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Written Answers

Volume 463: debated on Monday 21 March 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 21st March, 1949

Food Supplies

Meat (Shop Displays)


asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the unhygienic nature of the practice of meat being exposed in open-fronted butchers' shops, he will order the discontinuance of this practice.

Sugar Refining Margin


asked the Minister of Food what supervision is exercised by his Department over the sugar refining margin and by virtue of what powers; and at what sum per cwt. this margin now stands.

Close supervision of the sugar refining margin, based on costings investigations, is exercised by my Department, under my statutory powers. The net margin per cwt. is maintained at the pre-war figure.

Australian Fruit Cake


asked the Minister of Food what is the controlled retail selling price of imported Australian fruit cake.

Meat Supply, London (Commission)

asked the Minister of Food the total amount paid to the London Wholesale Meat Supply Association in the last financial year; and how much of that figure was represented as expenses of the association.

The gross commission paid to the London W.M.S.A. in the year to 31st March, 1948, was £1,078,671, of which £481,210 represented the expenses of the Association.

Tea Ration

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the continued hardship to people living alone caused by the smallness of the tea ration; and whether, pending the arrival of larger supplies, he will consider the possibility of lessening the allotment of tea to restaurants and canteens for the benefit of those people who are compelled at all times to feed at home.

I am afraid that the difficulties attending any scheme of this kind, which I explained in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on 21st July last, make it administratively impossible.

Potato Crops (Ledger Balances)

asked the Minister of Food how many claims for 1940–41 ledger balances of merchants have been made by his Department; how many have been settled; how many disputed by merchants; and what remedy is open to each side in such cases.

I assume that the hon. and gallant Member is referring to ledger balances arising out of transactions on the 1940 and 1941 potato crops. My Department has raised approximately 7,300 claims against debtors in respect of these ledger balances; 6,700 have been settled, of which 1,500 were disputed by the debtors. The remedy open to the Ministry in case of dispute is the usual one open to a creditor of set off or recourse to the courts.

Matrimonial Causes (Reforms)


asked the Attorney-General whether the Government intend to implement the recommendations of the Denning Report.

I do not know what recommendations the hon. Member has in mind. The recommendation contained in the First Interim Report of the Denning Committee with regard to the reduction of the period between decree nisi and decree absolute has long since been put into effect. So have the recommendations in the Second Report about the trial of matrimonial causes by county court judges sitting as Special Commissioners. The Second Report and the Final Report contained further recommendations, some of which could be implemented by administrative action or by Rules of Court, while others would require legislation. The reforms which could be carried out by Rules of Court have been carefully considered by the Supreme Court Rule Committee and effect has been given, by the Matrimonial Causes Rules 1947 and 1948, to the greater part of these recommendations. Many other reforms have been effected by administrative action. It is not at present possible for the Government to introduce legislation to deal with the recommendations for which this would be required.


Surplus Machinery (Sale)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction caused by the sale of guaranteed surplus machinery to machinery merchants and agents while public sales are held in order to dispose of the unguaranteed machinery; and whether he will make a statement as to the reasons for this.

Disposal of surplus agricultural machinery follows the general principle laid down in the White Paper on Plans for Disposal of Government Surplus Stores that unless there is good reason to the contrary goods should be distributed through those manufacturers or traders who would normally handle them. It is offered firstly to manufacturers and agricultural machinery dealers, but if not taken up by them it is sold by public auction. No guarantees are given by the Ministry, but the dealer undertakes to recondition the machinery that he buys and to give it a guarantee before selling it at a price fixed by the Ministry.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can give a comparative price list of surplus machinery sold by his Department to merchants at scale prices and of similar types of machinery sold at public auction.

Both the method of sale and the price received for surplus agricultural machinery depend so much on the type, the make and the model of the machinery and on its condition that it is not, practicable to draw up a comparative price list.

Small Farms


asked the Minister of Agriculture what is his long-term policy for the small mixed farms of the family type which cannot afford all the necessary machinery for fully mechanised farming; and if he will give an assurance that this type of farm will not be allowed to disappear through lack of official encouragement.

Small family farms of all types fully share in the benefits of the Government's Agricultural Policy founded on the Agriculture Act, 1947. A large proportion are primarily concerned with livestock production, a large expansion of which is a major factor in the Government's long-term programme, and the scope for mechanisation is necessarily limited. My right hon. Friend is fully alive to the great contribution to food supplies which such farmers can make and are making.



asked the Minister of Agriculture on what date he expects to be able to estimate the size of the home crop of broccoli to be marketed in the autumn and winter season, 1949–50.

An estimate of the size of the autumn crop should be available at the beginning of October, and of the winter crop early in the New Year.


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will ascertain from representatives of the home broccoli producing industry their views regarding the need for an increase in the duty on any broccoli imported into this country during the autumn and winter season, 1949–50; and if he will then make representations to the President of the Board of Trade as to the necessity for such an increase in duty.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply to a similar Question which my right hon. Friend gave to him on 7th February last.

Traffic In Horses (Inquiry)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has now any statement to make on the question of the slaughter of horses for human consumption; and if he intends to take any steps to restrict this slaughter.

Yes. As my right hon. Friend undertook on 7th March, the Government have considered this question and other related questions about traffic in horses that have been raised by hon. Members and has decided to set up a small committee of inquiry. My right hon. Friend will inform the House of the constitution and terms of reference of this committee as soon as they have been settled.

Grass-Drying Plants


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will consider placing a grass-drying plant at the disposal of the district of Quarnford, Leek, Staffordshire.

The Department have no grass-drying plants that could be allocated to communities of farmers, but my right hon. Friend will gladly consider any project for establishing a collective grass-drying centre in the Quarnford district under the scheme of financial assistance to farmers' co-operative societies or marketing boards for which provision is made in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill now before the House.

Hill Sheep Subsidy, Breconshire

asked the Minister of Agriculture why there is a delay in the payment of the Hill Sheep Subsidy for early 1948 for farmers adjoining the Eppynt Mountain, Breconshire; and how many claims are now outstanding.

The sheep belonging to then farmers are grazed in common on a military range and it is usual to obtain from the military authorities confirmation of the number of sheep belonging to each applicant for subsidy. I regret very much the considerable delay in getting this information in respect of last year's applications; it has now been obtained and subsidy will be paid on most of the 110 applications now outstanding within the next few days.

Access To Mountains Act, 1939

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many orders have been made applying the provisions of the Access to Mountains Act, 1939; and in respect of what area of land.

No applications for orders under the Act have been received and no orders have been made.

Cropping Programmes

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that any announcement of new farm prices at this stage is likely to be too late in many cases to enable farmers to revise their cropping programmes and that in consequence, the object of the price review cannot be fully achieved; and whether he will consider putting forward the date of the review in future.

The hon. and gallant Member is under a misapprehension. The crop prices fixed after an annual (February) review relate to the crops to be harvested in the following calendar year. Farmers therefore have between seven and 14 months' notice of any change in cropping emphasis which may be introduced, depending on whether it related to autumn or spring sown crops. It happens, however, that the annual review this year was accompanied by a special review, and that in consequence of the latter the prices of crops for harvesting in 1949 have also been adjusted. This adjustment has not, however, introduced any change in emphasis, and no change in farmers' cropping programmes for this year is expected or intended.


Road Schemes


asked the Minister of Transport why he has not yet given his consent nor sanctioned a loan to the borough of Cleethorpes to construct a new road from Bentley Street to the new housing estate, in view of the fact that the proposed road has the support of other Departments and the county council; and, since the question has been under his consideration since June, 1948, if he will give immediate authority for this work to be done.

I hope to approve this proposal when substantially greater resources can be devoted to road work, but in existing economic conditions I cannot give my consent.


asked the Minister of Transport if he will give details of the English road reconstruction or widening begun or likely to begin during the next 12 months.

I am arranging to circulate in HANSARD particulars of major

CountyDescription of SchemeEstimated Cost
BerkshireProvision of roundabout on the London-Bath trunk road A.4 at its junction with A.321 at Twyford26,500
CheshireReconstruction of the railway bridge on the Winchester-Preston trunk road A.5011 at Lawton38,500
CheshireWidening and diversion of the Winchester-Preston trunk road at Snapes Aqueduct near Lawton84,500
Cornwall*Widening and diversion of route B.3263 near Trewarmett28,600
Durham*Diversion at Winston Village A.6761,894
Durham Diversion on the London-Edinburgh trunk road A.1 at Neville's Cross117,000
GloucestershireProvision of a new bridge over the railway at Gossington on the, Exeter-Leeds trunk road A.3826,000
LancashireWidening of the Liverpool-Preston trunk road A.59 between Aintree Police Station and the junction with B.5194126,000
Northumberland*Widening and improvement of B.6324, Stamfordham Road, Newcastle34,234
Northumberland*Widening and reconstruction of A.696, Ponteland Road, Newcastle59,394
Warwickshire*Reconstruction of Hill Street Bridge, Birmingham59,103
Yorkshire (North Riding)*Construction of new road known as Greystone Road, Lackenby49,500
Yorkshire (North Riding).*Widening and reconstruction of A.175, Southbank Road, Middlesbrough53,500
Yorkshire (West Riding)Widening of Mill Bridge, Doncaster on the London-Edinburgh trunk road A.1 120,000
Schemes marked with an asterisk are on classified roads: the others are on trunk roads.
In addition there are 332 smaller schemes estimated to cost £1,074,000.

British Ships (Repairs Abroad)

69 and 70.

asked the Minister of Transport (1) the number of British ships repaired at Antwerp, Hamburg and Rotterdam, respectively, since August, 1945; and the respective total costs of the same;(2) the number of British ships which have been repaired in shipyards abroad since August, 1945; the yards at which the repairs were undertaken; and the total cost of such repairs.

I have no information about the period before September, 1947, but since then 27 ships have been permitted to carry out repairs other than voyage and running repairs abroad at a total cost of £833,000. Of these eight were repaired at Antwerp costing £222,000, one at Hamburg costing £13,500, six at Rotterdam costing £45,000, one partly at Antwerp and partly at Rotterdam costing £34,000. Of schemes on roads in England which have been approved and 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

the remaining ships two were repaired at Trieste, eight at Amsterdam, and one at a Swedish port.

Traffic Diversion, Kensington


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the inconvenience caused to residents in Upper Addison Gardens, Kensington, W.14, and also the loss of business to traders in Holland Road, owing to the traffic diversion through Upper Addison Gardens; and if he will give instructions that this experiment shall be discontinued forthwith.

I have received complaints about this experimental diversion and will give careful consideration to those complaints before coming to any decision about future traffic arrangements in this area. The experimental arrangement will cease at midnight tomorrow.

Railway Accident, Stockport (Inquiry)


asked the Minister of Transport what inquiry has been held regarding the rail accident at Stockport on 30th November, 1948; what was the date of the inquiry, and what were the findings.

An Inspecting Officer of Railways opened his inquiry on 8th December, 1948, and resumed it on 4th January this year. I cannot anticipate his findings, but his report will be published shortly.

Rms "Empress Of Britain" (Loss)

asked the Minister of Transport what salvage operations as regards R.M.S. "Empress of Britain" are contemplated; and to what extent the wreck contained bullion.

I have no information of any proposed salvage operations. There is no reason to believe that there was any bullion on board at the time of sinking.

Road Safety (Exhibitions)

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the widespread dissatisfaction among local authorities as to high rates charged for exhibitions and road safety propaganda by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; that some local authorities state they cannot afford the high charges made for the Society's exhibitions and find it cheaper to arrange their own exhibitions and printing; and, in view of the large quantities of printing that the Society can order at a time, what is the reason for the high rates charged, especially in view of the £96,000 subsidy received by the Society from the Government.

I am aware that some local authorities feel that certain charges made by the Society, particularly for the hire of exhibitions, are on the high side, but their charges generally are designed to cover actual costs only, including, in the case of exhibitions, the heavy cost of construction, maintenance, transport and depreciation. Investigation has shown that the Society carry out their work in an economical and business-like way. The Government subsidy meets the cost of much work, such as propaganda, which yields no financial return, and represents the difference between approved expenditure and receipts.

Ministry Of Supply

Radar Apparatus (Export)


asked the Minister of Supply what information he has on the possibility of our earning Canadian dollars by supplying part of the equipment for the projected radar interceptor network across Northern Canada; and if he will make a statement.

Inquiries are being made in Canada, but at the moment there is nothing I can add to my reply to a previous Question by my hon. Friend on 28th February.



asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware of the shortage of flashbulbs for flashlight photography and that this continuing shortage makes it practically impossible to carry on indoor Press photography; and what prospect there is of an early improvement in the supply of these flashbulbs.

A substantial increase in home production is expected during the next few months, and approval has been given for additional imports.

Viking Aircraft (Sale)


asked the Minister of Supply how many Viking aircraft, including those bearing British European Airways Corporation markings, have been sold to purchasers other than British European Airways Corporation by his Department; what were the names of the purchasers; and how did the selling price compare with the price paid to the manufacturers.

Twenty-one Viking aircraft, formerly operated by British European Airways Corporation, have been sold by my Department at the request of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Invitations to tender were widely issued, but there was little demand for these obsolescent aircraft. The cost of reconditioning to meet Air Registration Board regulations considerably reduced their sales value and the best prices which could be obtained were low in comparison with the original purchase price. It is contrary to normal practice to publish details of individual contracts.

Runway, Filton

asked the Minister of Supply how many people were employed on the construction of the new runway at Filton.

The average number of men employed daily during the period of construction was 530.

Brabazon Aircraft (Cost)

asked the Minister of Supply what is the approximate cost to date of the Brabazon aircraft; the cost of its hangar; and the estimated cost of the special runways for this aircraft.

The approximate cost to date of the two aircraft on order is £4,000,000. The assembly hall and runway are nearly completed, and the latest estimates of cost are £3,295,000 and £2,500,000, respectively.

Press Notices


asked the Minister of Supply how many official Press notices have been issued by his Department's production departments during 1948; how many of these were for the express benefit of firms who are not adequately represented by their trade associations or who are not members of any association; and in what publications did the latter appear.

The Ministry of Supply issued 161 Press notices during 1948. Press notices are issued when general publicity is desirable and it is not practicable to classify them in the manner suggested.

Production Department

asked the Minister of Supply for how many firms his Department is the responsible production department; how many of these firms employ more than 250 persons; how many employ more than 50 persons and less than 250; and how many employ less than 50 persons.

Available statistics relate to establishments, not firms. The Ministry of Supply is the responsible production department for about 15,000 establishments, each with more than 10 employees. Just over 2,000 of these establishments employ more than 250 persons; about 4,800 employ more than 50 and less than 250, and the remainder between 10 and 50 persons. Precise information is not available about establishments with 10 or less employees.


asked the Minister of Supply how many jeeps have been sold to the Arab Legion by the British Stores Disposal Mission.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave him on 14th March.

Ministry Of Works

Universities And Technical Colleges (Extensions)


asked the Minister of Works what was the total value of building licences granted for extensions of universities and technical colleges, respectively, in 1948.

The total value of new building work licensed and authorised for Universities during 1948 was £1,388,500. I cannot give a precise figure for technical colleges but the total value of work authorised for further education during 1948 was about £1,750,000, most of which was for technical colleges and institutes.

New House Of Commons Chamber (Upholstery)

asked the Minister of Works whether, before departing from the traditional use of leather upholstery for the new House of Commons, he will have an inquiry made into the relative advantages of leather and hand woven tapestry.

It is my intention to consult the Advisory Committee of Members before reaching any decision about the covering of the benches in the new Chamber.

Eire (Currency Rates)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes are contemplated when the Republic of Eire Act comes into operation at Easter in existing currency arrangements between Great Britain and Eire.

Coal Supplies, Huntingdonshire


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the serious shortage of coal throughout the southern half of the County of Huntingdonshire; and whether he will take immediate steps to ensure that coal is made available to fulfil local needs.

No reports have been received of special difficulties in the southern half of the county and merchants' receipts against allocation in Huntingdonshire during the winter have, in fact, been slightly higher than for the country as a whole. Nevertheless, as stocks are low, some additional supplies are being despatched.

Rivers Irwell And Roch (Pollution)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that all practicable steps are being taken to minimise the present pollution of the Rivers Irwell and Roch.

My right hon. Friend is aware of the serious nature of this problem, but has no reason to doubt that the Lancashire Rivers Board, who are the authority responsible for pollution prevention in this area, are taking all practicable steps to secure improvement.

Gathering Grounds (Public Access)


asked the Minister of Health whether he has any information on the action taken by water undertakings to implement the recommnendations of the Gathering Grounds Sub-Committee concerning public access to gathering grounds; and over what area is public access now restricted or prohibited.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No," as regards the second part, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply to his Question of 18th November last.

Bbc News Bulletins


asked the Postmaster-General if he will direct that copies of the main news bulletins of the British Broadcasting Corporation's home and regional services be made available in the Library.

The B.B.C. informs me that the hon. Member's request would involve considerable additional work and my right hon. Friend does not feel that the advantages would be commensurate with the extra effort entailed. If an hon. Member is interested in any particular news bulletin, he can always write to the B.B.C. direct.

Telephone Service

Exchange, Eccles

asked the Postmaster-General when the subscribers on the Eccles, Lancashire Exchange are likely to be placed on the automatic system.

An automatic exchange is unlikely to be provided at Eccles before 1954. The present manual exchange, which is to be extended, should meet requirements until that date.

Statistics, Salford

asked the Postmaster-General how many applications were made for installation of telephones in Salford, Lancashire, in 1946, 1947 and 1948; and how many of them were outstanding at the end of February, 1949.

The information desired is given in the following table:

YearNumberOutstanding at 28th February,1949

Anglo-Bulgarian Trade


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the fact that religious freedom in Eastern Europe is under a deliberate general attack and that the policy of the Bulgarian Government in this matter constitutes a violation of Article 2 of the Peace Treaty with Bulgaria, he will postpone the talks on an Anglo-Bulgarian Trade Agreement until the Bulgarian Government complies with its international obligations.

Berlin (Prime Minister's Visit)

asked the Prime Minister what instructions he gave his Public Relations Officer concerning his visit to Berlin; and why this official did not accompany him.

I gave no instructions concerning my visit to Berlin to my Adviser on Public Relations, as the arrangements for any necessary publicity on this occasion were put entirely in the hands of the Control Commission, Germany. In these circumstances it was not necessary that this official should accompany me.

American Governmental Agencies, London

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many American governmental agencies are established in London and what are their titles.

The principal United States governmental agency is of course the United States Embassy. In addition there are in or near London two United States Service offices, namely, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (United States Navy) and the Headquarters of the Third Air Division, United States Air Force.

Bulgaria (British Note)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the full text of the note sent to the Bulgarian Government on 12th March referring to the alleged confessions by the accused during the trial of the 15 Protestant pastors in Sofia recently; and what reply he has received.

Following is the text of the note

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have followed with close attention the trial of the 15 Protestant Pastors in the Sofia Regional Court from 25th February to 8th March, and have learned with deep concern the details of the very severe sentences imposed on the accused men.

2. During the trial certain of the defendants confessed to having taken part in espionage at the instance of past and present members of His Majesty's Legation. His Majesty's Government have examined these confessions in detail and, in so far as they relate to the alleged activities of His Majesty's Legation, have found them to be completely false. Thus it is alleged in the "confession" of Pastor Ziapkov that in October, 1944, Mr. Stanley Burt-Andrews and his brother (who was Head of the Air Mission on the Allied Control Commission and not connected in any way with the B.B.C.) went to visit the Pastor. It is also alleged that further contacts were made with Mr. Burt-Andrews in November and December, 1944, and in February, April and October, 1945.

3. In point of fact Mr. Stanley Burt-Andrews did not reach Sofia until 30th March, 1946, after which date his contacts with Pastor Ziapkov were solely connected with his duties as British Vice-Consul and specifically as the officer concerned on the civil side with the celebration of marriages. This clear example of misrepresentation renders suspect the whole of the testimony in these so-called "confessions"; and His Majesty's Government therefore draw their own conclusions as to how and why such statements came to be made and to be used as evidence.

4. Throughout the trial the Bulgarian Government has shown itself clearly more interested in the dissemination of propaganda than in the administration of justice. In order to destroy the liberty of these churchmen, it has sought to represent constitutional opposition to the Government as criminal, the provision of information implicit in the Armistice Agreement as treasonable, and normal social contacts between the Pastors and members of His Majesty's Legation as espionage. It has further endeavoured to persuade the world that true religious freedom is compatible with the exercise of power by a Communist Government.

5. Neither His Majesty's Government not the British people are deceived by these attempts. The trial which has just concluded has served to convince His Majesty's Government that religious freedom in Eastern Europe is under a deliberate general attack and further that the Bulgarian Government has no intention of giving effect to its solemn obligations under the terms of the Treaty of Peace to guarantee the fundamental freedoms of its people.

British Legation, Sofia.

11th March, 1949.

Civil Aviation (Br Abazon Aircraft)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation how many airfields have runways sufficiently large to enable them to be used by the Brabazon aircraft.

The aerodrome requirements cannot be accurately assessed until the aircraft has been flight tested, but according to present estimates of the performance of the turbine-propeller version, there are many aerodromes in various parts of the world with runways of sufficient length, though the bearing strength of runways may also be a limiting factor. However, the aircraft is designed for use on the London—New York route, with its high density of traffic.

Industrial Productivity (Working Groups)

asked the Lord President of the Council when reports on the work of the Committee on Industrial Productivity and its four panels will be published.

I would recall to the hon. Member that I gave him an answer to this Question on Thursday last, 17th March.