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Commons Chamber

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1949

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 30th March, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Nigeria

Tuberculosis

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many new cases of tuberculosis have been notified in Nigeria during the last 12 months for which figures are available.

I have asked the Governor for this information and will communicate with my hon. Friend when I receive it.

Would not the Minister agree that all the available information points to an increased incidence in this disease? Would not he further agree that all the existing facilities for treatment are woefully inadequate?

I would rather wait until I have the information from the Governor before making any comment.

Groundnuts

7 and 12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) what is the estimated financial loss to date of groundnuts in West Africa affected by beetle infestation; what steps are being taken to compensate African growers' agents; and what is the estimated value of West African groundnuts landed in the United Kingdom since September, 1948;

(2) what is the present approximate quantity of groundnuts in store at Kano, including French new crop; how much of this total is so severely infested by beetle as not to be capable of transport; what tonnage the Nigerian Railway can clear during the month of March; and how long will it be before this and last year's crop can be shipped, excluding 6,000 tons of lightly infested nuts.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many tons of groundnuts have been exported from Nigeria in the last six months; how many tons are in stock; how many tons have been damaged by weevils; and what are the comparable figures for 1948.

The total export of groundnuts from Nigeria during the six months up to 17th March, 1949, was approximately 180,000 tons. During the corresponding period last year it was 140,000 tons. The value of the groundnuts which have arrived in the United Kingdom from British West Africa since the 1st October, 1948, is £9,365,000. Stocks of groundnuts at present awaiting export from Nigeria amount approximately to 398,500 tons. Of this total some 365,000 tons are at Kano, made up of 48,500 tons of the 1947–48 crop and 277,000 tons British and 40,000 tons French 1948–49 crop.

The stocks damaged by the beetle trogoderma have amounted to 13,900 tons of the 1947–48 crop and 3,500 tons of the 1948–49 crop. Five thousand five hundred tons of the stocks attacked have been railed to port and have been fumigated. Fumigation of the remainder is proceeding. In addition 75 tons, costing the West African Produce Control Board about £1,500, have so far proved to be a total loss. The loss arising from less severely infested nuts cannot at present be determined. Except in cases of negligence, these losses will not fall on the buying agents, to whom I assume the hon. Baronet, the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) refers.

Some 14,000 tons were railed during the first two weeks of March, and it is reasonable to expect that the total railings for this month will be at least 30,000 tons. There is no necessity to exclude the quantity of lightly infested nuts to which the hon. Baronet, the Member for Abingdon, refers. The increased monthly railings to be expected as additional locomotives and rolling stock coming into use suggest that the whole of the stocks in Nigeria at present awaiting transport will have been cleared by the end of January, 1950.

Might I thank the hon. Gentleman for that very full reply and ask him if he can state whether the capacity of the railway will ever be equal to the task of dealing with the stocks at Kano?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a good, carefully chosen exhibit for the Colonial Exhibition would not be of some of these West African groundnuts produced by private enterprise which cannot be shipped here because of the diversion of transport and machinery to the Government scheme in the East?

Is the Minister satisfied that there will not be any serious deleterious effect upon the oil contained in the nuts?

Constitution (Report)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken towards the realisation of self-government in Nigeria.

At the suggestion of the Governor, the Legislative Council has been considering at its recent Budget Session the steps to be taken for a review of the present constitution of Nigeria. I have just received from the Governor the Report of a Select Committee of the Council on this subject which is unanimous and has been unanimously accepted by the Council. I am arranging for a copy of this Report to be placed in the Library of the House. The Governor will make a statement on the Report shortly, the text of which will be published simultaneously in this country.

Pending that inquiry, might I ask whether local interests will be considered so as not to prejudice any development in Nigeria until the Report has been received?

The Report has been received. It is the Governor's statement which is being considered.

Imports And Exports

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether commodities originating in hard currency countries and imported into Nigeria directly from sterling or soft currency areas are set against Nigeria's hard currency allocations; and whether this method is the same as that adopted for the Gold Coast and other African colonial territories.

Goods of the kind mentioned, when imported into Nigeria, are normally treated for import-licensing purposes as if they were imported direct from hard-currency sources. The same method is adopted in other Colonial Territories.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many controls are still in force requiring licences for the import of commodities into Nigeria.

Licences are required for the import from all sources of commodities under international allocation and for a short list of particularly scarce goods. For other commodities, licences are required only for imports from sources outside the United Kingdom Colonies group.

Will the hon. Gentleman review this position and see whether he cannot make a bonfire of some of these controls that are now unnecessary? May I have an answer?

The answer is that some of these items are internationally allocated, and therefore must naturally be controlled. In other cases, they are scarce articles, which must also have an element of control.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the export of adire cloth, beans, guinea fowl, eggs and groundnut oil from Nigeria to the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone is still prohibited, except under licence; and whether he will now lift these war-time controls.

I have asked the Governor for information and will communicate with the hon. Member when I receive it.

Is the Minister aware, meanwhile, that these controls are particularly vexatious to the African trader, far more than to the European trader, and will he look at that aspect of the matter?

I should doubt it. The object of most controls is to ensure that only a proper amount of these materials leaves the Colony and that a sufficient amount is retained in the Colony for the use of the local people.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I raised this matter two years ago, when I obtained a promise that it would be looked into, and that nothing has been done since?

Tanganyika

Agricultural Leases

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the policy of the Government of Tanganyika in regard to the length of leases offered to would-be settlers; and whether he will give statistics indicating the amount of land leased to settlers since 1945, and the length of the leases.

The policy is that agricultural leases should be limited to 33 years and that towards the end of this period the question of renewing the leases will be examined in the light of the position then obtaining and of all relevant factors affecting the general economy and needs of the territory at the time. If the lease is not renewed compensation will be payable by the Government for unexhausted improvements. One hundred and twenty-six leases have been granted to individual applicants since 1st January, 1945.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that information has appeared that some leases are being granted for as short as one year? Will he give an assurance that the principle of security of tenure is observed in the allotment of leases in Tanganyika in the same way as it is important to see that it is observed in this country?

The information I have is as I have given it, that leases are of 33 years and not of one year.

Ex-Enemy Farms

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many ex-enemy farms in Tanganyika have been allotted for African settlement; and how many of these are run on a co-operative basis.

It is proposed to allot 30 ex-enemy farms and part of four other ex-enemy farms, totalling in all 13,359 acres, for African occupation to afford some relief to population congestion in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. These farms will all be cut up into individual peasant holdings. Certain ex-enemy farms will also be allotted for African occupation for similar reasons on the slopes of Meru Mountain, but the number has not yet been decided.

West Indies

Trinidad And Tobago (Workmen's Compensation)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider a revision of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago concerning workmen's compensation in order to bring them into line with British law in view of the expressed wishes of the Trinidad and Tobago Trades Union Council.

The Government of Trinidad is appointing a Committee to consider and make recommendations for the revision of the existing workmen's compensation legislation in the light of present-day conditions, regard being paid to any principles and provisions laid down in current international labour conventions and recommendations dealing with workmen's compensation.

Will my hon. Friend keep before him the fact that at present there is no provision whatsoever in compensation for dealing with diseases that arise directly from the nature of the employment? Would he consider incorporating a schedule to cover that aspect of compensation? Would he also provide for the payment of children's allowances and also for accepting the principle of minimum compensation.

I take it that these matters will be considered by the Committee.

In view of the fact that workmen's compensation will become a great problem in our industrially developed Colonies, will the Minister lay down a minimum standard of workmen's compensation as a future guide to the Colonies so that they can incorporate it in any industrial legislation which they may introduce?

Before that is answered, may I ask the Minister if it is not a fact that an adequate code of workmen's compensation was laid down by the Labour Government of 1929–31?

This is a different question altogether, and a much wider one, but my right hon. Friend is constantly in communication with the Colonial Governments on this very matter.

Air Fares, Jamaica (Currency)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the Finance Control Board in Jamaica has refused to allow passengers on the British Caribbean Airways travelling from Jamaica to Miami to pay in sterling and insists on dollars.

I have no information on this subject, but am consulting the Governor. I will write to the hon. Member when I have received his reply.

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree in principle that a transport company like this one in Jamaica should not be compelled to demand dollars from potential passengers, and that there should be no differentiation against a company of this sort in order to bolster up B.O.A.C. and its subsidiaries?

Hong Kong (War Losses Compensation)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many claims were sent in to the Government of Hong Kong for compensation for losses arising directly or indirectly out of the war; and what was the total-amount of compensation claimed.

The total number of claims for war damage compensation received by the Government of Hong Kong was 14,723 amounting, to the nearest thousand, to £38,610,000.

Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that, in view of the number of claims and the amount of money involved, the Government of Hong Kong might be asked to adopt a different attitude? Surely, the same practice regarding compensation might be followed in Hong Kong as in Malaya and Borneo?

I am afraid we could not make another approach to the Hong Kong Government on this matter. They have fully considered it, and, for reasons which have already been given to the House, they have decided not to adopt a compensation scheme of the kind existing in Malaya.

Will the hon. Gentleman say what proportion of these claims have been settled? Is he aware that there is considerable hardship among certain classes in Hong Kong as a result of their losses during the war?

How can the hon. Gentleman defend the use of entirely different methods in the two Colonies? Why should a man in Malaya who has lost everything be compensated, and a man in Hong Kong who has lost everything be refused any sort of compensation? Surely, the hon. Gentleman has a responsibility in this matter?

There are differences. First of all, there was a contributory insurance scheme in Malaya, but there was not in Hong Kong, and that has some bearing on the matter; secondly, Hong Kong became extremely wealthy and trade recovered very rapidly. To a large extent the same conditions have not appertained in the whole of Malaya.

In view of the fact that the people who are benefiting by the new prosperity may not necessarily be the same people who lost through bad conditions during the war, and of the widespread uncertainty about this decision of the local government, will the hon. Gentleman cause a new investigation to be made?

I regret that I cannot promise any new investigation in this matter. The decision has been announced for a considerable period. It has been the unalterable decision of the Hong Kong Government.

Colonies Exhibition, London

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any further statement to make about the Colonies Exhibition to be held in London this summer.

Arrangements for the mounting of the Exhibition by the Central Office of Information are going ahead very satisfactorily. The Exhibition will be called "Focus on Colonial Progress" and I ought, I think, to make it clear that it does not attempt to do more than give the public, by means of carefully chosen examples and striking illustrative material, a broad picture of what we and the peoples of the territories are trying to achieve together, and of the problems which have to be tackled. This will not be the kind of exhibition in which separate sections are devoted to individual territories, products or industries. Limitations of space and finance would preclude anything on these lines, but quite apart from that I think that the approach which we have chosen should be more valuable for the purpose in view. As my right hon. Friend has already announced, a "Colonial Month" is being arranged in London from 21st of June, and the Exhibition will take place against that background. I am glad to report that a very gratifying response has already been forthcoming from the many organisations who are being invited to participate in the "Colonial Month."

Will my hon. Friend keep in touch with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education to see that children from the schools are enabled to visit this Exhibition and so create some interest in their minds in this new scheme of the Government for the development of the Colonies?

Even though separate territories are not to be represented, could the hon. Gentleman consider getting a few natives of different territories to be present to discuss the situation with visitors to the Exhibition?

Will there be any place in the Exhibition to show the part played in sport by the Colonies?

Sierra Leone (Rice)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken in Sierra Leone to establish an efficient system of collection and distribution of rice at controlled prices fair to both producer and consumer.

The Sierra Leone Government has decided that in the present season, as in 1947–48, no price control should be imposed on rice nor should a price be guaranteed to producers. The Government is, however, taking steps to build up sufficient reserve stocks for release if the price rises unduly.

Does that mean that there will be no difference made in the present system of collection and distribution in view of the general dissatisfaction expressed at the activities of the middlemen, particularly the Syrians?

Nyasaland And Northern Rhodesia

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of African opposition to recent unofficial proposals for federation in central Africa, he will consider convening a conference to explore the possibility of a federation of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend does not consider that it would be opportune to call such a conference.

The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Bledisloe Commission which reported in 1939 rather strongly advocated the unification of these two territories, and would he give weight to the considerations contained in that Report?

Malaya (Financial Aid)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the application by the Government of the Federation of Malaya for permission to raise a loan or by other means to obtain financial assistance to meet the abnormal circumstances in the country.

His Majesty's Government have considered the financial difficulties confronting the Federation of Malaya, and at an early date propose to ask for Parliamentary authority to provide £5 million towards the direct expenditure incurred by the Federation Government on internal security in 1949 and an additional £1 million towards the extra expenditure likely to be incurred on the Imperial Forces in Malaya in 1948 and 1949. I should add that these arrangements have been made in full consultation with the High Commissioner, and further help may be necessary in 1950, but, in the event of a material change in the position in Malaya, which cannot be deferred, the matter will be reviewed in the light of the position as it emerges.

As regards the matter of the loan, a Bill to authorise the raising of a loan of 100 million dollars has been introduced in the Legislative Council of the Federation and is to be considered on 31st March. With the consent of His Majesty's Government, the Bill provides for a portion of the loan to be raised in London.

When the hon. Gentleman is considering this or any further application, will he realise the deep feeling there is in Malaya that this country gave a free gift of £20 million to Burma, which went out of the Commonwealth, and that, therefore, it is not right that we should be cheese-paring with regard to Malaya, which provides us with more American dollars than the total exports of the United Kingdom put together?

Royal Navy

Research Ship (Completion)

25.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what are the Admiralty's intentions as to the completion of H.M.S. "Research"; and what amount of 'expenditure would be required for her completion.

On the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply made to the hon. Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) on 23rd February. As regards the second part, the cost of completing the "Research" as a sailing ship is estimated at £200,000; if she were engined, the cost would be considerably greater.

Is not the Financial Secretary aware of the important functions which this ship has to perform in the scientific field, with the help of the Merchant Navy, and, having spent so much money on her, does he say that there is now no prospect of the ship being completed, because the answer to which he referred said that nothing was to be done?

I have not said that there is no prospect of her being completed, and I do fully realise the importance of this ship, but we have a large number of commitments of very great importance and this must be related to the others.

Is not the necessity for this ship as great today, if not greater than before the war, when ships were more cheaply constructed?

It is, certainly, but we have a large number of commitments of great importance and we have to judge between them.

Ex-Service Men, Northern Ireland

26.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many non ex-Service men are employed by the Admiralty in Northern Ireland; and whether any ex-Service men have been discharged for redundancy during the last year in Northern Ireland.

The answer to the first part of the Question is 983 industrials and 209 non-industrials; to the second part, 54 industrials and 2 non-industrials.

Is the Civil Lord surprised that ex-Service men in Northern Ireland are most indignant at this state of affairs?

I cannot see any reason why they should be indignant. So far as ex-Service men are concerned, over 50 per cent. on the industrial side are ex-Service men, and over 65 per cent. on the non-industrial side.

Is it not the case that, if only ex-Service men were employed in the Admiralty yards at Belfast, the majority would be Eire citizens?

Post Office

Remittances Abroad (Information)

27.

asked the Postmaster-General in how many cases during the most recent statistical periods have post offices given incorrect information about sending money abroad which has led to its confiscation in whole or in part by the Exchange control authorities.

Since the 1st of October, 1947, when the Exchange Control Act came into force, six cases have been brought to my notice in which the poster alleged that incorrect information was given at a post office. In each of these cases the money was refunded by the Customs authorities, who have, I understand, dealt similarly with a number of applications made directly to them. The regulations in this matter are being specially brought to the notice of counter officers at all post offices.

Sub-Postmasters (Ta Training)

32.

asked the Postmaster-General what arrangements are being made to provide substitutes for sub- postmasters, who volunteer for the Territorial Army, during the period they are in camp.

Sub-postmasters are not required to give personal service, but are required to provide satisfactory staffing for their offices at all times, whether they are present or absent. The provision of substitutes during any period of absence is accordingly the responsibility of the individual sub-postmaster, but I am considering the possibility of contributing towards the cost of substitution incurred by sub-postmasters who attend Territorial Army camps.

Postal District, Enfield

37.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will extend the London postal district area to include the Urban District of Enfield.

No, Sir, and I regret that under existing manpower conditions it is not practicable to provide additional postal facilities for the area named.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Enfield is within 12 miles of Charing Cross and that it would be very reasonable to bring it into the London postal district and thus improve the facilities there, in view of the fact that the urban area extends from London beyond Enfield and that the manufacturers in the district are severely handicapped at the present time?

We had those facts in mind, of course, when we came to the present conclusion.

Public Relations Officer

39.

asked the Postmaster-General whether the public relations officer to his Department is an established civil servant; and what age-limit attaches to the appointment.

The present public relations officer to the Post Office is not an established civil servant. In accordance with the general practice in the Civil Service about unestablished officers, no age limit attaches to the appointment.

But as an established civil servant, aged 62, was removed to make room for this Socialist ex-Minister, who is now nearly 68, and who has had his salary increased from £1,350 to £1,700, can the Minister say how much longer this particular example of patronage is going to continue?

I do not think there is any question of patronage whatever This man was put in because he was able to do the job, and he is still doing the job very well indeed.

Has not the Post Office enough publicity about its poor services all over the country without having a public relations officer?

In order that the House and the country may be better informed of the particulars of this appointment, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

New Building, Newport

41.

asked the Postmaster-General whether the plans for a new post office in Newport have now been approved; when building operations will commence; how long it is expected to take to complete the post office; and whether the new automatic exchange will be housed in the new building.

The local authority have approved in principle the plans for the extension of the Post Office at Newport (Mon), but final plans have not yet been approved. It is now hoped that building operations will start early in 1950 and will be completed two and a half years later. New automatic telephone equipment will be installed in a portion of the new wing.

In view of the fact that the new post office will be on the site of the old one, is it intended to maintain the postal services in that building during building operations or will other arrangements be made?

Television Licences

28.

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that television manufacturers in this country have sold altogether 135,000 sets, and since June, 1946, when the television service was restarted, 122,316 sets, and in view of the fact that the television licences issued by the Post Office up to the end of February, 1949, were only 111,850, if he will investigate this discrepancy, with a view to taking proceedings against persons owning television receivers who are operating without a licence.

The number of television licences current at the end of February, 1949, was 120,100. When account is taken of the number of sets in transit and in shops, I do not think that the number of unlicensed viewers is large. A reasonable time is allowed for the purchaser of a set to take out a licence, but the movement of the respective figures is carefully examined, and recently some prosecutions have taken place.

Is the Minister aware that the quality of television reception is not often affected by aerials being erected in the roofs or attics of houses, and, in those circumstances, can he say if it is possible for the Post Office to detect whether a television receiver exists in those cases where the aerials are in the attic or roof?

Telephone Service

Glasgow

29, 30 and 31.

asked the Postmaster-General (1) the number of telephone exchange lines operating in Glasgow on the latest available date, and ten years before, respectively;

(2) the number of telephone calls made in Glasgow in the latest available month, and in the corresponding month ten years before, respectively;

(3) the number of telephone installations in Glasgow in 1938 and 1948, respectively.

The number of telephone exchange lines operating in the Glasgow telephone area was 90,111 at the end of 1948, compared with 62,795 at the end of 1938. Thirteen million, eight hundred thousand telephone calls were originated in the area in January, 1949, as against 8,600,000 in January, 1939. Seven thousand six hundred and twelve exchange lines and 11,585 telephones were installed in the area in 1948, compared with 4,500 exchange lines and 6,500 telephones in 1938.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, notwithstanding the impressive figures which he has given, a large number of applicants have been on the waiting list for the last 18 months or two years, and are getting rather discontented?

I am aware that there is a large number of people waiting for telephones.

Would the Minister indicate, in regard to the census given by him of the number of instruments, how many of them are working properly?

Eccles

33.

asked the Postmaster-General why he cannot provide an automatic exchange in Eccles, Lancashire, before 1954; and if he is aware of the many delays there owing to the subscriber not being able to obtain his own number, and often being given wrong numbers instead.

Conversion of exchanges to automatic working is dependent on the availability of labour and materials for new exchange buildings; it is also conditioned by the restriction of equipment manufactured for home use in order to meet the heavy demands for export. Provision of an automatic exchange at Eccles involves the erection of a new building and the installation of new equipment, and this extensive work cannot be completed before 1954. The quality of service at the existing exchange compares favourably with that at similar exchanges throughout the country.

Does the Minister appreciate that this automatic system was promised before the war and that all the adjacent exchanges, with the exception of the Eccles Exchange, are automatic; and that, although subscribers do not complain if they get wrong numbers when they dial them themselves, it causes a great amount of dissatisfaction when they have to rely on other people getting the numbers for them?

I appreciate the fact that an automatic exchange was promised and expected before the war, but I have given some reasons in my answer why it cannot be put in just yet.

Application, Bridlington

34.

asked the Postmaster-General if he will reconsider his adverse decision and now give priority for the installation of a telephone at the office of the secretary of the Bridlington Hotel and Boarding House Association, so that a telephone may be available before the Birdlington season commences.

As explained in my letter of 21st March to the hon. Member I regret that I would not be justified in giving this case priority over other waiting applications with greater claims to telephone service.

Is the Postmaster-General aware that in refusing a telephone to the Secretary of the Bridlington Hotel and Boarding House Association he is likely to cause a great deal of dislocation during this season? After all, this is the only special request I have made in this matter, and would it not help in the co-operation between Ministers and Members if, on certain occasions, such a request were granted?

There are other people waiting for telephones in this neighbourhood with higher priorities than this case.

Kiosks, Rural Areas

35.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is yet able to announce when a new scheme for the provision of telephone kiosks in rural areas will become operative.

I am glad to say that a quota system, the details of which are being developed in collaboration with the representatives of rural local authorities, will commence on 1st April. The new arrangements will supersede the present arrangements, both in regard to existing and new rural kiosks, as from that date.

I am sure the House will welcome the statement by the Postmaster-General, but will he say what will happen to the guarantees and commitments already entered into by parish councils, and what method will be used in the future for dealing with priority applications?

We intend to make use of the rural councils for determining priority as to where the kiosks shall be put.

Will the Minister publish through the parish and district councils full details of the scheme? Many people have been disappointed for more than three years now.

When the right hon. Gentleman said that the new plan would supersede the existing kiosks, did he mean that he intended to close some of them?

No, Sir. There was an arrangement in the past that so much money should be guaranteed for kiosks. That arrangement will be superseded.

Will the Minister say what will happen to the present commitments of parish councils with regard to those guarantees?

40.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will provide a telephone kiosk at Kinsham near Bredon, as this rural area has no public telephone, so that residents can summon a doctor in case of emergency, and also communicate with the resident midwife.

The provision of a telephone kiosk at Kinsham will be considered under the quota scheme to which I referred in my reply this afternoon to my hon. Friend, the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins).

Is the Postmaster-General aware that this is a No. 1 priority and that there are no means of communicating with doctors and district nurses? It is a matter in which, in view of the difficulties, I should be glad if we could have priority.

If it has such a high priority, I have no doubt that the rural council responsible will see to it.

Enfield Exchange

36.

asked the Postmaster-General when it is proposed to proceed with the conversion of the Enfield telephone exchange from manual to automatic operation.

Extension of the existing exchange building and of the switching equipment will be completed in late 1950. This extension should meet development for some years, and it is too early to say when the exchange is likely to be converted to automatic working.

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that this work is being proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, in view of the fact that it was promised to be commenced last year and has not yet got under way?

Royal Air Force (Kerosene)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps he is taking to ensure a sufficient supply of kerosene for jet propelled aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

Supplies of kerosene are obtained by the Air Ministry under contractual arrangements with the oil industry, and there has been no difficulty in obtaining the requirements of the R.A.F. The technical and supply questions arising from the increased consumption which is to be expected in the future are under active consideration.

Can the Minister say whether, in view of the expansion contemplated in jet propelled aircraft, the plans of the oil refining companies are going to keep pace with the demands for kerosene in the future?

That question had better be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Is the Minister aware that agricultural tractors consume a great deal of paraffin when they could burn petrol, and so ease the load on the refineries?

Usa Bomber Group (Visit)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why permission has been given for the United States 509th Long-range Bomber Group to be stationed in the United Kingdom.

The 509th Bomber Group is visiting this country under the arrangements referred to in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) and the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) on 28th July, 1948.

As that was some time ago, perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to repeat the reason he gave on that occasion, particularly in view of the fact that No. 509 Long-Range Bomber Group of the United States Air Force is a bomber group specially trained in atomic bomb technique?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I trust that the House and the country will note that "hear, hear."—And will the Minister also explain why this bomber group trained in that technique, is to remain in this country?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary, the reason I gave on 28th July for the visit of these various squadrons to this country was for training and good-will purposes. As regards the second part of the question, it may well he that the operational function of this particular group during the war was the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, but there is no difference in essence between this particular group and any ether B29 group of the United States Air Force, and in those circumstances, I can see no reason why we should not welcome this group to this country.

In view of the nature of the reply given by the Minister, and of the fact that the country will be very concerned about this matter, irrespective of what the Opposition say, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Armed Forces

Foreign Nationals

45.

asked the Minister of Defence how many foreign nationals are at present serving with His Majesty's Forces, with separate figures for each Service.

According to the latest information in my possession, the numbers are as follow: Royal Navy. 5; Army, 615; Royal Air Force, 630.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the term "foreign nationals" includes Southern Irishmen?

46.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement as to the conditions applicable to enlistment by foreign nationals in His Majesty's Forces; and what limitations are placed upon the rank which may be held by such nationals.

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

Following is the reply:

Regulations provide that aliens are not eligible for recruitment except with the authority of the Board of Admiralty or of a Secretary of State. Under the Act of Settlement 1701, no alien may hold a commission in the Armed Forces. Under Section 95 (1) of the Army and Air Force Acts, aliens may not be recruited to the extent of more than 2 per cent. of any corps in the Army, or any corps or unit in the Royal Air Force, and the Royal consent is necessary for the entry of any at all. There is no statutory bar to the recruitment of aliens in the Royal Navy.

The above statutory restrictions were suspended by No. 2 of the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations, 1939, which is due to expire on 10th December, 1950. Until that date there is no statutory limit to the entry or commissioning of aliens in the Armed Forces. In addition, the Polish Resettlement Act, 1947, suspends these restrictions for five years on behalf of all ex-members of the Polish Resettlement Corps and of the Polish Resettlement Corps (R.A.F.). There is at present no statutory limitation on the rank which may be held by an alien serving with His Majesty's Forces.

47.

asked the Minister of Defence what steps are being taken to invite the attention of foreign nationals, at present in this country, to the opportunities offered to them for enlistment in His Majesty's Forces.

Members of the Polish Resettlement Corps, in whose favour certain legal restrictions upon recruitment and commissioning of aliens in His Majesty's Forces were waived by the Polish Resettlement Act, 1947, have been made fully aware of the opportunities open to them. Facilities have also been offered to certain other categories of foreign nationals who served in the Royal Air Force during the war.

In view of the presence in this country of a substantial number of Allied persons with great military experience, and particularly in view of the figure which the right hon. Gentleman gave in reply to Question No. 45, is he satisfied that a real effort is being made to point out to these people the opportunities for service in His Majesty's Forces?

Yes, Sir. In regard to the actual numbers, I am satisfied that the Service authorities are doing their duty in the matter, especially having regard to the various questions of security, language and other matters which the Service authorities have to take into account when considering the suitability of such men for appointments in the Services.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered reverting to the system which persisted all through the eighteenth century and part of the nineteenth century, of a foreign legion consisting of people who could be relied upon and who were prepared patriotically to support this country?

Perhaps the noble Lord will study my answer to the original Question. I know that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) who put the Question is very much interested in the idea. We have carefully examined it at considerable length, and we came to the conclusion which I have announced.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the former members of the Polish Resettlement Corps to whom some hon. Members wish to give opportunities to enlist in our Forces, include those members of the Corps who served in Hitler's Army during the war?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the remaining members of the Polish Resettlement Corps and other available foreigners are young enough and fit enough to serve in the Forces?

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's reply to my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), may I ask whether he will consider also including in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of his reasons for deciding against the formation of a foreign legion which, as he knows, has been pressed upon him by a number of hon. Members in this House?

Demobilisation (Civilian Clothing)

48.

asked the Minister of Defence if he has given further consideration to the question of granting a clothing allowance to personnel on demobilisation; and if he is now able to agree to do this.

49.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he has now reviewed the question of a clothing allowance for demobilised persons and if he has any statement to make.

50.

asked the Minister of Defence if he has any further statement to make on the possibility of issuing outfits of clothing to National Service men on demobilisation.

51.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now make a statement with regard to the issue of clothing to National Service men on demobilisation.

52.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will now issue civilian suits of clothing to demobilised National Service men.

53.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he is now in a position to announce better cash clothing allowances for men on demobilisation after serving their period of compulsory military service, in view of the fact that these men develop during service so that the clothing they had prior to their call-up is too small for them to wear, and the present cash allowance given is inadequate to cover the cost of replacement.

54.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a further statement on the provision of civilian clothing for National Service men on release from the Services.

55.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now make a further statement on the issue of civilian clothing to men demobilised from National Service.

56.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now make a statement on what he proposes to substitute for the 60 coupons concession on demobilisation for National Service men.

57.

asked the Minister of Defence what decision has been taken with regard to the provision of clothing to National Service men on the completion of their service.

His Majesty's Government have given careful consideration to the proposal that a clothing allowance should be granted on release to National Service men called up since January, 1947. As hon. Members are aware, the issue of a civilian outfit was one of the main features of the benefits for men released under the "age and service" scheme, the main body of whom had served their country for long periods. The Service Ministers and I have considered carefully and sympathetically the representations which have been made by hon. Members on this question. But we have to bear in mind that the supply and issue of such clothing imposes a heavy burden of administration on the Services which, in view of the need for economy of manpower, they cannot agree to continue, and that a cash equivalent of the previous scheme would probably cost in the next financial year between £3 million or £4 million.

We have, therefore, reluctantly concluded that it would not be possible to modify the decision taken by the Government over two years ago and announced in this House by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service in January, 1947, that this benefit should be discontinued for men called up for the much shorter periods and under the quite different conditions which obtain today.

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that it is the view of His Majesty's Government that the National Service men should not have their share of such clothing as is available to the country at large, and before coming to that lamentable decision did he take into account the widespread feeling both in this House and in the country on this matter? Is it of no concern to him that these men will leave the Services with a sense of grievance at having to wear ill-fitting and shabby clothing?

In reply to the first part of the Question, certainly there is no restriction on National Service men having their share of the available clothing in the same way as any other citizens. I may say that many National Service men already purchase civilian clothing while they are still in the Forces, and actually wear their civilian clothing when they are on leave. As to the last part of the hon. Member's Question, it is always a matter of concern to His Majesty's Ministers to do the very best they can for every section of the population. Having regard to the resources available and to the heavy defence expenditure which this country still has to bear, we were bound to come to the conclusion which I have already announced.

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the heavy public burden which would be involved in meeting the expense of providing proper clothing for these men, does he not recognise the individual burden which is laid upon the homes of these men who are taken at an age when they are developing and who, because of the time which they spend in the Services, grow out of their clothes? This heavy individual burden should be borne collectively.

One would imagine from my hon. Friend's Question that the country does not pay anything at all to the National Service man while he is in the Services. I do not agree with that. The whole of his emoluments amount to considerably more than what many hon. Members have previously advocated. There has been a great deal of pressure in the House for paying a lower rate than is actually paid today. Taking into account what they receive, I suggest that it is possible for these men to make some little saving towards their civilian outfits.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the hardship caused to widowed mothers when boys, who are their only means of support, are taken away and on their return, have no clothing and no money with which to buy it?

In order to obviate these administrative difficulties, will the right hon. Gentleman consider making a cash grant? It would simplify matters considerably. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that even if the expenditure involved is in the neighbourhood of £3 million or £4 million a year, it is a small price to pay to ensure that men leave the Services in a satisfied frame of mind.

The cumulative demands that we get constantly from different parts of the House and the additional sum of £3 million or £4 million which this allowance would cost, do not make it possible to contemplate such an expenditure, particularly in view of the fact that the Treasury have approved our submission to the House and the House have approved a budget of £760 million.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the tremendous amount of money spent on recruiting and enticing men into the Services? Is he aware that we might as well throw it all down the drain if he is going to treat the men in this manner when they return from the Services?

The subject of recruitment does not apply to National Service men at all. There are, of course, reasons for endeavouring to expand recruitment of Regulars to Services and for making their conditions as attractive as possible and keeping such men in the Services.

In regard to the cost of £3 to £4 million which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, would he say what is the actual cost of providing these men with clothes at the moment; and, from the point of view of Service commitments in administering such an arrangement, is there no possibility of it being done by civilians?

That would not make any difference to the ultimate cost in (a) the finance of the Service Department and (b) the manpower pool in the country's need for economic recovery. For both reasons, we wish to reject that suggestion. With regard to the present cost of clothing, I should require notice before I could give the exact amount, but I am quite certain that we should not wish to set up again the system of which we have now got rid. We could not provide a cash equivalent for less than the sum I have stated.

If it was not officially realised that a man going out of the Service would have to buy a lot of clothes, why was an allowance of 60 clothing coupons given? Will not my right hon. Friend reconsider this? Would he also tell the House how much money he estimates the average National Service man can save out of his Army pay?

It would depend a great deal upon his individual habits as to how much he saves out of his pay and emoluments. So far as clothing coupons are concerned, of course there would be a wide range, according to the man's ideas and those of his family as to what he required in clothing and, therefore, with clothing rationed, we gave him what we considered to be an adequate number.

Food Supplies

Pigs

58.

asked the Minister of Food by what authority the instruction that a person wishing to fatten a pig must register it at the Post Office is described in leaflet L.L.P. of his Department as a regulation.

Under article 2 of the Livestock (Restriction on Slaughtering) Order, 1947, no pig may be killed for human consumption except under a licence. It is our practice only to grant a slaughtering licence to a person who has registered his pig at a Food Office. The leaflet L.L.P. is issued for the information of domestic pig keepers and sets out the procedure subject to which a licence is granted.

59.

asked the Minister of Food by what authority it is stated in form D.L.P. (A) of his Department that a person making a false statement when registering a pig is liable to three months' imprisonment, a fine of £100, or both.

The authority is paragraph (2) of Regulation 82 and paragraph (1) of Regulation 92 of the Defence Regulations.

Potatoes (Consumption)

60.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in order to make the best use of available stocks, he will re-establish on a suitable scale, the "Eat-MorePotato" campaign.

No, Sir. Consumption has already returned to about the level it reached as a result of the strong publicity campaign of the war years.

Will there be an "Eat-more-meat" campaign in the immediate future?

Bananas

61.

asked the Minister of Food when he expects the supply of bananas to be increased so that they may be purchased by all who want them.

Our imports of bananas are increasing and by longterm contracts and in other ways we are doing what we can to increase them still further. At present, however, the supplies we can get amount to little more than half the pre-war quantity and I am afraid that it may be some time before we have a full supply.

Would the right hon. Lady make a special effort to get more fruit into this country between now and our own fruit growing season in view of the general scarcity of fruit?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in accordance with evidence which I have submitted to her Department, children in the St. John's Wood area, as one example, are not getting the bananas intended for them, and.will she do something about it?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that ample quantities of bananas are obtainable in France at quite reasonable prices for anyone who wants them? Surely we are much more a banana producing Empire at the present time than the French?

May I take it from the right hon. Lady's answer that she regards the banana as a vegetable and not a fruit?

Castor Beans And Oil

62.

asked the Minister of Food what stock of castor beans and castor oil he has in this country; what was the average price of purchase; at what price he expects to realise them; and for what period he expects them to last.

It is not in the public interest to disclose information about our purchase prices or stocks. Our present selling prices are £142 and £135 per ton according to quality.

Would the Minister say whether these stocks have deteriorated and whether they have been stored in well-constructed warehouses?

As far as I know they have been properly stored. If the hon. Gentleman has any information I shall be only too pleased to look at it.

Sugar Ration (Babies)

63.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will consider increasing the sugar ration for bottle fed babies since many mothers find it impossible to make the present ration sufficient for the four week period.

No, Sir; experts on infant feeding were agreed when the sugar ration stood at eight ounces a week that this provided sufficient sugar for the normal baby. It is now 10 ounces.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some mothers are complaining that the children do not get sufficient sugar and that they have to use the rations of the family for the purpose of supplementing the allowance for the children?

If my hon. Friend will work this out I think he will find that a baby feed needs one-and-a-half tea-spoonsful of sugar. There are eight tea-spoonsful to an ounce, and if you have five feeds a day that is sufficient.

Milk (Price)

64.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will reduce the price of milk during the period when any quantity is available so that those people who can only afford to spend a certain weekly amount on this most useful food can reap the benefit of the extra quantities obtainable.

No, Sir. Milk is heavily subsidised and I should not be justified in adding to the subsidy by reducing the retail price. Expectant mothers and children under five already receive a pint a day at reduced prices.

Will the right hon. Lady explain why she subsidises any such commodity as meat, which is in inadequate supply, yet refuses to subsidise milk, which is freely available at the present time?

I have already said that we are subsidising milk at the rate of £62 million this year.

Meat (Imports From France)

65.

asked the Minister of Food what is the size of the meat surplus which France has offered to him as available for export during the next six months; and how much of it he hopes to buy for this country.

The French Authorities have informed us that a few thousand tons of frozen pork are likely to be available for export to this country during the next few months. We will buy all this pork if price and quality are satisfactory and provided that arrangements for safeguarding animal health can be made effective.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that certain newspapers are giving the impression that France has a considerable surplus of meat available for immediate sale to this country and that her Department is wantonly refusing to take it? For the sake of the people of this country, will she please make it quite clear that that is not the situation?

I am only too pleased to make it quite clear that we are co-operating with the French authorities in this matter.

Can the Minister say why we are not getting meat from Ireland instead of horseflesh from the Continent?

West Indies Sugar (Price)

66.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement with regard to Jamaica's request for an increase of £3 a ton for sugar purchased from the island by Britain.

His Majesty's Government announced in December last that the price of £27 5s. per ton paid in 1948 to Colonial producers of raw sugar would be maintained for the 1949 crops. Careful consideration was given to the British West Indian request for an increase of £3 per ton, but it was decided that no increase over the 1948 price could be justified.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to see that, in these negotiations, the price of cane sugar will not be based at all on the price of sugar from beet?

We take into account the price of both when we are considering the price to be paid.

Transjordan (Britishtroops)

76.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has given to the request of the Transjordan Government that British troops should patrol the frontier of Transjordan from Aqaba to the Dead Sea; and what action he proposes to take.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) on 28th March.

Can the Minister say whether there is any truth in the statement that the Transjordan Government did not request our Government to send troops there? Can he make a statement on that matter?

They made a request to us in the terms which I described in the answer to which I have referred.

Building Workers (Service Departments)

77.

asked the Minister of Works how many building workers were employed on 1st March on building work for the Army, Navy and Air Forces.

It is estimated that at the end of January, 1949, approximately 27,500 building and civil engineering workers were employed on work for the Service Departments.

Will not the Minister consider releasing some of these 27,000 men to build houses needed for workers in the slums and for people in overcrowded conditions?

A number of these men were employed in building houses needed for members of the Services.

East African Groundnut Scheme (Fertilisers)

78.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what quantities of nitrogenous fertilisers have been exported from the United Kingdom to assist the East African groundnut scheme in the new system of crop rotation.