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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 440: debated on Monday 21 July 1947

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Food Supplies

Usa Canned Fish (Dollar Purchases)

1.

asked the Minister of Food how many U.S. dollars have been expended on canned silver hake and similar fish purchased from the U.S.A. since January, 1946.

There are no separate import figures for canned hake. About 2,300,000 dollars were spent on all private imports of canned fish from January. 1946. to the end of June, 1947.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this particular fish has been most unpopular with the people because much of it has been delivered in such a bad condition, and cannot he impress upon his staff the importance of conserving our valuable dollars and spending them more profitably?

Yes, Sir, the open general licence which covered this and other such imports has now been suspended.

Allocations

4.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the allocation of various non-rationed foods to Cheltenham is based on a population of 62,000, whereas in the opinion of the Borough Food Committee the figure should be 75,000; if regard is had to the fact that the town is a popular inland health resort with a large number of unlicensed boarding establishments, has many residential schools and colleges and is a shopping centre for a big area of the county of Gloucester; and if he will take steps to bring supplies into a proper relationship to the population the town is expected to serve.

Population figures prepared by the Registrar-General are used by my Department when adjusting allocations of manufacturing meat and fats for fish frying which are based on prewar trade. They are also supplied to primary distributors of unrationed foods which we do not allocate, to help them to do the same. The latest figure for the Metropolitan Borough of Cheltenham is 62,000. If the hon. Member has evidence that it is too low, I shall be glad to look into it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I sent him a report of the meeting of the local food committee, which is a very responsible body, in which they accepted the figure of 75,000? In view of the discrepancy between his figure and that, will he not hold an inquiry, or make representations to the local food committee to try to get the matter adjusted?

Yes, certainly. I will listen to any evidence on the subject, but the Registrar-General's figures of population are, I think, the proper figures.

But for what year? The figure has changed very much for a town like Cheltenham since the war.

5.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the percentage increase in sales of food and perishables in May, 1947, compared with May, 1946, is only 4.8 per cent. in the London suburban area as compared with an increase of 6.5 per cent. for the whole of Great Britain, and 12.0 per cent for Central London and the West End; and if he is satisfied that the London suburban area is receiving its share of increased supplies.

Yes, Sir. I know of these figures of retail sales collected by the Bank of England. They relate only to money values and cover alcoholic drinks, tobacco and also restaurant meals, and are not a reliable indication of the amount of food reaching consumers in each area. I am satisfied that my Department is doing its utmost to ensure that food supplies are fairly distributed.

Can my right hon. Friend explain the great difference between the 4.8 per cent. increase in the London suburban area and 12.0 per cent. in central London and the West End? There seems to be a great discrepancy between those figures; could he explain what it is?

Not fully, I am afraid, without trespassing on the time of the House, but it is important to realise that these are in money values and, therefore, the West End figures are disproportionately high because of the large hotels, the expensive restaurants, and the like which are in that area.

Ministry's Staffs

6.

asked the Minister of Food how many people were employed in his Department in July, 1945, July, 1946, and the first week of July, 1947; and how many were employed (luring these periods of time it the Fish Division of his Department.

The staff of the Ministry is divided between Headquarters, Area Offices and Divisional and Local Offices. There are no employees of the Fish Division in the third group. The total numbers of non-industrial Headquarters and Area staff on 1st July, in 1945. 1946 and 1947 were 10,331, 10,589 and 10,595, respectively, of which the Fish Division accounted for 271, 277 and 240. in each year.

Extra Cheese Ration

7.

asked the Minister of Food what machinery is provided by his Department for the consideration of applications for the extra cheese ration by categories of workers who are not organised, or whose organisations are not affiliated to the T.U.C.

No special machinery is provided for this purpose. Any such applications are carefully considered by the appropriate branch of my Department.

By that reply, does the right hon. Gentleman repudiate the statement made in a letter to me by his Parliamentary Secretary that these decisions were made by a special committee of the T.U.C.?

Oh no, Sir. But the hon. Gentleman's Question relates specifically to classes of workers who, he suggests, are not organised, or adequately represented by the T.U.C. They make representations direct to the Minister.

In view of the answer given by the Parliamentary-Secretary, can the right hon. Gentleman say how those representations are made?

Any individual, or group of individuals, can make an application or representation to the Minister.

Price Controls (Bbc Announcements)

8.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will consider asking the B.B.C. to make announcements with regard to the changes in price controls made by his Department.

East Midland Food Controller (Resignation)

10.

asked the Minister of Food if his attention has been called to an anti-Semitic statement made by Brigadier Ford, East Midland Food Controller, to a party of German journalists paying an official visit to his region; and what action he is taking.

18.

asked the Minister of Food if his attention has been called to the official statement, made by Brigadier V. T. R. Ford, Regional Food Controller, at Nottingham, to the effect that black-market offences are committed chiefly by Jews; and what disciplinary action he proposes to take.

A full and careful official inquiry has been made into this matter. The report of this inquiry has established that Brigadier Ford made certain statements to a group of German journalists visiting this country, which could be construed as casting reflections on the Jewish race. He has assured those of my officers who conducted the inquiry that this was not his intention, and I accept this assurance. Nevertheless, it is essential that a divisional food officer, who is my chief representative in a region, should not only administer the affairs of his area impartially, but that his impartiality should be evident in everything that he does and says. I regret that the recent incident has shown a failure in this all-important requirement. Notwithstanding the satisfactory services which Brigadier Ford has rendered to the Ministry of Food in the past, I decided that I had to accept the recommendations of the official inquiry. Brigadier Ford has placed his resignation in my hands, and I have accepted it.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that very satisfactory reply, may I take it that steps will also be taken to remove from the minds of the German journalists concerned any impression they may have received that the heresies of Streicher and Goebbels have any official support in this country?

I should hope that this careful inquiry into the matter, and the action following it, would have that effect.

I think the right hon. Gentleman referred to an inquiry which was instituted; are we to suppose that the findings of that inquiry, or part of them, will be made public? That would be desirable in view of the action taken.

No, Sir. I wish to make it clear that the matter was dealt with under proper Civil Service procedure, and the relevant and responsible officers of my Department went into the case most carefully, and reported to me.

While it is obviously desirable that racial feeling should not be introduced into this country —and we are all agreed on that—is not the balance being thrown in the wrong direction? If it is the case that a certain race are concerned with the majority of these offences, is it wrong to say so?

No, Sir. If it could be proved, or any evidence were produced, that offences against food orders were committed by disproportionate numbers of any one particular race, I do not think anyone could object to the facts being made public, but there is no evidence of that at all.

Rye Biscuits (Bread Units)

11.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in the case of persons advised on medical grounds to eat rye biscuits instead of bread, he will authorise local food offices to exchange bread units for points on production of an appropriate medical certificate.

In very special cases, on medical certificate, points are given in exchange for bread units where my medical advisers agree that rye biscuits are essential. Because supplies are limited, I cannot leave the decision to local food offices.

But is there not machinery by which local food offices may put the applicant in consultation with the medical officers to the Ministry? There has been considerable difficulty owing to the fact that three points have to be surrendered for only seven ounces of these biscuits in cases where patients are strictly forbidden to eat bread, and would not food offices themselves appreciate some method by which they could get over the difficulty?

If my hon. Friend has in mind the rate of exchange in these cases perhaps he will make representations to me on the matter.

Argentine Wheat And Maize (Purchase)

12.

asked the Minister of Food if he will give details of the hitch in the purchase of 500,000 tons of wheat from the Argentine and say whether the contract was free alongside or f.o.b.; who was responsible for the hitch; and how much more the wheat will cost the British taxpayer.

15.

asked the Minister of Food what difficulties he is experiencing in securing the fulfilment of contracts for the purchase of wheat and maize from the Argentine Government owing to any dispute over the interpretation of the contracts; and whether he will make a statement.

There has been no hitch or dispute about any of the provisions of the Agreements.

On a point of Order, my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) had a similar Question, and I played the game by giving him an opportunity to get up first to ask a supplementary question. We were both cut out, and it was most unfair.

The hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) resumed his seat, and, therefore, I called the next Question.

I am sorry to say the hon. Gentleman must withdraw that remark immediately.

Later

On a point of Order. Is it assumed that the Minister has the permission of the House to bracket two Questions together without consent being given, and by that means prevent a supplementary question being asked?

I did not notice that the two Questions were taken together; perhaps if the hon. Member wishes to ask a supplementary he would do so now.

I am much obliged. I did not ask the question earlier, because I gave way to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). I wish to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that a statement was attributed to Senor Miranda in regard to this contract, which shows a difference of opinion whether wheat was free alongside or f.o.b.?

I have seen various statements in the Press on the subject, but I am glad to say they are without foundation.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry hold the view that we are going to be penalised to the extent of one pound a ton by a sharp practice reading of a contract, which is against the established custom of the trade?

Rice And Cocoa (Brazil)

13.

asked the Minister of Food for what reason Brazil has withdrawn from the I.E.F.C.; and what consequences he anticipates from this withdrawal, particularly as regards, rice and cocoa.

The Brazilian Government have made no statement on their reasons for withdrawing from the I.E.F.C. So long as all other member countries continue to abide by I.E.F.C. allocations the effects of Brazil's withdrawal should not be serious much though it is to be regretted.

Is the Minister aware that Brazilian rice is being dealt with in large quantities by other countries within the I.E.F.C., and that the effect of this withdrawal must be disastrous on the supply of rice, which is sold at a lower price in. Burma and Siam, as it will affect the distribution in Malaya and other Far Eastern countries?

Brazilian rice amounts to about 10 per cent. of the rice entering into the world export trade. No doubt the matter is serious, but I would not have said it was disastrous.

In view of the fact that over 250,000 tons of Brazilian rice are being offered, would not the Minister agree that the effect of such a withdrawal must result in supplies from Burma and Siam not flowing into the I.E.F.C.?

I could not admit that that would be the result, but any withdrawals from that international allocation machinery must have a bad effect.

East African Groundnut Scheme (Locusts)

14.

asked the Minister of Food if the foliage of groundnut plants is liable to be attacked by locusts; and what precautions it is proposed to take to deal with this danger to the success of the East African Groundnut Scheme.

The foliage of the groundnut plant is eaten by some varieties of locusts. Co-ordinated measures for dealing with outbreaks are in operation over the whole of East Africa. Further, the whole lay-out of cultivation in the new groundnut areas and the equipment available will make it possible to fight locusts in a way which could not be attempted where there are scattered holdings or relatively small farms.

Have any experiments been made in spraying the larvae of the locusts before they move up? Have aeroplanes been used for this purpose?

Whale Meat (Distribution)

16.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the high protein value of whalemeat, he will arrange to control the distribution of this meat and ensure that adequate supplies are sent to heavy industrial areas, such as the North-East.

We are not likely to get enough whalemeat for some time to permit of controlled distribution. As I explained to the hon. Member on Wednesday last, we are encouraging imports, but the quantity available this year will be small.

In view of the excellent food value of whalemeat, could my right hon. Friend see that it is distributed on the basis of "No work, no whalemeat"?

At the present stage, when the matter is largely experimental, it is probably better to let whalemeat come in quite freely, and be sold on the open market.

is not my right hon. Friend aware that we in the industrial North like a nice tasty steak? Is there any real reason why whalemeat should arrive at a port in the North and be brought to London, and be available only for people who seem to have a fairly good time in the West End of London? Why may we not have whalemeat in the industrial North?

It is available in the industrial North, but the quantities, North or South, are very small this year. It is available in various parts of the country.

Calves (Slaughter)

17.

asked the Minister of Food how many calves have been purchased by his Department for slaughter in the past 12 months; and the numbers in each of the past five years.

As the reply contains a table of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there has been a sharp increase in the slaughterings of calves, and, if so, is he taking any action to stop this premature slaughter, in view of the great need for increasing beef production?

Is the Minister aware that, from the figures in the first week of July for the last seven years, in the county of Herefordshire, the slaughtering of calves shows an increase of 50 per cent., while supplies of beef to collecting centres have decreased by 66 per cent.?

Is it not a fact that there has been a drastic reduction in home-killed beef supplies as against prewar, and is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Agriculture got together and decided to change the balance of our livestock economy more in favour of home production?

It is true that there is reduction in the home-killed meat supply, but that will be solved as and when we get adequate imports of feedingstuffs, which we are most anxious to do

The following is the reply:

The number of calves purchased for slaughter in the 12 months, July, 1946, to June, 1947, was 1,441,899. For the previous five years the figures are as follow:

July,1945, to June, 19461,374,060
July, 1944, to June, 19451,385,375
July, 1943, to June, 19441,302,190
July, 1942, to June, 19431,253,171
July, 1941, to June, 19421,004,384

Beer (Imports)

19.

asked the Minister of Food from which countries the 933,859 bulk barrels of beer imported in 1945 and the 929,965 bulk barrels imported in 1946 came; and what proportion of these imports were from Eire.

Of these imports all came from Eire, except 12 bulk barrels in 1945, which came from British India and America, and 234 bulk barrels in 1946, which came from Hong Kong, Australia. Sweden and America.

Would the Minister give an assurance that the grain exported to Eire did not include barley, which subsequently came back to this country in the form of beer?

Speaking from memory, we exported a certain amount of barley to Eire for the express purpose of getting it hack in beer.

Does not the Minister consider that it would have been far more advantageous to British agriculture if the barley had been fed to our own livestock?

It might be said if we took all our brewing barley to feed our livestock, then we should have no beer. That would be a very drastic thing to do.

Railways

Electric Trains (Sunday Fares)

20.

asked the Minister of Transport, whether he has made inquiries as to the extent to which electric trains on Sundays are filled; and whether he has reconsidered the introduction of cheap fares at all or certain seasons of the year on such electric lines as could carry additional passengers without providing additional trains.

I assume the hon. Member has particularly in mind the suburban services of the Southern Railway. I have examined his suggestion sympathetically, but I am advised that, while some trains outward are not fully loaded, there is a concentration of returning passengers on Sunday evenings, and any additional traffic would generally need an increase in services to clear the passengers. It would be impracticable to apply a system of cheap fares to particular services only, according to the density of the traffic using them.

Will the Minister send me the figures on which the first part of his reply is based. Also, does he think that the lack of enterprise shown, under Government control, in this matter, will be intensified or reduced under national ownership?

I will certainly see if there is any further information which I can submit to the hon. Member.

Breakdown, Metropolitan Line

23 and 24.

asked the Minister of Transport (1) why no diversion of omnibuses was made by the L.P.T.B. on the evening of 2nd July to deal with passengers who were unable to alight at Preston Road and Northwick Park, Metropolitan line, because of a train breakdown;

(2) why passengers to Northwick Park and Preston Road were not informed at Wembley Park that trains scheduled to stop at these stations would not do so because of a breakdown on the evening of 2nd July.

The breakdown occurred on the northbound local line from Wembley Park to Harrow. Arrangements were made for passengers for Preston Road and Northwick Park to proceed to Harrow on the fast line and return to those stations on the southbound local line. This was announced by loudspeaker and station staff at Wembley Park on the arrival of each northbound train. The southbound local line was also out of service for 22 minutes, during which time it was arranged for passengers to use the omnibus services from Harrow to Northwick Park. There is no existing omnibus service to Preston Road and the train service resumed before a special omnibus service could be improvised.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has been misinformed, and that for three-quarters of an hour no information was given to any passenger at Wembley Park about the fact that trains were not stopping, and, further, that no attempts were made to put on any buses at Harrow, despite the fact that there are inspectors stationed at Wembley Park for the railway and at Harrow for the buses? Will my right hon. Friend see that the Transport Board allow them to use their own initiative without first referring to headquarters?

I am not aware that I have been misinformed. I will certainly check up the further statements of my hon. Friend.

Lost Property (Sales)

27.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give details of property, goods and commodities lost or found on the railways during 1946 by reason of inadequate packing and insufficient address, and the proceeds of salvage sales for that year, giving the information as far as possible upon a departmental basis.

I regret that information in the form desired by my hon. Friend is not available. The total receipts realised in 1946 from the sale of salvage were £286,786, of which £226,926 was for the goods departments and £59,860 for the passenger departments.

Dining Car, Euston-North Wales

34.

asked the Minister of Transport the reason why, since June last, there is no restaurant car on the 1.30 p.m. train from Euston to North Wales; and whether he will make representations to the railway company to restore this facility in view of its importance to the tourist traffic.

To provide a dining car would reduce the accommodation which is already heavily loaded. The train leaves at a rather late hour for lunch and passengers for North Wales have half an hour to wait at Crewe during which they can obtain refreshments. The 11.15 a.m. from Euston direct to North Wales has a dining car.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this train is invariably half an hour late at Crewe, that there always used to be a dining car on it, and that L.M.S. services to North Wales continue progressively to deteriorate?

Central London Line (Services)

37.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the increased congestion on the Central London Line since its extension East to Leyton and West to Greenford; what additional trains have been put on this line; and what further steps he is taking to relieve the congestion, particularly in the morning and evening rush hours.

Yes, Sir. Additional trains are now being run, seven in the morning peak and three in the evening peak. The service cannot at present be improved further, but by about the end of the year, when certain stages of the works now in hand are completed, it will be possible materially to increase peak capacity.

Can the Minister explain why there are only three trains in the evenings and seven in the mornings, and can he say how soon further steps will be taken to relieve this congestion which I personally get from both ends, as my constituency is at one end of the line and my home at the other?

Season Tickets (Students And Trainees)

39.

asked the Minister of Transport whether the two-thirds season ticket concession for those between 16 and 18 years of age will be extended to all students and trainees over the age of 18 years attending training establishments.

No, Sir. With the extension recently announced, the scope of the concession of reduced season ticket rates is already very wide and no further extension can be contemplated.

Main Line Companies (Earnings)

42.

asked the Minister of Transport the estimated deficiency on the amounts payable under the Railway Control Agreement in respect of the earnings of the main line companies for 1947 and 1948, respectively; and what action he proposes to take to meet it.

It is estimated that in 1947 the pooled net revenues of the main line railway companies will fall short of the fixed annual sums payable to them under the Railway Control Agreement by some £37 million. The Control Agreement will be terminated at the end of this year, when the railways will pass to the British Transport Commission, but an estimate on a similar basis for 1948 indicates a deficiency of about £28 million. Neither estimate takes account of any additional cost which would be incurred should effect be given to the recent recommendation of the Court of Inquiry into wages and hours of work of railwaymen. With regard to the last part of the Question, I expect to be in a position to make a statement before the Recess.

Before my right hon. Friend makes a statement regarding any action which he proposes to take, will he take into full consideration the desirability of subsidising the railways at the present time, in view of the incidence of an increase in railway charges on the cost of production?

All relevant considerations will he taken into account, but that will not avoid the necessity of making a decision to meet the existing circumstances.

May I ask my right hon. Friend how far the Railway Rates Tribunal, or whatever its other name is now, has been wrong in its estimates?

The Consultative Committee, which functions in the place of the Railway Rates Tribunal, submitted a report to me recently on this matter, and estimates, figures and information have not been accurate. I am not so very much concerned with what has happened in the past; I am proceeding on the information which I have at my disposal at the moment.

Wagons (Manufacture And Repair)

62.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to ensure the speed-up of the manufacture and repair of railway goods wagons.

Production and repair of railway wagons are proceeding as rapidly as the available supply of materials allows.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether there is any shortage of skilled staff in this particular work, or is the shortage due mainly to materials?

As the right hon. Gentleman now puts the main problem on the question of supplies, is he satisfied, and can he satisfy the House that, in turn, the Minister of Supply is providing him with all the necessary supplies he needs, for he will recall that one of the main reasons for the fuel crisis was a transport breakdown, and we cannot afford to have such a breakdown again? May I have a reply?

Would my right hon. Friend say to what extent he is utilising the facilities available to him from the First Lord of the Admiralty?

I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the naval dockyards?

They are assisting from time to time in this work, but mainly with regard to locomotives.

Wages Award (Cost)

43.

asked the Minister of Transport the estimated cost of the award of the court of inquiry into the claims of the employees of the railway companies; and what action he proposes to take in regard thereto.

The railway companies estimate that the cost in 1947 and 1948, including the consequential increase in the maintenance charge provided for in the Railway Control Agreement, would be about £22 million and £37 million respectively. In regard to the second part of the Question, a decision is in course of being taken, and an announcement will he made immediately.

Roads

Carriers' Licences

21.

asked the Minister ot Transport how many applications for "A" and "B" licences respectively have been made in each of the last six quarter-years for which figures are available; in how many cases was the grant of such licences opposed by a railway company: and how many licences were granted.

I regret that quarterly figures are not available. The most recent annual figures are for the year ended 30th September, 1938, and I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving some relevant statistical information in respect of that year.

Following is the statement:

The figures of applications for "A" and "B" currency carriers' licences and variations for the year ended 30th September, 1938, are as follow:

Total applications (all traffic areas)Total granted
"A" currency licences and variations8,3856,783
"B" currency licences and variations39,65736,855

Figures in respect of applications objected to by the railway companies are not available for the North Western and East Midland Traffic Areas. The figures for the remaining ten traffic areas for the year ended 30th September, 1938, are as follow:

Applications (10 traffic areas).Granted.Objected to by railway companies.
'A' currency licences and variations6,2895,1572,007
"B" currency licences and variations.30,65828,5193,864

Motor Cars (Spare Parts)

22.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the existing shortage of spare parts for motor cars, he will institute a system of priority under the direction of the certifying officer of his Department for the allocation of these parts.

No, Sir. I am convinced there is not sufficient justification for reimposing such a priority scheme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while there is a large black market in motor car spares, large numbers of deserving people cannot get their cars on to the road through lack of these spares? Will he see that some attention is given to their needs?

I have certainly examined carefully the problem of re-imposing a priority scheme, but I am satisfied that it would be a move in the wrong direction.

Pedestrian Crossings (Coloured Surfaces)

25 and 26.

asked the Minister of Transport (1) if, in the interests of road safety, he will authorise the painting of pedestrian crossings with amber zig-zag lines;

(2) if he has now completed his review of the results of experiments using coloured surfaces for pedestrian crossings; and what conclusions he has come to.

The use of coloured surfaces for pedestrian crossings is being investigated by the Road Research Board and I propose to await the results of their work before reaching a conclusion.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that motorists are at present paying sufficient respect to pedestrian crossings, and, if not, will he speed up some measures to ensure such respect?

No, I am not satisfied that motorists are paying sufficient attention to pedestrian crossings. We are certainly trying to expedite this particular examination.

Will the Minister say whether, under this scheme, pedestrians are expected to take a zig-zag course?

Would the Minister see that paint of a permanent character is used so that the markings will be "forever amber"?

Concrete Ramps, Crawley By-Pass

28.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that a number of good concrete ramps which were made by the Army by the Crawley by-pass are now being broken up; if he will state the reason for this action in view of the fact that such ramps provided an excellent parking place for lorries engaged upon night transport; and why labour is now being employed on this unnecessary work.

The ramps on the Crawley by-pass formed the foundations of buildings erected during the war. They lie across cycle tracks and footpaths which it is now necessary to reinstate on grounds of public safety One of the ramps is being retained as a car park, but the others are unsuitable for this purpose because of their location and level.

I cannot say whether: I comes under the problem of priority, but I certainly think that the needs of cyclists and pedestrians should always be considered by the Ministry of Transport.

Bath Road, Cranford (Speed Limit)

31.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the dangerous traffic conditions on the Bath Road through Cranford village, he will give further sympathetic consideration to submissions made by the Middlesex County Council at the request of the Heston and Isleworth Borough Council that a 30-mile speed limit be imposed on the section of the Bath Road between Cranford Bridge and the Great West Road junction.

The accident record shows that speed has not been a substantial factor in the occurrence of accidents at this spot, and I do not think that the imposition of a speed limit is necessary. Work on the widening of the carriageway at the junction with Berkeley Avenue, to which my right hon. Friend referred in his reply to my hon. Friend on 26th February, will start in the next few weeks.

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is the sort of answer he gave me about 12 months ago? It was then regarded as quite unsatisfactory and in view of the anxiety felt by parents of children attending the nearby junior and infants' school, is he prepared to approve a conference held on the spot between officials of his Department and the local council officials in order to determine the best scheme whereby this dangerous element can be removed?

This matter has been gone into very carefully and we are satisfied that the danger arises from the narrowness of the carriageway at certain spots. We are taking immediate steps to rectify that danger as far as possible. It there is any further information which my hon. Friend can give me, I am prepared to consider it.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that if the carriageway is narrow we cannot wait until it is widened? The obvious thing is to use all immediate remedies available, and will the Minister do that?

is the Minister prepared to consider the matter further because, unless he is, I must give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment?

The work proposed is to start within a few weeks. I think we might wait and see what happens.

Will the Minister say whether his objection to a speed limit here is in any way due to the fact that the Bath road was built as an alternative to the old Bath road and was, therefore, intended as a road where there should be no speed limit?

Sign-Posting, London Area

32.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will review the sign-posting of roads out of London, and especially those south of the river, in view of its inadequacy and the trouble caused to motorists resulting therefrom.

Sign-posting in London will be improved when supplies are available. In a circular to highway authorities on 1st March, 1946, I asked them to consider the erection of further direction signs of the type recommended by the Departmental Committee on Traffic Signs.

Will the Minister bear in mind that speed is of the essence of this matter and that under present arrangements there is considerable wastage of petrol and unnecessary wear and tear of tyres?

On a previous Question, evidently speed was regarded as advantageous. I will take notice of my hon. Friend's statement.

Can the Minister say when he expects these supplies to be available?

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that when these designs are introduced they will read, "Turn Right. It's the only way out"?

Road Widening, Norwich (Wall)

33.

asked the Minister of Transport how many man-hours of labour have been used on the building of a boundary wall along the Yarmouth road west of Thunder Lane in Thorpe St. Andrew, Norwich; how soon the wall will be finished; and what has been the reason for the construction of such a wall at this particular juncture.

Two thousand and thirty six man-hours have so far been spent on the construction of the wall, and 160 will be required for completion. It is expected to finish the work by the end of this month. The wall replaces one which collapsed because of vibration caused by traffic. The opportunity was taken to widen the road and provide a new footpath at this danger spot and as part of the terms of land acquisition the new wall was constructed in the style of the original.

Buses (Standing Passengers)

40.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his regulations entitle the conductor of an omnibus plying for hire to refuse admission to a passenger when the omnibus is not full; and whether the conductor is sole judge of whether the omnibus is full or not.

This is a matter normally covered by operators' instructions to their staffs. The regulation allows carriage of a limited number of standing passengers at certain times, but it is permissive and it is for operators to decide how far they will take advantage of it.

Is the Minister aware that in their anxiety not to carry one passenger over the odds, buses frequently run with an incomplete load thereby penalising the long suffering public and wasting money; and cannot he devise some system whereby it can be shown effectively to those waiting to get on a bus whether the top is full or not?

I should hope that this is a very rare and exceptional case. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] My reply shows that we have not powers at the present moment, but I certainly feel that the hon. and gallant Member has raised a rather important point.

Will my right hon. Friend look into this matter again because there is a great deal of substance in the Question? Frequently people are prevented from boarding buses on the plea that the bus is full, when as a matter of fact the bus is not full, either upstairs or down, but one cannot stand and argue.

Again I would ask hon. Members to look at my reply which indicates the powers I have in the matter. That does not mean that I do not accept the views of hon. Members: I do.

In view of the increasing length of queues of people waiting for admission to omnibuses, will my right hon. Friend consider so amending the regulations to make it clear that members of the public have a right to board an omnibus until the permitted number of standing passengers has been reached?

I can only repeat what I have stated already. I note the interest which the House takes in this matter, and it is my very strong desire to support in every possible way.

Reconditioned Motor Cars (Ex-Service Men)

63.

asked the Minister of Transport how many disabled ex-Service men are on the waiting list for reconditioned ex-Service motor cars.

Shipping

Radio Apparatus Consignment (Loading)

35.

asked the Minister of Transport why, on Saturday, 7th June, 20 cases' of radio apparatus consigned for shipment by s.s. "Johilla" were not permitted to be loaded on the said ship at Royal Albert Docks, London, although space had been allocated to them in the ship; and what action is being taken by his Department to prevent a recurrence of such happenings.

I have no information, and I cannot find that the shipping line concerned or the Port of London Authority have any knowledge of the incident.

If I furnish the right hon. Gentleman with that information, which his colleague the President of the Board of Trade apparently thought that the right hon. Gentleman had, will he look into it?

British Owned Ships (Registration)

38.

asked the Minister of Transport if a vessel now berthed in one of the South Wales ports, particulars of which have been sent to him, is owned by British citizens or persons domiciled in Great Britain; why the vessel is registered in Panama; and if he will take action, by legislation or otherwise, to prevent British shipowners registering their vessels under another flag thereby evading certain obligations which are required from ships registered in Great Britain.

The owners of the ship referred to do not come within any of the descriptions set out in Section 1 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, of persons qualified to own a British ship and consequently would not be entitled to register the ship as a British ship. With regard to the last part of the Question, the existing law requires every British ship, that is to say a ship owned by persons qualified to own a British ship, to be registered as such and provides appropriate penalties for failure to do so.

European Central Inland Transport Organisation

36.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the importance of transport in the economic recovery of Europe, the European Central Inland Transport Organisation will he kept in being until its activities are taken over by the Economic Commission for Europe.

As I informed my hon. Friend on 12th May last, the position of this organisation was precarious owing to the failure of certain countries, chiefly the U.S.S.R., to pay in full their outstanding contributions. Representations to these countries did not produce sufficient funds to enable the staff of the organisation to be paid beyond 30th June with the unfortunate result that it is now in process of dissolution and indeed some of the staff are not receiving payments due to them. I much regret the situation that has arisen, as the activities of this transport organisation were making an exceedingly valuable contribution to the rehabilitation of Europe. Moreover, this precipitate dissolution means that the desire of both the Economic and Social Council and the Economic Commission for Europe that the essential work of this organisation should be continued until it can be taken over by the Commission cannot now be carried out.

Lptb (Improved Working Conditions)

44.

asked the Minister of Transport the cost of the recent improvements in working conditions granted certain employees of the L.P.T.B.

The London Passenger Transport Board estimate that the cost, in 1947 and 1948, of giving effect to the agreements which operated from 25th June, 1947, will be about £775,000 and £1,410,000, respectively.

Canned Vegetables (Research)

45.

asked the Lord President of the Council what is the latest advice of the Medical Research Council and the Department of Scientific and industrial Research on the danger of tinned vegetables; and whether he will make a statement on this matter.

I am advised that this is not a matter for research at the present time, the relevant facts being already well known. The risk is practically confined to foods preserved without due regard to the precautions officially recommended.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the evidence given by a pathologist at a recent inquest that a statement had been made by the Ministry of Health that these vegetables might be terribly dangerous, and will he see to it that it is generally made known that that statement, if made, was not correct?

On the other hand, there was a statement which appeared in the Press of 17th July, issued on the authority of the Ministry of Health and stating that the risk with commercially canned vegetables is non-existent, as proper canning machinery and a sufficiently high steam pressure are employed to ensure complete sterility, but that there may be some slight risk with home bottled or canned vegetables.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information given in his reply to the supplementary question will be very assuring to the general public?

Agriculture

Afforestation (Land Allocation)

46.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is satisfied that the fullest efforts are being made to use all available home-grown timber which is suitable for housing and furniture making, with a view to increasing the timber supplies immediately and enabling this woodland to he replanted in accordance with the re-afforestation schemes of the Forestry Commission, in Freference to taking over fresh agricultural land.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that mature timber in parts of North Devon, mainly ash, oak and beech, is available or could he made available for the furniture trade and that, if it was taken, it would enable land to be used for replanting trees, instead of taking fresh agricultural land?

If my hon. Friend will, give me any specific cases and the exact areas where this happens to be the case, I can assure him that ready use will be made of it.

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are taken before land is planted with trees under Forestry Commission schemes to ensure that the land is suitable for growing trees; that no other land in the district is more suitable; and that land of greater value for agriculture is not being absorbed.

Only land placed at their disposal by the Minister of Agricul- ture or by the Secretary of State for Scotland can be used by the Forestry Commissioners for afforestation purposes. Before each acquisition, the suitability of the land for growing trees is determined by technically qualified officers, and agreement is reached between the Agricultural Department and the Forestry Commission as to the land to be used for afforestation purposes. Land of greater value to agriculture is not allocated for afforestation.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that agricultural land which has proved unsuitable for growing trees over a number of years has been allocated to the planting of trees, again in North Devon, and will he look into the case and see if there is any other land which is more suitable for afforestation?

I am not aware that there is any land suitable for afforestation which has been reserved for agriculture, unless there is a real agricultural use for that particular land, but I will gladly look into any case which any hon. Member brings to my notice.

Warble Fly

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the damage to the production of milk, beef and hides by the warble fly; and if he will now consider making an order under the Diseases of Animals Acts for compulsory dressing of all cattle, whereby the numbers of warble flies might be substantially reduced.

I am aware of the damage caused by the warble fly, but, as the dressing of cattle before March to destroy warbles would not be effective, the question of making an order does not arise at the moment.

In view of the fact that sheep are now only to be dipped once a year, would not the police have time to see that such an order was properly carried out?

I understand that all warble flies that emerge between mid-March and the end of June are likely to give rise to another generation. That is why I feel that, at this moment, at all events, there is no point in making such an order.

Would it not be advisable to avoid compulsion, in the absence of adequate farm labour necessary for the application of the derris wash at the appropriate time; and is not my right hon. Friend aware that he might overcome this problem by prevailing upon the Minister of Food to pay different prices for designated hides according to the condition in which they arrive at his depots?

I think that that question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food.

In view of the importance of this matter, and the great loss to the leather industry in this country, particulars of which are readily available from the Leather Merchants' Association, will the right hon. Gentleman look into this question again, because the trouble in the compulsory dressing of cattle is no more than in the compulsory dipping of sheep?

As I have already explained, treatment at this moment would be ineffective. It is only between mid-March and the end of June that treatment would be effective.

Five-Furrow Ploughs

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will authorise an increased release of five-furrow ploughs to the home market.

In order to meet the needs of home farmers, arrangements have recently been made for the diversion to the home market of a substantial proportion of the five-furrow ploughs which have been specially built to meet export orders.

Is the Minister aware that a substantial proporton of these ploughs are, in point of fact, of a type which is unsuitable for use on English soil?

Yes, Sir, but there happens to be only one firm in this country which makes them.

Wool (Average Price)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the average price paid to the English farmer for his wool; and at what average price is this passed on to the manufacturer.

For the season ended 30th April, 1047, the average price paid for wool to the British farmers was 17.44 pence per pound. The average price to manufacturers was 17.184 pence per pound.

Grass Seed

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what are the total requirements of grass seed for England including Wales and Scotland, respectively, in a normal year; and what quantity has so far been imported during 1947.

No separate figures are available of the annual requirements of the various descriptions of grass seeds in England and Wales and Scotland, respectively. For the United Kingdom as a whole, it is estimated that between 30,000 and 35,000 tons of seed of the principal agricultural grasses are needed for sowing throughout the season, based on current cropping programmes. The quantity of these seeds imported during the first six months of 1047 was 1600 tons.

is the Minister aware that in my constituency about 3,000 acres of grass seed, sown at the request of his Ministry, is no longer needed for this purpose, and will he ensure, if he still wishes seed to be grown for export, that an assurance is given to farmers that their seed will find a market?

It may very well happen that, at one and the same time, there is a surplus of one kind of seed and a shortage of another, which can only be obtained by imports. I can assure my hon. Friend that we do not encourage people to grow seeds unless we feel that there is going to be a market available for them.

Animal Health Division (Veterinary Surgeons)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many appointments for veterinary surgeons in his Animal Health Division are unfilled; and what salaries are being offered for these posts.

There are about 140 vacancies on the permanent staff, of which 75 are at present filled by temporary officers. These vacancies are in the basic grade for which the salary scale in the country is £520 for men of 25 rising to a maximum of £960. The salary is slightly higher for veterinary surgeons stationed in London and certain provincial cities.

Does my right hon. Friend regard this basic salary as sufficient considering the long training and the responsibility of the work involved?

My advisers are satisfied that these salary scales are regarded as satisfactory when compared with those of other professional and scientific civil servants.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in some ways, it is more important to be a "vet." than to be a doctor because the "vet's" patients cannot tell him what is wrong with them; and, further, will he not have a look at these salary scales because they compare unfavourably with those for doctors?

I certainly do not disagree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question.

Drainage Works

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture by what date he aims to have the work completed of restoring the existing drainage system damaged by the floods; and if he is satisfied that the work will be done in time to ensure that there is no flooding caused by the normal rainfall and tides before that date.

The drainage authorities concerned feel confident that they will be able to complete the necessary rehabilitation works before next winter, and, in some cases, to incorporate a measure of improvement to their embankments. Given normal weather and tidal conditions, flooding should not occur before the works are completed.

Could the right non. Gentleman give an approximate date, as people do not know when the work is going to begin?

It is quite impossible to give a date, that being determined by numerous local factors.

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many men are employed in the North Level Internal Board's area and in the Great Ouse Catchment Board's area on restoration of the existing system of drainage; how many have been asked for by the respective boards; how many additional men will be made available for long-term schemes in the Welland and Great Ouse Catchment Board's areas; and when work will start on such schemes.

Over 200 men are now employed by the North Level Commissioners, and some 500 by the River Great Ouse Catchment Board on restoration and improvement work. Prisoner-of-war labour has been made available as required. The availability of supervisors and of local accommodation will determine the rate at which further labour, if it should prove necessary, can be absorbed. All practicable steps are being taken to help the Boards. As regards the last part of the Question, I assume that the hon. and gallant Member has in mind the major improvement scheme of the River Welland Catchment Board, and the revised flood protection scheme of the Great Ouse Catchment Board. The former scheme was approved by my Department in November last, but detailed information about the latter scheme has yet to be submitted. Both Boards have urgent rehabilitation works in hand which must be completed without delay. However, the Welland Board will start work on the outfall end of their major schemes shortly. Before work can begin on the other scheme a number of preliminaries, including the acquisition of land, must be completed.

While I appreciate the length of the answer, could the right hon. Gentleman answer in detail, the third part of the Question, as to how many men have been asked for by the respective boards?

Crown Houses, Kew

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture why the Crown properties, 17 and 19, The Green, Kew, Surrey, have been unoccupied for 16 years although these houses are capable of being made fit for habitation; and, in view of the serious housing problem which exists in the neighbourhood, if he will take steps to arrange that they be placed at the disposal of the local authority to rehouse homeless families from their waiting list.

These houses, which are 200 years old, were regarded before the war as fit only for demolition, and it was proposed to rebuild them (retaining their facade on account of its architectural interest) as an official residence for the Assistant Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. This proposal had to be postponed on the outbreak of war, but it is intended to proceed with the work as soon as conditions permit. I am advised that the present state of the buildings is such that they could not be adapted for housing purposes.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a local builder is quite prepared to adapt these houses at reasonable cost and make them fit for habitation; and would he look into this matter again, and offer them to the Home Secretary to see if it is possible for him to make use of them in connection with the housing of N.F.S. firemen for whom he has had great difficulty in finding accommodation?

I understand that various proposals have been made about these two cottages over the past 17 years, but none of the proposals were accepted, and after 17 years, I feel that deterioration will now have reached such a point that it would be folly to make a payment to make them habitable.

Does the Minister now say that no steps will be taken, if for no other reason than that of historical sentiment, to see that these fine old Georgian houses are preserved?

Yes. I hope that, if conditions permit, work will proceed on them. We hope not only to retain the facade, but to make them available for the Assistant Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Dominion Food Gifts

59.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what extra quantities of food have been brought to the United Kingdom from Canada, Australia and New Zealand through voluntary individual surrenders of food coupons for the benefit of this country.

I have been asked to reply. As the answer is rather long, and contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman noticed the cables in "The Times" to the effect that people in the Dominions are feeling aggrieved that they have drawn in their belts without any apparent advantage to ours, and will he arrange for any figures he has to be published in the Dominions, both in the Press and through the B.B.C., if possible?

Following is the answer:

Reference has been made in this matter by telegram to the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Australian Government have stated that it is not possible to relate exactly over a period what increased shipments have been made as a result of voluntary surrendering of food coupons; but that, as the only markets for the disposal of meat and butter are domestic consumption in Australia against coupons and shipments to the United Kingdom Ministry of Food, it is obvious that any saving made in domestic consumption by the surrender of coupons will, to that extent, increase the supply of meat and butter available for shipment to the United Kingdom. This is also the position in the case of New Zealand. The following figures show the approximate amounts represented by the voluntary surrendering of coupons:

  • Australia (from May, 1947)—
  • Meat—3 million lb.
  • Butter—54,000 lb.
  • New Zealand (from April, 1946)—
  • Meat—4¾ million lb.
  • Butter—196,000 lb.

In the case of Canada, meat is the only food affected, as Canada did not export other rationed foods to the United Kingdom. During the period of meat rationing in Canada (September, 1945, to March, 1947) the amount of meat exported to the United Kingdom, as a result of the surrender of coupons, was, approximately, 3 million lb.

Newfoundland Fish (Markets)

61.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what action he is taking to find an alternative market for fresh or frozen fish from Newfoundland, which, during the war, formed part of the United Kingdom's supply of fish.

Since it proved necessary to inform the Newfoundland Government that the dollar position precludes the United. Kingdom from purchasing frozen fish from Newfoundland during 1947, the Commission of Government are taking all possible steps to find alternative markets for this fish.

Ministry Of Supply

Surplus Stores And War Equipment (Sales)

64.

asked the Minister of Supply what conditions apply to the sale of Government stores and war equipment to ensure the protection of the public from profiteering on the part of dealers and retailers.

Where necessary, prices are controlled, either by agreement with the trade, by Statutory Order, or, as in the case of machine tools, by my Department conducting the sale at a fixed price for each article.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that in the case of officers' field boots, his Department disposed of these at 25s. a pair, and that their price in the shops is 65s., and that, in the case of deck shoes, his Department are getting 7s. 6d. a pair, whereas the retail price to the public is 22s. 6d. a pair? Does he consider it justified that the price should go up three times before the public get them?

The price of second-hand clothing to the consumer is fixed after consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Does my right hon. Friend consider that a price increase of 300 per cent. is a fair margin?

Ordnance Factory, Irvine

65.

asked the Minister of Supply what civilian products are now being manufactured at the Royal Ordnance factory, Irvine; how many men and women are employed there; and whether it is contemplated increasing production and employment.