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Commons Chamber

Volume 439: debated on Monday 30 June 1947

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House Of Commons

Monday 30th June, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Newhaven And Seaford Sea Defences Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Government Departments

Offices (Disused Warships)


asked the Minister of Works if, in view of the shortage of office accommodation for civil servants in the London area, temporarily evacuated to the provinces, he will conside mooring disused warships in the River Thames, in order that they can be used as temporary office accommodation to enable many civil servants to return to their homes in London.

This suggestion has been considered but it is not practicable.

Will the Minister issue a statement saying why in is not practicable, bearing in mind the fact that warships were used during the war for offices in many ways?

Is the Minister aware that there are already several ships moored in the Thames, and that a further one is due for the Master Mariners? So what is impracticable?

I am advised by the Port of London Authority that the mooring of vessels of any appreciable size above London Bridge would adversely affect the current and cause the navigable channels to silt up. If they were moored below London Bridge, they would interfere with the navigation of merchant shipping and thus cause inconvenience.

Could not smaller vessels be used instead of larger ones? Surely, it is not necessary to have large vessels only.

When we get down to the question of smaller ships, the installation of the necessary sanitation, telephones and lighting, makes the thing impracticable.

The Minister will be aware that there is a most alarming aggregation of civil servants at Cambridge. Will he consider putting some of them into houseboats on the Cam?

Requisitioned Premises, Edinburgh


asked the Minister of Works whether he will now derequisition the premises owned by the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company at Nos. 10–11, Rutland Square, Edinburgh, in order that the railway company may proceed with its scheme for converting these premises into six separate dwelling houses for the use of employees of the company who are at present inadequately housed.

I regret that the retention of these premises by my Department is necessary owing to the shortage of office accommodation in Edinburgh.

In view of the recommendations contained in the recent Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, will the Minister do his best to expedite the release of these premises?

Accommodation, Blackpool


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that 32 Blackpool hotels are still held on Government requisition; that the continued maintenance of these requisitions makes it difficult for the town to cater adequately for either holidaymakers or national conferences; and whether he will consider providing permanent accommodation within the county borough for the Government Departments concerned so as to release the hotels for their proper functions and at the same time maintain within the area the employment offered by the Civil Service.

Yes, Sir. I am aware that 32 Blackpool hotels or boarding houses are still held on Government requisition and of the difficulties experienced by the town as a result. My Department has for some time past been taking steps to provide other accommodation for the civil servants now in hotels, including the erection of new buildings in Newcastle for the Ministry of National Insurance. The question of locating some Government staffs permanently in the town is being considered but this would not enable requisitioned hotels to be released any sooner than under present arrangements.

Can the Minister give an approximate date when these hotels will be derequisitioned? It is not good enough that they should still be held two years after the war.

No, Sir. I cannot give a date. There are certainly some cases where it will not be possible until the end of 1949.

Would the Minister consider first those resorts on the East and South coasts which bore the full brunt of the war rather than places like Blackpool?

I shall try in all cases to deal fairly with the claims of all seaside resorts.

May I ask my right hon. Friend not to worry unduly about Blackpool, in view of the large number of people who prefer to sleep on the sands there—judging by its situation in the sun?

Ministry Of Works

House Of Commons Rebuilding


asked the Minister of Works if he has had prepared a complete time and progress schedule for the construction of the new House of Commons.

The rebuilding of the House of Commons involves a number of stages, each covered by a separate contract. Schedules were prepared for the earlier contracts, and that for the present and final contract is now in the last stages of preparation.

Would the Minister be so good as to put a copy of that time and progress schedule in the Library so that other people can see that it is really a practicable proposition?

Will the Minister say how far he has been embarrassed in the reconstruction of the Chamber by lack of steel? Has all the steel he requires for the Chamber been supplied?

A brief look out of the window will show that the necessary steel has been made available.

Building Repairs (Licences)


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware of the increasing dilapidation of property, which is caused by the present ruling that total repairs authorised by any local authority must be strictly limited to the figure imposed by the present weekly ceiling; and when he anticipates it will be possible to raise this ceiling.

I regret that, with the present shortages of building labour and materials, it is necessary to limit the amount of maintenance and repair work which is licensed. The licensing ceilings are intended as a guide to the amount of building work which can be done with the available labour and materials including work under statutory notices and statutory directions. Restrictions can be relaxed as the pressure of demand for building work eases and labour and materials become more plentiful.


asked the Minister of Works the number of licences and their value that have been granted for building repairs by his Department and, separately, by the local authorities in the London region for each month, January to May inclusive, in each case showing, respectively, the amounts for housing and non-housing repairs and the overall ratio of housing and non-housing licences in terms of value.

I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of the value of the licences that have been issued for building repairs by my Department and by the local authorities in the London region. Information regarding the number of licences is not readily available.

Following are the details:

In money value licences for building repairs in the London Region have been granted by the Ministry of Works and by the local authorities as follows:

1947Issued by Ministry 0f Works.Issued by Local Authorities.Ratio.
££Per cent.

1947.Over £100 issued by Ministry of Works.Under £100 issued by Local Authorities.Ratio.
££Per cent.

Note.—These figures relate only to building repairs for which building licences were granted. The approximate 60: 40 ratio between housing and other work relates to the building programme as a whole including new housing and other work to provide additional dwelling accommodation.

New British Embassy, Rome (Competitive Design)


asked the Minister of Works if he will consider instituting an open or limited competition for the design of the new British embassy in Rome on terms which will ensure fair consideration of entries by architects younger and more experimental than those usually commissioned to design public buildings.

I will certainly consider the suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend, but I must bear in mind the fact that in the case of an important building of this kind, experience and knowledge of the requirements may be of as great importance as ability to produce an experimental design.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, admirable to some tastes as the work of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott may seem, he is not the only living architect?

Corn Exchange, Braintree (Emergency Repairs)


asked the Minister of Works if he is aware of the serious deterioration of the roof of the Corn Exchange, Braintree, during the period of its requisitioning; and if he will facilitate emergency repairs which will make this building safe to use for the weekly market.

I am aware that the roof is in bad condition. Any application for a building licence for emergency repairs will be treated sympathetically so far as the availability of materials permits.

When treating it sympathetically, would my right hon. Friend and his Department bear in mind that the condition of the roof was first brought to their notice some 16 months ago, when immediate repairs might have prevented it from getting a lot worse?

No such application was made to us at that time. If any application is made, I shall give it very careful consideration.

I think my right hon. Friend misheard me. I did not say "application." At that time it was in the charge of the Minister, and he did not do anything about it.

Royal Parks (Litter)


asked the Minister of Works what is the estimated cost of picking up and removing the litter left by the public in the Royal Parks; and what is the estimated cost of obtaining the evidence for more prosecutions, which might end the nuisance.

The average weekly cost of collecting fitter in the Royal Parks amounts to £236. The obtaining of evidence for prosecutions depends to a large extent on the willingness of the public to co-operate and is not a matter of cost.

Would the Minister consider again whether a few prosecutions, with publicity for convictions, would not stop this litter habit, which in the Royal Parks is the worst possible advertisement for English manners and customs?

I am not against considering that but, quite definitely, I regard prosecutions as being the worst type of social education. I think much more is to be done by encouraging people to co-operate in this matter, rather than taking the opportunity of trying to inflict punishment.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that part of the difficulty is due to the fact that there seems to be an insufficient supply of litter baskets, and could he persuade the Metropolitan boroughs to increase the number in order to get people into the right habits?

I am not at all certain that I want to see a great number of litter baskets fixed on to trees in the Royal Parks.

Would my right hon. Friend consider placing in the parks more notices containing some explanatory statement rather than the present ones which are rather of a legal kind?

Roads, St James's Park (Resurfacing)


asked the Minister of Works when Constitution Hill, the Mall and other carriage roads in St. James's Park will be resurfaced.

Resurfacing of the road from The Mall to Storey's Gate and parts of Constitution Hill will begin in five or six weeks' time. The resurfacing of Marlborough Gate is due to begin a month later.

Can the Minister assure us that this will not be just patching but complete resurfacing?

As I understand it, I said "resurfacing" and by that I mean resurfacing and not patching.


Anglo-Indians And Europeans


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India what reply he has sent, or proposes to send, to the request made by the Anglo-Indian and domiciled European communities of India that they should be established in a homeland of their own and that, in particular, facilities should be provided for them to settle in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

A representation has been received from a body called the Britasian League of Calcutta, but it is not considered that any such scheme is practical or desirable, particularly in view of the policy of the Anglo-Indian Association, which regards this scheme as impracticable.

Do the Government accept in principle the responsibility for finding a homeland for the Anglo-Indian community, for whom we have a special responsibility, if they do not desire to remain either in Hindustan or Pakistan?

That is a hypothetical question. The only information which we have is a statement made in February of this year on behalf of the Anglo-Indian Association, that while it is not against individuals emigrating if they choose, it will not officially sponsor any such idea.

Indian Army (Future)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is yet in a position to make a statement in regard to the future of the Indian Army.

This matter is under urgent consideration in India, and I have, therefore, nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 3rd June.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware of the deep anxiety amongst all ranks and communities in this magnificent volunteer Army. Would the Government, therefore, take the earliest possible steps to allay that anxiety?

This matter is obviously a question which will have to be settled by the major interests in India itself, and not here.


Rehabilitation (British Assistance)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma if, in view of the fact that the Constituent Assembly of Burma has adopted a resolution severing Burma's connection with the British Commonwealth, it is proposed to discontinue any further payments from British funds for the rehabilitation of Burma.

No, Sir. It is not proposed to discontinue the financial assistance already promised in regard to the present Burma financial year, which ends on 30th September.

Is the Minister satisfied that the money which is being advanced from the British taxpayer is being used for the purpose of reconstruction in the country, and will he say what conceivable justification there is for asking the British taxpayer to pour out money into a country which has announced its intention of leaving the British Commonwealth?

In regard to the first part of the question, I think we may take it that the Government of Burma have not misappropriated or wrongly expended any advances which have been made by this country. In regard to the second part, I am quite sure that the House would not expect His Majesty's Government to initiate any policy in the nature of a sanction merely because the Constituent Assembly have passed a resolution which it is quite within their competence to do.

Would the Minister give an assurance that there will be no payment after 30th September to countries outside the British Commonwealth?

It is quite impossible for me at this stage to commit His Majesty's Government either one way or the other with regard to that matter.

Uno Membership


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma if the Government of Burma has officially notified him that it wishes to become a member of U.N.O.


Property Transfers


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in returning to the German trade unions the property stolen from them in 1933.

A Control Council Directive of 29th April, 1947, provides that approved trade unions may request the transfer of real property belonging to similar unions before 1933. Instructions for implementing the directive are now being worked out; meanwhile, the trade unions have, in as many cases as possible, been granted the use of former trade union property.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any instructions have yet been given to the German legal authorities to ensure that transfers of property between Germans made under racial laws between 1933 and 1945 shall not be recognised as legal.

No such instructions have been given, but property of which persons have been deprived under duress is protected in the British Zone by Military Government Law 52, which proscribes any transaction in such property without the sanction of Military Government.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that many forced sales-of property of this type were made under apparently legal cover?

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that in the considerations about the draft treaty with Germany consideration is being given to embodying Clauses with regard to this matter on the same lines as those contained in the treaties recently signed and ratified?

Usa Employee (Trial)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Kurt Berger, a stateless Jew of German origin, normally resident in the United Kingdom and employed by the U.S. authorities in Germany, was tried by a German court in the British zone of Germany and imprisoned while wearing U.S. uniform; and whether these proceedings were in accordance with the policy of his Department.

The papers which my hon. Friend left with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster have been sent to Germany for investigation and report. I will let him have a reply as soon as the report is received.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the charge on which this man was arraigned before a German court was that of striking a Nazi who had been responsible for sending his parents to a concentration camp?

I do not think I could comment on this case until we have had the report.

Control Commission Officers (Charges)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the five German Control Commission officials charged before the Control Commission High Court at Minden on 13th June for the illegal acquisition of cutlery and silver and for the illegal export of goods, including sapphires and brilliants, are still in the employ of the Control Commission.

In all, seven British officers were charged before the Control Commission High Court at Minden on nth June with varying offences, only one being charged with illegal export of goods. All seven officers were suspended from duty before the trial. Two were acquitted on all charges and have been re-instated. Two were found guilty and fined 10s. They also have been reinstated. I understand that one of these officers has appealed against the fine. The remaining three officers are still before the court on other charges and continue under suspension.

Even though some of these men were found not guilty under the law in Germany, does not my hon. Friend believe that the conduct in respect of which these men were charged is precisely the kind of conduct which has brought discredit upon the Control Commission in Germany, and will he, there- fore, not look again into the question of their continued employment?

No, Sir. The character of these officers was vindicated at the trial, and I do not think that that is called for.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that one of the officers, who was himself acquitted, was the head of the section in which the other people who were found guilty were operating, and will he say whether he associates himself with the statement of the court concerned that the illegal acquisition of cutlery and silver in Germany is no more serious than exceeding the speed limit?

On the second part, there is a further Question on the Order Paper, and I have nothing to say on that. On the first part, I am being invited to comment on the work of the court, and, obviously, I shall not do that.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that officials who have been found guilty, although fined only 10s., should still be members of this Commission?

I have already answered that point when I said that the fine of 10s. indicates that these offences were not sufficient, in view of the vindication of the character of these officials by the judge, to call for that action.

In view of the remark which the judge made at that trial, does my hon. Friend really think—

The hon. Member must not anticipate a Question which he himself has put down on the Order Paper.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the remark of the judge of the Control Commission, High Court, in fining the Deputy Controller of the Light Metal Production branch 10s. for the illegal acquisition of silver, to the effect that the offence was no worse than breaking the speed limit; and what action he proposes to take.

I presume that my hon. Friend is referring to the fine imposed on the Director of the Non-Ferrous Section. This case is going to Appeal, and it would be undesirable to comment on any aspect of the case which is still sub judice.

Does my hon. Friend really consider that a remark of this kind is calculated to encourage those members of the Commission who are trying to do a job of work conscientiously? Does he not think it is absolutely fantastic that a person guilty of the behaviour—even though not illegal behaviour—outlined in the report should be permitted to remain in the employment of the Control Commission?

I do not think I can go beyond what I have said, that I prefer not to comment on this matter while it is sub judice.

Food Queues


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that, as a result of the fact that inhabitants in the British zone of Germany do not have to register with specific shops for the supply of groceries and foods generally, Germans are suffering needlessly from the fruitless hours spent in queuing, and from the day-to-day uncertainly regarding the source and availability of the next day's food; and whether he will now take steps to remedy this state of affairs.

This matter has been carefully considered on more than one occasion. The German administration recently studied the possibility of introducing consumer registration, and reached the conclusion, with which both the British and American authorities agree, that it is not practicable at present. Stocks of food are insufficient to provide each shop with an adequate stock; and this is essential if a registration scheme is to operate successfully.

Interned German Officers


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many German army, navy and air force officers interned in military camps in Germany have not been brought to trial; how many have been moved to civilian internment centres and for what reason; and whether he is aware of the growing feeling of responsible British people in Germany that the retention of large numbers of German servicemen as ardent militarists, nationalists and National Socialists more than two years after the end of the war requires immediate justification.

Such officers are not normally brought to trial. Their cases are examined by Special Boards, who determine whether they should be released or retained in internment on security grounds. There are 213 officers in military camps, all but eight of whom have been, or are in the procees of being, examined. One hundred and sixty-two officers have already been moved to civil internment camps for continued detention on the ground that they are a potential danger to our occupation. The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No. Sir."

Industry And Land (Policy)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the decision of the British Government to nationalise industry and to conduct land reform in the British zone of Germany is meeting increasingly strenuous opposition from Germans; and if he will explain more fully the grounds on which these decisions have been taken by His Majesty's Government.

No, Sir. There is no opposition in principle to either measure, both of which are in accordance with the programmes of all major political parties in the British zone. Any opposition is therefore concerned only with the details. My right hon. Friend has already explained the grounds on which the decision to transfer German heavy industries to public ownership and control has been taken, notably in his statement to this House on 22nd October last year. As to land reform, I would remind the hon. and gallant Member of the decision taken at the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers that the Control Council should ensure the carrying out and completion of land reform in all zones of Germany by the end of 1947.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what he could not tell us last week—what is the attitude of the United States on the question of industrial nationalisation and land reform?

School, Dusseldorf


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, how many adults and how many children of school age are housed at present in the Munster Strasse Bunher, Dusseldorf.

One hundred and ninety adults and 90 children under 14 years of age are housed in this bunker.

Can the Minister say at what rate these people are being rehoused, and for how long are they likely to remain without proper dwellings?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many children attend the school situated in the Munster Strasse Bunher, Dusseldorf, each day; how many teachers are employed; and when the repairs to the school they would normally attend will be completed.

Eight hundred and forty-two children attend this school; of these 164 receive the equivalent of full-time instruction, and 678 part-time. Sixteen teachers are employed. The German authorities are responsible for the allocation of the very limited materials available for the repair of buildings. They hope that repairs to the normal school building will be completed by November.

Would the Minister say how many school sessions and how many groups of children are involved?

Russian-Born Wives


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further statement to make on the release of all Russian-born wives of British citizens.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if a reply has yet been received from M. Kuznetsov with regard to the Russian wives of ex-Service men who are unable to join their husbands in this country.

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given to the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) on 23rd June.

Can the Under-Secretary tell us whether the Foreign Secretary has made any reply to the request made by the husbands of these ladies that the matter should be brought up at the present Conference?

I will make sure that my right hon. Friend knows of that suggestion, but I can see that he might well think that an appropriate occasion would not arise.

May I ask one question on No. 43? Am I right in thinking that M. Kuznetsov said he would look into this matter himself when he got back to Moscow, and has any communication been received from him?

M. Kuznetsov gave his report on the visit of the Delegation on 10th June. We have still not received a reply from him to the letter sent to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State.




asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received any information from the British representative on the Allied Control Commission in regard to the present position of the President of the Hungarian State; and if he will make a statement.

I have no information which leads me to suppose that President Tildy is not exercising his powers as President of the Hungarian Republic.

Is the Foreign Secretary generally satisfied with the situation in Hungary?

Is my hon. Friend aware that I myself had a discussion with President Tildy on 10th June, and that he expressed the view that he had full freedom to carry out his duties as President and was not impeded in any way?

Electoral Law


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fact that the present Hungarian Government proposes to carry out a purge of electors, which would mean that between 180,000 and 200,000 would be disfranchised; and whether he will protest against this, in view of Article III of the treaty, as well as of the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements.

My right hon. Friend has received reports that the Hungarian Government are preparing a revised electoral law, the object of which would be the exclusion from their suffrage rights of elements said to be anti-democratic. His Majesty's Government cannot decide whether a protest will be called for until they can judge what the effect will be of any such law promulgated.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the term "antidemocratic" is extremely elastic, and that under this term a very large number of citizens may be disfranchised?

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the fact that in a statement attributed to one of the Hungarian Vice-Premiers the other day, it was stated that no change in the franchise was contemplated?

I have not had my attention drawn to that report, but I have seen a newspaper report to the contrary recently.

Can the Minister state what the Hungarian Government means by "undemocratic"? Have they defined that expression? Does it mean "anti-Communist," or what?



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Monsieur Tibor Ham, a smallholder deputy, who is one of 43 Hungarians on trial for conspiracy against the State, stated in open court that he had been treated in such a manner that he was unconscious for nearly a week and because of his treatment in prison he did not know what he had signed in a deposition read to the court, accusing the ex-Premier, Mr. Nagy; and whether he will protest, through the British representative in Budapest, against this treatment of opposition deputies, in violation of Article III of the treaty with Hungary.

According to my information, Mr. Ham stated in his evidence on 17th June that he had been treated in such a manner that he was reduced to a state in which he might have signed any- thing. As the hon. Member is aware, the Peace Treaty with Hungary is not yet in force. Nevertheless, the publicity which this Question has given to the case will, I am sure, impress upon the Hungarian Government the attention with which such events are followed by Members of this House, and indeed by the whole outside world. It will also bring home to them the fact that when the Treaty comes into force His Majesty's Government for their part do not intend to acquiesce in the violation of Article 2.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that pious hopes of this kind have the slightest effect on a Communist Government?

Has the hon. Gentleman any evidence whatever that Mr. Ham was telling the truth?

Soviet Government (British Note)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet received any further reply from the Soviet Government to his last note, with respect to the recent Hungarian crisis-Mr. Mayhew: No, Sir.

British Information Services, Usa (Cost)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the total annual cost of running the British Information Services in the U.S.A.

The total estimated expenditure is £32,621 net for the Embassy Information Office and £327,440 net for the British Information Services.

Japanese Whaling Expedition, Antarctic


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Far Eastern Commission or the U.S. authorities in Japan control policy regarding Japanese whale fishing in the Antarctic; and what steps he is taking to protest against the second Japanese whaling ex-pidition sanctioned by the U.S. authorities against the wishes of the Australian Government.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the protest made to the U.S. State Department, regarding permission being granted on two occasions for Japanese whaling expeditions to operate in the Antarctic by the U.S. authorities, have resulted in assurances that proper consultation with other Powers will take place before any further permits are issued.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that a second whaling expedition to the Antarctic has been authorised by the General Officer Commanding the Occupation Forces in Japan without prior consultation with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand; and what conditions have been imposed on Japanese whalers to prevent a destructive inroad into an important source of world fat supplies by indiscriminate slaughter of whales.

The U.S. Government did not consult with the other interested Governments, which include the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, before authorising the second Japanese whaling expedition in the Antarctic. Our Ambassador in Washington is being instructed to re-open this question with the United States Government.

Formosa (Riots)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information about the riots and massacres in Formosa in March; what is the present situation in the island; and whether the allocation of Formosa to China is definitive or provisional.

As a result of local discontent over alleged misrule, serious rioting and bloodshed occurred in Formosa at the end of February and beginning of March. Order was restored following the despatch of Chinese Government troops to the island. A new Governor has been appointed and, a number of reforms effected. No further incidents have been reported since the end of March. As regards the last part of the question, it was agreed in the Cairo Declaration of December, 1943, that Formosa should be returned to China. It is the view of His Majesty's Government that formal transfer of territories formerly owned or annexed by Japan must await the eventual Peace Conference with Japan.

Will my hon. Friend say what was the estimated number of deaths in these massacres; does he not agree that a very unsatisfactory situation was revealed as taking place in Formosa; has he the matter under observation; and has he asked the Far Eastern Commission and the Inter-Allied Control Council to intervene to promote a balanced administration in the country?

On the first part of the supplementary question, some 800 For-mosans and Chinese are reported to have been killed in the suppression of the rioting, and a reliable observer has said that at least 250 mainland Chinese were killed in the rioting of 28th February last. On the second part of the Question, the Far Eastern Commission and the Control Council would not have any responsibility here, as Formosa has been under Chinese administration and remains so.

Do I understand from that reply that, whatever the responsibility for riots and massacres of this order, no steps should be taken by the Allies?

The formal transfer of this territory must await the Peace Conference with Japan.

British Author's Flat, Florence (Restoration)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that a flat at 24, Lungarno delle Grazie, Florence, Italy, the property of Mr. Norman Douglas, has been occupied at a nominal rent since 1941 by Italian Fascists; that repeated notices to quit have been unavailing, despite an assurance given to Mr. Douglas on behalf of the property adviser to the British Embassy, Rome, that the flat would probably be restored to him last March; that considerable inconvenience and hardship are thus caused to a distinguished author who is, moreover, debarred from access to his own library; and if he will take steps to secure the return of this property at once.

Yes, Sir. It is the responsibility of the local authorities to evict tenants. Under the existing law, the legal process to effect this cannot be commenced until reconsignment of the property has been completed. In Mr. Douglas's case a request for reconsignment was made to the Italian authorities last January, but the formalities were not completed by the Italian authorities till 5th May. His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome has repeatedly drawn the attention of the Italian authorities to the difficulties and delays which British subjects are experiencing in recovering their properties, and in Mr. Douglas's case has pressed for his flat to be restored to him.

While thanking my hon. Friend very warmly for his reply, may I ask if he will bear in mind that this most distinguished writer will be 80 years old next birthday, and that this flat and its contents are the only modest piece of property which he has to leave to his sons, who are in various parts of the world, and will he, therefore, intensify his representations?

I agree with the spirit of the supplementary question. I will do all I can.

Economic Survey


asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange to have produced, before the end of July, an economic survey, 1947–48, showing the estimated economic position of this country, together with the Government's proposals for achieving an import-export balance.

No, Sir. An economic survey for the calendar year has already been published, and I do not think it is desirable to issue a fresh survey for an overlapping period. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a statement about the import programme today.

Is the prime Minister aware that this import-export deficit is increasing monthly, and is it not about time that the Government produced plans for dealing with it? Has not the country the right to know what is happening?

In view of the fact that many of the figures given in the economic survey are now palpably out of date, does the Prime Minister contemplate any action that will put the country into possession of a more up-to-date conspectus of the situation which we have to face?

Statements will be made from time to time. The specific question I was asked was whether there should be another economic survey. The hon. Gentleman will know that Government publications necessarily get out of date after a certain time. We cannot have annual surveys published monthly.

Questions Nos. 32, 36 and 44 were taken together. I looked at the hon. Gentleman, thinking that he would ask a supplementary question.

I regret I did not hear my Question called. Question No. 44 is really quite a different and wider question.

I am sorry, but I did look at the hon. Gentleman, thinking he might want to ask a supplementary question.

British Commonwealth And Empire (Defence)


asked the Prime Minister if he will give an assurance that any country which leaves the Empire, thus becoming a foreign country, will not automatically have its defence shared by Great Britain, and that the Governments of the Commonwealth and Empire will be consulted before any decisions regarding the security of such foreign countries are made.

Any proposal to share defence responsibilities in a case of this kind must obviously be a matter for negotiation and treaty with the Govern- ment concerned. In the event of such a situation arising, the normal procedure as regards consultation with other countries of the Commonwealth would be followed.

Is there any Treaty as regards the defence of Eire, or is it regarded as part of the Empire?

Has the Prime Minister any reason to regard the original Question as other than purely hypothetical?

Eire And Northern Ireland


asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the statement made in Dail Eireann on 24th June, 1947, by the Prime Minister of Eire, to the effect that a simple declaration from the British Government that it was their desire to see partition ended, and that, if an agreement were reached between the people of the two parts of Ireland, His Majesty's Government would not hesitate to give it effect, would help towards a solution of the problem; and whether he will consider making such a declaration.

I have seen reports of the statement by Mr. de Valera to which my hon. Friend refers. It has been made clear on many occasions that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to maintain and develop by all practicable means the closest relations between Great Britain and both Northern Ireland and Eire, and to facilitate the solution of any outstanding questions. But I do not consider that this policy would be assisted by the making of a statement on the lines suggested in my hon. Friend's Question.

Is the Prime Minister aware that such a simple declaration, which would not involve the Government in any immediate policy, would give great satisfaction in both parts of Ireland, and would also help to strengthen our friendship with the United States of America, where this question is regarded with very great interest?

I can only repeat that I do not think it would be helpful to make that statement.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recollect that this question was definitely settled by the Tripartite Agreement of December, 1925— which was ratified by overwhelming majorities of both Houses of Parliament sitting in Dublin—by which the existing frontier was guaranteed?


Hay Balers


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many one-man pick-up hay balers are in use in this country; how many have been imported; and what steps are being taken to encourage their production in this country.

It is estimated that about 400 one-man pick-up balers are now in the country. Fifty-two were imported from Germany before the war, and 91 have been imported from the United States, mostly during this year. The remainder have been made in this country during the last few years, and both the existing manufacturers and others are being encouraged to arrange for further production.

Fowl Pest


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the in crease in the number of cases of fowl pest which have occurred during the pre sent month; and what steps are being taken to prevent the further spread of this disease and to remove its cause.

Yes Sir. Poultry keepers are under an obligation to report to the police any suspicion of fowl pest. By early intimation of the existence of the disease, the spread of infection can be prevented, and I urge all poultry keepers, in their own interests, to report immediately all suspected cases. As regards removing the cause, as I have already said in answer to previous Questions, the importation of live poultry has been prohibited, and the importation of frozen poultry from Europe is being limited to headless and eviscerated carcases. Further, I have made an Order under the Diseases of Animals Acts requiring all poultry waste to be boiled before birds are allowed access to it. Where deemed necessary, special restrictions on the holding of markets have been, and will be, imposed.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these Orders which he has issued are applicable all over Great Britain, or only in England and Wales?

Steel Traps


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he intends to accept the steel spring traps now adopted by the R.S.P.C.A. as suitable for general use in the countryside; and if he will inform A.E.Cs. to this effect.

I assume the hon. and gallant Member refers to the trap designed by Mr. Sawyer, of Wiltshire, some handmade models of which were tested by my Department with promising results at a trial in Hertfordshire last March. I understand that this model has been further improved and that the R.S.P.C.A. are now arranging for its production in some quantity. As soon as the necessary supply is available, I shall be glad to arrange for a comprehensive test of its efficiency to be made in collaboration with the R.S.P.C.A.

Access To Mountains Act


asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the approximate acreage of excepted land under the Access to Mountains Act, 1939; and how many orders have been made under the Act, and what is the approximate acreage involved, denying access to mountains, moor, heath, down or cliff.

I am unable to give figures of the acreage of excepted land as defined in Section 2 (2) of the Access to Mountains Act, 1939. So far, no one has applied for an Order under the Act, and, therefore, no orders have been made.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether public rights of access have increased or diminished since the passing of the 1939 Act?


asked the Minister of Agriculture why ramblers' associations and other organisations which desire access to land not excepted under the Access to Mountains Act, 1939, are put to considerable expense in establishing rights of access which were given to them under the Act; and what action he proposes taking to prevent this contravention of the intention of the Act.

I am not aware that the intention of the Act (which specially authorises the charging of fees) has been contravened. The means of providing access for the public to mountain, moor, heath, and other uncultivated land, with particular reference to the recreational use of the countryside by the public, is however, being considered by a special committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Arthur Hobhouse, appointed by my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Town and Country Planning in July, 1946. It would be best for any reexamination of the provisions of the Access to Mountains Act, 1939, and the Regulations made thereunder (including those provisions dealing with fees and expenses to be paid by applicants for Orders under the Act), to await the committee's report.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, in view of the fact that the intentions of the 1939 Act to give increased access to ramblers and others have not been carried out, it is proposed that fresh legislation should be introduced to give effect to those intentions?

I am afraid it would be necessary to await the Report of the Hobhouse Committee before we contemplate further legislation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many old-established rights of way are still closed in the countryside, and will he, in the interests of agriculture, use his influence with the Service Departments to have them opened up as soon as possible?

Fruit-Tree Stocks


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is his policy to raise the quantity and quality of tree fruit grown in the United Kingdom; at what prices fruit growers can purchase representative grafted stocks for the purpose of establishing or extending orchards, in comparison with prewar prices; and what action he proposes to take.

It is my policy to encourage the expansion of acreage under fruit of all kinds, as far as labour and materials permit. There are no fixed prices for young fruit trees, but I understand that prevailing prices, which inevitably reflect the rise in labour costs, are about double the prewar level. All restrictions on the acreage devoted to nursery stock have now been withdrawn, and nurserymen are being encouraged to revert to their prewar output. Licences are also being granted for the import of suitable fruit stock to assist in this revival.


asked the Minister of Agriculture at what prices grafted maiden apple trees are now being sold by nursery men; what were equivalent representative prices before the war; and if he will, in order to reduce the ring prices now being charged and to ensure an adequate supply of suitable stock, consider establishing Government nurseries for fruit-tree stocks on the analogy of the national stud.

There are very few maiden apple trees available for sale by nurserymen at present, and I understand that prices are not quoted for this type of tree by the Horticultural Trades' Association. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to a similar Question on 21st October last.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has particulars of the scheme in operation in Switzerland for improving the quality of orchard tree fruits by subsidising the grafting of poor quality trees; and whether he will consider the adoption of a similar scheme in this country.

I have no information about this scheme, but the practice of grafting is, of course, well known in this country and used extensively by growers of fruit trees. The Ministry's National Agricultural Advisory Service is available to give advice on this subject, and I do not consider that there is any need for a subsidy.

Fenlands (Flood Protection)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether a scheme for flood protection of the Fenlands has now been prepared; when it can be commenced; and what financial assistance will be given by His Majesty's Government.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the scheme for the prevention of flooding in the lowland section of the River Great Ouse Catchment Area. Such a scheme was prepared and received my Department's approval in principle in 1942, and a grant of 75 per cent. of the estimated cost of £2,200,000 was offered, but because of the war it was not possible for the Catchment Board to proceed. The scheme will shortly be re-submitted to my Department, but, from lessons learnt during the recent floods, certain revisions in the scheme have proved necessary. A preliminary discussion took place last week between my Department and representatives of the Catchment Board. The scheme will take at least seven years to complete. The offer of a 75 per cent. grant to the Board toward the cost of the earlier scheme which was made in 1942 holds good. The rate of grant on the cost of the revised scheme over and above the original amount needs further and fuller consideration. This will be given as soon as full particulars of the engineering involved have been received and examined.

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the surplus water which it is sought to prevent going over the land, is used usefully for the purpose of water supplies and also for other industrial purposes.

I think, perhaps, that is a dual problem to be dealt with by the National Water Committee as well as by the drainage authorities.

Bare Fallowing


asked the Minister of Agriculture, whether he will take the necessary steps to ensure the proper cleaning of all fields uncropped or bare through crop failures this year; and whether in 1948 he will prohibit bare fallowing of land without special permission of the A.E.C.s.

Any farmer who has been unable to crop his land this year, or whose crops have failed owing to the disastrous weather of the past winter, is likely, in his own interest, to take all practicable steps to clean the land by fallowing this summer, so as to get maximum yields next season as a partial recoupment of his losses. It is also part of the normal functions of county agricultural executive committees and of the National Agricultural Advisory Service to give guidance to farmers about the proper cleaning of their land. As regards the second part of the Question, I have already announced that farmers will have freedom of cropping in 1948, and it would be inconsistent with this announcement to prohibit the bare fallowing of land without the special permission of county committees.

In view of the urgent need for more food, is it not very desirable that every acre of land should be cropped next year and that no land should be left lying fallow?

I sincerely hope that the maximum acreage of land will be cropped next year. When Clause 11 of the new Agriculture Bill is brought into operation, the county executive committees will have power to insist that land available for food production shall be so used.

Will the farmer whose land has been completely flooded as a result of the disasters this year, be able to get any financial assistance, and if so, from where?

I imagine that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to the administration of the Agricultural Disaster Fund, over which I have no control.

I was referring to questions which I asked last week, to which I got no answer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that farmers on the last Fen to be flooded have been told by the Agricultural Committee not to crop this year, and will he bear in mind that some of the smaller men will find it extremely difficult to carry on.

I expect the county agricultural executive committees will exercise their authority in a wise sort of way.

Home-Grown Seeds


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to encourage the use of home-grown seeds, in order that experience gained during the war may be consolidated and strains of plants specially suited to this country may be still further developed.

I would refer my hon Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Philips Price) on 20th May last.

Grantham Productions, Ltd(Tractors)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will publish the report made by his technical officers on the tractors submitted for trial by Grantham Productions; how much steel has been allocated to this factory for the past six months; how many of these tractors have so far been supplied to farmers; and how many he has ordered for use by his A.E.Cs.

In the absence of an official test by the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering, the report I have received on the working of this tractor is confidential, but, as indicated in my reply to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) on 24th June, it was reported to be satisfactory. No steel has been allocated since July, 1946. A limited number of these tractors had been produced by the time the firm went into liquidation, but it is not the practice to disclose the production figures of individual firms without their express permission. I am not aware how many of these tractors have actually been supplied to farmers. None have been ordered for use by county agricultural executive committees.

Will the Minister say how these tractors are being manufactured if no steel has been allocated, and will he be quite frank with the House and admit that he and his Department are being used as a screen for a rather questionable financial transaction?

I thoroughly disagree with the supplementary question. I do not think my Department or its officials are being used by anybody in the sense indicated. All that the Ministry of Agriculture is called upon to do, if a licence for production of any equipment or machine is requested, is to be present when some test or tests are made of the particular machines. That, I understand, was done, and, on the basis of that demonstration, the licence was granted. Beyond that, my Department has not gone.

Foreign Service, Branch B (Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign' Affairs whether officers of the new Branch B of the Foreign Service will receive allowances similar to those received by officers in Branch A.

Yes, Sir. They will receive outfit allowances, rent allowances, foreign service allowances (which will take into account the local cost of living as well as that expenditure which an officer serving abroad necessarily incurs over and above that of an officer of corresponding grade serving at home), language allowances and full travelling expenses on leave.

Rumania (Arrests)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has instructed the British representative in Bucharest to join with the U.S. Government in protesting against the wholesale arrest of opposition deputies in Rumania and their detention in prison under deplorable conditions.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a reply has been received to the note of protest about the treatment of political prisoners, delivered to the Rumanian Government; and if he will make a statement.

The British political representative in Bucharest protested to the Rumanian Government on 25th June. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the full text of the memorandum he presented. No reply has yet been received to this protest. His Majesty's Government's attitude to the Rumanian Government will naturally depend on whether they are satisfied that it is the Rumanian Government's intention to abide by the terms of the Peace Treaty, including Article III. It is not, however, His Majesty's Government's intention to withhold ratification of the Treaty.

Will the Minister bear in mind that the next logical step to these events in Rumania is the forcible incorporation of Rumania in the Soviet economy and the forcible stamping out of all opposition to the Communists?

Following is the text:

Memorandum Addressed To Roumanian Government By The British Political Representative In Bucharest On 25Th June

His Majesty's Government have been following closely events and developments in Roumania in the hope that no opportunity might be lost of improving Anglo-Roumanian relations in political and economic spheres in the best interests of both countries. Public opinion, however, in the United Kingdom has been shocked at the way in which, during recent months, the Roumanian Government have proceeded arbitrarily with its indiscriminate arrests of those who are regarded as their political opponents. Those arrested include old men, priests, professors, students and others who in many cases have no political affiliations and are simply deprived of their freedom indefinitely by or with the acquiescence of the Roumanian authorities on suspicion of being involved in subversive activities.

Both on humanitarian grounds and in view of their responsibility to ensure the fulfilment of the terms of the Peace Treaty, His Majesty's Government are quite unable to pass over in silence the fact that those arrested are neither charged with any precise crime or offence nor, in most cases, even interrogated. Some are released without ever knowing the reasons for their arrest. Further, it is common knowledge that conditions under which political prisoners are detained in such prisons as Pitesti, Aiud and elsewhere, are in themselves a denial of the human rights specifically guaranteed under Article 3 of the Treaty. Lack of food and proper medical and adequate hygenic facilities have resulted in sickness and in certain cases prisoners are reported to have died. This campaign of intimidation has caused untold suffering not only among those at present languishing in prison but also among the families of those over whose heads hangs the threat of arrest on account of their honest political convictions. Even though some of those detained may have been released, there is reason to believe that it is not long before their places are taken by other victims. On nth June the official figure of those under arrest given by the Minister of the Interior to the Prime Minister and communicated by the latter to Mr. Morgan Phillips and Mr. Watson at their interview with him was 1,303, and it is therefore reasonable to suppose the number of those who have passed through prison during the last three months is much higher.

His Majesty's Government strongly reprobate the employment in a civilised country of methods which they had hoped to see extinguished for ever when the German Secret Police were dissolved. That the reputation of Roumania abroad must as a result suffer severely is primarily the concern of the Roumanian Government. It is however of concern to His Majesty's Government that the Roumanian Government have, in their assurances of June, 1946, given full guarantees in regard to the liberties of the individual. Moreover, His Majesty's Government must reiterate that in Article 3 of the Peace Treaty which the Roumanian Government so recently signed, they have accepted an obligation to secure for all persons under Roumanian jurisdiction the enjoyment of human rights and of the fundamental freedoms. The present policy of the Roumanian Government is in direct conflict with their unequivocal assurances and obligations which assure to the Roumanian people rights that cannot be denied or modified by Roumanian legislation or judicial procedure.

Iraq (Death Sentences)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Josef Salman, Ibrahim Naji Shemil, and Saki Besim have been sentenced to death in Iraq for being members of the Communist Party and having published pamphlets opposing the policy of the Government; and whether he will make representations to the Iraqi Government to have their lives spared and to restore the freedom of political activity.

I have seen Press reports to this effect. The matter appears to be one for the Iraqi courts, and His Majesty's Government have no grounds for intervention

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that information that has come through since the Question was put down indicates that these gentlemen have, in fact, been sentenced to death for writing pamphlets in support of trade unionism? Will he, therefore, get our representatives in Iraq to have an unofficial word with that country? It is controlled by our Army.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain how he reconciles that answer with the answer he gave to an earlier Question?

This is a very important matter respecting the life or death of certain people. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these Iraqi gentlemen are going to be executed on charges for which even Hitler would not have executed members of the Communist Party? Would he not intervene as, in the case of Spain, on a number of occasions he was able to do? As we have no responsibility in Spain, surely, he can do so again in this case?

This seems to be a matter for Iraq. I cannot admit the comparison of Iraq with Spain.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm or refute the statement of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) that Iraq is controlled by our Army?

Food Supplies

Potatoes (Shortage)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the serious shortage of potatoes in London; and what steps is he taking to meet this and the recurrent shortage of the same commodity at periodic intervals.

I am glad to say that the position has greatly improved, and the rain we have just had should add appreciably to the weight of new supplies. Six months ago a shortage of one month's duration was foreseen for the whole country. Energetic measures were taken to conserve the home crop and to import potatoes, with the result that, in spite of the weather, the shortage was reduced to about one week, and restricted chiefly to London and the South-East. Similar action will be taken, if necessary, in future.

Is the Minister aware that on several occasions there have been serious shortages of potatoes in London, and that, ultimately, the Ministry of Food have taken action to divert supplies? Is it not possible in future for such action to be taken fairly early, so that large numbers of families shall not have to go a whole weekend without potatoes?

Since the introduction of bread rationing the consumption of potatoes has increased by 20 per cent and, therefore, it has been found a little difficult to adjust supplies. But I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall try to guarantee that this will not happen again.

Would the hon. Lady say why it was that the large stocks available in the north of Scotland were not tapped before this shortage took place in London?

We are transporting potatoes from the north of Scotland as quickly as we can.

Rationed Food (Home Production)


asked the Minister of Food if he will show for each main item of rationed food the percentage which is home produced.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The percentage of the total supply of each main item of rationed food which was provided from home production in the year to the end of June, 1947, is as follows:

Liquid milk100
Eggs in shell76
Carcase meat44
Canned corned meatNil
Bacon and ham36
Margarine, lard and compound cooking fat, less than1

Brazilian Meat (Imports)