either over the manufacture of complete vehicles or over the sale and distribution of spare parts and I do not think that there is a case for asking the industry to give them priority. If, however, my hon. Friend will let me have details of any particular case of difficulty, I will see if I can help.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my main interest is in cesspool vehicles for the rural districts, and, therefore, if the Government can do anything to speed up these particular vehicles it will be very helpful in the interests of public health?

Staff, Hans Mansions (Reductions)

9.

asked the Minister of Supply what reductions have been made in the staff at Hans Mansions since 31st March, 1947.

The staff at Hans Mansions has been reduced by 14 since 31st March, 1947.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are some, even within the Department, who consider that there could be a reduction much more speedily without loss of efficiency, and is it intended to have the position specially examined?

But will the Minister have the position specially examined in view of the fact that this is the second occasion on which I have raised the issue with him?

Ministry Of Works

Requisitioned Premises, Maidstone

11.

asked the Minister of Works why 25, Gabriel's Hill, Maidstone, is not now being released, as shops are much needed in the town and he retains large premises but two or three minutes' walk away in Week Street.

These premises have been specially fitted for use by the Ministry of Food as a Food Advice Centre. The building in Week Street isthe local Food Office; it is not large enough to accommodate the Food Advice Centre as well.

Has not the time arrived when these food offices should be concentrated into one building so that local people may have their own shops again and so that the nation may be saved the cost of having to maintain three places to do one job?

Wherever possible we carry out that concentration, but in this case it is not possible.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what special equipment is necessary to give advice about food?

Does not the Minister agree that the best food advice centre is a well-equipped and well-stocked grocer's shop?

Yes, Sir, and with due cooperation and without undue criticism we may obtain such grocers' shops.

Palace Of Westminster (Home Guard And Firewatchers' Equipment)

14.

asked the Minister of Works whether the equipment provided for use of the Home Guard and firewatchers during the war in the Palace of Westminster has been disposed of, or how much has been retained; and for what purpose.

The equipment provided for the use of Home Guards in the Palace of Westminster has been sent to the Territorial Association. Firewatchers' equipment has been stored for re-issue for peace-time purposes, or returned to the appropriate Department for disposal.

Royal Parks (Litter)

22.

asked the Minister of Works whether he has seen the litter of paper and food fragments in the Royal Parks on a fine summer day, which diminishes public enjoyment; how many prosecutions there have been on this account; and whether he will consider increasing the number of prosecutions in order to abate this nuisance.

I am only too well aware of the amount of litter desposited in the Royal Parks, which is a matter of great concern and expense to my Department. Only one successful prosecution has taken place during the past 12 months, when the offender was fined £2. I will not hesitate to prosecute in all cases where the necessary evidence is available.

The labour that is available can be turned to far more profitable uses than that suggested by the hon. Member of snooping upon individuals. I am hoping by other means to give some sort of education to the public in preserving the amenities of the Royal Parks.

How does it come about that food fragments are littered in our public parks when we are supposed to be starving?

Is the Minister in touch with the Minister of Education in order to educate school children to avoid these practices? Is not the right way of dealing with these matters not that of prosecution, but the training of the habits of the public?

I agree entirely with the hon. Member, that this is a matter of public education but, as an ex-schoolmaster, I am not at all convinced that the offenders are the children of our schools.

Requisitioned Single Properties (Release)

23.

asked the Minister of Works whether any priority in derequisitioning is given to owners of single properties subject to requisition who require the properties for the purpose of their calling and where no suitable alternative accommodation is available.

While first priority is given generally to the release of accommodation such as flats and small houses which are urgently needed to meet a public need, efforts are made to meet individual cases of hardship by releasing single properties where possible.

If I give the Minister information about particular cases which deserve his sympathetic attention, will he give them that attention?

Building Repairs (Licences)

24.

asked the Minister of Works whether, in granting licences for building repairs, consideration is given to the announcement made by representatives of the Ministry of Health to local authorities that the aim was an allocation of licences in the ratio, in terms of value, of 60/40 to the advantage of housing as against non-housing repairs.

House Of Commons (Division Lobbies, Lighting)

27.

asked the Minister of Works whether he will introduce more natural and artificial light into the Division Lobbies of the House.

I hope by next autumn to have reglazed all Division Lobby windows with glass similar to that in this Chamber, but progress will depend on the rate at which the special glass can be obtained. I am not aware of any general demand for an improvement in the artificial lighting; the amount provided is greater than it was before the war.

Is the Minister aware that of all the Lobbies, the "Aye" Lobby is by far the gloomier and requires attention more urgently?

I quite understand the feeling the hon. Gentleman has on this matter. I dare say he has more often to go into the "Aye" Lobby in support of unnecessary Amendments than into the other Lobby.

Housing

Repairs, Birmingham (Materials)

12.

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware of the urgent need of roofing material for the repair of dwelling houses in Birmingham, now suffering injury to their existing structure and furniture and other internal contents; and if he will make arrangements to augment the present limited available supplies.

28.

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that the shortage of slates and other building materials is so acute in Birmingham that builders are experiencing difficulty in carrying out repairs to houses for which statutory orders have been issued by the medical officer of health; and, in view of the large numbers of houses with defective roofs, if he will review the present allocation of materials to enable essential repairs to be carried out.

I am not aware of any serious difficulty in meeting these needs, for which special provision has been made in the priority distribution scheme. If the hon. Member opposite would supply me with details of any case he has in mind I should be glad to inquire into it.

In view of the particularly sad circumstances in which many of these people live, would the Minister give special attention to fixing his priorities so that they are given preference over ordinary building?

Yes, Sir, and with the cooperation of the local authority who have the power of issuing these certificates we shall do that.

Is the Minister aware that according to the chief sanitary inspector in Birmingham builders are having to take slates from out-houses in order to repair roofs, and that the position is becoming almost intolerable and should be investigated?

There is a difficulty with regard to the supply of slates, but my regional officers will assist local authorities in this matter.

Can the Minister tell us off-hand of any case in which there is no difficulty of supply?

If the right hon. Gentleman will look around in his own constituency I think he will find an overwhelming number of cases.

Cement Supplies

15.

asked the Minister of Works why the shortage of cement has now become acute; and what steps are proposed to increase supplies for building and repair of houses.

Cement production fell sharply because of the fuel shortage, and stocks throughout the country were reduced to an extremely low level. The rate of output now exceeds its former level but it will be some time before stocks are re-established. In the meantime, my regional officers are arranging for as much cement as possible to be supplied for housing.

Is the Minister aware that quite recently there was no cement available at all in some towns of North Wales, and could some be made available for essential repairs pending such time as output becomes sufficiently normal to meet other demands?

Yes, Sir, I am aware that there have been places in the country without any cement at all. We made efforts to supply them and those supplies were sent. At all times my regional officers are prepared to give what assistance they can.

Will the Minister look into the restrictive practices of the cement manufacturers in order to ensure that greater supplies are available?

Yes, Sir. I have been in consultation with the cement industry and I am perfectly satisfied that the amounts that are being produced will be equal to the needs if we are given the chance of another week.

Is the Minister aware that the increased allocation of fuel to the cement manufacturers is equivalent to only 85 per cent. of last year's production, and is it not possible to increase this allocation to a very great extent?

I do not accept the statement that the fuel allocation is equal to only 85 per cent. of last year's production. According to my information the amount of fuel that has now been allocated is sufficient to meet the needs at present.

Would the Minister discount the obvious delight of His Majesty's Opposition at these difficulties?

Did not the Minister say last week that the difficulties with regard to cement were due to the failure of distribution, and how does he reconcile last week's statement with this?

No, Sir, I did not make that statement last week. What I said was that the difficulty arose from shortage of supplies because of the fuel difficulty, which was added to by the difficulty of distribution because, of course, the pipelines were empty of the material. That is the problem that has to be solved now, and with the stocks increasing, the normal channels of supply will be able to meet the demand.

Is the Minister satisfied that contractors in a small way of business are receiving a fair allocation of the available supplies?

I am not saying that in some circumstances there are not difficulties with regard to small contractors but, as I have said, in every case which is brought to our notice, my regional officers will do everything they can to meet the need.

Does not the Minister realise that a most abnormal effort must be made with regard to cement, because it is the thing that holds, the houses together?

Yes, Sir, and my people, in co-operation with the industry, are making that abnormal effort.

Has the Minister checked up on the storage capacity of any factory to discover whether it is choked with cement that has not been distributed?

I think that my officers in the regions concerned would be able to discover that, and I have received no indication which would lead to that conclusion.

Is not the Minister aware that he gave me an assurance across the Floor of this House last week that cement would be available and supplies normal by the beginning of next month, and what does he mean now by saying "some time"?

20.

asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware of the present delay in delivering cement and plaster for completing the housing programme in Huntingdonshire; and whether he will take steps to expedite deliveries.

Yes, Sir. During the present temporary shortage of cement, demands cannot be met promptly, but my regional officers are prepared to give assistance in particularly urgent cases. The shortage of plaster is not acute, but similar assistance will be given wherever necessary.

Is the Minister aware that in the towns of Saltash and Liskeard, in my constituency, the housing programme has been held up for some time for lack of cement?

21.

asked the Minister of Works on what basis supplies of cement available for general housing purposes are apportioned between the various local authority housing schemes in any particular locality.

Supplies are distributed as fairly as possible by the trade, and the assistance of my regional officers is available to any local authority which has difficulty in meeting urgent requirements.

25.

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that, owing to the priority laid down as to the use of cement, there is none available for houses; and, in view of the fact that the rebuilding of bombed houses at 142 to 152, Crescent Drive, Petts Wood, Kent, particulars of which have been sent him, is being held up for want of cement, if he will take steps to arrange for immediate deliveries to that site.

The shortage of cement follows the fuel difficulties. I am aware of the case mentioned and a small delivery has been made.

Is not the Minister aware that the reason for the shortage of cement everywhere is the same as for the shortage of potatoes—Government control? Does he not recall the saying of Kipling's about the good servant who became a bad master?

Yes, Sir, but when the servant is acting on behalf of a master—namely, the people of this country—who is at the present moment endorsing the action of his servant, I am perfectly satisfied so to act.

Is the Minister aware that I am building four agricultural cottages in South Devon and that the work has been held up for six weeks owing to the shortage? Will he make abnormal efforts to see that it is dealt with?

No, Sir, I was not aware of what the hon. and gallant Member has stated, and I do not see why I should make abnormal efforts in that particular instance. I will make every effort to see that the district generally gets the supplies that it is possible to deliver.

Prefabricated Bungalows, Kingsbridge

19.

asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware of the numerous complaints which have been made by the occupants of the new prefabricated bungalows erected in the rural district of Kingsbridge, Devon, with regard to the inability to obtain any fencing material to make their gardens stockproof; and whether, in view of the urgent need for encouraging food production, he will arrange for the better distribution of fencing material.

Yes, Sir; my regional officer received a complaint in May, and the material has since been delivered. The supplies of fencing material available for temporary houses are distributed fairly and each site is dealt with, as nearly as possible, in its turn.

Sewage Disposal, Kingsbridge

29.

asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware of the unsatisfactory position with regard to sewage disposal in the vicinity of new housing areas in the rural district of Kingsbridge, Devonshire; and when he anticipates it will be possible to take some action with regard to the complaints which have been passed to him in this connection

Yes, Sit; a meeting on the site With the council's officers to investigate the cause of the complaint is due to take place this week.

Prefabricated Houses (Lighting Plugs)

87.

asked the Minister of Health what is the sum allowed for the provision of lighting plugs in the smallest type of permanent prefabricated houses; and whether this will provide the number of plugs recommended in the Housing Manual.

I have been asked to reply. In the priced bill agreed as the basis of contract, the figure is £27 6s. 3d. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir."

Will the representative of the Minister of Health inform him that the majority of houses being built at the present time have not half the number which is recommended in the Housing Manual, and that it will be injurious to the sight of the people concerned? Cannot he have the recommendation properly carried out?

I will see that my right hon. Friend is notified of the hon. Member's allegation.

Government Hospitality (Receptions, London)

16.

asked the Minister of Works the amount of money spent on Government hospitality at receptions held in London hotels and restaurants; and the amount spent in each establishment for the past year.

The total expenditure on Government hospitality at receptions held in London hotels and restaurants during the 12 months ended 31st May, 1947, was £4,754 10s. 5d. I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate the details of this sum in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following are the details:

The amount spent in each establishment was as follows:

£s.d.
Claridges Hotel1,31179
The Dorchester72792
Grosvenor House4961
Gunters Restaurant201110
The Hyde Park Hotel15741
The Savoy Hotel2,307124
Total£4,754105

17.

asked the Minister of Works if he will arrange that, in future, all Government hospitality receptions, hotel bookings, etc., are shared out equally amongst those establishments able to provide the necessary accommodation and facilities.

Every endeavour is made to share entertainment provided by the Government between those establishments which are able to provide the necessary accommodation and facilities.

May I ask the Minister if all the entertainments and the food provided were subject to the ordinary regulations of the Ministry of Food?

Would the Minister agree that quality in Government hospitality is more important than equality?

I think that that is true and we endeavour as far as we can to create a good impression on our foreign visitors.

18.

asked the Minister of Works whether when the Government hold receptions, etc., m London hotels and restaurants, every opportunity is given by means of competitive tender to each suitable establishment to apply; and whether he will give an assurance that these contracts for receptions are given to establishments that abide by the fair wage and condition clause of Government contracts.

As a rule, Government receptions have to be arranged at very short notice and time does not permit of competitive tendering. With regard to the second part of the Question it has not been considered necessary or appropriate to apply the general conditions of Government contracts to the services which are provided by hotels and restaurants in connection with these receptions.

India

Statutory Order No 565

30.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India the date upon which S.R. & O., 1947, No. 565, was made; the date upon which this Order was laid on the Table of the House; and the reason for the delay in such laying.

The Order in question was made on 14th March, published on 9th April, and laid on the Table of the House on 29th April. My noble Friend very much regrets the delay, which was the result of a Departmental oversight.

Royal Indian Navy (Pension Code)

31.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Government of India have now reached a decision on the question of applying the new pension code, Cmd. 6754, to officers of the Royal Indian Navy.

33.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Government of India has yet come to any conclusion on the application of the new 1945 British pension scales to the Royal Indian Navy.

I am glad to say that the Government of India have now approved in principle the application of the 1945 pension code to the British officers of the Royal Indian Navy. Certain questions of detail still remain for consideration.

May we take it that the Navy will receive as good treatment as the other Services?

Can the Minister tell us what is to happen in regard to the position of the members of the Indian Civil Service?

Government Service (Contracts)

32.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India, what is the position, when the transfer of power takes place, of a person who joined the Indian Government service and had a contract with the British Indian Government, with the right of appeal to the Viceroy; and what provision is being made for their future.

As part of the process of the partition of India there will be a division of existing obligations, assets and liabilities and no doubt also of the existing staff of the Government of India. I have no reason to suppose that the new Governments will not observe the contracts of their predecessor. It is, however, intended, when the new authorities have been set up, to negotiate agreements with them in regard to matters arising out of the transfer of power and the position of persons of United Kingdom origin hitherto in the service of the existing Indian Government including the security of their pensions in respect of their past service will be for discussion in these negotiations.

Is it not a fact that the Under-Secretary of State has used the term "no doubt"? Is he aware that all these loyal people, who so devotedly served India for so many years, are now not at all certain what is to happen to them? They all feel that they are being left high and dry.

Careful study of my reply will, I think, reveal that their fears are groundless.

Can the Minister give an assurance that this matter will be dealt with in the new Government of India Bill?

I think we might wait until the new Bill is introduced. I think it will be found to cover the point.

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the Secretary of State is under a legal obligation, by the terms of the former Government of India Act?

No, Sir. The Secretary of State is not under any statutory obligation, except in regard to what are called the Secretary of State's Services. I think the hon. Gentleman who raised the matter had in mind those people who have contracts with the Government of India, and not the members of the Secretary of State's services.

As a matter of fact, there never was a right of appeal to the Viceroy in his discretion. Appeal lay to the Governor-General in Council.

Do the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman apply to Indian civil servants as well as to the Army and Navy?

We must leave it to the Government of India and to the various Provincial Governments of India to do the right thing with their own nationals.

May we take it that the Government are aware of the anxiety of those who are employed in the un-covenanted services and by Provincial Governments? Although I am not pressing for an authoritative statement on this matter at the moment, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that his Department has this matter constantly in mind?

Yes, Sir. As I have said, this is one of the matters which will have to be discussed when treaties or agreements are negotiated with the new Governments.

I hope I made it clear that I am talking about the uncovenanted services and those who are employed by the Provincial Governments. Does the answer cover that?

The members of the Secretary of State's Services have already been dealt with in the announcement recently made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The reply I have given today covers the other Government services.

Armed Forces (Strength)

34.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India how many officers and other ranks, respectively, are at present serving on the Indian establishment each of the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Army and the Royal Indian Air Force.

The Government of India have informed me that it would be contrary to their policy to disclose such information regarding their Armed Forces. I therefore regret that I cannot give the hon. and gallant Member the information for which he has asked.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be prepared to give the information as far as it concerns British officers and other ranks?

Burma (Budget Deficit)

35.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma what proportion of the £12,000,000 contributed by the British Government towards the deficit in Burma's 1946–47 budget is absorbed in the payment of salaries; and what proportion of the £18,375,000 to wards the current year's fiscal rehabilitation projects is being spent on repairing the destruction of British assets wrecked by orders in the denial of their use by the Japanese invaders.

Both contributions are being made as general advances towards meeting Burma's budget deficit and the rehabilitation of her economy for the financial year October, 1946, to September, 1947. While I regret that the precise information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available, I would inform the hon. Member that the estimated total expenditure is approximately £33 million, of which approximately £12.5 million is in respect of salaries (exclusive of those for the Frontier Areas) and the estimated revenue is approximately £20 million. As regards the second part of the Question the actual proportion of His Majesty's Government's contribution to the projects to be expended on restoring British-owned assets destroyed by denial measures is not ascertainable, as assets so destroyed have not been dealt with separately from those destroyed by other war operations, and in many cases the assets will be replaced in a different form.

Is it compatible with the declaration of complete independence for the new Burmese Government that the British taxpayer should pay the whole cost of the salaries of this administration, and would it not be fair that British nationals whose businesses have suffered enormous losses should have some sort of guarantee as to what proportion, if any, will be recouped to them out of this heavy expenditure of £33 million, again at the expense of the British taxpayer?

As regards the second part of the question, I am not able to give the precise information for which the hon. Gentleman asks, because in the nature of things it is not possible to separate one item from another. As regards the first part of the supplementary question, he will appreciate that the engagements which the Government have entered into with regard to the Government of Burma cover the financial year ending September this year. The effect of any constitutional change of the nature to which he has referred upon existing engagements is, of course, an entirely different question.

Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will supply a Command Paper or some other information from which we shall be able to see exactly how this gift—for that is what it really is—has been spent?

I do not think there is any secret as to the way in which the money has been spent. The difficulty is in breaking down the amounts advanced to cover the deficit as regards the items of expenditure by the Burmese Government during the current financial year. I am quite sure we will do our best to supply any information which the noble Lord or any other hon. Member desires.

Rumania

Military Missions (Withdrawal)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the military missions of the Allied Powers now in Rumania will be withdrawn simultaneously; and upon what date or dates.

No arrangements have been made for simultaneous withdrawal. The process must, however, be completed within 90 days of the coming into force of the Treaty, which lays down that all Allied forces must be withdrawn within 90 days, subject to the right of the Soviet Union to keep on Rumanian territory such armed forces as it may need for the maintenance of the lines of communication of the Soviet forces in Austria.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that steps will be taken to ensure the simultaneous withdrawal of the missions?

But not without consultation with the other Governments concerned, I trust?

I have nothing to add to my answer, but we shall withdraw this mission, which will have no duties then, as soon as practicable.

Arrests

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many people were arrested in Rumania, otherwise than upon criminal charges, between 1st March and 7th May; how many of these have, respectively, been released, charged or brought to trial; and, in so far as these arrests were a breach of the provisions governing our relations with Rumania, what action he is taking in the matter.

I do not know the exact number of persons arrested. From reports that have been received I should estimate that there have been well over a thousand arrests. As far as can be ascertained, none of the persons in question have been formally charged or brought to trial, but some have been released after a short period of detention. As regards the last part of the Question, I have not at present anything to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Belfast University (Professor Savory) on 30th April.

That reply having been so exceedingly unsatisfactory, will the Under-Secretary say what further steps he is now taking in order to ascertain this information?

I am not in a position to make a statement now but we are considering what is the best course to take.

Will the Under-Secretary inform the Rumanian Government that there is a considerable volume of good will in this country towards Rumania, and that funds are being raised to aid starving Rumanian children and so on? Will he point out that behaviour of this kind must militate against that good will?

Peace Treaty (Ratification)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the cause of the delay in the ratification of the peace treaty with Rumania; and when this will now take place.

His Majesty's Government and the United States Government are now ready to deposit their ratifications and my right hon. Friend is at present in communication with the Soviet and United States Governments in order to fix an early date on which all three ratifications may be deposited, thus bringing the Treaty into force. It is, however, the view of His Majesty's Government that the Rumanian Government should ratify before the three powers whose ratification will bring the treaty into force. My right hon. Friend has accordingly represented to the Rumanian Government the importance of early ratification on their part.

Can the hon. Gentleman say why the Rumanian Government has not yet ratified the Treaty?

I think there are several reasons for the delay in ratification. We have been ready to ratify it for some time past, but other countries have to go through legislative processes before they can ratify it.

Are His Majesty's Government not going to be assured that the conditions laid down in Article 3 of the Treaty will be carried out before ratification is granted?

We shall certainly ratify this Treaty. What action we shall take with regard to Article 3 is a different question.

Germany

Private Estates (Ownership)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what method is contemplated for dealing with the ownership of large private estates in the British zone of Germany.

A draft ordinance on Land Reform has just been referred to the German Zonal Advisory Council for advice. While it is not possible, therefore, to give details of the measures which will take effect, it is generally expected that the Ordinance will provide that land in excess of an area to be specified should be expropriated. This step in the view of the Moscow Conference is necessary in the interest of future security.

In the case of extensive farms which are planned, as many are, for operation as one unit with large central buildings, will the hon. Gentleman consider turning them into State concerns so that they can still be operated as one unit under public ownership since that would be much more efficient than breaking them up into a number of small units?

That is perhaps rather a large question for Question time, but where large experimental farms are concerned, it is the intention of the draft ordinance to make special provisions.

Can the Under-Secretary tell us under what principle or under- standing of international law this kind of re-allotting of landed property is being done?

This is done by the same procedure as other acts of the Control Commission in the British zone, and, of course, the Germans are taken into consultation. This ordinance is at the moment before the Zonal Advisory Council for their advice.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that this announcement has caused widespread concern, particularly among the social democrats of Germany? Can he say why the maximum size of an estate under the new law is to be fixed considerably higher in the British zone than it is in the Russian or American zones?

The ordinance is, I must repeat, in draft. The actual maximum is now subject to the advice of the Zonal Advisory Council, and I do not think I can make any further comment at this stage.

What is the attitude of the United States on this question of the expropriation of private lands? Have they been consulted now that we are working together in the Western zones?

Hamburg Project

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Hamburg Project has now been abandoned; and how much money has been spent on it to date.

No final decision has yet been reached as to the completion of the Hamburg Project. The main work is at present in suspense because it is not possible to allot the necessary priority for the provision of the materials and labour involved. Work is still proceeding to protect the foundations which have been laid. The cost to date is approximately 29,000,000 Reichsmarks.

Arising out of that, would not the hon. Gentleman think it better to abandon this project finally, instead of wasting any more money ?

The final decision has not yet been taken. However, the only work going on is to protect the foundations so that eventual completion will make this building of service.

Iron And Steel Industry (Socialisation)

58.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in whom it is intended to vest the property of the German iron and steel industry when it is socialised in the British zone.

No final decision has yet been taken, but my right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to make a statement in the near future.

Economic Planning And Control

45.

asked the Prime Minister, if he will issue, as a White Paper or in some other convenient form, a statement giving a description of the existing Governmental machinery of economic planning and control.

I have been asked to reply. The Governmental machinery for economic planning and control has been described from time to time and announcements have already been made about all recent developments. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not think that the issue of a further statement would be appropriate at the present time.

Is not the Lord President aware that there is as much confusion in the public mind about this machinery as about what comes out of the machinery, and would it not be a good thing to have a real statement of what actually happens behind the scenes?

I think the assumption on which the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is put is unfounded.

Might I ask the Lord President to reconsider this, because a considerable number of people would be extremely interested to know exactly what is the planning set-up, and in a democracy surely, they have the right to know? Would he not consider it seriously and favourably?

The hon. Gentleman is begging the question. I have already answered the Question on the Paper which dealt with that very point.

Central Planning Organisation (Chief Publicity Officer)

46.

asked the Lord President of the Council what salary is being paid to the chief publicity officer to the Central Planning Organisation.

The salary of the Chief Economic Information Officer, who has been appointed on a temporary basis, is £3,750.

Is not that salary the equivalent to that paid to the most senior officers of the Civil Service? And is it not substantially higher than that paid to any other public relations officer of any other Government Department?

This appointment is a temporary appointment. Special qualifications were necessary, and the salary is actually no more than the income which Mr. Leslie was earning before he came to this post.

Yes, Sir, I have already answered that Question in a written answer which appeared in HANSARD on Friday, but there is no doubt that his qualifications are outstanding.

Agriculture

Tenancy Notice, Cambridgeshire

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Cambridgeshire A.E.C. have informed Mr. J. T. Cooper that they are generally dissatisfied with his method of farming and that therefore they could not reconsider the notice to quit by next Michael- mas based upon quite different grounds; and whether he will cause particulars of the committee's complaint to be sent forthwith to Mr. Cooper.

Yes, Sir, except that I cannot agree that this notice was based on different grounds.

As the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) has laryngitis and can scarcely speak, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the county agricultural executive made no complaint about Mr. Cooper's farming methods to his Department until my hon. Friend complained to the agricultural executive committee in Cambridgeshire, and will he take great pains to ensure that no injustice is done in this case?

I have made inquiries and my information is that the real cause for the notice was made transparently clear to Mr. Cooper in discussions with the county agricultural executive committee.

Milk (Transport Delays)

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the thousands of gallons of milk for which payment was refused to the farm dairies throughout the country during the recent hot weather spell, due to delay in transport and long hours standing in the sun after leaving the farm dairies, before delivery, he will take steps to ensure that the transport during hot weather spells is expedited and that farmers are not rendered liable for the loss, which in most cases cannot be attributed to their negligence or lack of efficiency on the farms.

Although the hot weather spell coincided with the peak of milk production there is no evidence that delay in transport was the primary cause of the souring of such milk as was rejected. Special arrangements to expedite transport are therefore unnecessary.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much of the milk which has been examined was perfectly good when it left the farm dairies, and will he look into the question of transport, because no milk will keep in. churns if it is exposed to the sun for hours?

I have no information to that effect. As a matter of fact, investigations have shown that milk which is satistorily produced and handled at the start will show little change in keeping quality even if the churns are exposed to the sun for several hours. On the contrary, unsatisfactory milk will sour rapidly in such conditions.

Would the right hon. Gentleman have a word with me afterwards. This is a very important matter.

Usa Tractor Tyres

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the dates on which orders were first placed in the U.S.A. for tractor tyres, and the number of tyres which have been ordered.

I assume the hon. and gallant Member refers to tractor tyres imported under licence since importation by individual manufacturers was resumed on 1st June, 1946. The first licence for the import of tractor tyres from U.S. was issued in August, 1946, and the total number of tyres covered by this and subsequent licences is 7.575.

Requisitioned Commons

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when it is proposed to hand back to the commonholders those commons which were requisitioned by the W.A.E.Cs. during the war.

In the present serious food situation I can make no promise, but I will give the matter sympathetic consideration as soon as the position eases.

May I ask the Minister whether, when the time comes to hand back these commons to the common-holders, he will take the necessary steps to see that the common landlords look after their commons and keep them in food production and not let them revert to the state which they were in previously?

Farm Visit (Departmental Officials)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that 11 employees of 'his Department visited a farm belonging to Mr. B. S. White, the chairman of the West Midland Liberal Federation, on a particular day; and what was the purpose of the visit.

I presume that my hon. Friend refers to the report in a local newspaper of a statement by Mr. White to the effect that II officials of my Department visited his farm on a particular day. From information Mr. White has since supplied it appears that the correct number is two: one was a veterinary officer paying his annual visit, the other was an officer who called to advise on the economic use of tractor oil.

Is the Minister aware that this statement was made partly as an attack on the Civil Service, that the headline of the paper read: "Eleven officials to check farm," and is it not clear from the Minister's answer that nine-elevenths of this type of propaganda must be discounted as wild exaggeration?

Southern Rhodesia (Electoral Arrangements)

54.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he proposes to disallow the proposed alteration in the electoral arrangements in Southern Rhodesia, whereby two out of the 10 new Members of Parliament shall represent native interests and natives be no longer eligible for the common voters' roll, as falling within the category of discriminating legislation.

I understand that a Motion on this subject is at present before the Southern Rhodesia Legislative Assembly, but has not yet been voted on. The question raised by my hon. Friend will not arise unless and until legislation is proposed by the Southern Rhodesia Government.

Is my hon. Friend aware that according to the information which has reached this country, including Press reports in Southern Rhodesian newspapers, the proposed alteration of which I have complained has been moved as an Amendment to a Motion by a Private Member, by the Prime Minister and Minister of Native Affairs? Is he also aware that great concern is felt all through the Commonwealth at the approximation of Southern Rhodesian native policy to that of South Africa and of the powers of disallowance reserved to His Majesty's Government?

Is the Minister aware that proposals in Southern Rhodesia are thoroughly retrogressive, and would he use his influence to see that the franchise is made more consistent with modern democratic principles?

Iraq (Transit Embargo)

56.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the Government of Iraq is refusing to allow goods to pass in transit through Iraq to Palestine; and what steps he proposes to take in order to prevent this clog on international trade.

Yes, but in view of the serious nature of this interference, will those steps be taken immediately, and will my hon. Friend see to it that there will be no delay at all?

Arrested British Seaman, Usa (Treatment)

57.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now in a position to give the result of his inquiries into the alleged brutal treatment by the police at Galveston, Texas, U.S.A., of Seaman Alexander Marshall, 90, Garnet Street, Garnet Hill, Glasgow, particulars of which case were forwarded on 19th April last.

My right hon. Friend communicated the result of his inquiries to the hon. Member on 20th June.

Does not my hon. Friend consider that the refusal of the chief of police to take action against the officers concerned in this matter is very unsatisfactory?

Yes, Sir, but we are making inquiries into this question, and into what facilities there are for looking after seamen at Galveston.

Food Supplies

Imported Canned Meats

65.

asked the Minister of Food whether any long-term contracts have been made for regular supplies of imported canned meats; and why is there such a decline in present and future immediate deliveries.

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir." Distribution over the next few months will be higher than prewar but below the rate of issue in the past year, when we had the benefit of war surpluses.

66.