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Commons Chamber

Volume 463: debated on Monday 4 April 1949

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House Of Commons

Monday, 4th April, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Wandsworth And District Gas Bill Lords

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Transport

Potatoes (Carriage)

3. M

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that wholesale potato merchants in Bolton have been advised by the regional traffic officer that no part of their fuel issue may be used for carrying potatoes by road from the Eastern Counties or Yorkshire; and, in view of the fact that rail traffic demands the use of jute bags which are in short supply, and that these merchants have equipped themselves with suitable vehicles at great expense to handle this traffic, if he will take steps to annul this order.

The district transport officer's instruction was due to a misunderstanding. As soon as this was discovered the instruction was cancelled and the Bolton Potato Merchants' Association so informed.

Is the Minister aware that this confusion and the loss of £10 million to the taxpayer is due to interference by the Ministry of Food with the law of supply and demand, especially with potatoes?

I do not recognise the figure of £10 million in connection with this issue.

Shipping (Freight Payments)

asked the Minister of Transport what is the average time lapse between shipping of freights and payment made by Government Departments.

In general Government Departments make their shipping arrangements through ordinary commercial channels and I am therefore concerned only with freight payments made by my own Department. These are very small in amount and number, and are usually made within a week of the date of receiving claims.

Although the Minister says these cases are very small in number, is he aware that in many cases there is a great deal more delay than one week, and that it is placing some small shipping companies in great difficulty? Is he aware that this is a very bad example for the British Government to set?

Is the hon. Member referring to claims on my own Department? If so, and if he has any specific case in mind, I will look into it. If it affects another Department, he should put the Question to the Minister concerned.

Bus Stops (Car Parking)

7.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a regulation to prohibit vehicles other than buses from drawing up or parking within ten yards of an authorised bus stop and thus prevent the dislocation of bus queues.

Bus stop markings on the carriageway are being laid at a number of busy bus stops and experience shows that these are sufficient to discourage parking at such places. I do not propose to make a regulation at present.

Will my right hon. Friend expedite the marking of these bus stops in the way he suggests because a great deal of distress is being caused, particularly to women, children and old persons, as a result of the dislocation caused by unnecessary parking?

This is largely a matter for the initiative of local authorities, They know my general views on the subject.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of bus drivers are very careless in pulling up at the stops themselves, and in the interests of the passengers, as well as of any regulation he makes, will he draw the attention of the Board to this, as the regulation would otherwise be useless?

When he is considering this matter, will the Minister bear in mind that very often vehicles loading and unloading goods have to pull up adjacent to a bus stop and that due consideration should be given to the drivers of those vehicles?

Yes. As a matter of fact, general experience is that drivers are fairly careful to avoid such places as far as possible.

Footpath, Thorpe

8.

asked the Minister of Transport if his attention has been drawn to the danger to pedestrians in Sandhills Lane, Thorpe, Surrey, owing to there being no footpath; and when is it intended that a footpath shall be constructed.

Yes, Sit. The Surrey County Council, with whom the initiative rests as local highway authority, had a proposal for a footpath under consideration about a year ago, but it was not then found possible to provide for the scheme within the Road Fund estimates. Any application the council may now make for a grant will have my sympathetic consideration.

Is the Minister aware that it is considerably more than a year ago—in 1947—that the first application was made? Having now indicated that he would approve a grant, would the Minister accelerate this very necessary grant so that it can be made as soon as possible?

I did not indicate that I would approve a grant. I said it would receive my sympathetic consideration.

Road Maintenance (Grants)

9.

asked the Minister of Transport what official representations he has received on the inadequacy of his policy towards financing programmes of highway maintenance; whether he is satisfied that his grants are sufficient to ensure a reasonable standard of highway repair; and if he will make a statement.

Since I informed highway authorities in January of the grants likely to be made from the Road Fund towards the cost of maintenance of classified roads in 1949–50, two associations of local authorities and a few individual authorities have represented to me that the proposed grants will be inadequate for the satisfactory maintenance of the roads. I regret that existing economic conditions do not permit a larger provision but it is an advance on that for the financial year just ended and should enable the most important requirements to be reasonably well met.

I am sure the general public will be reassured by the interest that my right hon. Friend is showing in this matter.

Bicycles (Road Safety)

10.

asked the Minister of Transport if, in the interests of road safety, and in view of the improved supply position, he will now use his powers under the Road Traffic Acts of 1930 and 1934 to issue regulations requiring pedal cycles to be fitted with two efficient brakes and a bell.

Regulations to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee on Road Safety on this subject are under consideration.

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication as to how long that consideration is likely to take? Is he aware that in towns like Cambridge, where the number of cyclists in proportion to the population is very large, the defective brakes on pedal cycles are sometimes direct and frequently contributory causes of accidents? One recently was fatal.

No, I am afraid I cannot at the moment put any time to the examination of this problem.

Ministry Of Supply

Dumped Aircraft Components

13.

asked the Minister of Supply how many new, used or scrap aircraft engines were dumped by his Department in a pit near the aerodrome at Meir, Stoke-on-Trent; whether these and other aircraft components so dumped were first offered to the scrap or engineering trades; and what was the cost of dumping.

Several hundred scrap aero engines, but no new ones, were dumped at Meir about three years ago. I regret that I am unable to trace whether they were first offered to the scrap or engineering trades. The cost of dumping was trifling.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the second case in my constituency of extraordinarily wasteful practices by his Ministry? First, it was wireless sets, and now valuable scrap—accessories, magnetos, and so on—which ought to have been offered to the trade. Can he confirm the fact that this material was not offered?

I am afraid I cannot, because it happens that the people responsible are no longer with my Ministry, and I find it impossible to find an answer to that question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to review the whole question of scrap of aeroplanes and engines, as many of these parts could be used by civil operators on the air lift?

I am quite satisfied with the present system of getting rid of scrap or unwanted parts of aeroplanes. It is only that three years ago, it appears, some disused parts were dumped.

Is the right hon. Gentleman trying to tell the House that no records are kept in his Department of offers made by his Department?

There are ample records, but we cannot prove whether these articles were offered to the scrap merchants or to the trade.

Radar Apparatus (Export)

15.

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

I am not yet in a position to add anything to my reply to a previous Question by my hon. Friend on 21st March.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that reports indicate that the American and Canadian authorities have decided to put this equipment into separate radar networks across Northern Canada, and that my calculations indicate that this project will mean something like 40 stations costing £1 million each? As this is a type of business this country is well able to take care of, will my right hon. Friend ask the President of the Board of Trade to consult with the Canadian authorities during his projected visit?

I am aware of the reports about the installation of this equipment, and I am making inquiries. As soon as I can, I will let my hon. Friend know.

Military Aircraft (Exports)

16.

asked the Minister of Supply to which countries respectively were the following British military aircraft, Mosquito, Spitfire, Vampire, Tempest and Meteor, exported during the year ended 31st December, 1948.

I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate a list of countries in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the list:

During the year ended 31st December, 1948, these aircraft were delivered to the following countries:

Mosquito: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Turkey.

Spitfire: Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Holland, India, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden.

Vampire: France, India, Norway.

Tempest: India, Pakistan.

Meteor:—Argentine, Belgium, France, Holland.

Non-Ferrous Metals Production

17.

asked the Minister of Supply what are the names of his principal advisers, both full-time and part-time, on matters relating to the production of non-ferrous metals in the United Kingdom; and what is the approximate division of duties between the several officers and consultants.

It has recently been decided that arrangements shall be made for my Department to take over general responsibility for the production of nonferrous metals in the United Kingdom, except the inspection of health, safety and welfare measures. The division of responsibility between Departments has not yet been closely defined and no advisers have been appointed.

Will the Minister see to it, when he does appoint these advisers, that amongst them are some technical experts in Cornish tin mining?

The hon. Member may be sure that I shall appoint people who will be best equipped for the job.

Does this mean that the right hon. Gentleman's Department will now be responsible for the publication of the survey that is being made about non-ferrous metals in this country?

I think that that is rather a different question, and I should like to see it on the Order Paper.

Iron And Steel (Subsidiary Companies)

18.

asked the Minister of Supply if he is now in a position to announce any alterations to the lists, published on 15th and 22nd November, 1948, of subsidiary companies belonging to iron and steel companies named in the Third Schedule to the Iron and Steel Bill.

In consequence of Amendments of the Third Schedule to the Iron and Steel Bill, and information which has recently become available to me, there is an appreciable number of amendments to the lists circulated on 15th and 22nd November, 1948. I am sending the hon. Member a revised list showing, according to my present information, the wholly-owned and controlled subsidiaries of companies at present named in the Third Schedule to the Iron and Steel Bill, and I am also arranging for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.

In view of the intense interest in this matter, could the Minister arrange for the list to be released through the Press Association or, if not, for it to be published in HANSARD?

Yes, I will look into that. I am reluctant to publish it in HANSARD, for the list is very long and will probably have to be revised again.

The right hon. Gentleman could publish the alterations in HANSARD, perhaps?

Government Contractors

19.

asked the Minister of Supply whether the firm of Bon Marche Limited, of Brixton, is on the list of Government contractors.

12.

asked the Minister of Supply whether John Lewis (Partnership) are on the list of Government contractors.

No, Sir; neither of these firms is on the Ministry of Supply list.

Ministry Of Works

House Of Lords (Portrait)

22.

asked the Minister of Works whether he will alter the lighting of the portrait of Queen Victoria hanging near the public entrance to the House of Lords Chamber in order to make it properly visible.

The existing lighting system is loaded to capacity, but I will review the matter when the new sub-station is in operation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this portrait, which is a very fine one of a very great Queen, is quite invisible in its present position?

As I said, I will give due consideration to the matter when the new sub-station is ready.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am not asking for additional lighting but for an alteration in the present system?

Leased Building, South Ruislip

24.

asked the Minister of Works how many buildings in South Ruislip have been taken on lease by his Department; what is the area; what is the cost; and what is the purpose to which these building are to he put.

My Department has agreed to lease a building now being erected in Victoria Road, South Ruislip. The area, excluding corridors and lavatories, is about 110,000 square feet. It is not customary to disclose rents payable. The building has been allocated to the Air Ministry for use by the United States Air Force.

Could the Minister say on what grounds this building is being offered to the Air Ministry for this purpose? If it is suitable for accommodation, would it not be more fitting to offer it to reduce the waiting list of people in Ruislip and those parts?

It is not housing accommodation. As to why this is being done, that does not fall to me to decide.

Factory, Feltham

25.

asked the Minister of Works whether he will make a statement about his offer to rent for non-industrial purposes the factory of General Aircraft, Limited, at Feltham; and whether he will postpone entering into any agreement until further efforts have been made to find an industrial tenant.

I am consulting the Ministers concerned and would prefer not to make any further statement at present.

Does the Minister agree that it is very desirable to find an industrial use for this factory, in view of the large number of craftsmen who will remain out of work if it is used merely for storage?

That is trying to prejudge the discussions. As I have said, I prefer not to make any further statement now.

Building Workers (Service Departments)

27.

asked the Minister of Works how many of the 27,500 building workers employed on work for the Service Departments on 1st March were employed on building houses for members of the Services; and how many were employed on such work in Scotland.

Of the 27,500 building and civil engineering workers employed on work for the Service Departments at the end of January, 4,100 were employed in building houses for members of the Services. Three hundred and sixty-two of these were employed in Scotland.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will not take any more building labour from the local authorities for this work?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this accommodation for the Services is most urgently required, and that it will help recruiting?

Kuwait (Political Agent's Staff)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the political agent in Kuwait has had to assume very greatly increased responsibilities as a result of the operations of the Kuwait Oil Company and the consequent importance of Kuwait; and whether he is satisfied that the political agent has all the necessary staff to discharge his duties in these new circumstances.

My right hon. Friend is aware of this, and arrangements have already been made for the appointment of two additional officers to the political agent's staff.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is adequate air conditioning in the residence and offices of the political agent and his staff, as this greatly assists proficiency in working?

Argentine Railways (British Personnel)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now say what further information he has received regarding the present status of British personnel employed on the Argentine railways.

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Ambassador in Buenos Aires has reported that three British assessors to the Ministry of Transport have been deprived of their post In addition, one deputy manager and a dozen other British employees have been given notice of discharge. In none of these cases have the Argentine authorities offered adequate compensation or produced satisfactory reasons for ending their employment. This is in contravention of the agreement signed between Sir Montague Eddy and Senor Miranda on 13th February, 1947, at the time of the transfer of the railways.

His Majesty's Government are following developments closely, and are by no means satisfied with the way in which the Argentine Government have so far treated their obligations. Further representations are therefore being made to the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs on behalf of the British railways employees.

Will the hon. Gentleman inform the House of the results of those representations, and will he make it quite clear that in all parts of this House we do not assent to the Argentine Government's present behaviour?

Somalis (Government)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the Government's policy regarding the future government of the Somali people, including those in British Somaliland, the Ogaden, Somalia, which was formerly Italian Somaliland, and Juba-land.

His Majesty's Government propose to continue to administer British Somaliland as a British Protectorate. As regards the Ogaden, British forces have withdrawn from the greater part of this territory, which has now reverted to Ethiopian administration, though for administrative convenience certain border districts of the Ogaden still remain provisionally under British Military Administration. The future of the former Italian Colony of Somalia, which includes Jubaland, will be decided by the United Nations General Assembly when it reconvenes.

Is the Minister aware that from 1942 to 1947 practically the whole of the Somali people were united and contented under British administration, and was there not a plan for a united Somaliland, under United Nations trusteeship and under British administration; and further, has not the Secretary of State stated in this House that on no account would Somalia ever go back to Italy?

His Majesty's Government at one time stated their belief that a united Somalia would be the best solution, but that solution was not supported by the other Powers concerned.

Are we really to understand that the other Powers concerned know anything about Somaliland, with the exception of Italy itself, or about the Somali nation, and is the Under-Secretary aware that the plan for a united Somaliland was sound and just and generally accepted by the Somali people; and was it not only on account of the weakness both of British garrisons and British policy that the state of uncertainty which now prevails in Somaliland came about?

Has the Minister taken into consideration the unanimous view of the adjoining territories to Somaliland, whose views are identical with those put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman?

I do not think there is unanimity of view on this point, and we have to bear in mind the views of the other Powers concerned.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment at an early date.

North Atlantic Pact

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to convince the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that the Atlantic Pact is for purely defensive purposes.

It is apparent from the text of the North Atlantic Pact that it is purely defensive in character. This has also been made abundantly clear by my right hon. Friend both in this House and outside.

Can the Minister explain whether we are still bound by the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship which was signed in 1942 for 20 years; and will he also explain how we can fulfil our obligations under the Anglo Soviet Treaty of Friendship and our obligations under the Atlantic Pact at the same time?

The Pact is not directed against any State and is fully compatible with the Anglo-Russian Treaty. The Treaty is still technically operative.

As to the defensive nature of the Pact, is not the acid test of our sincerity in this matter contained in the question: "Would the Government welcome the adherence of Russia to this Pact?" and will my hon. Friend answer that question?

Is the Minister aware that, according to his own statement in this House, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is not in favour even of defence?

Germany (Export-Import Agency)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the respective nationalities of those holding senior posts in the Joint Export-Import Agency.

Of the eight most senior officials in the Joint Export-Import Agency, three are American, three British and two French.

Would the Minister be kind enough to give some information about the less senior officials?

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether each member of the Joint Export-Import Agency Board has one vote only; and whether decisions are binding when determined by a vote of members of the Board.

As the voting provisions which apply in the Board of the Joint Export-Import Agency are somewhat complicated, I would refer the hon. Member to Article 5 of the Bizonal Fusion Agreement of 17th December, 1947, which was published as a White Paper. The voting arrangements are there described in full.

Can the Minister say whether the answer to my Question is in the affirmative or otherwise? Is it on a straight and simple vote or are any other arrangements made for taking votes?

It is not a straight and simple vote. It is complicated, and for that reason I have not given a direct answer.

Foreign Service (Commonwealth Candidates)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals are under consideration to extend facilities to Commonwealth candidates desiring to join the United Kingdom Foreign Service to enable them to compete on more equal terms with candidates at home; whether it is intended to enlarge the scheme of exchange and secondment of members of the Commonwealth Foreign Services with the United Kingdom Foreign Service; and whether he will make a statement.

There is nothing in existing regulations to prevent young men and women from Commonwealth countries from competing for the United Kingdom Foreign Service on equal terms with candidates at home, and we are considering ways and means of extending facilities for such candidates. However, some Commonwealth countries now recruit candidates for their own Foreign Services, and we should not wish to attract applications in competition with them. The question of the exchange of members of the United Kingdom Foreign Service and those of Commonwealth countries depends on agreement with Commonwealth Governments. My right hon. Friend will lose no opportunity of promoting such exchanges.

Food Supplies

Tinned Fish

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

43.

—To ask the Minister of Food what additional species of tinned fish it is intended to market in the United Kingdom in addition to those which were generally available on the 1st January.

As the Minister is not present at the moment, I will return to this Question later.

On a point of Order. May I move that the Serjeant at Arms be instructed to send for the Minister?

Probably tunny and mackerel but I cannot yet say what quantities will be available or when the release will be made.

Syrup And Sweet Biscuits

44.

asked the Minister of Food whether, as from 24th April, he will consider de-rationing syrup, treacle and sweet biscuits, since the setting free of these commodities would enable the public to spread their demands and prevent a shortage in any one of them.

I shall continue to take foods off points whenever I can, but I cannot speculate about changes in advance.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman a member of the Government, and will the Government endeavour to see that they feed the people more adequately? Instead of introducing so much unwanted legislation, why not do something for the people's food?

Flour Supplies

65.

asked the Minister of Food why Mr. Hackett Jones of Cockmannings Farm, St. Mary Cray, was unable to get a supply of flour, as set out in the particulars which have been sent to him; and why he has brought out a scheme to restrict deliveries.

Mr. Hackett Jones will be able to obtain as much flour for his shop and catering business from his wholesalers as they sold him during the year before bread rationing ended. He cannot expect to buy only self-raising flour. As to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made in the House on 21st July, 1948.

Is the Minister aware that since that date the number of customers and the character of the area have changed? Will he try to take away all the red tape and let the people get on with the job?

We should very much like to abolish the flour restriction scheme, and we shall do so the moment supplies of flour enable it to be done.

Subsidies

68.

asked the Minister of Food what sums on the food subsidy account during the past 12 months have been applied to home-produced supplies of food, Commonwealth and Empire supplies and foreign supplies respectively.

If the subsidies on animal feedingstuffs are attributed to home production, the estimated total subsidy for the year to 31st March, 1949, can be analysed as follows:—Home production £280 million, or 58 per cent.; Commonwealth and Empire supplies £151 million, or 31 per cent.; Foreign supplies £53 million, or 11 per cent.

Purchases

69.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is satisfied that adequate publicity has been given to the fact that our principal foodstuffs are being bought by experts in the food trade.

The fact that our principal foodstuffs are bought by some of the leading experts in the food trades has already been given in replies to Questions and in the course of debate, and has received considerable publicity in some sections of the Press; but it can always bear repetition, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity of repeating it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reply which was given by our mutual right hon. Friend on this subject last Monday was published in only two of the leading national newspapers on the following day? Will he take steps to publish this very interesting information as a "Food Fact" in every newspaper for the benefit of the nation?

Catering Establishments (Meat)

70.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now consider ordering a meatless day in all restaurants and public eating places.

I think it is better to reduce the actual allowances of meat to catering establishments, and this we have already done.

Offences

74.

asked the Minister of Food to what extent his regulations render persons who consume rationed food illegally supplied liable to prosecution in the same way as the hotels and shopkeepers who provide it.

People who consume food that others have obtained illegally are not thereby liable to prosecution.

If the people who supply the food illegally can be convicted, why should not the comrades who spent the weekend at Manor House, Shanklin, also have to go to prison?

The hon. Member is running rather ahead. This matter is sub judice at the moment.

Cheese Ration (Stokers)

75.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will extend the extra cheese ration to gas works stokers.

No, Sir. Gas undertakings should be well able to provide canteen and packed meals services for their workers.

Is the Minister aware that many of these gas works undertakings have no canteens, and that it is almost impossible for the wives of the workers to send their husbands out with packed lunches to sustain them in this very exacting work?

I think that the answer is to encourage by every means in our power the provision of canteens.

Onions

76.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that considerable quantities of Polish onions are being sold in this country at 6s. for a 50 lb. bag; how this price compares with the minimum price that British growers charge for onions; what representations he has received on this matter from British growers; and what remedial action he proposes.

My information is that Polish onions are fetching 12s. a cwt. for medium sizes and 16s. a cwt. for the larger sizes, ex quay. The most recent wholesale prices for English onions range from 4s. to 16s. a cwt. The total quantity of onions imported from Poland since the beginning of this season is less than 2,500 tons. I have received no representations from growers recently about these Polish imports. I am not proposing any remedial action since I am glad to say that both English and Polish onions are now selling to the housewife at from 2d. a lb. instead of 4½d. a lb. under control.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has stated the total imports from Poland, may I ask whether it is a fact that in the coming year more onions are to be imported from Poland and other countries than the whole of the annual consumption of onions in the United Kingdom?

Is it still the right hon. Gentleman's policy to continue to buy food abroad at the cheapest possible price regardless of the effect on British agriculture?

No, Sir. Certainly pot regardless of the effect and equally not regardless of the price, to the housewife.

Horseflesh (Retail Prices)

77.

asked the Minister of Food what are the maximum retail prices fixed for horseflesh for human consumption; and if he is satisfied that housewives in London and elsewhere are not being charged more than these prices.

Maximum retail prices of horseflesh for human consumption are 1s. per lb. for some cuts, and 8d. per lb. for others. All steps possible are being taken to prevent overcharging. If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any case of overcharging I will gladly have it investigated.

Is the Minister aware that in many cases the price list is in very small type so that it can hardly be noticed, and in view of the cut in the ordinary meat ration is it proposed to put horseflesh on the ration?

The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is, "No, Sir." In reply to the first part, I agree that there is difficulty of enforcement here, but we must do our best.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the selling prices of horses for slaughter makes it virtually impossible to sell horsemeat at the controlled price?

Dutch Meat Products

78.

asked the Minister of Food what quantities of meat and meat products, respectively, and of what values, he has agreed to buy under the Anglo-Netherlands Trade Agreement, 1949.

We have agreed the following import quotas for meat products from the Netherlands in 1949: canned meat and sausages, cooked sausages, chicken paste and salami, to the value of £1,500,000; game and rabbits to the value of £.60,000; and poultry to the value of £100,000. I cannot estimate the tonnages because of the different prices for the various foods. Poultry and rabbits are bought by the Ministry of Food and the other items are imported by private traders under licence. We were not offered any carcase meat.

Potatoes (Licences)

80.

asked the Minister of Food how many potato grower-salesmen's licences have been issued each year since potato control licensing regulations were introduced by his Department; and how many such licences have been issued each month during the past year.

As the reply involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the table:

The numbers of grower-salesman licences issued each year since August, 1942, when permanent licences were first introduced, are as follows:

1st August-31st December, 194210,054
1943824
1944428
1945204
1946175
1947160
1948982
1st January-31st March, 1949104

The numbers issued in each of the last 12 months were:

1948
April7
May5
June195
July213
August159
September109
October63
November105
December77
1949
January55
February32
March17

81.

asked the Minister of Food how many ware potato merchants' licences have been issued to date; and how many have been issued each month during the last 12 months.

As the reply involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the right hon. Gentleman persisting in his former policy of keeping the granting of these licences to the minimum?

We are still having to license potato merchants. During the present period of control I am afraid that that is inevitable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman keeping to the minimum the number of licences he grants?

I am not quite clear what the hon. and gallant Member means by that, but we are keeping it to the figure we think is a proper one in existing circumstances.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not changed his policy in regard to the granting of these licences? According to my information he has been granting more lately.

No, Sir. I do not think there is any change. We are granting the ones which it seems proper to grant in present circumstances.

Following is the table:

4,140 ware potato merchants' licences had been issued up to 31st March, 1949, and of this number 3,634 are now in force. The numbers issued each month during the last 12 months were as follows:

1948
April3
May1
June21
July30
August9
September17
October13
November21
December25
1949
January10
February17
March22

Feedingstuffs

79.

asked the Minister of Food with which countries of the sterling area he is now negotiating for the purchase of feedingstuffs to be imported into this country.

Australia is the only significant supplier within the sterling area of cereal feedingstuffs. We have bought their exportable surplus of barley and oats, and have just fixed a price for the sorghums which will be available from the first crop of the Overseas Food Corporation's Queensland scheme this year.

Can the Minister say what is the quantity of barley and oats he has just bought from Australia?

We do not yet know what their exportable surplus will be in this crop year.

Pig Feedingstuffs

45.

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the fact that it is impossible to get sufficient pig feedingstuffs from non-dollar sources, he will discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the advisability of setting dollars aside for this purpose with a view to stimulating the desire in the country to implement bacon and pork supplies.

No, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury gave to the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) on 31st March.

The Prime Minister is not unaware of the need for producing more meat in this country, and would not the spending of dollars on feedingstuffs be a most valuable investment, the return from which would be quick and for the benefit of this country?

Perhaps the hon. Member will study the reply given by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, which will give him a very full answer.

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us have studied that reply; is he not also aware that the Economic Survey for 1947 specifically stated that £1,000 worth of feedingstuffs would save the import of £2,000 worth of finished products, and in those circumstances is it not wise now to consider spending dollars on feedingstuffs instead of on bacon, ham and eggs?

I have nothing to add to the reply. The hon. Member will realise that feedingstuffs will not provide bacon next week.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the pledge given by the Lord President of the Council, in 1947, that if need be, dollars would be spent on feedingstuffs?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why, if he considers it economic to buy raw materials for other industries, it is not an economic proposition to buy raw materials for the agricultural industry?

It is economic, and we are buying a great deal; it is a question of the amount.

War Office (Name)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will change the name of the War Office to the Army Office, and so indicate its real function more accurately.

This change would involve legislation, which might well be controversial. In view of the pressure of more important legislation, I think there is no immediate need for any change.

If the principle suggested in this Question were adopted, would it not be necessary to re-name the Ministry of Food?

Justices Of The Peace (Age)

48.

asked the Attorney-General whether it is his policy not to appoint justices of the peace over the age of 60 years; and whether he gives special consideration in the case of a person who, although turned 60, has special qualifications for an appointment, such as a barrister or solicitor.

My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, who is responsible for the appointment of justices of the peace, is reluctant to appoint persons to a commission for the first time if they have reached the age of 60, except where they possess special legal qualifications.

Is the Attorney-General aware that I fared much better with the Lord Chancellor; that I have taken his advice and written to the Lord Chancellor, who has now given way; and may I ask him not to send in a bill for a fee for the advice he gave me?

Contempt Of Court (Proceedings)

49.

asked the Attorney-General why the recent proceedings against a newspaper for contempt of court were not undertaken by the Director of Public Prosecutions rather than at the instance and expense of a private individual; and whether, to avoid the odium and possible injustice which may attend private prosecutions in such cases, he will give an assurance that in future matters savouring of contempt in similar circumstances will be considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to proceedings at the public expense.

Under the existing law, it is the right of a private individual to initiate proceedings for contempt of court if he is so advised. Immediately following the publication to which the hon. Member refers, the Director of Public Prosecutions was informed by the legal advisers of the accused person to whom the alleged contempt referred that they were proposing to institute proceedings in respect of it on behalf of their client, and asking for the Director's assistance in so doing, which he accordingly gave them. The Director of Public Prosecutions is always prepared to consider action in regard to any question of contempt relating to criminal proceedings which is brought to his notice, or of which he becomes aware, and the assurance for which I am asked is already carried out in practice.

Without impugning in any way the desirability of allowing to private individuals the right to have their wrongs redressed, may I ask whether it would not be far better in cases of this kind if the assertion of the public principle involved were undertaken by the public authority, rather than left to the advisers of one who is under trial on a serious charge and who must be to some extent influenced by his position?

The matter is not altogether an easy one. Under the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1908, the Director of Public Prosecutions may take over the conduct of criminal proceedings initiated by a private prosecutor, and assuming proceedings for contempt are within that Act—as I think myself they are—the Director would in a proper case be entitled to take them over. But, as the hon. Member will appreciate, proceedings for contempt may prejudice the accused person to whom the contempt is related by attracting further publicity to the matter; therefore, where proceedings for contempt are initiated by the advisers of that accused person, who know how best to deal with the matter in the way least prejudicial to what is likely to be the eventual line of defence, the Director has to exercise great discretion in intervention.

Is it not the fact that in a case of this kind a contribution towards the taxed costs of the aggrieved party is, in fact, made by the Crown, which partially meets the point made by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg)?

Well, no. In this case an order for costs was made, and the costs will be recovered against those who were found guilty of contempt.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether it is the case, as has been stated, that the expenses in these proceedings are, in fact, being borne by another newspaper?

I understand that to be the fact, but my Department is not officially concerned with that.

Agriculture

Bovine Tuberculosis (Consultations)

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has completed his consultations with the farming organisations and the veterinary profession on the arrangements to be made for the systematic eradication of bovine tuberculosis and the establishment of clean areas; and when he will put such a scheme into operation.

No, Sir. While discussions with the interests concerned show that there are no wide differences of view as to the main principles on which an area eradication plan should be based, a few difficult questions remain as regards the financial provision of such a plan. I hope, however, that these may be resolved in the near future. Meanwhile, substantial progress continues to be made under the voluntary Tuberculosis (Attested Herds) Scheme, which now includes nearly a million and a half cattle.

Is the Minister remembering that these consultations have gone on for very many months; and does he not agree that to get an effective scheme for irradicating bovine tuberculosis we must have co-ordination which can only be done through his Department?

I fully appreciate that, and I hope the hon. Member will not forget the evidence side of determining an eradication area.

Fishmeal

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what results he has had from his campaign to persuade fishermen to land whole fish instead of dumping heads and tails in the sea.

There has been no such campaign. At one time maximum price schedules laid down by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food had the effect of encouraging the landing of headless fish, but that was corrected last November, and I feel that it would be difficult to justify taking any further steps at the present time in view of the need to land maximum quantities of edible fish.

Is the Minister aware that I understood he was carrying on a campaign; and, as he says he is not, will he consider carrying on a very strenuous campaign, as at the present time fishmeal is of the utmost importance for rearing pigs?

I fully agree with the hon. Member that fishmeal is of some importance, but while there is a shortage of other kinds of food, the maximum quantity of edible fish is also a grave necessity.

Is the right hon. Gentleman stating that since the order was altered, there has, in fact, been no change at all?

Well, perhaps a change, but a change for the worse from the point of view of fishmeal.

Foot-And-Mouth Disease (Serum)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider making experiments in this country with the treatment of foot-and-mouth disease by a serum vaccination in view of the success achieved by the French Ministry of Agriculture.

Tests with serum have been carried out in this country and its value in controlling outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease is well understood. The use of the serum would not, however, be entirely effective in preventing outbreaks or the spread of the disease, and I am satisfied that the present eradication policy is the best and most economical in the circumstances of this country.

Can we have an assurance from the Minister that research will be made into this all-important matter, in view of the success that has attended this treatment in France?

Perhaps it would not be out of place if I were to tell the House that the success achieved by the French Ministry of Agriculture may be measured by the fact that during January, 1949—the last month for which we have figures—there were 1,773 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in France; in this country, we have had 24 outbreaks in the last 15 months.

Is it not possible for farmers to get hold of this serum so that they can try it out voluntarily?

Potato Acreage

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what information he has about the acreage which farmers propose to allocate for potatoes for the coming season.

An inquiry of the county agricultural executive committees in January suggested that the potato acreage in England and Wales might fall short of the target by about 5 per cent. Since then deliveries of seed potatoes from Scotland and Ireland to English merchants—which give a rough indication of prospective acreage—have improved and are now up to the total for the same date last year.

Is the Minister aware that the difficulty of disposing of this year's crop of ware potatoes may militate against the planting of the desired acreage this year; and will he take steps to assure farmers that if they do grow the required acreage they will be disposed of this year better than they were last year?

We not only give that guarantee, but the price they shall receive has already been fixed.

Production

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider the printing of a short message from him which could be posted up on farms throughout the country asking farmers and their staffs to step up food production to the utmost for the good of the nation.

No, Sir. I am satisfied that the diverse means already employed, not only for asking farmers to step up production but also to advise them on the methods by which they can do so, are adequate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman's refusal due to the difficulty he finds in devising a suitable message for onion and tomato growers?

South Downs (Public Rights)

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that large areas of the South Downs have been handed to the East or West Sussex Agricultural Committees for restoration pending derequisitioning, and that there is public anxiety at the resulting interference with public rights of way and other public rights in this area; and if he will make a statement on this matter.

I am satisfied that the East and West Sussex Agricultural Executive Committees do all they can to avoid interfering with public rights on and over the South Downs so far as that is consistent with the essential work of cultivation during the period before the land is derequisitioned.

Is the Minister doing his best to speed up handing this land back to its rightful owners; and if I give him details of serious interference with rights of way—interference such as no private landlord would dare to make—will he look carefully into each case and do his best to put these things right?

I shall be very happy to look at whatever information the hon. Member cares to send along. Perhaps I ought to tell him and the House that the Society of Sussex Downsmen state in their 1947 Report:

"The valuable work that is being under-taken by the East and West Sussex County Committees unfortunately led to complaints to the Society concerning bridle roads and footpaths. Their task is a very difficult one, and from interviews between representatives of the Committee and the Society it is obvious that they do respect the public rights, and do all in their power to avoid damage to bridal roads and footpaths."

Will the Minister be kind enough to look at the Society's 1948 Report, which he will find tells a very different story indeed?

Horses, Export And Slaughter (Committee)

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has now completed his consideration of the value under which a horse may not be exported from this country, and if, to prevent the export of horses for butchery, he will introduce legislation to raise the amounts under the Exportation of Horses Act, 1937, to £80 for heavy draft horses, £60 for tanners and £10 for asses.

It has now been decided, as announced in the House on 21st March, to set up a committee to inquire into questions concerning the slaughter of and traffic in horses. I think it desirable that this matter should be considered in the light of their report.

64.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is now able to announce the names of the committee which is to inquire into the slaughter of horses, and the scope of the inquiry.

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now announce the terms of reference and the names of the members of the committee he is setting up to inquire into the traffic in horses to Belgium and elsewhere.

The terms of reference to the committee will be to inquire into

  • (1) the extent of the export trade in horses for (a) work and (b) slaughter and the considerations affecting the continuance of the trade for either purpose;
  • (2) the extent of the practice of slaughtering horses for food for human and animal consumption in this country; and the considerations affecting the continuance of the practice;
  • (3) the effect of the export and slaughter of horses on the supply of working horses in this country;
  • (4) the desirability or otherwise of encouraging the breeding of horses for slaughter;
  • (5) the statutory provisions designed to prevent unnecessary suffering by horses while being transported by air, rail, road or sea and in the slaughter-houses; whether such provisions are adequate and whether they are properly enforced; and to make recommendations.
  • I am glad to say that the Earl of Rosebery has consented to be the chairman of the committee. The names of the other members will be announced as soon as possible.

    Woodlands Dedication Scheme

    60.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture how many owners of woodlands in England and Wales have dedicated their woods; what acreage this represents; and whether he has any information on the numbers and acreage which are in process of dedication.

    Dedication covenants have been completed in respect of five estates in England and Wales, involving 3,313 acres; approximately 85,000 acres of woodlands on 141 other estates are in process of being dedicated.

    Steel And Timber

    84.

    asked the Economic Secretary to the Treasury how much steel is now allocated to the building, mining and railway wagon industries for the manufacture of commodities which were made of timber before the war.

    I am afraid that information in the form sought by the hon. Member is not available.

    Now that timber is more plentiful, would it not be advisable to stop this wasteful use of steel, and direct it into the export trade?

    I agree that there is need for re-examination of this problem. We are making a thorough examination of the possibilities of substitution between steel and timber and other relevant materials.

    Fuel Oil (Supplies)

    85.

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will publish a priority list for new fuel oil installations.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Sharp), on 31st March.

    As that reply gave no information about the setting up of priority lists, which would thereby avoid an appearance of discrimination, would not the right hon. Gentleman consider this proposal, which would have wide support among industrial and domestic users?

    I do not think there can be any question of setting up priority lists on the basis of different industries, because the position in each industry considerably differs. We have to judge each firm on the principles explained in my previous answer.

    Bill Presented

    Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board Confirmation (Special Procedure)

    "to confirm, in accordance with the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, an order of the Minister of Health under the Water Act, 1945, relating to Mid-Northamptonshire."

    Presented by Mr. Bevan.

    On a point of Order. As this is the first time, Sir, that a Bill of this nature has been introduced into the House against the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee, would it be in Order to move that the Bill be not now considered?

    I have had no notice of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question, but I am certain that it would not be in Order to move anything of that kind now. This merely relates to the presentation of the Bill. I asked what date it should be taken into consideration, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman's point can be considered on that date. At the moment, there can be no point of Order on the Bill.

    Bill ordered (under subsection (4) of Section 6 of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945) to be considered upon Wednesday, and to be printed. [Bill 107.]

    Business Of The House

    Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

    Orders Of The Day

    Agricultural Marketing Money (No 2)

    Resolution reported:

    "That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the Agricultural Marketing Acts, 1931 to 1933, and for purposes connected therewith, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase in the sums payable, out of moneys so provided, under subsection (5) of Section sixteen of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931, in respect of the remuneration of the members of, or of the expenses of, commissions or committees, which is attributable to any provision of the said Act of the present Session which applies the said Section sixteen to Agricultural Marketing Re-organisation Commissions for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, for England and Northern Ireland and for Scotland and Northern Ireland or enables committees of investigation to consist of a chairman and five members (over and above any additional members appointed when the committee are considering a scheme applicable to Northern Ireland or any part of Northern/quote Ireland)."

    Resolution agreed to.

    Agricultural Marketing Bill

    Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee) read.

    Bill recommitted to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 3, page 5, line 21; Clause 18, page 14, line 37, line 38, line 41 and line 42; and Clause 19, page 16, line 12 and line 14, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Thomas Williams.—[ Mr. T. Williams.]

    Bill immediately considered in Committee.

    [Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]

    Clause 3—(Saving For, And Amendments Of, S 9 Of The Principal Act)

    3.26 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 5, line 21, at the end, to add:

    (3) In paragraph (a) of subsection (3) of the said section nine (which requires that committees of investigation shall consist of a chairman and four other members) for the word "four," there shall be substituted the words "either four or five."
    Hon. Members who have been following this Bill will recall that I said on Second Reading that there were many questions to be dealt with by a committee of investigation; that it and the Commission on Monopolies and Restrictive Practices would be more or less identical, and that an overlap in membership would be necessary so that both of them might pursue a common policy. For this purpose we expect to invite the President of the Board of Trade to nominate one member for any committee of investigation. We more or less know the standard for committees of investigation—a legal chairman, and four members, of whom one would be a trade unionist, one an accountant, one an economist and one a business man.

    I imagine that in most cases the representative selected by the President of the Board of Trade would fit into that scheme of things. There may however be the odd case in which that particular representative of the Monopolies Commission would not fulfil any one of the four designations, and in that case we should require a fifth. The Money Resolution was agreed to the other evening without a Debate. The Amendments to Clauses 3, 18 and 19 are merely to fit the Bill into that Money Resolution. There is no change in principle whatsoever, and we merely cover ourselves in case the committee of investigation should consist of six rather than five members.

    My hon. Friends on this side of the Committee will agree to the Minister's suggestion. He mentioned six members instead of five, but did he not mean four instead of five?

    We are pleased to note that it is the intention of the Government to maintain the balance of the committee of investigation as heretofore. I take it from what the Minister has said that it will not inevitably mean that there will be an additional member in every case, but only when the circumstances deem it advisable.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 18—(Exte