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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 6 April 1949

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Royal Navy

Aviation Squadrons

1.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many front-line Naval aviation squadrons are in existence today.

It would not be in the public interest to disclose this information.

Is the hon. Gentle-man aware that this information is given in the Navy List which is available to all Members of this House, and is that information to continue to be given when the Navy List is again published?

No, Sir. It will not be given publicly but only for information of Members of this House.

Will this information be continued to be published in the Navy List when the Navy List is published?

Rnvr (Strength)

2.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many of the 10,000 volunteers required for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve have so far volunteered.

As my noble Friend said in his Statement Explanatory of the Navy Estimates (Command 7632), financial provision has been made for an increase in the strength of the R.N.V.R. to 7,000; not 10,000 as suggested by the hon. Member. The total number enrolled to 28th February last, the latest date for which figures are available, is 3,670, and it is expected that the present target will be reached by the end of the financial year.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how the figures are made up with regard to officers and men?

Yes, Sir. It is anticipated that the full establishment will be 1,830 officers and a maximum strength of 5,000 ratings.

Can the hon. Gentleman state the numbers of officers and men who have joined so far?

Cruisers

3.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the minimum number of cruisers now regarded by the Board of Admiralty as the indispensable minimum for the safety of the United Kingdom and of the Empire for the protection of our trade routes and for the command of the sea in 1949 and during the next few years.

No, Sir, I regret that it would not be in the public interest to give information of this kind.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in bygone years the minimum number of cruisers considered necessary has always been published, and in view of our extensive imperial and national commitments can he justify the position he has now adopted?

Yes, Sir. As has been stated on a number of occasions, other countries do not give us information as to their strength, and we do not think it advisable that we should give information as to our strength.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is not possible to hide a major ship?

It may not be possible to hide a major ship but we can hide the target as to major ships.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the House that, in view of the small number of cruisers at present in commission, as crews become available, more cruisers will be put into commission in order to bring up our cruiser strength?

Can the hon. Gentleman give some indication whether there will be more cruisers or fewer cruisers as a result of the Atlantic Pact?

Aircraft Carriers

4.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, when it is intended to proceed with the construction of the carriers, "Powerful," "Leviathan" and "Hercules."

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) during the Debate on the Navy Estimates, to which I have nothing to add.

Is it the opinion of the Admiralty that the present strength of our Fleet is so strong that we can afford to do without these ships which were started and the construction of which has now been stopped?

It is not a question of that at all. It is that we want to be absolutely certain that we have the latest equipment in them, and we do not want to get them ready until we have the latest and best equipment for them.

Prize Money And Decorations

5.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the arrangements for the distribution of prize money and the issue of medals and campaign stars for the Navy.

It is expected that the necessary forms will have been printed and that the Admiralty will be ready to deal with claims within the next two months. An announcement will then be made in the Press and through the British Broadcasting Company inviting applications from ex-Service officers and men, and from the next-of-kin of those who died, on a special form which will be made available at post offices. Applications from serving officers and men will be made through official channels. Distribution of prize money and medals and campaign stars will begin shortly after receipt of the first applicaations.

Can my hon. Friend say whether or not prize money is subject to Income Tax?

Electricity Mains, Cornwall

6.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether his Department is now prepared to give financial assistance to the South-Western Electricity Board in connection with the requirement that the mains to the villages of Perranzabuloe, Penhallow, Rose and Rosehill must be brought underground.

No, Sir. The circumstances of this case are by no means unique and the Admiralty's attitude con-forms with established usage. I am arranging for the South-Western Electricity Board to be informed officially of the Admiralty's views.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, although the Admiralty are legally on sound ground in not considering themselves liable to make any payment, grave hardship will fall on the village people of these districts solely as a result of the Admiralty requirement that the mains should be brought underground; and will he therefore consider making an ex gratia payment?

I do not consider that hardship will be caused as a result of the Admiralty's action. This matter is left to the South-Western Electricity Board, and it is their financial responsibility.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this action and this decision make nonsense of the pledge given by the Minister of Fuel and Power during the passage of the Electricity Act, that steps would be taken to provide electricity in rural areas?

Officer's Death (Notification)

7.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has considered a case, details of which have been sent him, in which the relatives of a naval officer read of his death on duty in a newspaper before they received the Admiralty telegram; and whether he will announce any new arrangement designed to prevent such an occurrence in future.

In the case referred to a telegram was sent to the next-of-kin at 8.30 a.m. on 4th November. It is regretted, however, that, owing to the absence all day of both parents, the name of the officer concerned was published in the evening papers before the parents' arrival home and their receipt of the telegram. For the purpose of preventing a similar occurrence, it has been decided that if the British Broadcasting Corporation or the Press ask the Admiralty for details of casualties during the day on which the next-of-kin has been informed, they will be asked to withhold publication until the following day. Although the Admiralty cannot prevent the names of casualties being obtained by reporters on the spot and published without reference to the Admiralty or local naval authorities, we hope that the Press will co-operate in the interests of the next-of-kin by adhering to the arrangements we have just described.

For this blood extracted at last out of a stone, may I express my acknowledgement and the hope that the other Services will follow the Admiralty lead?

Hms "Ajax"

8.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will make a statement with regard to the future of H.M.S. "Ajax."

10.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether any decision has yet been taken with regard to the projected sale of the "Ajax" to Chile.

His Majesty's Government have given this matter the most careful consideration. They are conscious of the very cordial relations which have existed between the British and Chilean Navies over a long period. Nevertheless, they have decided that this ship, which has played such a historic role in British Naval history, should not be sold to any foreign Power. As, however, the Navy has no further use for her she will, of course, have to be scrapped.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware how gratified the country will be at the decision that this historic ship should not be sold to a country at the moment in possession of British territory?

Instead of scrapping this ship, which rendered such illustrious service during the war, would it not be possible to turn her over to one of the Dominions, who might make very good use of her, so that she would still fly an Empire flag?

That is another Question, which should obviously be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.

Compassionate Leave

9.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will now make any further statement on the refusal to grant compassionate leave to P.O. /X 127269 Marine Robert Mosedale.

As I said in my reply on 23rd March, my noble Friend is inquiring into this case and I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Can my hon. Friend tell us when we may expect a reply, as the matter has been under consideration for almost a couple of months now?

No, Sir, although I do realise that it is desirable that a reply should be given as soon as possible, and I will do my best to see that a reply is given.

Is it customary for the Admiralty to grant compassionate leave in those cases where the presence of the rating would assist the recovery of the parent?

It depends on the individual circumstances. The general rule is that it is allowed in cases where there is no other son or daughter present.

Telephone Service

Accounts (Deposits)

11.

asked the Postmaster-General the amount of money held by his Department on deposit against telephone accounts at the latest convenient date.

The amount of deposits by telephone subscribers held by the Post Office on 31st December, 1948, was £751,000.

In view of the substantial amount held on deposit, will the Postmaster-General consider reducing the amount asked for from telephone subscribers?

We do not ask for the £1 deposit that we used to ask for before 1934. This amount has been diminishing every year, and is now very much less than it ever was.

Altrincham Exchange

12.

asked the Postmaster-General what plans he has for the modernisation of the Altrincham telephone exchange; and when these plans will be executed.

It is planned to convert the Altrincham telephone exchange to automatic working as soon as the necessary building can be erected and the equipment installed. This is an extensive job which is unlikely to he completed before the end of 1954.

Is there no hope of completing the work earlier, in view of the congestion on this exchange despite efficient staffing?

I do not think that there is any hope of completing this particular job, but there is room to put on a number of other lines with an extension of the present exchange.

Kiosks, Rural Areas

13.

asked the Postmaster-General how many public telephones have been installed in country areas in the West Riding of Yorkshire during the past 12 months; how many villages of more than 500 inhabitants, or a similar convenient number, in the West Riding are still without public telephones; and what plans are in hand for the installation of further public telephones in country districts in the West Riding.

Fifty-three telephone kiosks were installed in 1948 in rural areas of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and plans are in hand for the provision of a further 60. The number of villages of more than 500 inhabitants without a telephone kiosk is not readily available.

Is not the Postmaster-General aware that there is a great demand for the installation of public telephones; and can he indicate the chief reasons that make progress so slow?

I think that the progress in providing telephone kiosks in the last two years has been quicker than it ever was before.

17.

asked the Postmaster-General if he is now able to give further details of the quota system of providing public telephone kiosks in rural areas as announced by him on 30th March.

Under the new quota system the Post Office will determine each year the total number of rural kiosks which it can provide, and, in cooperation with the Rural Districts Councils Association, will allocate this number between counties. The location of the individual kiosks will be determined in the light of the recommendations of the rural local authorities in each county. Final details of the scheme are still under discussion.

As many of the rural areas in the most remote parts of Cumberland have been waiting three or four years since applying for these public telephone kiosks, cannot the right hon. Gentleman do something on the quota system to hasten the remedying of the shortage of equipment or manpower?

In spite of difficulties we have allocated to the building of telephone kiosks in remote areas a far larger proportion than ever before.

Morecambe

14.

asked the Postmaster-General how many persons were on the waiting list for a telephone in Morecambe on 31st March, 1946; and how many arc on the waiting list now.

There were 605 outstanding applications for telephone service in Morecambe on 31st March, 1946, and 572 on 31st March, 1949. Over 900 new subscribers have been connected during this period.

When will the right hon. Gentleman catch up on this considerable waiting list?

Well, we are doing our best, but it is largely a question of manpower, and in some cases of capital equipment.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long a potential subscriber has to wait before he is connected?

Women Clerks, Sheffield

16.

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that temporary women clerks over 33 years of age employed in the Post Office Telephone Manager's office, Sheffield, have been warned that they are redundant and will be dismissed, their places being filled by recruitment; that temporary women clerks over 33 are to be denied the opportunity to pass a qualifying test for appointment to the establishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The replacement of temporary women clerks by established staff in the telephone manager's office at Sheffield is in accord with an agreement of the National Whitley Council which applies to the Civil Service as a whole. The upper age limit for appointment as clerical assistant is 33, but a proportion of the temporary clerks older than 33 have been given establishment as clerical officers, and a further scheme of establishment is being carried out. It has also been possible for temporary women clerks older than 33, with a knowledge of machine operating, to secure establishment as machine assistants.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether discrimination is exercised either against or in favour of married women in these cases?

I am not quite sure about that. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down that question.

Post Office

New Building, Newport

15.

asked the Postmaster-General what arrangements he proposes to make to ensure that all the facilities at Newport Post Office will be continued and maintained during the building operations for the new offices on the same site.

Building operations will be confined to the site adjoining the present head post office, and all public facilities will be fully maintained while the building work is going on.

Stamp Issues, Argentina

18.

asked the Postmaster-General if his attention has been drawn to postage stamps issued by the Argentine Government and designed with maps to emphasise Argentine pretensions to the Falkland Islands and Dependencies; and whether he will decline to accept for transmission by British postal services covers bearing such stamps as offensive propaganda.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, under the provisions of the Universal Postal Convention, the criterion for the prepayment of postage in the international postal service is that the postage stamps used must be valid in the country of origin; and it would neither be consistent with those provisions nor in the interests of the addressees to do as the hon. Member suggests.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his indifference will be deeply resented by our fellow subjects in the Falkland Islands?

I do not think there is any indifference at all. If I did what the hon. Member wishes I should have a lot of people in this country complaining.

Post-Mark, Lancaster And Morecambe

19.

asked the Postmaster-General if, in view of the separation of Morecambe from Lancaster under the Representation of the People Act, he will change the post-mark "Lancaster and Morecambe" to "Morecambe and Heysham."

No, Sir. There would be no public or postal advantage in doing as the hon. Member suggests.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there would be very great pleasure in Morecambe and Heysham?

Office Business

20.

asked the Postmaster-General what business is transacted at post offices apart from postal, telegraph, telephone and savings bank services.

Apart from the services named by the hon. Member, other business transacted at Post Offices includes: (1) Issue and payment of money orders and postal orders, (2) Payment of pension and allowance orders and of postal drafts issued by Government Departments, (3) Sale of insurance, entertainments duty, and certain fiscal stamps, (4) Issue of broadcast, television, motor vehicle, local taxation and private brewer licences, (5) Issue of standard petrol ration books, (6) Issue of tobacco duty relief token books and application forms, (7) Acceptance of documents for stamping for transmission to the Inland Revenue, (8) Issue of forms and leaflets relative to these and other Government services, (9) Maintenance of lists of doctors and chemists participating in the National Health scheme.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, but would he not agree, in view of the length of that list of extras, that his salary ought to be raised?

Will my right hon. Friend recommend the Post Office Guide to the hon. Member from which he can get all the information he wants?

Royal Air Force

Married Quarters

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many of the existing married quarters which were intended for junior Royal Air Force officers at the various Royal Air Force stations throughout Great Britain are now occupied by senior officers to the exclusion of those for whom they were intended.

Apart from a few exceptions, for example where station commanders are required for service reasons to occupy official residences, married quarters for R.A.F. officers are allotted in accordance with a points scheme which has no relation to rank and is common to both junior and senior officers. Under this scheme it is the case that some quarters originally built for junior officers are now being occupied by officers of more senior rank, but the actual number is not available.

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that it is awfully discouraging to junior officers, who have always regarded these houses as being for their own use, to see them taken by senior officers? Cannot he change this practice as soon as possible?

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when an officer occupies a smaller house than that to which he is entitled he has to pay the higher rent? Will he see that the correct rent is paid in future?

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the number of married quarters for senior and junior officers which are now needed at Royal Air Force stations throughout Great Britain.

We estimate that over 4,000 new quarters are required, of which the majority will be needed for officers of the rank of squadron-leader and above.

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise the great importance of making this accommodation available, and will he give this first priority so that officers get the accommodation they ought to have?

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether many officers have resigned their commissions because of the difficulty of obtaining accommodation?

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why pre-fabricated houses appropriately painted are not being used for married quarters on Royal Air Force stations throughout Great Britain.

In view of the limited resources in finance, labour and materials available to my Department each year since the war for the construction of new married quarters, and the fact that a considerable amount of surplus hutting has been available at R.A.F. stations for conversion to married quarters at substantially less than the cost of prefabricated houses, the policy of my Department has been to concentrate on the construction of permanent quarters and the conversion of hutting. We have converted 1,200 huts to temporary married quarters since the end of the war, and will complete the conversion of a further 1,100 this year. As announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, urgent consideration is being given by the Government to the possibilities of expanding the present building programme for the Services, and in this connection the possibility of using prefabricated houses is being examined.

I sincerely hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will give very serious consideration to this, because all the jigs and tools are there and he could build these houses much quicker than he could build houses of any other type?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend inform the House what is the appropriate paint for married quarters?

Demobilisation (Release Books)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that a number of serving men in the Royal Air Force were sent back to their units in England from Enniskillen. County Fermanagh, for demobilisation on the 16th March, 1949, and because it was found that they had blue demobilisation books instead of brown demobilisation books they have all been sent back to Enniskillen; and if he will make a statement.

Four airmen who reported for demobilisation at a personnel dispersal centre in Lancashire with the wrong kind of release book filled in were sent back to their unit in Northern Ireland for correct documentation. I regret that this action was taken and instructions have been issued that should prevent any similar occurrence in future.

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Enniskillen is a very nice place to which to be sent back? I was at school there.

Electric Cables, Membury Airfield

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that the people of Woodland St. Mary and Lambourn Woodlands, in Berkshire, are being denied a public supply of electricity by reason of his Department's requirement that the lines in the proximity of Membury airfield must be laid underground, which adds £3,650 to the cost of the proposed supply scheme; and if he will make some payment to meet the extra cost of laying the cable underground.

No, Sir. I am not aware that the residents of the two villages referred to have been denied a public supply of electricity by reason of any action on the part of my Department. Where, as in this case an R.A.F. airfield is in existence prior to the laying of electric cables close to it by an electricity authority, it has always been the practice that the extra cost of laying such cables underground should be borne by the electricity authority concerned. In these circumstances, the last part of the Question does not arise.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consult with the Minister of Fuel and Power? Does he not agree that it is outrageous that these villagers who want a public supply of electricity should be charged expenses which properly are his concern and have nothing to do with them or the electricity board?

I certainly agree that every village should be provided with electricity, but the question of paying for it is a different matter, at least when my Department is asked to pay for it.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that this practice by the Service Ministers—it was confirmed by the Admiralty today—is preventing residents in these rural constituencies getting a supply at anything like a reasonable cost, and as the Government promised that they would provide the cost themselves is this not another case of a broken pledge?

That is a question which should be put down to the Minister of Fuel and Power.

I understood that this Question was put down to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, as was the Question to the Admiralty, and that they were transferred to the Service Departments?

Civil Aviation

Airports, London

29.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will review the question of future London airport requirements as a matter of urgency and if he will consider setting up an airport committee to consider the whole question.

This question is under continuous review within my Department, and no purpose would therefore be served by setting up an airport committee on the lines proposed.

Will not my hon. Friend agree that so far the provision of aerodromes for London has been considered piecemeal and no overall policy has been decided? Since the Pakenham Committee was set up to consider the question of flying-boat bases, would it not be appropriate now to have a similar committee set up to consider landing places especially in the London area?

The policy for aerodromes is settled, and I announced it on 1st March.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that it may be necessary to plan for two entirely different types of airports, the one dealing with the helicopter type of aeroplane, as near as possible to the centre of our cities, and the other dealing with the 100-ton type of aircraft? Does not he agree that, in planning, these two factors must be taken into consideration?

South-West Pacific Conference

30.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation for what reasons he is not making the report on the South-West Pacific Conference available to Members.

This document was a report to my noble Friend made in conformity with usual practice by the senior officer of the Ministry accompanying the delegation. Reports of this kind are confidential, and it would not be in the public interest to make them generally available.

Spain

British Consulate, Saragossa (Closing)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the closing of the British Consulate at Saragossa.

On 23rd November last the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the withdrawal of Senor Gil our Vice-Consul at Saragossa. Upon instructions His Majesty's Chargé ďAffaires asked the Spanish Government to explain their action: he was informed that they did not consider Senor Gil a suitable person to be acting as Vice-Consul for a foreign Government, but that since he was a Spanish citizen they felt under no obligation to give further details. This attitude of the Spanish authorities unfortunately left us no alternative than to withdraw Senor Gil. This was done on 16th December; and the Vice-Consulate has been closed.

British Consular Official, Las Palmas (Transfer)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Mr. Thomas Bates, an official of the British Consulate at Las Palmas, has been ordered by the Spanish Government to leave Spain.

Mr. Thomas Bates, who was British Consul at Las Palmas, has been transferred from this post at the request of the Spanish Government, who alleged that he had indulged in "hostile activities." His Majesty's Government do not admit the justification for this request. Nevertheless, it was clear that, having regard to the attitude of the Spanish authorities, Mr. Bates would no longer have been able to carry out satisfactorily his duties at a Spanish post. He was, therefore, withdrawn under protest.

Has another British citizen been sent to that post in substitution for Mr. Bates?

Uno Resolution

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to oppose the association of Spain with any of the technical organisations of the United Nations.

The present Spanish Government is excluded from the specialised agencies of the United Nations by a recommendation of the General Assembly of 12th December, 1946. So long as this recommendation remains in force, His Majesty's Government will abide by it.

Have the Government an intention of moving that this resolution be rescinded?

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the Government will not support any motion to rescind this resolution?

It is not our present intention to support a move to rescind the resolution. At the same time, a case can be made out against the exclusion of Spain from international conferences of a technical character, and I cannot commit the Government to opposing any such move, if it is made.

German Prisoners (Uk—Ussr Notes)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been received from the Soviet Government to the suggestion made by His Majesty's Government on 15th March that an international body should be invited freely to carry out an inspection of the conditions under which German ex-prisoners of war are living in the United Kingdom, the Middle East and the Soviet Union.

No reply has yet been received from the Soviet Government to His Majesty's Government's Note of 15th March about the retention of German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union, in which this suggestion was contained.

Transjordan (British Forces)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has given to the representations from the Israeli Government about the presence of His Majesty's Forces in Transjordan.

The text of the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) on this subjest on 28th March has been communicated both to the Acting Israeli Representative in London and to the Israeli Representative at the United Nations, in reply to their representations.

The hon. Gentleman has not read my Question. I asked what reply he had given. No reply has been given to me.

The hon. and gallant Member asked what reply has been given to the representations from the Israeli Government. The reply we gave was the text of the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date the Transjordan Government made the request that British troops shall patrol the frontier of Transjordan from Aqaba to the Dead Sea; on what date he replied; and what the reply was.

The request from the Transjordan Government that the British Force at Aqaba should send patrols along the Western frontier of Transjordan from Aqaba to Gharandal was transmitted by His Majesty's Legation on 17th March. Since an armistice between Transjordan and Israel has been concluded the question no longer arises, and no reply has been given.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent the size of the British Forces in Aqaba will be reduced in consequence of the conclusion of Israel-Transjordan armistice agreement.

The full text of the armistice agreement is not yet available. I am not in a position to make any statement.

As Aqaba is now assuming considerable strategic importance will the Government negotiate with the Government of Transjordania, with a view to establishing it as a permanent base?

In view of the agreement reached between Israel and Transjordan is it now the intention of His Majesty's Government to withdraw our Forces from Aqaba?

Aden Disturbances (Compensation)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why, arising from the report of the commission of inquiry into the Aden riots, the Government of Aden have not accepted liability to pay compensation.

The Commissioner's report did not, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, disclose a case for compensation on either legal or moral grounds. He has approved the Governor's proposal to put into effect a scheme of ex gratia assistance for rehabilitation purposes.

In view of the fact that that report shows that there was a certain negligence on the part of at least a section of the authorities in not preventing the riots which took place a year ago, as a result of which about 100 people were killed and much property was damaged, is not some responsibility vested in the authorities? Will the hon. Gentleman review his decision?

The report showed nothing of the kind. The Commissioner found that the local Government had no grounds for apprehending the outbreak which occurred.

Does it not also state in the report that a great many of the deaths and a good deal of the damage which was done were due to mistakes made by British officers in charge of the troops? Will my hon. Friend make the report available to Members, so that they can make up their own minds on the justice and equity of this matter?

I do not accept the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question.

Colonial Empire

Public Works (Model Plans)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what assistance is given by Colonial Public Works departments in the form of free plans and specifications for model small houses, shops, markets, schools and hospitals to those who need them, with a view to preventing elementary mistakes in buildings by amateurs.

Several Colonial Public Works departments or Social Welfare departments publish reports and manuals containing model plans (usually of houses).

Food Production

79.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the policy of the Colonial Development Corporation is to promote food production through private enterprise or by State owned model and experimental farms.

I would invite the hon. Member to apply to the Corporation for this information.

Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman has not got that information? Ought it not to be available to the House?

It means that that information is available at the Corporation and not at my Ministry.

Advisory Council For Wales

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now able to announce the names of the chairman and members of the proposed Advisory Council for Wales.

46.

asked the Prime Minister the names of the persons appointed to serve on the Advisory Council for Wales; and the proposed date and venue of the first meeting of the Council.

The composition of the Council has not been finally settled, but I hope to be able to announce the names shortly. Arrangements for the first meeting will not, of course, be made until it has been set up.

Will the right hon. Gentleman appoint, as chairman of this body, a person of some eminence in Wales who has not been associated with party politics, in view of the fact that the setting up of this body has not been well received in the Principality?

The qualifications of the person to be selected as chairman will be taken into account.

Is it the intention to appoint women to the Council, as well as men?

Bbc (Inquiry Procedure)

47.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether, in view of the public interest in the staffing, organisation and work of the British Broadcasting Corporation, he will now arrange for the inquiry which is to be held under the chairmanship of Sir Cyril Radcliffe to take place in public and be open to the Press.

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) on 31st January, it is for the committee of inquiry itself to determine its procedure.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it right, in view of the public money involved, that the public should be kept acquainted of what transpires at the inquiry?

We are following precedent. The last committee of inquiry, before the war, met in private. All I am saying is that it is for the committee itself to determine whether it sits in public or private. I think that that will be most convenient because some of the evidence will be of such a character that the persons concerned will give better and franker evidence in private than in public.

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the committee that, if possible, it should sit in public? There is some feeling on the matter.

I do not think there is any public feeling about it at all. I do not think it would be right to indicate to the committee one way or the other what it should do; it is for the committee to be master of its own procedure.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that the Crawford Committee, the first of these committees, sat in public throughout?

Common Cold (Research)

48.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is now in a position to report on the progress made in the investigation of the causes that produce the common cold which have been carried out for some time by the Medical Research Council establishment at Salisbury.

The researches at Salisbury, promoted by the Medical Research Council with the co-operation of the Ministry of Health, are adding steadily to knowledge of various aspects of the common cold, though the nature of the problem is such that rapid progress cannot be expected. The fact that it has been found possible to transmit the infection to human volunteers, in some 60 per cent. of cases, by means of filtered nasal washings from people with colds strongly indicates that the cause is a virus.

Armed Forces

National Service Men (Civilian Clothing)

49.

asked the Minister of Defence what would be the annual cost of providing Service men called up since 1st January, 1947, with a civilian clothing grant of £10.

50, 51, 52.

asked the Minister of Defence, (1) what would be the approximate annual cost of a cash grant of £15, in lieu of clothing, to each National Service man on demobilisation;

(2) What would be the approximate annual cost of issuing to each National Service man on demobilisation a clothing outfit consisting of one utility suit of reasonable quality, two shirts, and one pair of shoes;

(3) How many men or women it is estimated would have to be employed full time in the administration of a scheme for issuing an outfit of clothing to National Service men on demobilisation.

54.

asked the Minister of Defence how much it would cost to provide a suit of civilian clothing to demobilised National Service men.

The cost during the financial year 1949–50 of providing a cash grant of £15 to each National Service man on demobilisation would be approximately £3.4 million. For a cash grant of £10 the cost would be roughly £2.3 million. The organisation originally established to issue civilian outfits under the "age and service" release scheme has been to a very large extent wound up and it is difficult to assess the overall cost to the Services in money and manpower of reestablishing an organisation adequate to issue clothing on the scale mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg). The actual cost of purchasing the clothing mentioned by my hon. Friend would be about £1.6 million. If a suit only were issued the cost of the clothing itself would be about £1 million.

In view of the growing feeling in the country on this matter will my right hon. Friend reconsider the decision he announced last week and agree in principle to a £10 grant, after which he can argue with his Service colleagues how to save £2 million from the vast sum of £760 million already passed for the Services?

It would be wrong to mislead the House on this matter. It has been carefully considered. The Estimates for the Fighting Services, which have been submitted and passed by the House, have already been severely pruned and reduced. The decision of the Government is that they are unable to increase those Estimates this year.

Is not the sum of £1 million to supply a suit to each of these men an infinitesimal amount in relation to the total defence expenditure, and has my right hon. Friend any doubt that Parliament would approve a small Supplementary Estimate for this specific purpose?

It is a question whether the Executive Government would submit to the House an increase in the Estimates, and I have already dealt with that point. One million pounds is the bare cost of the wholesale contract for the suits alone and would not be the end of the cost.

As that figure of £1 million given by my right hon. Friend represents the cheapest quotation received so far, will he in the quarter of an hour or 20 minutes still available to him ask his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put the appropriate entry in the appropriate petty cash column of the Budget?

Today, of all days, is the last one on which I should like to commit my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that nothing that the Government have done within recent months has merited such condemnation in the country as this mean and reprehensible action?

That is because the people are not being properly informed of the position. The position of these men is very different indeed from that of those for whom the House provided very generous grants for clothing as a result of the age and service release scheme following war service.

Is the Minister aware that many of these young men have widowed mothers and when they come out of the Army they will have nothing but an ordinary Army suit in which to go to work?

I beg to give notice that I shall do my best to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

57.

asked the Minister of Defence what facilities are provided by the Services to enable National Service men to save enough from their pay to buy civilian clothing on demobilisation; and how many have done this up to date.

There are ample facilities to enable Service men to save and a considerable proportion of men take advantage of them. I cannot, however, say how many National Service men do so or how many have saved enough to buy clothing.

In view of the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave last week, I should like to ask him whether he himself has seen the budgets of any of these National Service men, many of whom give a weekly allowance to their parents, and if so, is he satisfied that they can save from their pay to buy these suits of clothes?

We took a great number of factors into consideration when considering the matter, which we did at length and with the utmost sympathy. I have got particulars which show that a very large percentage of the Army personnel are using the Post Office Savings Bank for deposits, and I have a good many other figures to show that many soldiers are saving money.

Cadets (Uniform Allowance)

53.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make the full uniform allowance of £50 on commission to those National Service men who at the time he announced the reduction to £29 had already started training as officer cadets.

If before the new rates of allowance were announced cadets had, in good faith, ordered uniform on the old scales the former rates of allowance will be paid.

Jet Bombers (Production)

55.

asked the Minister of Defence what priority has been given to the production of jet bombers.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air in this House on 15th March.

Is the Minister of Defence aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction over our slowness in getting into production with jet bombers, and is he himself satisfied that everything possible is being done to get into production at the earliest possible moment?

I am quite satisfied about the last point. I am sure my hon. Friend knows full well how long it takes to develop a jet bomber from the actual first designing stage. That has already been debated in the House.

Food Supplies

Hostel, Shanklin (Prosecution)

58.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now make a further statement regarding the action being taken by his Department in respect of the simultaneous issue in the last week of February of eight weeks bacon ration to the Manor House Hostel, Shanklin, Isle of Wight.

Proceedings having been instituted, the matter is sub judice, and it would not be proper for me to say more in reply to a Question which appears to pre-judge the issue to be tried by the court.

Eire Food Circulars

59.

asked the Minister of Food whether his attention has been drawn to circulars sent from Eire to addresses in the United Kingdom offering foodstuffs for purchase; how far his regulations permit such proceedings; and whether he will make a public announcement on the position.

Yes, Sir. We have no jurisdiction over traders in Eire who send these circulars, but anyone in the United Kingdom buying rationed foods offered in this way is committing an offence against The Food [Rationing] (General Provisions) Order.

Will the right hon. Lady undertake to give the maximum publicity to that statement, because many people in this country do not realise it?

Eggs

61.

asked the Minister of Food whether priority and non-priority consumers are entitled to a share of the extra eggs which are now available.

Fats Allocation

62.

asked the Minister of Food if he will allocate more butter or margarine to those who pot and preserve shrimps and other fish.

No, Sir. We are giving the highest allowance possible to all food manufacturers and processors, and we cannot increase the rate of allocation to any specific class of manufacturer at present.

In view of the shortage of meat, would not the right hon. Lady agree that this would be a valuable way of getting food of a high protein value, such as Morecambe shrimps, and will she undertake to reconsider this question?

I am very sympathetic, but I must remind the hon. Gentleman that it needs half a pound of margarine for every quart of shrimps.

63.

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the reduced meat ration, he will increase the fat allocation to enable larger quantities of fish to be cooked in the home.

The total fats ration has been increased twice during the past 15 months and is now higher than it has ever been since January, 1942. Naturally we shall increase it again as soon as we can, but at the moment this is not possible.

When the right hon. Lady talks about the fat ration, does she realise the necessity and desirability for the people to eat more fish, and that unless they get the fats with which to cook it, they cannot do so because they cannot live on steamed fish? Will she look into the matter?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are looking for fats everywhere.

Meat Ration

64.

asked the Minister of Food what is the estimated number of persons entitled to the higher scale of meat ration; what quantity of meat is thus supplied weekly; and whether, in view of the reduced meat ration in force today, he will consider the need to permit agricultural workers to be in the higher scale, or to remove all restrictions on pig-keeping by agricultural workers so that they can obtain increased quantities of food.

The number of consumers who receive individual allowances of meat in excess of the general ration is 1,180,000 involving the issue of 470 tons of meat weekly. In view of the very serious meat supply position, my right hon. Friend regrets that he is unable to allow an increased ration for agricultural workers. An agricultural worker is under less stringent conditions than other pig keepers and is allowed to kill two pigs a year. The restrictions on self-supplier pig-keeping must be maintained for the present in order to prevent abuse.

Will the right hon. Lady consider some method of increasing the meat ration for agricultural workers who are unable to keep pigs?

In the light of the Debate yesterday the hon. Gentleman will agree that things are difficult.

Does the right hon. Lady realise that agricultural workers are in a position of special disadvantage as they have no access to works canteens?

66.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the decrease in the meat ration, an increased allowance will be made for diabetics whose special ration was fixed when the meat ration was 1s. 4d. per week.

My medical advisers, the Food Rationing (Special Diets) Advisory Committee of the Medical Research Council, are now considering the whole question of the present level of meat supplies in relation to all classes of invalids, including diabetics.

Potatoes

65.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will state the tonnage of ware potatoes still in clamp on the farms; and what steps are being taken to ensure that the large surplus is being diverted to manufacture.

It is estimated that there were 2½ million tons of ware potatoes on farms in Great Britain on 1st March. My Department is very actively engaged in moving the surplus for stock-feeding and processing, and factories are working to full capacity seven days a week.

Can we be assured that all potatoes of last year's crop, if they do not go for human consumption, will at least find their way into industrial uses?

Would the right hon. Lady be prepared to consider what I believe to be a practical scheme of linking the profitable consumption of surplus potatoes with the problem of the man or woman who wants to keep a pig? Will she be prepared to consider a proposal which I should like to put before her?

Certainly, Sir. I am always prepared to consider proposals, especially from the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Can the right hon. Lady confirm that 70,000 tons a week are now going to processing? How long will she be able to maintain that amount?