House Of Commons
Thursday, 10th July, 1947
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Felixstowe Pier Bill
London County Council (Money) Bill
Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.
Dundee Corporation Order Confirmation Bill
Considered; to be read the Third time tomorrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Minister of Education whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement by the secretary of the Association of Education Committees that the building programme up to 1951 can do little more than provide for the raising of the school-leaving age to 15, the increase in the birth-rate and new schools on housing estates; and if he will make a statement.
The educational building programme, like all others, is conditioned by the availability of building labour and materials, particularly steel and timber. I cannot attempt to assess the prospects as far ahead as 1951, but it is already clear that during 1947 and 1948 the greater part of the labour and materials likely to be available for educational building will be absorbed by the provision of the additional school accommodation required as a result of the raising of the compulsory school age, new housing developments and the rise in the birth rate, and by the school meals programme. Other urgent requirements will, of course, continue to be met in so far as the available resources allow.
asked the Minister of Education whether he will now give clear directions to local education authorities on the building priorities for the next four years, based on the known increase in child population and on Government policy, so that authorities can shape their plans accordingly, earmark sites and proceed with projects capable of being finished and suitable to their areas, without wasting time and manpower on detailed costs which cannot be accurately measured at the moment.
As long ago as February, 1946, my predecessor gave local education authorities a list of the main educational needs, namely, the provision of accommodation for the raising of the compulsory school age, training for industry, training of teachers, school meals, and schools needed to serve new housing estates. At the same time, authorities were invited to proceed with the planning of essential projects outside those categories against the time when building would be possible provided that first priority projects were not impeded by their doing so. More recently, in Circular 143, I have indicated the building programme which I hope to see carried out in 1948. In subsequent years I shall aim at the greatest practicable increase in the volume of educational building, but it is not yet possible to estimate accurately the prospects as far ahead as 1951.
Would the Minister consider a case I have from a local authority whose plans have been sent back, because they have not given detailed costs?
Yes, Sir, I will look into it.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are large houses in many parts of the country which cannot be fully occupied because of the impossibility of getting domestic staff, and which might be taken over and turned into schools?
As and where practicable, local authorities are already doing that.
asked the Minister of Education whether he will give a reasonable assurance that the men accepted for emergency training colleges, some of whom are compelled to wait a further 12 months for admission, will find employment within the public system of education; on what building estimates the present recruitment policy has been based; and whether he will now establish a central training council to advise him on the supply and training of teachers, as recommended by the McNair Report.
I shall be in a better position to give assurances on this point when the necessary discussions with representatives of local education authorities and teachers' organisations have been completed. Recruitment policy is based on estimates of the establishments required for the increase in the school population due to the raising of the age and the larger birthrate in recent years, for a reduction in the size of classes to the limits prescribed by the regulations, and for some increase in provision for children under the age of five. It is not determined by estimate of what new school buildings will be provided within the next few years. As my predecessor explained last December, it has not been practicable to set up a Central Council for Teachers on a permanent footing until the area organisation contemplated by the McNair Report is in being. She, therefore, appointed an interim committee to give advice on questions relating to the supply, recruitment and distribution of teachers. I am sending my hon. Friend a list of its members.
As my right hon. Friend is aware of the many ex-Servicemen awaiting admission to colleges, will he speed up the policy of secondment, so that more teachers can be used in the Services, Colonial Services and overseas, and thus help to retain trained teachers within the public system of education?
All these things are being examined with a view to accomplishing what the hon. Gentleman has in mind.
Buglawton Hall, Congleton
asked the Minister of Education if he will reconsider his decision not to purchase Buglawton Hall for use as a grammar school at Congleton, in view of the difficulties in building such a school for several years ahead.
It would be for the local education authority, not my Department, to buy this property. They have not asked me to reconsider my decision that the purchase cannot be approved and I do not consider that the expenditure of money, labour and materials involved in the purchase and adaptation of this property for school use, either temporarily or permanently, would be worth while.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the local authority have already said that they would like him to buy this property, and in view of the extreme shortage of educational facilities and the difficulty of building such a school, will he look into what the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said on a previous Question, and do something about it?
I have already pointed out that it would be for the local authority and not for me to purchase property of this kind, and I would also like to point out with regard to this property that the work required to be done would take as much material as would be necessary for building a new school.
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, I must make it clear that I am not in favour of buying these buildings.
Grants To Parents, East Suffolk
asked the Minister of Education whether the scheme of the East Suffolk County Council under which grants of £35 are paid to parents irrespective of their financial circumstances if they wish to send their children to independent boarding schools, has been approved by him.
The East Suffolk local education authority's arrangements have not yet been approved, though the local. education authority may expect to receive grant on their expenditure if it is within the scope of Section 81 of the Education Act, 1944, and the regulations made thereunder. The Section is designed to prevent hardship and this purpose would not be met by a proposal to make a grant at a flat rate without regard to the parents' income.
As these independent schools vary greatly, would it be competent for a county council to give £35 to a parent who wants to send his child to a most expensive school, when he could send it to one for £35 less?
Provided the local authority was satisfied of the necessity for making a grant to relieve hardship, they could do so.
Examination, Burnham-On-Sea (Inquiry)
asked the Minister of Education whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that at the Highbridge, Burnham-on-Sea, Church of England school, Somerset, the examination papers of nine candidates for higher school scholarships were tampered with; and what action is being taken to prevent such possibilities in the future.
I have been informed of the steps taken by the local education authority in this matter, which is one for them to deal with in the first instance. I do not think there is any likelihood of recurrence.
Is the Minister aware that the whole of the people in Somerset interested in education are very disappointed at what is happening in this direction; and in view of the dissatisfaction over the inquiry and the report into the circumstances, will he make some further inquiry with a view to getting general satisfaction?
I will make further inquiries.
Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to a statement in the. "Burnham-on-Sea Gazette" and, I believe, in some other papers circulating in Somerset, to the effect that the culprit is unlikely ever to be traced; and does he not feel that in view of the extremely grave consequences in connection with these examinations further steps should be taken to find out who is the person responsible, if necessary, with the aid of the police?
I have taken steps, and I have already promised to carry the inquiries further.
Cadet Camps (School Leave)
asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware of the dislocation of arrangements for A.T.C. and other camps, consequent upon his sudden decision to prohibit leave of absence being granted during the school term to cadets from schools maintained by local education authorities; and whether he will now permit such leave to be granted for attendance at cadet camps already arranged to take place in July, 1947.
The regulations have been in operation since 1st April, 1945, and the position appears to have been generally understood since, as 1 informed the hon. Member on 7th July, Cadet Forces do in fact try to avoid sending cadets of school units to camp during the school term. If, however, the local education authority is satisfied that there has been in any particular case a genuine misunderstanding and it is now impracticable to alter the arrangements, I should not seek to prevent cadet camps already fixed from taking place, provided the regulations are observed in future.
While I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, may I ask if he will see that it is conveyed to all the education authorities, so that they can take action?
Yes, but I must add that all the local education authorities have not been concerned.
Police Officers' Trial, Old Bailey
asked the Attorney-General if the Director of Public Prosecutions has considered the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution whose names were withheld in the recent Old Bailey trial of two police officers; and if any legal action is contemplated.
An appeal has been lodged in the case to which my hon. Friend refers, and while the matter remains sub judice it would not be proper for me to make any statement.
Trade And Commerce
asked the President of the Board of Trade the present market price of wool tops, together with the controlled price to the manufacturers in the price structure for utility cloth.
Prices vary according to type and market. The controlled prices for tops for manufacture of goods for the home trade are laid down in the Control of Wool (No. 34) (Prices) Order, 1947, of which I am sending to the hon. Member a copy.
Is it not a fact that the controlled price has been below the world market price, and spinners are finding it difficult, and have found it difficult for six months, to get supplies for utility articles?
I do not think that it is true that the controlled price has been below the market price, because the wool that is being used was bought at much lower prices and was coming from stock. I do not think there is any present difficulty, but if there is and any particular spinner will apply to the Wool Control they will adjust it.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied that the position of keeping up the supplies of wool will be met when the next period starts?
So far as I know.
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement with regard to his shortterm and long-term policy for the production of utility clothing, in view of the desirability, in the public interests, to maintain adequate standards of quality.
I do not think that I can add to the statement I made in reply to my hon. Friend during the Debate on consumer goods on 26th June. There is no question of discontinuing the scheme until we get a very much better supply of clothing, but its continuance thereafter will be considered when the time arrives.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise what very real safe- guards are being provided for the public and manufacturers in eliminating some of the shoddy clothing, and can he give an undertaking that, as far as possible, the standard will be maintained permanently, even if clothing supplies become more prevalent, because the safeguard will be appreciated?
I can quite understand that it has been appreciated, and continuance of the scheme will be considered when the time arrives.
Clothing Coupons (Losses)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, where any person reports a second loss by any member of a household of clothing coupons by theft or otherwise to the local assistance board, it is with his approval that a circular is sent to the effect that, while consideration will be given to the current application, no replacement will be made in the event of further losses by any member of the household; and whether he will ensure that all losses of clothing coupons reported will be properly investigated before a decision to refuse replacement is made.
The warning given after the second claim has been made has my approval. Wherever possible it is given by an officer of the Assistance Board at an interview. Applications are considered so that special circumstances may be taken into account. but I cannot undertake to have an investigation made in every case of a third loss where there are no special circumstances.
Is the Minister aware that in the circular letter referring to the subject it is not a warning but a definite statement, and if he accepts the principle of replacing lost clothing coupons, will he assure the House that this will be done according to the merits of the case and not according to any arbitrary rule?
Applications are examined to see if there are special circumstances. It is only where there are no special circumstances that this action has been taken.
Furniture Production, Edinburgh (Licence)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his Department is now in a position to issue to Captain Angus Buchanan, 40, Corstorphine Hill Gardens, Edinburgh, a licence to produce his patent furniture.
No, Sir. The quantity of timber available for furniture production has been still further reduced since my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary last wrote to the noble Lord about this application, and I am afraid the issue of a licence is not at present possible.
Cannot the President of the Board of Trade look into the possibility of this furniture being included in the utility furniture, because it has great utility value, since one man can carry a cupboard upstairs? There has been a great demand in Edinburgh for this type of furniture.
We have looked into it very carefully, and I have looked into it myself, but it is impossible to include it in utility furniture for the technical reasons given.
Is this not a case where a new industry is stifled by regulations?
Electricity Poles (Germany)
asked the President of the Board of Trade how many poles, suitable for carrying overhead electricity lines, were obtained from Germany in the year 1946; and what increased numbers he expects to receive from the same source during 1947.
Shipment of poles from Germany commenced late in September, 1946, and 5,348 poles suitable inter alia for carrying overhead electricity lines were received during that year. 19,590 poles have been received from this source during the first five months of this year. It is not possible to make any precise estimate of arrivals during the latter half of the year, but we hope that they will continue at about the same rate as in the first part of the year.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied with that very small rate, and can he assure the House that steps are being taken to increase the supply in view of the almost unlimited quantity of such poles?
I understand that there are no unlimited quantities. That is one of the difficulties. There is timber suitable for other purposes, and we are doing our utmost to get all the poles we can.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make sure that a fair proportion of poles will be made available for electricity purposes?
That is being done at the present time.
Board Of Trade (Correspondence)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the number of clerical staff employed by his Department in answering the 1,250,000 letters of complaint received monthly by his Department; and what is the average time devoted to answering each letter.
I am afraid this information is not available, since separate staff is not employed for this particular purpose. I should make it clear to the hon. and gallant Member that the figure quoted covers the whole of the Board's inward correspondence and not letters of complaint only.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that if he could manage to cancel the less useful and most irritating section of the regulations issued by his Department a very large body of complaints would be met and the letters with which his Department would have to deal would be reduced by three-quarters?
I am afraid there would be so many protests from industry for so doing that we would have greater correspondence.
Cotton Industry (Paper Tubes)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the reduced stocks of paper tubes for the cotton-spinning industry; that unless effective action is taken in the near future to assist the manufacturers of these tubes with the requisite raw material there is danger of a crisis developing in the cottonspinning industry in early August; and what steps are being taken to deal with this potential industrial emergency.
I am aware of the shortage of paper tubes and arrangements have been made to increase the supplies available.
Will the President of the Board of Trade ensure that the Paper Controller keeps in close contact with the cotton industry, because through this crisis of reduced stocks of paper tubes some firms have been in danger of closing down some of their spindles?
It is because close contact has been kept that we made arrangements to have more tubes made.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that a coal crisis is feared more in Lancashire than is the crisis referred to by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton)?
Japanese Goods (False Markings)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are in contemplation to prevent the use of such expressions as "Made in England" or "Made in Great Britain" by Japanese manufacturers for goods made in Japan.
Our representative on the Far Eastern Commission has recently received instructions to raise the whole question of Japanese commercial malpractices and the best means of preventing them.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has now completed his discussions with the Minister of Education; and if, in view of the disastrous lack of books in schools and colleges of all grades and of the need to make full use of the additional year due to the raised school-leaving age, he is now prepared, in allocating paper, to give a definite priority to books for schools and colleges.
In agreement with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, I am now reserving a quarter of the allocation of paper for books for educational or export purposes, with the proviso that the same proportion as hitherto of the remaining three-quarters shall also be used for educational books. In addition 1,000 tons of the special reserve of 1,500 tons is earmarked for educational text books.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that his statement will be received with very great delight in the schools?
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how the quota is divided between export and educational books?
That is left to the discretion of the publisher.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to alleviate the acute shortage of soft-drinks bottles, especially for squash and cordials in view of the holiday season.
We are doing all we can to assist the bottle manufacturers to obtain the greatest possible output within the limits imposed by the available supplies of fuel and soda ash. The demand for bottles continues, however, to be greater than the supply, and the public can help by returning used bottles promptly. Many local authorities have assisted us greatly, as part of their- salvage activities, by returning empty bottles to the trade and broken glass to the manufacturers; I am very grateful to them for this work.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that adequate publicity is being given to this urgent need for the return of empty bottles?
We have done our best, and I have no doubt that this Question will assist.
Factories, Grantham (Allocation)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether Mr. F. S. Cotton, in whose bankruptcy a final dividend of 2s. 4d. in the £, making 14s. in the £ in all as a composition, was pay able to the creditors on 6th May, 1947, is the same Mr. Cotton to whose syndicate the Grantham factories were allocated by his Department in June, 1947.
May I ask the President of the Board of Trade two other questions, the first of which is, whether in view of the disastrous results both to the workers and the shareholders as a result of the cancellation of a decision reached by two of his predecessors, it was wise to allot these factories to a syndicate with this financial backing; and, secondly, in view of the great public and local concern which these allocations have caused, whether he will promise the House to set up an independent public inquiry into the circumstances?
The answer to the first supplementary question is that the financial backing was not that of Mr. Cotton but that of another gentleman, and with regard to the second question, the answer is, "No."
Can the President of the Board of Trade say whether it is quite true that this gentleman headed a syndicate to whom this factory has been allotted? I beg to give notice, in view of the entirely unsatisfactory nature of the answer, my hon. Friends and I will take an early opportunity of raising this as a matter of urgency.
25 and 26.
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he will identify the members of the group to whom he allocated the factories recently occupied by Grantham Productions, Limited; whether this group has now completed the purchase of the company's assets; and how much working capital is available for production of agricultural tractors;(2) what experience qualified the group to whom he allocated the factories recently occupied by Grantham Productions, Limited, to engage in the production of agricultural tractors; and what is the estimated production from these factories during the next 12 months.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, made in this matter in the Debate on consumer goods on 26th June. According to my latest information, the acquisition of the assets has not been completed.
What is the reason for all this secrecy? Why, in spite of constant Questions should these names be withheld from the public—why?
I know of no names being withheld from the public or any constant secrecy.
In the statement to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, did not the Parliamentary Secre- tary say that the Board of Trade was satisfied that this group had sufficient capital available not only for the acquisition of the assets, but also for the production of tractors? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman still satisfied?
We are satisfied from inquiries we have made in the ordinary course in the City of London that the persons supporting the group had ample financial backing.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman get into touch with the Bankruptcy Department in the Board of Trade and ask them to scrutinise the "London Gazette" in the future?
Hon. Members must not rise when the Speaker is on his feet. I am not quite clear how far these Questions are in Order, because notice has been given that this matter will be raised on the Adjournment.
On a point of Order. I did not give notice to raise it on the Adjournment. I gave general notice.
The right hon. Gentleman said he was going to raise the general question on the Adjournment.
No, Sir, with all respect; I said that I would take an early opportunity of raising this matter as a question of urgency.
Are we to understand that if there is a series of Questions more or less dealing with the same subject, and if on the first Question somebody gives notice to raise the matter on the Adjournment, that any further supplementaries on the subsequent Questions will be out of Order.
That is a difficult question, because, after all, it is out of Order to ask a supplementary question when notice has been given that the matter will be raised on the Adjournment. On subsequent Questions on the same subject, if there are supplementaries dealing with the same point, surely, they are out of Order. However, it must be a matter for my discretion.
Further to that point of Order. It is obviously a difficult point, but do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that your Ruling depends on notice having been given to raise a matter on the Adjournment. because my right hon. Friend did not give that notice, but he said, as will be seen in HANSARD tomorrow, that he would raise the matter as early as possible?
Is it not apparent that the right hon. Gentleman did rise in his place and say that he and his hon. Friends would take the earliest opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment?
As the hon. Gentleman has raised this question, I think it will be within the recollection of the House that I particularly did not say we were going to raise it on the Adjournment. I said that we were going to raise it as a matter of urgency. Many courses are open to us, and one of them is to put down a Motion to call for a public inquiry.
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Can you give a Ruling now that this will not preclude any of us from putting down a Motion calling upon the Government to appoint a Select Committee of Inquiry or asking for a judicial inquiry into what we regard as a public scandal.
There is nothing to prevent that. That is perfectly in Order.
On a point of Order. While all this talk has been going en the last part of my second Question has not been answered. May I repeat it to the President of the Board of Trade, if he will do me the courtesy of listening—
"what is the estimated production from these factories during the next 12 months?"
That will depend on what will happen to them.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the shortage of educational books and of the wasteful production of advertisements of medical and other products sent through the post, he will consider the appointment of a small committee to make recommendations as to the best use of the paper that is available.
No, Sir. Allocations of paper for different purposes are already considered periodically by an Inter-Departmental Committee and I do not consider that the appointment of a further committee would assist the production of educational books.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that doctors are being deluged with circulars concerning medical products in which they have no interest, and could not some way be found to save all that paper?
I am afraid that it is difficult to discriminate between valuable and valueless literature.
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what is meant by the phrase "educational books," and whether it includes republications of the novels of Scott and Dickens and certain other authors, and could he promise that in future that one section of the trade will be responsible for this?
If the hon. Member will put those questions down, I will answer them.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in view of His Majesty's Government's policy that the paper industry should make progress without delay in recovering its export markets, he -will ensure that supplies of paper for export in the 25th licence period are not further restricted, thus permanently preventing British exporters from beginning their overseas trade.
asked the President of of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that exports of high-quality paper labels are being impeded by shortage of paper; whether the production of printed paper for export or for use as covers on exported goods receives priority over the use of paper for export as plain paper; and what instructions the Paper Control have received in order to encourage this branch of the printing trade.
We are seeking to maintain, and, where possible, to increase our exports of paper and paper products. The position is reviewed at regular intervals, and while a reduction in the export allocation for plain paper has been necessary for the present licensing period, every effort is made to maintain a fair balance between the conflicting claims.
In view of the very high ratio of hard currency earnings that this industry provides, will the President of the Board of Trade give special attention to the necessity of treating its demands sympathetically?
Certainly, but as the hon. Gentleman will have heard from the questions this afternoon there are other claims upon paper.
Will the Minister answer the second part of my Question:
"whether the production of printed paper for export or for use as covers on exported goods receives priority over the use of paper for export as plain paper ?"
There is no priority one way or the other. One has to try to balance the treatment between the two.
Arising from that answer, is the Minister aware that his policy is impeding export because the manufacturers of these highly finished articles are not allowed the necessary paper and materials?
That happens in the case of a great many goods. You cannot export a certain type of goods only. The demand has to be taken generally.
While making these trading connections, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that we obtain ten times the value when this paper is made up into books?
Would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the time is really ripe now for a careful review of the whole of our paper allocations to see that we provide for the requirements of technical books, in preference to advertisements, bill-posting and so on?
That is a review which is continually being undertaken.
Hotels (Linen Supplies)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether additional supplies of linen will be made available to those hotels which specialise in catering for overseas visitors.
The British Tourist and Holidays Board announced on 8th July a scheme for the distribution of an allocation of single linen sheets to hotels and similar establishments catering for tran- sient visitors. Supplies are limited and preference will therefore be given to establishments of special importance to overseas visitors and those whose equipment suffered as a direct result of the war, e.g. from enemy action, requisitioning, billeting, etc. Pillow-cases, bolster-cases and table linen are not rationed, and no special arrangements are being made for their supply to hotels.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the countless visitors to this country will be properly looked after?
We are doing the best we can for them in difficult circumstances.
Will the President of the Board of Trade bear in mind that household linen is urgently needed by other similar establishments which provide much-needed holidays and recreation for the citizens of our own country?
That is being borne in mind, as is the fact that linen is also required for domestic use.
Salvage Collection (Special Appeal)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the importance of salvage, he will arrange for an improvement in the existing method of collection, having particular regard to the shortage of paper.
The lord mayors, mayors, and chairmen of Urban District Councils in the more populous areas in England and Wales have been asked in a personal letter from the Lord President of the Council, the Minister of Healthy the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, to influence their local authorities in the direction of providing adequate salvage collection machinery. A similar appeal has also been sent to Convenors of County Councils, Lord Provosts and Provosts in Scotland. I cannot too strongly emphasise the necessity for salvage to be kept separate from ordinary refuse.
In view of the extreme importance of salvage at this time, would my right hon. and learned Friend state whether he is prepared to reintroduce the wartime schemes, and in particular to bring back the honorary advisers. valuable men who have now more or less been given the sack, but whose experience would be very useful to the country?
I do not think that that would assist in the present circumstances. I think it is the local authorities whom we need to stimulate at present.
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the position of waste paper supplies is still unsatisfactory and, as it will affect the production of plaster board and other materials badly needed in industry, if he will approach the B.B.C. with a view to enlisting their co-operation in instituting and maintaining a waste paper salvage campaign.
Yes, Sir. The B.B.C. are co-operating with my Department by devoting the "Production Report" to be broadcast on 15th July to salvage matters, and consderable reference will be made to the need for saving waste paper.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend hope to maintain this, because a single broadcast will not produce many results and it is the only medium which can save paper without at the same time involving large expenditure?
The B.B.C. are very co-operative but have many other things to do.
Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that that is not the only way to save paper, and that he should cut out the "bumph"?
Could my right hon. and learned Friend say whether it is the case that we are importing waste paper supplies and, if so, to what extent?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will put that question down.
asked the President of the Board of Trade how collections of waste paper and food scraps compare in quantity with those made two years ago.
Collections of waste paper amounted to 51,783 tons in April, 1947, as compared with 52,569 tons in April, 1945. Overall figures of waste food collections are not available, but collections by local authorities were 25,887 tons and 35,217 tons, respectively, in these months.
Will the President of the Board of Trade give publicity to the fact that one ton of food scraps will put the bacon from one whole pig on the breakfast table, and also to the fact that if collections of waste paper and food scraps were restored to their wartime level we could save millions of dollars?
Publicity has been given to that on quite an extensive scale.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the difficulty experienced by mothers of very young children in obtaining white fasteners for home-made clothing; and if he will take steps to increase the supply of these articles.
Yes, Sir. The industry is, with my encouragement, increasing its capacity in order fully to meet the home demand, a large part of which was previously supplied by Germany.
Is the Minister aware that, although the mothers concerned are grateful for this stimulation of the manufacturers, they are complaining of the difficulty of obtaining such articles in the multiple stores where they have hitherto been obtainable?
I was not aware of that particular point, but I will look into it.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to make tyres both for commercial and private use more readily and rapidly available to the public.
The production of tyres which has been temporarily held back by a shortage of carbon black will increase as soon as that material becomes available in greater quantities as a result of the arrangements recently made.
Will the President of the Board of Trade explain more fully than has been done up to now the great lack of foresight and planning in his Department in the matter of carbon black, and will he say what steps he has taken to relieve this on a permanent basis instead of on a temporary one?
That was explained in the course of the Debate. It was not lack of foresight on the part of the Department but was due to an unfortunate strike in America. Investigations are being made and a Committee is sitting to discover whether we can have a permanent substitution for the American product.
Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether there has been any recent change as between commercial and private allocations of these tyres?
If the hon. Member will put that question down, I will deal with it.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consult with his colleague, the Minister of Supply, and inquire into the very large quantities of tyres which have been put into storage by that Department and which might be released ?
Factory Works, Hapton (Release)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is now in a position to make a statement regarding his approach to the Minister of Supply for some part of the Magnesium Electron Works, Hapton, Lancashire, being released for new industrial use.
The Magnesium Electron Works is a special purpose factory for the production of materials of strategic importance the capacity from which must be available at comparatively short notice. It is equipped with plant which could not be moved without, to a very large degree, destroying it. The buildings are not in any case suitable for ordinary industrial use although part of the premises are at present being used by the Ministry of Supply for storage for which replacement space would be very difficult to find. For these reasons my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply is unable to release the premises at present. The question is however being kept under review.
Is the Minister aware that the buildings which are used for storing purposes contain stores which are in short supply at the moment and which should be sold, thereby making the buildings available?
I am afraid that I am not aware of that, because I am not responsible for the storage.
New Factories (Allocation)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the procedure adopted regarding the allocation of new factories now being built to the instructions of his Department or which were built to the instructions of the Ministry of Supply during the war and now being transferred to his Department.
Such factories are allocated to applicants selected as best able to occupy them in the national interest, having regard specially to the type of industry and employment needed in a particular area. A firm desiring such a factory is advised by the Board of Trade Headquarters or Regional Offices as to the location most likely to meet its requirements.
Could my right hon. and learned Friend say whether or not the Tees-side Industrial Development Board was consulted in regard to the allocation of the Tarran factory, Middlesbrough, which was recently allocated to the G.E.C., and does he not agree that it would be a good thing if the Regional Organisation for Industry were brought into the picture, in order that local considerations and opinions can be given full scope and opportunity for expression.
I cannot give an answer in that particular case, but I will write to my hon. Friend.
Does the original answer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean a change of policy in regard to this matter?
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider publishing a list showing the people or firms to whom these factories are allocated?
That is done in the "Board of Trade Journal" from time to time.
Motor Cars (Import Licences)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that import permits for motor cars have been granted on the ground that they were gifts in circumstances in which an ordinary commercial sale had in fact taken place between a seller overseas and a buyer in this country; and whether he will take steps to put an end to this practice which deprives the Treasury of Purchase Tax and Import Duty and impairs this country's foreign exchange arrangements.
Applications for licences to import motor cars are granted only when the supporting evidence indicates that the gifts are genuine and that there is no loss of foreign exchange, and, save in exceptional circumstances, only when the gifts are from near relatives. If the hon. Member will send me particulars of any cases in which there are grounds for believing that licences have been obtained on false or misleading statements, I will have them investigated. Purchase Tax and Import Duty are payable on all cars of foreign manufacture imported as gifts.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the interests of the adequate presentation of news and views of local, national and international importance and also to meet the needs of advertisers and the convenience of the public, he will allocate such supplies of newsprint to the Press of this country as will enable it to maintain papers of the present or an increased size; and if he will make a statement.
As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already said in his statement on the import programme on 30th June, it is regrettably necessary to restrict imports, and the sizes of newspapers will consequently have to be reduced.
Yes, but is the President of the Board of Trade aware that any cut in newsprint which is contemplated will bring a saving of dollars which will be very trivial compared with the inevitable curtailment of publicity which will develop for those things which are the very essence of our British way and purpose?
I quite appreciate the value of the Press and am very sorry that it has to be curtailed.
Could we at least have an assurance that the same percentage cut will be applied to Government papers?
In view of the shortage, which is so evident, could my right hon. and learned Friend tell us what supplies were given for the publication of 250,000 copies of a very pornographic book that came from America?
If the hon. Member will send me particulars, I will look into it.
Can a copy be placed in the Library?
Horticultural Industry (Packing Materials)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the importance of packing materials for the horticulture industry; and whether supplies of cellophane will be made available for wrapping and protecting various fruits and vegetables.
Within the limited supplies which are available, it is open to cellulose film manufacturers to provide what quantity they can for wrapping fruit and vegetables.
Would my right hon. and learned Friend mind repeating the answer? I could not hear a single word of it.
Perhaps the hon. Member will read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to secure imports of softwood timber from Poland and hardwoods from Burma and Borneo.
In the recent Anglo-Polish trade negotiations we have pressed strongly for a resumption of exports of softwood from Poland to the United King-dam; owing to the great need for softwood timber for reconstruction in Poland, the Polish Government does not feel able to release any for export at present but has undertaken to inform us should the position change. In both Burma and Borneo the production of hardwood has been seriously reduced as a result of war devastation and requirements for local reconstruction still further limit the amounts available for export. We are, however, purchasing all suitable supplies offered from these countries, either as logs or as sawn timber.
asked the President of the Board of Trade why softwood timber imports from the U.S.S.R. and the Baltic States, Finland and Sweden have considerably declined; and what imports may be expected in the remaining months of this year from the countries named.
As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement published in the "Board of Trade Journal" of 29th March, of which I am sending him a copy. Shipments in the first five months of this year were well below shipments in the same months of the preceding year, but the shipping season from North Europe opened much later this year and figures for the first five months give no indication of annual supplies. Regarding the latter part of the Question, a statement on prospective supplies from the U.S.S.R. cannot be made, until the conclusion of the negotiations at present being conducted by the Secretary for Overseas Trade in Moscow. Arrangements have been made for the supply of 175,000 standards of regular specifications from Finland and a similar quantity from Sweden.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the negotiations taking place in Moscow at the present time are on the basis of a short-term agreement for imports or are they in addition based on a long-term agreement for progressive increases in imports?
I am afraid my hon Friend will have to await the results.
Will the amounts of timber mentioned include that which was supposed to be coming against the 5,900 tons of rubber delivered to the U.S.S.R.?
I have not mentioned any quantities of timber as regards the U.S.S.R.
Cotton Mills (Fuel Allocation)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an assurance that cotton mills which are able to build up a stock of coal this summer will be allowed to keep it during the winter months; and whether employers can make their fuel assessments on the basis that allocated deliveries will not be reduced or withheld for diversion to mills which have not laid in stocks.
In announcing to the House the coal allocation to industry for the summer months on 1st May, I explained that the winter allocations would be based on the assumption that each firm had accumulated a stock sufficient to meet three weeks' winter requirements by the end of October. I also stated that if firms accumulated larger stocks, these would not be taken into account in framing the winter allocations.
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a definite assurance that those firms now able to lay in stocks, even on a small scale, of low grade fuel, will not have their allocations of high grade fuel lessened during the winter ?
I cannot do more than repeat what I have already said twice.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many mills have received nowhere near their allocation of solid fuel?
I am not aware of that. On the whole they have received more because they are putting more to stock than was anticipated.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of widespread concern, particularly in the north of England, at the great risk of load-shedding of electrical power next winter; and if he will make a statement, particularly as to savings recently effected.
Yes, Sir. A statement will be made as soon as possible indicating the progress which has been made in dealing with this problem and any further steps which the Government consider necessary.
When will "as soon as possible" be possible?
I hope within the next two weeks.
Domestic Consumption (Rationing)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether his Department has formulated a scheme for compulsory rationing of domestic electricity consumption.
I would refer the hon. Member to the Prime Minister's statement on 27th March when he told the House that a number of alternative schemes for rationing domestic electricity consumption had been formulated and examined and also to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power on 2nd April in the course of which details of these schemes and the difficulties in the way of applying them were explained.
Transferred Power (Scotland And England)
62 and 63.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) what amount of power is transferred from Scotland to England and vice versa during the hours of heavy industrial load, giving the maximum supplied in kilowatts and the number of units;(2) how many units of electricity were supplied from Scotland to England during the year 1946; and the maximum load in kilowatts.
During 1946 there was a net transfer from Scotland to England of 47 million units of electricity. The maximum power transfer was 146,000 kilowatts from Scotland to England (which occurred from 9 to 9.30 a.m. on 14th March) and 80,000 kilowatts from England to Scotland (which occurred from 10.30 to 11 p.m. on 30th December).
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, whether he is aware that some electricity authorities in the country base their tariffs substantially on the rate- able value of a consumer's house with the result that many persons find that although they consume and burn less electricity than their neighbours they have to pay more; and whether he will take steps at an early date to ban such tariffs, with a view to encouraging greater economy in the use of electricity.
The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, the methods of charging for electricity have recently been under expert examination but we must wait until the industry is nationalised before these tariff anomalies can be successfully tackled.
In view of the extraordinary urgency of this problem in this country, may I ask my hon. Friend to make representations now to the local authorities that to deal effectively with the problem, the matter has to be dealt with before it is too late?
Not only local authorities are concerned. It is quite out of the question, at short notice, to interfere with millions of private agreements.
Building And Civil Engineering (Manpower)
asked the Minister of Labour how he accounts for the difference between the figure of 1,280,000, given by him on 1st July of the manpower in building and civil engineering, and the figure of 1,040,000, quoted on page 31 of the Housing Returns, 31st May, 1947 (Cmd. 7152), the source of this latter figure being his Department.
The figure of 1,040,000 relates only to insured male workers aged 16 to 64. It includes the unemployed. The figure of 1,280,000 excludes the unemployed, but includes boys aged 14 and under 16, female workers aged 14 and under 60 and also employers and those working on their own account.
Nationalised Industries (Absenteeism)
asked the Minister of Labour if it is the Government's policy that all avoidable absentees and unofficial strikers in nationalised industries shall in future be prosecuted; and if he will make a statement.
Does not the Minister think that it is very unfortunate that miners are being threatened with prison, and will he see that this persecution mania is not applied to other nationalised industries?
It is most comforting to us to have the hon. Gentleman's interest in this question of so-called persecution, but the point is that if any action is taken it will be taken by the National Coal Board as an employer against a person guilty of a breach of contract, and that is not a question of just absenteeism.
asked the Minister of Labour what other industries will be asked to follow the lead of the engineering trades union leaders and employers in agreeing to work staggered hours; in what industries can the greatest fuel saving be effected; and if all industries predominantly employing men will be urged to co-operate before a special appeal is made to those trades mainly employing women.
With the help of both sides of the National Joint Advisory Council, all other industries are being asked to cooperate in solving this problem of spreading the electricity load during the coming winter. In particular, on the suggestion of Regional Boards, I have written specially to the furniture, clothing and printing industries in view of the special importance of these industries in certain districts. As regards the second and third parts of the Question, much will depend on local circumstances and the peculiar conditions of individual industries, which must be left to the Regional Boards and their local or district committees to assess.
May 1 first congratulate the Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] —Oh, yes—on getting the workers and the employers together on this? Will he see that the agreements that responsible trade union leaders make are not broken by the unofficial shop stewards?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's reference. We have no authority or power to see that these strikes do not occur, but I would like to emphasise once again that unofficial action like that is not only detrimental to the proper authority of the trade unions, but, in present circumstances, highly detrimental to the welfare of the country.
Failing agreement among many firms to co-operate fully in the difficult problem of staggering working hours, would the Minister be prepared to con sider some form of compulsion?
That question is under consideration. We have the views of the Joint Advisory Council, and I hope to make a statement, probably next week, as to what steps are being taken.
Would the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Home Secretary for the abolition of double summer-time, which is a contributory cause of the shedding of the load ?
There is some difference of opinion whether double summer-time is an advantage or a disadvantage.
Senior Civil Servants (Salaries)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his attitude to the demand by senior civil servants for increases in salary; and to what extent prorata increases would have to be granted to all grades of the Civil Service.
My right hon. Friend has undertaken to consider this claim in all its aspects.
Will the right hon. Gentleman advise his right hon. Friend to address a request to the National Coal Board for information as to the salaries they pay their officials?
Anglo-American Loan Agreement
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to ask the U.S.A. to agree to a modification of the Anglo- U.S. Loan Agreement so as to permit Britain to buy commodities from soft currency countries and at the same time to restrict imports from hard currency countries.
A comprehensive approach to the U.S. Government will be necessary as part of the response to Mr. Marshall's speech. Meanwhile, it is undesirable to deal piecemeal with particular aspects of Anglo-American relations.
Does that answer mean that, until agreement has been reached with regard to the Marshall offer, no action will be taken to amend the Anglo-U.S. Loan Agreement, and if so, cannot that decision be reconsidered in view of the urgency of the matter and the very great public anxiety that there should be a revision of that Agreement?
The urgency, of course, is well realised. We have had a Debate this week in this House on this matter, but I cannot add to what I have said already.
Is the Financial Secretary aware that on this question the American Government have already said that they are not ready to accept any modification, and will not this have a grave effect on whatever cuts have to be made in our import programme?
Savings (Accrued Interest)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will explain the estimate on page 5 of the National Savings Committee's weekly campaign circular, dated 5th July, 1947, that for the week ended 21st June the total amount of savings remaining invested was increased, in respect of accrued interest, by £2,265,000; and whether the increase in the capital value of savings certificates was treated as interest for this purpose.
This figure, which is given regularly every week, is the estimated amount of interest accrued during the week, on Savings Bank deposits and on certificates outstanding.
Paye Tax Tables (Envelopes)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that the new Pay As You Earn tax tables are being posted in envelopes 16 inches by 11 inches in size; and whether, in order to conserve paper, he will instruct his Department to fold the tables and to use envelopes half the size.
Wrappers are provided for this purpose and envelopes should be used only when the packet is too big for a wrapper. If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any case where an envelope has been used unnecessarily I will look into it.
Is the hon. Member aware that these large envelopes, one of which I hold in my hand, have been having a most demoralising effect on the would-be taxpayer in the last fortnight?
British Shipping Film (Cost)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what expenditure has been incurred in sending a Mr. Swingler and his colleagues of the Green Park Studios to South America to take pictures of British shipping; whether the Shipbuilding Conference was consulted prior to the despatch of this party; and whether the consent of the foreign Government concerned to the filming of their harbours was obtained prior to the arrival of Mr. Swingler in each country included in their tour.
About £4,300. The Shipbuilding Conference was consulted. The consent of the Governments concerned was sought, and obtained.
Arising out of that reply, is the Minister aware that these films could have been taken perfectly well on the Clyde, or in any other port or harbour in Great Britain?
No, Sir, the object of filming these ships where they were filmed was to show modern British-built ships operating in foreign ports.
Is the Minister aware that both at Rio and at Valparaiso, certainly the latter, consent was not obtained until after the party had left?
My information is to the contrary, and we have checked up on this. It is true that consent in two cases, namely, in Brazil and in the Argentine, was not obtained until the party actually arrived, but consent was obtained before the shots were made.
Churches (Winter Fuel Requirements)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will now give permission for church authorities to obtain their next winter's fuel requirements.
Churches consuming more than 100 tons of coal per annum are supplied under programme on an annual basis and are expected to place a proportion of their supplies into stock during the summer. Smaller churches can now obtain licences from their Local Fuel Overseers enabling them to acquire a proportion of their winter requirements of coal and coke for stocking during the summer.
Coalmining (Working Hours)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether the appeal which is being made to the textile industry to increase its hours of work in order to increase production is to be extended to the coalmining industry; and at what date and under what circumstances.