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Commons Chamber

Volume 452: debated on Monday 14 June 1948

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House Of Commons

Monday, 14th June, 1948

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Round Oak Steel Works (Level Crossings) Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed without Amendment.

Great Yarmouth Port And Haven Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions


Working Schedules


asked the Minister of Transport how many prosecutions were instituted during each of the years 1938, 1946 and 1947, respectively, under Section 10 (6) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, in respect of imposition by an operator of unreasonable schedules or schedules unworkable without transgression of the law.

No prosecutions of this kind have been brought to my notice.

In view of the conviction of certain transport workers that schedules are so fixed, will my right hon. Friend, in consultation with the Home Secretary, consider taking measures to enforce the law better in this respect?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that proposals to increase the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles is causing a good deal of consternation amongst drivers of those vehicles, and are likely not only to increase the number of prosecutions of this kind, but to lead to very great danger on the roads in general?

That is another matter that will be taken into account. The House will have an opportunity of considering it.

Road-Bend, Micheldever


asked the Minister of Transport on what grounds more than £32,000 has been spent in straightening out a road-bend between Sutton Scotney and Basingstoke in the district of Micheldever, Hampshire.

This bend was a danger spot. During the year preceding the preparation of the scheme six accidents occurred there, three of them in daylight, involving four deaths and five serious injuries.

How does the right hon. Gentleman explain why there is this considerable expenditure incurred on this bend when there are many more dangerous bends which should and could be straightened out at less cost?

I cannot express an opinion whether there are more dangerous bends that want attention at less cost. All I can say is that official road engineers have given very full examination to this, and that in their view the alteration is justified.

Surely, the Minister agrees that this is a fantastic degree of expenditure?

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that, obviously, what is wanted, instead of the straightening out of roads, is some kind of danger signal that must be obeyed?

I do not think that that affects this problem. These were head-on collisions in daylight, and, therefore, it is clear that we want the straightening out of the road.

Cambridge Backs


asked the Minister of Transport if he will withdraw the proposal to incorporate the Cambridge Backs in the trunk road system, in view of the unanimous objections to the proposal voiced by the local authorities, by the amenity societies, and by all who know and value the road.

The proposal to which my hon. Friend refers has not gone further than a suggestion made by my divisional road engineer to the Town Council of Cambridge and the County Council for the purposes of discussion. The views of all concerned will be taken fully into account, and a local inquiry held, if necessary, before any decision is made.

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that, before any decisions are taken, the Minister of Town and Country Planning will be consulted? Is he aware that what most of us are afraid of is that, if the road should become a trunk road, some zealous officer in his Department may discover the trees that overhang the road, many of which are very old, and may cut them all down?

I do not think my hon. Friend need be concerned with regard to the point raised in the latter part of his supplementary question. The problem involved here is fully understood. He will recognise that Cambridge is an exceedingly difficult town through which to move traffic. He can be assured that at a local inquiry all matters of this kind will be fully considered.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that there are university buildings on both sides of the road, and that to incorporate it in a trunk road will be like driving a trunk road through the middle of the university? Will he bear in mind the words of the poet:

"You can keep your Oxford side,
But spare our Cambridge Backs"?

Traffic at present drives through the university—past the entrances to the colleges.

Will my right hon. Friend consider alternatives? There are alternatives to using the Backs as a trunk road through Cambridge. There is Grange Road, for example.

All these matters will be taken into consideration. At the moment it is only a proposal.

Is the Minister aware that this proposal for the use of land is worse vandalism than any committed by the Defence Ministries?

I do not consider that a suggestion is vandalism, but the carrying out of it.

In order to give my right hon. Friend an opportunity of hearing at greater length the strong objections which there are to this proposal, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Street Lighting Restrictions


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will consider relaxing the present restrictions on street lighting.

Yes, Sir. Whereas lighting authorities now generally work to a figure of 50 per cent. of prewar consumption of fuel for street lighting, I am prepared to agree an increase to 75 per cent. in view of the need, on safety grounds, for a better standard of street lighting. Lighting authorities are being so informed.

Was that reply drafted before the announcement over the weekend by the Minister of Fuel and Power as to the general position? Can the right hon. Gentleman make it good?

Safety Measures (Legislation)


asked the Minister of Transport when it is intended to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Road Safety Committee to deal with jaywalkers.

I cannot say at present when it will be possible to introduce legislation to give effect to those recommendations of the Road Safety Committee which I decide to accept.

Can the Minister say whether he has decided to accept the recommendation dealing with pedestrians on the road? Would he say how much longer he intends to have a system whereby we have the motorist controlled, on the one hand, and the pedestrian uncontrolled, on the other, with loss of life resulting?

There are certain of these recommendations which I have approved, but the hon. Member's Question related to the date of legislation.

Has the Minister seen the "Daily Express" poll of public opinion on this matter and its overwhelming majority in favour of the prosecution of jaywalkers?

Will my right hon. Friend, at the same time, do something to protect pedestrians on pedestrian crossings against jaydrivers?

Enborne Reservoir Scheme


asked the Minister of Transport whether he has been consulted by the Metropolitan Water Board regarding the proposed flooding of the Enborne Valley in order to create a nine square mile reservoir, in view of the serious interruption of communications involved unless long and costly road-viaducts are to be constructed.

No, Sir, but, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health stated on 10th June in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), all relevant factors will be considered before a decision is taken.

Will not the Minister be consulted, bearing in mind the extraordinary inconvenience to which not only local residents, but all travellers coming from the South, and from Newbury and Reading, will be put if the scheme goes through?

The hon. Gentleman can rest content that if roads are involved, as they are, I shall be consulted.

Will not the Minister get in touch with his two Cabinet colleagues, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health, to arrange that a proper public inquiry is made into alternative methods?

That question should be directed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Central Transport Consultative Committee


asked the Minister of Transport the national bodies invited to make nominations for the Central Transport Consultative Committee.

In view of the number of bodies invited I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate a list of them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him if, when reasonable time has elapsed, he has not received nominations from those bodies, he will urge speed in the matter, because of the need to set up the Consultative Committee?

Following is the list:

  • National Farmers' Union
  • National Farmers' Union for Scotland
  • Federation of British Industries
  • National Union of Manufacturers
  • Association of British Chambers of Commerce
  • National Coal Board
  • General Council of British Shipping
  • Trades Union Congress (two members)
  • Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress
  • County Councils' Association (two members)
  • Association of Municipal Corporations (two members)
  • Association of County Councils in Scotland, Convention of Royal Burghs, and Scottish Counties of Cities Association (one member jointly).


Scandinavian Timber Carriers


asked the Minister of Transport how many Scandinavian timber carriers have been chartered by the British Government to bring timber to Britain from the Baltic; what was the cost; whether the tonnage was in excess of the demand; and in view of the fact that there is a loss between the hire terms and the freight charges if he will state the cost to the British taxpayer of the loss per day and the total loss, respectively.

Forty-eight ships were chartered for the 1947 and 1948 timber seasons and 18 for the 1948 and 1949 seasons. The total paid in hire on these ships to date is approximately £3,275,000. All the time chartered tonnage together with all suitable British tonnage was employed in lifting the timber required in the 1947 season and was supplemented by voyage charters of further foreign tonnage on the market. The position for the 1948 season is expected to be similar. During the Baltic timber season the full cost of the ships is recoverable by my Department. Losses are incurred during the off season. The precise amount of loss cannot be computed until voyage results are received from the managers but in the period between the 1947 and 1948 seasons the loss expected was £450,000.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long this farce of State trading is to be allowed to continue, with its consequent heavy loss to the taxpayer, and will he not give these duties to private shipping firms?

If the shipping companies had been sufficiently forthcoming with the necessary amount of tonnage, this would not have been necessary. It has been owing to the shortage of coastal tonnage and the desirability of avoiding switching over deep-sea tonnage to this class of trade, which would involve the hiring of dollar freightage, that we have to carry out transactions of this kind.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some shipping companies lost ships during the war; and is he also aware that they are unable to build new ships on account of the lack of iron and steel allowed to shipbuilding?

I have often stated the figures of loss of tonnage to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred. On the other hand, that does not justify the allegation that this loss is due to the incapacity of State trading when, at this moment, we are bridging the gap between the two situations to which he has referred.

The Minister says that the full loss is recoverable by his Department. From whom is it recoverable?

I said that the full loss during the timber season is recoverable, and the loss in between—

From the Timber Control for the carriage of the timber, as would be the case in any ships chartered for this particular purpose. The loss has been incurred when we have to carry this tonnage during the off season to make sure it is available when wanted.

Can the Minister state whether British shipping tonnage has been used to the greatest extent possible for this particular purpose?

Cross-Channel Services


asked the Minister of Transport what general directions he has given to the British Transport Commission as to cross-channel services.

Has the right hon. Gentleman, having nationalised so much cross-Channel shipping, any word to say about how it should be employed?

I indicated to the hon. Member last week that the Commission are putting all the available shipping they can spare on these routes. They are adequately catered for, except at peak periods.

Has the right hon. Gentleman given instructions for any ship or ships to be transferred from the Irish cross-channels routes to the Continental routes?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise the desirability of linking up to the utmost two portions of the United Kingdom—Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he has no intention of diverting passenger traffic or cargo traffic from the port of Newhaven, and is he aware of the great concern caused locally by this apparent diversion?

I have already indicated that it is not my intention to give any such instructions in such matters.

Ministry Of Supply

Stainless Steel (Cost)


asked the Minister of Supply what is the cost in this country of stainless steel.

The authorised prices of stainless steel are set out in the Related Schedule No. 20 of the Control of Iron and Steel (No. 62) Order, 1948. The schedule is available for inspection by anyone interested, in London and in the main provincial centres.

Is not the price of stainless steel in this country much higher than it is in other countries, and what is the Minister doing to make available facilities to manufacturers in this country to produce to capacity?

I think that the manufacturers have every facility to produce steel, which they are doing in large quantities.

Hostel, Malvern


asked the Minister of Supply on what grounds he has commenced the erection of a large dining hall at the Pale Manor Hostel, Malvern, against the wishes of 95 per cent. of the residents; what will be the total cost of the scheme; and why overtime and Sunday working has been authorised.

It is our policy to provide a complete service, including food and accommodation, at our hostels for single persons. A separate dining room is being built so that the conditions of residence at Pale Manor Hostel conform with this policy. The total cost will be £1,990. Overtime and Sunday working have been authorised to finish the building quickly.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give any estimate of the number of dwelling houses which could be erected for the same expenditure of labour and building materials as is being wasted on this unwanted project?

I do not agree that materials have been wasted. If the hon. and gallant Member will correlate the £1,990 to any particular type of house we are building, he will get the number of houses which this will cover.

Iron And Steel Industry


asked the Minister of Supply whether he will appoint a working party to inquire into the iron and steel industry; and if he will await their report before making any decision on the future of the industry.

In view of the record breaking achievements of this privately managed industry, does the Minister consider that it is desirable to disturb the rhythm of production, by nationalisation, or the threat of nationalisation; and will he undertake not to nationalise until and unless an impartial independent technical body, devoid of politicians, has pronounced in favour of it?

Does the Minister consider that this industry is inefficiently run or efficiently run? If the latter, could he state on what basis it is proposed to nationalise the industry?

No, Sir. I was asked whether we would appoint a working party to inquire into this industry, to which my answer is, "No."

Will the Minister publish the technical information to which he referred in answer to my supplementary question.

The Question asked whether the Minister would appoint a working party. The supplementary question does not, therefore, necessarily arise.

Ministry Of Works

Building Industry (Working Party)


asked the Minister of Works the terms of reference of the Working Party on the building industry; whether they include an inquiry into the Mobile Labour Squad of the Ministry of Works; and if he will announce the names of the Working Party.

I am not yet in a position to make an announcement, but hope to do so shortly.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Working Party has adequate powers to call evidence, and that there is no arithmetical equality between employers' and employees' representatives, as that might result in a deadlock?

The hon. Member had better await my announcement of the composition of the Working Party.

Bricks (Prices)


asked the Minister of Works on what date in 1948 his Department sent a letter agreeing to an increase in the maximum prices of bricks; has it since been adhered to by the Government; or for what reasons it has been departed from.

On 16th February my Department notified the National Federation of Clay Industries that I proposed to agree to an increase in the maximum prices of bricks. The implementation of this decision, however, was overtaken by the removal of statutory control.

Does that apply to bricks dropped by the Lord President of the Council?

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that a Government Department should fail to honour its undertakings in this matter?

It was not a question of failing to honour an undertaking. There was later an agreement to remove all controls from the brick industry, and that I did.

May I take it that the letter did not authorise an increase of prices, but said that controls would be removed; and was that the only thing in the letter?

The letter indicated that I had given consideration to the problem and was prepared to deal with the question of raising the price of bricks; but in the meantime I took up with the industry the removal of all controls in order to give them freedom as far as they were concerned.

New House Of Commons (Reference Room)


asked the Minister of Works if provision is being made for a full-sized Reference Room in the new House of Commons, so that there will be reasonable sitting space for Members and more accommodation to meet the needs of the Reference Staff for better organisation, material and general needs.

. No, Sir. The Select Committee on Rebuilding did not include a Reference Room in their plans for the new House of Commons.

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that the Reference Room has been very valuable to hon. Members, that it is well-known that it was too small and inconvenient, that there was no seating accommodation, and as it is an important factor in the Library facilities ought not something to be done in this matter?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Library Committee would be happy to consider any representations made about the Reference Room?

In the first place, I should like to say that such a question should be referred to the Library Committee rather than to me. I am carrying out the decisions of the Select Committee on Rebuilding.

Is the Minister aware that inadvertently he did an injustice to the Select Committee, because we could not recommend on this subject as it was outside our terms of reference? We were not allowed to deal with the general rearrangement of rooms, because we had very limited terms of reference.

That may be true of the Select Committee, but it is also true of His Majesty's Minister of Works.

Under the head of accommodation will the Minister arrange to provide silencers to deaden the loud conversation that takes place in the Reference Room, or alternatively to provide a conversation room?

Schools (Repair Licences)


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that the £10 limit for building improvements, over which figure permission must be obtained from his Department, is delaying progress and impairing the efficiency of local education authorities; and what action he proposes to take in amending this restriction.

I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education that he is not aware that local education authorities have experienced difficulties of this kind. Nevertheless, I will bear the matter in mind in connection with future arrangements.

Is the Minister likely to be able to make a statement in the near future on the £10 maximum generally?


Tree Felling


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to prevent excessive felling of trees in Germany, having regard to the importance of maintaining Germany's forest areas; and what were the timber exports from the British zone for the latest month for which figures are available.

Felling in the bizonal area is restricted to twice the annual growth. This is not considered excessive having regard to the present acute timber shortage, and to the fact that German forests did not suffer by over-cutting during the war like those of other countries. In a written reply on 25th June, 1947, my right hon. Friend gave the hon. Member certain assurances regarding forest regeneration in Germany. The quantity of timber exported from the British zone in May, 1948, was 66,074 metric tons.

No, I think that is not so. I believe that the ordinary German practices are being followed.

Trade With Spain


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether approval has been given for trade with Spain to be resumed by the joint U.S.-British bizone of Germany.

Will the Foreign Secretary consider again this particular course of trade? Is it not obvious that any trade between Western Germany and Spain is really an underhand way of bringing Spain within the Marshall Plan; and is it not quite obvious that any trade with this murderous régime in Spain must strengthen the hands of a dictator against the people, and must undermine the struggle of the people against that dictator?

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to make such a remark about a friendly Government?

This always raises a rather difficult position. I understand that we have no Ambassador in Spain, which makes the position rather involved.

Further to that point of Order. May I call your attention to the fact that, while we have no Ambassador in Spain we have a Mission in Spain, so we still have diplomatic relations. Therefore, is it in Order for an hon. Member to refer to the régime of a country with whom we have diplomatic relations as "murderous"?

Erskine May says:

"Opprobrious remarks must not be made against the Ruler of a Sovereign State with whom we are in amity."
While, quite frankly, I deprecate charges made against another Government, I cannot rule that it is completely out of Order.

Are we to understand that in future the definition of a "friendly country" is one in which we have an Ambassador and not a chargé d'affaires?

I think the hon. Member might read Erskine May. We are not in complete amity with a country when we have no Ambassador in it. That is quite certain. We have had several statements made by the Foreign Secretary which have made it perfectly clear that we are not entirely in accord with the Government of that country.

It is very important to get this matter right. Am I right in understanding, Mr. Speaker, that your Ruling to the point of Order depends not on whether we have an Ambassador or not, but on the distinction between a ruler and a Government? Or is it your Ruling that in this House we can refer in different terms to a friendly nation with whom we have not exchanged Ambassadors from the terms we can use about a nation with whom we have exchanged Ambassadors?

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has stated the fact accurately. Erskine May makes a distinction between opprobrious epithets against the ruler of a country, the head of a country, and—though once again I deprecate them—opprobrious epithets against the Government of a country.

Am I not right in thinking that the use of tendentious epithets of any sort in a supplementary questions has hitherto been ruled out of Order; is it not an undesirable practice to use tendentious epithets of any sort in this way; and, if so, is not the hon. Member's reference out of Order?

May I ask, in reference to the original reply, whether the Government will do all they can to see that trade with the bi-zone is diverted into more desirable directions?

The position is that the United Nations have not instituted economic sanctions against Spain and therefore there is no reason why Western Germany should. The reason why a decision is required now is that a previous decision was not possible until a settlement of the question of German assets in Spain had been reached.

Will the Under-Secretary see that trade between every country in Europe, irrespective of politics, is prosecuted so that we can get Europe back on its feet again?

Charges Against Officials (Records)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the fact that a British official of the Control Commission has been convicted of a criminal offence in Germany is communicated to Scotland Yard to be recorded.

When a criminal charge is preferred, the Criminal Record Office at Scotland Yard is asked to state whether anything is known about the accused. The result of the case is subsequently reported to Scotland Yard. This is done in accordance with normal international police practice.

In view of the fact that these men and women employed in the Control Commission are denied the right of appeal to a British court, is it fair that their records should be put into the hands of Scotland Yard, perhaps to be used against them?

This is normal in regard to any foreign country, and the fact that an appeal is not allowed does not matter.

Allied Military Governors (Meeting)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply is being sent to the French Government's request that the British and United States Governments should postpone the proposed Frankfurt meeting with the Commanders-in-Chief, until after the vote in the French Assembly.

A request to this effect has been received this morning. Meanwhile, I understand that the Allied Military Governors had already postponed the meeting.

That announcement will be widely welcomed in France. May we therefore take it that no fresh step will be taken in connection with the German situation until after the French Assembly has reached its decision?

Siam (British Subjects' Claims)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is satisfied with the progress being made in the treatment of the claims of British subjects against Siam; and what complaints he has received about the offer of the Siamese Government of a lump sum composition for a quick settlement.

Yes, Sir. Personal prejudice claims, which were rightly given priority, are actually receiving consideration by the Siamese Government, who have agreed to meet them in full as assessed and validated by a claims committee on which the British Commonwealth have adequate representation. A number of claims of the kind have in fact been validated and payment will be made to claimants out of assets of the Siamese Government frozen in this country. Property claims are not so far advanced, but my right hon. Friend is not dissatisfied with the progress already made. I am not aware of any complaints having been made about the offer of the Siamese Government to settle property claims by means of a lump sum payment.

Is the Under-Secretary satisfied that the claims have, on the whole, been fairly and adequately dealt with; or have the Foreign Affairs Department issued any kind of directive to their representatives on the Claims Committee to say, "We have had enough. Stop the thing now. Justice has been done"? Would the Under-Secretary tell the House whether he and his Department think that justice has been done in these claims?

I have no evidence of the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member. On the general subject, I have nothing to add to the statement I have given.

European Recovery Programme (Negotiations)

23 and 25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he will give an assurance that, in negotiating the Bilateral Agreement with the U.S.A. in connection with Marshall Aid, he will not surrender to the E.R.P. Administrator the power to decide the rate of exchange of British currency;

(2) if he will give an assurance that, when negotiating a Bilateral Agreement with the U.S.A. in connection with Marshall Aid, he will not surrender to the Administrator the right to veto or in any way interfere with British tariff policy and structure.

Negotiations for a Bilateral Agreement have started in Washington, and it would be contrary to the general interest to comment upon them at this stage.

In view of the fact that the whole world now knows, except the people in this country who are limited to reading the British Press, that the Americans have inserted, in the draft they have sent us, these two requirements—that they shall control the rate of exchange and our tariff policy—and are insisting on these two points, is it not high time that the British people were told of these iniquitous terms which the Yankees are asking so that they can back up our negotiators in refusing them?

The hon. Member may ask a question, but he may not give reasons for asking it.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave me a specific assurance that in no circumstances would power be given under this agreement for the Americans to interfere with the rate of exchange? Does his answer mean that what the Chancellor said some three weeks ago is untrue?

No, Sir. My answer means that until this document is published, and while negotiations are in progress, I cannot make any comments.

Will the Under-Secretary give an assurance that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said has not been changed by any subsequent decision?

Is it not a fact that even the British Press was full this weekend of the difficulties with which Sir Oliver Franks is faced? Is it not a fact that this is giving great alarm to the people, and when, therefore, shall we know what is contained in this document?

I certainly agree that these are most important issues, but I ask the House not to press for comments while negotiations are going on.

Sudan (Anglo-Egyptian Negotiations)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of the negotiations over the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

Yes, Sir, and as the answer is long, I will, with permission, give it at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions

With permission, I will make a statement on Question No. 24.

During the past six months His Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government have been discussing the measures of constitutional reform in the Sudan which the Governor-General has proposed for the purpose of associating the Sudanese more closely with the Central Administration of their country as a first step towards self-government. In view of the importance of these reforms, which include the establishment of an Executive Council and an elected Legislative Assembly, the Governor-General has communicated to both Governments the successive drafts of the Ordinance embodying the proposed reforms, and he has in turn received the views of the two Governments.

Latterly discussions have been taking place in Cairo between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and during the course of these talks His Majesty's Government have endeavoured to ascertain how far it would be possible to meet the expressed Egyptian desire to participate in the preparation of the Sudanese people for self-government. With the agreement of the Governor-General they suggested that a tripartite Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese Committee should be set up to supervise the progress of the Sudanese towards self-government, and that an Anglo-Egyptian Committee should supervise the elections to the Legislative Assembly. The Governor-General expressed his willingness to nominate to the Executive Council two Egyptians from the ranks of the Egyptian officials serving in the Sudan, and the Governor-General also agreed that the Senior Staff Officer of the Egyptian forces in the Sudan should attend all meetings of the Executive Council when defence matters were being discussed.

After protracted negotiations His Majesty's Ambassador at Cairo was able to report to my right hon. Friend on the 28th May that he had reached agreement on all points with the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the proposed constitutional reforms, though the latter still had to seek the endorsement of the Egyptian Government. Despite repeated requests from His Majesty's Ambassador and an urgent appeal from my right hon. Friend on 3rd June, we have received no answer from them regarding their willingness to co-operate in the proposed reforms on the basis of the proposals of the Governor-General.

His Majesty's Government therefore feel that they can no longer stand in the way of the Governor-General doing as he thinks fit regarding the promulgation of the Ordinance in accordance with his duties and obligations for the good government of the Sudan under the Agreement of 1899.

In conclusion, and in case there should be any misunderstanding on this point, I would like to emphasise that these negotiations covered only the practical question of the proposed Ordinance and were never intended to reconcile the conflicting views regarding the status of the Sudan on which both governments have previously and publicly reserved their positions.

In view of this very important statement by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, may I ask him whether, after the promulgation of the new Constitution in the Sudan, His Majesty's Government will continue to keep in contact with the Egyptian Government with a view to further discussion?

I can certainly give an undertaking to remain in contact. We are always glad to discuss and, if possible, to settle with the Egyptian Government, but we feel that interminable delay is unfair to the Sudanese.

In view of the importance of the subject matter of the hon. Gentleman's answer may I ask whether it is proposed to publish a fuller statement, including any relevant correspondence, in the form of a White Paper—or does the Foreign Secretary think that that is not necessary at this moment?

As there have been variations in the set-up of the proposed Executive Council may I ask whether it is still proposed that there should be a number of Sudanese Under-Secretaries within that council?

State Of Israel (Recognition)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the resolution from the Council of Manchester and Salford Jews, relating to the recognition of the State of Israel, sent to him by the hon. Member for North Salford; and if he will make a statement.

The resolution was carefully considered; but I have nothing to add to my statement in the Debate on the Adjournment on 10th June.

What will be the attitude of the Government if in the present negotiations the United Nations decide to recognise the State of Israel?

Will the Under-Secretary tell us whether the Government are determined to be the last sovereign State to recognise the State of Israel?

As I have explained, we are with the great numerical majority of mankind in that we have not recognised Israel.

British Ambassador, Usa (Speech)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the announcement of Sir Oliver Franks, in Washington, on 8th June, in reference to our attitude to Russia, was made on the instructions of His Majesty's Government and represents their policy.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the speech made by the British Ambassador in Washington to the National Press Club on 8th June last was made on his instructions and represents the policy of the Government.

The remarks made by Sir Oliver Franks to which the hon. Members refer were not in the form of a prepared speech or made as a result of instructions from His Majesty's Government, but were in answer to questions at a lunch at the Washington Press Club. They are in line with the views expressed by my right hon. Friend in his speech in the House on 4th May, when he spoke of a "war of nerves" and indicated that the Soviet Government are indulging in a form of cold war against the United Kingdom as well as against other Powers, including the United States.

Even if these remarks were in the nature of an impromptu speech or reply, does not the Under-Secretary think it is most unwise and unfortunate that we should be represented as lining up with America in a cold war against Russia?

I do not think the fact that these remarks were impromptu is relevant because, as I have explained, they are in line with my right hon. Friend's speech.

Is it not in accordance with the practice of this House, Mr. Speaker, that Questions should not be addressed in regard to remarks of Ambassadors?

I think not. An Ambassador as a rule expresses the policy of His Majesty's Government, and therefore to pick out an Ambassador and make uncomplimentary remarks about what he has said is undesirable, although it cannot be prevented at the Table.

Is it not clear that I made no uncomplimentary remarks about our Ambassador, but merely asked whether what he said represented the view of His Majesty's Government?

An Ambassador comes within the category of people who may not be adversely criticised without putting down a Motion. Judges, His Majesty's Ambassadors, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Deputy-Chairman and various other people are protected unless there is a definite Motion put down in the House.

Is it not in Order, without making any adverse comments, to inquire whether a statement made by an Ambassador represents the policy of His Majesty's Government?

That is the same thing as asking whether a Minister's statement made in the country represents the policy of the Government. Without making adverse comments, I think it is correct.

May I ask whether the remarks made by this Ambassador are not absolutely correct?

In view of the need to ease the tension between ourselves and the U.S.S.R., will not the Foreign Office consider giving instructions to Ambassadors and high-ranking military officers against making provocative speeches?

Surely that is a direct breach of what you have just laid down, Mr. Speaker? You have just said that one cannot make charges against Ambassadors, and yet the hon. Member has described the action of an Ambassador as provocative. I should like to know exactly where we stand in the matter.

The noble Lord was sitting far nearer to the hon. Member than I am. I did not hear a word that was said.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this informal method of expressing the policy of the Government and the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the British people is a very helpful method in a country like America?

Food Supplies



asked the Minister of Food if he will give the tonnage of stocks of ware potatoes in the country in possession and not in possession of the Ministry of Food, respectively, at the latest available date.

On 8th June we held 18,500 tons, which we expect will be used by the end of this week. Other stocks are negligible.

Can the hon. Lady say what is the stock of potatoes not in the possession of the Ministry?

Then why did the Ministry take the important decision to ration potatoes when they did not know the total stocks in the country? Does the hon. Lady not now realise that rationing was completely unnecessary, and that all the Department's dealing in swedes and turnips resulted in a loss of money?


asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the losses sustained by private importers of new potatoes through competition with each other in the foreign market and the consequent payment of unnecessarily high prices, he will take steps to avoid this excess expenditure of foreign exchange by pursuing in suitable circumstances the policy of bulk buying which has proved successful with other commodities.

My right hon. Friend did not consider that bulk buying would be appropriate for the relatively small quantity involved, and he had hoped that private traders would not misjudge the market as apparently they did.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the market was badly misjudged on this occasion, resulting in a large and unnecessary expenditure of sterling? In similar circumstances will it not be possible to give rather more than moral encouragement to associations of representative traders who could organise voluntary distribution, and give a good service to the public at a reasonable price?

Would it not be better that the private trader should lose his own money and learn something, rather than that the Ministry of Food should lose the taxpayers' money and not learn a lesson?


asked the Minister of Food what is the reason for the dumping of about 1,000 tons of imported cooking potatoes near Swanmore, Hampshire, and for these potatoes being offered for sale for either pig and poultry food, or human consumption, at 4s. 3d. per cwt. or £4 per ton; what was the cost to his Ministry, including cost of transport, of these potatoes; and whether he will take steps with a view to avoiding such bad bargaining for the public in future.

Of 792 tons of imported potatoes temporarily stored near Swanmore, 174 tons were sold for stock feeding as they were not keeping. The loss incurred by not being able to sell them for human consumption was about £1,100. My right hon. Friend would certainly not agree to any change of policy that would prevent our insuring against a critical shortage even at the risk of a small surplus.

Is the hon. Lady aware that I have seen and eaten some of these potatoes, which were sold as food for pigs at £4 per ton? They were perfectly good, as were the great majority of the consignment. This is a scandal in that part of the world. Can she say what it cost the Ministry to purchase the potatoes?

I have already said that the loss was £, but I will let the hon. and gallant Member have the whole cost.

Are we to understand that when a private trader makes mistakes in the market he is blamed for it, but that when the Ministry make mistakes it is called insurance?

I would like the hon. Gentleman and others who have put down Questions on potatoes to know that the quantity of potatoes sold as stock food and to Germany during last year is one-tenth of 1 per cent. of the total supply. I would like them to compare that with the figure during the war, which was 3.5 per cent. per year of the total supply.

Is the hon. Lady aware that it is currently stated that the price paid for these potatoes was £16 per ton? Is she aware that it was freely stated in the neighbourhood of Southampton that several shiploads were diverted back to the Continent?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me have details I will inquire into the matter further. He has not given them, to me; he has raised the matter in the House.

Milk Consumption


asked the Minister of Food what was the total weekly domestic consumption of milk during the recent period when rationing was suspended; and what was the weekly consumption for the comparable period immediately preceding the suspension.

I regret that the information which my hon. Friend desires is not yet available. I will send it to him as soon as possible.

I will let the right hon. and learned Member have it if he would like it.

London Society Of Compositors (Dinner)


asked the Minister of Food in view of the fact that the centenary of the London Society of Compositors were allowed special dispensation for extra rations, why similar facilities have not been granted for the centenary of the Orpington Baptist Church, particulars of which have been sent to him.

The London Society of Compositors were not allowed extra rations for their centenary dinner, which was provided by a caterer from his normal allowances.

That is an easy way to get out of the question. Has not the hon. Lady been misinformed? Is she aware that this is a form of political nepotism which brings Parliamentary institutions into contempt?

I do not think the hon. Member knows the details. The London Society of Compositors had their dinner during the time when numbers were limited to 100. That order was withdrawn, but during the time it was operating the Society were given a dispensation.

Lost Ration Books


asked the Minister of Food what has been the annual and the monthly average reported loss of ration books in each of the years 1944 to 1947; and what has been the monthly reported loss since the beginning of this year.

With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of the numbers of ration books issued in replacement of those reported lost, stolen or destroyed in the periods mentioned.

Has the hon. Lady any figures to show how many lost books were recovered?

Following is the information:

Calendar Year.Numbers issued.Average monthly replacement.

It is estimated that some 20 per cent. of the books which were replaced were subsequently recovered.

Jam (Fruit Content)


asked the Minister of Food what is the fruit content of various grades of manufactured jam today compared with before the war; and what percentage is of the lowest grade, compared with the pre-war percentage.

As the reply to the first part of the Question contains many figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Since there is only one standard for the fruit content of each variety of jam today, the second part of the Question does not arise.

In view of the accumulation of stocks of certain types of manufactured jam, is not the moment opportune to try to bring the jam which is available at present to something nearer pre-war standards?

Only 23 per cent. of the varieties of our present jam are as low as the lowest pre-war standards. I would remind the hon. Lady that we are giving a bonus allowance of jam during the current period.

Description of Jam or Marmalade.Pre-war Full Fruit Standard and Fresh Fruit Standard of the Food Manufacturers' Federation.Pre-war lower Fruit Standard of the Food Manufacturers' Federation.Current Standard as prescribed by S.R. & O. 1944 No. 842.
Percentage of fruit.Percentage of fruit.Percentage of fruit.
Apple and Blackberry40 (30/10)2040 (30/10)
Apple and Blackcurrent
Apple and Damson
Apple and Plum
Apple and Raspberry and/or Loganberry
Apple and Strawberry
Apple Jelly402040
Apricot and Peach40 (20/20)2040 (20/20)
Blackberry (or Bramble) and Blackberry (or Bramble) Seedless or Jelly.382038
Blackcurrent and Blackcurrant Jelly302020
Damson and Damson Jelly382038
Elderberry Jelly and Elderberry Seedless40
Peach and Mixtures of Peach with Citrus Fruit402040
Plum and Plum Jelly402040
Plum and Blackcurrent40 (30/10)2040 (30/10)
Plum and Raspberry40 (30/10)2040 (30/10)
Plum and Strawberry40 (30/10)2040 (30/10)
Quince Jelly40
Raspberry and Raspberry Seedless or Jelly382020
Raspberry and Gooseberry402025 (10/15)
Raspberry and Redcurrent402020 (10/10)
Redcurrant Jelly352020
Rhubarb and Blackberry40 (30/10)2040 (30/10)
Rhubarb and Raspberry40 (30/10)2040 (30/10)
Strawberry and Gooseberry402030 (15/15)
All other jams402040
Marmaladenot specifiednot specified20
Marmalade Special Standard (Coarse Cut)30
Marmalade Special Standard (Jelly)20

Note.—Where figures in brackets are specified in the second and fourth columns above in respect of a description of jam containing more than one variety of fruit the first figure denotes the content of the variety of fruit first mentioned in such description, and the second figure denotes the total content of the other varieties of fruit mentioned in such description.

bonus would it not be better to improve, say, plum jam?

The percentage of plum in our jam today is as high as the percentage in our pre-war jam.

Following is the information:



asked the Minister of Food whether he is yet in a position to extend the distribution of bananas.

Yes, Sir, in some degree. While supplies are still insufficient to enable bananas to be distributed freely to everyone, we are making arrangements to give a share to people over 70 as well as those under 18 and expectant mothers. As soon as the arrangements are completed a further announcement will be made.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that manna from Heaven may I ask her if she is aware that this nourishing, delicious and easily masticated food will be much welcomed by our old people as an addition to their rather restricted diet?


Of the above quantities, 8,515 tons of oats were delivered from the United Kingdom stocks. The remainder were direct

Direct Shipments.Ex United Kingdom stocks.Total.


Control Commission for Germany92,06492,064


Control Commission for Germany96,2498,350 (seed)104,599
Crown Agents for the Colonies165165

In addition, 69,896 tons of maize was sent to Holland and Belgium, of which 66,938 tons were shipped direct from country of origin and 2,958 from the United Kingdom stocks. This maize remained the property of the United Kingdom and was sent to Holland and Belgium for the

We are importing 150,000 tons this year as against 100,000 tons last year.

Maize And Oats (Exports)


asked the Minister of Food what quantity of maize and oats, respectively, were sold during the trading year 1946–47 for delivery abroad; and what were the respective values of the sales.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following as the information:

The quantities and value of maize and oats sold for delivery abroad during the trading year 1946–47 were for countries for which we had procurement responsibilities or acted as purchasing agents. The quantities were as follow:

shipments from country of origin to destination.

The destinations were as follow:

production of starch for the United Kingdom.

With the exception of the seed oats delivered to the Control Commission for Germany and the maize sent to Holland and Belgium for processing, these grains were intended for human consumption.

Pigeons (Feedingstuffs)


asked the Minister of Food if he will allocate more food for pigeons in the Swindon district.

No, Sir. We allocate pigeon food for distribution to members of the National Pigeon Service without specifying any particular locality.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in Blackburn too, many pigeons have to be destroyed because of the inadequacy of the feeding ration which she is making available? Will she not consider increasing the ration?

I recognise, from the letters I get from Members, that there are many pigeons needing food, but pigeon food means cereals and pulses, which are in short supply in the world today.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that although it is very difficult to feed pigeons nowadays, because of the shortage of cereals and pulses, there was a time, not many years ago, when the war effort of this country was sustained by the voluntary work of pigeon fanciers? Will she not try to find more grain for pigeons, if only as recognition of the work which was vitally necessary during the war?

We have recognised that, but there are many more people who are keeping pigeons now who should have a share. In September we are allocating the pigeon food to the homing unions.

Cocoa Beans (Price)


asked the Minister of Food why, in view of the fact that the U.S. price for cocoa beans ruling on their terminal market for May, 1947 was 170s. per cwt., he is charging the chocolate manufacturers of this country 237s. 2d. per cwt.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to his Question on 2nd June. Apart from the fact that he is comparing the New York terminal price with the price duty paid to manufacturers in this country, a single quotation in a fluctuating market cannot be taken as an index of what the Ministry should charge manufacturers over a period.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the real cause for the high price of chocolate today is the excessive price charged by the Government to the chocolate manufacturers. It is not just a question of an isolated instance. It is an illustration of the fact that the price is too high and it is a real scandal.