Skip to main content

Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Royal Air Force

Levies, Aden (Duties)


asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the present strength of the levies in Aden; what duties they perform; and whether he is satisfied that they fulfil their purpose.

The Aden levies assist in the local defence of the Protectorate, and in guarding the stations of the R.A.F. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that they carry out these duties to the general satisfaction of all concerned. It would not be in accordance with present practice to disclose their strength.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in a recent disturbance in Aden these levies were not used, and that it seems likely that Arab levies are not to be used against Arabs? Is he further aware that there is a rumour that the number of levies is to be further increased?

I have not had any of the information of which my hon. Friend speaks, but if he will send it to me I will have it considered. My information is that up to the present these levies have done a good job.

Aircraftman's Death (Departmental Error)


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he has now considered the details which have been sent to him concerning the treatment meted out to L.A.C. Streatfield, deceased; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. I am grateful to the hon. Member for bringing the sad case of L.A.C. Streatfield to my attention, and I should like to express my deep sympathy with his parents in the loss which they have sustained. The facts are as follow: L.A.C. Streatfield arrived from India on 7th of May. On 8th of May he was sent on a month's disembarkation leave. Ten days later he fell ill and his father called in a local doctor. On 21st of May, he was admitted to one of the civil hospitals of the Ministry of Health's Emergency Medical Service, where he died that night. The cause of death was malaria, from which L.A.C. Streatfield had previously suffered. Letters of sympathy were sent to the parents by Streatfield's commanding officer, and by the Air Council but, owing to a mistake in the Record Office, other units concerned were not notified of his death. In consequence, Mr. and Mrs. Streatfield subsequently received a notice of extension of leave, and a posting notice, and the civil police called to inquire why he had not rejoined his unit. Disciplinary action will be taken if individual responsibility for the error can be traced, and I will do everything I can to ensure that no such thing shall happen again.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his full answer, may I ask him whether, in view of the inhuman treatment of the family, it is possible for him to write a personal apology to the parents?

I will certainly do as the hon. Member has suggested. These accidents in a big administration must happen, but this is the first of its kind there has been in the Air Force.

Married Quarters, Syerston


asked the Secretary of State for Air why none of the 60 married quarters being built at the R.A.F. station, Syerston, are to be allotted to officers.

All the married quarters now being built at Syerston are of the type designed for airmen, and they are all required for airmen and their wives and families. Several proposals have been and are being considered for the provision of officers' married quarters, but I regret that so far the difficulties have not been overcome.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this aerodrome is in a very sparsely populated rural area, and that married officers have the greatest difficulty in finding accommodation for their wives? Is it the policy of the Air Ministry that married quarters should be built only for other ranks?

Not at all. In many places we have managed to arrange for married quarters for officers. There are great difficulties. But I am well aware of the hardship at Syerston, and I hope that some arrangement can be made.

Free Travel Warrants


asked the Secretary of State for Air why the number of free travel vouchers has been reduced from four a year to three.

During the war, men and women in the Services were given four free warrants a year when they went on leave. When the pay of the Services was improved, it was felt that the heavy cost of this wartime concession could no longer be justified, and in 1946 the number of free warrants was reduced from four to three. Pending a final decision, instructions have been given that during the present year only two free warrants should be issued.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that if the Government insist on retaining Forces far larger than we can afford they should at least treat them decently, and not make petty inroads into this wartime concession? Will he take steps to see that the policy is reversed?

I would remind my hon. Friend that conditions now are not the same as they were when this wartime concession was introduced, and that the cost is very heavy. One extra warrant given to the Royal Air Force costs the nation£500,000.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this cut is most inequitable as between man and man, since the amount spent on going home depends on where the man's home happens to be?

Yes, Sir, but it also depends on the posting. Broadly, I think it evens itself out although, of course, there must be some inequalities.

In view of the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has given, can he say whether reduced fare passes are still being issued?

Civil Aviation

Boac Atlantic Services (Base)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, in view of the operational facilities available in this country for U.S. aircraft, which are equal to, if not greater than, those in European countries already operating such aircraft successfully, if he will now consider issuing a direction to B.O.A.C., in accordance with his statutory powers and in the national interest and to save dollars, to transfer its operational base for the Atlantic services from Montreal to England.

No, Sir. The desirability of transferring this base to the United Kingdom at the earliest possible date is, however, fully appreciated, and I can assure the hon. Member that this question is receiving very close attention, in consultation with the corporation.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that R.A.F. "C" type hangars are perfectly capable of accommodating Constellation aircraft? Can there not be co-operation between the Parliamentary Secretary and the Secretary of State for Air, to ensure that a suitable aerodrome is made available immediately? Further, is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the real cause of the present disinclination of B.O.A.C. to move the base to England is that senior staff whose opinions are asked do not wish to give up their luxurious living in Montreal at the present time?

Perhaps I might deal with the second part of the supplementary question first. It contains an unfair imputation upon the staff concerned, and so far as I have been able to ascertain there is no evidence to support it. So far as the first part of the supplementary question is concerned, there is a very close co-operation between the Secretary of State for Air and my noble Friend. The hon. Member was good enough to suggest one aerodrome where these operations might take place. Consultations took place and the Air Force were prepared to make arrangements. It is equally true that if a large number of workmen are concerned they must have housing accommodation. In the case of the Kemble aerodrome, there was no housing accommodation for the workmen.

Scottish Advisory Council


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation who is the representative of the Scottish Members of Parliament on the Scottish Advisory Council on Civil Aviation.

Scottish Members of Parliament, as such, are not represented on this council.

Viking And Dakota Aircraft (Operatingcosts)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation the operating cost of the Viking aircraft and that of the Dakota, shown so as to draw a proper comparison, having regard to their different carrying capacities.

The cost of operating either type of aircraft depends upon the routes concerned and the operating conditions. The Viking has only been in regular operation for a comparatively short period, but experience already shows that the Viking carrying 24 passengers does not cost more per aircraft mile to operate than a Dakota carrying 18 passengers over a similar range.

Are we to assume from that answer that the Viking is not a very expensive aircraft to operate, and that the allegation made by an American representative a short time ago is without foundation?

I am not quite certain to which American statement the hon. Member refers. It is true, and it is no good hiding the fact, that the Viking is an adaptation of a wartime machine which was not altogether suitable for transport purposes. It is more costly to operate than one would desire. It is an interim type of aircraft.

Argentina (Passports, Retention)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Argentine immigration authorities take British passports away from British subjects entering employment in the Argentine Republic and retain these passports for 12 months; and what representations he proposes to make to the Argentine Government to prevent the continuance of this irregularity.

I am informed that the Argentine authorities retain the passports of all persons who enter Argentina with tourist visas and do not return them until the tourists leave the country again. Persons who enter as tourists, but who decide to remain, can only regain their passports if they can produce a permanent residence permit, which, I understand, they can only acquire after spending twelve months in Argentina. His Majesty's Government regard as open to grave objection the practice of retaining the passports of British subjects, and representations have been made to the Argentine Government.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when those representations were made? Is he aware that the practice has gone on for some considerable time and that British subjects are being deprived of their passports for the whole 12 months?

Without notice, I cannot give the date of the representation. We are not satisfied with the position and we shall continue doing what we can.

If British subjects have been deprived of their passports, are they receiving any assistance during that time from the Embassy?


Agrarian Reform (Draft Ordinance)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many farmers will be partially expropriated according to the draft ordinance for agrarian reform circulated as an appendix to C.C.G. letter ZAC/ D(47)37 of 4th June, 1947; which German authorities or interests have been consulted; and whether any objections have been lodged against the adverse effect on food and timber production which it will cause.

It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 farmers in the British zone would be expropriated on the basis of the provision of the draft ordinance referred to in the question. The Zonal Advisory Council in the British zone has been consulted. The reply to the last part of the Question is that an adverse effect is not anticipated and no objections have been received.

Does the hon. Gentleman really expect the House to believe that smallholdings on this poor land will produce the same result as on bigger farms? Also, has he considered how to maintain timber production and supplies if the forestry areas are cut down in this drastic manner?

Yes, Sir, certainly these things have been very carefully considered, but there are other factors, such as more intensive cultivation. Taking the thing as a whole, we do not expect a fall in production.

What agriculturists have been consulted apart from the Zonal Advisory Council?

When the matter was first referred to the Zonal Advisory Council, the Council contained representatives of farmers, trade unionists and so on. The present Zonal Advisory Council consists of representatives of the political parties but they are free, and are indeed urged, to consult such outside interests.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make available to Members copies of the Draft Ordinance of Agrarian Reform for the British zone of Germany.

Are we to be told on which date the Draft became available and whether the making of it available to Members of Parliament was already decided, or was it not until the Question was put on the Paper?

Russian Child (Application)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has made to the request from the Soviet Foreign Ministry for the release of seven-year-old Victor Mukhamedov whose address is c/o Welfare Office Kindergarten, Klingenberg, Germany, and his return to his mother Mme. Maria Mukhamedova; and what steps are being taken to fulfil this request.

This matter is already being investigated, and a reply will be sent as soon as a report is received from the British authorities in Germany.

While thanking the Minister for that answer, may I ask whether he would consider investigating further charges that a number of other Soviet children are concerned in this matter? Would he investigate this matter at the same time?

I will certainly investigate it, if the hon. Member will send me information. In the case we are investigating now, may I say that the matter was not drawn to my attention by the Soviet authorities. We acted on our own initiative, as the result of Press reports in Germany.

Poland (Arrests)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why he recently sent a letter of protest to the Polish Government regarding certain arrests; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend has not sent any recent note to the Polish Government protesting against arrests.

Possibly my hon. Friend has misread reports in the Press to the effect that we have asked our Embassy in Warsaw for information on this question. That is not the same thing as a protest to the Government.

Has the hon. Gentleman any information with regard to Mr. Puzak, Secretary-General of the Polish Socialist Party, and one of the most respected political leaders in Poland, and to five other Socialists whose names I shall give him?

With regard to the last supplementary question about the Polish Socialists, can my hon. Friend say why he has not already dealt with the matter?

We asked for information. I am well aware that these reports have caused anxiety among my hon. Friends. My right hon. Friend has made it clear on other occasions that he deplores political arrests.

Would the Foreign Office consider exercising discretion and sending a similar letter to Greece in regard to the recent arrests?

Jewish Refugees' Camp, Aden


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the cost of the camp established for Jewish refugees in Aden and by whom it is borne; how many people live in the camp; and what steps have been taken to persuade them to return to the Yemen.

The cost of£1,700 a month is borne by the Jewish Organisation which maintains and administers the camp. Certain services, such as water, are provided free by the Government of Aden. There are about 1,700 people in the camp. The King of the Yemen has undertaken to restore to Yemeni Jews returning from Aden, their pre-existing status and rights, and arrangements were made to provide free transport and subsistence money on the journey for those willing to return. One thousand, one hundred have returned to the Yemen under this scheme since its inception in the latter part of 1946, and the movement continues.

Jamaica (Unemployment)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present number of unemployed persons in Jamaica; and what steps are being taken to relieve unemployment in this Colony.

With regard to the first part of this Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Dr. Jeger), on 5th March this year. No fresh information has since been received from Jamaica, but I am again consulting the Governor, and will let him know. With regard to the second part of the Question. I would refer to my reply to a similar Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) on 18th June.

Has nothing been done since 5th March to relieve unemployment, and to attract men to the cement industry in Jamaica in view of the large number of young men who are discontented and unemployed?

That is a completely unwarranted assumption from my reply. If the hon. Member will turn to the reply I gave on 18th June to the hon. Member for East Harrow he will see that the Government of Jamaica are fully alive to the gravity of the problem in Jamaica.

In this connection will my right hon. Friend look at the scheme for the suggested re-settlement of Jamaican ex-Service men drawn up by a Jamaican Royal Air Force officer, which has been sent to him?

Yes, and there is a scheme already in operation for ex-Service men. In the reply to which I referred I gave information in regard to that matter.

Palestine (Bubonic Plague)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if he will give the latest information about the outbreak of bubonic plague in Palestine.

From the start of this outbreak on 26th June, up to 15th July, 15 cases were treated, only one of which was fatal. Heavy and widespread infection amongst the rat population is reported, but energetic measures have been taken, and no new cases have been notified since 8th July.


Land Settlement


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, how much land suitable for cultivation in Tobago is at present uncultivated; and what plans have been made by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to assist the settlement of landless peasants on smallholdings in Tobago.

The information asked for in the first part of the Question cannot be furnished until the results of the census of 1946 have been compiled. I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as the figures are available. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer to my reply to the Question on this subject asked today by my hon. Friend, the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams).


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, how many estates have been put up for sale in Tobago within the last five years; whether the local government has taken over any land for distribution to landless peasants with assisted purchase; and whether there are any plans for such action in the future.

I regret that the answer to the first part of this Question could not be ascertained without research into a large number of deeds. The Colonial Government have recently acquired an estate of 600 acres in Tobago with the object of establishing an agricultural experiment and demonstration centre of some 80 acres, and creating a land settlement for peasantry. There are no further plans at present for the acquisition of land for settlement.

Will my right hon. Friend satisfy himself that the rentals proposed in these cases are such as to make the development of the smallholdings a practicable proposition for peasants with small means?

I know that to be the desire of the Trinidad Government, but I will so inform them.

Steamship Service


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied that the Government steamship service serving the island of Tobago is efficient and that its fares are as low as possible.

yes, Sir. I am aware that the two steamers in use are small in relation to the volume of traffic, but it has not yet been found possible to replace them by a larger ship, owing to the high level of shipbuilding costs.

Medical Service


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient doctors in Tobago to attend to the needs of the population; what public health service is provided by the Government; and whether he is aware that the cost of medical attention is almost prohibitive for the poor.

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

There are four Government medical officers, three of whom are full time officers. The Russell Committee recommended in 1944 that in addition to the three medical officers then employed, there should be a full-time qualified county medical officer of health and a house surgeon for the principal hospital. Since then an additional part-time medical officer has been appointed, and I am making inquiries whether further steps have been taken. The nursing staff numbers nine, and includes a matron and three health visitors; there are five sanitary inspectors. The Colonial Government provide one 60-bedded hospital, which can be expanded to 70 beds, and 12 health offices and dispensaries. An intensive campaign against yaws, hookworm and malaria is being carried out at the present time.

As regards the last part of my hon. Friend's Question, paupers and old age pensioners receive free medical treatment. Persons in possession of a poverty certificate from the local administration, or from the public assistance authorities, pay 15. the receipt for which entitles them to medical treatment for a fortnight.

Public Works Department (Employees)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what pension provision is made for manual workers employed by the public works department in Tobago; whether these workers obtain regular all-the-year-round employment; and how wages paid by the public works department compare with those for similar work paid by private employers.

Manual workers employed by the public works department in Tobago, whose posts are scheduled under the Provident Fund Ordinance, are entitled on retirement to provident fund benefits. The remainder are eligible for gratuities under the regulations applicable to all daily paid employees of Government who do not contribute to the provident fund. A number of these workers are regularly employed, the remainder are employed on a casual basis as and when work is available. There are no private employers of labour in Tobago engaged on large scale building and roadmaking projects, such as are undertaken by the public works department, and a comparison with private employment is, therefore, not possible.

Will my right hon. Friend take further steps to satisfy him-self that the guaranteed week is granted in this case as far as possible in order that subsequent claims for gratuity and old age pensions shall not be invalidated because of this non-constant work?

I will look into that point, but this island, and other islands in that part of the world, suffer from under-employment and the solution is very difficult.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what it is that brings Tobago into the news so extensively and so suddenly.

African Colonies

Strike, Nigeria (Disorder)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the shooting of strikers by the police at Buruta, Nigeria; what was the cause of the strike and the reason for police opening fire; and what casualties there were among the strikers.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any statement to make on the strike of United Africa Company's workers at Buruta, Nigeria, and on the disorders which resulted in many strikers being wounded in a clash with the police.

A strike of labourers employed by the United Africa Company at Burutu started on 14th June following a wages dispute. On 21st June a large crowd formed and adopted a menacing attitude. Four employees of the company were set upon, and severely beaten. After the crowd had refused to disperse, in spite of repeated warnings, an unsucessful attempt was made to break it up without the use of firearms, and the order to fire was only given after the police had been attacked with large stones and other missiles. Only two rounds were fired, as a result of which two men were wounded in the leg. The wages dispute is being inquired into by a representative of the Nigerian Labour Department.

Will the Minister take steps to put a stop to any such brutal treatment of the workers? Is the Minister aware that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and I were once accused of stone throwing when it was a deliberate lie? I appeal to the Minister to make certain that never again will firearms be used on workers who are striking for decent conditions. I think it is shameful.

If my hon. Friend would acquaint himself with the facts, I think he would be satisfied that this is not an instance of brutal attacks on workers. Rather it was the response, after long provocation by workers, of the forces of police on the spot. Immediately the facts were brought to my notice I caused an inquiry to be made, and had the fullest reports from Nigeria. I must exonerate completely those responsible for ordering it. It was provocation on the workers' side that led to it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether in making this impartial inquiry he did not know full well that the answer he has given about strikers provoking the trouble has been a familiar story in this country for the last half-century?

I am familiar with large numbers of industrial disputes in the Colonies, and naturally because of my own suspicion, I should inquire most carefully as to the causes of trouble of this kind. I made the fullest inquiries possible, and I am satisfied that it was provocation on the workers side which caused this trouble.

Will the Minister appoint from this House a special inquiry into this question? Is he aware that I had my head bashed in two or three places by a policeman's baton, and then got three months for assaulting the police?

How many statements did my right hon. Friend obtain from the strikers, and how much of the information came from the other side in his inquiry?

I have the completest confidence in the Governor, and I have taken my reports from the Government of Nigeria, and from various sources which were open to me. I am completely satisfied with regard to the facts.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not understand the question I put, because conversation was going on around him. I asked how many statements were received from the strikers?

Uganda (Taxation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the existing rates of taxation on Europeans in Uganda.

As the answer includes a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

There are two forms of direct taxation on Europeans in Uganda; (1) A nonnative poll tax, which is levied at the rate of£3 per annum on incomes which do not exceed£200 per annum, and at the rate of£5 per annum on incomes exceeding£200 per annum. Women with incomes of under£150 per annum are

exempt from payment of the tax, as are persons under the age of 18 years. (2) An income tax, additional to the nonnative poll tax, which is levied at the following rates:

Where the chargeable income does not exceed£250–2s. for every pound.
Where the chargeable income exceeds£250–2s. with the addition of one-eighth of a cent. for every pound of the chargeable income in excess of£250 up to a maximum rate of 5s. for every pound thereof.
Where the income exceeds£3,000—An additional tax (Surtax) at the rate of 4s. with the addition of one-twentieth of a cent. for every pound of the total income in excess of£3,000 up to a maximum rate of shs. 7/50 for every pound in excess of£3,000 of the total income.

In calculating the chargeable income the following personal deductions are allowed:— £350 for a man,£150 for wife,£75 for first child and£60 in respect of each subsequent child. There are also the usual deductions for dependants (other than children) life insurance and superannuation.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the estimated income of a peasant in Uganda farming one standard plot of land; and what is the amount of taxation to which he is subjected.

I regret that the information sought in the first part of the Question is not available in the Colonial Office. I am asking the Governor of Uganda to supply it and will write to my hon. Friend when it is received. In regard to the second part of the Question, the taxes for which the African peasant in Uganda is liable (including local taxation) vary according to District, area and tribe from 12s. to 47s. per annum.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information I am getting is that the poll tax, both of the Uganda main Government and the Kabaka's Government, amounts to 25s. per head, and that other levies amount to 18s. per head, making£2 3s., and that the average income of a peasant from a plot of land is£4 a year?

It is difficult for figures to be used in that way. If my hon. Friend will supply me with the information, I will check it against the figures in my possession.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that I have asked him to have an interview with the Assistant Chancellor of the Kabaka's Government, who was dismissed for making recommendations for improvements and that I am still waiting for that interview.

In view of the interest of the House in this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman see that this information is published in HANSARD, so that we may all know what it is?

Royal Navy (Free Travel Warrants)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the reduction of free railway warrants for members of the Royal Navy to two per year is causing great hardship to them, especially to the junior ratings who live a long way from their homes; and if he will take steps to improve the position by granting more warrants.

The Fleet was warned last month that it might be necessary to reduce the number of free railway warrants for leave from three to two during the current year and that pending a decision only two were to be issued. The question of free leave travel is still under consideration, however, and no final decision has yet been made.

Does my hon. Friend realise that these seasonal leaves are given for ten days each, and that it is a great hardship, particularly to lower ratings, not to have these railway tickets, because they cannot, in many instances, get home at all without them?

I quite realise that. I have been the possessor of free warrants in the past. As I have said, consideration is still being given to the matter. I would point out to the House that there were no free railway warrants given between the two wars, and that this is an advantage over what applied then. In addition to free railway warrants, members of the three Services can travel at half fare when going on leave.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the new pay code was approved by this House on the understanding that facilities such as this would be fully main- tained, and that this looks like giving with one hand and taking away with the other?

It cannot be said that the new pay code was conditional upon four free railway warrants being given each year. It was given on the understanding that it would make the rates of pay and conditions in the Services more comparable with those in industry.

When the Civil Lord speaks of the number of free warrants going down to two in the current year, is he referring to the calendar year or the present financial year?

Is my hon. Friend aware that unlike those of the Army and Air Force, all the manning bases of the Navy are in the South of England, and that this falls with particular hardship on Scottish ratings and ratings from the North of England? Would he consider that as an additional argument when considering the question of a manning base in Scotland?

I hope that the question of a manning base in Scotland will not be judged in acordance with the number of free railway warrants we issue. The point my hon. Friend has raised is certainly borne in mind by the Admiralty when these matters are being discussed.

Post Office (Collections And Deliveries)


asked the Postmaster-General when he expects that new plates showing the revised timing of postal collections will be affixed to pillar boxes in Berkshire.

I am sorry that because of the sudden abnormal demand resulting from the recent changes in postal services, it has not yet been possible to provide new plates for pillar boxes in Berkshire, but I am assured that the revised timings of the postal collections should now be shown by means of temporary plates in all cases. New permanent plates will be provided as soon as possible.


asked the Postmaster General whether he has made any further arrangements for the collection and delivery of letters posted at the House of Commons late at night.

A collection is now being made at 7.45–8.o p.m. for first delivery on the following weekday throughout England and Wales. A supplementary collection is made after the rising of the House. On those occasions when the House is still sitting at 1.0 a.m. an additional supplementary collection is made at that hour. Letters for addresses in London, and posted in time for supplementary collections made up to 1.0 a.m. are due to be delivered by first post.

Will the Postmaster-General say whether there is any objection to members of the public with urgent letters to post, which will not be collected from the letter boxes outside after 6.30 p.m. bringing them into the Outer Lobby and posting them there?

What is the latest time at which letters should be posted at the House for Scotland for arrival in Scotland by the first mail in the morning?

Armed Forces

Requisitioned Land (Lapsing Date)


asked the Minister of Defence what are the lapsing dates of the requisition of land held by the Services Departments under Defence Regulations 51 and 52, respectively; whether land so held will then be returned to the owner; or what methods of retention he proposes.

I have been asked to reply. For this particular purpose, the effective lapsing dates are 24th February, 1948, for Defence Regulation 51, and 31st December, 1947, for Defence Regulation 52. It is proposed, however, to introduce legislation to extend the towers for a further period.

Bombing Ranges


asked the Minister of Defence why it is necessary for the Ministry of Supply to have separate bombing ranges, in addition to those held by the R.A.F. and Fleet Air Arm; and why Service requirements cannot be further coordinated in this respect with consequent economies.

Bombing ranges are shared whenever possible. In some cases, however, no facilities are available on a Service Department range which is conveniently located and otherwise suited for the research and development work for which the Ministry of Supply is responsible.

In view of the fact that the R.A.F. still hold 265 of this large number of bombing ranges, surely it is possible for those ranges to be used by Ministry of Supply aircraft?

The real point about it is, as I have tried to explain in the last sentence of my answer, that we are doing our best to combine bombing ranges as between the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm, but as the Ministry of Supply is very largely concerned with research and experimental work, it is not so easy to combine the three sets of ranges on the same sites.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into this a little further. It is very hard to believe that with the number of bombing ranges there at present available to the Royal Air Force, the Ministry of Supply cannot make use of them, in view of the great demand for land for other purposes?

Certain ranges are, in fact, so used by the Ministry of Supply, but that cannot be made a principle.

Releases (Revised Programme)


asked the Minister of Defence whether he is now in a position to issue a revised programme of the age and service group numbers due for release between now and 31st March, 1948; and whether it is still the intention of the Government to have 1,085,000 men in the Armed Forces on 31st March, 1948.

I have been asked to reply. It is hoped very shortly to issue a detailed programme of release from the Armed Forces, by age and service groups, up to 31st December next. As to the second part of the numbers of men it will be necessary to have in the Forces for the remainder of the present financial year, having regard to the continuing defence commitments of this country. My right hon. Friend is not yet able to say whether any variation of the figure of 1,087,000, given in the Defence White Paper issued last February, may he possible.

Does my right hon. Friend mean to say that the Government have not yet considered the implications of the reduction of the length of the conscription period from 18 to 12 months, and the consequent reduction that will mean in the strength of our Armed Forces by 31st March, 1948?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has this matter under most urgent consideration now, and it is hoped to make an early statement as to the figures for March, 1948.

In the framing of the programme to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, in reply to the first part of the Question, will special consideration be given to the case of young men who want to start their university careers quickly, without losing a further year?

Will the consideration to which my right hon. Friend has referred take into account the fact that the foreign currency expenditure on Armed Forces of this size is very much greater than the saving proposed by the reduction of visible imports?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we should save something like a few hundred million dollars if we were to bring men back and reduce these mysterious foreign commitments; and also that for this country to carry on these very large commitments at this moment is committing economic suicide, and that this suggestion for reducing them is the easiest way of getting rid of our adverse balance?

Food Supplies

Milk Production


asked the Minister of Food the gallonage of milk produced in May and June this year, compared with the same period last year; and the proportions used for manufacturing purposes.

Sales of milk off farms in the United Kingdom in May and June, 1947. are estimated to have been 305 million gallons, compared with 308 million gallons during the corresponding period in 1946. About 20 per cent. of the milk was used for manufacture in 1947 and 22 per cent. in 1946.

In view of that information, why was it necessary to impose such an early cut in the ordinary consumers' ration of fresh milk?

Because it was quite impossible for us to anticipate the weather conditions in the winter, and the hon. Gentleman knows that we attribute the drop to the cold weather.

Will the Minister tell the House whether any of this milk has been sent to chocolate manufacturers either for export purposes or for home consumption, and whether any of the milk has been used in a different way, including drying and processing, also to be sent abroad?

Certainly, some of the milk has been used for milk powder, for butter, cheese and condensed milk.

The hon. Gentleman should know that it is milk powder that goes into chocolate.

Is the Minister aware of the very great indignation on the part of many housewives in the West of Scotland who suffer cuts in milk while at the same time they see Italian ice-cream shops well supplied with milk for the making of ice-cream?

I can assure the hon. Member I have never failed yet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We believe the ex-trader should be given allocations in order to carry on the trade he had before the war.

51 and 52.

asked the Minister of Food (1) if he will give an assurance that wheat imports from the dollar areas will be maintained at the maximum available irrespective of the quantities obtained from soft currency areas, in order that bread rationing may be removed at the earliest possible date;

(2) if he is yet in a position to state the likely effect of this year's harvest in the northern hemisphere on food rationing in this country.

Our aim will be to get as much wheat as possible from any source. It is too early as yet to reach any conclusions about the harvests in the northern hemisphere or about the possibility of removing bread rationing.

Does my hon. Friend still regard the removal of bread rationing as the highest food priority in her Department?

The hon. Member must realise that there are carbo-hydrates, proteins and fats to consider, and I think perhaps if I were asked as a doctor what the highest priority was, I should say fats.

Whale Meat


asked the Minister of Food what supplies of whale meat have been made available off the ration in this country; and what has been the public response.

Whale meat is being imported and distributed by private traders. Supplies on a limited scale have been imported recently, but I have no information as to the precise quantity, and it is too early to form an opinion as to the public response.

Can my hon. Friend take any steps to increase the supply and distribution of this excellent food?

Yes, certainly. We are taking steps. We have given the traders import licences amounting to 6,000 tons.

Would the Minister say, as a doctor, that whale meat is good for us?

Is the Ministry of Food giving any assistance to the public about how to cook it?

Yes. We are having experiments in our kitchens now. [Interruption.] Certainly, we always have experiments before we try anything on hon. Members opposite.

Price Controls (Bbc Announcements)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will arrange for the B.B.C. to grant facilities for announcements with regard to the change of price controls made from time to time by the Ministry of Food.

My understanding is that under present arrangements all such changes are normally reported in the B.B.C.'s news bulletins.

If the Minister would look into the matter further, I think he would find that this is not always the case. Would he take steps to work in co-operation with the Ministry of Food in this matter to ensure that special announcements are made after news items, so that the public are aware of the price decreases and increases, as the case may be?

I was assured that that was the case. I am told that these changes have been reported in the news bulletins at least on 17 days in the last four and a half months.

Requisitioned Premises, Aberdeen


asked the Minister of Works when his Department will be getting out of the club premises at 5–7, West Craibstone Street, Aberdeen, as the premises are urgently required for occupation by the owners.

I regret that in the absence of any suitable alternative accommodation I can see no prospect of these premises being released in the near future.

is the Minister aware that the present accommodation in this club is most unsatisfactory; that they have tried everything possible to suggest alternative accommodation to the Minister; and, as they cater for 700 industrial workers, will he do everything possible to secure alternative accommodation quickly?

Certainly. I would only add to that assurance the statement that the club offered four alternative accommodations, no one of which was suitable and no one of which was large enough for the Ministry of Food office.

Agricultural Marketing Schemes (Report)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the committee dealing with the question of revising various marketing schemes has yet reported; and whether it is intended to make its report and the evidence available before any legislation is introduced.

No, Sir. The Committee, which, under the chairmanship of Lord Lucas, is inquiring into the Agricultural Marketing Acts, has not yet reported. It is intended to publish the Committee's report. My hon. Friend may be assured that there will be adequate time to study the report before the introduction of any legislation which in the light of the Committee's recommendations the Government may decide is needed to facilitate the marketing of agricultural and horticultural produce.

Can my hon. Friend give any indication when the Report will be available?

I anticipate that the Report should be available some time in the autumn.

As we never appear to have had a statement about the range of inquiries of this particular Committee, can we be told beforehand whether they will cover every angle of distribution, including retail, wholesale and marketing generally?

The terms of reference of this Committee were published, and I am astonished that the hon. Member appears not 'to have knowledge of them.

Commercial Docks, Grimsby


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that representations have been made to his Department and the Ministries of Food, Supply, Labour, and Board of Trade for the greater use of the Grimsby Commercial Docks whose trade today is approximately 40 per cent. of prewar; and, in view of the excellent facilities at these docks and the surplus labour now available, if he will set up an inter-departmental committee to investigate the possibility of their greater use.

My right hon. Friend is aware of these representations. The loss of exports of coal and of imports by the short sea routes has resulted in a reduction in the trade of Grimsby as compared with the years before the war, although there has been an improvement in the first six months of this year as compared with the corresponding period of 1946. My right hon. Friend does not think that an inter-departmental committee to consider the position of the port is required.

Will the Minister say when his Department will do something about this, because the men round this port did a very good job during the war and there is a lot of unemployment today? Surely his Ministry ought to do something for these people who are likely to be thrown out of work. Can anything he done?

Various Ministries are doing what they can to see that this port gets an increased amount of trade, but I would like to tell the hon. Gentleman than in the first six months of this year the trade of this port was about 64 per cent. of the 1938 level as against 40 per cent. during last year.