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Written Answers

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday, 16th July, 1947

Armed Forces (Civilian Lecturers)

asked the Minister of Defence whether, in view of the invaluable work which has been done by civilian lecturers in supplementation of the work of A.B.C.A., it is proposed to continue lectures by civilians to members of His Majesty's Forces.

Royal Air Force

Meteorological Service

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what measures have recently been taken to improve the meteorological service, and at what cost; and if he is satisfied that these measures have improved the weather forecasts issued from the Meteorological Office.

Yes. Improved conditions of service are attracting highly qualified scientists into the Meteorological Office, and other steps have been taken to reinforce all the grades of its staff. During recent years new methods and equipment have been adopted. These include the use of radar to measure wind at different heights; Radio Sonde to measure temperature and humidity up to 60,000 feet; and radio direction to locate distant thunderstorms. Weather ships will shortly be at work in the Atlantic. I am advised that, as a result of the new methods now in use, the accuracy of the forecasts has substantially improved. I am trying to estimate the cost of these measures, and will write to the hon and gallant Member when I can My Ministry's estimates for the present year included an increase of £450,000 for the Meteorological Service, of which £300,000 was for the weather ships.

London Allowance

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what ranks of the R.A.F are entitled to the additional London allowance of 4s. a day; and whether this is subject to Income Tax

The London allowance is an addition to lodging or marriage allowance; it is, therefore, subject to Income Tax. It is paid to officers and airmen of all ranks whose place of duty is in London, at rates varying from 1s. 0d. to 5s. 0d. a day. The rate of 4s 0d. a clay is paid to wing-commanders and group-captains.

Germany And Austria

Domestic Medical Supplies

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what limitations are placed on the dispatch of vitaminised concentrates and domestic medical supplies from this country to Germany and Austria.

There are no limitations on the despatch of vitaminised concentrates and domestic medical supplies from this country to Germany and Austria, other than those applying to the despatch of such goods to foreign countries generally.

Denazification

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many Germans and Austrians, respectively, have been registered as due for examination respecting denazification; how many have been examined to date and with what broad results; and what steps have been taken to ensure that those who fail before the tribunals are provided with educational opportunities to appreciate democratic principles and practice.

Denazification in Austria is carried out by the Austrian Goverment in pursuance of a law passed by the Austrian Parliament and approved by the Allied Council. I have no recent detailed information as to the result.In the British zone of Germany there is no system of registration but persons in public administration, or holding positions of responsibility, have been required to submit to denazification. The number who have been examined by Denazification Panels in the British zone up to 31st May last was 1,836,467. Of these 1,511,864 were retained or admitted to office and 324,603 were removed or excluded. No educational opportunities, other than those available to the German general public, are provided except for internees in civil internment camps.

European Reconstruction (Paris Conference)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how long Spain is to be excluded from the invitation to join Anglo-French discussions to make a response to the Marshall offer, and on what grounds.

My right hon. Friend regrets that the Spanish people, for whom we have the friendliest feelings, are not represented at these discussions. However, the present Spanish Government could not be invited both because it would be against the spirit of the United Nations Resolution on the Franco régime and because of His Majesty's Government's attitude toward that régime

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will indicate in general terms the reasons given by those States who have refused the invitation to the meeting in Paris to discuss the proposals of the U.S. Government for the reconstruction of Europe.

Most of the replies have been reproduced in the Press. I may. however, state that the reasons most generally given were that the proposal would be likely to result in the division of Europe, and that it could not be brought into effect without infringing national sovereignty.

British Companies, Rumania (Employees)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the methods adopted by the Rumanian Government for intimidating the Rumanian employees of British-owned oil companies in Rumania; and what steps he proposes to take to protest against such interference.

I have nothing to add to the reply given on 14th July to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn).

Nyasaland

Tung Growing

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made in the working of the Tung Oil Scheme in Nyasaland; and why Africans are not allowed to grow tung in the Southern Province.

the scheme is an experimental one to determine whether large-scale development is practicable. It has only been in operation for a year and, considering the remoteness of the area, progress has been satisfactory. Work is in hand on some 500 acres, of which 25 acres have been planted with tung and a further 250 acres have been cleared for planting. There is no legislative restriction in Nyasaland on the growing of tung by Africans There are, in fact, 51 registered African growers on Native Trust Land and 240 African tenant growers on European estates in the Southern Province.

Maize Productios

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that tea planters in Nyasaland have been informed that they are likely to get only 60 per cent. of the maize they require to feed their workers; that the price of imported maize is over seven times that of local maize, and that there is a tendency for farmers to reduce the acreage of maize in favour of tobacco; and whether the Government of Nyasaland will assist a large-scale maize production scheme, or undertake such a scheme of their own.

The likelihood of a shortage of locally grown maize for labour employed on estates has been foreseen for some while and a Maize Control Board was accordingly established last February to purchase and distribute all maize offered for sale. It has made an initial allocation to all employers of labour of 40 per cent. of their requirements. The final allocation is not yet known, but is unlikely to be more than 80 per cent. in all. The cost is estimated at about one quarter of the present cost of imported maize. The present high price of tobacco has tended to reduce maize acreage in some areas, but the basic cause of reduced supplies is the decreasing yield resulting from over-cultivation on light soils. The Governor has for some time been urging tea and other estate owners to grow more maize for their own workers and the ten-year agricultural development plan of the Protectorate has as one of its main aims the increased production of local foodstuffs. The Government has also informed the Tea Association that it will favourably consider applications for land for the production of maize on a large scale, provided that the land is not required for African settlement.

West Africa

Consumer Goods

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether there has been any improvement during the last six months in the supply of consumer goods, especially textiles, for the West African Colonies; and whether provisions have been made to increase such applies in the near future.

Generally speaking, there has not been any material improvement, but now that private trading has been resumed I doubt if there are any special provisions which His Majesty's Government can make in the matter. Increased supplies of consumer goods for the West African Colonies, as for other markets, will depend upon a general increase in production for export.

Gambia And Sierra Leone (Co-Operative Societies)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when it is proposed to appoint co-operative advisers to the Gambia and to Sierra Leone.

The ten-year plans of both Colonies contain proposals for the development of co-operative societies under expert guidance, but action in this respect has been held up owing to the extreme difficulty of securing qualified staff at the present time. At the request of the Governor of Sierra Leone, I am now inquiring as to the chance of securing an administrative officer with experience of co-operation from the Indian Civil Service. The Governor of the Gambia has also indicated that he will probably require the services of an expert on cooperation

Flood Damage

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent flood damage has occurred in West African Colonies during the past five years; what is the approximate cost of the loss incurred; and what resources are available by way of recompense.

As I have not this information, I am inquiring of the West African Governments, and will write to my hon. Friend.

Political Offenders, Ceylon

31

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has observed that the Ceylon State Council on 14th May passed a resolution calling for the amendment of Section (13) (3) (f) of the Constitution Order of 1946 in order to remove the disqualification of political offenders; and whether, in view of this new fact and of the general desire in Ceylon for this amendment, he will now make the amendment, or take other steps to secure that political offenders shall be eligible for election to the new legislature.

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, in the absence of any specific recommendation from the Governor I propose to take no action in the matter.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give early and sympathetic consideration, in the light of the desire expressed by the State Council of Ceylon and by Ceylon public opinion generally that convictions for political offences should not he a bar to membership of the Ceylon Legislature, to the petition just made to him by Dr. Wickremasinghe for a free pardon for a political offence committed by him some years ago.

If the hon. and learned Member is referring to a telegram which I have just received from the person in question requesting the grant of a free pardon, I have not been furnished with any recommendations from the Governor on his request, and, in the information before me, I regret that I am unable to vary the attitude stated in my reply to the hon. and learned Member on 22nd January.

Dead Sea Mineral Resources

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the amount of magnesium chloride available, according to estimates made in 1923, in the Dead Sea, together with its value according to the price then ruling in the United Kingdom.

The estimated amount was 22,000 million metric tons. If this could all have been marketed at the United Kingdom price prevailing in 1923, the value would have been, £143,000 million, but this is of course a highly fanciful assumption.

Pluto Drum (Salvage)

40.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that the Pluto drum now off Greatstone-on-Sea is still unsalvaged; that by wind and tide it has been driven into the iron barrier, many pieces of which have been broken off and are injuring bathers' feet; that the salvage value is daily depreciating; and if he will give an approximate date by when the work of salvage will have been completed.

This drum was sold by the Admiralty in November, 1946, to a private firm who undertook to remove it. It is understood that they have had difficulties with their lifting equipment, but it is hoped that they will be able to remove the drum within the next month.

Post Office

Letter Delivery, Portmadoc

42.

asked the Postmaster-General if the afternoon delivery of letters in Portmadoc, Caernarvonshire, is to be resumed.

As I have informed my hon. Friend in reply to his letter, I do not feel justified in restoring the afternoon delivery of letters at Portmadoc.

Government Departments (Free Services)

asked the Postmaster-General the value of the services rendered free of charge during the year ended 31st March, 1947, by the Post Office to other Government Departments, setting forth the principal items thereof; and to give a statement as to the services rendered free of charge by other Government Departments to the Post Office, again setting forth the principal details.

In round figures, the amounts are:—

£
Services to other Government departments28,150,000
Services by other Government departments3,500,000
The principal items are:—

Services to other Government departments
£
Postal
Mail and remittance services4,350,000
Government Stocks and Bonds and Savings and Certificates (National Debt Services)3,100,000
Payment of pensions and allowances for various Departments1,730,000
Sale of Insurance and Revenue Stamps and licences590,000
Telegraph
Inland telegrams400,000
Issue of broadcast licences and engineering expenses, etc.520,000
Telephone
Rentals of exchange lines and Private wires9,280,000
Trunk and local calls6,390,000
Services by other Government departments
Contributions in lieu of rates (Treasury)1,066,000
Stationery and publications (Stationery Office)855,000
Maintenance and repair of buildings (Ministry of Works)1,500,000

Burma Forces (British Personnel)

45.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he intends that British personnel should continue to serve in the Burma fighting services in future, in view of the fact that the Government of Burma has invited Burmese personnel, trained during the war in the Japanese military academy, to apply for commissions in the Burmese Army.

I have been asked to reply. The question of service by British personnel in the Burma forces in future is not one which His Majesty's Government alone can decide. It will be among the matters to be discussed in connection with the transfer of power in Burma.

Food Supplies

Potatoes

50.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that many tons of potatoes are left on the hands of Cornish and Scottish farmers; and, in view of the potato shortage in London last month, if he will remove controls and allow the law of supply and demand to operate.

No. The quantity of early potatoes remaining unsold in Cornwall is not great and there is nothing in the machinery of control which prevents their sale. In Scotland all surplus old potatoes have been cleared. All the potatoes available from both sources last month were used to relieve the temporary shortage in London and I cannot agree that the removal of controls at that time would have increased supplies.

Whalemeat

asked the Minister of Food how much whalemeat has been landed in this country during the last three months; how this has been distributed; what supplies he hopes to get in future; and what steps have been taken to popularise this food.

We are encouraging the consumption of whalemeat by freely supporting the issue of import licences to private traders, but we do not control distribution. Licences have so far been issued for about 6,000 tons this year. There are as yet no statistics of the quantity imported in the past three months. The use of whalemeat here is still in the experimental stage and we are arranging for full investigation of the supply possibilities to be Carried out in connection with the next antarctic whaling expedition.

Soap Supplies, Reading

54.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that there is a great shortage of hard soap in the Reading area, and people living in the country districts experience difficulty in obtaining supplies; and if he will take steps to improve the position.

There is some shortage of hard soap in the Reading area, as in other parts of the country. Manufacturers were reminded in April to increase the proportion of the output of hard soap and an improvement should be noticeable from now on, as it takes about 16 weeks to effect a change over in production.

Rochester Air Charter Service

59.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he will make a statement on the formation of the Rochester Air Charter Service, owned by Short Brothers, Limited.

In order to make full use of the light aircraft which they have acquired for civilian flying instruction, Short Brothers decided, with the approval of the Ministry of Supply, to undertake a certain amount of charter flying.

National Finance

Income Tax (Forces Lodging Allowance)

60.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why R.A.F. personnel drawing cash in lieu of food lodging, lighting and rations have to pay Income Tax on all these allowances with the exception of that for rations; and why they are not all exempt.

This matter was explained in the White Paper on the post war pay code (Cmd. 6750): Ration allowance was exempted from tax by Section 30 of the Finance Act, 1946; but the composite lodging allowance, which I assume the hon. and gallant Member has in mind, is liable to tax as part of the recipient's emoluments.

Savings Campaign

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if, in view of the adverse weekly balance of withdrawals, against savings, he will consider a weekly bonus ballot scheme to encourage this form of thrift;

(2) if he has any plans to deal with the excess of withdrawals against savings; and if he will consider increasing inducements for thrift or, alternatively, some form of bonus or prize to stimulate the occasional saver.

Schemes for savings bonuses and prizes have often been suggested, but I agree with the decisions of my predecessors, taken over a number of years, that any additional money so raised would not be worth the controversy and diversion of effort which would result. We all wish to see more savings and I rely on the National Savings Movement, in view of recent disappointing figures, to bestir themselves and to intensify their campaign.

Paint Manufacture (Linseed Oil Licences)

asked the President of the Board of Trade what persons he proposes to authorise to act on behalf of the Board with power to issue or revoke licences under the Control of Paint (Amendment) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 1292).

Dr. G. F. New has been authorised under the Control of Paint (Amendment) Order, 1947, to act on behalf of and under the supervision of the Board of Trade in the issue of licences to paint manufacturers for the acquisition of linseed oil under the Control of Paint, etc. (No. 3) Order, 1942. It is not proposed to extend his authority to any other form of licensing procedure under the Order.

Ordnance Depots (Repayment Procedure)

asked the Secretary of State for War what are the details of the accountancy procedure which has operated in ordnance depots since January, 1946, for the debiting of stores to Allied Armies and Governments; why it was considered necessary about May, 1946, not only to continue the abridged system of accounting but also reintroduce, side by side, the long method of accounting involving the full complement of six or 12 vouchers; how many clerks and higher-grade staff were employed and still are employed on this additional work: and what justification there is for such employment.

All issues of stores from ordnance depots for whatever purpose involve the preparation of issue vouchers, several copies being required for the clearance of store accounts, as advice notes to consignees and for similar routine purposes. When stores are issued on payment, extra copies of the issue vouchers known as repayment vouchers, are prepared, listed, and checked; together with other relevant papers, such as shipping documents, they are then sent to the War Office or Command authority responsible for preparing claims and securing payment. As some foreign Governments need several copies of repayment vouchers for their own internal accounting processes, it is often necessary for ordnance depots to prepare up to 12 copies of vouchers to cover all purposes. The foregoing repayment procedure has remained in operation without major changes for several years, that is, since long before the recent war.During the war there was a great increase in the quantity of stores issued to Allied Forces. Most of these issues were under mutual aid agreements and therefore without cash reimbursement. After the termination of the mutual aid agreements, however, such issues became subject to payment. Ordnance depots were therefore instructed to reintroduce the normal repayment procedure in respect of these issues, but with the provisional exception of certain classes of stores, pending investigation of the possibility of claiming payment from the Allied Governments for these stores on a broad basis, unsupported by detailed documents. This was the position as at January, 1946. By May, 1946, however, it had been decided, and ordnance depots were instructed, to apply the full repayment procedure over the whole field. (These instructions thus had the effect of abrogating the earlier provisional exceptions, not of requiring them to be maintained side by side with the full procedure.) This step was taken in order to secure repayment vouchers in respect of all stores issued, to serve as: (i) the means of evaluating claims found incapable of broader methods of assessment; and (ii) detailed documentary support in case any claims initially assessed by broader methods should subsequently be challenged on details by the Allied Governments concerned.

The total number of clerks employed in carrying out this full repayment procedure in Central Ordnance Depots was 80 in June, 1946, and 76 in June, 1947. No new staff was engaged for this particular purpose, all required being found by economy in other sections. Except at one depot no additional supervisory or higher grades were employed; at that depot, one warrant officer class I was engaged. The justification for this work lies in the importance of the claims, totalling many millions, from the point of view of the balance of payments with the countries concerned.