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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 440: debated on Tuesday 22 July 1947

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Greater London Plan (Industries)

1.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what powers he exercises in areas where decentralisation of industry and population is recommended in the Greater London Plan to prevent the continued use for industrial purposes of industrial sites and premises which are vacant or fall vacant at any time.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. Fred Marshall)

The Minister exercises general powers of direction over local authorities, who in their turn have powers to prevent the continued use of industrial buildings, where the premises have been vacant for a period of 18 months, or where a substantial change in the industrial use is proposed. Subject to confirmation by the Minister, local authorities have also power to purchase such premises if they are required for development of a different character. More effective powers for the prevention of the continued use of land and buildings are contained in the Town and Country Planning Bill now before Parliament.

Is my hon. Friend aware that all efforts so far made to prevent further industrial development in congested areas have proved unsuccessful, and that continued industrial intensification continues apace?

I cannot accept the statement that all our efforts have proved unsuccessful in this regard. We are watching the position very carefully, and I have already indicated that powers are incorporated in the new planning Measure.

Would not the Minister agree that the time has come when industry should be stopped from coming to London, and should be spread all over the country, where there is plenty of room and people are looking for work?

So far as the London regional area is concerned, we have adopted a decentralisation policy.

58.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of approvals for extensions and new industrial projects since June, 1945, in London and the Greater London area as shown in the Greater London plan; the additional labour involved; and how the additional floor space and labour is dispersed throughout the region.

In the period beginning 1st June, 1945, and ending 31st May, 1947, approval has been given to 267 projects for new factories and extensions in the Greater London Area. These projects when completed and fully operating will require an additional 16,000 workers. The projects are widely dispersed throughout the area, but the information is not readily available as to their distribution in relation to the four zones described in the Greater London Plan.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the granting of approval for industrial projects in London increases the industrial concentration in London and Greater London, and will he not ensure that more of these projects go to development and other areas?

I can assure my hon. Friend that before any approval is given for any extension or new building project in London, full consideration is given to the possibility of having it transferred elsewhere, and only in the most urgent and necessary cases is approval given for buildings in London.

Old Age Pensions

Staff, Blackpool Office

2.

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many persons are employed at the Blackpool branch of his Department dealing with old-age pensions; and if he is satisfied with the organisation and administration thereof.

On 30th June. 2,269 persons were employed at Blacknool in the administration of the old age, widows' and orphans' pensions, of approximately four million people. As regards the second part of the Question, the decision to introduce last October the new pension provisions in the absence of a system of local offices, placed a great strain on the organisation of all three central pension offices of my Department, but particularly on the Blackpool office. I am satisfied that the necessary measures have been taken and will continue to be taken with the help of the local organisation of the Assistance Board to overcome the resulting difficulties and adapt the organisation to meet the requirements of the new scheme short of setting up the network of local offices, which must wait until next year.

As the right hon. Gentleman says he is satisfied, could he say how many old age pensions are still outstanding?

If the hon. Member will put down a Question, I will give him an answer.

4.

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many employees found redundant at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Euxton, Lancashire, are now employed in the Blackpool branch of his Department.

Public Assistance Institutions (Inmates)

3.

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many old age pensioners residing in public assistance institutions have not yet received pensions at the increased rate.

Of the 21,892 persons receiving contributory old age pensions in public assistance institutions all but 215 are in receipt of pensions at the increased rates. These 215 are in the main married women whose husbands have not yet qualified for the increased rate of pension.

Personal Case

8.

asked the Minister of National Insurance why Mrs. A. C. Messent, 95, Blandford Road, Beckenham, Kent, 71 years of age, has not been issued with her new pension book; and, in view of the fact that numerous letters to Blackpool have only been acknowledged with printed cards, particulars of which have been sent to him, if he will have inquiries made and take disciplinary action against the officials concerned.

A pension book containing weekly orders at the increased rate of 16s. was issued to Mrs. Messent in October last. This was the correct rate of pension payable to her on the records held in my Department which showed that her original pension had been awarded in right of her husband's insurance.

On 26th February the area officer of the Assistance Board reported that Mrs. Messent claimed to have an alternative right to pension at the 26s. rate based on her own insurance. Inquiries were necessary to establish that the statutory conditions of award on this basis were fulfilled. These inquiries were duly completed, and a pension order book at the 26s. rate, together with an adjusting payment, were exchanged for the book from which she had previously been receiving payments at 16s. weekly, on 17th July. My inquiries show that there were unnecessary delays in the handling of this case, and I am taking suitable action.

Does it not all prove that the administration of centralised control must break down, as the right hon. Gentleman was warned two years ago?

I have had to administer these schemes which were built up by previous Governments.

Is the Minister aware that thousands of people are waiting for their pensions, and is he aware of the hardship that is being caused? If so, how can he possibly be satisfied with the administration?

I have told the House more than once that this central administration was not of my creation. I do not propose to use it for the new scheme, but I have had to use the administration which was there, and which was created by previous Governments.

This Question deals with an individual pension, and not with administration.

Supplementary Pensions, Wallsend

11.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that, in the Wallsend area, men who apply for a supplementary pension are only allowed 6d., making a total of 26s. 6d., yet others living in the same building, Simpson's Hotel, paying the same rent of gs., who, apply for public assistance receive in total LI 15s.; and if he will instruct his Department to be more generous with the supplementary pension, so that pensioners have an income equal to those receiving help from the public assistance committee.

I am making inquiries into the circumstances of this case and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

12.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that people living in Wallsend and receiving a supplementary pension of 6d., have to travel to North Shields to obtain it; and if he will either consider establishing an office in Wallsend borough, seeing that the omnibus fare to North Shields is 6d., or give instructions for the omnibus fare to be paid in addition to the supplementary pensions.

Supplementary pensions are payable at the Post Office at which the pensioner cashes his main pension and there is no need for supplementary pensioners in Wallsend to travel to North Shields for this purpose. If, exceptionally, a supplementary pensioner is required to call at an area office, the Assistance Board tell me that their officers have been authorised to pay any necessary fares.

National Insurance

Contributory Pensions

5.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will take the necessary steps to amend regulations made under the National Insurance Act, 1946, whereby the amount of dependants' war pension is taken into account, and deducted from the contributory pension payable to recipients of dependants' war pensions, as this regulation defeats the principle of contributory pension right under the National Insurance Act.

The increased rates of pension introduced last October are payable under the existing Contributory Pensions Acts which, since their inception, have included specific provisions to limit the duplication of dependants' war pension with contributory pensions. Under the National Insurance Act, 1946, which is to come into operation next year, the matter is left to be dealt with in regulations under Section 30. I cannot anticipate the content of the regulations, which have to be submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee and subsequently to this House.

Re-Marriage (Family Allowances)

6.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether a widower with one child, for whom no allowance is made, and a widow with two children entitled to the allowance for one child, will, on marrying again, be entitled to payments for two children; and if he is aware that his Department has not yet reached a decision regarding a man and woman so placed by marriage last November.

Yes, Sir. If all three children are below the prescribed age limits, family allowances in respect of the two younger children will be payable. I have made inquiries into the individual case to which my hon. Friend refers and find that payment of allowances at the rate of 10s. a week have now been authorised.

Why should it take five months to deal with a simple issue like this? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I hold in my hand five acknowledgements involving time, labour and expense, and covering a period of almost five months, each giving the same answer, which obviously could not have been true if the matter was being attended to and investigated?

Every communication to my Department is acknowledged by postcard. I think that is desirable. I would not accept the view that all these cases of changed family circumstances are simple, but I agree that a case of this kind ought to have been dealt with much sooner. I am taking steps to alter the methods by which we handle these changes in family circumstances which are not always as simple as they seem.

Dental Benefit

10.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will take the necessary steps to enable approved societies to refund to their members some portion of the cost any of the latter may have had to incur in payment for dental treatment as private patients during the recent period in which dentists refused to accept dental letters.

As I explained in reply to a Question on this subject by the hon. Member for West Harrow (Mr. Bower) on 11th March, I have considered the suggestion that I should amend the regulations to enable such payments to be made but felt bound to reject it. In any case such an amendment of the regulations could not have retrospective effect.

Employment

European Volunteer Workers

13.

asked the Minister of Labour what action he is taking to ensure that displaced persons now arriving in this country with experience in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, are being encouraged to take up such employment.

European volunteer workers possessing such experience are quickly placed in agricultural employment, subject, of course, to no British or Polish worker being available, and we are particularly anxious to obtain from farmers applications to employ a man and his wife where suitable accommodation is available.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a number of these Baltic displaced persons with special university degrees in agriculture and forestry are now employed in humble positions in the textile industry, and that one Balt who has a forestry degree is washing dishes near Cambridge? Will he look into this matter again?

Certainly I will have the details about any such Balt looked at. Our intention is to try to put them into the job where they can make the best contribution.

Is not the experience of each displaced person known and compiled before they are brought here?

Each person is interviewed and states his qualifications, and as far as possible he is fitted into the job in our economy in which he can make the biggest contribution.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that individuals supplied to positions of this kind are very fortunately placed compared with those applying for employment in the mines, in so far as they have not to he screened by the miners' union?

23.

asked the Minister of Labour why the recruitment of displaced persons as European volunteer workers has not been extended to Italy; and if he will now so extend it.

The outstanding labour demands in this country which the scheme for the recruitment of European volunteer workers is designed to help to meet are to a very considerable extent for women workers. It is understood that the displaced persons in Italy are mainly men, and that the field for the recruitment of women workers is extremely small. It was, therefore, at this stage considered desirable to concentrate on the recruitment of European volunteer workers in Germany and Austria as the most fruitful field. A high proportion of the men recruited in these countries are in fact relatives of women workers who are coming here at the same time. I shall, however, be glad to consider later the question of recruitment from Italy in relation to the progress of recruitment from Germany and Austria.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not there is any machinery in Italy for recruiting these people?

No, Sir. We have no machinery yet, but we have had a survey made by the International Relief Organisation, and we have all the facts at our disposal.

Poles

14.

asked the Minister of Labour how many members of the Polish Resettlement Corps there were in the United Kingdom who, on the latest convenient date, had not yet been placed in civilian employment; and what percentage this represents of the total strength of the corps in the United Kingdom.

Approximately 70,000 at i9th July, which is about 70 per cent. of the total. Thirty-six thousand of these are employed in Polish administration or on Service Department tasks. The number placed in civilian employment up to 19th July was about 29,000.

West Cumberland (Labour Requirements)

16.

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent the labour requirements of the proposed atomic-energy generating station at Drigg, Cumberland, conflict with those for the proposed acetate yarn plant at Sellafield; and what are the relevant labour statistics

Very careful consideration is being given to this question, and I am not in a position at present to make any statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in West Cumberland we still have some unemployment, and of those who are employed many of them are on temporary work and therefore there should be no labour conflict in relation to the new factories? Is he further aware that we should like to attract back to West Cumberland the thousands of people who left the area during the interwar years?

Dismissed Postmen (Glasgow)

21.

asked the Minister of Labour how many ex-postmen, including temporary postmen, have applied for work through his Department in Glasgow this year; how many of these men are now unemployed; and how many of these unemployed men are over 50 years of age.

22.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons, formerly temporary postmen, who have registered at the Glasgow employment exchanges to the latest available date; and how many have been directed to other industries.

Between 1st January and 18th July, mainly since the end of May this year, 76 men who had been employed as temporary postmen registered for employment at exchanges in Glasgow. Sixty-four, including 44 over age 50, were still unemployed at the end of last week. Of the 12 who obtained employment, seven were placed by my Department and five found work by their own efforts.

As the right hon. Gentleman cannot find work for these men through his Department, will he advise the Postmaster-General to take them back into the Post Office so that they can do some useful work?

I could not give a promise to take that advice because I am under the impression that the Postmaster-General has considered the situation very carefully and he is taking back the men who left to go to the Forces and who have a prior claim.

As some of these dismissals were made in association with his Department, because of the Government's decision to reduce the numbers in the various Departments will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of having closer contact with the Postmaster-General before dismissals take place, particularly in an area where unemployment is already much higher than it is in many other parts of the country?

Of course, the Postmaster-General must be responsible for deciding the size of his staff, and which of those staff, in accordance with established customs and the agreement with the Whitley Council, are to be dismissed. It would not be for me to intervene.

Was there any consultation between the Postmaster-General and the right hon. Gentleman before these men were dismissed, and did the right hon. Gentleman give to the Postmaster-General any forecast of the probabilities of finding employment in Glasgow for the men?

So far as my recollection goes at the moment, there was no such consultation. Quite definitely, I cannot see that there should be.

Is it not a tact that, since the dismissal of these men, female labour has been taken on to replace them; was not the purpose of getting rid of these men to make the labour available elsewhere to meet shortages; and do not these figures show that, in fact, this has not come about because the men have not been absorbed into other employment?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is basing assumptions on a position which I do not think exists. I have no information whether or not females were employed in their place. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman would get that information from the Postmaster-General.

Has not the Postmaster-General made it quite clear in this House that he has had to restrict his staff and cut down the services in consequence, and would it not be better if there was some co-ordination?

I assume that the Postmaster-General, in company with many other Ministers, has examined his staff in the light of the continual agitation that the staffs are too large. If a Minister finds that his staff is larger than he thinks is necessary, he ought not to be blamed if he cuts it down.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the action was taken by the Postmaster-General so that these men could be put into work in connection with production and, since that cannot be done, will he consult again with the Postmaster-General?

Again, I must say that I cannot answer for the Postmaster-General, but I can say that, so far as I am aware at the Ministry of Labour, the Government have never given any indication that men should be discharged from one job in the hope that, being unemployed, they will be forced into another. That is totally contrary to the policy of the Government.

Typewriter Mechanics' Training Courses

25.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the present situation regarding typewriter mechanic vocational training courses, including the size of the waiting list and the number and duration of these courses.

There are at present 16 classes for training typewriter mechanics under the Government's vocational training scheme. The course lasts for 52 weeks, 215 men have been trained, 197 are in training, and 524 have been accepted and are awaiting allocation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of my constituents has already been waiting for II months to go on this course and does he really think it is necessary to spend 52 weeks to train a man to deal with a typewriter? Is not that more like the time that should be allowed for learning something about an aero-engine?

If the hon. Gentleman would care to go to one of these training establishments and see what these men are taught to do—completely to rebuild a typewriter, make its parts and do all the necessary work—I think he would agree that they are doing a remarkable job in 52 weeks. He may have had a constituent waiting for 11 months. It is clear that the person cannot go until there is a vacancy. I would like to make it clear that the industry considers it cannot absorb the numbers awaiting training. Quite a number of these men may have to seek other opportunities. In the 524 we have under training, 291 are disabled and we shall see that they get absolute priority.

Foreign Domestic Workers

26.

asked the Minister of Labour whether a decision has yet been made to allow foreigners admitted to this country to be employed in a domestic capacity for hotels, guest houses and similar establishments; when this question was first raised; and why there has been such a long delay in reaching a decision.

No, Sir. This Question, the importance of which I fully appreciate, is under constant review, but, for the reasons given in reply to the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) on 26th June, it is impossible for me to state at present when a decision can be reached to extend the field within which foreigners may be employed on domestic work.

Has not this question been under discussion for a very considerable time, and if it is answered in the affirmative and foreigners are allowed into this country, will he not make it possible to employ these people in hotels, which is, I know, their own wish?

We are recruiting these people for hospitals, farms, hardship households and the textile industry, which must have first claim, and we are trying to meet all demands as quickly as we can.

Does my hon. Friend think that he will be in a position to make a decision before the holiday period, because it is during the holidays that this help is so badly needed, as the staffs in hotels and guest houses are terribly overworked at that time?

I must impress upon the House that the textile industry has to come first. I indicated last week that we thought we had located 7,000 single women in the French zone, and we are taking immediate steps to recruit them, but we must meet first the needs of the textile industry.

Would it out be a good thing to allow in a few more displaced persons for this work and so release university professors who are now washing dishes?

What makes the right hon. Gentleman think that, if he stops these people going into hotels, he will get any more for the textile industry?

There is no one stopping people going into hotels. This is a question of a Government recruiting scheme.

Freedom Of Association (Ilo Resolution)

15.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he gave instructions to the British Government delegate at the I.L.O. Conference to vote against the resolution condemning the "closed shop," and whether, in view of the desirability of international co-operation in the suppression of such practices, he will give further instructions to the British delegate before the matter again comes before the conference.

There was no resolution condemning the "closed shop" before the recent International Labour Conference. I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the discussion on that paragraph of the resolution on freedom of association and industrial relations which relates to the validity of freely concluded collective agreements under which membership of a particular trade union is a condition of employment or continued employment. That paragraph forms part of an article of the resolution dealing in considerable detail with the right to organise and this article should be read as a whole. Read in this way, although its details did not entirely meet the views of all sections in the conference, the article commanded general agreement and was included in the resolution which was unanimously accepted by the conference in plenary session on 11th July and which, under my authority, the United Kingdom delegates supported. It is intended to embody the appropriate provisions of the resolution in one or more In- ternational Labour Conventions which will be the subject of discussion at the conferences in 1948 and 1949. The exact terms in which the provisions relating to the right to organise shall be incorporated in any convention will requite the most careful examination.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that very full reply, may I ask whether it is not a fact that the British Government delegate voted against an amendment proposed by the Turkish delegate which would have put on record an emphatic condemnation of "closed shop" practices, and was that action taken on the right hon. Gentleman's advice?

The hon. Gentleman has not put that point to me in his Question. I have only a hazy recollection about it. There was some such action. If he will put down a Question about it, or even without putting it down, I will let him have the answer.

Could the Minister tell us which way the employers' delegate voted and which way the workers' delegate voted?

So far as my recollection goes in this matter—I was not there when the actual vote was taken, but only during the opening discussion—I think it was by common agreement that no actual decision was taken. It was built into the wider resolution relating to freedom of association.

Will the Minister consider asking the legal profession for definition of the "closed shop"?

Insured Population (Statistics)

20.

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent the insured population in each Development Area has increased since June, 1945; and by what percentage this increase compares with London and the Greater London area.

The total insured population is ascertained only once a year in July, but the figures for July, 1947, are not yet available. From July, 1945, to July, 1946, the increases in the Development Areas were 10 per cent. in the North- Eastern area, 6 per cent. in South Wales and Monmouthshire, 10 per cent. in West Cumberland, 13 per cent. in South Lancashire, 2 per cent, in Wrexham, and 9 per cent. in the Scottish area. The corresponding increases in the County of London and Greater London were 18 per cent. and 16 per cent. respectively.

Does the Minister agree that more men and more industries are coming to London and the Greater London area than are going to Development Areas?

An observation of that kind could not be answered in relation to this Question.

Call-Up Postponements (Appeals)

24.

asked the Minister of Labour how many appeals were made by his Department during the period April, May and June, 1947, against the decisions of Military Service Hardship Committees to postpone call-up; and in how many cases have these appeals been successful.

One hundred and thirty-three appeals against the grant of postponement were made to the umpire in April, May and June, 1947, but without an unjustifiable expenditure of time examining all the personal files it is not possible to state how many of these appeals have been successful.

Will the Minister confirm that when the Military Service Hardship Committees have agreed on a case, on some occasions his Ministry have turned down that appeal?

I would not like to give an answer on that without having a chance to consider the matter.

If I submit the matter in detail, will the Minister think about it further?

Scotland

Rating System

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is considering the present Scottish rating system, with a view of introducing legislation to amend it.

I regret that in present circumstances I can hold out no prospect of legislation on the Scottish rating system.

Is it not a fact that the English question, together with the system of block grants, is coming up for review quite soon, and is not that a suitable opportunity for considering the Scottish question, which, under the present system, and with the Rent Restriction Act, is making it impossible to keep many houses in Scotland in a proper state of repair?

All I can say is that, when the block grants are being considered for England, the block grants will be considered for Scotland.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no one will be more disappointed with his reply than his predecessor in office, whose views are fundamentally different from the policy of the present Government, and is the reason for the decision lack of courage or the fact that legislation for England is being pressed to the detriment of Scotland?

I do not know what the hon. and gallant Gentleman means by his reference to my predecessor. My immediate predecessor is now a member of another place.

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to revise the answer he has given, because it is the same answer that has been given for the last 22 years?

Water Rating (Committee's Report)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is intended to embody in future legislation the main recommendations of the Walker Committee's Report n Water Rating in Scotland; and if he will give an indication when such legislation may be introduced.

I am general agreement with the main recommendations in the Committee's Report, but I am not yet in a position to say when legislation can he introduced.

While expressing appreciation of the assurance which my right hon. Friend has given, may I ask him if he is aware that, while awaiting legislation, many or the local authorities in Scotland may still find themselves in financial difficulties if they proceed with the new water schemes which are so badly needed?

Legal Aid And Advice (Committee's Report)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered the recommendations of the Committee on Legal Aid and Legal Advice in Scotland; and if he proposes to take any action thereon.

I am considering, in consultation with my right hon Friend the Lord Advocate, the recommendations made in the Report of the Cameron Committee, and discussions are now proceeding with representatives of the legal profession with a view to preparing a scheme of legal aid and legal advice in the light of the Committee's recommendations.

In preparing this scheme, will my right hon. Friend keep before him the proposals of the Muir Society on this important question?

May I ask whether this scheme will be ready for legislation next year, because it would be rather nice to have some useful legislation next year?

All I can say is that all the legislation submitted to this House by this Government is useful legislation.

Will not my right hon. Friend indicate whether or not he will keep the proposals of the Muir Society before him in dealing with the Cameron Report?

I assure my hon. Friend that we will give full consideration to all proposals when dealing with this matter.

Ministry Of Pensions

National Service (Pension Claims)

31.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he is yet in a position to state whether men called up under the National Service Act who sustain injuries whilst undergoing whole-time or part-time service will be eligible for a disability pension under the existing war pensions instruments; and if there will be any right of appeal to an independent tribunal in the case of disputed claims.

I regret that it is not yet possible to make any announcement on the matters referred to by the hon. and gallant Member.

As the National Service Act is now law, is it not high time that a decision was taken?

Of course, the National Service Act does not, in fact, come into operation until 1949, and the Service Departments have a large number of preoccupations with which to concern themselves. It is not to be expected that this matter should be given first priority in present circumstances.

If I put down a Question immediately after the Summer Recess, will the Minister give me a reply?

I shall be very glad to give an answer immediately the question has been decided.

Disabled Men (Basic Pension)

32.

asked the Minister of Pensions on what date he last consulted his Central Advisory Committee about the desirability of an increase in the present basic pension of 45s. a week to disabled men; and with what result.

The increase of the basic pension and the other improvements in the Royal Warrant made within the last 18 months have met with general satisfaction, and, in the view of His Majesty's Government, no circumstances have arisen in the interim to make a further revision necessary.

Does that answer mean that the attention of the Advisory Committee has not, within the last 18 months, been called to whether or not it is necessary to make any increase, and in particular has the Minister asked them whether they consider that, if 40s. was considered the right amount in 1918, 45s. is sufficient today, taking account of the increased cost of living? Will he put that question to them?

In answer to the first part of the question, the increases were made in the last 18 months, and it was not considered necessary to consult the Advisory Committee, immediately after the increases were made, as to whether further increases were necessary. No further discussions have taken place with the Committee in regard to the cost of living, and I question whether it would be desirable, in the interests of the pensioners themselves, that their pension rates should be strictly allied to the variations in the cost of living in either direction.

As I have said, the Government do not consider that any circumstances have arisen in the last 18 months to justify revision at this stage. With regard to the cost of living, the increase that was made 18 months ago was not in connection with the cost of living, or following upon discussions with or representations from the Advisory Committee, but was done on the initiative of the Government, irrespective of the cost of living.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Prisoners Of War (Prison Sentences)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now in a position to make a statement about the sentence of 12 months' imprisonment recently passed on Werner Vetter for associating with an English girl.

I have given instructions that this and all similar cases should be reviewed together. When this review has been completed, the decisions reached on the merits of each will be promulgated simultaneously.

British Army

War Graves (Relatives Visit)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that the near relatives of men killed in the war feel hurt that they are not allowed to visit the graves in Germany two years after the end of hostilities though others have been allowed to go there for one reason or another; and if he will now say that all obstacles to these visits will be removed forthwith.

This question has recently been reviewed, but owing largely to shortage of accommodation and travel facilities it is not at present possible to make general arrangements for visits to war cemeteries in the British zone of Germany. In these circumstances, it was felt that it would be unfair to offer facilities for any such visits until an equal opportunity can be given to all who wish to visit war graves.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that his answer will cause great dissatisfaction to parents who are aware that other people have been allowed to go there and who fail to understand why, after two years, they should not be allowed to visit the graves, and cannot he reconsider this matter and grant facilities to those who want to go to Germany for this purpose?

If my hon. Friend will read in HANSARD my answer to Question No. 33, he will see what I am attempting to do in the way of arranging for these relatives to visit war cemeteries.

Will my right hon. Friend inform the House when he will be in a position to indicate when these facilities will be available?

In the answer to Question No. 33, I have indicated that I am now in consultation with voluntary societies to effect that purpose.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that many bereaved people in this country, even though they themselves cannot visit their relatives' graves, would be proud if other people who could do so were allowed to go now?

The situation with regard to Germany is very difficult, and I can hold out no hope of visits to Germany this year.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Americans are allowing ordinary tourists to visit their zone?

I am only asked about the British zone, and I can assure my hon. Friend that there are very great difficulties.

Even assuming that relatives cannot visit Germany, can the right hon. Gentleman say why they should not be permitted to visit other cemeteries?

Military Training Area, Dartmoor (Inquiry)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that, in accordance with the promise of the Prime Minister, a public inquiry into the use of Dartmoor for military training purposes was held at Exeter; and why, prior to this inquiry, and without notice to commoners and cattle owners, he is already using Peter Tavey Great Common without regard to the danger to pedestrians and cattle, or any clearance of the ranges except by the firing of blanks prior to using live shell.

As was explained by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 25th February, where a proposal to retain permanently land already occupied by one of the Services is to be the subject of a public inquiry, the land will continue to be occupied until the inquiry is held and a decision taken. Peter Tavy Great Common is part of an area which has been requisitioned under Defence Regulation 51 since 1942, and is still so held. The inquiry referred to has recently been held, and the land will continue to be used until a decision has been made. No firing of live ammunition has recently taken place in the area, but during an infantry exercise carried out periodically, smoke bombs are used.

As the common in question is in my constituency, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware of the growing resentment in the Tavistock Division at the increasing disregard, since the war, by Government Departments of the rights of commoners and private individuals; and will he bear in mind that many of us are determined to defend these ancient rights of Englishmen?

It I may say so, I welcome that belligerent attitude in a good cause, but I can deal only with one Department. So far as the Army is concerned, I will endeavour to see that the commoners' rights are not unnecessarily interfered with.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the representatives of many of the commoners are dissatisfied with the inquiry because of their being denied the opportunity of stating their case fully, and will he ensure that an opportunity is given to them for doing so?

Is the right hon. Gentleman or the Government aware that the inquiry was very unsatisfactory, and caused a lot of local dissatisfaction?

Perhaps it would be as well to wait and see what is the outcome of the inquiry.

Requisitioned Land, Fylingdale Moor

40.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an immediate decision with regard to the question of the derequisitioning of Fylingdale Moor, in view of the fact that his predecessor, in a reply on 7th May, 1946, expected to give a decision in the course of that summer.

It is not possible to give an immediate decision as to the derequisitioning of Fylingdale Moor, since the area is proposed for permanent retention as a military training area, although this proposal is under consideration by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Service Land Requirements, and a local public inquiry will no doubt be held before a decision as to permanent retention is made. I regret that investigations into the question of training areas have taken considerably longer than my predecessor foresaw.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the dismay in the locality at the Government's inability to come to a decision in this matter, and can he give some assurance that in no case does he propose to fire across the Scarborough-Whitby High Road, or across that part of the moor which carries the electricity to Whitby?

I think that, in answer to the first part of the Question, it only goes to show what careful examination is being given to conflicting interests. With regard to the second part, I could not answer that without notice.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the retention of this area and other areas, in spite of all the pledges which have been given, is not unconnected with the lack of enthusiasm for recruitment to the Army, and will he therefore hasten on the local public inquiries, as, otherwise, the Army will grow more and more unpopular?

Is it not rather unreasonable to expect the Government, if they cannot carry out their promises, to carry out those of their predecessors?

Citadel, Plymouth (Visitors)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the ramparts of the Citadel of Plymouth are inaccessible to visitors; that prior to 1914 these ramparts had been opened to the general public; and if he will now revert to the practice obtaining before 1914.

The Citadel is in full use as a military barracks. To admit the public would seriously interfere with the training of an important section of the Army. I regret, therefore, that I cannot accept my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department are taking more and more land, and are depriving the citizens of Plymouth of the privileges which they have held for hundreds of years?

Apparently, according to my hon. Friend's Question, they have been denied this access since 1914.

Minefield, Flimby

42.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to restore to its original condition the foreshore at Flimby, Cumberland, which was used as a minefield during the war.

The minefield was cleared of mines by September, 1945, and the ground under the perimeter fence was swept, and the fence removed a few months later.

Requisitioned Site, Eastleigh

43.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will now derequisition the derelict site at Chickenhall Lane, Eastleigh, Hampshire, so that the Southern Railway Institute and Club may resume its sports activities.

The accommodation is now under the control of the Ministry of Health for temporary civilian housing purposes. The Southern Railway Sports Club has been given the use of the football ground for recreational purposes.

Colonial Development (Economic Planning Board)

45.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will request the Economic Planning Board to give early consideration to the need for the rapid rehabilitation of those Colonial enterprises, such as tin production, which are potential large earners of dollars, but which are still unable to obtain the necessary machinery to achieve their prewar production.

As I announced in this House on 7th July, the primary function of the Economic Planning Board will be to advise His Majesty's Government on the best use of our economic resources, both for the realisation of a long-term plan and for remedial measures against our immediate difficulties. Problems of Colonial development and rehabilitation as such are not a matter for the Planning Board. Certain types of plant and equipment in short supply may, however, be required both for such development and for production at home, and naturally this is one of the problems to which the Planning Board would direct its attention.

National Finance

Pensions Increases (Delays)

46.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that many pensioners due to receive increases under the Pensions (Increase) Act of last year, have not yet received them; and when payments will be completed.

This work inevitably takes time, but I hope it will be finished by the end of this year.

Shipbuilding And Repairs (Foreign Yards)

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total amount of foreign exchange expended in the building and repair of British-owned merchant vessels in foreign shipyards since the end of the war in Europe.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this amount of expenditure might not have been saved by the work being carried out in this country instead of abroad?

I am advised that the general policy has always been to have repairs done abroad only when it is necessary to enable ships to return home, or if a British shipyard has not the available capacity. We would naturally always give a preference to our own shipyards.

Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that he is in consultation with his noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty to ensure making use of our Royal Dockyards in this way?

Of course, I do speak with my noble Friend from time to time on this matter, and I am in favour of minimising foreign exchange expenditure and maximising the work in our dockyards, and using the civil and Royal Dockyards at home. It is simply a question of whether the capacity is always available.

Is it not obvious that repairs have to take place in foreign shipyards. The Question also includes building—can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any building abroad on our account?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the efforts which we have made to prevent ship repairing going abroad, and that when we have approached the Minister of Transport he has said that he has no power to prevent that taking place. Is he aware of the belief that the shipowners find it cheaper to send their vessels abroad for repairs? Can my right hon. Friend prevent currency from being spent in that way?

All my hon. Friends in all parts of the House are pressing on an open door, as far as I am concerned. I do not want to spend foreign exchange, and I do want the work done at home. If any case can be given showing that work has been done abroad when it could have been done here, I shall be glad to go into it with my noble Friend.

British Films (Dollar Earnings And Expenditure)

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what dollar expenditure has been licensed to British film companies for the building, purchase of, or investment in, theatres abroad; what has been the return to date; and what is the estimated return in the future.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer of my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) on 29th April.

I have not the relevant copy Of HANSARD with me, but am I correct in believing that that answer does not impart any information, and, if that is the case, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that the House should be able to decide whether this is a good investment or not? It cannot do so without having the relevant figures.

My hon. Friend has a remarkably retentive memory. It is the case that in the answer to which I referred, it was explained that this is not the kind of question which should reasonably be answered in a public statement, because it relates to a single person and a single firm, and it is contrary to our practice to make such details public in Parliamentary discussion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also make it clear that, in spite of the attitude of his followers, people are still allowed to invest in foreign countries for the benefit of this country?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in defending the rights of the individual to make private investments abroad, this is a case where the individual is a virtual monopolist and, therefore, has some public responsibility and obligations?

Is it not a fact that the net result of these developments is to attract a large amount of dollars to this country?

This is a matter of Debate, and there are further Questions on the Order Paper. All I have said in reply to this Question is that it is contrary to practice, and I think quite rightly so, to reveal by way of Parliamentary answers the financial arrangements of particular individuals, whether they are monopolists or small men. There are other ways of raising the public aspect of the matter, and I do not think it is right to give this kind of information here.

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the dollar allowance granted to British film companies for general purposes during the last two years; and what has been the balance of dollar expenditure involved in the exchange of film stars, directors and technicians between this country and the U.S.A.

None, Sir, outside the usual business travel allowance. In answer to the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) last Tuesday.

Is it or is it not a fact that while American actors and technicians employed over here are paid in dollars, English actors and technicians working in America are not infrequently, and for the most part, paid in sterling?

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, during the last two years, British films have earned more in dollars for this country than they have cost us in dollars; what is the net figure for the difference; and what is the annual aggregate net figure for this and all other items of dollar expenditure incurred by the film industry over and above the £17 million to £18 million which is the admitted dollar loss on imported films.

I have nothing to add to my replies given to the hon. and gallant Member for "Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) on 15th April and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) on 24th June.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the answers to which he has referred gave the information for which I am asking, and if not, would he give the information or, at least, give reasons for withholding information which is of the greatest public importance at a time when we are scraping the barrel for dollars even to the extent of saving a million or two on newsprint?

If my hon. Friend would be so kind as to check up on the answers, he will see that although, when the answer to the first of the Questions to which I have referred was given we had not got the statistics which I considered reliable, and, therefore, I could not give them to the House, in reply to the right hon. Member for Bromley I did give such figures as were available to us; but, owing to the nature of the case, a lot of these figures cannot be given with exactitude. There are masses of small payments out, and it is impossible to keep track of the whole thing without a fantastic increase in staff.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give particulars of the many American plays brought here by persons interested in the theatre, the loss which they have incurred and the spurious nature of most of the entertainment?

Sterling Convertibility (Correspondence)

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the official announcement in Washington on 15th July that the U.S. Government has agreed to suspend until 15th September in respect of 14 countries the free convertibility of sterling earned in current transactions, he will publish his correspondence with the U.S. Secretary to the Treasury on this subject; and if he will make a full statement on the matter.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT this exchange of letters to which I have nothing to add.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that such corrrespondence will be published in this country before it is published in another country?

It would be rash to give any assurance that anything whatever could be published in London before it is published in Washington, if it is known in both places.

Following are the texts of letters exchanged between the Secretary of the United States Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

14th July, 1947

My DEAR CHANCELLOR,

As a result of recent consultations between representatives of your Government and representatives of the United States Government and in accordance with the request of your Government, the United States Government has agreed to the postponement until 15th September, 1947, if necessary, of the obligations of your Government under the Anglo-American Financial Agreement in the case of Austria, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Paraguay, Poland. Rumania, Siam, Turkey, the U.S.S.R., and Yugoslavia, with the understanding that upon the date of completion of necessary arrangements with these countries, all sterling accruing to them after 15th July, 1947, will become freely available for current payments in accordance with the Anglo-American Financial Agreement.
It is my understanding that with the exception of the temporary extensions to which the United States Government has agreed in the case of the countries mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the British Government will carry out fully its obligations under Sections 7, 8 (ii) and 10 of the Anglo-American Financial Agreement. I should appreciate your Government's confirmation of this understanding.
Sincerely yours,
(S.) JOHN W. SNYDER.
Secretary of the Treasury.
Right Honourable HUGH DALTON,
Chancellor of the Exchequer,
Treasury Chambers,
London, England

15th July,

Dear Mr. SECRETARY,

Thank you for your letter of 14th July. 1947, regarding the execution of the Anglo U.S. Financial Agreement dated 6th December, 1945.
In reply I confirm your understanding that, with the exception of the temporary extensions to which the United States Government has agreed in the case of the countries mentioned in the first paragraph of your letter, the British Government is fully carrying out its obligations under Sections 7, 8 (ii) and so of the Anglo-American Financial Agreement
Yours sincerely,
(S.) HUGH DALTON
Honourable JOHN W. SNYDER,
Secretary of the Treasury.
Washington. D.C.

Value Payments (Treasury Regulations)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he anticipates the Treasury regulations authorising the settlement of value payments will be issued.

Coal Board Publication (Paper Allocation)

54.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether His Majesty's Stationery Office has imposed a reduction in the amount of paper made available for "Coal," a publication of the National Coal Board, proportionate to the cut imposed by His Majesty's Government in the newsprint allocations of daily newspapers.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the justification for this discrimination between the treatment of publications of Government monopolies and the publications of private enterprise?

There has been no discrimination. The newsprint cut to which the hon. Member is referring applies to newspapers, and not to weekly or monthly periodicals.

Is it not a fact that the paper used for this publication either costs dollars or could realise dollars if sold abroad?

Are we to understand that where Government Departments use newsprint for the purpose of any publication, no cut will be made at all?

No, Sir. Nothing that I have said could lead the noble Lord to believe that.

Trade And Commerce

Newsprint Import Restrictions

57.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what undertaking was given by the Government, at the time of the newsprint contract of the Newsprint Supply Company with the North American suppliers, that the necessary dollars and import licences would be available.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend during the Debate on the import restrictions on 17th July.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade gave the greatest concern to a most friendly country, and that it would be very much against the public interest if nothing further was said?

I think the statement made by my right hon. Friend was a perfectly full statement of the facts, that His Majesty's Government did say that the currency would be available and owing to changes which occurred in the circumstances, the currency was not available.

Imports And Exports (Spain)

59.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what were the amounts of imports into this country from Spain during 1946 and, as far as possible, during the first half of 1947; what were the types of goods; and what we are exporting to Spain at present

The value of imports from pain during the year 1946 was £12,725,000, and during the period January to May, 1947, £6,372,000 The principal commodities imported were oranges, iron ore, wine, potassium chloride, cork manufactures and sardines. The principal kinds of goods now being exported from the United Kingdom to Spain are vehicles, chemical products, machinery and electrical goods.

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary consider that the great importance of these imports, and of our exports to Spain, could possibly be very considerably increased if we spent a little less time on diplomacy by insult to that country, and if more trouble was taken to try to encourage Spanish trading relations?

I am afraid that the reply must be that I am not responsible for diplomacy, by insult or otherwise, in connection with Spain.

In view of the volume of trade between the two countries revealed in the answer of the hon. Gentleman, is it not time that a more sensible and constructive view was taken of our relations with Spain than hitherto?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that question to the appropriate Minister.

Is it not time to deny ourselves luxuries to help to remove the tyrannical Government in Spain?

Palestine (Illegal Immigrants)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the present whereabouts of the 4,500 Jewish immigrants into Palestine who were removed by British Armed Forces from the vessel "Exodus 1947" in Haifa Harbour for transportation to Cyprus, who have not so far reached Cyprus, and concerning whose ultimate destination conflicting rumours are circulating.

The passengers to whom my hon. Friend refers, who attempted to land in Palestine illegally, are being returned to France, from which country they originally set sail on nth July. They are at present on board three British transports on route from Haifa to France.

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the statements made this morning that the transport to France is intended to be only to a port of embarkation for transport elsewhere, and that these people are only being transported to France, en route to Colombia, in South America? Can he say whether there is any truth in those statements or not?

The only answer I can give is that the ultimate destination of these transports is France, and what will happen in France is a matter entirely for the French authorities.

Is it not a fact that many of these illegal immigrants had visas enabling them to go to Colombia? If they did not wish to go there, what was the object of getting those visas?

I have no official information that the visas were for Colombia, but such statements have appeared in the Press. I should add that when the ship left France it was contrary to the general regulations of the French authorities, who had laid down that she should only proceed in clear weather and without passengers.

Is the Secretary of State not aware that we were informed over the radio that the decision had been taken to return them to France in agreement with the French authorities, and that since then we have been informed that the French authorities are not prepared to allow them to land in France? Can he give us any information as to what is going to happen to these unfortunate people?

The position is that the action has been taken in agreement with the French Government, and they will be received in France.

Is there adequate liaison between the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office? If there is, how came it about that the French Government were not warned of the likelihood of what occurred, because I am quite sure that the French Government did not wish to do anything inimical to this country?

I think I can say that the French Government were fully aware of the possibilities of this situation.

Are we to understand from my right hon. Friend's original answer that in no circumstances will British armed forces be used to compel these people to go to South America or anywhere else if they do not wish to go?

That is not a matter for the British Government. These ships will be sent to France and these passengers will be disembarked.

May I point out that my right hon. Friend misheard my question? What I asked him was whether we were to understand from the original answer that in no circumstances will British armed forces—for whom the British Government, presumably, remain responsible—be used to compel these people to go to South America or anywhere else against their will?

The situation as described is purely hypothetical, and I can give no undertaking what will happen in hypothetical circumstances. Ali I can say is that these people are being returned to the port at which they embarked.