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Commons Chamber

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 17 July 1947

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 17th July, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Inverness Burgh Order Confirmation Bill

Read a Second time; to be considered Tomorrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Overseas Tourists (Facilities)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether with a view to encouraging foreign visitors, he will arrange for their issue with petrol and food coupons through travel agencies rather than through Government Departments which are often remote from city centres and where cases of misunderstanding and even discourtesy have been reported.

Under arrangements recently made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, overseas visitors staying in catering establishments for not more than 28 days do not require food ration documents unless they wish to obtain certain foods such as sweets and oranges. With these exceptions it is not necessary for overseas tourists to approach Government Departments at all. With regard to petrol, I would ask the hon. Member to await the reply which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power proposes to give to his Question for Written Answer on this subject today.

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that a substantial net gain of hard currencies would accue from the provision of extra petrol for tourists as is done in France, Denmark, Italy and other European countries, and from increasing the supply of soap and towels to hotels; and whether efforts will be made to attract tourists by this means.

With regard to petrol, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner), on 15th July. Catering establishments get supplies of soap based either on their average monthly purchases during the six months prior to the introduction of soap rationing or, in the case of establishments not in operation at that time, on the number of residents and the number of meals and hot beverages served to non-residents. The distribution of any part of this soap to residents is at the discretion of establishments. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Food feels unable, in view of the present scarcity of oils and fats, to make any additional allocations of soap to hotels and other establishments. Overseas visitors not living in catering establishments receive, of course, coupons for soap in their temporary ration documents. Under a scheme announced on 5th December, in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Lady Noel-Buxton), more than 180,000 coupons for towels were issued to some 1,000 establishments catering for overseas visitors. I regret that no further supplies can be made available this season.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman mind saying whether extra petrol is to be given?

While I congratulate the President on that decision, is he aware that the suggestion was turned down flat four months ago by the Minister of Fuel and Power and would he keep a sharper eye on his right hon. Friend in such matters.

30.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why, on 20th June, an American spending a few days in England was refused petrol coupons for his motor car by an official of the London Petroleum Board, Acton, treated with discourtesy, and advised that tourists were not wanted.

A number of applications for supplementary petrol coupons were made to the regional petroleum officer at Acton on 20th June, by visitors from overseas. I have not been able to trace any incident of the nature referred to in the Question, but if the hon. Member will let me have fuller particulars, I shall be glad to make further inquiries.

Has the Minister given instructions that his officials should be polite to foreigners coming to this country, and that foreigners should be treated with courtesy?

It is not necessary to give them specific instructions for that purpose, and I have been unable to find any evidence whatever of discourtesy in these cases.

In regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's reply, were the applications to which he referred granted or refused?

As I do not know to which applications the hon. Member refers, I cannot answer that question.

If the hon. Gentleman has made inquiries about the applications, could he not say whether they were granted or not?

I have pointed out that there were a number of applications. No doubt some were granted, and some refused.

Trade And Commerce

Paper Allocation

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the hon. Member for Solihull, in common with other hon. Members, has received prospectuses and trade circulars from Messrs. Hancock and Company, Limited, relating to birth control and kindred matters amounting to approximately 45 pages; that one of these enclosures states that the firm in question was now able to supply the enclosed, thanks to partial release by the Paper Control; how much paper has been allocated to this firm for this purpose; and whether he will take steps to prevent similar waste of paper in the form of unsolicited business circulars.

Under the provisions of the Paper Control Orders any person may gratuitously distribute a limited quantity of paper for advertising circulars, but according to the records of the Paper Control no paper has been specifically licensed for the circulars to which the hon. Member refers.

Does not the Minister think it is desirable to stop this waste of paper? Could it not easily be done by limiting this class of circular either to previous customers or to recipients within certain age groups?

It is difficult to censor the distribution of industrial literature of this type, but there is a very stringent limitation on the quantity that can be used.

Can the Minister tell us if this firm has anything to do with the publication of that filthy book "Forever Amber"?

5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he anticipates being able to make a complete review of the paper allocations for all purposes so that the greater interests of essential technical publications, education, and periodical and book production for export, also other vital national needs, receive a higher allocation than literature, bill posting, etc., which are of less vital need to the national recovery.

The allocations of paper for the different usages are regularly reviewed at four-monthly intervals. The next review will take place in about three months' time.

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that, in spite of difficulties, such as the discriminatory policy in the allocation of paper, it would be possible for him to agree to a list of priorities, so as to assist the making of books for export, particularly educational books, instead of the trashy sort of publication now appearing on the bookstalls, and apparently increasing?

There is discrimination in this sense, that books are getting 80 per cent, prewar, whereas posters and advertising matters only have 10 per cent.

In making the next review of the allocation of paper, would my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that only 15 per cent. of the export orders for books from this country can be met?

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that there ought to be a far more severe limitation of paper for football pools in this country?

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will add a representative of the Library Association to the committee responsible for the allocation of paper.

I assume that the hon. Member refers to the Committee which advises the Board of Trade on the distribution of the Special Reserve for books. This Committee, which sits under an independent chairman, consists of publishers, and I do not consider it would be advisable to add to its membership representatives of other organisations concerned with books. The Committee is, however, always glad to receive representations from the Library Association, or any other body, in respect of any particular book which is under consideration and in which they are interested.

In view of the fact that the Library Association represents more readers in this country than any other body and therefore has a special interest, could not the matter be given further consideration?

I am afraid not. There would be so many applicants who would think that they also are entitled to be on the Committee.

Essential Goods (Export)

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the fact that there is an overwhelming handicap to production costs by the shortage of many essential goods throughout the country, the Government would temporarily suspend the export drive with a view to enabling industry throughout the country to obtain the essentials for a permanent recovery.

No, Sir, I am not aware of any such overwhelming handicap but I shall always look carefully into any cases in which it can be shown that essential requirements of our own manufacturers for particular types of goods are not being met because those goods are being exported.

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that a nation cannot double its exports unless it is allowed to get into its stride, and that this nation has not been allowed to get into its stride? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman further realise that men cannot go on working ceaselessly turning out goods for export, when those goods are urgently required in their own country?

No, Sir, I am not aware of that. I am aware that people in this country want goods as well as do people abroad.

Raw Material Controls (Staffs)

6.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether staffs of raw material controls are allowed to engage in business as merchants and exporters of articles made from the raw materials concerned.

No member of the stall of the Board of Trade may engage in any occupation or undertaking which might in any way conflict with the interests of the Department or be inconsistent with his position as a public servant. A very few members of the raw material controls have always been permitted to keep in general contact with their firms, but not to engage actively in their day-to-day management.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I have evidence of a particular individual in one of these controls not only engaging in the sale of the article concerned but, in the opinion of responsible firms, using his influence against them to prevent them from getting their allocation? If I submit the evidence, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider taking action?

I shall be very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman if he will send me whatever evidence he has.

Rhodesian Tobacco

7.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the amount of Rhodesian tobacco covered by the existing import quotas; and if, in view of the fact that this year's crop is estimated to show an increase of 9,000,000 lbs. he proposes to increase the import quotas to cover this increase.

The amount of Rhodesian tobacco covered by existing import licences is 25 million lbs. dry weight. In view of the latest estimates of the crop, and taking into consideration the proportion available in English grades, this amount is being increased by 10 per cent.

Are separate licences issued for pipe tobacco and cigarette tobacco?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put that Question on the Order Paper.

Waste Paper (Imports)

10.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the average monthly tonnage of waste paper now being imported into this country

Separate particulars of the imports of waste paper are not recorded in the trade and navigation accounts, but no licences have been issued for such imports this year.

Is the President of the Board of Trade satisfied with the effectiveness of the arrangements for the collection of waste paper in this country?

They are as effective as we can make them. Everything possible is being done to try to get local authorities to perfect those arrangements.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman send somebody to collect my old HANSARDS.

Tyres (Exports And Imports)

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the respective totals of tyres on new vehicles, and not on vehicles, exported from this country to sterling areas and to non-sterling areas in the two periods January to December, 1946, and January to 30th June, 1947.

Exports of new motor cars and commercial vehicles in 1946 numbered 47,000 to sterling countries and 47,600 to non-sterling countries, and from January to May, 1947, 26,100 and 23,400 respectively. No record is kept of the number of tyres exported on these vehicles. The number of pneumatic tyres for such vehicles and for tractors exported in 1946 otherwise than on vehicles was 364,000 to sterling and 481,000 to non-sterling countries and in the first five months of 1947, 192,000 and 238,000.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied with the 50 per cent. sale of tyres to non-hard currency countries? Could he not see that more tyres are exported to hard currency countries, in view of the sacrifice that the export of these tyres entails to this country?

Will the President of the Board of Trade bear in mind that many vehicles have had to be taken off the roads because of the tyre shortage in this country, and would he be prepared to look at particulars from lorry owners who have very serious complaints to make?

Certainly, Sir. We do not allocate these tyres. It is a matter for the tyre manufacturers. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will send me particulars, I will look at them.

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the total amount of tyres for aircraft and motor vehicles of all sorts which have been imported into this country from Norway and other countries.

In the first five months of this year a total of 3,068 tyres were imported, of which 85 were for aircraft. The only importation from Norway was one aircraft tyre.

In view of the fact that the President of the Board of Trade has just given very large figures for the ex- port of tyres, can he explain how it is that we should then import them? Has not that rather an "Alice in Wonderland" air about it?

Scaffold Boards (Importation)

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has had the opportunity of considering the details which have been sent to him concerning the importation into Britain of 73,000 scaffold boards of which the building industry is in urgent need; and if he will take the necessary steps to issue the import licence forthwith.

I am satisfied that the importation of these boards would have adverse repercussions on the supplies of much larger quantities of softwood to this country; and I am, therefore, not prepared to issue an import licence.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say that when the building trade is crying out for scaffold boards, he will not grant this licence? Is he determined to stop the building of houses for the people of this country?

No, Sir. I am afraid that if we were to do this it would tend to stop building, because it would tend to make other larger quantities not available.

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker? How can I convey to the President of the Board of Trade, without breaking the Rules of Order, that he ought to be committed to a lunatic asylum?

Foreign Countries (Import Embargoes)

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what countries have placed an embargo on imports from this country.

No country has placed an embargo on all imports from the United Kingdom, but many countries control their imports from us and other countries by licence. Full details are published in each case, as they become known, in the "Board of Trade Journal."

Carbon Black

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what stocks of carbon black were held in this country on 1st January, 1947, and 1st July, 1947.

Stocks of carbon black for rubber manufacture on 27th December, 1946, were 4,868 tons. From incomplete returns for 27th June, 1947, it is estimated that stocks on that date were about 3,870 tons.

In view of the explanation given in this House that a good deal of the hold-up in tyres was due to the shortage of carbon black, would the President of the Board of Trade state what really important and active steps have been taken to increase not only the immediate import of carbon black, out also the permanent source of supply?

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that there is a great amount of interrogation in this House on the question of channel black? HON. MEMBERS: "Carbon black."] Carbon black is also channel black. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there are interests in America who have a corner in this at the moment, and are very anxious to know if anything is being done to produce it in this country? I hope that if it is, no information will be given in that direction.

Card Clothing

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that a contributing factor to the shortage of woollen and carpet yarn is the shortage of card clothing; and what action he is taking, in conjunction with the Ministry of Supply, to give better allocations of card clothing to wool textile and carpet-yarn manufacturers.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply is doing everything practicable to increase the production of card clothing, but output is limited by lack of labour and materials. Distribution arrangements for card clothing, which have been under constant review, are at present being examined in consultation with the Ministry of Supply, and due weight will be given in this examination to the claims of the wool textile and carpet yarn manufacturers.

Is the Minister aware that the production and export of textiles in carpets is held up by the export of card clothing, and would he endeavour to see that more of the production of card clothing is allocated to the home industry?

According to my information there has been no loss of output for that reason.

Clothing Manufacture (Lining Materials)

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he is taking to increase the supply of linings; whether he is aware that the lack of balance in the supplies of cloth and linings is preventing the use of the cloth by clothing manufacturers; and what action he is taking give give increased allocations of lining materials to clothing manufacturers.

I am aware that many garment makers are short of linings. The effect of arrangements made some while ago for increased production of linings were delayed by the fuel difficulties in the earlier part of the year, but supplies will, I hope, show some improvement in the coming months.

Is it also proposed to improve the quality of the linings, because there is complaint about them at present?

We always try to produce the best goods we can with the material available.

Newsprint Import Restrictions

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the estimated daily reduction in the number of inches of reading matter and advertisements, respectively, which will be caused by the cut in imports of newsprint; and what will be the saving in dollars per yard.

I am unable to state the reduction in the number of inches of matter which will result. The newspapers will either reduce their size by one page per issue or will reduce their circulation to a corresponding extent.

Will the President say whether the Government do or do not desire a free expression of news and opinions, and if they do, will they not consider some alternative to this cut, which saves only a comparatively few dollars?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wait until I answer another series of Questions on this matter in a moment.

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the widespread concern about, and opposition to, the cut in newsprint decided on by the Government, he will have the position re-investigated with the object of reversing a policy liable to misunderstanding in Canada and elsewhere, involving unfair discrimination against a particular industry, and likely to endanger regular future supplies of the material on which the future expansion of the British Press depends.

No, Sir. The whole circumstances have been very carefully examined, but owing to the present difficulties of our balance of payments, a reduction in imports must be made. There is no question of discrimination against a particular industry; this is a case where economies can be made without undue hardship to the public or reduction of our power to export.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware of the fact that public opinion is most seriously disturbed about this newsprint cut? Is he further aware of the fact that we may well be squeezed out of the Canadian market for newsprint as a result of the Government's policy, and, again, that small independent newspapers may be driven into monopolies, which is entirely opposed to the policy for which this Government stands?

I am fully aware of all those arguments, which were put forward when the matter was being discussed. I am also aware that the newspapers naturally have a good opportunity of making the most of this cut.

In view of the fact that this decision affects many Government Departments, was this decision to cut newsprint a Cabinet or a Departmental decision?

Are we to understand that these restrictions are coming into effect immediately; that on Monday there will be a cut in the size of all the newspapers—definitely on Monday?

I understand it has been arranged to introduce the new regime on 21st July.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Would this be the right moment to ask you in those circumstances and in view of that answer, to consider a notice of Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 8 on a definite matter of urgent public importance?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman can raise it after Questions if he so chooses, and then I shall have an opportunity meanwhile of considering it.

It the right hon. and learned Gentleman is going to raise the matter after Questions, we had better continue with Questions.

25, 26 and 27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether in view of the statement of the Newsprint Supply Company that the restriction of imports, which begins on Monday, will involve the cancellation of longterm contracts with North American mills, the Government will urgently reconsider the position;

(2) what action His Majesty's Government proposes to take, in conjunction with the Newsprint Supply Company, to honour the contracts made with North American mills for 150,000 tons of newsprint in 1947, 180,000 tons in 1948 and 300,000 tons in 1949, in view of the new restriction on imports;

(3) whether in view of the fact that the new restriction on newsprint supplies, in- volving a return to smaller papers and other disabilities will effect a dollar saving of only £1 million in the next six months, the Government will withdraw the restriction.

The Newsprint Supply Company have been informed that they may proceed by way of postponing deliveries of some 48,000 tons of newsprint due for delivery from North America during the coming six months, which will involve a saving of about £1,100,000 in Canadian dollars. There cannot be any commitment as to deliveries of these or any further quantities later, but I shall be ready to re-examine the whole matter by the beginning of next year in the light of the general balance of payments position as it then is. In these circumstances, the Newsprint Supply Company will no doubt consider with their suppliers what adjustments are necessary in their present contracts. With regard to the third Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge).

Are we to understand that these contracts remain and are not cancelled, but merely deferred; and if it is a fact of deferment, have the Canadian and Newfoundland mills been consulted, or is it merely a term, "deferment of contract," without consultation with the people to whom the contract was given on the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend?

There is no question of cur breaking a contract, because we have not any. The Newsprint Supply Company have been informed that there will not be the dollars available for the quantity of paper I have mentioned, and it has been suggested to them that they should adjust the contract.

Am I right in estimating that a similar saving in dollars could be effected by a cut of one-seventeenth in the import of American films, and would it not be more in the national interest to impose such a cut than to inflict such Draconian restrictions on the British Press?

I think it is extremely doubtful whether anything would be saved at all by cutting the importation of even half the American films; they would then collect the same sum of money on half the number of films.

May I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered cutting tobacco by another million pounds in order to make this saving, because he cuts it in very large figures£10 million at a time£so why not cut £11 million, and so avoid this cut?

We considered that it would be undue discrimination against the tobacco smoker and tobacco trade if they were asked to carry more than the 25 per cent. reduction they have already had imposed upon them.

Could I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether or not this long-term contract running till 1959 was made with the Newfoundland mills on a written statement of the Government that dollars would be available?

There was, I understand, a statement made. I am not quite sure whether it was in writing or not, but there was a statement made that dollars would be available and, had the circumstances been different, they would have been.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is a suspicion in many people's minds—by no means all opponents of the Government—that the action of the Government cannot be dissociated from their well-known dislike of and contempt for the popular Press, and that they are doing this deliberately?

I am afraid I cannot prevent suspicion coming into the mind of anybody who is suspicious, but it is quite clear that the Government are taking this action in order to deal with the balance of payments and not with the Press.

Would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is an actual fact that before Lord Layton undertook the negotiations with Canadian suppliers, he had in his possession a letter from my right hon. and learned Friend stating in the most specific terms that import licences and exchange facilities for a five-year agreement would be available, and that is the basis upon which those negotiations took place?

I understand that is quite accurate; circumstances, unfortunately, have altered since.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman considered that while this is not discrimination against a particular industry, it is discrimination against the whole public? Democracy cannot function without adequate information, and adequate information cannot be given with the present space available in the Press.

Are we to gather from the President's reply that he seriously does not distinguish between smoking and the power of the Press and the importance of the Press; and does he realise that this will mean the closing of the doors to young journalists and ex-Service men about to make their way, and that the whole House, I think, feels the intolerance and the mistake of this decision?

With regard to these supplementary questions, I should like to point out that this Question only deals with the cancellation of a contract.

May I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the fact that a perfectly plain statement from the Government that dollars would be available has been gone back on, in future any contract entered into and based on an absolutely unequivocal statement by the Government must be qualified to mean "unless we think it is not right to do it later."

I think that in all cases where there are emergency conditions arising as regards balance of payments, the Government must be able to take what action they think best for the country.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker; owing to the extremely unsatisfactory replies given by my right hon. and learned Friend, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

At the end of Questions:

In consequence of the answer given earlier today by the President of the Board of Trade, I ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance involving the administrative responsibility of the Government, namely, the immediate reduction in the allocation of newsprint to the Press. Before I bring this Motion to the Chair, would you allow me, Mr. Speaker, to make a respectful submission—first, that it is definite, because it involves the restriction of newsprint to all newspapers in this country—

The right hon. and learned Gentleman had better make his submission after he has brought the Motion to the Chair, if necessary. To make it before I give a decision would appear to be unnecessary.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has asked me for leave to move the Adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance involving the responsibility of the Government, namely, the immediate reduction in the allocation of newsprint to the Press. To be quite candid with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the only new point that I can see here is that arising from the word "immediate." The matter was discussed on 8th July on the general question of the restriction of imports, but I find it rather hard, as a matter of fact, to give a decision on this. The point, I quite realise, centres round the word "immediate," and the Debate is to be confined to the allocation of newsprint to the Press and not on the general question of the restriction of imports of paper. On those grounds, I think I should be justified in asking if the right hon. and learned Gentleman has the leave of the House.

The pleasure of the House having been signified, the Motion stood over, under Standing Order No. 8, until Seven o'Clock this evening.

Factories, Grantham (Allocation)

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he intends to continue with the re-allocation of Grantham Productions, Limited, to the Cotton Syndicate, in view of the fact that Mr. Westbrook has retired from the syndicate and will, therefore, not be available as managing director of the proposed new company.

Will the President of the Board of Trade set up an inquiry into how this procedure took place and how the original makers of the "people's car" were pushed out of business?

The original producers were not pushed out of business. They went into liquidation. The question then arose as to who should take the factory on and whether they should continue making cars. Various people came forward. The gentleman mentioned in the Question was one of them. It was found afterwards that he could not complete the transaction.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what will now be done with the factory?

I cannot say until we get the fresh applications in after this application has been cancelled.

19.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if, before the reallocation of the factory site of Grantham Productions to the Cotton Syndicate, steps were taken by his Department to ensure either that prompt payment was made or adequate security given for the large sum of money owing by Grantham Productions for Income Tax.

No, Sir. The Revenue claim was left, as it should be left, to take its usual ranking among the genera] body of creditors.

Can the President say how this company managed to retain £23,000 due to the Revenue in P.A.Y.E.?

Coal Industry

Films

28.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the procedure which should be followed by any film producing company in order to be given full consideration in connection with receiving a commission for the production of films on coalmining, either by his Department, the Central Office of Information, or the National Coal Board, and from which of these funds are made available at the present time for the commissioning of new films or the purchase of films that have already been made.

The Central Office of Information at present commissions, or purchases, the majority of films required by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, or the National Coal Board. But, I understand that the National Coal Board is also prepared itself to devote certain limited funds to the production of films. Any film producer interested should approach the Films Department of the Central Office of Information, or the National Coal Board. The only films directly sponsored by the Ministry of Fuel and Power are technical films on training or safety which necessarily have a very restricted showing.

In view of the great improvement in production in those industries which have adopted methods of joint consultation, if it was proposed by a group of people to produce a film on such tried and effective methods for the coal industry, to whom should they apply to sponsor this film, or obtain permission for them to carry out this work?

I suggest that the best way would be to apply to the National Coal Board.

Domestic Allocation

29.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will now undertake to increase the six summer months' coal allocation of one ton, five cwts. to households with neither gas nor electricity.

Gaitskell: I am sorry that no increase in the domestic coal allowances is at present possible.

Would the Minister give further consideration to this matter, which is one of great importance, especially to farmers and people in isolated country districts, who have no gas or electricity, and have not the same benefits as people in towns?

We would be only too glad to increase those allowances if the coal were available. As regards people with no gas or electricity, they can get additional supplies if they have to cook by coal.

In this situation, is it really intended to pursue the five-day week?

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is particularly unfair to poor urban residents who have neither gas nor electricity?

I think the present arrangements deal fairly with the different classes of consumer.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great dissatisfaction when those without gas or electricity see the full ration being delivered to those who have gas and electricity? Would he give instructions to his regional officers at least to give preference in regard to the rationed amount to those who have not gas or electricity?

All we can do is to fix the maximum amount. We have to leave the trade discretion in deciding how they share out supplies among their customers and they take into account the kind of points which my hon. Friend has raised.

It the Minister cannot increase the allowance of coal to those in rural areas, where they have neither gas nor electricity, will he at least remove from rural areas posters asking people to economise in the use of gas and electricity?

In cases where persons have neither gas nor electricity, how can they cook otherwise than by coal?

Exports

31.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why fuel, such as anthracite grains, has been exported and is being exported from the United Kingdom, when it is urgently needed here at home in view of the grave shortage of fuel.

In the three months following the ban on coal exports from this country imposed in February last, shipments have averaged 43,000 tons per month compared with 420,000 tons for the corresponding period of last year. This coal is exported in the main to Eire, the Channel Islands, and His Majesty's Forces overseas. There are, in addition, a few special cases, where exports are permitted. One such case is the supply of a small quantity of anthracite to Canada.

Is not the same mistake as was made last year being repeated, namely, of exporting fuel urgently needed in this country, and will not such a policy, if pursued, aggravate the fuel crisis in the coming winter? What is the point of exporting anthracite grains to Canada, and then having to buy them back from the United States at a price which is three times higher?

The Canadian market for anthracite is of special importance, as many hon. Members know, and we are anxious to continue what is no more than a token export, in order to keep ourselves in that market.

Opencast Coal (Wastage)

32.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the maximum and minimum figures from which the average wastage of 4 per cent. in opencast coal is derived; and in which areas the highest wastage has been apparent in the last year.

The estimate of 4 per cent. as the average rate of wastage of opencast coal between site and merchant relates to the whole period since the commencement of opencast operations in 1942. This figure was not built up region by region, but was calculated for the country as a whole, and I regret, therefore, that it is not possible to give the maximum and minimum regional figures. Regional figures are, however, available for the year 1946–47 during which period the average rate of wastage was 2.84 per cent. The highest rate was apparent in Scotland, but there is very little material difference between the remaining regions.

Is this in any way related to the thickness of the seams worked, in view of the Minister's previous assertion that the highest wastage takes place near the surface edge?

I think the greatest wastage is where the greatest amount of dirt is taken from the coal, and that very often applies to coal near the surface.

Underground Gasification

33.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent consideration is being given to the production of gas by firing coal underground.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan), on 1st May, to which there is nothing I can at present usefully add.

Closed Colliery, Llanelly Hill

39.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many men were employed at the Waun Nantyglo Colliery, Llanelly Hill, Breconshire, when it was closed down recently; how many have been transferred to other collieries; how many have left the mining industry; how many are still unemployed; and when employment is to be found for these men.

I am informed that 68 men were employed at the colliery when it was closed on 20th June. Forty-eight men have been transferred to other collieries, nine men are still employed at the colliery, and three have retired on account of age. Of the remainder, three have left the coalmining industry, two haulage engine drivers have not yet been placed in employment, and there are three other men, of whom full particulars are not at present available.

Industrial Allocation

40.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that there are industrial firms which are not receiving their normal allocation of fuel and are being compelled to use the stocks they were building up for winter use; and whether he will give an assurance that such deficits will be made good.

Up to now industry has been receiving in the aggregate the amount of coal programmed, but this has not been true of every firm in every area. Where the receipts of a particular firm are below the average, I can assure my hon. Friend that as far as possible action will be taken to increase supplies. If my hon. Friend knows of any particular cases of difficulty and will let me have details, I will be glad to have them investigated.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give the further assurance that those factories which have been able to effect economies during the summer, and to build up stocks of coal, will not be penalised in the winter months if there is a short-fall in deliveries?

Yes, I certainly give that assurance. It was given by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and I repeat it.

Turbine Generators (Steel Allocation)

37.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what was the number of new turbine generators placed in commission in the selected and non-selected power stations during the period 30th June, 1946, to 30th June, 1947.

In view of the pathetic number of generators put into commission in the last 12 months, will my hon. Friend make representations to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply to see that there is adequate steel allocation to the firms making turbines, in order that they get the plant?

As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, it takes about three years to build a turbine generator, and therefore we are still catching up on the time lag during the war period. At present sufficient steel is allocated.

Is my hon. Friend aware that 18 months was the period before the war for the construction of a 30,000 kilowatt turbine generator, and that a power station was built in 18 months on virgin ground during the war? Will he look into the suggestion that turbine generating plants are being held up because the allocation of steel is not being made by the Ministry of Supply?

I think that, again, is a matter which could be more properly gone into during the coming Debate.

Severn Barrage Project

38.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is yet in a position to report upon the inquiry made by his Department into the practicability of schemes for the utilisation of the tidal waters of the Severn for the production of electric current; and what conclusions have been reached.

The construction of, and experiments with, a tidal model, which are an essential preliminary to further consideration of the project for a Severn barrage will take two years, and no final conclusions can be reached in the meantime.

Municipal Elections (Date)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is prepared to introduce legislation to enable municipal elections to be held otherwise than in the months of November and March.

This matter is under consideration, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the general desire that municipal elections should be held in the spring or summer months?

I am well aware of that. I share the view that it would be desirable, but owing to the variable incidence of Easter and Whitsun, it is difficult to find suitable dates.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that inshore fishermen are disfranchised by thousands during the November fishing season?

Wormwood Scrubs Prison (Black-Out Removal)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the work of removing the black-out in the boys' wing at Wormwood Scrubs Prison was begun; and when he expects it to be finished.

Three wings of this prison are occupied by young prisoners or Borstal inmates. In one wing the work is complete; in the second it is 75 per cent. complete, and completion awaits fixing of glass which has only just been delivered; in the third, owing to the hazardous and difficult nature of the work, which involves removal of a special paint on the outside of roofing glass, it has been found impossible to complete it with prison labour. Some 25 per cent. has been done, and the remainder is about to be undertaken by contractors: I cannot say when it will be completed; but the contractors have been asked to expedite it.

While appreciating the difficulties to which my right hon. Friend refers, does not he think it scandalous that two years after the end of the war this work should not have been completed in view of the fact that Wormwood Scrubs is one of the few places in the country where there is no shortage of manpower?

No, Sir. I do not think that it merits that epithet. The work which remains to be done is of a kind that cannot be done by prison labour.

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that part would be used as a Borstal institution?

Is it not most deplorable that this prison, the most gloomy in the country, should be used for this purpose, for which it is most unsuitable?

It seems to me that every prison which is discussed here is described as the most gloomy. I would not myself have given Wormwood Scrubs that distinction.

If my right hon. Friend is unable to assure the House that this work will be completed in the near future, will he give an assurance that he will take every step to expedite the removal of these boys from these very undesirable surroundings?

No. I hope that the contractors will respond to the request that has been made them.

Greyhound Racing (Mid-Week Ban)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the application for exemption from the ban upon mid-week greyhound racing by the Oxford Stadium, Limited, was rejected; and what was the recommendation from the regional board which considered the application.

The Southern Regional Board for Industry was prepared to agree to meetings at the Oxford Stadium on midweek evenings, but after consultation with my colleagues concerned with production, I was not satisfied that the relaxation proposed was unlikely to lead to any substantial interference with industrial production.

Will the Minister say why he has overruled the regional board? The application was for race meetings on Tuesday and Friday evenings only. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituents only go to the dogs after a good hard day's work?

I should have thought that by voting for the hon. and gallant Member, they had gone a good way towards the dogs. The final responsibility in this matter does not rest with the regional board. They tender advice, to which I must have regard. As a result of considering all the advice, I came to the conclusion that this application should not be granted.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his remark was very unnecessary? If these regional boards are to be overruled, what purpose do they serve?

Ex-Firemen, Acton (Tenancies)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that N.F.S. authorities are serving notices to quit upon ex-firemen tenants of Acton station houses who were recently dismissed from the N.F.S. after medical re-checks as suffering from disabilities, and upon the widow of a recently deceased fire officer; that this action is causing distress since there is no available accommodation but the public assistance institution; and, in view of the fine wartime record of these dismissed firemen and the fact that the local authority have over 5,000 families upon their housing register and are unable to rehouse them, if he will cause these notices to quit to be withdrawn.

Pensioned firemen and fire men's widows cannot be allowed to remain indefinitely in Service quarters which are required for serving firemen, and in the cases to which my hon. Friend refers a suitable letter has been sent to the occupant. I can assure my hon. Friend that, in the action taken to regain possession of Service quarters, due weight has been and will continue to be given to factors of hardship, but I must put the interests of serving firemen first.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the local authority is already overwhelmed with difficulties as a result of court orders for possession and the eviction of families from furnished accommodation, and that this action on the part of the N.F.S. is making their problem much more difficult? Is my right hon. Friend aware that Nos. 17 and 19, The Green, Kew, Surrey, are two houses over which the Minister of Agriculture has control, that they have been unoccupied for 16 years, and that they are quite capable of use for human habitation? Will the Home Secretary consult the Minister of Agriculture, with a view to taking over those two houses?

It is essential that adequate fire protection should be available for the people of this district. If there should be a disastrous fire, it might well be that the problems of the town council in the matter of accommodation might be considerably increased. I am not aware of the circumstances to which my hon. Friend referred in the latter part of his supplementary question. I will make inquiries.

Can the Home Secretary state the number of notices to quit which have been given in respect of these tied houses?

Ministry Of Labour (Staff)

46.

asked the Minister of Labour why 41,673 civil servants are employed by his Department today as com- pared with 28,339 prewar, when there was more unemployment; what extra duties they are now performing; and what are the present total salaries as compared with prewar.

My Department has today greatly increased duties and responsibilities as compared with 1939. In addition to being much more concerned with trying to ensure that workers are placed in suitable employment and that those vacancies which are most important in the national interest are filled, it now administers the Factory Acts—[Interruption]—that interruption, arising out of the entrance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), is most welcome. As I was saying, my Department now administers the Factory Acts, which it has taken over from the Home Office, the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944, the various schemes for the Resettlement of ex-Service men and women, the Appointments Service and the greatly enlarged vocational training schemes. Its responsibilities under the National Service Acts are also much greater. The total salaries, including overtime, allowances, etc., paid during the year ended 31st March, 1939, and 31st March, 1947, amounted to 6,275,000 and £13,730,000 respectively.

May the House understand from that reply that the Minister sees no hope of reducing the staff, but rather that it will increase, and that the number of civil servants in the country will not decrease in the next few months?

No, Sir, I am in a position to tell the House that neither of those ideas would be correct. The figures I have given relate to April. Since the date to which the hon. Member's figures referred, the number of 41,673 had been reduced to 39,000 by 1st July. It will be seen that staffs are being dispensed with wherever that can be done.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will pay no attention to the suggestion implied in the Question that he ought to reduce his staff by increasing the unemployment figures?

Since the Government need people in productive industry, surely the question of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) was simply nonsense?

Employment

Women In Industry (Government's Appeal)

47.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will now make a statement as to the number of women who have entered industry in response to the Government's appeal; and if he is satisfied with this response.

The district campaigns have been running for only a short time and at this early stage I have not sufficient information on which to base an estimate as to the response that has been made to the appeal.

Is not the Minister aware that the Parliamentary Secretary 10 days ago promised that he would give us these figures in the middle of July; the middle of July is now here, and therefore, why cannot we have the answer?

The answer I have given is correct. No doubt my right hon. Friend had in mind the possibility of doing that, but the campaign is only just getting well on its way and I would much prefer to await the result. However, if it will assist the House I will endeavour to see if I can get some definite information before the House rises.

Has the Minister considered the desirability of making a broadcast appeal on this subject?

Is it one of the objects of this campaign that young married women should be out of their homes even more than they are now, and is not this rather dangerous from the point of view of young children?

I take this opportunity of making it clear that what we are asking is that all women who can will come and serve. We do not want women with young children to desert them, and to upset their home life, because that upsets the menfolk and the factories. There must be many, many thousands of women who can help.

Training Courses (Ex-Servicemen)

48.

asked the Minister of Labour how many ex-Servicemen, who have applied to undertake a vocational training course, are still waiting to be called after a period of six months, nine months and 12 months, respectively.

The information asked for is not immediately available but I am having it extracted and will write to the hon. Member.

Is it not a fact that ex-Servicemen have waited, and are still waiting, for periods of over 12 months? Is not that very disturbing, and what does the Minister propose to do to take up this time lag?

The answer to that is quite clear. It is that we are only training men in such numbers as industry agrees can be absorbed. Were we to extend our training facilities and to train a greater number of men, we should find they were unemployed when they came out. All the training is done in consultation with industry and we train the numbers which we are assured have a chance of finding employment.

Why is it that the Minister says that these figures are not available?

I said they are not immediately available. I am having them extracted and I will send them to the hon. Member.

Poles

49.

asked the Minister of Labour what arrangements are being made to provide accommodation for those members of the Polish Resettlement Corps who have taken up permanent civil employment in this country.

Accommodation in hostels and camps is being provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Forestry Commission and the National Service Hostels Corporation as appropriate. As an interim measure Poles who obtain work near their military camps can remain accommodated there as civilians after being relegated to the reserve.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that employers are reluctant to give work to Polish soldiers who, when they become civilians, eventually will require accommodation and for whom they can see no prospect of providing accommodation; and can he give an assurance that if farmers give employment to Poles they can remain in their camps until permanent housing is available?

I thought that I gave that assurance in my original reply. In any case, if it was not understood, I now give the assurance that Poles who are recruited from military camps can remain in the camps until alternative accommodation is available for them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that every effort will be made to avoid the overcrowding of these gallant heroes?

I have already given instructions that the space should be raised from 45 square feet to 60 square feet per man in these hostels, and I think they should be very much better for that.

52.

asked the Minister of Labour which are the industries in which Poles have been placed; and the numbers in each industry.

About 24,000 Poles have been placed in a very wide range of industries. The numbers in the principal industries are as follows: Building and civil engineering, 4,432; Agriculture, 3,730; Underground coalmining, 3,316, of whom at 9th July, 2,388 had completed training and 1,668 had started work; Brick and tile making, 1,021. Smaller numbers have been placed in some 50 or more other industries.

Can the Minister give an assurance that in all these cases Poles will be placed only in the most essential of industries?

I thought that the figures I had given indicated that they were only going into the undermanned industries.

The Minister did say "50 or more other industries," and, therefore, I asked my question in relation to that.

Among those 50 other industries are undermanned industries, and they are doing a good job of work.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any difficulties are arising with the trade unions or whether the unions are receiving these men in a friendly spirit?

On the whole, I do not think that there is much room for complaint except in one case about which there has been some difficulty, and I think that we are getting over that very well. On the whole, the scheme is going very well.

Alien Workers

53.

asked the Minister of Labour how many foreign workers have been brought here from Europe since 1st January, 1947; how many dependants came with them or are following them; to what industries have the workers been allocated; and the numbers placed in each industry.

Up to 14th July, 16,488, of whom 8,863, have been placed. No dependants came with them. Some will follow as soon as accommodation is available but I cannot yet give figures. The men placed have mostly gone into agriculture and the women into the textile industries and essential domestic employment. In addition, 13,861 individual permits have been issued to employers to employ aliens, over 10,000 of which were for domestic employment.

Will the Minister say what number it is proposed to bring over ultimately and over what period?

That will depend completely upon the accommodation available and the needs of our own industries.

Would my right hon. Friend consider the great need of hospitals for domestic workers before the needs of private employers?