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Written Answers

Volume 463: debated on Monday 4 April 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 4th April, 1949

Transport

Lydney-Sharpness Bridge

4.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will arrange for a further inquiry into the possibility of making the Lydney-Sharpness bridge available for road traffic as well, in view of the small number of trains using it and the postponement of the Severn Bridge Scheme.

No. I am satisfied that, as I stated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend in December, 1947, adaptation of the bridge for use by road as well as rail traffic would not be satisfactory for either.

A 5 Road, London—Shrewsbury

5.

asked the Minister of Transport how many "Major Road Ahead" signs there are in each direction on the A 5 road between London and Shrewsbury.

There are three "Major Road Ahead" signs in each direction on this road.

Aust-Beachley Ferry, River Severn

11.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the slow, unsatisfactory and dangerous conditions operating at the Aust-Beachley Ferry over the Severn; and, in view of the fact that the new Severn Bridge has been postponed, if he will take steps to see that the arrangements are improved and additional ferry-boats provided to meet the increased number of motor cars which will be using it this summer.

This ferry is privately owned and I have no jurisdiction over it. I understand that a second vessel will be put into service again this year in time for Easter, and will run, as traffic requires, throughout the summer. The service should thus be equal to that provided last year.

Road Diversion, County Durham

asked the Minister of Transport what proportion of the sum of £62,000 to be spent on diverting A.67 near Winston Village, County Durham, will be found by the Exchequer and local authorities, respectively.

Seventy-five per cent. of the approved cost of this scheme will be met from the Road Fund and the remainder by the Durham County Council. The correct estimate of the cost is about £76,000. I regret that, by an oversight, an out-of-date estimate was incorrectly given in my answer of 21st March to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling).

asked the Minister of Transport how many acres of agricultural land will be lost as a result of carrying out the scheme to divert road A. 67 near Winston, County Durham.

Road Safety (Propaganda)

asked the Minister of Transport what is the cost of the salaries of the staff of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; and what is the total of receipts from the sales of road safety propaganda material and the rent of exhibitions, for the year 1947–48.

The Society inform me that in the financial year 1947–48 the salaries and wages of their staff totalled £57,100, including £7,632 for staff employed on activities other than road safety. Receipts from the sale of road safety propaganda material and from the hire of exhibitions amounted to £64,736.

Ministry Of Supply

Galvanised And Asbestos Pipes

14.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that there is a serious shortage of galvanised and asbestos piping which is preventing many schemes to provide a water supply to farms from being implemented; and what steps he is taking to increase supplies.

Additional plant for the production of steel water tubes has recently been installed and is now operating. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works that the capacity to produce asbestos pipes is being fully used, but production is insufficient to meet both home and export requirements. An increase in manufacturing capacity would not at present improve the supply of pipes except at the expense of other asbestos and asbestos cement goods, owing to the shortage of asbestos fibre.

Jigs And Tools (Production)

20.

asked the Minister of Supply why, in view of the encouragement given to C.V.A. Jigs, Moulds and Tools, Ltd., Brighton and Hove, they were not consulted before the Jacobs Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was invited to come over to this country to compete with them; how far C.V.A. has up to now been able to supply this country's needs; and what is the projected output of Jacobs in this country.

The Jacobs Manufacturing Company of U.S.A. were not invited by my Department to set up production in this country. The Jacobs chucks will be produced by a British firm under an arrangement made with the U.S. Company, who will have a minority financial interest. It is contrary to normal practice to disclose information about the production of individual firms.

Surplus Commando Knives

21.

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent his Department is responsible for the disposal of Commando daggers as surplus war stores; and if he is aware that these are available in certain retail shops and can be purchased by children.

All surplus stocks of Commando knives handed over to my Department for disposal are broken down to recover the metal. None of these knives has been sold by my Department.

Ministry Of Works

Village Halls (Building Licences)

23.

asked the Minister of Works how many licences for the building of village halls were granted during 1948.

Opencast Mining (Damage Claims)

26.

asked the Minister of Works when the payment of £234 plus architect's fees, agreed by both parties in August 1947, will be made to the Gosforth resident, particulars of whose case have been sent him, who had his house damaged by opencast coal working two years ago; and what is the reason for the long delay between the agreement upon the sum and its payment.

Payment of this amount, which was agreed in August, 1948, was made on 31st March. I very much regret the delay, which has been due to the great pressure of work on the staff of my Newcastle Office who have had to deal with a very large number of claims of this kind.

Germany

Frontier Adjustments

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will place plans and maps in the Library to show the proposed revision of the West German frontier.

Details of the provisional adjustments to the frontier have not yet been made public. When this has been done I will be glad to accede to my hon. Friend's request.

Ruhr Industries (Trustees)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what basis the German administrators for the Ruhr industries are being selected; and which German authorities or interests have been consulted or asked to submit panels of possible names.

Trustees for the coal and steel industries in the bizone are being selected by the British and United States Military Governors from lists of names submitted by the German authorities and appropriate organisations. In the case of coal, the Bizonal Executive Committee, the Mineworkers' Trade Unions, the Federation of Trades Unions and various professional organisations were invited to submit nominations. In the case of steel, the bodies approached were the Bizonal Executive Committee, the German Steel

Federation, the Federation of Trades Unions, the Association of Chartered Accountants and the Law Society of Hamburg.

Industrial Potential (Agreement)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the terms of the London agreement on the future industrial potential of Western Germany.

I am afraid that it is not yet possible to add anything to the press communique issued on 31st March of which a copy has been sent to my hon. Friend.

Dr Adenauer (Speech)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has called for a report on the recent speech by Dr. Adenauer; and what steps he intends to take to prevent the revival of an aggressive military spirit in Western Germany.

No full verbatim report of Dr. Adenauer's speech to the Swiss Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is available. Dr. Adenauer has since contested the accuracy of some of the extracts which have been published, and the interpretation put upon them, but my right hon. Friend has had reports from His Majesty's Representative in Berne and from the British Military Governor in Germany, and it is evident that the speech did in fact contain certain expressions of opinion which show a regrettable lack of political responsibility and must do Germany serious harm in the eyes of the world.

Joint Export-Import Agency

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the policy of the Joint Export-Import Agency with regard to the introduction and promotion of Germans employed in the senior grades of service of the Agency and to the number of Germans so employed; and what steps are being taken to carry out this policy.

It has been the policy of the Joint Export-Import Agency in the past to engage Germans for responsible positions in so far as suitable persons were available. In view, however, of the staff requirements of the German Economic Administration, the Joint Export-Import Agency has refrained from calling upon Germans to fill any of the most senior appointments on its staff. As many of the functions previously exercised by the Joint Export-Import Agency have now been either handed over to German organisations or dispensed with altogether, no further recruitment of German staff is contemplated.

Switzerland (German Territory)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider proposing in the peace treaties to transfer to Switzerland those enclaves of German territory which lie within the Swiss frontier.

Siam (Arms And Equipment)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what supplies of arms are being sent to Siam; under what agreement; and for what purposes they are being supplied.

Sufficient arms are being sold to the Siamese Government to complete the equipment of five infantry battalions stationed in Southern Siam. Agreement for this transaction has been reached through normal diplomatic channels. The Siamese battalions will use these arms to preserve order on the Siamese-Malay frontier in co-operation with security forces in the Malay Federation. His Majesty's Government have also offered to supply a small quantity of equipment and arms for Siamese police units co-operating with British security forces in the border area.

Unrra (British Contribution)

40.

Jones asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make available to hon. Members the final report on United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association and state the total amount of British contributions to United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association.

I will place a copy of the report in the Library as soon as it is received in the Foreign Office. The total amount of the United Kingdom contribution to U.N.R.R.A. was £153,193,602 16s. 1d.

China (Uk Ex-Employees)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what amounts have so far been recovered from municipal councils in China on account of superannuation and other payments due from them to British subjects and advanced by his Department; and what prospects there are of such recoveries being effected.

Service benefits due to ex-employees of the former non-Chinese municipalities in China are among the municipalities' official obligations and liabilities responsibility for the assumption and discharge of which was assumed by the Chinese Government. Advances made by His Majesty's Government to United Kingdom ex-employees are recoverable when the Chinese Government makes payment to ex-employees. No payments have yet been made by the Chinese Government and consequently no recoveries have been effected. His Majesty's Government have continued to press the Chinese Government for an early settlement.

Bulgaria (British Note)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been received to the Note sent to the Bulgarian Government on 12th March referring to the alleged confessions by the accused during the trial of the 15 Protestant pastors in Sofia recently.

There is, at present, nothing to be added to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member on 21st March.

Central Office Of Information (Lectures)

47.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether, in view of the fact that the Central Office of Information proposes to enlarge considerably the present list of subjects covered by its lecture service, he will again consider re-instating the United Nations in the list.

The Central Office is not proposing to widen the list of themes on which it provides speakers, but only to give more detailed talks about particular aspects of the economic theme. Modifications in the subjects must be made from time to time in the light of the circumstances obtaining. Lectures on the United Nations were given over a period of 18 months from September, 1946—March, 1948. I do not think that the United Nations is a subject which qualifies at present for a place in the list.

Leasehold Committee (Report)

50.

asked the Attorney-General when he now expects to receive the Report of the Committee on Leasehold Reform.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Skeffington) on 28th March, 1949, and to the further replies arising therefrom.

Agriculture

Women's Land Army (Strength)

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many women are enrolled in the Women's Land Army; and what was the corresponding number a year ago.

The enrolled strength of the Women's Land Army on 18th March, 1949, was 16,912. On 18th March, 1948, it was 25,330.

Resettlement Grants

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many disabled ex-Service men have received agricultural settlement grants; and what has been the average amount of grant.

Five hundred and forty-four disabled ex-Service men have received grants under the Agricultural Resettlement Grants Scheme in England and Wales, the average amount of the grant being £132.

Labour Contracts

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will revise the hiring contracts for Agricultural Executive Committee labour so that a farmer pays only for the actual number of hours work put in on his farm.

I am not prepared to accept the principle that a farmer supplied with Agricultural Executive Committee labour shall be charged only for the hours actually put in by the worker on the farm, but I am considering, in consultation with the National Farmers' Union, who have made representations to me on the subject, whether some slight modification of the contract can be made without prejudice to the need to reduce the loss to the Exchequer arising from such labour services.

Tea-Breaks

63.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what fresh instructions he has issued to county agricultural executive committees on the subject of tea-breaks for their workers following the introduction of the 47-hour week in the agricultural industry; and what were his previous instructions to them on this subject.

No instructions have been issued to the county agricultural executive committees on the subject of tea-breaks. Committees are expected to follow the prevailing practice of local farmers in such matters.

Forestry Commission (Houses)

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many tied cottages are held by the Forestry Commission in England and Scotland, respectively.

Of the houses and cottages held by the Forestry Commission, 191 in England, and 163 in Scotland are let rent free to foresters, foremen, and certain other workers as part of their emoluments. In addition, 690 in England and 656 in Scotland are let on rents to tenants under agreements which require them to work either full-time or part-time for the Commission.

Poultry Rations

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will make a statement on the prospects of giving improved feeding-stuff rations to poultry keepers with less than an acre of land.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made in the House on 20th July, 1948. I cannot at present hold out any prospect of a general increase in rations for poultry keepers.

Rooks (Destruction)

asked the Minister of Agriculture in view of the fact that his Department have stated that rooks are beneficial rather than harmful to agriculture, he will take steps to discourage the wholesale slaughter of these birds which has taken place in previous years.

The statement that my hon. Friend refers to went on to say that

"where the numbers are excessive the harm they do outweighs the good."
I do not agree that there has been a wholesale slaughter of rooks in the past years. An investigation carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology in 1944–46 showed that the rook population had increased very substantially since 1930, and there is reason to believe that this increase has since continued. The action taken last year on the advice of my Department did little more than offset the natural increase of the year.

Food Supplies

Pickles And Sauces (Imports)

66.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will undertake to stop the import of salad cream and tomato sauce made to a lower standard, and sold at higher prices, than are permitted to manufacturers in this country.

Imported pickles and sauces must comply with the same standards as apply to the home manufactured products. If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any cases in which imported salad cream or tomato sauce do not conform to our standards, I will look into them. As to the second part of the Question, the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. I do not control the prices charged by manufacturers in this country.

Sweetened Dessert Powder

67.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will stop the import of packeted sweetened dessert powder which is unfair to British manufacturers who are having to discharge staff through inability to sell their products which are not allowed by his Department to be sweetened.

No, I am not aware that manufacturers in this country are unable to sell their products for the reasons given, but if the hon. Member has any particular case in mind and will let me have details, I will gladly look into it.

National Flour (Extraction)

71.

asked the Minister of Food what amounts of Vitamin A, B1 and B2 and calcium are available in wheaten bread; and what were the corresponding amounts in the pre-war white loaf.

I assume that by "wheaten bread" the hon. Member means bread made from National flour of 85 per cent. extraction level. There is no vitamin A in bread. The comparative figures for the vitamin B1 and B2 and calcium of the national and pre-war white bread are as follow (in milligrams per oz.):

National.White.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)0.0630.015
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.0280.013
Calcium313

72.

asked the Minister of Food what variation there has been in the rate of extraction of wheat in the preparation of flour during the past four years; and what is the type of reinforcement of flour now in use.

During the past four years the rate of extraction of National flour has varied between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent.: the current rate of extraction is 85 per cent. As regards the second part of the Question, National flour is reinforced with calcium (creta preparata) at the rate of 14 oz. per 280 lb.

Ewes And Sows (Slaughter)

82.

asked the Minister of Food the number of ewes in lamb slaughtered during the month of March, and the consequent loss in the potential meat supply of the nation.

I am afraid we could only obtain this information by extensive and costly inquiry.

83.

asked the Minister of Food what instructions are issued with regard to the possible slaughter of ewes in lamb and sows in pig; and to what extent meat inspectors are authorised to deal with this question.

As to ewes, I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given to the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) on 23rd February and 21st March. I am afraid it has been found impracticable to apply the same instructions to pregnant sows. Meat Inspectors are only authorised to decide the question whether a carcase is fit for human consumption.

Meat Supplies (Distribution)

asked the Minister of Food what proportion of meat distributed is used for personal rations; and how much is supplied to canteens and restaurants.

The proportions of total meat supplies distributed during 1948 for personal rations, to canteens and commercial caterers (including restaurants) were approximately:—

Per cent.
Personal rations74.4
Canteens—school and industrial7.4
Commercial caterers (including restaurants)2.8

Imported Wines (Storage)

73.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that, owing to the occupation of the vaults at London Docks with Algerian wine, it is not possible to accommodate in the vaults other wines which are now obstructing the dock roadway; and when the Algerian wine will be disposed of to the public.

My Department is not responsible for the storage of wine imported by the trade. Presumably importers take the precaution of ensuring that bonded stores are available before arranging for wines and spirits to be shipped to this country. Sales of Algerian wine are being made.

Scotland (Forestry Commission Flag)

86.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether Lyon King of Arms was consulted before the new flag for the Forestry Commission was decided upon.

No. The Forestry Commission are at present in communication with Lyon about the use of a flag on their property in Scotland.

British Army (Incident, Vienna)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information relating to the attack upon Corporals Douglas Thomson and Ronald Hudson of the Northamptonshire Regiment in Vienna on Sunday, 28th March by Russian soldiers whereby the two corporals were knocked unconscious.

This incident occurred about 2.45 p.m. on Sunday, 27th March, in front of the Imperial Hotel, which is the Russian headquarters in Vienna, where there are two wooden barriers on the pavement. According to statements made by Corporals Hudson and Thomson, they had passed the first barrier, and on reaching the second were shouted at by the Russian sentry, who also appeared to beckon them towards him; they went back to the sentry, who hit Corporal Thomson with the butt of his rifle, at the same time calling out the guard; the guard, on being turned out, proceeded to knock down Corporal Hudson; the two then walked back to the N.A.A.F.I. Club about 100 yards away; they sustained only minor bruises and abrasions, and are both now back at duty.On the following day Major-General Winterton, Deputy British Commissioner, called on Major-General Tsinev, the acting Deputy Commissioner of the Russian element, and protested against the treatment of the British soldiers; he pointed out that if in the opinion of the Russian guard commander they had committed a breach of the peace he should in accordance with the agreed procedure have apprehended them and sent for the International Patrol. Major-General Tsinev alleged that the British soldiers had tried to knock down one of the wooden barriers and had then attacked the Russian sentry; he agreed, however, that the guard commander had acted incorrectly in not holding the men and sending for the International Patrol; he stated that disciplinary action would be taken.

Air Training Corps (Strength)

asked the Secretary of State for Air what are the number of Air Training Corps Squadrons now recognised; the number of commissioned officers, other than regular officers, attached to these squadrons; and the number of N.C.O.'s and cadets enrolled.

On 31st December, 1948, there were 722 recognised squadrons, 2,684 commissioned officers, other than regular officers, attached to squadrons, and 43,006 enrolled cadets and cadet N.C.O.'s.