House Of Commons
Tuesday, 5th April, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
People's Dispensary For Sick Animals Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
Clyde Navigation (Superannuation) Order Confirmation Bill
"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, relating to Clyde Navigation (Superannuation) (to be proceeded with under Section 7 of the Act),"presented by Mr. Woodburn; and ordered (under Section 7 of the Act) to be considered Tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 108.]
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he considers that, in addition to gas and air, the trilene apparatus for analgesia is now suitable; and if it is available for issue.
Expert medical opinion is not yet agreed on the unsupervised use by midwives of any existing trilene apparatus. The Medical Research Council have decided to set up a Committee to investigate the problem.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the meantime, certain local authorities are not using gas and oxygen, alternatively, as they are in doubt whether they should wait for the arrival of trilene or not, and that the result is that there is no analgesia being given? Will he put that right?
It is the duty of the local authorities, and they are all doing their best in this matter. I can quite understand their hope that this much simpler apparatus will be approved.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Minnit form of analgesia is highly unpopular, and that many mothers reject it? Does he think that he should take powers to force trilene to be used by midwives when the medical profession definitely agrees that it is dangerous to mothers who may be suffering from hyper-tension or heart trouble?
I quite agree that it would be quite improper on my part to force any of these things on any mother who did not want them. One of the difficulties about training is that, in some of the hospitals, many of the mothers refuse to have any of this apparatus. On the other hand, the Central Midwives Council and the Medical Research Council are investigating this problem.
In view of the supplementary question of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison), will the right hon. Gentleman see that the report is forthcoming as early as possible?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland by what date will all practising midwives be trained in the use of analgesia.
I hope that by the end of 1950 over three-quarters of the midwives then practising in Scotland will have been trained and my aim is to have the process substantially complete by the end of 1951.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether all local authorities in Scotland are carrying out schemes to provide analgesia and transport to every confinement in their areas.
Every local authority in Scotland is operating under approved statutory proposals which require them to secure, as soon as possible, that their domiciliary midwives are suitably trained, and are provided with the necessary apparatus, drugs, and transport, to provide a full analgesia service for women confined in their own homes.
Will the Secretary of State ensure that in Scotland local authorities will have these new forms of apparatus when available, and in the meantime will he press forward with the provision of the Minnit apparatus, unsatisfactory though it is?
I have been encouraging them so to do, and I understand that they are doing it; but I quite understand the reluctance to purchase and employ this much more cumbrous apparatus if there is a possibility at an early date of having a simpler apparatus available.
Referring to the original answer, is that not just another example of Scotland giving a lead to England?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the mothers of Scotland are well satisfied with the 1937 Maternity Services Act, which provides for a doctor and an anaesthetist, and that this Act is in operation in many parts of Scotland. Is he further aware that the medical officer of health for Aberdeenshire, which some hon. Members opposite represent, completely repudiates what he calls "ill-informed, ignorant criticism on the part of politicians" in this matter?
I think that this is a matter where we should distinguish between cases where a doctor is present, who can use any apparatus which is proper for the purpose, and cases where only midwives are present, which are the cases under review.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the hon. Lady is somewhat misinformed on this matter, and is he also aware that in parts of Scotland it is quite impossible to provide a doctor for every confinement? It is in those areas that we seek to provide trained midwives equipped with proper analgesic apparatus.
Mathematics And Science Teachers
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the causes of the shortage of teachers of mathematics and science in Scotland.
The causes are complex, but one important element is that there have been greatly increased numbers of such qualified persons required by industry in recent years and that the numbers trained have fallen short of the present opportunities of employment open to them.
Does my right hon. Friend hold out any hope of a cessation of any of the causes?
We hope that industry will not want fewer scientific people, and we are hopeful that more scientific people will be trained.
Aluminium Houses, Leven
Stewart asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he has taken, in pursuance of his undertaking to the hon. Member for East Fife, to make immediate inquiries into the unsatisfactory conditions of the aluminium houses in Leven and the ill effects of damp upon the health of the tenants as confirmed by the medical officer of health.
I regret that there was some delay in arranging a local inspection of these houses. A joint inspection by representatives of the Department of Health, Ministry of Supply and the Town Council took place yesterday and I will write to the hon. Member immediately I receive the report.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it has taken five weeks, since the assurance was given to me that an immediate inquiry would take place? Will he bear in mind that the local medical officer of health has condemned these houses as unfit for human occupation?
First of all, the responsibility is that of the local authority. My Department are very anxious to help, but we had to bring in another Department of the Government responsible for the supply of these houses. I have no doubt they can be put right. We had some of this trouble about two years ago. It was all put right. The Departments have scientific knowledge, and I think it would be wrong to condemn the houses.
Officers (Service Dress)
asked the Secretary of State for War on what occasions his regulations prescribe that service dress is to be worn by officers.
Service dress is obsolescent except for officers of the rank of colonel and above, and officers of horsed units. For the latter, service dress is the normal dress for mounted parades. Colonels and above are allowed to wear service dress on occasions when not on parade with troops wearing other types of uniform. No other officers are now allowed to buy service dress, but those who still have it may wear it on various occasions.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there are any exceptions to these regulations covering dress in the Army?
There are regulations.
Are there any exceptions to these regulations?
Of course, all regulations are subject to certain exceptions.
Officers' War Service, Burma
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will state the number of British officers serving in Burma at the outbreak of the Japanese War; and how many of these officers were accompanied by their wives and families.
Approximately 320 officers of the British Army were serving in Burma at the end of 1941. Information is not available as to how many were accompanied by their wives and families.
Does this include officers seconded for service under the Burmese Government, and if it does will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence with the Foreign Office to see that they get compensation for their property which was destroyed?
I think that that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why only 75 out of the 300 have made application for compensation for the loss of personal effects?
There is nothing in the Question about compensation, but if a Question is put down on that subject I will try to answer it.
Troopships (Medical Officers)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether medical officers are carried on all troopships, including those from the Continent to Harwich.
No medical officer is provided, in peace-time, on cross-Channel voyages. A nursing orderly travels on cross-Channel ships to render first-aid only. On all other troopships a senior medical officer is provided.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether there was a medical officer on the staff of the s.s. "Vienna" on 8th February, 1949.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very distressing case of the 16-year-old band boy who was coming home on leave from Austria and died within a few hours of reaching his home, who in his dying statement said that he had reported to the medical officer on this ship and been told to wait till he got home; would my right hon. Friend appeal to anybody, officer or other rank, who saw this boy on this vessel to come forward so that the matter can be investigated further?
I regret this incident, but in fact the band boy did not report sick before leaving his unit; neither did he report to the medical orderly on the troopship or at Harwich. In fact, there was no medical man on the ship, so far as I am aware—certainly not officially.
But in view of that, would my right hon. Friend—
The Question only asks whether there was a medical officer on board, and has nothing to do with the boy.
Staff Officers (Visits To Usa)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many General Staff officers made official visits to the United States of America during 1948; and how many of these officers were of the rank of brigadier and above.
During 1948, 13 general staff officers from the War Office made official visits to the United States of America. Seven were of the rank of brigadier or above.
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this rather expensive traffic will cease now that we are officially a satellite of the United States of America?
The Question refers to how many visits were made and not to any consequences of those visits.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order to refer to other countries in Eastern Europe as being satellites? If that is in Order, why is it not in Order to refer to this country as being a satellite?
As I understand your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, there was no objection to the form or content of my supplementary question, except as against the background of the first Question. If that were your Ruling is it not permissible for me to ask something that naturally follows from the Question?
In supplementary questions one must not make imputations or inferences; that is laid down. The hon. Gentleman made a distinct inference in his supplementary question.
Although hon. Gentlemen opposite wriggle with vexation when one challenges the betrayal of our country, am I to understand, with great respect to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that when I point out what everyone in the country can see, that there is the most abject surrender of Britain—
The hon. Gentleman must not pursue that matter any longer.
asked the Secretary of State for War how many complaints he has received stating that the men serving in the Army do not get enough nutritious food; and whether he is satisfied with the quality and quantity of food supplies.
Although it is not possible to give the exact number of complaints received, they do not, for both Home and Overseas Commands, amount to more than two or three a week. In any case the majority of complaints refer to deficiencies in catering arrangements in particular units, rather than to any inadequacy of the Army ration, and are of a minor character. I am satisfied that the food provided for the troops is of good quality.As regards quantity, my Department, together with the other Service Departments, is in constant touch with the Ministry of Food. During the present difficult food situation the object is to ensure that the ration scales provide a diet for the soldier equivalent to that available to civilians who are engaged in comparable work.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the resolution passed recently at a women's conference and given great publicity in the Press declaring that the insufficiency of the food supply is endangering the health and stamina of our men, especially those doing outdoor work? Will he give an assurance that he will take up any specific case where evidence is brought of this so that he can take action?
I saw the resolution referred to by my hon. Friend, and it is quite inconsistent with the facts. As regards specific complaints, I shall, of course, deal with them when they come along.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of the complaints refer not so much to the quantity of the food as to the manner in which it is cooked, and will he consider appointing some suitable staff officer with a knowledge of this matter who will pay surprise visits to units to see that the catering arrangements are properly carried out?
I do not think that surprise visits are required. Generally speaking, the cooking arrangements are excellent. There are occasional units where perhaps it is not as good as it might be. We are having all these matters attended to.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a serious glut of oatmeal in Scotland and would it not be an excellent and nutritious dish for these soldiers?
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware, oatmeal is not everybody's cup of tea.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is satisfied that an adequate supper is now provided each evening for all young soldiers serving in basic training units.
The soldier is entitled to all his meals at public expense, including supper every night if he wants it. An instruction has recently been issued reminding unit commanders of their responsibility in this matter. So far as I am aware, units, including training units, are serving supper every night to those who require it.
Could the Minister say what is the substance of the adequate supper that is now provided for these boys in basic training units?
Well, I could hardly be expected to recite the menu unless I got notice of the question.
South Downs (Requisitioned Areas)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the anxiety of those who live in the area of the South Downs, due to the fact that barbed wire, much of it concealed, slit trenches, many of them overgrown, and unexploded shells are still interfering with public amenities and right of access to the South Downs area; how many men are employed on restoring the Downs to their pre-war condition; and by when such work will be fully completed.
If there is any anxiety among those who live in the district I am not aware of it, and I would point out that the public has no access to the areas which have not been derequisitioned. Fifty civilians are employed under military supervision on clearing unexploded missiles; restoration is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Works.
Does not the Secretary of State for War appreciate that the fact I have put this Question down and written to his Department on numerous occasions, as have all other Sussex Members, is the answer to what he has just said; is he aware that there is grave anxiety in Sussex, and that the fact that the public are not allowed into derequisitioned areas is one of their chief causes of complaint?
The right hon. Gentleman having said that the local inhabitants were not saying anything about it, might I ask if he is aware that the tourists and people who come down to that part of the country are in a particularly difficult position because they know nothing about the problem?
On the other hand, the public have no access to these areas, which have not yet been derequisitioned.
Why have these areas not been derequisitioned, if they are not wanted?
For the reason that we have been unable to clear away these unexploded missiles and barbed wire entanglements, because there has been great difficulty as regards available labour for this purpose. We shall remove these encumbrances as rapidly as circumstances permit.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while of course the public have never had legal access to these areas they have had actual access to places in which people may walk; and that as long as the present situation continues it does much to create bad feeling, which does harm to the whole cause of the War Office?
As the noble Lord is well aware, it was necessary to requisition this and other land during the war. We are anxious to derequisition as rapidly as possible, but when we do derequisition the question of restoration is not a matter for my Department.
Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that there are only a dozen or two men in the whole South Downs area employed on this work of restoring the Downs to their normal condition; and cannot he take much more active steps to do something more about it?
I am receiving the same demands from all over the country, and I simply have not the labour available. I will expedite this matter as much as I can.
asked the Secretary of State for War what acreage of the South Downs is still requisitioned for military purposes; by when the whole area will have been derequisitioned; and what acreage of the South Downs has been made available to the East or West Sussex Agricultural Committees, respectively, for restoration pending derequisitioning.
Of 32,313 acres originally requisitioned in the South Downs Training Area, only 11,918 are now under requisition. The whole of this area has been made available for restoration, 5,323 acres to the East Sussex Agricultural Committee and 6,595 to the West Sussex Agricultural Committee. Derequisitioning depends on the rate of progress of restoration, and areas are derequisitioned as and when they are restored.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the vehicles used by the Forces in Malaya are suitable for the type of work which the Forces are called upon to carry out.
The vehicles in use by the Army in Malaya have been chosen as the most suitable for the work.
In view of the ambush which took place recently involving what seemed like an unsuitable vehicle, and in view of the general disquiet on the matter of equipment and training throughout the country, will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement at the earliest opportunity?
There is no need for any disquiet about either equipment or the training of troops in Malaya. That is all right. There are other difficulties that are encountered and have to be overcome. As regards the armoured cars which were sent to Malaya, so far as I am aware there has been no complaint whatever from the people on the spot.
Territorial Army (War Medals)
asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason Territorial Army personnel taking part in recruiting demonstrations with their units are not allowed to wear war medals on these occasions.
A new instruction about the wearing of medals is to be published in the course of the next month or two which will require medals to be worn on ceremonial parades. At present it is necessary to obtain special permission to wear medals; this permission has been given freely and on a number of occasions which might be regarded as recruiting demonstrations.
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that from the recruiting point of view it is desirable that those who have served in the last war or the 1914–18 war should wear their medals in order to add a little colour to what is in fact a recruiting display?
I am fully in sympathy with the hon. Gentleman in this matter and that is why I have said that a new instruction will shortly be published.
Deserted Wives (Payments)
asked the Minister of National Insurance the amount paid to the wives and children of husbands in desertion during 1946, 1947 and 1948 respectively; and what amounts have been recovered.
I regret the information required is not available.
Is my right hon. Friend really informing the House that the country is willing to pay out these amounts to the deserted wives without even taking up any accounts?
No. My hon. Friend asked about the amount paid in 1946, 1947 and 1948, but the Assistance Board has been responsible for assistance generally only since 5th July of last year. We have no figures about the earlier years, and we shall not have figures about this year until some time later.
Disablement Benefit Case, Brighton
asked the Minister of National Insurance why Mr. Ronald Taylor of 88, Coleman Street, Brighton, has had to wait over eight months since his accident for a decision concerning his disablement benefit.
If the hon. Member is implying that Mr. Ronald Taylor had to wait eight months for his industrial injury benefits I think he is under a misapprehension. Injury benefit was paid to Mr. Taylor from the date of the accident up to 9th February, when he became eligible for disablement benefit. I regret that, owing to some delay over the report of the medical board, disablement benefit was not actually paid until 30th March, but in the meantime Mr. Taylor received sickness benefit.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this disablement benefit has only just been paid, after I put down the Question, and that Mr. Taylor has been asking for it for quite a long time and been told to wait and abide his time; is he further aware that there are many similar cases at the present time all over the country; and can something be done to hurry these matters up?
As I pointed out to the hon. Member, he is under a misapprehension. The disablement benefit does not become payable under the Act until the man has been disabled and received injury benefit for six months. There has been some delay in this case due to the fact that the medical board felt it desirable in the man's own interests, to have a further examination and report. It is not always in the man's interests to try to hurry up matters, when perhaps a further X-ray will be to his advantage.
Benefit (Local Authority Members)
asked the Minister of National Insurance what instructions are issued to employment exchanges with regard to granting or refusing benefit to applicants who may be members of local authorities on the grounds that they are not available for work.
I have no power to issue instructions as to the manner in which the statutory conditions for benefit are to be applied either generally or in particular cases. It is for the independent statutory authorities to interpret these conditions with such guidance as may be derived from principles laid down in previous cases.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Scotland there are councillors who are sometimes our of em- ployment who are being refused benefit at the employment exchanges because it is said they are not available for employment, even in areas where the council meetings are held at night?
I understand that in two cases the payment of unemployment benefit on certain days has been varied, and that they have made an appeal. The cases are shortly to come before the tribunal, and it would be quite wrong of me to comment while the cases are awaiting hearing.
asked the Minister of National Insurance if, in view of the expense of maintaining a large family of growing children, he will consider making some special provision, additional to family allowances, in cases in which more than three children are born at one birth.
We already pay a maternity grant of £16 where there are four children at a birth, and the family will be immediately eligible for family allowances. I do not know what further provision my hon. Friend thinks could appropriately be made under the schemes administered by my Department.
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, in these extremely rare cases, parents often find themselves under an economic necessity to sign contracts with film companies and other outside bodies for the exploitation of their young children, as in the case of the christening and the disgraceful scenes which attended it at a church last week; and, in view of the harm that can result to the children, would he consider this suggestion sympathetically?
We have tried to cover, so far as is possible, these kinds of cases in the Act. Perhaps I should point out to my hon. Friend that if this birth had taken place before 5th July last the amount of maternity benefit would have been £2, whereas it is now £16.
Foreign Domestic Workers
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that in spite of the announcement made over two years ago that the issue of permits for foreign domestic workers for private households would no longer be subject to restrictions based on the type of household and the number of staff already employed, questions on these points are still being put to housewives; and whether he will make a statement.
Such questions do not appear on the forms of application for permits to bring foreign domestic workers from abroad printed since March, 1947. For reasons of economy stocks of the earlier form were not withdrawn, but where they are still in use replies to these questions are ignored in deciding the application. Instructions are being issued to local offices to cancel these questions on any copies of the earlier form brought into use.
asked the Minister of Labour what arrangements exist for finding employment for railway and other employees at Swindon declared redundant; and how far in advance of the date of discharge steps are taken.
The Employment Exchange Service is specially designed to meet the needs of redundant workers. Nothing is known of any appreciable redundancies in Swindon. My local officer, however, is in close touch with all employers who are invited to arrange to register the workers in advance of discharge giving as long notice as possible. There should be no difficulty in absorbing redundant workers in Swindon.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply will relieve a great many anxieties, and might I ask him how many workers in Swindon have been discharged recently?
If my right hon. Friend is referring to the British Railways there, they gave notice to the employment officer a week or so ago of their intention to dismiss 20 men and gave dates of the dismissals. Since then they have absorbed all those men in another department and no one has, in fact, been dismissed.
Armed Forces (Pay And Conditions)
asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint an all-party committee to report on pay and conditions in the three Fighting Services and make recommendations thereon.
I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) in answer to a Question on Thursday, 31st March, 1949.
Why does the Prime Minister object to this proposal in view of the fact that the pay of doctors, teachers, police officers and others has been considered by outside bodies?
But this proposal is to appoint an all-party committee which presumably would be in the nature of a Select Committee, and we took the view that that would be contrary to good Parliamentary doctrine, whereby the initiative for public expenditure should rest with the Executive of the day.
If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to accept this particular suggestion, are the Government using some other means to inquire into the situation, which, as revealed in recent Debates, was considered unsatisfactory on all sides of the House.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we are frequently looking into these matters, but there are a variety of matters to take into account relative to it and it is thought that that is best done by the Government of the day.
But is it being done?
It is always being done, but if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the Government can be pressed every week to increase expenditure he might remember that the taxpayer has to be considered as well.
Reverting to the original answer, have not the Government departed from this principle in the instances which I gave?
No, Sir, because the principle the hon. Gentleman is laying down is that a recommendation as to public expenditure should be made by a Select Committee of Parliament, and that, with great respect, I do not think is a good principle.
Public Works Schemes (Review)
asked the Lord President of the Council if, in view of the urgent necessity for concentrating the maximum effort on export trade and in view of the acute housing shortage, he will review works proposed or in progress, such as the Festival of Britain site and Cultural Centre, and postpone them until such time as the economic conditions of the country improve.
No, Sir. As regards housing I would refer the hon. Member to the reply made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the 1st November, 1948. As regards the export drive, I hope and expect that the Festival of Britain will itself contribute indirectly to the export drive by attracting to this country a very large number of visitors, and by improving the standard of design industrial products which may be included in Festival exhibitions.
Is it not a fact that owing to the maladministration of this Government we are compelled to live on borrowed money? Does a bankrupt family buy a new piano or live on champagne and oysters, and why should America go on giving us dollars to pour down the Socialist drain?
That question is so full of—
—propaganda, inaccuracies and sheer misrepresentation that it defies reply. The hon. Member had better put it on the Paper, if he can.
In view of my right hon. Friend's original reply, will he reconsider the scheme, which he has studied, for making the grounds of Chiswick House a site for the Festival of Britain, in view of the very modest expenditure and labour involved and of the substantial financial return which this scheme might yield?
My hon. Friend is proving himself to be a worthier Member for Brentford and Chiswick than the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) is for Orpington.
Institute Of Public Administration (Grant)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds the Institute of Public Administration was selected for a grant of £6,000 for each of the three years; and how far he intends to make similar grants to similar organisations which also recruit their members from, and take an interest in, the organisation of public services, such as the Institute of Personnel Management, the Institute of Works Managers, the Office Management Association, the Industrial Welfare Society and others.
The grant-in-aid is a temporary subvention towards the general purposes of the Institute of Public Administration. Its purpose is to help to tide over the difficulties of an Institute towards which the Government feels itself under special obligation because of the contribution it makes, by bringing together those in central Government with those engaged in other forms of public service, to the study and improvement of the practice of public administration. The Government has not the same direct obligation to the other bodies mentioned, which cater for a wider field, including industry and commerce. I ought in fairness to those bodies to add that I am not aware that any Government grant has been sought or suggested by them.
Could my right hon. and learned Friend say why a similar subvention should not be made to other societies who have a similar interest in management in public affairs, and would he give consideration to any applications made by similar organisations referred to in the Question? Is not the British Institute of Management the real Government-sponsored organisation for dealing with such matters as are now referred to the Institute of Public Administration?
As my hon. Friend knows, it has stated that it is not able to deal with public administration, because it is concentrating, in the first instance, on industrial matters and, therefore, in the meantime it is desirable that we should give this assistance.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this body is doing extremely valuable work and giving very good value for its subvention by contrast with some other bodies, like the British Institute of Management, which gets much more public money and gives much less value for it.
Used Postage Stamps
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps a resident in the United Kingdom is required by His Majesty's Customs and Excise to take before despatching to a foreign country a used postage stamp; and if he will explain the reason and the authority for such requirements.
The sending of used postage stamps except under licence to any destination outside the Scheduled Territories is prohibited unless the stamps are included in a package sealed and despatched by or on behalf of the Board of Trade. The British Philatelic Association has been deputed by the Board of Trade to act on its behalf and stamps sent to such a destination must go via that Association. The authority for this system is the Export of Goods (Control) (Consolidation) Order, 1948, and its object is to ensure a fair return for our exports of stamps.
If a licence is necessary for this, would it not save a lot of trouble if the Commissioners of Customs and Excise issued it instead of the Board of Trade?
It does not involve the Board of Trade. As the hon. Gentleman will see, it has been deputed to the association which deals particularly with stamps, which is much the most convenient body.
Trust Beneficiaries (Tax)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why trustees' and accountants' fees are not allowed as expenses against the income of a trust, thus causing beneficiaries to pay tax on income they never receive; and if he will remedy the position.
It has been decided by the courts that a beneficiary's income from a trust for the purposes of a claim to repayment of Income Tax is his share of the income of the trust remaining after deduction of the expenses of management. I see no ground for changing the law.
Will the Chancellor say why he allows the agents' fees for the collection of rents to be charged as expenses against Income Tax, and yet will not allow accountants' fees for the collection of dividends?
This is a question of the beneficiaries. The charge of accountants' fees is probably a charge on the trustees and not on the beneficiaries.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now introduce legislation to enable him to repay Income Tax credits to men 60 years of age and to women 55 years of age in view of the hardship caused by non-receipt.
I cannot anticipate my Budget Statement.
While not wishing to embarrass the right hon. and learned Gentleman, will he say that before he gives his final approval to his Budget proposals he will make sure that this is included?
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also consider the widow whose husband died a very short time before he was due to draw postwar credits? There are many such cases.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if Customs Duty and Purchase Tax are charged on trophies won in sporting events by British subjects abroad and brought back to this country.
There is a statutory exemption for trophies shown to the satisfaction of the Customs to have been awarded abroad for distinction in certain fields, including sport.
If I send to the Chancellor particulars of any cases of this sort in which duty and Purchase Tax have been charged will the money be refunded?
I will certainly look into the cases.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the concessions made under the Anglo-Egyptian Financial Agreement, 1949, compares with those of the agreement of 1948; and for what reason His Majesty's Government did not see fit to press that as a condition for the conclusion of the present agreement Egyptian sterling balances should be scaled down to an equitable figure.
The 1948 Financial Agreement provided for releases of £21 million "straight" and £11 million as an addition to Egypt's working balance, making immediate releases of £32 million in all. This year's Agreement provided for an immediate straight release of £12 million and additional releases up to £18 million will be made, in amounts of £3 million, but only if and when required in order to maintain Egypt's No. 1 Account balances at £45 million. The provision of dollars this year is the equivalent of £5 million against £61 million in 1948. As regards the second part of the Question, the reason was that this is a short-term agreement. His Majesty's Government have made plain to the Egyptian Government their views regarding the adjustment of these sterling balances and have reserved their position.
The Chancellor says that this is a short-term agreement, but is it not yet another series of such agreements each of which has resulted in further grants by this country to Egypt? Is he further aware that of an anticipated trade balance of £47 million between Egypt and this country no less than two-thirds will be provided by credit from this country and that that, therefore, will result in an unrequited export?
I am quite aware of the circumstances of the agreement, which I consider wholly satisfactory.
Eastern Europe (Sterling)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the quantities of sterling made available to Eastern European countries in 1946, 1947 and 1948 respectively; and of the quantities so made available how much was transferable sterling.
Sterling held by these countries or acquired in the course of trade is and has been available for expenditure within the Sterling Area, with the exception of funds remaining under the control of the Custodian of Enemy Property. Some of the countries are in the Transferable Account Area, and, as regards the remainder, permission may be granted for transfer of sterling to third countries in respect of specific transactions.
Has my right hon. and learned Friend yet taken a decision on the question of allowing British tourists to export a sterling allowance to Yugoslavia, and, if so, when will he announce that decision?
That is quite a different question. Perhaps my hon. Friend will put it on the Order Paper.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason the Anglo-Portuguese trade and financial negotiations have broken down; and, in view of the serious effect that the exclusion of many British exports from the Portuguese market will have, what action he is taking to find a mutually satisfactory solution between this country and Portugal.
The negotiations have not broken down; they are now being resumed through His Majesty's Embassy, Lisbon, and we expect shortly to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. The interruption in United Kingdom exports to Portugal should be regarded as temporary.
Can the Chancellor say how much has already been lost through the action of the Portuguese Government in cutting off imports into their country, and how long he anticipates this state of affairs will continue?
I do not anticipate that it will last after the time when the agreement is settled up. I do not think that we have necessarily lost anything. It may be that these same goods will be imported afterwards.
May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a serious answer? The trade between England and Portugal is worth £18 million a year, and it has now been cut off. Surely the Chancellor can tell us how long he thinks we shall have to suffer from this instead of saying it depends upon how long it will take to mend the situation?
It is not a question of mending the situation. I do not expect it to last after the time when we arrive at an agreement, and I expect that to be shortly.
Is not this a matter in which people are seriously interested? Even a short interruption of valuable export trade of this kind means a great deal to us, and we are surely entitled to have from the Chancellor a serious answer to our fears. Can he assure us that within a reasonable time an agreement will be concluded which will allow this valuable export trade to be resumed?
I have already said twice that we expect shortly to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement and that we expect exports to be resumed when we have done that.
Austrian Conversion Loan (Italian Default)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the Italian Government are still defaulting on their guarantee to pay 20½5 per cent. on the drawn bonds of the Austrian Conversion Loan, 1934–59; and what steps he is taking to obtain repayment, in view of the fact that the United Kingdom Government is one of the guarantors of this loan.
Yes, Sir. The Italian Government's attitude was defined in the Press announcement of 13th July, 1948, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy. Since then there have been no developments. We shall continue to press the Italian Government to fulfil its obligations.
Can the Chancellor confirm that of the eight countries which guaranteed this loan, Italy and Czechoslovakia are the only two in default? Can he also confirm that Italy has quite enough sterling to her credit to fulfil her obligations?
No, Sir, I am afraid that I cannot confirm that without notice.
Royalties (Bbc Programmes)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what special' facilities are granted to the British Broadcasting Corporation for remitting dollars to the United States of America either directly or through the services of the Performing Rights Society for payment of royalties for American music and artistes used when broadcasting records, recorded programmes or live programmes.
None, Sir. The B.B.C. have no such facilities beyond those accorded to ordinary undertakings.
Does the Financial Secretary realise that on 26th March in one programme alone of 26 records played 24 were of American music? Will he not agree that that shows an unnecessary discrimination against English composers? Will he make representations to the B.B.C. for a fairer method of selection to be used in future so that we do not squander American dollars on royalties in this way?
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that many items, such as suspensory bandages and eye-baths, in the Schedule of surgical appliances for the National Health Service are still subject to Purchase Tax; and if he will take steps to free them from this impost.
I cannot anticipate my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget Statement.
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that it is an anomalous position at present? While drugs and medicines in the Schedule were relieved of Purchase Tax, it appears that, quite accidentally, accessories such as surgical appliances are still liable to tax.
Nevertheless, I cannot anticipate the Budget Statement of my right hon. and learned Friend.
Is it necessary for the Budget Statement to be anticipated? Cannot such a matter be dealt with by statutory order?
Civil Service (Non-Industrial Staffs)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what was the total number of non-industrial civil servants employed in all Departments on part-time duties on 1st January, 1949, and 1st September, 1939.
At 1st January, 1949, the number was 43,663 and at 1st April, 1939, 26,394. I regret that figures for 1st September, 1939, are not available.
Trade And Commerce Flax
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give the number of flax mills at present operating in this country and the number of officers employed in this connection; and if he will give corresponding figures for the peak flax production period during the war.
I assume that the hon. and gallant Member's Question refers to both the staff in the headquarters of the Directorate of Home Flax Production and the managerial and office staff in the flax mills. Ten flax mills are at present operating and the number of officers employed in connection with them is 99. For the peak period of production during the war, the corresponding figures were 17 and 142.
asked the President of the Board of Trade how much flax has been exported from this country to date during 1949; what was the price per ton; and to what extent this price was subsidised.
The latest published returns cover the first two months of 1949. No flax was exported during that period.
Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the export of flax is of importance to this country at the present time?
We want as much flax as we can get ourselves. Consistent with that, export is always desirable.
Footwear (Retail Price)
asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent have increased supplies of footwear led to a reduction of the retail selling price below the present legal maximum.
I cannot say to what extent footwear is being sold below the legal maximum price because of the increase in supplies.
If reduced prices through increased supplies are not materialising, will my hon. Friend ask the President of the Board of Trade to take further steps in the matter to cut profit margins and in that way bring about the state of affairs which he led the House to expect by his statement to the House on 10th March?
I do not think that that is a reasonable assumption.
asked the President of the Board of Trade by what amount has the retail selling price of children's footwear been reduced during the past twelve months.
The maximum retail price of footwear depends on the margins which may be added by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. The reductions that have been made in these margins in the last twelve months represent reductions of from 4d. to ls. 7d. in the £ for children's footwear, depending on the type and grade.
In view of the very slow progress still being made towards reduced prices, will my hon. Friend ask the President of the Board of Trade to expedite reductions in this regard?
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, with a view to a reduction in the building costs of houses, he will consider reducing the trading profits he is making out of timber, and allow the price of timber to become adjusted to the world market price.
The selling price of timber which is purchased on public account is fixed from time to time in relation to actual costs, and it is not the policy of the Board of Trade to make, over a period, either profit or loss on timber trading.
Is the Minister aware that private enterprise would buy timber both from the right source and at the right price far better? Why is it that the Government go on making profits when we want houses built as completely as possible? It is an absolute scandal.
Yugoslav Goods (Import Licences)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the machinery by which import licences can be obtained by British firms wishing to import goods from Yugoslavia under Article 5 of the Anglo-Yugoslav Agreement.
Applications for import licences should be addressed to the Import Licensing Department, 189 Regent Street, London, W.1.
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any special consideration will be given to a company known as the British South European Merchants Ltd. whose directors include' the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), the hon. Member for Northern Cornwall (Mr. Horabin) and four Yugoslav civil servants?
No special treatment will be given for any such undertaking.
In view of the political implications of trade of this nature, is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is sufficient control over such operations?
Does the hon. Gentleman's reply mean that a licensee in this country is perfectly free to deal with exporters in Yugoslavia without passing through any intermediary?
Yes, Sir, that is possible.
Pulp And Newsprint (Imports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now give some explanation of the continuous purchases of pulp from Russia and newsprint from Sweden at higher rates than they can be obtained from Canada.
There is practically no difference between the c.i.f. cost of comparable grades of pulp from Canada and Russia. The cost of newsprint from Sweden is higher than that from Canada, but imports from Canada are limited by availability of dollars.
But can the Minister tell us how much longer this curtailment of newsprint for the Press is to go on? Why not buy in the cheapest possible place and let us have more newsprint? Most of my good sayings are not published in the papers and it is all due to lack of newsprint.
Will the Minister refer the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) who, in Question No. 62, is urging reduction in expenditure in Canada on newsprint?
Will the Minister consult again with the Newsprint Supply Co. to see whether they are prepared and willing to take over this responsibility from the Government?
asked the President of the Board of Trade why he is permitting the import of an extra 20,000 tons of newsprint from Canada at a cost of some 2,000,000 dollars, when the manufacturing capacity and raw materials available in the sterling area could easily take care of this quantity and more.
The total imports of newsprint from Canada and Newfoundland which have been approved for 1949 are the same as those which were allowed in 1948. It is obviously desirable that we should maintain these traditional imports at such a level as our currency position will permit although they are of course substantially below the amount imported before the war.
Notwithstanding my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère), does not the Parliamentary Secretary think that these two million dollars would be better spent on feeding-stuffs or meat?
We must have regard to traditional imports.
May I ask the Minister to realise that I want both feeding-stuffs and newsprint from Canada. I want everything we can get.
Factory Building, Scotland
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will outline the programme of factory building contemplated for Scotland during the next two or three years.
The total of new factory space in Scotland still in course of construction, or approved but not yet started, amounts to nearly 12 million square feet, at an estimated cost of over £28 million. Of this 3½ million square feet (estimated cost £6.3 million) is Government financed. I cannot say what additions to this programme can be made, since it is necessary for every proposal to be examined on its merits in view of the continued need to conserve our building resources and to limit capital investment to essential projects.
Coal And Steel (Exports)
58 and 59.
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) how much coal and steel, in terms of quantity and value, have been exported to the Continent of Europe during the last 12 months to the most convenient date;(2) how much coal and steel, in terms of quantity and value, have been exported to Canada during the last 12 months to the most convenient date.
As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Could the Minister give us any idea, because I rather want those figures for the Debate if, later on, I am fortunate in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker.
Following are the figures:
|UNITED KINGDOM EXPORTS YEAR 1948|
|—||Coal||Iron and Steel (a)|
|To Canada Europe||163,114||597||41,622||1,845|
|(a) Comprises in addition to iron and steel, certain manufacturers thereof. Separate figures for iron and steel are not readily available.|
|(b) All countries in Europe, including Iceland, the Faroes, Soviet Union (European and Asiatic), Turkey (European and Asiatic), Cyprus, Azores, Madeira and Malta.|
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the effect of the export restrictions, which he announced on 31st March, on the Anglo-Polish Trade Agreement.
The Export Control Order to which the hon. Member refers does not conflict with any provision of the Anglo-Polish Trade and Finance Agreement.
Does that mean that the various commodities which Poland is anxious to buy from England as a result of the Anglo-Polish Treaty are in no way affected? If I remember aright, certain kinds of machine tools were involved. Can the Minister therefore give a guarantee?
Will the hon. Gentleman, under the same heading, also look into those goods which the British people do not want to buy from Poland, particularly the horticultural products which will seriously harm our own industry?
Proposed Graving Dock, River Clyde
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will now make a further statement regarding the provision of a graving dock on the River Clyde.
I am unable to make any further statement on this subject at present.
Can the Minister say whether the Committee which has been examining docks and harbours has made any representations in this connection?
No, I am afraid I could not, without notice.
Can the hon. Gentleman give no indication at all when some decision will be made on this important matter?
I have just said that we cannot at present.
In view of the great importance of this for the Clyde and for Scotland, would the Minister not have a decision made right away to get this graving dock started, so that ships built on the Clyde can be housed in the Clyde and not sent away to foreign lands?
I have just said we cannot at present.
Government Vehicle (Political Poster)
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he has taken in the matter referred to him by the hon. Member for Mile End, concerning Conservative Party propaganda displayed by a poster on a Government vehicle; and whether he is satisfied that the steps he is taking will prevent the disseminating of political propaganda on Government property.
The employee concerned has been reprimanded, and an instruction has been issued reminding the staff that political propaganda material must not be displayed on Government vehicles or property. The incident referred to was an isolated one caused by the thoughtless action of an individual without the knowledge of the Department, and the action taken should prevent any recurrence.
While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him if he can give the House an assurance that the steps he has taken will prevent such posters and other materials being used by the Conservative Party on Government vehicles and property in order to expound their policy?
My reply said exactly that.
Business Of The House
"That this day, Business other than the Business of Supply may be taken before Ten o'clock.—[Mr. H. Morrison.]
Orders Of The Day
(10TH ALLOTTED DAY)
Considered in Committee.
[Major MILNER in the Chair]
Civil Estimates, 1949–50
Motion made, and Question proposed:
"That a further sum, not exceeding £50, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with the Meat Situation and Food Production for the year ending on the 31st March. 1950, namely:
|Class IX, Vote 2, Ministry of Food||10|
|Class VI, Vote 9, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Food Production Services)||10|
|Class VI, Vote 21, Department of Agriculture for Scotland (Food Production Services)||10|
|Class VI, Vote 8, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries||10|
|Class VI, Vote 20, Department of Agriculture for Scotland||10|
—[ Mr. Glenvil Hall.]
As I remarked at Question Time on Thursday, I do not propose this afternoon to discuss the detailed negotiations which are under way with the Argentine Government in respect of a renewal of the Andes Agreement. On that subject I will content myself with just one observation. I have no information, of course, beyond what appears in the Press, but no country that has any self-respect is ever willing to be held to ransom. Therefore His Majesty's Government will have full support from this side of the House in resisting such methods if any attempt is made to apply them by any country at any time.
We are being held to ransom by America.
By any country at any time. Gifts do not seem to us to be ransom; perhaps they do to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I am afraid that probably ends my measure of approval, support and agreement with His Majesty's Government.I should imagine also, however, that we are agreed as to the seriousness of the meat situation which confronts this country. No one will deny that our meat ration is dismally small and pitifully inadequate, lower than it has been at any time either during the war or since. Accurate comparisons are always difficult but I do not think it will be denied that before the war we were as a nation large consumers of meat and bacon. The average consumption—I use the word "average" deliberately—of meat and bacon per head in the United Kingdom before the war was approximately 110 lb. That figure is from a Command Paper and I think it is all right. Taking the present consumption on the basis of the existing ration—that is to say, half a pound of fresh meat a week, 1½ ounces of canned meat, and 2 ounces of bacon—there is a total of three-quarters of a pound a week, that is to say, if my calculation is right, less than 40 lb. a year compared with an average of 110 lb. a year before the war. I think those figures are approximately correct; if they are not, naturally I shall be glad if they are corrected.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down. This is a factual point. Has not the right hon. Gentleman taken two sources of information which are not identical? On the one hand, I believe he has taken a source of information from imports before the war which covered all forms of food, restaurants and so on, and, on the other hand, he has taken rations.
No, I have been careful to try to take comparable figures. If they are not comparable, I shall be glad if the Minister will say so. Since the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) is interested in this matter, I shall give one further comparison which I had also checked up, but with which I did not want to take up the time of the Committee. There was an inquiry by the Ministry of Labour before the war into working class consumption for 1937–38. I want to be quite fair about this. These figures were for people in employment in 1937–38, and showed an average weekly consumption per head of 1 lb. 4 oz. of meat plus 6 oz. of bacon. In other words, the average consumption of meat in a working class household in those days was roughly double what it is at present, and the consumption of bacon was roughly treble.
What were the figures for the unemployed?
The hon. Gentleman really must be fair. I said that I am giving the figures for people in employment. The overall figure is that which I have already stated: 110 lb. a year—that is taken from the present Government's Command Paper, not from a wicked Tory Government Command Paper—as compared with an average of less than 40 lb. at present. If, however, these figures are disputed, I shall be very glad to have the true figures. What I do not think will be disputed is that the meat ration is now woefully below the average consumption of before the war. If anybody wants to say anything else, they are welcome to do so on any platform they like.