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Written Answers

Volume 462: debated on Monday 14 March 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 14th March, 1949

Ministry Of Works

Westminster Hall (Restoration)


asked the Minister of Works if he will give an approximate date when the repairs to Westminster Hall will be completed, in order that the scaffolding to the roof may be taken down and Westminster Hall restored to Members of both Houses of Parliament and the general public.

I hope that repairs to the roof of Westminster Hall will be completed and the roof scaffolding removed by October this year. The Hall will not be fully restored until the stonework has been repaired, the temporary cloakroom removed, and the memorial stained glass window in St. Stephen's Porch erected. These works cannot be completed before 1951 at the earliest. It may, however, be possible to allow access to the Hall before its restoration is complete.

Road Repairs, The Mall


asked the Minister of Works if he will expedite the repair of the road surface of the Mall, in view of its growing deterioration.

The preparations for this work are well advanced, and I hope that it will be started immediately after Easter.

Suez Canal (Egyptian Interests)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent Anglo-Egyptian conversations on the Suez Canal.

As a result of the agreement between the Egyptian Government and the Suez Canal Company, which has still to be ratified by the Egyptian Government and approved by the general meeting of the shareholders of the Company, Egyptian interests in the Company have been considerably increased. Although the conclusion of this new agreement is primarily the concern of the Suez Canal Company itself, His Majesty's Government, through the British Government Directors on the Board of the Company, have been able to express their views on all developments in the negotiations, and I should like to assure the hon. Member that the terms of the agreement in no way prejudice the interests of His Majesty's Government either as the largest shareholder in the Company or as the largest user of the Canal.

Roumanian Legation, London


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why he has notified the Roumanian Legation that the presence in Great Britain of Messieurs Eugen Balas and Jacob Magura is no longer desired; and what objections he has to the conduct of either of these gentlemen since they came to this country as diplomatic persons accepted by him as such.

I have nothing to add to my reply on this subject to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury on 7th March.

South Korea (Frontier)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the recent consideration of the Report of the Temporary Commissioner on Korea, he will make a statement on the frontier in South Korea and the prospects of the withdrawal of American troops from that country.

The hon. Member presumably refers to the 38th parallel which was established as the dividing line for the surrender of Japanese forces to the United States and Soviet military auhorities, respectively. As a result of the attitude of the Soviet Government, Korea remains divided at the 38th parallel with a Communist so-called "People's Republic" to the north and a democratic goverment in the south, which was elected under the auspices of the United Nations Temporary Commission, and which has since been recognised by His Majesty's Government as well as by the United States, France, China and the Philippines. The United States forces remaining in South Korea are there at the invitation of the Korean Government for the purpose of training local defence forces.

Food Supplies

Catering Licences, Chorley

asked the Minister of Food how many restaurants, snack bars or shops for the supplying of meals there are in the borough of Chorley.


asked the Minister of Food how many licences have been granted for the sale of meals, snacks, etc., in the borough of Chorley, since the 1st January, 1946.

asked the Minister of Food why the application for a snack bar by Mrs. F. L. Holmes, 8 Bolton Street, Chorley, was refused in 1946 and also each subsequent application, while later applications by other persons have been granted in the same area.

Mrs. Holmes was refused because there were already five snack bars and one cafe near the premises she was proposing to open as another snack bar. The existing number of snack bars is adequate to meet the needs of the neighbourhood. Two later applicants were given catering licences in this part

Period 1st January to 16th February
Port of Despatch1949194819471946
Other Scottish Ports70825657
Milford Haven21311819
Other English or Welsh Ports†150162121122
Northern Ireland101289
By Road54442329
By Rail404497357366
Notes.—* Includes Shell-Fish.
†Includes imported boxed fish coming in at Newcastle, Harwich and Tilbury.

of Chorley. The first because he was a returning ex-Service man re-opening his pre-war business. The second because it was to provide a restaurant which was needed in the area. Mrs. Holmes' proposed snack bar would not have provided the service of meals which was required in the area.

Fish Deliveries, Billingsgate

asked the Minister of Food what is the weight and value of the average daily delivery of fish in London; from which Scottish and English fishing ports they arrive; and how do these deliveries compare with the corresponding deliveries made during the years 1948, 1947 and 1946, respectively.

Detailed figures of the weight of arrivals for the years in question are available only for fish passing through Billingsgate market. A large part of the fish consumed in London is consigned directly to the fishmongers and fish friers, and is therefore not included in these figures. No records are kept of the value of the fish passing through Billingsgate.The following table shows the average daily delivery of fish to Billingsgate for the period 1st January to 16th February, 1949, and the same periods of 1948, 1947 and 1946, analysed according to ports of despatch:

Sugar Refining


asked the Minister of Food what the sugar refining capacity of the United Kingdom was at the outbreak of war, or at any convenient date during 1939; what it was at the end of the war; and what it is at the present time, distinguishing in each case between the capacity of refineries, the normal campaign production capacity of beet sugar factories and the off season refining capacity of the factories, and adding in the case of present day capacity an estimate of any increase which could be secured by alteration of raw-sugar factories.

As the information for which my hon. Friend inquires involves considerable research, I will circulate the particulars he asks for in the OFFICIAL REPORT at the earliest possible date.

Contaminated Food, Burnley


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the concern among neighbouring local authorities at the state of affairs revealed by the recent investigations into contaminated food at Burnley; and whether it is his intention to introduce amending legislation to the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, in accordance with the proposals submitted by the Burnley County Borough Council.

Yes. My right hon. Friend is aware of the concern which has been aroused by this case, and hopes very shortly to announce his proposals for a thorough review of the problems involved.


asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that supplies of glucose in the country will be sufficient to maintain his estimate of an increased purchase of 5 per cent. per head per week when sweets become derationed.

The new level of sweets production is estimated at about 20 per cent. above the quantity required to meet the present 4 oz. weekly ration. Naturally, we satisfied ourselves beforehand that sufficient raw materials, including glucose, would be available to maintain the increase.

Cauliflowers (Imports)

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the fact that cauliflowers are costing from 5s. 4½d. to 9s. 6d. per crate for transport alone, all of which goes to foreigners, and that there is an adequate supply of cauliflowers in this country, he will stop the importation of cauliflowers in the interests of home growers.

While the wholesale price of home grown cauliflower in London remains high, I can find no justification for stopping imports.

Bacon Production

asked the Minister of Food what is the present estimated date by which bacon factories in this country will be able to obtain a sufficent supply of pigs to enable them to work at full capacity; and what steps are being taken by his Department to advance that date.

The Government's Agricultural Expansion Programme contemplates that by 1952 the pig population of Great Britain will be 92 per cent. of prewar numbers but I cannot say whether bacon factories will then get sufficient pigs to work to full capacity. They were not doing that even before the war as the total supplies of pig meat available were divided between bacon production and the fresh pork trade. As regards the second part of the Question, the rate of increase in the pig population depends very largely upon the supply of feeding-stuffs and within the limits prescribed by the shortage of dollars I am doing everything possible to increase that supply.

Leasehold Committee (Interim Report)


asked the Attorney-General whether he is now able to indicate the date on which the Interim Report of the Committee on Leasehold Reform will be made available to Parliament.

I am not able to indicate when the Interim Report of the Leasehold Committee, which has today been submitted to my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, will be available to Parliament.

National Defence (Communists)

asked the Attorney-General if in view of the terms of Section 1 of the Incitement to Disaffection Act, 1934, he will institute legal proceedings against the Communists in Britain who, simultaneously with Communists in eight other countries, have announced their intention to sabotage defence measures and to sell Britain to Russia.


European Volunteer Workers


asked the Minister of Agriculture what recreational facilities are provided for European voluntary workers working in this country in agriculture.

European Volunteer Workers in agriculture can and do participate in the various recreations in which their fellow workers engage. To meet the special circumstances of those agricultural workers—both British and foreign—who are living temporarily in hostels, facilities for games, music, social functions and so forth are provided with the help of a grant from public funds.

Woodlands (Replanting Grants)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether planting grants will be continued to those woodland owners who do not dedicate their woods; and what date has been fixed after which the grants will not be made.

In order not to delay replanting, grants are being made for replanting woods which may or may not prove suitable for dedication. If they prove suitable, but the owner does not dedicate, the grant becomes repayable. No limiting date has yet been set.

Surplus Machinery (Sales)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what quantity of surplus machinery has been sold by county agricultural executive committees during the past 12 months; how much has been sold by public auction and how much by private negotiation; and what have been the respective amounts raised by the two methods of disposal.

A total of 3,000 agricultural tractors and 11,300 implements of various types. Of these 2,300 tractors and 7,860 implements were sold by committees by public auctions for £260,000. One hundred and thirty-two tractors and 1,200 implements were sold for £78,000 to agricultural contractors who had previously been hiring them. The remainder were sold by the Ministry to agricultural machinery manufacturers and dealers for £74,000.


London Plan


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the announcement of the extension of the Bakerloo Line in South London, he will now publish the rest of the Transport Commission's plan for London.

The British Transport Commission have forwarded to me the Report of a Working Party appointed by them to review the proposals for rail passenger transport improvements put forward by the Railway (London Plan) Committee, and have submitted certain proposals for consideration by the Government. In view of the public interest in this important matter, I have approved that arrangements should be put in hand for publishing both the Report of the Working Party and the views on it which the Commission have submitted to me.

Wagon Replacements


asked the Minister of Transport whether a programme of replacement of 10 and 12 ton railway wagons by large sized trucks has yet been settled with his approval under subsection (2) of Section 4 of the Transport Act, 1947; over what period of years it is proposed to spread such replacement: and what is the total sum involved.

I am advised that a programme of wagon replacements unless of quite an exceptional character would not require my approval under Section 4 (2) of the Transport Act and, in fact, no application for such approval has been made by the British Transport Commission.

Workshops, Horwich


asked the Minister of Transport whether he has approved the proposal of British Railways to build a factory in Lancashire to manufacture railway castings at present made by firms on Tees-side.

My hon. Friend is presumably referring to the scheme for the mechanisation of the foundries of the former L.M.S. Railway Workshops at Horwich. This was authorised by me in June, 1947.


London Docks (Workers)


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the serious degree of unemployment at the London docks of dock workers, the 1948 daily average of unemployment being 8.6 per cent., and this percentage reaching 15.8 in October, he will use his powers under Defence Regulations to direct shipping and take steps to improve the docking arrangements in the London docks.

No. I am not prepared to reintroduce Governmental control of shipping movements. The docking arrangements in London are a matter for the port authority. Generally speaking, the level of unemployment in London is lower than in other ports.

Transfers (Panama Register)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the serious effect on employment amongst British seamen, by his decision to grant permission for the transfer of British ships to the Panama Register; and what steps he proposes to take to counteract this effect.

I do not sanction the transfer of ships to Panama or any other country unless I am satisfied that this can be done without adversely affecting the strength and efficiency of the United Kingdom fleet, and, as the volume of tonnage on the United Kingdom register is gradually increasing, there is steadily more, not less, employment for British seamen—a state of affairs which I hope will long continue.

Granite Production


asked the Minister of Transport what was the total production during 1948 in England, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall of the Granite Group, as set out in British Standard Specification No. 63.

pursuant to his reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 31] supplied the following statement:The figures, as shown by producers' returns, are as follow:

(including Cornwall—28,232 tons)

Roads (Driving Tests)

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give details of driving tests carried out at Colchester since 30th June, 1948, showing the number of persons tested, the number passed on the first test and the number failed once, twice and more than twice, respectively.

I regret that the information is not available. Statistics of driving tests are based on traffic areas and not on separate localities, and the expenditure of time and labour on preparing more detailed figures from the driving examiners' daily journals would not provide a complete answer, and would not in my opinion, be justified.

Ministry Of Supply



asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware that the Arab Legion possesses 200 jeeps in first class working condition which have been supplied by the British Stores Disposal Mission; and whether he will explain why these were not made available to British Forces.

No. No jeep has been supplied by the British Stores Disposal Mission to the Arab Legion. In answer to the second part of the Question, all stores handled by the Mission have already been declared by the British Forces as surplus to their needs.

Motor Industry (Redundancy)


asked the Minister of Supply to what extent shortage of steel is a factor causing redundancy or short working hours in the motor industry.

The cases of redundancy or reduced working hours which have recently occurred have been due to the difficulties some manufacturers have met in exporting their products.

Official Car Service


asked the Minister of Supply whether cars of the official car service hired on repayment to the Development Corporations may be used by members of those corporations for private journeys either on repayment or not.

Vehicle Repair Work, Blackpool


asked the Minister of Supply how many persons it is anticipated will be employed on vehicle repair work in the portion of the Squires Gate factory at Blackpool allocated to his Department; whether these workers will be recruited locally and when work will begin.

It is expected that the vehicle repair work at present being carried out in premises at Stanley Park will be transferred to the Squires Gate factory in about three to six months' time, together with about 280 workers. As many as possible of the balance of 220 workers then required will be recruited locally.

Sugar-Beet Factories (Plant And Equipment)


asked the Minister of Supply what assistance and priorities are being given to the sugar-beet factories to provide new plant and equipment so as to enable them to deal adequately with the acreage set as the present target.

I am not aware that sugar-beet factories are having difficulty in obtaining plant and equipment, but if the hon. and gallant Member will let me have particulars of any factories requiring assistance I will see what can be done to help them.

Cartridges, Rifle Clubs (Supplies)

asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware that .22 rifle ammunition is in very short supply and, since this is affecting the activities of 3,700 clubs affiliated to the National Small Bore Association, what steps does he propose to take to increase supplies.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) on 28th February last.

Steel Tubing (Supplies)

asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware that owing to priority of exports, building contractors are experiencing difficulty in obtaining sufficient quantities of steel tubing; that instead they are having to rely on imported, and more expensive copper tubing; and if he will take steps to end this anomaly.

The shortage of the type of steel tube required by building contractors is due to lack of capacity and not to the quantity exported. Additional capacity has recently come into production and supplies will increase as soon as it is in full production later in the year.

British Army

Baor (Married Quarters)


asked the Secretary of State for War why there is different treatment meted out to officers and families, compared to other serving men in the British Army on the Rhine in Germany; why some are allowed electricity night and day, while others are restricted to its use between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.; why some are allowed ample accommodation, while others pay for type A and B; and why some are not allowed fresh vegetables.

Officers, other ranks and their families in married quarters pay for all the electricity which they consume; men living in barracks are subject to normal Army discipline and the wishes of a few must be subordinated to the good of the majority and the interest of the service. It is for this reason that lights are turned out at a specified time which is left to the discretion of the Commanding Officer.Married officers and other ranks serving in all parts of the world are entitled to accommodation, the scale of which varies according to their status and is laid down by regulation. All married officers and other ranks in married quarters pay rent for their accommodation. In principle, rent is related to the officers' or soldiers' pay and allowances and not directly to the accommodation provided, but some concessions are made where the quarters provided are much below the standard of entitlement.No discrimination is made between officers and other ranks or families so far as rations are concerned. The present B.A.O.R. scales provide for the regular issue of fresh vegetables, although it may be necessary to make occasional issues of tinned vegetables so as to effect turnover of reserve stocks, or when fresh vegetables are temporarily unobtainable; if such issues are made, all officers, other ranks and families receive them.

Personal Case

asked the Secretary of State for War why 19098100 Private Brian Stanton Saunders, now serving with the 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, British Troops, Austria, due for release on 7th January, 1949, and retained as a witness on a field general court martial in Austria, has not been released.

This soldier is in an age and service group whose release was completed by 9th February. Under Release Regulations a soldier may be retained on the authority of the commander-in-chief as an essential court martial witness for a period of three months beyond the date on which the release of his age and service group is due to be completed. Further retention beyond the period of three months requires War Office approval.

Ship Repairing


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that subsidies are granted to ship repairers on the Continent and that this is giving them an undue advantage in the competitive market for ship repairing; and what he is doing to establish reasonable and fair competition in this industry.

I am not aware that ship repairers on the Continent are receiving subsidies. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.

Coal Industry

Mining Subsidence (Committee's Report)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when this House may expect legislation on compensation for mining subsidence, mentioned in the Select Committee's Report on Mining Subsidence, which concluded its sittings on 25th January, 1949.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman) on 24th February.

Merchants' Stocks

North Wales

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that dealers in the Gwyrfai Rural District and Bethesda Urban District of Caernarvonshire are having difficulty in supplying householders with the recognised ration of coal; and whether, in view of the exposed and elevated character of these districts, he will take steps to remedy the position.

I am aware that merchants' stocks in the districts mentioned by my hon. Friend are lower than elsewhere in North Wales. Arrangements have been made to send some additional coal into these districts.

Housing (Lcc Institutions)

asked the Minister of Health how many families are resident in London County Council institutions, other than in Rest Centres; what has been the average weekly family payment; and if it is intended that the increases imposed on residents in Rest Centres should also apply to those in institutions.

The number of families in residence at present is 219. The average family payment is not readily ascertainable as the weekly collections include arrears in respect of families who have now left. The last part of the Question does not arise: the charges for board and lodging are as stated in my reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) on 29th November, 1948, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. and gallant Member.

Trade And Commerce

National Research Development Corporation

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to set up the National Research Development Corporation.

I regret that I can as yet add nothing to my reply to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) on 27th January.

Protective Clothing

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that it is essential that employees of the Royal Sovereign Pencil Company, Limited, of Pontyclun, Glamorganshire, should be provided with protective clothing; that, in view of the inability of the company to obtain further supplies of such clothing, they have been compelled to restrict the engagement of further employees; and whether he will take steps to secure that the company are able to obtain these supplies.

I certainly recognise that protective clothing is essential in the industry concerned and an arrangement to meet the present needs of the company has now been made.