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Commons Chamber

Volume 439: debated on Monday 7 July 1947

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House Of Commons

Monday, 7th July, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

India

Transfer Of Power (Officers On Leave)

1.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether any date prior to June, 1948, has been fixed for the transfer of power; and whether officers now on leave in England and not due to return for some weeks will be permitted to retire with compensation, without returning to India.

In asking this Question, may I explain, Mr. Speaker, that it was put down before the recent proposals for the government of India became known?

The Indian Independence Bill provides for the transfer of power on 15th August. Officers now on leave in this country who wish to be excused the short period of service between the expiry of their leave and the transfer of power are at liberty to apply for release with compensation without returning to duty.

Railway Officers (Contracts)

3.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India what will be the position of Indian Government railway officers who are serving under an agreement with the Secretary of State for India should they desire, or be asked, to terminate their contracts when power is handed over to a new Indian Govern- ment; and whether any agreement arrived at will apply with equal assurance to those European officers who are now serving under an agreement with the Governor-General in Council.

European officers of the Indian railway service who were appointed by the Secretary of State are covered by the compensation scheme announced by the Prime Minister on 30th April. As regards those European officers who were appointed by the Governor-General in Council, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) on 23rd June.

Indian Army Officers (Pensions)

7.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he is now in a position to make an announcement on the subject of the pension terms for officers of corps of the Indian Army not governed by the Royal Warrant.

I assume that the hon. and gallant Member is referring to officers of the technical and specialist services of the Indian Army. I am glad to say that the Government of India have agreed to apply the 1945 Pension code to those officers in the same manner as it has been applied to combatant officers of the Indian Army. This decision also applies to the I.M.S.

Medical Service (Officer's Leave Application)

8.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that Lieut.-Colonel F. V. Stonham, I.M.S., applied for an extension of leave until the middle of November to enable him to sit for the F.R.C.S. examination in November; that leave has been refused; and what are the reasons for the refusal.

I am aware that the leave in question was refused by the Government of India, presumably on the ground that Lieut.-Colonel Stonham's services were required in the Middle East, and the hon. Member will appreciate that an officer's private interests in such a case must give way to the needs of the Service. The position has, however, been fundamentally altered by the advancement of the date for the transfer of power, and I am asking the Government of India to examine Lieut.-Colonel Stonham's position afresh in the light of the most recent constitutional developments. Meanwhile this officer will remain on leave.

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his reply, and as I believe Colonel Stonham is due to return to duty tomorrow, may I telephone him today to tell him to remain on leave?

Civil Servants (Pensions)

9.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India why persons on the India Office establishment who were transferred to the office of the High Commissioner for India under the Order in Council of 13th August, 1920, and have since retired, are not being paid by the India Office the increase of pension granted to civil servants under the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1947, although the Order in Council provides that such persons should be in no worse position for purposes of superannuation than if they had remained on the establishment of the Secretary of State.

The difficulty in this case arises from the fact that the Order in Council to which my hon. Friend refers provided that the persons in question should be in no worse position than if they had remained on the establishment not of the Secretary of State, but of the Secretary of State in Council, a corporate entity which ceased to exist after the 31st March, 1937. As a consequence, the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1947, does not automatically apply to them, and my noble Friend has no power to apply it without the agreement of the Government of India, whose consent has not yet been obtained. The matter is however, receiving further consideration.

Sterling Balances (Discussions)

96.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the present amount of Indian sterling balances; and, in view of the probable postponement of Anglo-Indian discussions about them, what arrangements are made about India drawing on these balances in the immediate future.

The most recent published figures of the Reserve Bank of India show sterling holdings of £1,178.4 million. An official delegation is arriving in this country today for discussions about India's sterling balances. The present pre-occupation of Ministers in India in connection with the transfer of power has prevented the opening of formal negotiations. The discussions about to take place are designed to make interim arrangements for the period immediately following 15th July.

Burma

British Financial Aid

10.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma what sum is now owed to Britain by the Government of Burma.

The net sum advanced by His Majesty's Government to the Government of Burma to the end of June, 1947, is approximately £41.7 million.

Army (Japanese-Trained Personnel)

12.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma whether he has approved the decision by the Defence Department of the Government of Burma to invite personnel trained in the Japanese Military Academy during the war to apply for commissions in the Burmese Army.

Among the conclusions reached in the conversations between His Majesty's Government and the Burma Executive Council last January it was agreed that all Burmese forces would forthwith come under the control of the Government of Burma. In these circumstances, the decision referred to by the hon. and gallant Member does not require approval by His Majesty's Government.

But surely His Majesty's Government must be interested in the decision of the Government of Burma to incorporate into the Burmese Army men who were trained by His Majesty's Government's late enemy?

Yes, Sir, but whatever decision may be taken by the Government of Burma, as we transfer power to them we must cease to retain the power to interfere.

But do His Majesty's Government approve of this or do they disapprove of this, as I am sure this House does?

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that on a question of this importance His Majesty's Government should express an opinion, and should not leave the matter in the air?

No, Sir, not on matters which are within the competence of the particular Government.

Atomic Energy (Discussions With Ussr)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the recent discussions of the Atomic Energy Commission with the U.S.S.R.

In accordance with the resolution of the Security Council of 10th March last, the Atomic Energy Commission have continued their attempts to reconcile existing differences of view, and to work out the details which had not been considered in the interim report submitted by them to the Security Council on 31st December, 1946. Although, as a result, a number of outstanding problems have now been discussed, little or no progress has been made in respect of the remaining points of disagreement. Nevertheless, His Majesty's Government consider that they should continue to try to widen the field over which agreement has been obtained, in the hope of resolving remaining points of difference.

Does this mean that the conversations between the two parties are, in fact, continuing?

These are not bilateral conversations. These are the discussions in the Atomic Energy Commission.

In view of the importance of the question, would my hon. Friend consider publishing as a White Paper the efforts that have been made so far by His Majesty's Government to obtain agreement on this very important topic?

Would my hon. Friend also consider having in the Library copies of the proceedings as a report? It is very difficult to follow this matter from the very garbled reports which appear in the Press.

Austrian Factories (Ownership)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made by the deputies of the Foreign Ministers in arriving at a decision about the lawful ownership of the 200 odd Austrian factories taken over by the Soviet authorities.

The Austrian treaty Commission has now begun a survey of the Austrian oil industry, and will also consider the position of other important assets in Austria. Progress has undoubtedly been slow, but a large volume of data has already been produced by the experts, in consultation with the Austrian Government, which will, I trust, be useful in determining the legal ownership of the assets in question.

Can we be told it the legal principles of ownership that are being applied in this case, under this Question, are the same as are being applied to the question of land ownership in the British zone?

Can the hon. Gentleman say if the machinery is still in these factories, or if it has been taken away?

I could not give an exact answer without notice. I understand it is still there.

Natural Rubber (Usa Import Control)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the embargo placed on the import of natural rubber by the U.S. Government, with its serious effects on the economy of British Malaya; and what representations he is making to the U.S. Government in this matter.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make representations to the U.S. Government to remove the embargo on the import of natural rubber, having regard to the unfortunate conditions which this embargo is causing in Malaya.

No embargo has been placed on the import of natural rubber by the United States Government. The second part of the Question, therefore, done not arise.

In view of the fact that representations have been made by the rubber interests in Malaya to the Governors in this matter, can the hon. Gentleman explain how this misunderstanding has arisen?

The United States Government do maintain control over the proportions of natural and synthetic rubber in any given product, and I think this has an effect upon the price of rubber in Malaya, which, as is appreciated, is very low. This effect has been pointed out to the United States Government, and it is a matter which is being discussed at the Rubber Study Group in Paris at the present moment.

Will my hon. Friend continue inquiries with regard to this? Because there does seem to be a considerable amount of anxiety about it, and if there is a difficulty in this matter it should be removed if possible.

I quite agree that it is a most important subject. It is being discussed, as I say, with the United States delegation to the Rubber Study Group.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that an embargo is really tantamount to a quota; and is that not in conflict with the United States' policy, which is being discussed in regard to international trade?

As I have already explained, there is no embargo. This is quite a different matter.

Foreign Service (Pay And Allowances)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has now received any recommendations in regard to pay and allowances to members of his Department serving in South American countries.

Salaries are fixed according to the grade of the officer. As regards allowances, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given on 12th March. Our touring inspectors have since sent in further recommendations for the adjustment of foreign allowances. Some have been implemented, and others are under consideration.

Is it not a fact that a report was received after a tour of inspection rather more than six months ago; and has that report been acted upon?

This is a continuous process. Some of the recommendations have been acted upon, but others are still under consideration.

France (Food Exports To Britain)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that in articles in the French Press, and by other means, much damage is being done to Anglo-French relations by the reiterated assertion that the food shortage in France is due to the fact that England is importing large quantities of French butter, beef, wheat, eggs, sardines and other canned foods; and whether he will take action, through the appropriate Government publicity organisations, both here and in France, to refute with facts and figures this propaganda.

I am not aware that such statements have been made either in the French Press or elsewhere, but if the hon. Member will let me have any evidence in his possession, I shall be glad to look into the matter further.

Germany

Private Estates (Ownership)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many titles to ownership of land have to be surrendered in the British zone of Germany under the ordinance on land reform; what is the basis of compensation for the surrenders; on what authority these surrenders are demanded; and what effects on agricultural production are expected.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sudbury (Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton) on 23rd June. As the draft ordinance is still being considered by the Zonal Advisory Council, it is not yet possible to give details of the measures to be adopted, but everything possible will be done to ensure that these do not have an adverse effect on food production.

While we are waiting for details could we not be told what are the principles involved, what is the basis of compensation, and what is the authority? They are not detailed questions; they are matters of principle and authority.

On the question of authority, I quite agree, it might be either a Military Government ordinance or legislation passed by the respective Land Governments. On the other questions, thought they are certainly not points of detail, they are being considered by the Zonal Advisory Council.

Do not His Majesty's Government see that the whole question is, where the Military Government gets its authority from to reshape the social structure of Europe?

It gets its authority from powers vested in the Commander-in-Chief. That is a much wider question, which has often been discussed.

To what extent are these powers subject to Parliamentary control? Is it not right that Parliament should decide principles on the control of land?

No decision in this matter has been taken yet. As I explained, a draft ordinance—which is a draft—is still before the Zonal Advisory Council.

Coal Industry

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the proposal of the German Economic Administration in Minden, for the handing over of the management of the German coal industry to a publicly-controlled German control board, has been rejected.

Proposals, put forward early last month by the German Executive Committee for Economics for the handing over of the management of the coal industry in the combined zone to a publicly-controlled German control board, are now under active consideration by the Anglo-American authorities.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Press were informed by an officer of the Control Commission that this plan had been turned down—that is the plan put forward by the German economic administration.

My hon. Friend may be under a misapprehension. There was an earlier plan which was turned down on 5th June, I think, but this is a second plan which is now under consideration.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has modified his policy that the German coal industry should be handed over to public ownership; and whether any plans have now been drawn up for carrying out the transfer to public ownership.

No, Sir. The question of plans for transfer is at present under consideration.

In the meantime, are any Germans being invited over here to study the operations of our National Coal Board at Himley Hall and other centres of activity?

30.

asked the Secretary of, State for Foreign Affairs whether the British authorities have accepted the proposal of the U.S. authorities that the question of transfer of ownership of coalmines in the British zone of Germany should be left in abeyance for five years.

The United States authorities have made a proposal to the effect that the ownership of the coal mining industry be vested in trustees for a period of five years. My right hon. Friend has also received representations from other interested Governments, all of which are under consideration.

Will my hon. Friend draw the attention of his right hon. Friend to the fact that this House was specifically assured that our policy was to nationalise the coal industry, and that this House was repeatedly assured that the economic fusion of the British and American zones would not affect the political policy of nationalising heavy industries?

Yes, Sir. We have not modified our policy of national ownership, but I will certainly draw that to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Can we be told on what Parliamentary consent is based the theory that the British Government can have a policy of nationalisation in Germany?

Is this the precedent which might be usefully applied to the land proposals?

Certainly—I do not see why there is such cause for amusement on the Benches opposite. The fact is that we have never burked this question. The question of land reform and questions of socialisation are primarily matters for decision by the German people.

Passport Control Office, Berlin (Staffing)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has seen a printed circular issued by the Passport Control Officer in Berlin stating that his correspondence is overwhelming, and that it is physically impossible for him to answer all letters; and, in view of the many urgent compassionate cases with which this office has to deal, whether he will arrange for its staff to be strengthened so that letters addressed to it may at least be acknowledged.

The staff of the Passport Control Office at Berlin has recently been increased, and it is hoped that it will now be sufficient to deal with current correspondence.

Is the hon. Member aware that there have been complaints from other Members of the House that it is impossible to get an answer from this officer? It may not be his fault.

Yes, Sir. I agree that there has been delay in the past, but as the staff is being increased steadily we hope the delays will now cease.

Living Accommodation (Evictions)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in how many cases British women married to Germans have been evicted from their homes in Germany to satisfy British requirements for accommodation; and what alternative accommodation is made available.

I regret that the information required in the first part of the Question is not available. The answer to the second part of the Question is that the German authorities are responsible for finding alternative accommodation as they are for all evicted German persons, but the British authorities give special consideration when the British birth of a woman is brought to their notice.

Krupp's Works Essen (Dismantling)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Krupp's works at Essen are to be blown up instead of being dismantled in such a way as to conserve the large amount of steel used in its construction.

Some parts of the Krupp's plant are earmarked for reparations. Only those parts of the works will be destroyed which are useful for warlike purposes exclusively—that is Category I plant. Destruction will, so far as possible, be by dismantling. Blowing up will only be used as a last resort in order to complete the process by the date laid down by the Council of Foreign Ministers.

On this question of conservation of any large amounts of steel, is it not better to postpone the date and save the steel, than to keep to the date and lose the steel?

We are doing everything we can to save the steel. It is not only a question of getting it through by the date, but there is also the fact that sometimes it is more economic to destroy the steel by blowing it up, than to use manpower to dismantle it.

In view of the fact that the steel is to be used for reparations, will the Under-Secretary state to which country it will be sent?

That will be a matter of allocation by the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency.

Is the Foreign Office satisfied that in this and other similar cases there is no unnecessary destruction or waste?

We will take every possible measure to prevent such waste. That is all I can say.

Have every possible means of turning wartime production into peacetime production been explored, such as converting tank production into tractor production? Can I have an assurance on that?

I can give the assurance that the only plant destroyed is that used exclusively for war purposes.

Who takes the decision whether plant is to be destroyed and used for reparations, and on what authority are Russian personnel in the Krupp's works?

To what extent have German workers refused to dismantle the works upon which they are dependent for their livelihood?

There is a natural reluctance on the part of German workers to dismantle their own factories.

Cotton Industry

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if any steps will be taken to consult the spinning industry in this country about the plan for importing cotton into the British and U.S. zones of Germany for the use of mills in those areas.

The advice of the British cotton industry has already been sought and given on matters concerning the processing of cotton in the Combined zone.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of the agreement by which 8,000,000 yards of cotton textiles made in Britain for the manufacture of loin cloths for East-African natives are to be supplied by the Export and Import Agency of the British and U.S. zones of Germany.

Private firms in this country have concluded a number of contracts with German manufacturers through the joint Export/Import Agency for the processing of raw cotton. It is understood that some of the cotton cloth thus produced will be finished in the United Kingdom and is destined for the African market.

Polish Resettlement Corps (Families)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many wives and children of members of the Polish Resettlement Corps are awaiting promised passages to this country from India, East Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere; and when they are likely to get them.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to reunite men of the Polish Armed Forces with their Polish dependants from the U.S.A., Africa, India, Germany and elsewhere overseas.

As the answer is rather long and contains a number of figures, I propose, with the hon. Members' permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will the hon. Gentleman admit that in this connection we have broken yet another promise to our Polish friends; and will he do everything possible within his power to re-unite these families as soon as possible?

No, Sir, I do not admit at all that we have broken any promise. We maintain, and have maintained, the desirability of re-uniting these families, and will do all we can to bring it about. It is a matter of transport and accommodation.

Following is the answer;

Approval has now been given for the War Office to make arrangements to bring to the United Kingdom, both from the Middle East and from India, the immediate relatives of members of the Polish Resettlement Corps who are now in this country. In addition, the wives and children under 21 of members of the Resettlement Corps will as a first step be brought here from East and Central Africa and from Southern Rhodesia.

Approximate figures of wives and children of members of the Resettlement Corps are belived to be:

  • India—780 wives and 1,240 children.
  • East Africa—5,000 wives and children.
  • Middle East—2,100 wives and 2,000 children.

No promises as regards passages have been made. I must emphasise that the actual movement of these persons will depend on the availability of suitable transport and accommodation here. Already, however, an advance party of 150 wives and children have set sail from Port Said. About 700 of the Polish dependants in Germany who are eligible have reached this country. The remainder will be brought here as soon as possible.

A number of Polish service men have been repatriated to the U.S.A. to rejoin their families there. Movement between the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom is subject to the normal immigration laws of the two countries. His Majesty's Government fully recognise the desirability of re-uniting Polish families, whether here or in Poland or elsewhere overseas, and are making constant efforts to this end.

Palestine (United Nation's Special Committee)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that His Majesty's Government will not reject the Report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine on the grounds of Arab non-cooperation.

I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The report of the Special Committee will be submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations and not to His Majesty's Government. I can assure him, however, that, when the report is considered by the Assembly, the attitude of His Majesty's Government will not be affected by the fact that the Palestine Arabs have not co-operated with the Committee.

Can my hon. Friend also give an assurance that the Government will insist on the complete disarming of both Jews and Arabs before we can implement any of the recommendations?

Food Supplies

Potatoes (Processing)

35.

asked the Minister of Food what amount of potatoes, measured in tons, has been used in the manufacture of flour for bread and similar products during the month of May, 1947.

I regret that we have no statistics on this subject. The quantity of potatoes used in this way is negligible. There is, of course, no potato in national flour.

Cattle And Sheep (Live-Weight Grading)

36.

asked the Minister of Food what facilities are allowed to farmers, dissatisfied with the live-weight grading of their cattle and sheep, to have the value assessed on the actual dressed carcase weight.

A livestock inspector of the Ministry may direct that payment shall be based on the actual dressed carcase weight after slaughter, instead of on the estimate made by the certifying authority. The inspectors are authorised to use this power when a producer is dissatisfied with the certifying authority's estimate. The animals are then sent to the nearest convenient slaughterhouse, and arrangements are made to enable the farmer to see the carcases weighed if he chooses to do so. The dead-weight basis may also be adopted at the producer's request when, because of restrictions on movement under the Diseases of Animals Acts, an animal may be moved from a collecting centre only to a slaughterhouse and, there for cannot be withdrawn from grading and taken back to the farm.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary hold out any hope that this system, which is known in my county as a "guessing competition" will eventually be replaced?

No, Sir, I certainly cannot do that. It may be deemed so in the hon. Member's part of the world, but that is not universal.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this "competition" is 97 per cent. accurate?

Milk (Gifts From Canada)

37.

asked the Minister of Food whether moneys collected throughout the Dominion of Canada in boxes marked "Milk for Britain" are received in this country in dollars, or in the form of dried milk or some other processed milk; and what method he has adopted of distributing these gifts.

These gifts have been coming as powdered milk and chocolate milk powder, and are distributed by the women's voluntary services to children's hospitals, orphanages, and schools, and, through district nurses, to individual children. I welcome this opportunity of renewing our thanks to the Association of Kinsmen's Clubs in Canada, through whose generosity we receive this milk.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary do something to make it known publicly in Canada that these gifts have been used in this very useful way, because they are apparently not aware of the fact?

Surplus Herring (Processing)

38.

asked the Minister of Food whether agreement has yet been reached with the East Coast fishermen to accept the offer of 30s. per cran for surplus herring to be processed into margarine, so as to prevent dumping into the sea of surplus herring.

The Scottish Herring Producers' Association, representing the majority of the East Coast fishermen, has not formally accepted the offer to buy surplus herring for reduction at 30s. per cran; but a number of fishermen at Fraserburgh and Peterhead sold their surpluses at this price at the beginning of the season, and we are hopeful that in the future they and other fishermen will be willing to do so and thus realise the value of the surpluses both to themselves and the country

In the event of dumping being continued by these fishermen, will the Ministry consider prosecuting them for the deliberate destruction of food?

Subsidies

42.

asked the Minister of Food the total amount of food subsidies now being paid at the last convenient, date.

The best estimate we can make at present is that given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech, £392 million for 1947–48.

While congratulating the hon. Lady on at least being sartorially Conservative, may I ask her by what amount this could be reduced if her Department abandoned the idea of bulk buying?

Usa Canned Fish (Imports)

64.

asked the Minister of Food if he will give the total value in dollars of tinned fish and oysters imported from the U.S.A. during the last six months; and the reason for permitting these goods to be imported.

The total value of imports of canned fish from the U.S.A. during the six months ended 30th June, 1947, was about 21 million dollars, including about 240,000 dollars for canned oysters. Almost all of these imports were Ministry purchases of salmon and pilchards, intended for distribution under points rationing. The oysters were part of the private importations permitted under an open general licence for canned fish products which is no longer in force.

Can the Minister say whether it is intended to allow any further importations of this canned fish?

As I have pointed out, the open general licence is no longer in force.

Beer (Imports)

43, 44 and 63.

asked the Minister of Food (1) how much beer from European countries has been licensed for import in the last year;

(2) what answer has been given to the application made to import beer into the United Kingdom from Germany;

(3) the quantity of beer permitted to be imported in the next 12 months; and the countries from which those imports will come.

Between 21st May, when the import scheme began, and 2nd July, import licences have been issued for 41,200 bulk barrels of 36 gallons each, including 4,000 barrels for re-export as ships' stores. This beer will come from Holland, Denmark, and Czechoslovakia. Further applications have been received or are anticipated covering 38,000 bulk barrels from these three countries in 1947 and 6,000 bulk barrels from Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. No answer has yet been given to the German application, involving only 28 barrels, as we are waiting for information on the supplies available and the method of payment.

Can the hon. Lady give an assurance that no licences will be granted for the import of beer made from grain which has been exported or diverted to those countries at the expense of British farmers who required feedingstuffs?

No, I cannot give that assurance. It is a matter for the country concerned. The International Emergency Food Council allocates grain, and the country which receives it can do what it likes with the allocation.

Is not the hon. Lady aware that something like 454,000 barrels of foreign beer were imported last year? Can she assure us that none of that was made from grain which was diverted to Germany?

Is the hon. Lady aware that as a result of two years of Socialist Government we have been compelled to import both coal and beer?

Fishing Industry

Inshore Fishing Vessels (Construction)

46.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, how many inshore fishing vessels have been built under the terms of the Inshore Fishing Industry Act, 1945.

Thirty-seven inshore fishing boats have been built in Great Britain under the terms of the Inshore Fishing Industry Act, 1945. Additional contracts have been placed for 97 boats, and 14 more are being negotiated.

Herring (Abnormal Catches)

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied that the Herring Industry Board has made adequate arrangements to deal with abnormal catches of herring during the East Anglian fishing season.

While the maximum quantity of herrings likely to be landed on any day during the East Anglian herring season is unpredictable, every effort is being made by the Herring Industry Board and the Departments concerned to ensure that all herrings landed will be utilised.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the chaotic state of affairs which prevailed in East Anglia last year, owing to the inability of the Herring Board to deal with this matter? Can he assure us that that state of affairs will not recur?

I can only assure my hon. Friend that the Ministry of Food have started a campaign to eat more fish, including herrings, and are endeavouring to secure increased kipper factory accommodation and an improvement in the kippers.

if there should be a glut this autumn, will the Minister consider sending the fishing vessels direct to Holland and Germany, to discharge their catches at the ports there?

Agriculture

Credit Facilities

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps the Government propose to take to ensure that the small dairy farmers and mixed farms throughout the country have adequate working capital to enable them to produce the maximum amount of milk and food.

I am satisfied that almost all farmers can secure, either from their own resources or from existing credit facilities, sufficient working capital, and I do not propose to make any further arrangements.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 80 per cent. of the farms of this country are of 150 acres or less, that most of them are short of working capital and have to rely on bank overdrafts at 5 per cent.? Is ne further aware that the banks pay only half per cent. on deposit accounts, which is 10 times the amount they charge the farmers?

If the situation is as has just been described, would not a solution be to form a credit association for the farmers?

I am certain that the situation is not as the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) suggested, and, that being so, there is no necessity to provide facilities other than those which already exist.

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will take steps to make use of the existing 7,000 branches of the joint stock banks, with a view to the formation of an agricultural farm credit bureau restricted under its constitution from charging more than 1 per cent. above the current bank rate on all its transactions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if we are to develop food production farmers must have the proper working capital? I am not satisfied, even following the rebuke which the right hon. Gentleman has just given me, and I shall go on again and again. I know I am right.

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is his intention to reduce the rate of interest from 5 per cent. to 2½per cent. on other credits under the Goods and Services Scheme in addition to the advances to hill farmers as announced on 20th June.

The reduction in the rate of interest is not restricted to hill farmers; it applies to any farmer to whom assistance under the scheme is given for the replacement - of livestock lost last winter through snow, frost, or flood. I do not propose to extend the concession to farmers who have not suffered in that way.

Do I understand that there will be two rates of interest which farmers will be able to obtain under one scheme? Do I understand that for livestock only it is 2½per cent., but that if a farmer's crops suffer, as they are suffering in the Eastern Counties at present because of the drought and the barley plague, he will not be able to get the credit at 2½per cent.?

Past experience of the Agricultural Goods and Services Scheme indicates that anything less than 5 per cent. would not cover the necessary overhead expenses. Therefore, it would amount to an indirect subsidy, and it is not the intention that that should be the case.

Dairy Cows (Overstocking)

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is satisfied that everything possible is being done to put a stop to the cruel practice of over-stocking dairy cows prior to sales; and if he will consider, in co-operation with the cattle-breeding societies, a tightening - up of the regulations.

I deprecate the practice of exhibiting over-stocked cows at markets, and my Department has always endeavoured to dissuade owners of animals from doing so. I have no power to make regulations, but it is an offence against the Protection of Animals Acts to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal and my veterinary officers are always ready to assist the police where cruelty is alleged to be due to over-stocking. I was glad to note that at a recent sale at Reading the organisers required cows in milk to be milked out at six o'clock on the morning of the sale, and I hope that requirements of this kind will become more general.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the great majority of farmers in South Devon and other parts of England also deprecate the practice, and will he not tighten up the regulations so that action can be taken against the minority?

I have no power to make regulations, and the question of cruelty is a matter for the police and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this practice is quite notorious all over England? Cannot he instruct his officers to bring prosecutions? They are entitled to do so.

No, Sir, not unless their intention is drawn to a particular case by the police. It is a question for the police and for the Home Secretary, not for the Minister of Agriculture.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider asking owners of sale yards to put into their catalogues the time at which cows can be milked before sale?

I hope that those responsible for sales will take note of the hon. and gallant Member's question.

Baling Wire (Allocations)

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the quantity of baling wire allocated through the county A.E.Cs. during the current quarter as compared with a year ago; the prospective allocation for the fourth quarter of this year; and how far the quantity for the year will fall short of requirements.

Two thousand and ninety-one tons of baling wire were allocated for the current quarter as compared with 2,470 tons a year ago. It is not yet possible to say what the allocation for the fourth quarter will be or, therefore, how far the year's supply may fall short of requirements. But I am hoping that the steps taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply will result in improved supplies.

Wages And Prices

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will consult with the Agricultural Wages Board to ensure that, in future, proposals for changes in minimum farm wages will coincide with the year for which farmers' prices are guaranteed, so as to avoid repeated negotiations on prices and continual uncertainty.

No, Sir. The Agricultural Wages Board, which is, of course, fully aware of the consideration referred to by the hon. Member, is an autonomous body in whose decisions I have no power to intervene.

Would it not be very helpful from every point of view if the Minister were to take a little courage in this matter and have a word with the Agricultural Wages Board, because the whole of his price-fixing procedure will be upset if we go on in this piecemeal way?

I fully appreciate the point submitted by the hon. Member, but I am sure that he is aware that I have no power to intervene with the Board, which is an independent one.

In view of the recent announcement made by the. Agricultural Wages Board, recommending an increase in the minimum wage, does the Minister intend to hold a special review of prices, owing to the increased cost of production occasioned thereby?

That is a matter for subsequent consideration No increase is yet confirmed.

it the right hon. Gentleman cannot intervene technically cannot he give a broad hint?

If a Minister were to give broad hints one way, he would have to give broad hints in another way, and I cannot give broad hints either way.

Has the Minister no ideas on this subject at all? In view of the great effect which this increase must have on the whole of the agricultural industry, has he no ideas on the subject?

Grass Seed (Production)

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the recent notice issued by his Press department that there is danger of over-production of some kinds of grass seed, he will state what is his policy in regard to this branch of agriculture; and if he will consider the possibility of exporting any surplus.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for the South-Western Division of Norfolk (Mr. Dye) on 10th March last about cocksfoot seed. The same applies to other types. I am always glad to encourage the export of seeds which are surplus to domestic requirements.

Hill Sheep (Losses)

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what losses of ewes and lambs have occurred in hill flocks since lambing; and how these losses of ewes compare with the earlier losses due directly to the hard weather.

I regret that this information is not yet available. I am awaiting the results of the 4th June agricultural census, which should give a complete picture of the losses of sheep and lambs.

Does the right hon. Gentleman expect that these figures will show the losses divided between those directly due to the snow and those indirectly due to lambing when the ewes were in a weak state?

They would not in the ordinary way be separated, but a special analysis is being made on those lines this year.

Imported New Carrots (Orders)

65.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the Import of New Carrots (with Foliage attached) Order has caused inconvenience; whether he has decided to adhere to the instructions that the length of foliage attached to new carrots may not be more than five inches, 12.5 cms., nor less than three inches, 7·5 cms.; and if he is prepared to receive representations from the public and the trade.

I have been asked to reply. The arrangement applied to this season's carrots only and terminated on 31st May.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if the same termination applies to the other seven Orders on carrots, which I hold in my hand, or only to this particular Order?

The non. Gentleman says that he is holding seven Orders in his hand, but I do not know to what the Orders relate.

The hon. Gentleman must know that the right hon Gentleman can only answer a question.

The hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to transmit documents to a Minister privately.

River Pollution

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if his attention has been directed to the recent report of the British Field Sports Society, a copy of which has been sent to him, concerning pollution of rivers; and what steps his Department will take to remedy this position.

Yes, Sir. The question of pollution is under consideration by a sub-committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee set up by the Minister of Health, on which agricultural and fishery interests are represented. The subcommittee has received evidence from the National Association of Fishery Boards, and other bodies interested in the purity of our rivers, and its report is awaited.

Shipping

Pilotage Order (Applicants)

66.

asked the Minister of Transport why, by paragraph 9 of S.R. & O., 1947, No. 1148, he has made it obligatory for applicants for a pilotage order to send a copy of the ad vertisement of their application to the Transport and General Workers' Union.

The Rules set out in the Order referred to are framed to provide that proposed changes in pilotage administration are brought to the notice of all interested parties, and, as a number of pilots now belong to the Transport and General Workers' Union, it is appropriate that that body should be included as well as the United Kingdom Pilots' Association.

Will the same privileges be granted to any other trade union who ask for them?

Certainly, if they have a substantial number of members in their organisation.

River Severn Navigation (Inquiry)

67.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the River Severn Catchment Board cannot proceed with urgently needed plans to combat flooding and erosion of the river banks until they know what action is to be ken on the proposals of the Severn Commission for improving navigation between Gloucester and Worcester; and whether he will hasten a decision on principle on these proposals and indicate when a statement may be expected.

Investigations into the physical possibilities of improving the navigation of the River Severn have been completed. A special inquiry on behalf of my Ministry with the co-operation of Bristol University into the economic aspects of the alternative schemes reported on by the engineers is likely to be completed this year. This is a necessary preliminary step. My Department is, however, prepared to advise on how far any proposed works of the Catchment Board might be rendered abortive through possible improvements to the navigation.

Ferry Services (Report)

74.

asked the Minister of Transport when he anticipates that the Report of the Committee on Ferry Services will be published.

80.

asked the Minister of Transport if he has yet received a report from the Committee on Ferry Services in Great Britain.

I hope to receive the Committee's Report by the end of September; until then I am not in position to say anything about its publication.

Lptb

Staggred Hours

68.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress has now been made for the staggering of hours in London.

Up to the present 30,000 workers in Central London have adjusted their working hours with good results. Negotiations are still proceeding which, I trust, will result in bringing in a much larger number.

Can the Minister give an idea what percentage of the total number of workers is affected by that figure of 30,000?

No, I cannot give the percentage because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we cover this problem in districts.

Bus Services (Season Tickets)

69.

asked the Minister of Transport in order to save time, money, labour and material, if he will arrange for season tickets on the London omnibuses.

No, Sir. I am advised that the introduction of season tickets on their omnibuses would not, on balance, result in savings to the London Passenger Transport Board. The work of conductors would be greatly complicated. There would thus be no justification for rates representing a reduction in ordinary fares, without which there would be little advantage to the public. It would be extremely difficult to frame schedules of rates to cover the numerous routes and possible journeys.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this would be of great convenience to the humble persons who use buses, and what practical objection can there be to saving time, paper and labour in this way?

If the hon. and learned Member will look at the answer, I think that he will see that I have dealt with that point.

Was it not the case that before the war season tickets were issued on the London Transport system for workers who had to make part of their journey by bus and part by tube, and cannot that facility be restored?

It the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to the T.O.T. pass, that is another question.

Roads

Lyttelton Road, Finchley (Safety Measures)

70.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps have been taken to make Lyttelton Road, Finchley, safer for pedestrians crossing the road and particularly for children who have to cross it on their way to and from school.

As soon as the necessary labour can be made available minor improvement works will be carried out at the Norrice Lea road junction and central refuges will be provided to give pedestrians a better and safer opportunity of crossing the road. The sequence of signals at Bishop's Avenue is also being examined, to see whether improved conditions can be obtained at that junction.

Is the Minister aware that I am still receiving letters from my constituents pointing out the dangers of this road, especially for children, and can he expedite an improvement?

I appreciate that it is a dangerous road, and the improvements of which I spoke have been given the highest priority.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are some hon. Members of this House who reside in that locality, whose lives are equally important?

Trunk Roads (Report)

75.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will issue a progress report showing developments undertaken to improve the national road system since the passing of the Trunk Roads Act, 1946.

Information as to developments since the passing of the Trunk Roads Act, 1946, will be included in the Report on the administration of the Road Fund for 1946–7 and each year thereafter.

Reconditioned Motor Cars Ex-Service Men)

77.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to reduce the average period of more than a year which elapses between applications by disabled ex-Service men for reconditioned motor cars and delivery.

The waiting period depends upon the rate of supply of surplus Government cars suitable for reconditioning and the number of disabled ex-Service men on the waiting list. Every effort is made by my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Supply, to select suitable vehicles as soon as they are thrown up by Government Departments as surplus and my Department allocates the cars immediately they become available.

As the possession of a car is most essential to a great many of these disabled ex-Service men, has my right hon. Friend satisfied himself that the Service Departments are disposing of these cars as quickly as they should?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have been very persistent in the examination of this problem, and I regret there have not been more cars available.

78.

asked the Minister of Transport how many reconditioned ex-Service motor cars have been allocated to disabled ex-Service men since the scheme began; and what was the average price charged.