House Of Commons
Monday, 21st March, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Border Control Force
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the nature, pay and conditions of the border control service force being raised to enforce control of the boundary between the British and Russian zones.
This force will consist of 5,000 Germans who will be largely recruited from police officers and other serving and redundant officials. It will control the movement of persons and goods on the Eastern boundary of the British zone. This has hitherto been the responsibility of local German police forces. The force will be accommodated, if possible, in private billets, or in huts if billets are not available. Monthly salaries will range from 149 Deutchemarks to 358 Deutchemarks. and annual leave from 18 days to 31 days. A small British element, recruited within the Control Commission, will be attached to the force.
Can my hon. Friend say who will control this force when the Western German Government is set up?
That will be a matter for the Western German Government.
Industry (Control And Ownership)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, under the terms of the Memorandum of the Military Government on the Constitution for a Western German Government, the power to legislate on matters concerning the control and ownership of industry will rest with the Laender Governments or with the Federal Government.
The Memorandum as drafted by the Military Governors allows both the Federal Government and Laender Governments to legislate on matters concerning the control and ownership of industry. The right of the Federal Government to legislate on these matters is limited to those cases where it is clearly impossible for a single Land to enact legislation, or where the legislation if enacted would be detrimental to the rights or interests of other Laender. The right of the Laender to legislate is subject to the overriding validity of federal law, if the Federal Government does in fact legislate. Under the terms of the Memorandum it would therefore depend upon the circumstances of each case whether the Land or Federal Government is competent.
Who will be the arbiter in such circumstances?
I understand that it rests with the Federal Government.
Will the Under-Secretary consider publishing as a White Paper the draft constitution for Western Germany and the Memorandum on it by the Western Powers, as that would make it far easier to follow these things?
That is a different matter, but I will certainly consider it.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the Land Reform Law, passed by the Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, was rejected by the Governor of this Land.
The Bill to which my hon. Friend refers was refused assent by the Regional Commissioner because it involved a serious loss of agricultural production, and because it was ultra vires in that it attempted to take retrospective action stretching back beyond the date of Military Government Ordinance No. 103 which is the legal basis of action by the Land Government in this matter. My right hon. Friend is fully aware of the necessity of pressing on with the carrying through of land reform, and in these circumstances our authorities in Germany have themselves prepared legislation, based on the law passed by Schleswig-Holstein, which will be applicable in those Laender which, like North Rhine-Westphalia, have failed to pass the necessary legislation themselves.
Does not my hon. Friend consider that German agricultural experts as are competent as British experts to decide what constitutes a loss of agricultural production?
I can only say that this was very carefully gone into with our own experts, with the conclusion I have described. I cannot recall for the moment the estimates of the German experts on this matter.
In view of the fact that it is of the utmost importance that the maximum amount of food should be produced in this territory, does not the Under-Secretary think it is very important that these estates should not be broken up into smaller units, thereby militating against maximum food production at the present time?
I do not accept the implication that all schemes of land reform decrease food production. On the contrary, there are other factors tending to the opposite conclusion, but I have it against this scheme that it would have seriously reduced food production.
Is my hon. Friend aware that this scheme was agreed to by all the major parties, and does it not make a farce of democracy that all parties having reached agreement, outside experts come along and over-rule them?
On one of the important subjects I have mentioned, the question of the retroactive nature of the proposed scheme, there was a wide measure of support for our scheme, including the support of the Social Democratic Party.
Can the hon. Member confirm that this scheme was supported by any party other than the Socialists in North Rhine-Westphalia?
Joint Export-Import Agency
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many members there are on the Joint Export-Import Agency Board in the bizone; how many of these are British; who the British members are; and what their qualifications are.
The Board of the Joint Export-Import Agency consists of nine members. They are the Financial Adviser and Economic Adviser to each of the Military Governors of the three Western zones, and the Director-General and two Deputy Directors-General of the Agency. The three British members are Sir Eric Coates and Sir Cecil Weir, the Financial and Economic Advisers respectively to the British Military Governor, and Mr. J. F. Cahan, Deputy Director-General of the Agency.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the Joint Export-Import Agency of the bizone last published a balance sheet; and whether this can be seen.
No balance sheet has yet been published by the Joint Export-Import Agency.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how long this organisation has been in existence, whether there has been time for a balance sheet to be published and, if not, whether one is about to be published?
We are now considering publication with the American Government.
Why is it necessary to consider publication. Surely, an organisation of this kind, which has a substantial financial account, ought to publish an annual balance sheet. Can we have a guarantee that there will be a balance sheet?
I can only repeat that we are considering publication. If the accounts are not published, they will be available for the confidential information of the Public Accounts Committee.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what salaries are paid to the British members of the Joint Export-Import Agency Board; and what firms they represent or are connected with.
They receive salaries in respect of their appointments with the Control Commission and no additional remuneration as members of the Board. The only member who has outside business connections is Sir Cecil Weir, who is a partner in the Glasgow firm of Schrader, Mitchell and Weir.
Social Insurance Pensions
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the British representative on the Bipartite Board in Germany refused to agree to the rise in social insurance pensions voted in December by the West German Economic Council.
The Bipartite Board of Military Governors was unable to approve the ordinance concerned in its present form because no clear estimate was offered of the increased expenditure involved or of the way in which it was intended to meet such expenditure. At the same time sympathetic consideration was promised to any proposals of a more limited nature designed to remove anomalies and inequities in the present system. It was also made clear that once a proper actuarial investigation has been made the more far-reaching proposals involving increased benefits over a wider field could be submitted for reconsideration.
Will my hon. Friend again bear in mind the danger to the development of democracy in Germany when every matter, even of a comparatively non-political nature, which comes before these democratic organisations is vetoed by the Military Government?
I am sure my hon. Friend will cordially agree that the sooner responsibility can be shifted on to Germans the better. That will happen soon, but while responsibility is ours we must carry it out properly.
Eastern Provinces (Dr Gereke's Speech)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action is contemplated by the British authorities in Germany in connection with the speech of Dr. Gereke, Minister of Agriculture for Lower Saxony, at Lebenstedt on 6th March, demanding the return of Germany's Eastern Provinces; and whether it is the policy of the British authorities to permit revisionist speeches of this type.
The speech in question was made at a meeting of the Lower Saxony Farmers' Association. Full reports of the speech are not available, but our inquiries lead to the conclusion that Dr. Gereke said nothing of an inflamatory nature on the subject of Germany's Eastern Provinces on this occasion. If my hon. Friend has any information to the contrary, my right hon. Friend will be glad to examine it.
Does not my hon. Friend consider that in the present state of German nationalism anything which encourages revisionist tendencies is extremely likely to be inflammatory?
Will the Under-Secretary make it clear that these Provinces were given to Poland as compensation for her Eastern Provinces, of which she was unjustly deprived by the Yalta Agreement?
Prime Minister's Visit (Press Arrangements)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what Press arrangements were made in the British zone of Germany and in Berlin for the recent visit of the Prime Minister.
Comprehensive arrangements were made to enable British, Allied and German correspondents, photographers and newsreel cameramen to report the recent visit of the Prime Minister to Berlin and the British zone of Germany. I am aware that the plans miscarried at some points with consequent inconvenience to correspondents. The British Military Governor has asked me to express his regret for these breakdowns, the reasons for which are being investigated.
Argentine Railways (British Pensioners)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the payment of pensions to retired employees.of the former British railways in Argentina, now living on pensions in the United Kingdom; and whether an agreement has,been reached in this connection with the Argentine Government.
Considerable hardship was caused to the pensioners of the former British railways and others living in this country by the action of the Argentine Government some months ago in placing a ban on the remittance of funds abroad. This hardship was somewhat alleviated by a recent decree of the Argentine Central Bank permitting the remittance of sums not exceeding 250 pesos a month. The matter will, however, be pursued further in the context of wider questions of Anglo-Argentine payments on which it is hoped to reach agreement in the course of the current negotiations.
Does the hon. Member realise that these retired men are getting only about half of what they are entitled to, and that the Argentine Government, in addition to having broken their meat contract with us, have broken their contract with these men?
I appreciate the hardship involved. We do not intend to let things rest where they are now.
Will this point be fully considered by the delegation now in the Argentine?
Yes, Sir, it has been brought to the notice of the delegation.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the officials of Buenos Aires tramways and other organisations are now having their contracts broken by the Argentine Government, and that the rest of South America, and this country, too, is beginning to realise that Argentine Government agreements are very little better than scraps of paper?
Cardinal Mindszenty (Trial)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he will be in a position to issue the contemplated White Paper on the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty.
As the House is aware, my right hon. Friend has received no reliable report by an impartial eyewitness of the trial. He is further handicapped by having no details of the treatment meted out to the Cardinal between the date of his arrest and the hearing of the case. My right hon. Friend has, therefore, reached the conclusion that it will not be possible to produce a satisfactory White Paper on the trial.
While I fully appreciate that there would be little purpose in producing a White Paper so white that there would be nothing in it, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that we have had a promise from the Foreign Secretary that he will not desist from attempts to discover and publish the facts? While we are not asking the Government to publish anything before they are in possession of the facts, can the hon. Gentleman assure us that the Government are not desisting from their efforts to discover the facts?
Yes, Sir, we are naturally interested in receiving the facts, and if in future it is justified, we will issue a White Paper.
Will the hon. Gentleman also give full publicity to the details of the obstruction which the Government have met with in their attempts to elicit the facts?
The hon. Gentleman has said that in the circumstances it would not be possible to produce what he called a "satisfactory" White Paper. Would he amend that, and say that in no circumstances would it be possible to have a satisfactory White Paper on this subject?
A satisfactory White Paper is one which gives the facts. As I have already explained, we have not sufficient facts.
Bulgaria (Espionage Charges)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has investigated the charges of espionage in 1944 in Bulgaria made by the Bulgarian Government against Mr. Burt-Andrews of the British Legation in Bulgaria, though he did not go to Bulgaria till 1946 and with what result; upon what grounds the declaration by the same Government that Mr. Greenhill, First Secretary to the British Legation, is persona non grata on a similar charge, is founded; and what steps he proposes to take in the matter
The charges brought against Mr. Burt-Andrews and Mr. Greenhill are totally untrue and unfounded. As to the last part of the Question, I have nothing at present to add to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) on 16th March last.
Eastern Europe (United States Export Policy)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish in full the text of the memorandum received from America, setting out the export licensing policy of the United States Government, and urging the United Kingdom, as one of the countries participating in the Marshall Plan, to limit its trade with the countries of Eastern Europe.
No such memorandum has been received.
Does the hon. Gentleman really deny that in the last week of October the Foreign Secretary received from the Marshall Aid authorities not only a memorandum but three lists of articles which the Americans demanded we should refrain from exporting to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe? Is the real position this: that the shame that he feels at the servile position he has brought our country into, requires him to deny these truths to the British people?
I do deny the receipt of any such memorandum. As to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I can only say that he has a powerful, creative imagination.
British Troops, Aqaba
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he took to ascertain from the United Nations Acting Mediator on Palestine whether Israeli troops had crossed into Transjordan and clashed with the Arab Legion, which had been denied by the Israeli Government, before sending additional troops to Aqaba; and whether he is aware that the sending of additional troops to Aqaba is a breach of the resolution of the Security Council of 29th May, 1948, which prohibits the despatch of armed forces to a number of countries in the Middle East, including Transjordan.
I understand from a paper circulated to the Security Council that the Transjordan representatives at Rhodes immediately brought to the notice of the Acting Mediator the reports received from Amman that Israeli troops had violated Transjordan territory. At the same time His Majesty's Government emphasised to Dr. Bunche the urgent need of first-hand reports by the United Nations observers on the spot.As to the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Government have never considered that the United Kingdom, which has not been engaged in the conflict in Palestine, was debarred, under the Security Council Resolution of 29th May, from reinforcing, supplying or otherwise altering the composition of its Forces stationed in the Middle East.
Will my hon. Friend say, first, whether Dr. Bunche has stated that the sending of troops to Aqaba was a violation of its duties by a member of the United Nations Organisation; second, why he permits the circulation of exaggerated, lying and highly inflammatory statements before any investigation has taken place; and third, whether he intends to assist or destroy the peace negotiations now going on at Rhodes?
He wants to destroy them.
Our action in Aqaba has had an extremely beneficial effect on the negotiations for an armistice. On the subject of exaggerated reports, they have been made in connection with Palestine, but not in that context—very often a different context altogether.
Has my hon. Friend's attention been called to a report in this morning's "Daily Herald," according to which the purpose of the Transjordan Government in inviting British troops to the Aqaba frontier was to release men of the Arab Legion for action in the disputed triangle in the centre of Palestine? If so, and if he agrees with it, does he regard that as a proper use of the Anglo-Transjordan Treaty?
That hardly arises from this Question, but the hon. Member's interpretation of the word "action" is obviously open to doubt. I can only say that we are now considering the request from the Transjordan Government.
Is it not true that the best way to prevent any interference with the frontiers of Transjordan is to have British troops where they are? Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the overwhelming sentiment of the country is in favour of a practical demonstration of our interest in the integrity of the Arab States?
Far East (British Property Losses)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the hardship suffered by British subjects in Northern China when their property was stolen or looted during or immediately after the war; what hope there is of their obtaining compensation from the Japanese authorities; and if he will consider the use of the balance of the Aid to China Fund for helping these deserving British subjects.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." The payment of compensation in respect of losses in Far Eastern foreign territories incurred as a result of the war with Japan will depend on the terms of the eventual Peace Settlement with Japan. It is clearly not possible for me to forecast what these terms will be. With regard to the last part of the Question, I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the British United Aid to China Fund. This is a purely private fund over which His Majesty's Government have no control.
Is it not silly and farcical to pretend that these people are ever likely to get anything from Japan? If, however, the hon. Gentleman feels there is a chance of getting something from the Japanese, would it not be as well for His Majesty's Treasury to make advances to the people who are destitute as a result of the war?
No, Sir, I cannot agree with the last part of the question. I will neither deny there is a chance, nor will I raise the hopes of those who hope to benefit, because quite clearly the chance is not a good one.
Sudan (Illegal Operations)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what powers he has to take proceedings against a medical practitioner, registered in the United Kingdom, who performs an operation which is illegal in the Sudan.
I am advised that a medical practitioner registered in the Medical Register kept by the General Council of Medical Education and Registration in the United Kingdom, may be summoned to appear before the Council if he performs in the Sudan an operation which is illegal there, and, if found guilty, may have his name erased from the Medical Register. Further, any person who performs in the Sudan an operation which is illegal there, can, while in the Sudan, be prosecuted under the Sudan criminal code.
Does the converse hold true? If, for example, the Sudanese Government were to legalise the operation of female circumcision as practised in Egypt, which would be acceptable to the Sudanese, would any medical practitioner, doing the operation, supervising it or allowing it to be done in his hospital, be liable to be hauled before the General Medical Council?
Yes, Sir, I understand that is so.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what negotiations and discussions have taken place, with a view to the conclusion of other regional pacts than the Atlantic Pact.
So far as I am aware, none, Sir.
In view of the overwhelming support that the Atlantic Pact has had in this country, will the hon. Gentleman tell us of any other regional pacts which are envisaged by His Majesty's Government?
We have not signed the Atlantic Pact yet. Perhaps we had better do that first.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the nature and extent of the work of the British Council in Yugoslavia; to what extent the educational and cultural influence of the Council receives the appreciation and support of the Yugoslav people; and if any modification of the existing programme of activities is under consideration.
The British Council maintains establishments in both Belgrade and Zagreb. Well-stocked libraries are maintained in both towns and considerably used by the Yugoslays. An average of 270 students attend weekly English classes in Belgrade. Film shows, particularly those on medical subjects, are much in demand. In addition to these routine arrangements, recent major activities have included two concert tours and an Exhibition of Theatrical Design at which attendances in Belgrade and Zagreb were 6,000 and 4,000 respectively. It is not intended at present to modify existing arrangements.
Are the activities of the British Council in Yugoslavia receiving the sympathy of the Tito Government?
We get useful co-operation from the Yugoslav Government. We would always be glad with their good will to extend these activities.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the work of the British Council in Spain, giving the number of educational and cultural centres now in operation and the number of students attending courses in English language and the British way of life.
The British Council has a central office in Madrid and offices combined with British Institutes in Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville and Valencia. At the end of December, 1948, there were 5,200 students and, in addition, 4,418 members attached to these institutes. English classes, lectures, exhibitions and film shows are regularly staged and well attended at all the centres.
In view of the very valuable work being done by the Council in Spain, would the Foreign Office now turn a more benevolent look upon the possibility of future friendly relations with Spain?
Wider considerations have to be taken into account there.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the recent consideration by the United Nations of the Report of the Temporary Commission on Korea, he will now make a statement regarding the present position in that country and the policy of His Majesty's Government.
The United Nations Commission on Korea arrived in Korea last month and has begun its work. The Commission's main assignment is to do what it can to bring about the unification of Korea. In view of the attitude adopted by the Communist authorities in Northern Korea towards the previous United Nations Commission, my right hon. Friend is afraid that the new Commission can expect little co-operation from them. Meanwhile, the Government of the Republic of Korea in the South has so far been recognised by the Governments of the United States, China, France, the Philippines and by His Majesty's Government. As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, our former Consul-General in Seoul was recently appointed His Majesty's Minister.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he now has any information to give on the possibilities of a loan to the Burmese Government.
I have nothing to add to the reply given to my hon. Friend on 7th March.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the sooner we expedite a loan to the Burmese Government the sooner will the problem of Malaya be settled, because of the food?
There are many other factors, particularly the communal difficulty.
Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that no loan will be made to the Burmese Government before they have made a satisfactory settlement with expropriated British interests?
Before the hon. Gentleman considers a loan to the Burmese Government, will he be sure there is a Government?
asked the Minister of Food to state his policy in regard to the slaughter of sheep while in lamb.
The graders are required by a standing instruction not to accept for purchase any sheep which, in their opinion, is in lamb unless it is necessary or desirable that the animal should be taken for immediate slaughter under the casualty arrangements. The attention of all the graders has been drawn to this instruction and they have been reminded of the need to exercise the utmost care in the examination of all ewes.
In order to comply with your request, Mr. Speaker, to avoid unnecessary supplementary questions, I simply say that I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
Bulk Buying Contracts (Prices)
asked the Minister of Food why he will not give the prices paid under his bulk-buying contracts after they have been published by the selling country.
It is usually agreed between the Governments of the buying and selling countries that prices should not be published. Where the Government of the selling country takes it upon itself unilaterally to disclose prices I, of course, consider whether publicity should be given in this country also. But I cannot undertake to confirm or deny unofficial reports about prices which may be current abroad.
When the deal has been concluded, is it not right that the people in both countries should know what prices their Governments have incurred on their behalf?
Is not the real reason for this the fact that if the figures were published they would show up the utter incompetence of the Ministry of Food?
No, Sir. In cases where they have been published they have shown just the reverse.
asked the Minister of Food how many tons of potatoes are available under the reduction of £1 per ton offer for stock feeding; and how many tons of these are the property of his Department.
Under the guarantee to growers I must buy any sound ware potatoes now offered to me, and in consequence we expect to have about 200,000 tons to sell for stock feed between now and the end of the season. I cannot yet say for how long the price reduction recently announced will continue.
Can the Minister say how much more this last disastrous transaction will add to the £10 million he has already lost?
No, Sir. I cannot give to the House an estimate of the end of season position.
asked the Minister of Food how he computed his estimated loss of £10 million on potatoes.
This estimate of the trading loss in potatoes and carrots for the financial year 1948–49, which of course covers part of two crop years, was computed by reference mainly to the surpluses which my Department expected to handle as a result of the guarantee of the grower's market at fixed prices; the cost of imported supplies; the price premiums paid on purchases of potatoes for end of season reserve; and the cost of emergency storage under the allocation scheme put into operation last year.
In view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food has stated that the surplus of potatoes is five million tons, will the Minister now say what price he expects to pay for them and what price he expects to get when he sells them again?
My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that the surplus of this year's crop as against last year's crop was five million tons. We shall have five million more tons this year than last, but not a surplus of five million tons over the demand.
Is not the Minister aware that I questioned the Parliamentary Secretary twice on the same subject and she confirmed that there was a five million ton surplus?
Surplus in the sense I have just given.
How much money went to Eire by the process of buying Eire potatoes at a high price and selling them back to Eire at a low price?
There was a loss on Eire potatoes as on the other potatoes. I will give the hon. Gentleman the figure if he will give me notice of the Question.
Will the Minister give, in the OFFICIAL REPORT, the actual amounts involved in each of the surpluses mentioned in his original reply?
asked the Minister of Food what is the total tonnage of ware potatoes exported by him in the current potato season; what he has paid for it; what he has received for it; and how many more tons he expects to export from the present crop.
Up to 3rd March, exports of ware potatoes of the 1948 crop amounted to 48,503 tons; the f.o.b. cost was £571,286 and Ministry receipts £477,577. A further 10,000 tons of potatoes may be sold abroad.
Would the Minister explain why he gave an answer on 21st February that 140,000 tons of ware and seed potatoes would be exported from the 1948–49 crop, and why the figure is now so much smaller?
I may have hoped that we should be able to export a larger amount than this, but, as I have said, the final amount at the end of the year is not certain. The figure I have given is the present forecast.
Does not the Minister lose £4 5s. per ton on the average export?
No, Sir, nothing like that amount.
Is not the Minister imperilling the public interest by making these disclosures?
asked the Minister of Food how much Algerian wine is at present in the vaults at London docks; how long it has been there, and what storage fees have been paid in respect of it
asked the Minister of Food of how many gallons of Algerian wine does his Department stand possessed; and what price per gallon he gave for it.
It would not be in the public interest to disclose the stocks held by my Department. The wine arrived in this country at various times between February and May last year. Storage fees are approximately 3d. per gallon per annum.
When will the Minister stop this folly of bulk purchase? Is it not a fact that he has got about £1 million worth of this wine in stock? If he wants further particulars will he look at the "Sunday Express" for 13th March? Will he also be good enough to read a pamphlet just published by Lord Teviot "Why I should not be a Socialist"? It might get through his thick head.
Can the Minister give any reason why, in this case, publication would not be in the public interest?
There is no reason whatever to make an exception in this case from the general principle, for which I have given the reason in a number of cases.
Has not the reason given generally been that publication might prejudice further purchases? Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman is going further into the Algerian wine market?
I should have no hesitation in doing so if it proved advisable that we should make further purchases of Algerian wine. Why not?
Has not the Minister of Food informed the wine interests in this country that unless this Algerian wine is definitely sold, he will cut down future imports of ordinary wine into this country?
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is hiding behind an excuse which has no validity. Is he really saying to the House that he proposes continuing in the Algerian wine market? Is he not laying himself open to the suspicion of refusing to admit that he has made a mess of it?
There is not the slightest reason to suppose that these transactions have any element of mistake in them.
Fruit And Vegetable Imports
asked the Minister of Food what consultations he had with the representatives of the British fruit and vegetable growers and the Channel Island producers before signing the 1949 fruit and vegetable imports agreement with the Netherlands.
On these matters I receive advice from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture who has, I understand, been in touch with British horticultural interests.
Is the Minister aware that there were only very general consultations at an early stage of the proceedings, and that no notice at all was taken of the advice given by the British horticultural industry? Is he aware that the agreement has given rise to despondency and anger throughout that industry?
If we always took in full all the advice given by the British horticultural industry, I am afraid that the price of vegetables would be very high indeed.
Is the Minister aware that, particularly in onions, losses in East Anglia have been very considerable, and that the new agreement which has been signed for the coming year extends the number of countries from which there will be competition? Can nothing be done, at least to regulate the period of the year, by way of timing these imports so that they harm our people to a much less extent?
Of course, it would be possible to exclude these foreign vegetables, but only at the price of dearer vegetables for the consumers in this country.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that only the other day I had to pay 10d. for a very small and pathetic-looking lettuce? Will he undertake to see that greenstuffs in this country are within the reach of the humblest housewife?
Is the Minister aware, taking the one crop that I have mentioned, that the price of Spanish onions has been twice as much as that for which British onions could have sold, if they had been allowed to find their way into the shops?
Surely that question can only mean that if Spanish onions were dearer, they were not interfering with the price of British onions. I should think that even the hon. Gentleman could see that.
Can the Minister say whether he consulted not only the Minister of Agriculture but the Secretary of State for Scotland, and whether the National Farmers' Union of Scotland were consulted, in particular in regard to soft fruits?
My Department consults the Agricultural Department. It is their business to make further consultations.
Potato Merchants And Agents
asked the Minister of Food what steps are necessary for an ex-Service man to enter the potato merchant trade and for a potato merchant to become a Ministry agent; how many applications for merchants' and agents' licences, respectively, he has received since 1945; how many of each he has granted; and what is the usual ground for rejection.
With permission I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the answer, which is necessarily rather long.
Following is the answer:
No one requires a licence to sell potatoes by wholesale but only to buy direct from the grower; and to get such a licence an ex-Service man or any other person must satisfy my Department that he has established a substantial wholesale trade, or has an extensive knowledge of that trade. If he is a disabled ex-Service man he may be granted a licence if one is necessary for his rehabilitation. Any licensed potato merchant may be appointed a Ministry agent if he is nominated by a grower, has traded for at least a year in the area concerned and has the necessary equipment and organisation for handling Ministry business.
Since 1st January, 1946, 997 applications for merchants' licences have been received and 241 granted, the most common ground for rejection being lack of experience of wholesale trading. In the same period, 302 merchants have applied for agencies and 198 have been approved, the usual ground for rejection being lack of suitable facilities.
United States Personnel
asked the Minister of Food what arrangements have been entered into regarding the supply of rationed foodstuffs to personnel under Command Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Britain, Bushey Park, Middlesex; and what ration scales are applied to those military and civilian personnel, respectively.
All the rationed foodstuffs for the United States Air Force Services personnel at Bushey Park, are imported direct from America by the American Government. The civilians use ordinary civilian ration books and are consequently provided with food by us.
Is not the Minister aware that it has been published in this country, from sources in America, that some of the foods are British rationed goods and that the ration scales include, among other things, I lb. of meat per day for each person, I lb. of butter and a dozen eggs per week? Would the Minister agree that acceptance of Colonial status vis-à-vis America, means that the same ration scales should be afforded to us?
As I have already said, the ration scales of the U.S. Services are not the concern of my Department because the rations are brought direct from America. The civilians receive the same scales as we do ourselves.
Would not the Minister agree that we welcome every one of these men here and that, if necessary, we will gladly share our food with them?
if the rations include tinned potatoes, is there any reason why we should not supply them from this country?
Are "foodstuffs to personnel" what used to be called "foods to people"?
asked the Minister of Food whether surplus eggs may now be sold to the public generally; or whether they are available only to registered customers.
So far surplus eggs may only be sold to customers registered for shell eggs. If eggs were to become really plentiful in April and May, I should allow them to be sold freely after the allocations have been fully met.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is now a surplus of eggs in various country districts and that the shops are prepared to sell them to unregistered customers after they have made allocations to their registered customers?
Bacon Ration (Hostel, Shanklin)
asked the Minister of Food if he will now give the decision of the local food control committee regarding the simultaneous issue of eight weeks' bacon ration to the Manor House Hostel, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, in the last week of February.
I understand that the food control committee has instructed a solicitor with a view to a prosecution.
On a point of Order. I wish to say that if the prosecution succeeds, I shall move that another Lynskey Tribunal be set up.
asked the Minister of Food if he will give an estimate of the tonnage of broccoli needed to supply the home market in the autumn and winter season, 1949–50; and whether before making any further arrangements for importations under licence, he will ascertain from the Minister of Agriculture the tonnage which can be expected to be supplied by home producers.
No reliable estimate can be made now of what the demand for broccoli and cauliflower is likely to be next winter. This will depend on the price, the weather and the supplies and prices of other vegetables and foods. Consultations with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture invariably take place before broccoli and cauliflower imports are authorised.
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot now give an estimate of the likely home needs of broccoli in this country, will he say on what date he will be able to give an estimate so that we may know how much extra, if any, he will need to import over and above what the home producers can supply?
Hon. Members always leave out of these calculations the little matter price. The need, in the sense of the effective demand or what the market can absorb, depends on the price, and if the price is brought down by imports, the need will be that much the greater.
Are we to understand that the Minister intends to use the price weapon in order to ruin the Cornish broccoli industry?
No, Sir. I intend to use the price weapon, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman calls it, in order to give cheap broccoli to the British housewife.
Toll Roads And Bridges
asked the Minister of Transport the date by which he intends to free all the toll roads and bridges now operating under his control.
There are no toll roads or bridges operating under my control. There are four toll bridges and one toll road on or connecting trunk routes and I am in negotiation with the owners, who include the British Transport Commission, with a view to freeing them. It is not possible to say when the negotiations will be completed.
Why should toll roads be operated by the British Transport Commission? Is it the policy of the right hon. Gentleman to see that all the penalties of nationalisation are visited upon the people while none of the advantages accrue to them?
These were properties of the old railway companies which have been taken over by the British Transport Commission.
Surely a toll road can be freed over-night?
asked the Minister of Transport if, in view of the fact that he proposes to extend the Hungerford Footbridge on the south side for the Festival of Britain, he will also take steps to extend it into Charing Cross Station.
This extension has not previously been suggested to me, and I cannot see that it would help the Exhibition traffic. There may be some case for it on more general grounds, and I find that this is under examination by the Railway Executive, who are responsible for the footbridge.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the cost of this extension would be negligible, and that unless this footbridge is extended, people coming from the Exhibition will be decanted at the bottom of Villiers Street instead of being able to go to Charing Cross Station?
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend is unaware of the fact that a special Bailey bridge will be constructed right on to the Exhibition site.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it is part of the long-term policy of his Department to get rid of this hideous footbridge?
Facilities, North London Area
41 and 42.
the Minister of Transport (1) why, in settling the programme of reorganisation and development of the London Transport Executive in accordance with Section 4 (2) of the Transport Act, 1947, he has agreed to priority being given to the construction of the extension of the Bakerloo Tube and authorised it to be commenced in 1950, when improvements can be brought to a larger section of the population, and at cheaper cost, in more needy areas, such as North London; and(2) whether, in settling the programme for the development of London's transport facilities in accordance with Section 4 (2) of the Transport Act, 1947, he will include as a first priority the electrification of the railways serving the North London area, including Tottenham, Wood Green, Edmonton and Enfield.
As hon. Members are aware, the British Transport Commission have recently submitted to me a report, which will shortly be published, giving their views on the proposals made by the Railway (London Plan) Committee. No programme for the development of transport in London has been submitted for my approval under Section 4 (2) of the Transport Act, which in any case does not require my formal consent to specific projects. I cannot anticipate the eventual decision as to the priority of surface electrification in the London area, by my hon. Friend may be assured that the needs of North London will be fully taken into account. The extension of the Bakerloo Line to Camberwell will enable the service on this line as a whole to be improved and is on this account urgently needed. Powers for this extension were obtained in 1931 and some of the preparatory work has been done. The scheme has been approved for inclusion in the Investment Programme for commencement in 1950, provided that the agreed level of investment permits.
While I appreciate the need for improving the facilities in South-East London, does not my right hon. Friend agree that, in view of the imminent publication of the working plan, it might have been better to await its publication and discussion before authorising this expenditure on the extension of a tube, which is the most costly of all capital development at the present time?
I do not think that it is desirable to hold up any specific undertaking because of a question of the consideration of a larger programme, which the London railway plan involves.
Cargo Ships, Scottish Ports
asked the Minister of Transport how many cargo ships were discharged at Glasgow, Greenock and Ardrossan, respectively, during the month of January.
Three hundred and eleven cargo ships were discharged at Glasgow, 35 at Greenock and 28 at Ardrossan.
In view of the well-known capacity of the port of Ardrossan to handle all appropriate traffic, would not the right hon. Gentleman save a considerable amount of money by using this port much more extensively?
I am afraid that people living in other ports could advance a similar reason.
They might not be justified.
Berlin (Prime Minister's Visit)
asked the Prime Minister what was the purpose of his recent visit to Berlin.
I went to Berlin to inspect the Air Lift.
If the right hon. Gentleman went to Berlin to inspect the Air Lift, can he explain why nothing was done at all from the public relations point of view to make the relatives in this country of people in the Air Lift aware of the hard work that is being done? Can he also explain why he visited the Americans at Templehof with great publicity before he visited our people at Gatow, which caused great discontent?
I understand that a Question has already been answered about publicity. Of course, that is not a matter for me at all. The arrangements for my visit were entirely made over there.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman got a public relations officer? Why did he not go with the right hon. Gentleman?
Obviously because there was no particular need why he should accompany me in view of the fact that the arrangements for publicity were being made on that side.
As the Prime Minister has told us that he went to Berlin to see the Air Lift, in order to encourage the Royal Air Force, will he tell us what he thought of the Air Lift?
I have already done that, and I thought that adequate publicity was given to my remarks.
Customs And Excise (Legal Judgment)
asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the judgment of Mr. Justice Vaisey in reference to Sebel Products Ltd. v. Commissioners of Inland Revenue; and whether he will give an undertaking that Government Departments will refund moneys wrongly collected by them, whether through an error of fact or an error of law.
I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the case of Sebel Products Limited v. Commissioners of Customs and Excise. The effect of this judgment on the practice of Government Departments is being considered.
While I thank the right hon. Gentleman, will he say whether it will ever be right for the State to do what would be considered most dishonest in a private person?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a somewhat artificial distinction in the law between mistakes of fact and mistakes of law and that frequent injustices arise as a result of the application of that distinction? Will he have this branch of the law looked into with great care with a view to avoiding these injustices in future?
I have said that the effects on the practice of Government Departments is being carefully considered. I am sure that those considering them will take into consideration the remarks of the hon. Gentleman.
Distributive Trades (Research)
asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will take steps to encourage the distributive trades to set up a research association by contributing towards the cost on the same basis as those research associations which are partly financed by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
No, Sir. It is for the distributive trades themselves to propose methods for meeting their own needs in scientific research and in doing so to take account of the facilities open to them, both under the D.S.I.R. scheme for the establishment of research associations and under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, as regards the products of an industry for which a development council may be set up.
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the distributive trades in this country have had several centuries in which to start some research into the costs of distribution and that they have not done so yet? Does he not think that the cost of living of this country is due to some extent to the high costs of distribution, and is it not time that we instituted some research into it?
The point must be faced that it is not quite so easy for the distributive trades to go in for research as for productive industry to do so, but I would commend my hon. Friend's point to the consideration of the distributive trades and we will see what the result is. We can then consider it in the light of that result.
Is it not the case that the distributive trades are engaged in research every hour of every day and require to set up no specialist committee to inquire into it?
Coi (Photographic Library)
asked the Lord President of the Council what is his policy for making available to political bodies the facilities of the photographic library of the Central Office of Information.
Political bodies like any member of the Press and public are entitled to obtain pictures from the C.O.I. photographic library for Press publicity and research purposes on payment of the usual print, reproduction or display fees.
Is the Lord President aware that the recent pamphlet of the Conservative Party for Wales and Monmouthshire makes use of C.O.I. photos for three out of four of its illustrations? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Can my right hen. Friend tell us to what extent other parties are availing themselves of this service?
Yes, I am aware of the circumstances to which my hon. Friend draws attention and indeed, I am much complimented by the fact that the Conservative Party have recognised at long last the value of the Central Office of Information. It is the case that since January, 1949, the Conservative Party have been supplied with prints on five occasions and the Labour Party twice, which shows the high regard which the Conservative Party have for the Central Office of Information.
Is the Lord President aware that, in view of the "bonny babies" incident, it is most dangerous to consult this body, and that if we asked for a photograph of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), we might get a photograph of an ancient ruin?
Milk Substitute (Experiments)
asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on the results of the experiments being carried out under his auspices at Cambridge University, designed to produce milk from wheat.
No such experiments have been carried out at Cambridge, but I believe that the question refers to observations recently made in Germany by workers for the Medical Research Council who are based on Cambridge. They have shown that a mixture including soya flour, wheat and other cereals, to which only a small proportion of dried milk is added, promises to be a useful substitute for dried milk itself in the nutrition of children. This, of course, is a very different thing from producing milk from wheat.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Cambridge University often conducts experiments elsewhere, and that it will be conducting a successful one on Saturday morning on the Thames?
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will ascertain through his Department's war agricultural committees how many farmers' co-operative societies have been established in England and Wales with the object, inter alia, of securing a pooled supply of farm machinery; and how many similar associations of farmers for a like purpose.
There are rather over 300 farmers' co-operative societies registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts. The number which have among their objects the operating or letting on hire of agricultural machinery, and the number of unregistered associations of farmers for a like purpose, is not known either to the Department or to county agricultural executive committees, but it is not thought to be large.
Does my hon. Friend consider that this attempt on the part of the farmers in self help is to be encouraged?
Certainly, and a great deal has been done to help them.
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken by the Lancashire agricultural executive committee to protect poultry farmers in the neighbourhood of Ramsbottom from the depredations of foxes.
In order to encourage farmers to combine for the purpose of fox destruction, the executive committee have furnished the Lancashire county branch of the National Farmers' Union with particulars of the approved organisation for fox destruction societies and of the financial assistance which is available. Such societies have already been formed in the Rochdale and Nelson areas but no request for assistance has been received from the Bury area. The county agricultural executive committee propose, however, to arrange a meeting with the interests concerned to consider the formation of a similar society in that area.
In view of my hon. Friend's statement that no complaint has been received from this area, will he perhaps consult the files of his Department and refer to a letter which I sent to the Minister about a fortnight ago?
The hon. Gentleman should listen to the reply. What I said was that no request for assistance has been received from the area.
County Committee's Officials, Sussex
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the severe criticism by the Lord Chief Justice of the chief cultivation officer and of a farm manager of the East Sussex agricultural committee as to their farming experience and integrity, details of which have been sent to him, he will reinstate farmers dispossessed by that committee; and if he will say on what grounds such appointments were made and what were the salaries paid to these two officials.
No, Sir. Dispossessions are made on the recommendations of the county agricultural executive committee and not of its officials. The chief cultivations officer and the farm manager were appointed on the grounds that they had the farming experience required for the carrying out of their duties. The chief cultivations officer's salary is on a scale £645–£760 and the farm manager was paid £7 per week.
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary what justification there is for a committee, subject to such comments by the learned judge, to have the power to direct or dispossess farmers?
In the first place, the Committee was not subject to such, or any other, comments by the learned judge. The learned judge was discussing replies made by this officer to questions in the box.
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he proposes to take to see that common land now cultivated by county executive committees does not revert to its former derelict condition when handed back to the commoners.
County agricultural executive committees are at present conducting a review of all requisitioned land, including commons, to enable my right hon. Friend to decide whether efficient agricultural use can be maintained if the land is derequisitioned or whether it is necessary for him to purchase the land under the powers conferred by section 85 of the Agriculture Act, 1947. In view of his special responsibility for commons, no decision to purchase common land would be made without taking fully into account the interests of the commoners and any other interests involved.
Is the Minister aware that I want to see the interests of the commoners duly protected, and is he also aware that we cannot afford to waste this vast expanse of land at a time when the consumers are kept short of food?
That is exactly why I said in reply that my right hon. Friend is considering all the circumstances.
Can my hon. Friend tell us if derelict land includes land worked for ironstone and so left derelict?
Court Farm, Stoke Orchard
asked the Minister of Agriculture when it is proposed to return Court Farm, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire, at present farmed by the county agricultural executive committee, to the owner.
As I said in answer to the previous Question, all requisitioned land is being reviewed to enable my right hon. Friend to decide whether it should be derequisitioned or purchased. A decision in respect of Court Farm has not yet been reached.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the county committee advised the Minister that this land should be given back to the owner by 25th March and asked the owner to make his arrangements, but that the Minister did not agree?
As I am advised, the hon. Gentleman is all wrong. The matter is still being considered with regard to the whole area, of which Court Farm forms only a small part. A decision cannot be reached about Court Farm until we have a decision about the whole area.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that much requisitioned land has been handed back; that in this case the county committee advised the Minister that it should be handed back by 25th March; that the farm was semi-derelict and that steps have now been taken by the owner to put it in order, but that the advice to hand it back has been countermanded by the Minister of Agriculture?
The Gloucester county committee is considering the future use of a large area of land in the Gotherington district of which Court Farm is a part. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman continually asserts, we have not yet received advice as to the future use of the whole block of land. I emphasise that. Until we get that decision, obviously it would be wrong to decide about any one part of the land.
I beg to give notice that I propose to raise this matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.
Northerwood House (Decoration)
asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the cost of the recent exterior decoration of his Department's premises at Northerwood House, Lyndhurst, Hampshire.
One thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven pounds.
As this decoration chiefly consisted in exterior painting with white paint, can he say how the Forestry Commission justifies this expenditure when no private owner can have any paint at all?
The second part of that Question, I would have thought, is a non-statement of fact—
What is a non-statement of fact?
I said, "was not a statement of fact"—the hon. Gentleman himself does a lot of that. In reply to the first part of the Question, this was a rather large valuable house presented to the Forestry Commission early in 1945, which had received no exterior decoration since 1939, and obviously needed to have something done.
The hon. Gentleman has said that I make a lot of non-statements of fact; what does he mean by that?Later—