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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 463: debated on Monday 28 March 1949

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Food Supplies

Meat Ration


asked the Minister of Food what is the quantity of meat per month by which consumption will be reduced as the result of his proposed reduction of the domestic meat ration by twopence a week.

About 19,000 tons per calendar month.

When will the Parliamentary Secretary's right hon. Friend realise that there is no world meat shortage, but that this is only due to State trading and bulk purchase?


asked the Minister of Food whether he will now give an assurance that the carcase and canned meat rations will be maintained at not less than their present level during the next four months.

No, Sir. I am never prepared to speculate on the future level of the meat ration, which must depend upon the rate at which home produced and imported supplies become available.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there are rumours current in the country that the canned meat ration will disappear in the next few months? Will she take this opportunity of dispelling those rumours?

I am not aware of those rumours, but I can assure the hon. Member that it would be quite wrong at this moment to make a statement which might he entirely unfounded.

Bearing in mind that this Question relates to a period up to four months ahead, and as the right hon. Lady says that she refuses to speculate on what will happen in that period, will she say how many months ahead represent definite planning and not speculation in the mind of the Government?

During those four months many shipments of meat may come in, but we cannot anticipate that.

Catering Establishments (Meat)


asked the Minister of Food what reductions he proposes to make in the allocation of meat to catering establishments when he reduces the domestic meat ration; whether the same reductions will be applied to all classes of catering establishments; and what quantity of meat he anticipates he will save by these reductions in each month.

The meat authorisations of catering establishments will be reduced by the same proportion as the domestic ration, that is, by one-sixth. This reduction will apply to all classes of catering establishments, with the exception of school canteens and school feeding centres, and will save about 1,300 tons of meat a month.

Government Purchases (Directors)


asked the Minister of Food if he will give the names of the persons engaged by his Department to buy the principal foodstuffs for the nation and for which he is responsible; and whether he will give the qualification or experience of these persons to undertake such work.

As the reply is long and detailed, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

The directors who are responsible for purchases of the principal foodstuffs are given in the following table, together with the names of the firms or organisations with which they were connected at the time of entering the service of the

CommodityDirectorName of Firm or Organisation
Animal FeedingstuffsH.R. HumphriesUnilever Limited
BaconP.S. HallJ. Loudon & Co. Ltd.
EggsJ.A. PeacockNurden & Peacock Ltd.
Fresh Fruit and VegetablesC. H. LewisE. H. Lewis & Sons Ltd.
Imported CerealsJ. V. RankJoseph Rank Ltd.
MeatSir Henry TurnerNew Zealand Refrigerating Co. Ltd.
Harold JonesW. Weddell & Co. Ltd.
Milk ProductsJ.W. RoddenNew Zealand Government (Dairy Sales Division)
Oils and FatsL. G. FisherUnilever Limited
PotatoesSir John MollettPotato Marketing Board
SugarSir William RookC. Czarnikow Ltd.
TeaHenry JonesEwart MacCaughey & Co. Ltd.



asked the Minister of Food what special action is being taken to increase the supply and consumption of fish in view of the decrease in the meat ration.

Fish supplies are very much subject to the weather and to the variations in the movement of fish in the sea. My right hon. Friend will take any practicable step to increase supplies and consumption. New trawlers are being brought into operation as rapidly as possible and we shall continue to give every encouragement to the quick-freezing of fish to the maximum during glut periods, and to import as much fish as we can afford. We have already issued one Food Facts advertisement devoted entirely to fish recipes and, if supplies justify it, further advertisements will follow.

Will the right hon. Lady see that all practical steps are taken to see that the processors will be in a position to take every advantage of processing whenever fish is landed?

Moroccan Green Peas


asked the Minister of Food why, in the case of a recent allocation of Moroccan green peas for splitting, one firm of Scottish millers was favoured by being allowed to sell the manufactured product free of points; and if he is aware that other millers will be

Ministry of Food. These men, by reason of long experience, are experts in the purchasing of the commodities for which they are responsible.

unwilling to take up their allocations in future unless they can be assured of uniform treatment.

The only way to clear this small additional quantity before it deteriorated was to allow sales to caterers free of points. Other millers would be treated in the same way in similar circumstances.

Leaving aside altogether any question of a blunder on the part of the right hon. Lady's Department, will she consider seriously the possibility of freeing this processed product from points, in view of the fact that it has a very high protein content and we have very little meat?

I will answer the second part of the supplementary question first. Yes, we are looking at that. The hon. Member accuses my Department of a blunder. I think he is in a position to know that there was no blunder, and that, in fact, we offered the peas to his firm, and if they had applied for the same concession as the Glasgow millers they would have received it.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that if the peas had been offered to my firm with that particular proviso, we would have taken them?

There was no proviso when we first offered them to the Glasgow millers and they asked us to make a concession. If the hon. Gentleman had desired the same concession we would, of course, have given it.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, in view of the reduction in the meat ration, it is quite impossible for a single person, unless he has meals outside, to live on the existing ration?

French Meat


asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement on his negotiations for a supply of meat from France.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) on 23rd March.

Would the right hon. Lady care to comment on the statement of the French Minister of Finance last week that we could have almost unlimited supplies of pork at 1s. 9d. per pound if we liked to ask for it?

There are 2,500 tons of frozen pork now available and we shall arrange for it to come here.

Herrings (Quick Freezing)


asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he has made to quick-freeze surplus British herrings during the summer season for distribution and sale during the winter when British herrings are not available.

I am already considering this proposal, which has some technical and marketing difficulties, and will let the hon. Member know the outcome.

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that only 1½ per cent. of the total herring catch is now being frozen and 30 per cent. is being sent to Germany and paid for by the British taxpayer? Will the Minister of Food take that into account? Surely at this time this valuable food of high protein content is needed at home?

I agree with the hon. Member's last remark, and I think he knows that we are doing what we can in the matter. We have to look at an important point which he will thoroughly appreciate, namely, whether it is possible to store these herring for a long period, during the summer months.



asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to market ware potatoes in clamps on farms in Devonshire in view of the need to open such clamps to take out seed potatoes needed for spring planting.

If the potatoes have been bought by my Department and are not needed for later use, arrangements will quickly be made for the ware to be moved and any grower who wishes to dress out seed should communicate with the area potato supervisor.

Can the right hon. Lady say to what extent the answer she has given will increase the loss on potatoes from £10 million to about £20 million?

Foreign Workers (Meat)


asked the Minister of Food what is the value of the weekly meat ration now given to European volunteer workers in camps.

The allowance of meat to European volunteer workers' camps is the same as to camps housing British workers. It varies according to the type of work upon which the residents are engaged, and according to the number of main meals served. There is no weekly allowance per resident.

How does this ration compare with that given to agricultural workers? The report I have is that agricultural workers are getting a very much lower ration than the European volunteer workers who are working alongside them.

I do not think that is so. I am prepared to give the hon. Member all the details. We try to equate the value of the domestic ration to the value of the ration given in these hostels. I am quite prepared to amplify this answer when I write to him, and to give him the exact amount which they receive. He will find that domestic consumption plus the extra food available to people such as agricultural workers is approximately the same in value as that received by the people in the camps.

Will the right hon. Lady put that answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT so that we can all see it?

Certainly, I will give some of the details, which I am quite sure will satisfy hon. Members.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the information I have is that when the agricultural worker was getting 1s. worth a week meat ration, the European volunteer worker was getting a ration of 2s. 9d. worth a week?

The Question asked what was the value of the weekly meat ration now given to European volunteer workers in camps.

The point we should like to know is whether it is correct or not that at the time in question the European volunteer worker was getting a ration of 2s. 9d. worth a week. It is a great grievance in the country districts.

Sugar Ration


asked the Minister of Food whether since he is at present unable to de-ration sugar, he will consider increasing the existing ration of 10 oz. a week per person to 1 lb. per person a week, until sugar is de-rationed, in view of the increased supplies expected as a result of current negotiations with Cuba.

No, Sir. To increase the ration to 1 lb. per week would take a large amount of dollar sugar, the only extra sugar available today, and this we cannot afford to buy.

If not, why not? Is not the right hon. Lady aware of the constructive suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) in the Adjournment Debate on sugar? Is it not a fact that in Cuba there is a huge unsaleable surplus which it would be possible to acquire for preserving fruit as well as for increasing the ration? If we cannot get the dollars, why not negotiate in sterling, if there is a will on the part if the Government to obtain that sugar? Are we not one of the worst-fed nations in Europe?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that a week last Friday I went into great detail on this matter. I know that I can never satisfy the hon. Gentleman by my replies, but I endeavour to do so. The answer is that the amount of sugar for which he has asked in this Question comes to about an additional half a million tons, which would cost 56 million dollars, and we cannot afford it.

Why not offer to pay in sterling when there is a huge surplus which is unsaleable because there are no dollar buyers?

Duties And Subsidies


asked the Minister of Food if he will name the foods which both pay Customs or Excise Duty and are subsidised; and what is the rate of duty and subsidy in each case.

I regret that in the time available it has not been possible to compile this information. I will publish it in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible.

Would the right hon. Lady explain the reason—I have no doubt that there is one—for putting something on the price on the one hand and taking it off on the other?

Perhaps the hon. Member will see the answer to that in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Ice Cream (Raw Materials)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that ice cream manufacturers are unable in many cases to fulfil the orders given them by hospitals, schools, etc., for ice cream as they do not receive a sufficient allocation of the necessary raw materials such as sugar, milk powder, etc.; and if he will consider giving additional allowances based on the orders received by the manufacturers from such institutions.

I am afraid I cannot allocate extra ingredients for this purpose because they are so scarce.

In view of the fact that a statement was made, and was generally circulated in the Press, to the effect that there would be a larger supply of sugar for this purpose at the time when sweets were de-rationed, and in view of the fact that the warmer season is now approaching when the hospitals and other institutions will require more of these commodities, will not my right hon. Friend consider my suggestion in respect of specific cases where hospitals, etc. are supplied?

There is a sugar and fat mixture off the ration which many hospitals and schools buy. If they care to use their ordinary ration of fat and sugar, they are entitled to do so.


London—Holyhead Road (Subsidence)

18, 19 and 20.

asked the Minister of Transport (1) what mileage of dual-carriageway road construction there is on the main A.5, London to Holyhead road, on the 160 miles between London and Shrewsbury;

(2) how much of the main London to Holyhead road is in danger of subsiding;

(3) how many humped-back and narrow bridges there are on the main London to Holyhead road, A.5, between London and Shrewsbury.

The only part of the London—Holyhead trunk road known to be affected by subsidence is a length of three miles near Brownhills, Staffordshire, where colliery workings cause slight subsidence. On the London—Shrewsbury portion of this road, which does not follow A.5 all the way, there are 11 miles of dual carriageways and three hump-backed and five narrow bridges.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this arterial road is in an appalling condition, and is he satisfied that it will take the additional traffic which will be necessitated by the Royal Show at Shrewsbury this year?

We shall keep the fact of the show in mind, but broadly speaking this road is able to carry all the traffic which is using it at the moment.

Have the Ministry of Transport no immediate plans for the improvement of this road?

Travel Facilities, London (Report)


asked the Minister of Transport when he will publish the report of the working party established by the British Transport Commission relating to travel facilities in London.

This report is with the printers and will, I hope, be available in about six weeks' time.

Would my hon. Friend endeavour to expedite the issue of this report, and if it cannot be issued from the printers in less than six weeks, would it be possible to place a summary or an advance copy in the Library? I ask that in view of the particular interest in the report in North London, owing to the fact that priority is being given to development in South London pending publication of the report.

This is a long-range project which will involve many years' work. I do not think that six weeks is an unreasonable time.

Is there included in this report any proposal to extend the Underground to Brixton, Streatham and on to Croydon?

London—Dover Road (Signs)


asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made with the signposting of the Dover—London Road; what is the estimated cost per mile; and when it is proposed to make a start on the other main roads.

Work is about to start on the Dover—London road in erecting a new set of road signs and re-siting many others at a cost of about £50 per mile. Signposting should be finished by June if delivery by manufacturers runs to time. Considerable progress has been made by local highway authorities in improving the signposting of other main roads.

Will the hon. Gentleman first say why there has been this appalling delay; and secondly whether we have to wait until this road is finished before the other main trunk roads are adequately dealt with?

In reply to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there has been no delay. The answer to the second part is that he obviously could not have heard me say that considerable progress has already been made on other main roads.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how the cost of £50 per mile compares with the pre-war cost for this work?

Traffic Diversions (Local Authorities)


asked the Minister of Transport whether local authorities are allowed to make a permanent diversion of traffic without the authority of a statutory instrument.

Yes, Sir. Local authorities may make orders, subject to my right hon. Friend's confirmation, to regulate the movement of traffic on all roads except trunk roads. Such orders are not statutory instruments. My right hon. Friend makes statutory instruments for the regulation of traffic on trunk roads and roads in the London traffic area.

Can the Minister say whether a local authority has power to declare a street a one-way street, without reference to the Minister?

No, Sir, not permanently. In some places the police have power to make temporary diversions.

Cattle Grids (Legislation)


asked the Minister of Transport if he will introduce legislation to make it possible for a local authority to erect cattle grids on a public highway.

My right hon. Friend is in favour of such legislation and is awaiting a suitable opportunity for introducing it.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many projects for increasing food production are held up because there are no grids on roads over places like Exmoor, and could he, pending the introduction of legislation, ask the local authorities to get their plans and estimates ready so that there shall be as little delay as possible?

Some highway authorities have already constructed the grids, assuming the legal position: and, without prejudice to the legality of the matter, my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider grants in certain cases.

C Licences


asked the Minister of Transport the average monthly increase in C licences during 1948.


asked the Minister of Transport the number of C licences issued during 1948, the number outstanding, and the number of C licence operators at 31st December, 1948, and at the latest available date.

The net number of additional vehicles for which C licences were issued during 1948 was 103,365. I do not know the number of outstanding applications but it is small. The total number of C licence operators was 311,811 with 590,516 vehicles at 31st December, 1948, and 315,279 with 597,698 vehicles at the end of January, 1949.

In view of the fact that the number of C licences has increased during 1948 in the same proportion as during 1947, can my hon. Friend inform me whether his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has completed his exhaustive inquiry, which he promised last June, into the cause of the increase, and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

In view of the lack of any assurance being given so far to this last remaining freedom in the transport world, may we have an assurance from the Government that they will resist this attack on the C licence holder?

Ministry Of Supply

Woolwich Arsenal (Miss Prouse)


asked the Minister of Supply why Miss E. Prouse, a grade 3 temporary clerk at Woolwich Arsenal, has been dismissed.

Miss E. Prouse has not been dismissed, but told that she is considered to come within the scope of the Prime Minister's statement of 15th March, 1948. In accordance with the usual procedure, she has been placed on special leave with pay pending a final decision.

Can the Minister say what are the allegations against her, and at the same time whether it is proposed to offer her alternative employment in some other Department?

The allegation, which she has admitted, was that she is a member of the Communist Party; and she was working in an establishment where a great deal of secret work was taking place. If I give my verdict against tier, every effort will be made to offer her alternative employment.

Raw Materials Controls


asked the Minister of Supply if he will give a list of the controls now exercised by his Department in the licensing of manufacturers and the purchase, acquisition, and allocation of raw materials, respectively.

As the answer is rather long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will the answer so circulated give a comprehensive picture of the controls now exercised by the Ministry?

I think that the hon. Member will find my answer fairly comprehensive. If he requires further information, perhaps he will be good enough to put down a further Question.

Following is the answer:

Manufacturers need licences from my Department to produce certain electrical appliances listed in the schedule to the Electrical Appliances (Control of Manufacture and Supply) Order, 1942 (S.R. & O. No. 1453 of 1942), and six classes of engineering machinery, plant and appliances listed in paragraph 1 of the Machinery, Plant, and Appliances (General) (No. 20) Order, 1948 (S.I. No. 2528 of 1948). Even within this restricted field many items are covered by open general licence.

Raw materials controls are limited to non-ferrous and light metals, and iron and steel. My Department is the sole purchaser of virgin copper, lead and zinc, and controls the acquisition of these metals in the form of ores, concentrates and scrap, as well as in their virgin form. Only the allocation of lead is strictly controlled. All tin metal produced in the United Kingdom is purchased by my Department and sold to the manufacturers. Similarly all virgin aluminium and virgin aluminium alloy produced in or imported into the United Kingdom, apart from a small quantity for export, is purchased and sold to the fabricators. The acquisition, disposal, treatment, use and consumption of iron and steel, and the principal ores from which they are produced are controlled, and also the acquisition and disposal of iron and steel scrap.

Motorcar Exports


asked the Minister of Supply whether in view of the fact that the system known in the motor industry as "Completely Knocked Down," by which unassembled cars are exported for assembly abroad, is causing unemployment among motor workers in Britain and fostering future competition from those countries which are now building up their own motor industries, he will take the necessary action to regulate such trade.

No, Sir. I am satisfied that the motor industry is exporting as many assembled cars as possible, and exports them unassembled only when it is necessary to obtain entry into the markets concerned.

While recognising the difficulties described by my right hon. Friend, is it not the case that only last week 250 motor assemblers were declared redundant in Coventry? Is it not clear that the more motorcars sent abroad unassembled, the greater amount of unemployment there will be among British assembly workers?

Yes, Sir. Every effort is made to export as many assembled cars as possible. I understand that the people to whom my hon. Friend refers were declared redundant last week for a different cause, namely, a temporary difficulty in the tractor production of a certain firm.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the tractor production to which he has referred is an entirely separate case, and the case to which I referred concerns Fisher and Ludlow, who are concerned with making motor bodies?

Can the right hon. Gentleman throw any light on the name of the system and tell us what it means?

I cannot throw much light on the origin of these words, but it means exporting unassembled cars which are assembled in the importing country.

Will the Minister bear in mind that where it is not possible to export assembled motorcars, it is much better to export them knocked down than not to export them at all?


asked the Minister of Supply if he will give an assurance that the supply of cars for the home market will not be increased while motor manufacturers are unable to obtain sufficient steel for export purposes.

There is no intention to increase the supply of cars to the home market at the expense of exports.

Stores Disposal, Egypt (Accounts)


asked the Minister of Supply when full accounts of the British Stores Disposals Mission in Egypt will be published.

The necessary material for the preparation of full accounts is not available. The original cost to the Services of the stores disposed of as surplus could be computed only with a quite unreasonable expenditure of time and labour, and would in many cases bear no relation whatever to their present value in any market.

Yes, Sir. The normal statement of accounts will be issued. It is a very full one, but it does not give the figures which the hon. Member requires.

Ministry Of Works

Oxwich Castle, Gower


asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that Oxwich Castle, Gower, is to be partially demolished; why his Department will not take over the castle as an ancient monument; and if he will make a statement.

Oxwich Castle consists partly of ruins and partly of an occupied farmhouse. The ruins are in a dangerous condition, and consent was given, with the concurrence of the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales, to the demolition of certain wall tops only, which was necessary to avoid danger to the occupants of the farmhouse. To preserve the whole extent of the ruins would involve very substantial difficulty and expense.

Building Licences


asked the Minister of Works what was the amount for which building licences were issued in 1948 or the nearest convenient period, for churches and church premises; what was the corresponding figure in respect of places of amusement, sport and entertainment; and what were the respective quantities of steel involved.

I regret that statistics are not kept separately for these classes of cases.

Building Workers, Birmingham


asked the Minister of Works how many building trade operatives there are in the City of Birmingham; and how many of these operatives are engaged in building houses, both for the municipality and private enterprise.

The number of building and civil engineering operatives employed by contractors in the City of Birmingham at the end of January, 1949, was estimated to be 15,500. Of these approximately 1,500 were employed on building new houses.

Is the Minister aware that I have figures, given to me within the last three days, of the number of building workers actually engaged on house building? Is the Minister satisfied that less than 25 per cent. of building trade operatives in Birmingham should be engaged on house building; and why are other people on work of an unnecessary character?

So far as the employment of building workers on housing work is concerned, much of that depends on the exercise of their power by the local authorities in granting licences for other housing work.

Palace Of Westminster

New Commons Chamber (Benches)


asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that the specimen bench, of the type intended for use in the rebuilt House of Commons, is, in several respects, less convenient and less comfortable than the benches in the present Chamber; and if he will take steps to ascertain the opinion of hon. Members generally before approving it.

It is my intention to consult the Advisory Committee of Members before the type of bench to be installed in the new Chamber of the House is finally settled.

When my right hon. Friend is considering this matter, will he bear in mind that the rather high wooden top to the back of this bench will prevent him and his successors, and other right hon. Gentlemen, from leaning back, as is their wont, in dreamy meditation during the speeches of back benchers?

Most certainly, Sir. These and other matters that have been brought to my attention as the result of the exhibit of the type of bench will all be given due consideration.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the objections held by many hon. Members to the type of colouring of the benches?

Will the Minister assure us that the Members of the Advisory Committee represent the physical types and shapes of Members of this House?

I think that if I gave the names of the Advisory Committee, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be satisfied.

Westminster Hall (Repairs)


asked the Minister of Works what is the estimated cost of the repairs to the roof of Westminster Hall, and if the work was put out to tender before it was decided to employ direct labour.

The cost is estimated to be £25,000. Part of the work, to the value of £6,000, was put out to tender, but the repairs to the actual timber of the roof are being carried out by directly employed carpenters in accordance with the Ministry's policy for the maintenance of historic buildings.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us why it is taking almost as long to repair this roof as it is to build the new House of Commons?

The replacement of timber of this sort is a very delicate piece of work in a construction of this kind. We do not want to do any injury to such a building if we can possibly avoid it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the men on the job were prepared to accept a bonus scheme as a. result of which the rate of progress could have been speeded up, and could he not see his way to accept that proposition?

No, Sir. It is much better that the job should go on in the way in which it is going, in order to get satisfactory service in the end.

Germany (War Crime Trials)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many persons in the British zone of Germany have now been tried for war crimes or crimes against humanity; how many of these have been acquitted, how many sentenced to death, how many sentenced to life imprisonment, and how many to shorter terms of imprisonment.

As the answer is long and detailed, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the Minister say when it is expected that these trials will be brought to an end?

Following is the answer:

1. War crimes.
Persons charged before military tribunals with crimes against the laws and usages of war937
Sentenced to death230
Sentenced to life imprisonment24
Sentenced to shorter terms of imprisonment423
2. Crimes against Humanity.
(a) Persons charged before Control Commission courts with crimes committed against Allied nationals148
Sentenced to death10
Sentenced to life imprisonmentnil
Sentenced to shorter terms of imprisonment50
(b) Persons charged before German courts with crimes committed against German nationals or stateless persons2,180
Sentenced to death4
Sentenced to life imprisonmentnil
Sentenced to shorter terms of imprisonment1,249

Sudan (Trade Union Ordinance)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the widespread opposition in the Sudan to the Trade Union Ordinance of 1948; and what steps does he propose to take to see that the provisions objected to are withdrawn.

I am aware that certain elements in the Sudan have criticised this ordinance, and that this criticism culminated in a one-day protest strike on 15th March. A full explanation of the provisions of the ordinance has since been given to its critics. The ordinance is, in fact, in accordance with the best trade union practice in democratic countries, and I understand that the British Trades Union Congress consider it to be fair and worthy of acceptance by the Sudanese.

Can the Minister say whether this prevents the formation of large unions by breaking them down into small local unions?

I can only say that it is fully approved by the T.U.C. I believe that point is fully covered.

Brussels Treaty (Consultative Council's Meeting)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the nature of the proposals made by the United States of America to National Defence Council and Economic Co-operation Administration at the meeting of Foreign and Finance Ministers on 14th and 15th March; and what was the attitude of His Majesty's Government.

The National Defence Council and the Economic Co-operation Administration are both governmental bodies of the United States. Neither of them was represented at the meeting of the Brussels Treaty Consultative Council on 14th and 15th March, or made any proposals to the Consultative Council.

Is the Minister aware that a usually reliable newspaper has stated—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name."]—"The Scotsman" has stated that the American Government have suggested that we shall have to increase our armaments above the sum mentioned in the Defence Estimates; and is the Minister aware that this newspaper has stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed the suggestion? Can the hon. Gentleman throw any light on the incident?

If the hon. Member's first Question was drafted on the report of "The Scotsman," the paper has not lived up to its usual reputation for reliability.

Buenos Aires Transport Corporation


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how often, since 14th March, the British Ambassador in Buenos Aires has contacted the Argentine Government on the subject of compensation for British shareholders in the Buenos Aires Transport Corporation; what reply he has received from the Argentine Government; and whether he has made clear to the Argentine Government that if discussions on this matter are not opened before the liquidation of assets date, namely, 12th April, it will have a definite bearing on the new trade agreement negotiations.

As to the first part of the Question, I have nothing to add to the replies given to the hon. Member on previous occasions. As to the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Ambassador has raised the question of adequate compensation for the British shareholders during the course of the current trade agreement negotiations. I am not in a position to forecast what the outcome will be.

In view of the fact that the Ambassador must be seeing these Ministers almost every day in connection with the trade agreements, can he not ask for a polite reply—for some kind of reply—about whether they intend to open negotiations or not?

I can only say that this has been raised during the negotiations. I do not think that while the negotiations are on I should te the hands of the Ambassador in any way.

Defence Expenditure


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he intends to make to the request of the Government of the United States of America for additional British expenditure beyond the limit of £759 million of the 1949 Defence Estimates, to qualify for the receipt of equipment under the Mutual Aid Bill.

Are we to assume that absolutely no intimation has been made to His Majesty's Government from the U.S.A. that we may have to increase our armaments expenditure as the result of the Atlantic Pact?

We have received no request. I think that my hon. Friend is thoroughly misinformed on this subject.

Vegetable Imports (Policy)


asked the Prime Minister what steps it is proposed to take to ensure co-ordination between the Ministers of Food and Agriculture regarding vegetable imports; and if he will indicate the policy of His Majesty's Government in relation to these foreign imports.

There is already full co-ordination between the two Departments. Our policy seeks to ensure that as far as possible there shall be a full supply of fresh vegetables at reasonable prices at all times of the year. Home production averages about 3 million tons a year and supplies the bulk of our needs, but has to be supplemented by some 400,000 tons of imported produce.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been considerable ploughing in of valuable horticultural crops due, it is thought, to foreign imports on a scale which is not justified; further, while the Government's general agricultural policy has not only given security but immense satisfaction, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the present undermining of the horticultural industry by foreign imports will be given the urgent attention that it calls for?

There is no undermining. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] There is no undermining. Any Government has to consider both the rights of the producers here and the demands of the consumers: It is always difficult to calculate exactly in advance what will be the supply. It depends upon the weather. Even right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot plan entirely without having regard to the fact that the weather is not under the control either of this Government or of any other Government. If the Government do not take steps to see that there is an adequate supply, and there is a shortage, then at once the Government are condemned for not being foresighted enough in that direction. If, on the other hand, there is a surplus, the Government are hit from the other side. Inevitably, there is some overlapping.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult his colleague the Minister of Agriculture, who will tell him that in the main case which has given rise to this Question—the Anglo-Netherlands Agreement—the accredited leaders of the horticultural industry, for whom his colleague often tries to speak, first heard of the terms of the agreement, the dates of imports, the volume of imports and the importing countries, from the public Press?

I should have thought that the hon. Member would have put that question to my right hon. Friend. I have been in full consultation with him on this matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some cases during the year 1949 the anticipated home crop plus anticipated imports already arranged for are in excess of maximum estimated consumption, and will he look into cases of that kind which seem to give evidence of lack of sufficient consideration?

My hon. Friend will remember that trade agreements have to be made for periods often in advance of when they will be implemented and sometimes, in order to get necessary things, we have to import certain other things which we do not want. It is quite impossible to bring the matter down to such a fine point.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government's present policy of granting open licences for the importation of foreign broccoli is actually causing a decrease in the acreage of broccoli planted for next autumn and winter, and is that the result he desires to bring about?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member would put that question to the Minister of Agriculture. I am afraid that I cannot carry in my mind all the details about the broccoli crop.

Might I press the right hon. Gentleman about his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)? Surely, there is nobody except the right hon. Gentleman who can give a decision as between these two Ministries? Is it not true that the fact remains that there is no co-ordination at all, and that the Minister of Agriculture encourages the horticulturists of this country to produce more vegetables throughout the land and, at the same time, without any knowledge at all, an agreement is signed which, to give one example, extends the importation of onions to more than the whole consumption of the United Kingdom?

The hon. and gallant Member is mistaken. There is, of course, full consultation between these Ministries. The hon. and gallant Member will remember that in the previous year there were violent complaints all over the country of the shortage of onions. Therefore, provision had to be made in advance for the importation of onions. It happened that the following year was an extraordinarily good year for root crops and onions, hence the other thing happened.

The right hon. Gentleman said that in these trade agreements we sometimes have to take things we do not want in order to get the things we do want. Are we to understand that these imports of vegetables are in fact things we do not want and that the unfortunate producer in this country is having to pay for the other things that we do want?

No, Sir. I was pointing out that in these trade agreements sometimes we make agreements ahead, and some things have to be bought. Naturally, this is in advance of any possible knowledge of what the crops may be. Therefore, we might at times get gluts.

Will not this problem be at least partly solved, in the interests of producers and consumers alike, when the marketing and distribution of home produce has been rationalised?

Is not the whole point of this policy to time imports so that they do not interfere with the best weeks of the home-grown crop, and will the right hon. Gentleman see that these trade agreements are not so firm as to take the discretion out of the hands of the people running the scheme, so that they can keep the timing right?

Committee On Industrial Productivity


asked the Lord President of the Council what is the expected cost of the Committee on Industrial Productivity and its panels during the current year.

I have been asked to reply. As I explained on 24th March, no precise estimate is possible of the cost of the Committee on Industrial Productivity and its Panels. It is particularly difficult to forecast future expenditure, but, assuming the continuance of the Committee on its present basis, it looks as though the cost during 1949 will be of the order of £6,000.

In view of the importance of the work of this Committee, is the right hon. Gentleman sure that this sum of money is quite adequate?

Yes, Sir, to meet the present situation, I think it is. There may be developments later on, when we shall have to deal with the matter.

Leasehold Committee (Report)


asked the Attorney-General if he is able to announce when the Departmental Committee's interim report on business rents will be available.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) on 14th March, 1949, and to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) on 18th March, 1949.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there are many thousands of small business people who are wondering whether this report will ever be published in time for it to be implemented?

We have been told that the report is coming and that the Committee will produce it as soon as they can, but cannot my right hon. and learned Friend definitely ask the Committee to expedite the report?

The interim report of the Committee was presented a few days ago. As the problems involved are of great complication and difficulty, it requires a little consideration before it is published. The final report on leasehold premises generally is still the subject of consideration by the Committee and the matter is one the implications of which are very wide and involve questions of both law and fact. I have no doubt that the Committee have taken notice of the Questions asked from time to time and will present their report as soon as it is possible so to do.


Veterinary Surgeons, Wales


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many veterinary surgeons are located in each of the counties in Wales; and what is the percentage of farms and holdings covered.

As the reply to the first part involves a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am not aware that any farmers in Wales are unable to obtain the services of a veterinary surgeon.

Does not my right hon. Friend think the time has now come to review entirely the National Veterinary Service, and will he get into consultation—

That is another question; this Question only asks how many veterinary surgeons there are in Wales.

Following is the table:

Number of practising veterinary surgeons resident in each county in Wales (including Monmouth):

In addition to those in private practice, there are 48 veterinary surgeons in Wales, including 44 in the Ministry's service, holding full-time veterinary appointments.

County Committees (Expenditure)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the fact that for 1947–48 the excess of expenditure over receipts of agricultural executive committees was about £13¼ million, of which £8¼ million was incurred in machinery and labour services and £3½ million on administration, he will now close down the agricultural executive committees, or take steps to put them on an economic basis.

I am certainly not prepared to consider abolishing the county agricultural executive committees set up under the Agriculture Act, 1947, which have many important duties to perform. I am, however, taking every practicable step to reduce as far as possible, having regard to the needs of the agricultural expansion programme, the excess of expenditure over receipts, including the deficits on machinery, labour and other services.

Why should committees whose incompetence has been so obviously shown and whose working has been adversely commented upon by learned judges be in a position to direct or dispossess farmers whose incompetence has not been proved?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's designation of incompetence, and I suggest to him that he read the Conservative Party's Agricultural Charter.

Experimental Farms


asked the Minister of Agriculture who has been or is to be appointed to manage the 18 experimental farms; what is the respective acreage and cost of these farms; and by what method these appointments will be made.

These farms will be under the direction of the National Agricultural Advisory Service. Each will be in the charge of a member of that service as farm director, who will have the assistance of an advisory committee under the chairmanship of a leading agriculturist and including some farmers among its members. A working farm manager will normally be appointed under the farm director to take charge of farming operations. The acreages will vary widely according to the type of farm. The six farms already acquired vary from 200 to 1,070 acres. The average cost of the four that have been purchased is some £35,000. A fifth farm has been leased, and in the case of the other acquisitions the purchase price has been referred for arbitration.

Will the Minister try to avoid what happened in the war, when incompetent farmers who could not make their own farms pay became civil servants, and were able to give orders to men who were making their own farms pay? May I have an answer?

I think the question is so far removed from the truth that it does not call for a reply.

Will the accounts of these farms be made public in due course, and, especially in view of their work, will the capital sum per acre be made public, so that farmers may compare like with like?

I suppose the accounts of the demonstration farms will be made public, but I am sure that the hon. Baronet will be aware of the fact that demonstration farms are not necessarily run on an economic basis.

When the Minister says that he supposes that the accounts will be made public, does he not mean that it is his business to make sure?

I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware that these accounts will be made public.

Devon Close-Wool Sheep


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that numbers of Devon close-wool sheep are reared on Exmoor; and if he can arrange for these sheep to be qualified for subsidy when reared on hill farms.

I am well aware that Devon close-wools are kept on Exmoor, but I do not consider that this breed is sufficiently hardy to qualify for hill sheep subsidy.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this breed is doing very well on Exmoor, and may I ask him to look at this matter again with a view to encouraging increased numbers, which would result in increased supplies of mutton?

I have already looked into the matter, and I am advised that this particular breed is not sufficiently hardy to live on some hills.

Will my right hon. Friend consult the farmers on Exmoor who are interested in this breed?

Will the Minister introduce the grid system on Exmoor, which will multiply the sheep population by thousands?

Machinery And Equipment Losses


asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the fact that the accounts for 1947–48 of the agricultural executive committees show losses of £298 lost or stolen to agricultural executive committees and the Women's Land Army, £11,611 for machinery and implements lost, £995 for agricultural executive committee stores and equipment stolen and £1,048 for a stocktaking deficiency of bicycles, he will state what steps are being taken to detect and prosecute those responsible.

It is the duty of agricultural executive committees and the Women's Land Army to take all practicable steps to prevent losses of machinery and equipment. They are under instruction to report thefts to the police, with a view to detection and prosecution where possible, and to take suitable disciplinary action against the individuals concerned where losses are caused by negligence.

Is not the Minister aware that this petty thieving and purloining is inevitable under State control, and that if it had happened on a private farm the decent British farmer would have sacked the persons concerned?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is too much private enterprise here and there.

Small Farmers (Machinery)


asked the Minister of Agriculture, in view of the fact that the Government's policy was for the county agricultural executive committees throughout the country to relinquish their machinery depots, and since a large number of small cultivators have not funds to buy a complete range of implements to enable them to carry on their cultivation, what alternative arrangements are being prepared so as to ensure that the fullest possible use is made of the cultivation of the soil by the smallholders throughout the country.

No general decision has been taken to discontinue the machinery services operated by county agricultural executive committees. The services are not being withdrawn where there is a sufficient demand from small farmers who cannot afford to buy the necessary machines and who cannot get the work done in any other way.

Is the Minister aware that many of these machinery depots have been far from satisfactory in the past? Would it not be a good thing to have a completely new scheme to enable all small farmers throughout the country to acquire the necessary machinery with which to increase food production?

Perhaps it would not be out of place if the hon. Member were to consult with his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) in order to make up their minds whether they want a machinery service or not.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to treat this matter with all seriousness, since it is a matter which vitally affects food production?

May I ask the Minister if it would not be wise to go into the question of setting up county servicing depots for farmers in the various counties, which I think is a feasible proposition, and one that ought to be carried out?

We have county servicing depots, and all the time we are anxious that they should be supplemented by private servicing depots, where they can be established. While we are very anxious that there should be a machinery service as long as it is necessary, it is our desire that private enterprise should step in to provide this servicing for small farmers where they cannot provide it themselves.

Horticultural Industry

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. BALDWIN:

57. To ask the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the anxiety amongst farmers as to the future of the horticultural industry caused by recent trade agreements, he will make a statement as to the Government's long-term policy.

On a point of Order. May I have your guidance in regard to this Question, Mr. Speaker? In view of the alarm in the horticultural industry by reason of the trade agreements which have been made, I addressed this Question to the Prime Minister, since it involves a Government decision and not a Departmental one.

The reply to the Question is that when the Agriculture Act, 1947, was under consideration by this House, I referred to horticultural products and said:

"I want to make it clear that it is the Government's intention that the general objective in Clause I shall apply to the industry as a whole, and that they fully recognise that other means of obtaining this object for these other products must be devised."—[OFFIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 631.]
I have nothing to add to that statement.

In view of that answer, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the leaders of the horticultural industry and assure them that the intention is not to make trade agreements for the import into this country of produce which we can still grow ourselves at reasonable cost?

We are frequently in consultation with the leaders of the horticultural industry.

Does not the Minister consider that when, through faulty guesswork on the part of his colleague, the Minister of Food, farmers have to plough in their crops, he ought to have a policy for compensating them?

The hon. Member must be aware, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, that no Minister or Ministers can ever cater for weather conditions. He will also be aware that last year was an abnormal one, and that if in 1948 we had obtained the same amount of produce as we had normally obtained for a number of years, there would have been no surplus vegetables in this country.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister that he is being compelled to accept certain imports which he does not require?

In view of all that is happening to the horticultural industry, is the right hon. Gentleman still on speaking terms with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Food?

Will my right hon. Friend say whether there is any attempt at specialisation in production between Great Britain and the foreign countries from whom we import horticultural produce?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my Evesham growers are suffering exceptional hardships?

Farrowing Sows (Rations)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will re-establish the arrangements, suspended under the extended rationing scheme, whereby county agricultural committees were permitted to establish special farrowing registrations.

Yes, Sir. Revised arrangements for extending the issue of rations for farrowing sows are being worked out and will be announced in the near future.

Livestock Prices


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the 1949–50 prices of fat stock, sheep and pigs recently announced are based on the present prices of feedingstuffs, and if, through further removal of subsidies, prices of feeding-stuffs are increased before that date, this part of the February price review will be revised.

The recently announced 1949–50 prices of fat cattle, sheep and pigs take full account of the forthcoming increase in prices of feeding-stuffs.

Does the Minister realise that if that is the fact it gives no incentive for livestock production, and that the whole 4s. 6d. per cwt. increase is wiped out? Will he reconsider the matter in view of the present meat ration?

The hon. Member is aware that the National Farmers' Union approved the new prices with the full knowledge of a revision in feedingstuff prices.

Tobacco Production


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will devote a small part of the resources of the new experimental farms to the tobacco plant with a view to the further development of types suitable to our climate.

No, Sir. I am afraid that the available facilities will be fully utilised on urgent and important food production problems.

In considering the importance of this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the importance of dollars, which contribute so much and in so many ways to our food?

Yes, Sir, but my immediate responsibility is the production of food, and I do not think that in the circumstances we can allow our technicians to devote themselves to the production of tobacco in this country.

Pigs (Feedingstuffs)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the present size of the meat ration, he will now increase the quantities of feeding-stuffs made available for the breeding, rearing and fattening of pigs and relax existing restrictions so as to encourage the production of pork and bacon in this country.