House Of Commons
Monday, 14th March, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
May I, Mr. Speaker, as one of the senior Members of the House, express, on behalf of hon. Members in all quarters, our delight at seeing you back in the Chair this afternoon?
I am much obliged to hon. Members. Thank you.
Oral Answers To Questions
Ministry Of Works
asked the Minister of Works to what Government Departments the buildings now being erected in Harrow are to be allocated; the numbers of staff which these will accommodate; and the approximate dates of completion.
I understand that the buildings to which my hon. Friend refers are the temporary office buildings being erected at Stanmore, Eastcote and Ruislip. The building at Stanmore is allocated to the Air Ministry and the War Office and should be completed by May. It will accommodate about 1,300 staff. An extension of the temporary office buildings at Eastcote has recently been completed and work on another small extension is about to begin. These new buildings are allocated to the Foreign Office and will hold about 600 staff. The building at Ruislip has recently been allocated to the Air Ministry for the use of the United States Air Force.
Could the Minister tell the House whether there will be any residential provision on these sites for the clerical staff?
There may be in the last of the cases which I have enumerated. I know of no other.
Building Licence, Birmingham
asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that many families living in rooms in the City of Birmingham are concerned about an application for a licence for materials being granted to build a 144-bedroom hotel in that city; and, in view of the urgent need for houses, if he will postpone the granting of this licence until the housing situation is more favourable.
This proposal, which is to convert an existing theatre into a hotel, is supported by the Board of Trade and by the local authority. It should not affect the progress of housing work in Birmingham.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at present, out of 20,000 building workers in the City of Birmingham, only 1,400 or 1,500 are employed on house building? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that the housing application list is now 68,000, and is increasing at the rate of 200 a week; and does he think that hotels should be built before homes for the people? Birmingham has waited long enough.
I am afraid that I do not agree with the figures which my hon. Friend has quoted. They are entirely wrong. Out of some 15,000 employed workers, nearly 7,000 are at present employed on housing. Moreover, as I have said, this project is supported by the local authority, although the licence has not yet been issued.
Is there not already plenty of labour in Birmingham available for this projected hotel, apart from house building requirements, and has the right hon. Gentleman seen the recent statement of the Deputy-Mayor of Birmingham in this regard?
I am convinced that this work can be done without calling on any of the labour required for housing purposes.
I am sorry that I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend's figures. Being a member of the Birmingham City Council, I know that his figures are wrong.
The hon. Member is not asking a question.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of a statement which was made from the rostrum of the City Council to the effect that there are only 1,500 employed on house building?
I am sorry, but I obtained my figures just before coming here from the official source from which such figures are obtained.
Cyprus (Us Radio Station)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under which section and of what agreement is the foreign broadcast service of the United States Government permitted to recruit and train in the United Kingdom, Persian and Azerbaijani language monitors for its radio station in Cyprus.
No special agreement is required to enable the United States Government, or any other foreign Government, to recruit and train employees in this country, always provided that our laws and regulations are not infringed.
As we seem to have given the Americans a free run for their radio station in Cyprus, is it too late for my right hon. Friend to ask them to make a protest in the Middle East languages about the reign of terror in these countries, and especially about the situation in Iraq?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to see that no other Government than the Chinese Government recognised by Great Britain and the United States takes control of Formosa until a Peace Treaty with Japan has been signed.
As far as His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are concerned, the answer is "None." Any steps such as the hon. Member contemplates could only be taken on the basis of consultation among the Powers concerned.
In view of the fact that the United States has already stated that Formosa would be in its line of defence, surely some steps must be taken soon, since China is at the present time lent Formosa and we do not know what the new Chinese Government is going to be; it might be Communist.
It is fairly difficult to describe the status of Formosa. "Lent" would be one word, but not necessarily an accurate one. I must repeat that no action can be unilateral; it would be a matter for the Cairo Powers.
Former British Cruiser
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the cruiser "Aurora" and its whereabouts; and on what conditions this vessel was handed over to the Chinese Nationalist Government.
The Chinese ship Chungking, formerly H.M.S. "Aurora," recently deserted to the Chinese Communists. The vessel is known to have sailed first to the Communist-held port of Chefoo, and there have been reports, as yet unconfirmed, that she has since proceeded to Dairen. The former H.M.S. "Aurora" was transferred outright to the Chinese Government on 19th May, 1948, and full details of the transfer are contained in a Command Paper which was issued at that time.
While appreciating the making of a gift to the Chinese, who fought so well in the war, will the right hon. Gentleman in future bear in mind, when making such a gift, that there should be some security for the future so that it will not fall into the wrong hands?
Of course. This ship was gifted in an attempt to replace Chinese vessels which had been lost in service against the Japanese enemy, and it would plainly have been impossible to place any conditions upon that gift.
British Relations Board
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he contemplates the association of the British Council with the British Relations Board in the development of cultural relations between Great Britain and Germany in the British zone.
Arrangements are being made for the British Council to operate in Germany, and the intention is that they shall be closely associated with the British Relations Board in the development of cultural relations.
May I ask the Minister whether, in view of the great success attending the work of the British Council in various parts of the world, the fullest use of it will be made in co-operation with the British authorities in the Western zone of Germany?
I should like to assure the hon. Member that his pertinacity on this subject will not be lost.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that there is considerable discontent among the miners of the Ruhr at the number of former Nazi officials in the management of the German coal industry, that the men's leaders have expressed the view that the remedy for this is the nationalisation of the mining industry; and what steps he is taking to secure the co-operation of the miners by giving them a voice in the running of the industry.
With regard to the first part of the Question, I have no knowledge of discontent among the German miners on these grounds. On the contrary, the de-nazification of the coal industry has been carried out very effectively. If my hon. Friend refers to fears lest Nazis should regain their position in the industry under cover of the reorganisation now taking place, I can assure him that all possible steps will be taken to prevent this. Moreover, the miners' leaders are being consulted at every stage of the reorganisation, and their trades unions are among the bodies which have been invited to put forward names of persons suitable for appointment as trustees of the new companies which are to be formed. These measures of reorganisation do not prejudice in any way the question of nationalisation, which, as in the case of the iron and steel industries, will be left for determination by a representative, freely-elected German government.
Will not the Minister agree that there will be far greater output in the German coal mines under nationalisation? Does he not think it better to expedite that in every way?
I think it is the duty of the Government to see that the German people have facilities for expressing themselves on this subject, and the Government have discharged that obligation.
Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether the reference to a freely-elected German government covers the Western German administration which it is proposed to set up?
The Government hope that it will be a German government. If that is not permitted, we shall see to it, with our American and French allies, that those Germans who come within our orbit will have a freely-elected and representative government.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many dollars were involved in sending recently 5,892,000 cigars to Germany; and what was the cost to the British taxpayer.
I can answer only for the cigars flown in by British aircraft. They did not involve expenditure for the British taxpayer, nor did they cost any dollars.
Is it really to be supposed that America will continue to give Marshall Aid when that Marshall Aid is not concentrated on essentials?
The hon. Gentleman must really attempt to apply his mind to this subject. Marshall Aid consists of dollars; no dollars were spent on these cigars, which were of German leaf manufactured into what we know as German cigars.
Is there any reason for the Minister to get cross?
I apologise. I was not cross; I was merely puzzled.
Us Embassy (Brig-General Carter)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the proposed functions in the United Kingdom of Brigadier-General Marshall S. Carter, special representative in London of the American State Department.
I have seen an informal announcement that this officer is to be given a senior appointment on the staff of the United States Ambassador in London. My right hon. Friend is not aware of any considerations that would justify his taking the unusual course of asking the Ambassador what precise duties are to be entrusted by him to this new member of his staff.
As it is reported from Washington, in "The Times," that this man is to have the rank of Minister to run our re-armament programme under the Atlantic Pact, will my right hon. Friend report to him that the British people will never be a party to an aggressive anti-Soviet war and will he tell him to report back to his masters in Washington?
Plainly, my masters are here, in this House. There is a normal procedure relating to Embassy staffs which we propose to employ in this and all appropriate cases. Also I am delighted to know that the hon. Member is taking his information from "The Times"; I wish he would continue this habit on other subjects.
Did not the right hon. Gentleman come into very great prominence on one occasion by moving a resolution, "I will not fight"; and does he still stand by that?
This Question only asks what are the proposed functions.
May I ask the Minister if he will also inquire as to the reason why there has been the Vyshinsky-Molotov shuffle in Moscow?
Council Of Europe (Consultative Assembly)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will propose to the Governmental Conference on the Constitution of a Council of Europe that the proposed Consultative Assembly shall be competent to discuss economic questions.
My right hon. Friend would certainly not wish to exclude economic questions from the discussions of the proposed Consultative Assembly. It will, however, be necessary to ensure that the new organisation does not duplicate the work of existing organisations, such as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.
Does that reply mean that it is proposed that the Consultative Assembly shall not discuss such economic questions as are within the purview of O.E.E.C., because if it does it would turn the Consultative Assembly into a sheer farce?
The reply means no more or no less than is indicated; with the reservation—or perhaps qualification—which I have made, the remainder will lie inside the purview of the Assembly.
My right hon. Friend says the remainder will lie within the purview of the Consultative Assembly. What is left for the Consultative Assembly to discuss, since it will be primarily concerned with economic matters affecting Western Europe?
My hon. Friend, I know, is not attempting to pretend that O.E.E.C. covers all European economic subjects, nor the European economic subjects which will develop as O.E.E.C. develops or, perhaps, as the Marshall programme comes to an end.
Miss Pavlides (Appeal)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any application was made for permission to attend, and whether an observer from the British Embassy at Athens did attend, the recent trial by a military court of Miss Krini Pavlides; what assistance is being given by the Embassy to Miss Pavlides in the preparation of her appeal; and whether he will ascertain the date on which the appeal is to be heard and arrange for counsel in the United Kingdom to appear on behalf of this British subject.
No permission was required because, in Greece, trials are open to the Press and to the public. An Embassy observer attended some of the hearings. No assistance was requested in the preparation of the appeal which in such cases is a written one. The appeal was submitted by Miss Pavlides' lawyers to the Council of Pardons on 9th March. This body is not a court and does not hold hearings. At a date which has not yet been fixed, the Council will review the case and make recommendations. As counsel are not required to appear, the last part of the Question does not arise.
As this young lady is a student in her 'teens, is a British subject and is condemned to death with four other students, and since this Greek Government did not hesitate on Christmas Eve to execute by firing squad a girl student aged 15, and as the only thing with which this girl is charged, if it were proved, would constitute a minor act of malicious damage in our country, with perhaps a fine, will my right hon. Friend see that every step is taken to prevent this threatened barbarity from being carried out?
His Majesty's Government will continue to see that this young girl is afforded every appropriate help. I should say that the young girl has not asked for the help, which would not be appropriate or relevant, to which the hon. Member referred.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what advice the British police mission in Greece has given to the Greek authorities on the presentation of evidence by police witnesses in courts of law.
The advice given is that when giving evidence the police should state accurately and impartially all the facts known to them.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether, in view of the fact that in the recent trials of 34 Greek trade unionists and others numerous police witnesses gave purely hearsay evidence based on information supplied by anonymous informers, this is not a case for representing to the Greek authorities once again that these methods are not in accordance with Western democratic practice?
I sympathise with the point that my hon. Friend is trying to make, but I should have thought that the law of evidence was a matter for the courts. We can concern ourselves only with the advice which we give to the Greek police.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it was on such evidence as has just been characterised by my hon. Friend that on Friday Mr. Manolis Glezos, famous in the Greek resistance against the Nazis, was condemned to death in Athens?
Does my right hon. Friend mean that where British subjects are tried in foreign courts we have no interest to see that the law administered by the courts is acceptable to us?
I am indebted to my hon. Friend. Where a British subject, as in the recent case, is on trial, then, of course, we do make such representations as it is our duty to make upon the treatment given to the British subject.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the evidence which is the subject of this Question is evidence that formed part of the case against the young British girl who was sentenced to death a day or two ago?
We are becoming a little involved. This Question does not concern the case to which my hon. Friend refers, but I should like to take this opportunity of saying that in that particular case, where we were represented, the president of the court more than once drew attention to the necessity of confining the witnesses to demonstrable evidence.
That is very unusual there.
North Atlantic Pact
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to announce the date on which the draft text of the proposed Atlantic Pact will be published.
The draft text of the North Atlantic Pact will be published as soon as possible, but I am not in a position to give the exact date at present.
In view of the fact that everybody else seems to be aware of the contents of this Pact except the Members of this House, and also in view of the necessity of allowing opportunity for hon. Members to present their views on the text to the Foreign Secretary before he leaves for the United States to sign the Pact, could the matter be speeded up?
As to the first part of question, my right hon. Friend will be anxious to make the text available as soon as the parties whose text it is, agree on it. The hon. Member has exactly the same information as other people who read the Press. As to the second part of the supplementary question, I think that ought more properly to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
Buenos Aires Transport Corporation
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the liquidation of the Buenos Aires Transport Corporation must, by law, take place before 12th April next; whether, in view of the urgency of some arrangements being come to before that between His Majesty's Government and the Argentine Government concerning compensation for British shareholders, he will state what steps have been and are being taken by His Majesty's Ambassador; and whether any reply has yet been received to the Ambassador's protest concerning the methods adopted to bring about this liquidation.
The answer to the first part of this Question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, I would refer the hon. Member to the relevant parts of the replies given to him on 2nd March, 6th December, 26th January, and 14th February. No written reply has yet been received from the Argentine Government; a recent interview with the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs, at which His Majesty's Ambassador emphasised the right of the British shareholders to be reimbursed, proved inconclusive.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that only four weeks now remain—which is why I am asking all these questions—before the assets of this business have been liquidated and that for 40 years, since 1909, no more than a penny fare has ever been allowed to be charged upon this tramway? Does he further realise that many people, including prominent Argentinians themselves, consider the action of the Argentine Government sheer robbery?
I am quite aware of the date of liquidation, but I think the hon. Member is also aware that His Majesty's Government have made every kind of representation which was likely to prove effective upon the subject as opportunities presented themselves.
While thanking the Minister for the reply he has just given, may I ask whether he realises that there is a large number of poor people in this country who are affected by the decision arrived at, and will he continue pressure, through our ambassador, on the Argentine Government?
I recognise, and the Government recognise, that certain British subjects have rights in this matter which we will do our utmost to protect.
Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that even after the liquidation in April he will still continue to press our rights?
Chocolate And Sweets
asked the Minister of Food whether he intends to abolish price control in respect of chocolates and sugar confectionery when rationing of these comes to an end.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that, with the supplies that people will demand, there will be a probability that prices will fall if they are de-controlled? Would that not be of great benefit to everyone?
My hon. Friend will agree that it would also be wise for us to wait to see what does happen.
asked the Minister of Food what effect the fall in the world price of maize has had on glucose at home for sweet manufacturers; and whether the benefit of the fall in price will be passed on to the public, bearing in mind the greater the reduction in prices which are passed on to the consuming public the greater likelihood there is of the public purchasing more than 5 ozs. per head per week of sweets.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "None"; the second part of the Question, therefore, does not arise.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that if the Government are to continue charging this high price, they will be making very large profits out of children's sweets and various sweetmeats? Is it not a fact that the profits that they have been making out of the materials supplied for the manufacture of sweets are very excessive indeed?
The hon. Gentleman must realise that we have been using maize that has come to us from Argentina and Russia, and that some of the cheap maize we have bought from Yugoslavia and Hungary is only just reaching this country.
The Government are profiteering out of young children.
Meat Transport, Maidenhead
asked the Minister of Food whether he will inquire into the methods adopted by his Department for conveying meat between central slaughterhouse and butcher's shops in the town of Maidenhead; and what steps he is taking to improve the cleanliness of the vans so used.
We had already arranged for these vans to be overhauled, and made more up-to-date. The necessity for cleanliness is constantly impressed on all connected with the distribution of meat.
In making those arrangements will the right hon. Lady ensure that there will be facilities for hanging the carcases in the vans and that they will no longer be kicked about on the floor by men in dirty boots?
That is what we are trying to do with these vehicles—to arrange that all meat will be hung in future.
asked the Minister of Food if he will inquire into the possibilities of a weekly collection of eggs from the farms to the packing stations and so further discourage any tendency towards a black market for new-laid eggs.
This is already being done in most cases, but it is not always possible. If my hon. Friend has a particular case in mind. I should be glad to look into it.
Linseed Oil (Price)
asked the Minister of Food to what extent the difference in the price of linseed oil, £90 per ton f.o.b. Uruguay and £170 per ton as sold by his Department in England, exceeds freight and insurance charges; and if he will account for the excess.
We have not yet been able to buy linseed oil from any country at £90 per ton f.o.b. As regards the second part of the Question, our selling price, as my right hon. Friend informed the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) on 9th March, is based on the cost of imported materials to the Ministry and not on current prices in particular markets.
Will the right hon. Lady say why the Ministry's bulk selling price is so far above the market price in other importing countries?
I think the hon. Gentleman knows that if any commodity is bought by bulk purchase the price at which it is sold retail cannot always be a reflection of the current price.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that Uruguay is offering 5,000 tons of linseed oil at £106 a ton? How much of that do the Government propose to buy?
The hon. Gentleman surely must know that I cannot say such a thing without negotiations.
Can the right hon. Lady inform the House of the price paid for the last bulk purchase and the quantity bought?
I should not like to inform the House now because we are at the moment negotiating for some more linseed.
Cocoa Beans (Prices)
asked the Minister of Food whether, arising out of the many millions of pounds of profits made by the Nigerian Cocoa Marketing Board and the West African Produce Control Board for 1948, he will take steps to ensure that the consuming public get a proportionate and representative reduction in price of goods manufactured from cocoa beans.
No, Sir. The retail prices of goods manufactured from cocoa beans in this country are adjusted from time to time in relation to the cost of cocoa beans purchased by the Ministry at world prices. We recently announced a reduction which took effect from 27th February. Profits made by producers' marketing organisations in West Africa are not relevant to these prices.
Is it not a fact that the reduction that was made was quite insufficient, having regard to the excessive profits which were being made, and is the Minister aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House are very unhappy about what is going on?
I do not think so. I know the degree of happiness or unhappiness of most hon. Members, and I want to assure the hon. Gentleman that when the time comes we shall, of course, make a further reduction.
asked the Minister of Food whether in any future meat contracts with the Argentine the Food Controller will ensure that there is a penalty clause as in ordinary commercial practices against short delivery, with special regard to the fact that the penalty clause entitles the buyer to obtain supplies elsewhere to make up for the short shipment by the contracting country, and so provide the estimated ration to the consumers in this country.
I cannot at this stage say anything about the provisions of the agreement on meat which we are hoping to conclude with the Argentine, but we shall certainly do everything possible to ensure regular shipments. Since, however, we are already buying all the meat we can from other markets the second consideration in the hon. Member's Question does not apply.
Is it not a fact that the public today are getting only a few ha'pence worth of meat. Why is it that all these things have gone wrong? Everything is wrong with the Government.
asked the Minister of Food what were his requirements stated to the Overseas Food Corporation of each type of produce to be grown in 1949 under the groundnut scheme in East Africa.
We told them that we wanted all the oilseeds which they could possibly grow in 1949, and this was one of the main considerations they took into account in determining their cropping programme.
asked the Minister of Food if he has agreed with the Overseas Food Corporation the programme of bush clearing that will be practicable in the coming year under the East African groundnut scheme.
No, Sir. The Corporation's clearing programme does not require my right hon. Friend's approval.
Scarce Foods (Export)
asked the Minister of Food how much sugar, tea, biscuits, chocolate, sweets and other foods in short supply or in tight rationing categories, has been exported during the past six months, to the latest available date.
As the answer includes a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is not the right hon. Lady aware that the people of this country could have done quite well with the articles mentioned in Question 30 and could have done quite well without the articles mentioned in Question 31?
I have explained this matter to the hon. Gentleman on many occasions, but perhaps I can explain it in another and more simple form. Surely he would agree that it is wise for us to export biscuits in return for bacon and eggs.
Following is the answer:
|EXPORTS FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM IN THE SIX MONTHS AUGUST, 1948, TO JANUARY, 1949, INCLUSIVE|
|Sugar, refined, including candy||212,580||(a)|
|Shortening (including lard compound and compound cooking fat)||2,327||(c)|
|Carcase meat and offal||19||(d)|
|Canned meat, including canned poultry and game||72||(a)|
|Bacon and hams||346||(d)|
|Table jelly crystals, powders and squares||254|
|(a) Exported to British possessions, British Forces overseas, or against payment in hard currency.|
|(b) Tea specially imported for blending and re-export. No Ministry owned tea is exported.|
|(c) Three hundred and sixty-eight tons margarine and 537 tons shortening exported to hard currency areas. Remainder to British Forces and British possessions overseas.|
|(d) Supplies for Malta, Gibraltar, Channel Islands and British Forces overseas only.|
asked the Minister of Food whether he is now prepared to allow any of the stocks of China tea, now deteriorating in bonded warehouses in this country, to be distributed off the ration.
So long as supplies generally remain short, and rationing is necessary, I am afraid that no tea can be sold off the ration. China tea has good keeping qualities and the stocks here are very small.
Is not the right hon. Lady aware that this stock is deteriorating, as I think her Department know quite well; and does it not seem a pity not to let those people who do want this tea have it, although I agree that everyone will not want it?
This tea has good keeping qualities. If the hon. Gentleman will let me know where the tea is, which he says is so rapidly deteriorating, I shall be only too pleased to make an inquiry.
The right hon. Lady already has all the information.
asked the Minister of Food how much green and fresh vegetables, including cauliflowers, broccoli. onions, lettuce, beans and peas, have been imported during the last six months, to the latest available date.
During the six months August, 1948, to January, 1949, 219,559 tons of fresh vegetables other than potatoes were imported.
What is the good of the Ministry of Agriculture making an appeal for increased production, if the appeal and the efforts of the growers are sabotaged by the Ministry of Food; and is this not typical of Socialist planning?
In view of the difficulty of dealing with this matter adequately by Question and answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment.
Fruit And Vegetable Prices
asked the Minister of Food to what extent retail prices of fruit and vegetables have fallen since the removal of the obligation on retailers to obtain a licence to trade; and if he is satisfied that it is sufficient to justify decontrol.
So many factors influence these prices that it is quite impossible to assess the effect of any particular one of them. I am, however, quite satisfied that the decision to open this trade to new entrants has had very healthy effects.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I draw attention to the renewed reference by the Ministry of Agriculture to the wide difference between producer and consumer prices, and ask when can other practical steps be taken to reduce that wide gap?
I can assure my hon. Friend that we are very concerned with this matter and are giving it our closest attention.
Pig Slaughter (Identification)
asked the Minister of Food what method is adopted by his Department when collecting pigs for slaughter; how each owner's pigs are identified; and, in view of the fact that mistakes are being made and producers of pigs for his Department are dissatisfied, if he will make inquiries into this matter and see whether any improvement can be effected.
Pigs delivered at collecting centres by producers are ear-tattooed at the centre by the Ministry's district chairman of auctioneers. The identification of pigs collected from producers for direct transport to bacon factories is, however, dependant on producers marking their pigs clearly. The proportion of errors in identification of 30,000 pigs now being handled weekly is extremely small and I am satisfied that it cannot be reduced by any action on my part. I am not aware of any general dissatisfaction on this matter but if my hon. Friend has any particular cases in mind I shall be glad to have them investigated.
Is the right hon. Lady informing the House that no mistakes are made, because I am quite prepared to give her some information of mistakes that have already been made.
I never said that. I never claim to be infallible. I was merely saying that if the hon. Gentleman will tell me the mistakes, I will look into them.
asked the Minister of Food why he refused a request from the Sutton Coldfield Housewives' League that he should provide specimen complete menus for a month, possible for a family of four, as promised recently to the League by one of his representatives.
As I explained to the hon. Member in my letter of 8th March, it has never been part of our policy to provide complete menus because the meals which a housewife plans over a period depend upon so many variable factors, such as her family's taste in food, the season, the unrationed and points foods she can buy and the family circumstances generally.
Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that this request was a challenge to her to show how a housewife could provide a balanced diet for her family at a reasonable cost, and is she not going to accept that challenge?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is making a mountain out of a molehill. A certain lady at question time at a meeting asked one of my food organisers to arrange a menu. The food organiser returned to my Department and the Department, after giving the request careful consideration, realised that it was quite impracticable to arrange something which would be acceptable to every housewife in this country. That is all there is to the matter.
Is it not a very reasonable proposal that the Ministry should satisfy the housewives that they can produce a balanced diet for their families at a reasonable cost?
I think that it is unreasonable.
If the Minister decides ultimately to send a reply to the Housewives' League giving the menu of the workers, will she also send the menu of the workers and unemployed between 1920 and 1939?
Milk Chocolate (Eire)
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the allocation of milk supplies by his Department has resulted in the transfer to Eire of the manufacture of milk chocolate formerly undertaken in England; how much milk chocolate is to be imported from Eire in the current year; how the promised supply of butter from Eire will be affected; and what is the cost of the extra subsidy that will be payable to milk producers in the United Kingdom to compensate for the loss of this market.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." Since 1939 there has been a decline in, the manufacture of chocolate milk crumb in this country because the milk available here for manufacture is required for priority products, such as baby food and cheese. Since we are not in a position to supply to chocolate manufacturers all the milk they require, they obtain a certain amount of chocolate milk crumb from Eire. We do not expect to import either chocolate confectionery or butter from Eire this year. The answer to the final part of the Question is that no extra subsidy is payable. Payments to milk producers do not vary with the product into which the milk is made.
Is the Minister of Food taking credit for this as a piece of good Socialist planning? As we are getting more milk available for manufacturers, will he not allow milk chocolate to be made here instead of buying it more expensively from Ireland?
The hon. Gentleman does not know all the facts. This year we are giving the chocolate manufacturers one million gallons of whole milk and one million gallons of skimmed milk.
asked the Minister of Food whether he will give the peak prices quoted since the war; the prices twelve months ago; and the prices ruling today upon the United Kingdom market for the following commodities: wheat,
|MINISTRY OF FOOD COMMODITIES|
|—||Price at March, 1948||Price at March, 1949||Peak Price since the war|
|Wheat (home-grown millable wheat sold by a person other than grower).||1||0||1||per cwt.||1||4||1||per cwt||1||4||1||per cwt|
|Maize (price charged by dealer to farmer).||10||0||0||per ton||10||2||6||per ton||10||2||6||per ton|
|Rye (home-grown rye sold by person other than grower).||19||2||per cwt.||1||3||6||per cwt.||1||3||6||per cwt.|
|Linseed (price paid by Ministry merchant for home-grown linseed).||45||15||0||per ton||55||15||0||per ton||55||15||0||per ton|
|Linseed oil (Ministry selling price)||200||0||0||per ton||170||0||0||per ton||200||0||0||per ton|
|Lard (Ministry release price and price at which bacon factories sell).||4||10||0||per cwt.||4||10||0||per cwt.||4||11||3||per cwt|
|MINISTRY OF SUPPLY COMMODITIES|
(Prices delivered buyer's premises)
|—||Price at March, 1948||Price at March, 1949||Peak Price since the war|
|Copper (high conductivity electrolytic)||£132 per long ton||£140 per long ton||£140 per long ton|
|Lead (good soft pig)||£90 per long ton||£123 per long ton||£123 per long ton|
|Tin (common)||£519 per long ton||£569 per long ton||£569 per long ton|
|English refined tin is £3 10s.0d. per long ton higher than common tin.|
maize, rye, linseed, linseed oil, lard, copper, lead, tin, rubber and hides.
As the reply involves a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is the Minister aware that the United Kingdom prices prevailing today for a number of commodities are considerably in excess of world prices and are they not due to the Minister holding up prices to recover the loss on dear contracts; and may we have an assurance that no further contract without an escape clause will be entered into?
The hon. Gentleman must realise that prices charged today must be related to the prices we pay, and that these prices cannot always be the prices which are current.
Is not the Minister aware that a free market industry has to compete against world prices and cannot charge prices in relation to the prices they may have paid.
Following is the table:
|BOARD OF TRADE COMMODITIES|
|—||Open Market Price||Ministry"s selling Price|
|Price at March, 1948||Price at March, 1949||Peak Price since the war|
|Rubber||…||…||…||…||…||1s. Od. per Ib.||11½d. per lb.||1s. 3 13/16d. per lb.|
|There have been no London market quotations for hides in the pre-war sense since the war, because the Leather Control has been purchasing the entire supply required by United Kingdom tanners. United Kingdom merchants buy on behalf of the Control, however, and also conduct business with third countries. The following table gives an indication of the trend of prices (Control buying prices) of some fairly representative grades, but the full market list is very extensive. The great majority of domestic hides are transferred to the Leather Control from the Ministry of Food and are not acquired by merchants.|
|—||Open Market Price||Ministry"s Selling Price|
|Pence per lb.||Pence per lb.||Pence per lb.|
|Argentine Frig. 1st Heavy Ox||20⅝||20 19/32||22|
|New Zealand Freezor Cows (40 1bs. up)||20||20||21¼|
asked the Minister of Food whether his recently announced purchase of prunes from America constitutes a departure from the policy adopted since 1947 of purchasing none but basic foods from the dollar area.
No, Sir. The general policy has not been changed. There were special circumstances relating to these prunes. Dried fruit is one of the commodities which the American authorities have declared surplus to domestic requirements. They were therefore available at very special prices, and we decided to buy some.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the housewife greatly welcomes this decision to import dried fruit which she considers to be a basic food; and will my right hon. Friend see whether she cannot extend these purchases, particularly of seedless raisins?
asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that the fullest opportunity is taken to import foodstuffs from West Africa; and whether he is aware that large stocks of tapioca are lying in store in Nigeria which cannot be exported for want of a British import licence.
The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As to the second part, the Ministry of Food is now prepared to consider an application from anyone for an import licence for Nigerian tapioca. If my hon. Friend knows of any case of difficulty and will let me have details, I will gladly look into it.
In addition to inquiring about tapioca, will the right hon. Lady inquire about feedingstuffs, which are available in Nigeria but are not being imported here?
asked the Minister of Transport (1) whether he approved the design of the "No Parking" signs at present in use in the City of London;
(2) what steps he is prepared to take to ensure a standard type of "No Parking" sign throughout the country.
The temporary "No Waiting" signs in the City of London have been authorised by me. These signs, like the yellow band signs elsewhere in London, were put up because sufficient of the normal type could not be immediately obtained. The permanent "No Waiting" sign is circular in design with a red ring at the circumference and white lettering on a blue central background, and is uniform throughout the country. They are being put up in London as they become available.
asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that out of a total of 183,000 miles of road in this country over 46,000 are restricted to a speed limit of 30 miles per hour; and what steps he proposes to take in the near future to consult with local authorities as to how the present high proportion of restricted roads can be reduced, with a view to increasing the efficiency of road traffic in this country and reducing the waste of manpower caused by such restriction.
Yes, Sir, but I would point out that about two-thirds of the restricted
|SCHEMES ESTIMATED TO COST £ 25,000 OR MORE|
|County||Description of Scheme||Estimated Cost|
|Argyll||…||Connel-Glencoe Trunk Road. Diversions and widening between Kentallen and Balachulish.||70,000|
*Kiel-Inversanda Road A.861. Reconstruction of a length of about 8 miles, including provision of a new bridge at Ardmurchan.
*Fionphort-Kinloch Bridge Road A.861. Reconstruction between Fionphprt and Beach, a length of about 11 miles.
*Invermoriston Road A.887. Reconstruction of a length of about 14 miles at Glen Moriston.
*Portree-Staffin Road A.855. Reconstruction between Portree and Loch Leathan, a length of about 5 miles.
|Lanark||…||Carlisle-Glasgow Trunk Road A.74. Widening and reconstruction Newfield Inn to Lesmahagow, a length of about 1 mile.||60,000|
|Lanark||…||Glasgow-Stirling Trunk Road A.80. Widening from Glasgow City boundary to Steppes Railway Bridge, a length of about ½ mile.||67,000|
*Paisley-Renfrew Road A.741. Widening and reconstruction between Porterfield Road and the Paisley Burgh boundary, a lengh of about 1,400 yards.
|Schemes marked with an asterisk are on classified roads; the remainder are on trunk roads. In addition, there are 41 smaller schemes estimated to cost £230,000.|
roads are unclassified and the greater part of them are urban streets. A close watch is kept to see that important traffic routes are not unnecessarily restricted, and local authorities are aware of the importance that I attach to dispensing with unnecessary speed limits.
In view of the fact that excessive restrictions can only lead to abuse of the law, will the Minister urgently consider the very sensible recommendations recently submitted by the A.A. and R.A.C.?
Yes, Sir. They are under examination.
Approved Schemes, Scotland
asked the Minister of Transport if he will give details of the major road schemes which are likely to be started in Scotland during the current year.
I am arranging to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT particulars of approved schemes on which work has been started or is likely to start during 1949. I am unable to say what further schemes will be approved and commenced during the year.
Following are the particulars:
Council For Wales
asked the Lord President of the Council whether the proposed Welsh Advisory Council, though officially an advisory council, will be given the power to summon Ministers before it and to require them to give information on the aspects of their Departments which concern Wales.
It would not be within the competence of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire to require the attendance of Ministers, but Ministers will of course be anxious to give it all the help they can, including information about the work of their Departments which concerns Wales, and, if the Council so wish, to attend its meetings from time to time.
Is not the Lord President aware that a statement to the effect that the Advisory Council would be given these wide powers was made in a daily newspaper last week by a member of the National Executive of the Labour Party; and is that statement incorrect?
I am sure that the lady to whom the hon. Member refers meant well and not harm, and I have no complaint about her whatever; but it is still the case that under the British constitution the policy of the Government is a matter for Ministers responsible to Parliament.
Justices Of The Peace
asked the Attorney-General if he will circularise all justices of the peace to the effect that no justice should, in the course of his judicial duties, express from the bench his opinions on the merits of any particular Statute under his consideration or his unwillingness to administer it.
No, Sir. I think that, generally speaking, justices are fully aware of the proper relation between the legislature and the judiciary, and that there is no need for a circular on the subject.
Have not some recent instances indicated that it is necessary to bring home to justices the traditions which have formerly been recognised in their high office?
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any right or authority to circularise the justices?
No, Sir, I personally have no rights at all in this matter. There are very few principles in our Constitution more important than those which ensure the complete impartiality and independence of the courts. Those principles would, of course, be difficult to maintain if the courts took it upon themselves to criticise the policy of Parliament as contained in particular Statutes. It would be quite impertinent for me to lay down any rules about the matter and, indeed, His Majesty's judges and other high authorities have from time to time made the practice about these matters perfectly clear. One finds in many of the textbooks a clear enunciation of the principles in regard to the matter.
Ought not the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), one of His Majesty's counsel, to have known better than to suggest that the Attorney-General could send a circular to justices?
asked the Attorney-General whether, having regard to the Report of the Royal Commission on Justices of the Peace, he has any statement to make regarding the Government's attitude to the appointment of persons connected with the licensing trade as justices of the peace; and, in particular, upon those who, by election as mayors of a borough, are ex officio justices of the peace.
My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has accepted the recommendations of the Royal Commission regarding the appointment to the Commissions of the Peace of persons engaged in the licensing trade. In future, these persons will not be barred from appointment as justices solely on the ground of their occupations. The Lord Chancellor's advisory committees will be free to recommend such persons for appointment if, having due regard to the objections to such appointments which the Commission note in their Report, they consider that they are well suited for the office of a justice of the peace. As regards ex officio justices, my noble Friend will not take any action to prevent these justices from adjudicating on the ground that they are engaged in the licensing trade.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that this decision will give great satisfaction, as it removes an entirely unwarrantable stigma from an honourable and useful profession?
Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether, in applying these recommendations, the Lord Chancellor proposes to make any distinction as between licensed persons who are independent and licensed persons who are merely the tied agents of big brewery companies?
Law Revision Committee
asked the Attorney-General if the recommendations of the Sixth Interim Report of the Law Revision Committee are going to be implemented.
The Government are unable to hold out any hope at present of introducing legislation to deal with the subject matter of this report, which is complicated and not entirely non-controversial.
Does not the Attorney-General agree that the subject matter is important?
It has a certain importance, but questions of importance are relative.
asked the Attorney-General if he will now reconstitute the Law Revision Committee and designate subjects for it to consider.
I will consult my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and will then write to the hon. Member.
When consulting would the Attorney-General point out that there are many non-controversial legal subjects requiring reform, and that the reinstitution of this Committee would be very desirable?
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will institute a campaign for the destruction of carrion crows during the coming nesting season, and make cartridges available for this purpose on the same basis as for shooting rooks.
The carrion crow is a local problem and does not call for a nationwide campaign; but where these birds are a menace to agriculture and cannot be effectively controlled by individual efforts, my right hon. Friend is prepared to authorise the issue of cheap cartridges for approved sheets organised and supervised by county agricultural executive committees.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the best way of shooting carrion crows is, not by approved shoots, but by somebody finding out where their nests are and then shooting them? Will that method be included?
Hill Farming Schemes
asked the Minister of Agriculture why no hill farming schemes have been completed in Lancashire.
Of the 34 schemes proposed, three only have been submitted in detail; these are under consideration and should shortly be formally approved. Urgent work has however been authorised on 10 schemes.
Would my hon. Friend agree that any statement that Whitehall is responsible for the hold-up of these schemes would be completely inaccurate?
In these cases it most certainly would be.
Whalley Ai Centre
asked the Minister of Agriculture why it is intended to restrict the radius of service from the Whalley artificial insemination station.
I understand that the Milk Marketing Board, who operate this centre, intend to limit the service to within a radius of approximately 10 miles until such time as the centre is working satisfactorily and the extent of the demand is known. After that the service area will be developed according to need either directly from the Whalley centre or from sub-centres
Is my hon. Friend aware that this will cause considerable disappointment to the farmers in the locality; and is it not possible for substations to be set up with a minimum of equipment, and so give the service required?
Fences have to be measured before they are jumped, and what will happen here is that the scheme will be got working, the extent of the work will be known, and then sub-centres will be set up to deal with it.
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that the Mid-Western Region has already exceeded its 1952 milk gallonage target, and if he is satisfied that existing arrangements in this and other regions are adequate to handle still larger supplies of milk.
My right hon. Friend notes with pleasure the expansion of milk production in the Mid-Western Region as well as in other parts of the country, and I am assured by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food that the arrangements made should be adequate for handling all the milk expected to be sold this year.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the total milk production in January was almost equal to the liquid milk consumption last May when there was no rationing? As there will be a very big surplus this year, will he make sure arrangements are made now to handle the surplus when the time comes?
My hon. Friend need have no fears about that, but he must bear in mind that there are other uses for milk apart from liquid consumption.
Is the expression "milk gallonage target" the invention of the Ministry of Agriculture or the work of the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins)?
asked the Minister of Agriculture what precautions are taken to insure that all horses exported on licence to Belgium and the Continent are not prevented by age or infirmity from being capable of work.
The exportation to the Continent of Europe of horses that are not capable of being worked without suffering is prohibited by the Diseases of Animals Acts. Except for certain special classes of horses, such as racehorses and breeding horses, every horse exported to Europe is examined by one of our veterinary inspectors and certified by him to be capable of being conveyed by sea and disembarked without cruelty and to be capable or being worked without suffering.
When my hon. Friend says that the animals are capable of being worked without suffering, have any precautions been taken to see that they are able to continue at work for some considerable time?
What control can the Government exercise over these horses once they reach the Continent? Would it not be much wiser not to be a party to this dubious traffic?
I think the answer to the Question is quite clear, but in so far as we are to go over last week's discussion, I would repeat that my right hon. Friend has undertaken to review the whole question to see whether anything useful can be done.
Would not a simpler way of dealing with the matter be that no horses should be exported at a value under, say, £100?
That is precisely the sort of matter which is being considered by my right hon. Friend.
asked the Minister of Agriculture what increases are to be made this year in the amount of linseed cake which growers of linseed in this country are to be allowed to buy back.
Farmers selling linseed of the 1949 crop through recognised channels, either for crushing or for sowing, will be allowed to buy back for feeding to their own stock 12 cwts. of linseed cake for every ton of clean linseed sold for such purposes, as against one ton of cake for every three tons of clean linseed sold from the 1948 crops.
Croughton Airfield (Tenancies)
asked the Minister of Agriculture why, when Croughton aerodrome was let on annual tenancies, Mr. Tredwell, of Astwick Farm, Brackley, owner, prior to requisitioning of part of the airfield, was not offered a tenancy of any part of the airfield.
As I fully explained to the hon. and learned Member in correspondence, Mr. Tredwell was not offered a tenancy of any of this land because the Northants Agricultural Executive Committee, after taking account of all relevant circumstances, came to the conclusion that it would be better farmed by other applicants.
Is the Minister aware that Mr. Tredwell was asked if he would farm the whole aerodrome by licence, and in these circumstances can the Minister explain why he was not offered the tenancy of the part he formerly owned?
He was not asked to farm the whole aerodrome but was asked, together with many other farmers, whether he was interested in taking more land, but he was not interested at that time.
asked the Minister of Agriculture why many farmers in East Anglia are being informed by the sugar-beet factories that they must grow a smaller acreage of sugar-beet than they did last year.
In 1948, farmers in certain counties of East Anglia were allowed to make contracts for more than the county quota in order to make up a deficiency in other parts of the country. This year there has been no serious deficiencies, and it has been necessary to keep the acreage in these counties much nearer to the quota.
Does the hon. Member not realise that by restricting the acreage he will make it much harder for the farmers to get their rotations going?
We have actually accepted for 1949 a greater acreage than the target for both the counties in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is interested?
Then why not de-ration sugar?
asked the Minister of Agriculture what plans have been or are being made to erect new sugar-beet factories so as to allow for an expansion of the present target.
No plans have been made to erect new sugar-beet factories so as to allow for an expansion of the present target. The target included in the long-term programme of European Economic Co-operation is 400,000 acres for each year up to and including 1952.
Does that mean that there is sufficient sugar in this country, and if so will the hon. Member inform the Minister of Food?
It does not mean anything more than I have said.
Was there any opposition on the part of the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) to the use of the word "target" in this Question?
Does not the hon. Member think it would be a good thing to examine the possibilities of constructing a sugar-beet factory south of the Thames, because at the moment all sugar-beet grown in Surrey and Hampshire has to go to the Eastern Counties?
That question is under consideration at the moment.
In view of the usefulness of this industry, will the Ministry consider the urgent necessity of having a sugar-beet factory in the West Country?
Ex-Service Men (Training)
asked the Minister of Agriculture how many men have started training in forestry under the scheme to help ex-Service men; how many have given up; how many have completed their training; and how many are still undergoing instruction, either in the woods or in forestry schools.
Under the Forest Workers' Training Scheme for ex-Service men, 3,477 men have started training, 1,484 have given up, 1,513 have completed their training, and 480 are still undergoing instruction. One hundred and five of those who completed training have also completed courses at the Forester Training Schools, and 178 are at present undergoing such courses.
Does the hon. Gentleman consider those figures satisfactory?
I should have thought so, subject to anything anybody else says.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give instructions to the Forestry Commission to insure that the planting up of waste land and replanting of felled woodlands is given higher priority than the acquisition for planting of hill farms in respect of which hill sheep and cattle subsidy has been paid and which are capable of improvement for agriculture.
The Forestry Commission is already acting in this way.
Will the hon. Member bear in mind that hill farms are still being acquired for this purpose, which is causing very great resentment in the hill-farming counties?