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Commons Chamber

Volume 462: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1949

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 1st March, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Pensions

Disability Pension

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that ex-Junior Commander G. W. Wills, H.A.A.(M) R.A., Ministry of Pensions No. 0/F2/541, was invalided out of His Majesty's Forces in January, 1944, suffering at the time from attributable arthritis, attributable hernia and aggravated psychoneurosis, and was awarded 30 per cent. disability; and whether he will now relate back, compensation for these three ills resulting from an accident on service.

From the date of leaving the A.T.S., Miss Wills, who is now in receipt of pension at the 40 per cent. rate, has received awards appropriate to the degree of her disablement as assessed by the medical boards and specialists by whom she has been examined from time to time. My right hon. Friend, however, has arranged for Miss Wills to be re-examined within the next few days by a medical board, including specialists, of different personnel from those who have examined her hitherto. She will also be seen by the Ministry's rehabilitation medical officer so that special consideration may be given to the question of her resettlement and the provision of any necessary treatment. My right hon. Friend will inform the hon. Member of the result as early as possible.

Widows

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions how many widows of ex-Service men who had married after the man's discharge from the Service, are deprived of pension through the rule that entitlement is limited to cases where the man died after 3rd September, 1939; and what would be the approximate cost of removing this condition.

I regret that the records of my Department do not enable me to give the desired information with any degree of reliability.

The hon. Gentleman may recall that an answer was given recently that this matter was being considered, and can he give any indication as to how far the examination of this question has gone? Although the number of cases involved is small, and the expense not great, would it not be possible to relieve these widows of a considerable amount of hardship?

There are many imponderables in this business. There are the questions of how many men pensioned as single were, in fact, married afterwards, and how many widows have remarried or died. The matter is under consideration, but we have no information on which to give any definite figures at the present moment.

British Army

Swift Training Rifle

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet received a report on the Swift training rifle; and what are his proposals for its use in the active Army, the Territorial Army and in the Army Cadet Force.

The results of the initial tests referred to in my reply to a Question by the hon. Member on 1st February are now under examination by small arms training and technical advisers. Until this examination is completed I cannot say what will be the eventual policy with regard to the rifle.

War Office Messenger (Inquiry)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement concerning the dismissal of the War Office messenger, Mr. Harold King, a disabled ex-Service man, for taking a leading part in the organisation of the Government cleaners' demands for better pay.

Mr. King has not been dismissed. He has been sent on paid leave in accordance with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 15th March, 1948, about the employment of individuals whose reliability is in doubt. His case has been under investigation for some time and the action taken has nothing whatever to do with Mr. King's activities on behalf of Government cleaners.

Is the Minister aware that all the charges against Mr. King relate to the years from 1932 to 1940; is he aware that this information was known or could have been known to his Department before March last year; and is it not a strange coincidence that this action was taken a bare fortnight after he had taken a leading part on behalf of the women cleaners in his office?

These activities relate to the period long before the cleaners agitated, and some of the facts were known to the Department, but it was only after the Prime Minister had issued the directive to which I have referred that this case received active consideration. It is just a coincidence that Mr. King was asked to deny the allegations on or about the date when the cleaners were agitating, but that has nothing to do with it at all.

May I ask the Prime Minister if, in connection with the question of reliability, this man has not a record of service to his country as good as, or even better than that of any Member of the Government?

It is not a question of service to the country. It is a question of whether or not this man belongs to a political party, the members of which are regarded in certain departments of the public service as unreliable. He has not denied the allegations, and therefore, the facts are as stated.

In view of the not very exalted position held by Mr. King, can my right hon. Friend say precisely what danger is constituted to the State?

Mr. King was a Government messenger responsible for the transit of documents from one Government Department to another, and it was thought inadvisable that he should be entrusted with this task.

Kington Camp

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is now possible to release a portion of Kington camp, Herefordshire, for the relief of the housing shortage in that district.

The future of Kington camp has now been reconsidered and it has been decided that the War Department has no further requirement for it. The camp will therefore be notified to the Ministry of Works as redundant in accordance with normal procedure.

Storeman, Brancepeth Camp (Charge)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War how Gunner A. E. Green of the 45th Field Regiment, R.A., gained entrance to the armoury at Brancepeth camp, County Durham, on 17th December, 1948, and became possessed of two revolvers and a large quantity of ammunition.

As the noble Lord has been informed, this soldier's position as storeman gave him easy access to the arms and ammunition. The full inquiries which have been made show that no contributory negligence can be attached to any person or persons.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, having obtained these two revolvers and some ammunition, this man proceeded to shoot another soldier in the back and kill him; that at his trial he was found guilty but insane; and that it was said in his defence that he had been in an hysterical and unstable state of mind for several months past? Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that he was a proper person to be in charge of a store?

There was no evidence of insanity in this man's case in our possession when he was acting as storeman. If there had been any such evidence, obviously he would have been transferred or removed entirely. However, as I said, there was no evidence to that effect.

Pension Adjustment

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War why an ex-soldier of whose name he has been informed and who has done 45 years service in the Gloucestershire Regiment, has been informed that his pension will be reduced from 1st June by twopence a week.

In the case referred to the pension of £115 1s. 2d. a year is not being reduced, but an adjustment is being made in the amount of the weekly payments in order that they may be the equivalent of the yearly rate. The weekly rate previously paid was incorrectly calculated, so that the payments were slightly more than the yearly rate for which the pensioner was eligible.

Was this reduction really necessary in the national interest? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I hold in my hand a statement from the paymaster at Exeter of October, 1947, to say that the pension was to be 44s. 3d. a week and another from the paymaster at Taunton to say that it was to be reduced from 1st June to 44s. 1d. a week? In spite of the explanation now sent to him, the man says that he is losing 2d. a week, and I agree with him. Will not the right hon. Gentleman issue a new pension book and stop this formality?

I do not know about the statements in the hands of the hon. Gentleman, but we cannot pay a man more than that to which he is actually entitled. I do not propose to ask this man to repay all the twopences which he has already received.

Town And Country Planning

New Towns (Shopping Sites)

15.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what procedure will be adopted in the new towns for the allocating of shops, or shopping sites, to intending retailers.

This is essentially a matter for the corporations established by me under the Act of 1946 for the purposes of the development of the newtowns.

Is the Minister prepared to follow the lead given in New Zealand and to suggest that the customers, who are always supposed to be right, should have a say in this matter and that their wishes about types of retailers should be adhered to?

I have no doubt that the new towns' corporations will take that into account.

Iron-Ore Workings, Oundle And Thrapston

16.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how much of the 25,799 acres within the area of the Oundle and Thrapston rural district council, for which application has been made for the working of iron-ore, will be by opencast mining.

Closer examination of the maps accompanying the applications has shown that the figure previously given was some 400 acres too high. Of the revised estimate of 25,400 acres it seems probable that over nearly 8,500 acres, where the overburden is less than 100 feet thick, working would be opencast if planning permission were given. As to the remaining area of some 17,000 acres, it is too early to say whether the whole would prove to be workable or, if workable, which method would be employed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that approximately 25 per cent. of this local authority's area is likely to be affected by this mining, and what steps is he taking to ensure that this beautiful countryside is restored once the mining is completed?

The figures which are given are merely of the total number of applications which are likely to be made over a long period. I have still to consider those applications, and I am not, of course, in a position to say what the decision will be.

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to take steps to ensure that this countryside is restored after the mining has been completed?

Employment

Agricultural Workers (Direction)

20.

asked the Minister of Labour what avenue of appeal exists for agricultural workers when a county agricultural committee refuses to release them for work in another industry.

The decision in these cases rests with my local officers and not with the county agricultural executive committee. If the worker does not accept the decision the issue of a direction under Defence Regulation 58A is considered. If a direction is issued the worker has an opportunity of appeal to the local appeal board.

Is it not about time we did away with this farce of tying a man to an industry in which he does not want

Unemployed Registered Disabled Persons
Registered Disabled PersonsCapable of ordinary employmentRequiring sheltered employmentTotal
M.F.TotalM.F.M.F.M.F.Total
Blaina258112695561772678
Abertillery72727754174923419713210
Newbridge856288841587271857192
Wales and Monmouthshire63,7272,60566,33211,9663541,7242313,69037714,067

Ship-Repairing (Casual Labour)

22.

asked the Minister of Labour if he has considered the danger of casual labour arising in the ship-repairing yards of this country when the repair facilities on the Continent are fully restored; and what steps he is taking to abolish casual labour in this industry by a system of decasualisation.

The question of the level of employment in ship-repairing is under constant review and steps will be taken to deal with any situation which may arise.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that low wages and bad working conditions on the Continent as compared with this country will have a tendency

to work and let men have a free choice of work?

Disabled Persons, Wales

21.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons, male and females separately on the disabled persons' register; and the number of such persons registered as unemployed at the latest available date, at each of the Blaina, Abertillery, and Newbridge employment exchanges; and the total figures for Wales and Monmouthshire for the same categories.

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

Following is the reply;

to pull our wages down and to reintroduce the principle of casual labour which existed before the war and which is undesirable in this country?

I am not sure that a system of decasualisation can be properly worked in this industry, but we have the advice of the shipbuilding advisory committee, which represents the industry from all aspects and is keeping a watch on the situation.

National Service Call-Up (Students)

26.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that there is still long delay between registration and call-up for many boys who are still at school and as they find it difficult to obtain employment after registration will he take steps to remedy the call-up when this is desirable in the boys' interests.

As I announced in reply to two Questions on 18th January, where young men at school wish to be called-up early in order to fit in their period of service with the beginning of courses at the universities in the autumn of any year, their request will be granted. I am looking into the two cases which the hon. Member has sent me where there appears to have been delay and will write to him shortly.

Has the information to which the right hon. Gentleman referred been made available not only to State schools, but also to public schools?

I cannot say definitely whether the information has recently been sent out but I will make inquiries of my hon. Friend the Minister of Education and see that it is done as soon as possible.

What is the average time between notice of call-up and the presentation of the man for service?

I announced that period some time back. Speaking from memory, at least a month elapses between the complete registration and the call-up.

Scotland

Mental Patients (Notice Of Discharge)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the circumstances relating to the case of Mrs. Elizabeth Corbett, of 4, Beltane Street, Glasgow, C.3, particulars of which were submitted to him recently by the hon. Member for Kelvin-grove, he will issue instructions to the authorities concerned that a husband's discharge from a mental hospital must be intimated beforehand to his wife.

I understand from the General Board of Control that in a case of this kind it would now be the duty of the hospital to give prior notice of discharge to the nearest known relative. This particular case took place before 5th July, 1948.

Government Offices, Edinburgh

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the plans at present being made for the future development of large areas in the City of Edinburgh, he has yet made any representations concerning future requirements for Government offices.

In the consideration of plans for development in the Edinburgh area, the future requirements for Government offices are kept in view; and my Department is in touch with the Ministry of Works on the subject.

I understand that negotiations are now proceeding with the Ministry of Works on this matter.

Would it not be a matter of interest to this House, at any rate to Scottish Members, to know what the plans of the Government are about extended building in Scotland?

Teaching Profession (Salaries)

32.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the disparity in remuneration as between qualified teachers and university lecturers, on the one hand, and graduates employed in industry, local government and other professions, on the other hand; whether he is aware of the frustration evident among the former group and the injury thus caused to the increasing opportunities for secondary and university education; and whether he will consider some form of inquiry into the comparative remuneration of professional men and women, firstly, to determine the facts and secondly, to take appropriate action with a view to securing a fairer balance between teaching and the other professions.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in replying yesterday to the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) announced certain improvements to which he has agreed in the remuneration of university teachers in the medical and dental schools. The position of other university teachers is under consideration. For school teachers the settlement of appropriate scales of salary is, in accordance with Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944, a matter for the Burnham Committees, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has no reason to think that the question raised by the hon. Member was overlooked when the Committees conducted their last review of the salary scales, and he sees no reason to set up a special inquiry to deal with it.

While appreciating the generous answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, and the consideration given to medical and dental teachers, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that there are thousands of university lecturers and teachers with salaries between £350 and £600 a year who at the moment are definitely feeling a sense of privation, partly due to the increased cost of living since the last Burnham scale? Will he not reconsider the answer, and possibly, if my suggestion is wrong, consider some other form of inquiry into the matter?

These matters are under consideration, as my right hon. and learned Friend said yesterday, but it is extremely difficult to work out the terms of relativity in these matters.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise how difficult it will be to retain university professors at all at salaries of from £1,400 to £1,500—many of whom could earn double that in other professions—and how grave will be the effect right down the scale?

There is really nothing new in this. People of great mental powers often devote themselves to education and university work when they might have gone out for a greater commercial reward, but they do not always choose that course.

Would my right hon. Friend look particularly at the position of science teachers, because industry can offer these people far greater rewards than the teaching profession?

National Finance

Europe (American And British Aid)

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will state the value, in pounds sterling, of the total aid received by Great Britain from the United States of America since the end of the European war by way of loan and Marshall Aid; and the total value, in pounds sterling, of the aid in cash and kind given by Great Britain to European countries during the same period.

£931 million has been received from the U.S.A. since the end of the European war by way of loan under the line of credit established by the Anglo-American Financial Agreement of 1945, and £208 million to date as Marshall Aid.

Aid by the United Kingdom to European countries in the form of cash, goods and services, amounted to £790 million between the end of the war and 31st December, 1948. This figure includes the net use of drawing rights resulting from the first two months' operation of the Intra-European Payments Scheme. Of the total assistance, £440 million is recoverable.

Invisible Earnings (Statistics)

36.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the value, adjusted for changes in the value of the pound sterling, of the total invisible earnings of Great Britain for each of the years 1928, 1929, 1932, 1933, 1937, 1938, 1946 and 1947.

I will, with permission, circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also circulate the figures he has taken in adjustment of the pound in the calculations he has made, and add them to the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

I think it will be quite clear from the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT how it has been arrived at.

Will the answer convey the net invisible earnings, or will it be concerned merely with the gross figure?

Following is the answer:

Before the war our "invisible" earnings were computed on a different basis from those for 1946 and 1947. The principal difference was that, as U.K. imports were expressed c.i.f. in the balance of payments, freight and insurance earned on these imports by U.K. firms were included as "invisible" earnings even though they were earned, for the most part, from U.K. importers and not from overseas residents. At present imports are entered f.o.b. and the freight and insurance earnings referred to above are excluded from our receipts. For the year 1938, however, net invisible earnings

(£ million)
19281929193219331937193819461947
1938 Purchasing Power of net invisible earnings.
(i) With Imports calculated on c.i.f. Basis360370270320370320
(ii) With Imports calculated on f.o.b. Basis230—80—70

Purchase Tax

37.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer with whom the Commissioners of Customs and Excise consult in drawing up lists of medicines and drugs to be exempted from Purchase Tax.

The Commissioners of Customs and Excise rely primarily upon the Ministries of Health and Agriculture on "human" and "animal" medicines, respectively.

Death Duties

38.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will issue a classification of the number of estates and net receipts of Death Duties and the net capital values for such estates for any convenient year since 1944.

A classification of numbers of estates and net capital values for the year 1946–47 appears in the 90th Report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue; a similar classification for the year 1947–48 will appear in the forthcoming Report. The total receipt of death duties in each estate range is not separately recorded.

have been computed on both bases, and are shown below for comparison.

It is not clear which changes in the value of the pound my hon. Friend has in mind, but the following table shows the purchasing power of net "invisible" earnings in terms of the imports that these would have bought in the years in question. Indices of the average value of imports have been applied to the estimated net "invisible" receipts or payments, taking 1938 as the base. If Government overseas expenditure were not taken into account in 1946 and 1947, figures would be +60 and +10, respectively.

Civil Service (Equal Pay)

39.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated cost in the first operative year of the proposed increases in civil servants' emoluments, and how does this compare with the cost of raising the increments of women civil servants on the incremental part of the scale to the level of the men's increment, and of allowing women at the maximum of the scale to proceed to the men's maximum by equal yearly increments; also for the first operative year of such a scheme.

The Chorley Committee estimated the full cost of implementing their proposals as about £400,000 a year. The extent to which the cost in the first operative year will be less than the full cost cannot yet be estimated as I am still considering the appropriate method of gradual assimilation to the new rates. The eventual cost of the sort of scheme suggested in the second part of the Question for the gradual introduction of equal pay would be more than £10 million for the Civil Service; the cost in the first operative year would be about £2 million. It would, however, be quite impracticable to introduce such a scheme in the Civil Service alone. It would have to extend at least to the other public services which would increase the cost to some £7 million in the first year rising to an eventual total of £35 million.

Motor Car Taxation

40.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an estimate of the loss to the Exchequer for the current year and the next financial year if the registration tax on older motor cars was reduced to that allowed for new motor cars.

In a full year, £5¾ million. If a change were introduced, the effect in the financial year would depend on the date as from which the change applied and the arrangements made for refunds.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when preparing his Budget, consider this claim of the motoring community, and has he not had representations from the motoring associations on this matter?

I have had representations on every conceivable point that might come into the Budget, and I have borne them all in mind.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind the invitation of his predecessor that, after a suitable period, we should exert pressure on him in this matter, and will he show himself as accommodating as his predecessor appeared to me?

Is it not hard that the Ministry of Supply should prevent persons from getting new cars, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should penalise them for having old cars?

46.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce legislation to put pre-January, 1947, and post-January, 1947, motor cars on the same tax basis.

34.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will extend the flat rate of car road fund tax to cover all cars regardless of date of purchase or first taxation.

Is the Chancellor aware that the whole arrangements are full of anomalies and are grossly unjust, which is so typical of the Socialist Government?

War Damaged Property (Claims)

43.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many war damage claims in respect or residential property were outstanding at the beginning and end of 1948.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend give any indication of how long it is likely to be before these war damage claims are eventually disposed of?

That is another question. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put it on the Paper?

Government Hospitality, London (Cost)

44.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how £50,000 of current expenditure was incurred between 3rd May and 31st December, 1948, at No. 2, Park Street, W.1, in so far as that figure exceeds £28,200, the cost of 96 overseas guests for 2,351 nights during that period; and if he will identify the chief items.

The final accounts in respect of No. 2, Park Street for the period ending on 31st December last are not yet available. I am not, therefore, in a position to give the hon. Member an accurate analysis of the total expenditure.

As £50,000 was spent during this period on a total of 32,351 nights for overseas guests, was not the average cost per guest per night over £20, and not approximately £12, as stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman previously?

The estimate, I believe, was an accurate one but until we get the final figures we obviously cannot check it.

45.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what charges were made and to whom for accommodation and refreshments, provided for visitors, other than Government guests from overseas, at No. 2, Park Street, W.1, between 3rd May and 31st December, 1948; how many of these visitors were, and how many were not, sponsored by the Government; and what distinction was drawn between Government guests and Government-sponsored guests.

Five hundred and forty-two visitors, other than Government guests, were accommodated at No. 2, Park Street between 3rd May and 31st December last, for a total of 3,598 nights. Of these, 467 were sponsored by the Government directly or by Embassies and High Commissioners' Offices. The other 75 of these were accommodated for short periods at the request of neighbouring hotels. The accommodation and refreshment services are available to Government and Government-sponsored visitors without distinction. I am sending the hon. Member a list of current charges.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what are Government guests as distinct from Government-sponsored guests?

Government guests are people who are here receiving hospitality at the invitation of the Government. Government-sponsored guests are guests for whom the Government try to find accommodation at the request of Embassies, High Commissioners or other persons.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the charges paid by Government-sponsored guests cover, in fact, the cost of providing the accommodation?

I could not say until we have had the accounts, as I have already stated. I should think that the answer, probably, is, "No, they do not cover the cost." In other words, we are losing money on the guests.

Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer say whether any of these guests are bona fide workers and not-contact men?

Medical Treatment Abroad (Special Allowance)

49.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he will consider the granting of a special sterling allocation to certain tuberculous patients, who can be certified as having become acclimatised to residence only at high altitudes.

I do not think that it would be appropriate to issue a general instruction in the sense suggested. All applications for foreign currency on health grounds are considered by the Medical Advisory Committee, who base their recommendations on the medical evidence submitted in each individual case. If such evidence included a reference to the effect of climatic conditions on the patient, it would no doubt be taken into account along with other factors.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many patients of this particular group have had their resistance to disease lowered after their return to this country and have died of quite minor ailments; and, in connection with this particular group, would he accept the medical evidence of foreign doctors resident in Switzerland and urge that upon his medical advisory council?

The Medical Advisory Committee do take these factors into account. We must leave it to them. They are the experts in these matters.

Is there any reason why the Medical Advisory Committee should remain anonymous?

That question has been answered on more than one occasion. It is necessary in order that pressure should not be brought upon the members in individual cases.

Does the Advisory Committee consider individual cases or does it merely lay down rules which are applied without discretion?

Indeed, no. The panel does consider individual cases. The papers sent on individual cases are considered in great detail.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what are the terms of reference of the Committee from the financial point of view?

What I meant was, to what extent are they hampered or limited by Treasury instructions from the point of view of exchange?

If the hon. Gentleman would put that question on the Order Paper I will endeavour to answer it.

Central Office Of Information (Exhibition)

50.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what is the estimated cost of the exhibition "On Our Way," which is being held at the Hall of the Central Office of Information, in Oxford Street; and what is the object of the novelty feature, which includes a fun fair, pin tables and other sideshows.

Thirty-three thousand pounds. The object of the novelty feature is to bring home salient economic facts in such a way as to impress them on the memory of the public. A similar technique has been used in other Central Office exhibitions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the announcement about this exhibition says that the fun fair will contain

"distorting mirrors, Aladdin's Cave, a for-tune-telling machine and the Biggest Rat out of Captivity,"
and will he explain which facts the mirrors are supposed to distort and who or what is "the Biggest Rat out of Captivity"?

In these exhibitions we have to cater for all tastes. We hope to get Conservatives there in order to educate them.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the fortune-telling machine was consulted by the Conservative Party before the South Hammersmith by-election?

Can the Financial Secretary say whether the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State were led astray about the British economic position by these distorting mirrors?

Trade And Commerce

Monopolies Commission

51.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is yet in a position to indicate what industries are to be examined by the Monopolies Commission during 1949.

59.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the six industries which have been referred to the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission.

My right hon. Friend hopes to give the House some information on this matter within a day or so.

Exports (Nationalised Industries)

55.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of the value of United Kingdom exports in 1948 was contributed by the nationalised industries; and what percentage by private enterprise.

The contribution of the nationalised industries to United Kingdom exports is mainly an indirect one, which cannot be measured statistically. The coal industry, the only direct exporting industry which has been nationalised, accounted for 2½ per cent. of total United Kingdom exports in 1948, in addition to its indirect contribution.

Is it not clear that the success of the export campaign is, at any rate, due to private enterprise?

It is quite clear that without the contribution of the nationalised industries there would have been no production and, therefore, no exports at all.

Does the hon. Gentleman really believe that there was no production before electricity or gas or the railways were nationalised, and was it not a fact that production was just as great and rather cheaper?

I did not imply anything of the kind. The Question put to me asked what was the contribution of the nationalised industries, and that I have answered.

Is it not the case that the Reid Report made it clear that the mining industry was going bankrupt and would have been incapable of supporting the export trade?

Is it not a fact that the contribution of the coalmining industry to our exports before the war was higher in total volume and also higher as a percentage of our total exports?

Distribution Officers

56.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the fact that the movements and visits to retailers and other businesses of both distribution officers and Price Regulation Committee inspectors largely coincide and that the other work of Price Regulation Committees is falling off since the reduction of controls, he will arrange for the taking over by the Price Regulation Committee inspectors of the work now being undertaken by the 30 distribution officers.

No, Sir. Both sets of officers are fully occupied; their duties are quite distinct and could not be combined.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the regular monthly reports of the Price Regulation Committees include such matters as reports on shortages and other relevant data and that it is, in fact, a duplication of the work being done by the distribution officers, and will he look at this matter again?

Horses (Export)

53.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many horses were exported in 1948; to what countries; and at what prices.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has my hon. Friend any information about what happens to these horses when they reach the other side, and is he satisfied with the treatment they receive?

Following is the statement:

UNITED KINGDOM EXPORTS OF HORSES (INCLUDING PONIES), YEAR 1948
CountryNumberValue
£
To Eire2,3012,191,822
To France1,031333, 624
To Union of South Africa148152,745
To Australia92135,449
To United States of America.15594,845
To Italy72967,511
To India3859,896
To Belgium1,15750,469
To Brazil1643,925
To Argentine Republic2943,527
To New Zealand4242,707
To Ceylon5541,435
To British Malaya6240,455
To Venezuela383,515
To British West Indies5229,292
To Canada1616,751
To Poland5013,792
To Turkey119,600
To Channel Islands766,304
To Panama115,200
To Pakistan405,060
To All other countries12733,187
Total6,2763,451,111

Cloth (Tailors' Allocations)

61.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make available to tailors sufficient utility materials to enable them to make clothes for outsize people from materials that are free from Purchase Tax, without having to cut into the tailor's allocation for normal sizes.

The distribution of cloth to tailors and other clothing manufacturers is not controlled by the Board of Trade but is left to the normal machinery of the trade. We are aiming at an increase in the already large proportion of utility cloth production.

Rifle Clubs (Ammunition)

67.

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he is taking to ease the difficulties of small bore rifle clubs in Britain in obtaining high grade ammunition.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given yesterday to the hon. Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke).

Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to receive a deputation from the National Association of Rifle Clubs to explain the very serious position?

If the hon. Member would put that to us in writing we should consider that aspect of the matter.

Economic Recovery (Minister's Speech, Usa)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Prime Minister a question of which I have given Private Notice, namely, whether his attention has been drawn to the recent conflicting announcements on British economic recovery and our need for economic assistance from the United States of America; and if he will give an assurance that the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer represents the policy of His Majesty's Government in this particular matter?

Yes, Sir. My right hon. and learned Friend's statement was made after full consultation with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and myself and represents the view of His Majesty's Government.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask whether he is aware that during the past five or six days no fewer than seven more or less conflicting statements on the subject have been made, consciously or unconsciously, by members or representatives of the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—none of the statements having been made in this House; and that the effect produced in the United States and elsewhere has been bewildering and deplorable?

If the hon. Member would send me his collection I would be glad to have a look at them.

Is it not a fact that, had it not been for the prompt repudiation of the Minister's statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the whole of our recovery programme might have been in danger? What steps is the Prime Minister going to take to see that the future of the British people is not jeopardised by irresponsible statements of Ministers—[Interruption]—irresponsible statements of Ministers who have nothing to do with the matter?

As the matter has now been dealt With—[HON. MEMBERS: "Has it?"]—I should deprecate further questions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in the national interest.

Every now and again statements are made which, taken quite apart from their context, may cause difficulties, and over a period of years I have known them made by Ministers from all sides of the House. I suggest that it would not be wise to pursue the matter.

Can the Minister say whether His Majesty's Ambassador in Washington was consulted by the Joint Under-Secretary of State before making this statement which so closely affected our relations with the United States?

No, Sir, this matter arose in the course of a debate and I imagine there was not an opportunity for consultation before that particular statement was made.

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed the statement of the Minister of State that the Joint Under-Secretary "blurted out the truth at the wrong moment"? Does he share that view and does he agree with the implication that the truth should not be told by Ministers in the United States?

A full statement was made on this matter in the statement made on behalf of the Government and I have nothing to add to it.

Has my right hon. Friend received a copy of the statement made by the Minister of State in Dumbarton on Saturday night? Is he aware that if the report is as accurate as the report of what the Minister of State said, it is a travesty and is being utilised in order to do as much harm to the Government as possible?

In view of that last question, is it now contended that the Minister of State did make a statement which is attributed to him in the Press? Surely we are entitled to know.

It is very largely a question of the context and the accuracy of the reporting. As I understand it, whatever was said by the Minister of State was said at a meeting supposed to be a private meeting. I regret that it was reported.

When this storm in a teacup is over, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that public opinion in this country and in the United States of America appreciates and applauds sincerity and frankness on the part of visiting Ministers as against slick and professional diplomacy?

Could the Prime Minister assure the House that in future he will try to persuade Ministers when they go overseas to sing the same tune and learn to distinguish between New York City and South Hammersmith?

I asked if the right hon. Gentleman would assure the House that he will do his best to persuade Ministers when they go overseas to sing the same tune and to distinguish between New York City and South Hammersmith.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very great acrimony which takes place in the debates of U.N.O. and the impossibility of rebutting constant charges made against this Government without someone sometimes taking a risk?

Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that Ministers will not be led astray by the question that has just been asked, but will feel that, however great the difficulty, it is never any good taking a risk with the truth?

There is no question of taking risks with the truth. No Ministers will take risks with the truth.

Arising out of the earlier reply, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that a Minister of State should at any rate say the same things in public as he is alleged to have said at a private meeting, and that Ministers generally should say the same things to the electorate as they do at U.N.O.?

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if, with your permission, I might repeat the point of Order I made yesterday and ask, with respect, if you will indicate, for the guidance of the House, what special considerations of urgency there were about this Private Notice Question—which was obviously not regarded as very important by the Opposition, since the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader of Opposition did not exercise their right to put it themselves—which led you to allow it to a back bencher, instead of its appearing on the Order Paper to-morrow in the ordinary way?

Obviously I cannot answer that question, because no one is allowed to ask me what my reasons are for selecting or choosing a Question. I think I went far enough yesterday and I am afraid that it must always be left to my discretion. I can only say that I hope my discretion will always be one of fairplay and common sense.

Questions (Second Round)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As Questions were finished before half-past three, with great respect, cannot we have a second time round?

We stopped the practice of having a second round of Questions a long time ago, I am afraid.

With great respect, in the old days we always had a second time round. There is one Question which has not been asked on which I wanted to ask a supplementary question.

I am afraid we altered the Standing Orders some time ago and that comes under Standing Orders.

With all respect, I hesitate to question that, but I should have thought it was a matter of practice. I do not recollect a Standing Order applying to the second round. If it is only a question of the practice of the House, this is an occasion on which we could go back to the former practice.

Of course I will not challenge the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), but I know it was a recommendation of a Select Committee, of which I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was a member. I cannot say with absolute certainty, but I am inclined to think that it was incorporated in Standing Orders.

New Member Sworn

William Thomas Williams, esquire, for the Borough of Hammersmith (South Division).

Orders Of The Day

Supply

[3RD ALLOTTED DAY]

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]

CIVIL ESTIMATES, ESTIMATES FOR REVENUE DEPARTMENTS AND ESTIMATE FOR THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, 1949–50. (VOTE ON ACCOUNT.)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £832,066,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments and for the Ministry of Defence for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1950, viz.:

CIVIL ESTIMATES
CLASS I
£
1.House of Lords29,000
2.House of Commons280,000
3.Registration of Electors145,000
4.Treasury and Subordinate Departments1,000,000
5.Privy Council Office10,500
6.Privy Seal Office3,000
7.Charity Commission22,500
8.Civil Service Commission192,500
9.Exchequer and Audit Department120,500
10.Government Actuary10,000
11.Government Chemist62,500
12.Government Hospitality35,000
13.The Mint10
14.National Debt Office10
15.National Savings Committee350,000
16.Overlapping Income Tax Payments17,000
17.Public Record Office24,000
18.Public Works Loan Commission10
19.Repayments to the Local Loans Fund12,000
20.Royal Commissions, etc43,000
21.Secret Service1,000,000
22.Tithe Redemption Commission10
23.Miscellaneous Expenses Scotland180,000
24.Scottish Home Department340,000
25.Scottish Record Office6,000

CLASS II
1.Foreign Office900,000
2.Diplomatic and Consular Establishments, etc.5,000,000
3.British Council900,000
4.United Nations1,150,000
5.International Refugee Organisation1,500,000
6.Commonwealth Relations Office125,000
7.Commonwealth Services718,000
8.Oversea Settlement218,000

£
9.Colonial Office290,000
10.Colonial and Middle Eastern Services3,000,000
11.West African Produce Control Board1,001,000
12.Development and Welfare (Colonies, etc.)1,750,000
13.Development and Welfare (South African High Commission Territories)100,000
14.Imperial War Graves Commission300,000

CLASS III
1.Home Office830,000
2.Home Office (Civil Defence Services)1,500,000
3.Police, England and Wales11,800,000
4.Prisons, England and Wales1,650,000
5.Child Care, England and Wales370,000
6.Fire Services, England and Wales3,650,000
7.Supreme Court of Judicature, etc500,000
8.County Courts, etc.90,000
9.Land Registry10
10.Public Trustee10
11.Law Charges180,000
12.Miscellaneous Legal Expenses60,000
Scotland:
13.Scottish Home Department (Civil Defence Services)13,000
14.Police20,000
15.Prisons168,000
16.Approved Schools60,000
17.Fire Services223,000
18.Scottish Land Court4,500
19.Law Charges and Courts of Law46,000
20.Department of the Registers of Scotland10
Ireland:
21.Supreme Court of Judicature, etc., Northern Ireland20,500
22.Irish Land Purchase Services610,000

CLASS IV
1.Ministry of Education59,000,000
2.British Museum110,000
3.British Museum (Natural History)70,000
4.Imperial War Museum11,000
5.London Museum4,500
6.National Gallery32,000
7.National Maritime Museum8,000
8.National Portrait Gallery6,000
9.Wallace Collection8,000
10.Grants for Science and the Arts1,500,000
11.Universities and Colleges, etc., Great Britain7,600,000
12.Broadcasting4,000,000
13.Festival of Britain, 1951200,000
Scotland:
14.Public Education10,200,000
15.National Galleries7,000
16.National Library4500

CLASS V
£
1.Ministry of Health17,000,000
2.National Health Service, England and Wales88,000,000
3.Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, England and Wales18,000,000
4.Registrar-General's Office160,000
5.Ministry of Labour and National Service10,000,000
6.Grants in respect of Employment Schemes250,000
7.Ministry of National Insurance72,000,000
8.National Assistance Board29,500,000
9.National Insurance Audit Department43,000
10.Friendly Societies Registry17,000
11.Ministry of Town and Country Planning400,000
12.Central Land Board200,000
Scotland:
13.Department of Health4,125,000
14.National Health Service12,000,000
15.Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, Scotland3,675,000
16.Registrar-General's Office24,000

CLASS VI
1.Board of Trade3,700,000
2.Services in Development Areas3,800,000
3.Financial Assistance in Development Areas400,000
4.Export Credits10
5.Export Credits (Special Guarantees)79,000
6.Ministry of Fuel and Power2,350,000
7.Office of Commissioners of Crown Lands21,000
8.Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries3,800,000
9.Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Food Production Services)10,700,000
10.Surveys of Great Britain, etc.800,000
11.Forestry Commission1,750,000
12.Development Fund250,000
13.Ministry of Transport950,000
14.Roads, etc9,700,000
15.Mercantile Marine Services170,000
16.Ministry of Civil Aviation7,500,000
17.Developments Grants410
18.Department of Scientific and Industrial Research1,250,000
19.State Management Districts10
Scotland:
20.Department of Agriculture1,300,000
21.Department of Agriculture (Food Production Services)2,750,000
22.Fisheries320,000
23.Herring Industry206,000

CLASS VII
1.Ministry of Works2,900,000
2.Houses of Parliament Buildings365,000
3.Public Buildings, Great Britain13,600,000

£
4.Public Buildings Overseas621,000
5.Royal Palaces136,000
6.Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens221,000
7.Miscellaneous Works Services3,000,000
8.Rates on Government Property3,100,000
9.Stationery and Printing4,000,000
10.Central Office of Information1,200,000
11.Peterhead Harbour18,000
Ireland:
12.Works and Buildings in Ireland77,000

CLASS VIII
1.Merchant Seamen's War Pensions80,000
2.Ministry of Pensions32,000,000
3.Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, etc.450,000
4.Superannuation and Retired Allowances2,000,000

CLASS IX
1.Ministry of Supply70,000,000
2.Ministry of Food170,000,000
3.Ministry of Transport (War Services)11,300,000
4.Ministry of Fuel and Power (War Services)2,000,000
5.Foreign Office (German Section)13,750,000
6.Administration of certain African Territories230,000
7.Advances to Allies, etc3,000,000
8.War Damage Commission500,000
Total for Civil Estimates£767,129,000

REVENUE DEPARTMENTS
1.Customs and Excise3,400,000
2.Inland Revenue7,300,000
3.Post Office54,000,000
Total for Revenue Departments£64,700,000
Ministry of Defence£237,000
Total for Civil Estimates, Estimates for Revenue Departments, and Estimate for the Ministry of Defence£832,066,000"

Civil Aviation

3.22 p.m.

At the opening of this Debate it is only right that I should make quite clear my own interest in civil aviation. I am a director of an air charter company in which I have a financial interest. It will not however prejudice my views——

On a point of Order. Is it not very unusual on occasions of this kind not to have the Minister present?

Quite obviously that has nothing to do with the Chair, and is not a point of Order. It may or may not be unusual.

May I apologise to the House for the absence of my hon. Friend, who will be here shortly. As hon. Members will have noticed, we are rather in advance of our usual schedule. I do not offer that as an excuse, but it is the reason why my hon. Friend is not in his place, as he hoped to be, for the start of the Debate.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary likely to be airborne within the next minute or two? It makes debate very difficult if my hon. and gallant Friend, who is opening the Debate, is not listened to by the Minister who is to reply.

I too must register my protest. I have a few points to put which are important and in the absence of the responsible Minister, one's task is more difficult. To have a Minister who perhaps does not know the subject taking down notes, is not the same thing as having the Minister concerned present. I feel that very strongly. However, there is no alternative. The Debate has to continue, but we are placed in a most difficult position. This is not the first occasion on which this has happened. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt?

I was merely wondering whether it would not be possible for someone else to open the Debate?

The hon. Member has not made himself heard, and I can only assume that his point does not mean very much or he would have made it known to the Committee.

Regarding the accounts of the Corporations, I would say that they could not be more disappointing than they are. Each year the Minister has forecast better things in this nationalised industry. We have been led to believe that things would improve rapidly, instead of which we see that the losses this year of the three Corporations were 5 per cent. heavier than in the previous year. These accounts disclose that B.O.A.C. requires one employee to work for a year to carry five passengers at a cost of £345. The total cost of the civil aviation industry has been admitted in another place to be approximately £25 million. I believe that it is for this Committee to consider how this money is being spent, and whether it is a wise investment to sink so much money when the country is in such grave difficulties economically. [Interruption.] I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary has come in. No doubt his right hon. Friend will pass his notes across to him.

I do not propose to bore hon. Members opposite by repeating these unpleasant things, which they probably do not want to hear in any event. The noble Lord the Minister of Civil Aviation has, in my view, in the short time he has been at the Ministry, made sincere efforts to cut expenditure. I believe that he set about this task of reducing the costs in a wholehearted way, but as he is new to this difficult and complicated civil aviation industry I wonder whether he really knows how far he has to go in cutting costs? If so, what is his yardstick? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will refer to that when he replies.

We are all alarmed, at least I was, when we heard in the B.B.C. nine o'clock news on Sunday the announcement that Mr. d'Erlanger was resigning his post more or less at the request of the Minister. We on this side of the Committee are extremely sorry to see him leave British European Airways, because we feel that he has had an uphill fight. He built up the Corporation from the very beginning. He has had technical difficulties with which to contend. I understand that he has done his utmost to implement the Government's policy. There have been losses, but now they are beginning to be reduced he is practically "fired." It is most regrettable that it should happen at the present time. I have heard in the House at various times questions about what his qualifications are. I would say that he is a comparatively young man who has had a most severe training in finance. During the war he started the A.T.A. absolutely from scratch—an organisation the good work of which was never really recognised. He also started the Corporation from the beginning. He is a young, energetic man who knows his business. Now that he is, as it were, in his prime, out he goes.

We can only take what we read in the Press so far, that he is leaving because he wants to run the Corporation on a commercial basis. If that is the reason it is deplorable. How do the Government want the Corporation run if not on a commercial basis? One report said that there were differences because he wanted a separate allocation for the operation of the internal airlines, such as the one in Wales. That seems to be a fair request if that was the case. However that may be, it seems that the Minister has been particularly unreasonable in this case. No doubt we shall be told today what is at the bottom of it all. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that I have heard that, already, there is within the Corporation grave concern among the senior members of the staff regarding his dismissal.

We are told that Lord Douglas is to succeed Mr. d'Erlanger. I find myself in a difficult position because Lord Douglas was, as a very senior officer, my officer at different periods during the war. I have a great admiration for his ability as a war leader but I am surprised at this appointment. I should have thought that a more suitable appointment for him would have been something to do with our defences, which are sadly lacking at the present time and require an experienced and great leader. We can only look upon this as a political appointment. The chairman of an organisation is there in the main for his administrative ability and not because he knows all the intricate details, although it is sometimes a help to know them. It will be observed that Mr. J. V. Wood, the managing director of B.E.A. was sent on sick leave some months ago and from what I have been told I doubt very much whether he will return. If that is the case, we have a managing director and a chairman who have gone in a matter of six or eight weeks. I do not see how any nationalised or other industry can operate efficiently when that sort of thing is taking place. It is most disturbing, and we must register our protest.

I do not wish to go into personalities, but Mr. Masefield who has come in, I understand, as assistant to the chairman will undoubtedly stay with the corporation. He is a very brillant man and a great planner, but I would suggest that the managing director of an air line should have transportation experience and knowledge of operating aircraft. I put that forward as a suggestion. There is no doubt all three corporations are lacking men who know and understand transportation as such. I do not think it is any use just bringing in important names. Men may have made great names for themselves in other spheres, but that is not sufficient in these days in any business, or any nationalised business.

I would quote Mr. Plesman, the head of K.L.M., who has been in the business for 30 years and knows it inside out. He knows what competition he is up against and how to deal with it. He has had a lifelong experience. Yet we bring in senior officers and planners and others to run these most complicated businesses. Up to the end of December, 1947, K.L.M. made a net profit of £12,360. That is a modest profit, but it is a real profit. I have examined the balance sheets. Depreciation has been included for all the equipment, and accountants tell me that the accounts are in every way up to our standard of accountancy. Furthermore, they paid 4 per cent. dividend on preference shares, 4 per cent. on the A. and B. shares, and the management were given 10 per cent. as their share of the profits. That is a point which the corporations might care to introduce themselves. Perhaps if the management shared in the profits, there might be more keenness to wipe out the losses.

I wish to refer to the question of leased aircraft. In the figures before us no sum has been set aside for this item of leased or loaned aircraft. Modern aircraft have to be depreciated normally over five years, but when we get to more expensive plant and production the operation period may be nearer eight or 10 years, if loss it to be done away with and we are to get full utilisation. It does not seem right that the Corporation should get away with this. If they are getting the aircraft on loan from the Ministry of Supply at a fairly nominal figure, that is a concealed subsidy. I think the Committee is entitled to know how these aircraft are acquired and what is paid for them. We have been frequently told that the Vikings are complicated aircraft, and it is difficult to make a profit with them. It has been brought to my notice that three foreign countries are operating Vikings at a profit. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will bear that in mind when excuses are made about the difficulties of maintaining Vikings.

In B.E.A. there is an offshoot, the Channel Islands Airways, which I should have thought was a plum of a route. It is seasonal up to a point, but not entirely. The figures of that particular section are not disclosed, but I am told that in the last year of operating with the railways that line made a net profit of £20,000. In the first year with B.E.A. they lost over £200,000, in one year to the other. Why is it that such enormous costs have been built up to operate a small airline which were not apparently necessary when the airline was being run by the railways, although the railways have been quite extravagant in their ideas of staff?

Would the hon. and gallant Member give some indication of the source of the figures which he is quoting?

I do not think that I am obliged to give the source of my information. I make it my business to find out these things so that I may make a contribution to the Debate in the Committee.

The hon. and gallant Member would surely agree that hon. Members would be in a better position to assess the value of the figures which he quotes if the source were given.

It is up to the Minister to tell the House if my information is wrong. I did not go round touting for it. It was given to me voluntarily by someone who happens to know something about it. If we can prove that there is an enormous loss, it may be reduced as a result of this Debate, because it is not mentioned in the balance sheet.

I do not think that these losses in the three Corporations are mainly due to the basic cost of flying. I think that in the main, the losses are due to bits and pieces—and some of them are pretty large bits and pieces.

Including payments to charter companies? Is the hon. and gallant Member complaining about that part?

I will come to that, and perhaps give the hon. Member and the "Sunday Express" a little information on that particular point.

The staffs of these nationalised industries have been built up since the war unlike the mining industry which was largely handed over as a ready-made concern—[Interruption.]— well, in the matter of staff I imagine that 98 per cent. of the people who were there under free enterprise are still there except the heads of the Coal Board who are drawing large salaries. But in the case of this industry it was not so. It was a mere skeleton. The staffs were built up enormously and very rapidly, mostly from ex-Service men who thought that by getting a job with the Government, they would have a real tenure of service. How do they find themselves now? They find themselves being dismissed from their posts.

Supposing this had happened in a commercial company, or a large concern rendering service to the public, what would have been said by hon. Members opposite? We should have heard criticism. But these dismissals are taking place piecemeal. Every few months we hear something about reorganisation, and someone is brought in to reorganise things. The staffs do not know where they stand. I agree that the staffs must be streamlined and overheads have to be cut, but something final ought to be done and these men told that they have security, at least for a period. It will be remembered that 1,500 employees left B.E.A. last year of their own accord, apart from dismissals from redundancy. That is 30 per cent. of the total number of the staff of the corporation. Something must be radically wrong if 30 per cent. of the staff leave in one year, apart from those who are redundant.

How on earth does the hon. and gallant Member reconcile the very serious and well-justified criticism of the management of the B.E.A. which he has just made, with his objection to the changing of the managing director?

Because there have been continual changes in the last three years. This only happened to be another change. I will reiterate what I have said. Mr. d'Erlanger, in my opinion, was overcoming very great difficulties in a much better way than most of the others.

The transfer of the base from Dorval to the United Kingdom was a right move, but it ought to have taken place at least a year and a half ago. I know it is a big move, but the Government delayed over it, and I can only think that the people over there did not want to come back. But the Minister, or whoever was in charge, should have brought real pressure to bear to get that organisation back in England where it would be more efficient than it was on the other side of the Atlantic.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the real cause of that suggestion being turned down—in any case, I think it came from this side of the Committee—was his hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) who has joined his party?

If I have an opportunity, I shall be very glad to rebut that suggestion.

I have given way quite a lot. I want to follow my own line. If the Dorval base is coming back to the United Kingdom, is Filton the right place for it? It is some way from London and the activities will be considerably divorced from the main operations of the Corporation at Heathrow. I should have thought that over a short-term period of perhaps three or five years with these new types of aircraft, it would have been far better to concentrate them at Heathrow even in temporary hangars and with temporary workshops, In order to bring about drastic economies. That has happened at Schipol Airport at Amsterdam with K.L.M. In another place the Minister said how convenient it was for K.L.M. to operate aircraft which they could maintain on the same aerodrome. I cannot understand why the move has been made to Filton unless it is that the hangars built there for the Brabazons, have to be put to some other use.

I am also concerned about the close proximity of Northolt and Heathrow. The aerodromes are only some five miles apart. A friend of mine returned from Geneva on 13th December last year on the 4.15. The aircraft circled for an hour in cloud and suddenly they heard the noise of the engines of another aircraft. There must have been a very near miss. That incident happened soon after the unfortunate accident between the Swedish airliner and the York. We cannot continue to take these risks. If there is any risk at all the Minister ought to make up his mind whether or not it is a good thing that we should use these two airports which are so close together. The sooner Northolt is shut down and we operate only one airport on the west of London, the safer it will be for all air traffic.

As I see the position from the Report, there are about 20 subsidiary companies which the Corporation either own or partly own. The activities cover radar and radio, international radio and air operating companies. Losses are being made in 19 of those companies. The only one which has made a profit is Tasman Empire Airways which shows a net profit of £10,000 and which operates British flying boats. It is most alarming that the Corporation, apart from their own business, should be losing large sums of money in other airlines. I will not go through the whole list.

One company is Aer Lingus in which the Corporation's share of the loss is £228,000. B.E.A. have a holding in the equity of 30 per cent., and B.O.A.C. have 10 per cent. Therefore, the holding is 40 per cent. for the two Corporations, yet they have to bear 50 per cent. of the losses. This is a pretty bad agreement commercially, whoever drew it up and signed it in the first place. In the Italian airlines the B.E.A. share of the loss was £74,000. It may be said that we shall sell British aeroplanes and that it is a good thing to have an interest in that company, but from my visits to Italy it seems that, in the main, American aircraft are used. We do not get much of a dividend from the Italians. The loss in connection with Gibraltar Airways is £7,817. On Cyprus Airways, the loss is £3,916, and on the Hong Kong line, it is over £24,000.

We come to the question of whether the three Corporations in operating their main business from this country, are not becoming too involved in spreading themselves out in all these small airlines in the Colonies and other parts of the world. I know that in Hong Kong the airline is partly owned by the local people. I should prefer to see that airline completely divorced from B.O.A.C. It could be run by the people of Hong Kong. They could have a close working agreement with B.O.A.C. as a feeder line. They could take technicians from this country, as no doubt they would wish. It is most alarming that the Corporations should be losing all this money. I do not believe that it is generally appreciated how far they have spread themselves. We hear a lot about comparative losses. It is said that the British losses are higher because we do not operate the right aircraft. American losses have been reduced by two-thirds in the past year. The total losses for all American airlines, both internal and overseas, are £1,683,000.

Of course they get a subsidy in the same way as the British lines. I do not agree that the British rates are high enough, but I find it awfully difficult to discover whether or not the American rates for mail are too high. Personally, I do not think that they are. If the hon. Gentleman has any information on that subject, we shall look forward to hearing from him during the Debate because it is difficult to find out. Perhaps he will make a contribution later. The Australian airline—Quantas Empire Airways—made a profit of £80,000 for the year ending March, 1948. The Government only took over that airline in the middle of 1947 but it is run in a most efficient manner by Mr. Hudson Fysh. He knows his business just as well as Mr. Julian Tripp or Mr. Plesman. I only wish that we had a few men like Mr. Hudson Fysh in this country to help us out of our difficulties.

I wish to deal with the subject of the charter companies in which the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) is so interested. All I can tell him is that in my own company for over three years, the staff have had a bonus at Christmas time but the directors have not had one penny either in directors' fees or in the form of a dividend. If he thinks that that is getting fat, I should like him to come and look into the matter. I can prove to him that there is very little indeed in this business. The Minister of Civil Aviation made a statement recently saying what he intended to do for the charter companies. I believe that he is supposed to have said that what he said was well received. I can assure him that I did not think very much of it. I do not think that he was giving very much away.

I gave evidence before Lord Douglas last Autumn and I was hoping that a licensing board would be set up to regulate the formation of charter companies. I say that sincerely and as a good Conservative. Where controls are necessary we agree with them. I do not want to see mushroom firms springing up which are not properly financed and in which the aircraft are not properly serviced. That view was put forward very strongly by many of those who gave evidence to the Committee, but it was not accepted. Perhaps we could be told why that view was not accepted. The hon. Member for Reading rather sneered at the chartered companies——

I am sorry. I really cannot let that remark pass. I merely asked the hon. Gentleman whether among the expenditure of the Corporations which he was criticising, he included payments made by the Corporations to the charter companies. That implies no reflection whatever upon those companies.

I was judging by the way in which the remarks were made. Perhaps the hon. Member's hon. Friends do not see it in the same way, but from this side of the Committee I got the impression that I have indicated. All I can say is that in the year under consideration the charter companies paid to the Corporations the sum of £285,809 for handling their own aircraft. That is a considerable amount of money which has been paid to B.O.A.C. in the main for servicing and handling charter aircraft, mainly abroad. I believe that that figure could have been enlarged had the charges been more reasonable. This is a form of income which the Corporations would do well to pursue, to try to bring down their deficit.

The charter companies today are making a real contribution. Many of them are coming into line with the rates paid by the Corporations to ground staff and aircrew. My own company has just accepted the same terms. In the whole country there are approximately 500 aircraft operated by the charter companies, who now employ 350 pilots and a staff approaching 2,000 of administrative and maintenance personnel. That is a large number of people. I believe that the majority of them like working under the conditions which the charter companies provide.

We should remember that, whatever we have been paid by the Corporation, we have had to give something in return. We have not been paid for nothing, and, in the case of the operation in India, which looked as if the charter companies were making a fortune, the petrol cost nearly 4s. a gallon, and there was very little left out of the operation for the charter companies. They worked well with the Corporation, without any quarrels or bickering and did the job they were sent to do. Diplomatically, they helped our relations with both Pakistan and India at that time.

Likewise, on the Berlin air lift all the diesel oil, petrol and kerosene is carried by the charter companies. It may be said that the rates are high, but, when we come to consider the utilisation of the double shift system, day and night every 24 hours, the provision of adequate leave and bonus pay for the staff, there is really not very much in it at all. These companies are playing their part with the Corporation and the Royal Air Force and are a great credit to this country in their share of this Berlin air lift air operation.

I make one final suggestion about these charter companies, and it is that the Minister should seriously consider allowing them to carry freight anywhere in the world on the scheduled service basis. I believe it will be many years before the Corporations can do it, and that it will extend trade between this country and overseas and will facilitate aviation generally. I do not think there is anything to be lost, provided that the service is regularised over routes on which the people can have confidence.

In regard to B.S.A.A., I want to express my sincere regret at the loss of Air-Commodore Brackley, an outstanding figure in civil aviation. He had no strong political feelings, and all his interests were in aeroplanes and flying-boats, and it is a tragedy that his services should be lost. I want to put a question to the Minister regarding the British South American Corporation. Is it true that, during the Tudor troubles last year, the Ministry of Supply cancelled the order for the Tudor V for this Corporation, which had ordered them at £140,000 each, and that, a few weeks afterwards, when the Corporation said they wanted them, they were re-ordered at a figure of £40,000 or £50,000 each? If that is so, it probably means that the Ministry is carrying an enormous loss, and I think this Committee must be clear whether these Corporations are paying the right prices for their aircraft, because, when these machines were re-ordered, the price had dropped to exactly one-third of the original figure. We have heard rumours that B.O.A.C. was taking over British South American Airways, and, personally, I think it would be a good thing if it should happen, but may we have some information on the matter today?

So far as the ordering of aircraft is concerned, the Hanbury-Williams Committee reported last year, and I should like to know why the report has not been published. There could be nothing secret in the report, or any reason why the public should not be told what is the present position. The findings of the Committee have been made known, but are they being implemented? Has the Corporation really got the freedom which it wants to order and follow through the construction of their own aeroplanes? I have a feeling that all is not well in that respect. My own view is that the Ministry of Civil Aviation should stay out of the business side of ordering these aeroplanes almost entirely, and, preferably, the Ministry of Supply as well, though, unfortunately, that is not possible. I believe that the Ministry of Civil Aviation should concern themselves mainly with routes and airfields.

We are often told that it is not possible for civil aviation to pay its way because the Corporations can never really afford to pay the development costs on new machines. I think it is generally agreed both in America and in this country that, if we have a successful aeroplane to carry 50 passengers, we would only need 500 of them for all the air routes of the world. I suggest that the Air Ministry should be brought into this matter much more closely. In America, the Skymaster was developed as a military transport, and, with very little modification, has been converted into a most successful civil aeroplane. No doubt, a proportion of the development costs could be allotted both to the military side and the civil side, but I should like to know if that liaison is really working with the Air Ministry concerning new types of aircraft.

I think the Government have been far too optimistic about the deliveries of these new aeroplanes. Reading past Debates year after year, one found that everything was to be solved the next year, but I think the Government have been far too optimistic and have not fully appreciated the many difficulties of designing and building modern aircraft. I sometimes think that it is an awful pity that the speed of modern machines has gone up to 400 miles an hour for commercial aircraft, and I think that if it had remained at between 200 and 250 miles an hour, with lower landing speeds and greater safety, it would have been much easier to attract people to flying and make it a paying proposition. I think the fact that we have had to expend money in these developments to keep in line with the policy of other countries is very regrettable.

I hope that, in the future, the Government will continue and even increase their interest in the flying boat. There is a tremendous future for this country in operating these very large craft, because we are rapidly getting to the stage where other countries may not be able to build these very great and expensive airfields, which cost millions of pounds, and I can see that the small countries in the Middle and Far East may not be able to build these large runways, perhaps three miles long. In contrast, these flying boats, with an all-up weight of about 300,000 lbs. are more economical to operate and give a greater degree of confidence and of comfort to the passengers. If we can pursue that policy, we may develop something which the Americans will want to buy from us. I have looked at the flying boats, which I saw at the Isle of Wight last summer, and I was most impressed with the way in which this job was proceeding. The firm concerned had full confidence in the designers and in the capabilities of the machines and were looking forward to flying them. I believe that they will come into operation very soon after the original test.

The Corporation have a good name for reliability, which I think is accepted by almost every passenger, but I ask them to consider introducing cheaper flying. It could be done, and I know one charter company which would like to do it. If we had the passenger version of the Bristol Freighter, carrying 50 passengers, the single ticket to Paris would be about £4 10s., and, if we could do that, we would really get the public of this country becoming air-minded and supporting civil aviation. I hope the Government will consider the suggestion. Already, the trade unions and the National Coal Board are interested in arranging tours by air for their workers, and, if we can get the costs down to something approximating what they are on the railways, we can get people to take up flying for their holidays.

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make some reference to his own Ministry. I recognise that he is responsible for providing a radio service, for radar and the operation of the airfields, but I cannot see what the 1,700 people are doing at headquarters and I hope that the Ministry to trying to cut down the overheads to the absolute minimum. It is a new industry, and it is a question whether we can afford even the present civil aviation programme. I am rather doubtful about the whole proposition, and I think it may be right to merge it into the Ministry of Transport as an important Division in that Ministry.

I do not think these Corporations will ever pay their way. I am trying to be quite unbiased, and I think that any man who comes in to run them as they are at present, will find that it is only a question of time before they break him. I do not think that any man can run a business under a Minister who is, perhaps, going to interfere, exert his will and upset the smooth running of that business organisation. We must remember that we are competing with hardheaded business men in foreign airlines. I do not believe that the industry can survive these constant changes, and I should like to see the valuable experience of men who have successfully run the shipping lines brought into this industry. When the Conservative Party comes back to power, we shall make drastic changes to see that the business is run efficiently, and we shall have the courage to "unscramble" it, where we think that is necessary.

4.1 p.m.

I am sure the House is grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) for the tone in which he opened this Debate. Except for one or two slight diversions, his speech was a little more realistic in its approach than some of the previous ones to which we have listened. I hope that the tone he set will be maintained by hon. Members on both sides throughout the Debate because the correct administration of civil aviation in this country can only be achieved by the fullest cooperation of all associated with the operations themselves and with the creation of public opinion in the country.

It is only about a month ago since my noble Friend in another place made a very detailed and analytical survey of the problems which face civil aviation in this country. I am certain that every hon. Member who is interested in civil aviation has read the Minister's speech and the Debate generally. Therefore, I do not intend to go over the field covered by my noble Friend on that occasion. I propose to confine myself to one or two important issues and to reply to the points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield.

The hon. and gallant Member's last question was with regard to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. May I congratulate him on admitting, in so far as the Civil Service is concerned, that the staff numbers 1,700. In other Debates it has been alleged by hon. Members opposite that we are expanding the number of civil servants, and that there are 8,500 ladies and gentlemen alternately making tea for the Minister and myself. Of course, that is not true. The headquarters staff carrying out Civil Service jobs number 1,700. Of that number 300 are technical men engaged in the planning of navigational aids, lighting systems for aerodromes and all the technical jobs which have to be done in regard to the development of facilities for civil aviation in this country. The remainder are engaged in licensing and in dealing with the problems which arise under air navigation regulations. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there has been a very severe check of the organisation and methods of the Department by the Treasury and that the present organisation and staffing have been agreed as a result of that survey.

The total staff of the Ministry is 8,000, of whom 6,300 are employed on out stations. They are engaged in the maintenance of the aerodromes, aerodrome management, air traffic control, telecommunications, navigational aids, fire and rescue, police, and airport duties. I am not going to say that there is not one person on any of those stations who is not over and above the number which is absolutely necessary; such a claim would be ridiculous; but I can say that by staff audit methods within the Department itself everything possible is done to see that, the number is kept in check and that no unnecessary additions are made to the staff.

After all, air operations are a very specialised job. Where one gets an acute division of labour, particularly on outstations and small stations, there is sometimes a tendency for two people to be employed to do two specialised jobs when, in fact, one person could cover both jobs. That fact is appreciated by my noble Friend and he has given me a special assignment to inquire into the matter, to report to him as quickly as possible and to make recommendation on the outstations staff of the Ministry. But for the fact that this Debate was taking place I should have been engaged on that task today.

There is one matter to which I wish to refer and which was not mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield—flying clubs. I am sure that other hon. Members will wish to deal with that matter in the course of the Debate. Considerable pressure has been exercised from all sides for assistance to be given to flying clubs which are at present in very difficult circumstances. I am sorry that I am unable to make a report today with regard to these clubs owing to the fact that discussions concerning them are at present proceeding with the Treasury. However, I can assure the Committee that as soon as possible a statement will be made.

On 2nd February the Minister said in another place that he expected to be able to make a statement in a month's time, that is, tomorrow. Will a statement be made as early as that?

It was because my noble Friend made that statement in another place that I felt bound to make some reference to it today. I made inquiries at the Treasury whether I could make a statement today, and I was informed that the matter is still under consideration and that therefore no statement could yet be made.

The hon. and gallant Member referred to the Departmental Estimates and to the fact that £24 million is set aside for the requirements of my Department. Of that amount, current expenditure represents £15,500,000 and capital expenditure £8,500,000. Of the £15,500,000, £8 million is required to meet the statutory loss or grant to the Corporations, and £7,500,000 is required for the provision of aerodromes, navigational aids, and similar services, at home and abroad. Of the £8,500,000 capital expenditure, £3 million is in respect of aircraft, £2 million in respect of the further development of London Airport, and £3,500,000 for the development of other airports, navigational aids, aerodrome lighting, and the other provisions which are essential if we are to develop civil aviation along the lines desired by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

The hon. and gallant Member asked a definite question about the aerodrome pattern for London. I am in entire agreement with him, and I think all those who have given thought and study to the aerodrome pattern in London agree with him, that the proximity of London Airport to Northolt makes the use of Northolt, when—and only when—London becomes used to the greatest capacity, a dangerous operation, or a risky operation if not a dangerous one. At the moment the Committee will appreciate that London is used by B.O.A.C., B.S.A.A. and 14 other international airline operators. Northolt is used by B.E.A.C. and six other continental operators.

In addition to London and Northolt, there are Gatwick, Croydon, Bovingdon, and Blackbushe, which are used by charter operators, Blackbushe and Bovingdon also being used as diversionary airports for London. With the development of London Airport we hope to bring it into use for B.E.A.C. when the Ambassador comes into operation, that is in 1951–2; and to concentrate B.E.A.C. activities at London Airport and thereby be able to give up Northolt by the end of the time it has been leased to my Ministry from the R.A.F.—that is, in 1955. It is hoped to transfer the operation and the maintenance of the Ambassador to London Airport by 1951–2. Over and above the actual utilisation of the airport it will give an added facility to B.E.A.C. in that it will give a direct connection with B.O.A.C.'s international routes for B.E.A.C.'s continental and internal services.

I turn now to Gatwick, Blackbushe and Bovingdon. Gatwick and Blackbushe are both requisitioned aerodromes and it is not the intention of my Ministry to acquire either of them. Gatwick is being derequisitioned in September of this year and we are hoping to derequisition Blackbushe by the end of 1950. To make facilities for the charter operators who will be displaced from Gatwick and Blackbushe, we intend to develop Stanstead Airport in Essex, which is near Bishop's Stortford, and in developing that airport we hope to make it available for diversion from London which may give an opportunity, perhaps, at a later date, for us to give up Bovingdon as well.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary say why he is unable to keep Blackbushe going when the owners of the land there are anxious that he should do so, when the local authorities would like it kept on and when the very good visibility and flying conditions of that airport are recognised?

Flying conditions and visibility are good, but I am surprised to receive from the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield—and I accept it from him as right because he is in close association with that airport and knows quite a lot about it—information that the local authorities are in favour of its being maintained as an airport. My information within the Ministry, which I will check up, was that they required it to be derequisitioned. In fact I am almost certain that only the other week I had my attention drawn to the fact that much of this airport is common land and that a promise had been made that it would be given back when its R.A.F. use was no longer being maintained.

Some local authorities asked me to approach the hon. Gentleman's Department because they want to get on with building houses for the workers there.

In any case, apart from that, it is not a good aerodrome from the point of view of operators. As the hon. and gallant Member knows, a main road, I think it is A30, goes right through it and it has many disadvantages. It is desired to close it in 1950 and we will open Stanstead and maintain it instead.

The only other possible aerodrome in the London area is Fairlop, which is near Ilford, in Essex. That aerodrome, which was purchased by the City of London in order to provide an airport for the City of London, is being safeguarded under normal town and country planning rules in order to protect the approaches of the aerodrome, but it will not he developed until such time as it is absolutely certain that the requirements are such that its use is absolutely essential.

The Parliamentary Secretary used the word "dangerous" in regard to the close proximity of Northolt and Heathrow. In order to allay any uneasiness on the part of passengers who have to use this airport, will he make it clear whether European passengers will have to use Northolt until the Ambassador is ready in 1951?

I corrected the word "dangerous;" I said it would be better and more correct to say there was a risk. The fact is that the circuits for the aerodromes overlap, but there is very adequate air traffic control of a very high standard indeed. But as the London Airport develops and the density of its traffic develops, in certain circumstances, particularly when weather conditions and visibility are not good, there is an added risk, and it is the desire of my noble Friend that every possible opportunity should be taken to eliminate any known risk immediately it arises. That risk is not there at the moment because the density of London Airport's traffic has not developed to that extent, but it will be there in the next few years.

Does that mean that the hon. Member's Department is satisfied that there is a reasonable safety factor there?

Yes, Sir; most certainly. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield referred to associate agreements, or the opportunity which has been given following the announcement I made in the House in reply to the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) in regard to the opportunity for charter operators, by means of associate agreements with one or the other Corporations, to provide scheduled operations. The procedure for that, as is known in the Committee, is for an application to be made to the Air Transport Advisory Council for consideration by that Council and for the Council to make a recommendation to the Minister. It may interest the House to know that up to date there have already been 189 applications from 44 different companies. These applications are under consideration and it is hoped that a recommendation on many of them will be made to my noble Friend by the Council before the end of this month.

May I make it quite clear, because evidently it was not quite clear to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield, that this is in no way a departure from the pol