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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 463: debated on Monday 11 April 1949

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Ministry Of Supply

Motorcars (Home Market)


asked the Minister of Supply whether he will make a statement concerning the allocation of cars to the home market.

Yes, Sir. It is essential that we should continue to make every effort to export the maximum number of cars and for that reason no reduction can be made in the export target of 75 per cent. of output. Steel allocations to car manufacturers will continue to depend on export performances, particularly to hard currency markets. The achievement of the 75 per cent. target would leave about the same number of cars for the home market as last year. However, in order to give manufacturers greater flexibility, they will no longer be asked to keep rigidly within quarterly allocations for the home market as long as their exports over a reasonable period attain the required level.

Will my right hon. Friend make available to the motor industry whatever steel is necessary to maintain an increased output both for the home and export markets?

All I can say is that the allocation of steel to the motor industry has been substantially increased.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider releasing cars to local authorities, in view of the great shortage of cars for nurses at present?

In view of the anxiety felt among some workers in the motor industry, will my right hon. Friend make it plain that, whatever the balance between the home and export markets, it is the Government's overriding intention to ensure full employment for the industry's workers so long as the present good record of the industry continues?

We should like to do that, but it is quite impossible to allocate large quantities of steel, which is scarce, for a large number of cars for the home market.

Lead Prices


asked the Minister of Supply what price he is paying for lead abroad; what price he charges the British consumer for this lead; and when he proposes to bring these prices into line.

It would be contrary to established practice to disclose contract prices. The price of lead to consumers in the United Kingdom was reduced on 4th April, 1949, from £123 a ton to £106 a ton delivered.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although there has been a reduction in price, our manufacturers are having to pay £106 a ton for lead while America is paying £82? Is it not a disastrous state of affairs, when markets are falling away, that we should continue with bulk purchase? Why not re-open the London Metal Exchange?

Considerable freight has to be paid between America and the United Kingdom, and the figures which the hon. Member gave are not strictly comparable. It is our object to keep the price reasonably stable over as long a period as possible. There were times when our price was below that of America.

If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question about freights. I will give him an answer.

Is it not a fact that the Minister himself decides the price, roughly, every quarter, and that at the moment prices are having an adverse effect on certain manufacturers in Birmingham, where people are not able to anticipate what the next price will be?

Steel Scrap Prices


asked the Minister of Supply what is the price of German steel scrap which is being purchased by a Government agency; what the cost is of delivery to Scottish ports; and how these prices compare with world prices.

The export price of German steel scrap is £7 2s. 6d. a long ton free alongside German port. The average cost of delivery to Scottish ports, including the cost of handling at German ports, brings the price to £9 2s. 6d. a ton free alongside Scottish ports. The price of £7 2s. 6d., reached by agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States Governments, was based on the world price ruling in October, 1948.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this price is £3 more than the home price for scrap, and that the world price is falling? Will he approach the United States Government with a view to seeing that it is brought more or less into line with the American price, which is 20 dollars per ton, compared with 28 dollars per ton?

The difference between the home price and the German scrap price arises from the fact that there is a strict control of the home price, which keeps it low. There may be some revision of the German scrap price.

Iron And Steel (Western Europe)


asked the Minister of Supply how the British proportion of the £75 million applied for by the Economic Co-operation Administration on behalf of the iron and steel industry of Western Europe is composed.

The facts on which the hon. and gallant Member's Question is based are incorrect. The position is that £25 million (not £75 million) has been applied for, not by E.C.A. but by countries participating in O.E.E.C., for schemes approved by that organisation. The United Kingdom's share is about £7¾ million, of which nearly £6¾ million is for the Steel Company of Wales, and a little over £1 million for Messrs. Stewarts and Lloyds.

Since this is the first composite demand by the countries of Western Europe to America for aid, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would be desirable to state whether this is a loan or a grant and what conditions are attached to it, and in general, to disclose the whole situation? It is an historic incident.

All that has happened is that application has been made to E.C.A. for these sums. It is not possible to say now whether the loan or grant will be made and, if so, whether there will be any conditions.

Government Contractors List


asked the Minister of Supply whether the firm of Pratt's, drapers and furnishers, of Streatham, is on the list of Government contractors.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether considerations of national security make it essential for this firm and other drapery shops of the John Lewis Partnership to conduct a political purge of their employees? Will he make it clear that the Government do not favour this kind of unnecessary discrimination where it serves no public interests?

I should not have thought that any security aspect was involved. As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, the Government take steps in this direction only where the question of high security is involved, and in no other circumstances.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that even in those cases in which the Government take action it is not by way of discrimination against employment, but that they do their best to provide those affected with other employment?

Palace Of Westminster (Lighting)


asked the Minister of Works if he will now arrange for the more satisfactory lighting of Westminster Palace, especially those places of most interest to the public.

The use of some of the existing lights in the Palace of Westminster has been restricted to save fuel. I am arranging that these economy measures should be relaxed so far as this can be done without exceeding the financial provision made in the Estimates. I cannot undertake the installation of any additional fittings until the new sub-station is in operation.

As, very shortly, many tourists will be coming to these islands, does not my right hon. Friend think it is at least desirable, while bearing in mind Budget restrictions, that we should throw as much light on our historic places at Westminster as we do on Piccadilly after dark?

When the new sub-station is in operation next year, I may be able to do a good deal then.

Will the drab and dim Central Lobby be better lighted, and the enormous candelabra hanging therein be attended to?

Falkland Islands


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the refusal of the Argentine authorities to recognise the validity of birth certificates issued in the Falkland Islands to British subjects; and what action he proposes to take.

Yes, Sir. The refusal of the Argentine authorities to recognise the validity of documents issued in the Falkland Islands is believed to be based on the Argentine Government's claim to sovereignty over these islands. The Falkland Islands are, and have been for over 100 years, governed by the United Kingdom and the Argentine claim has no foundation. Our position has been made clear to the Argentine Government in numerous diplomatic notes. The action of the Argentine authorities can affect neither the British title to the islands nor the position of the persons concerned as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and it is therefore not proposed to take further diplomatic action.

While thanking the Under-Secretary for that answer, may I ask him whether the decision of the Argentine Federal Court, based on the pretension that the Falklands are Argentine territory, amounts to a declaration that Falkland Islanders are Argentine subjects? Is not that a matter of the greatest possible importance?

It is a declaration which we dispute and in any case it does not affect the British nationality of the persons concerned.


Buenos Aires Transport Corporation


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what are the exact claims which His Majesty's Ambassador in Buenos Aires is putting before the Argentine Government as due to the British shareholders in the Buenos Aires Transport Corporation; and how far has the Argentine Government failed to comply with agreements, contracts, or guarantees entered into with this Corporation since 1936; and how much money is involved;

(2) whether, in view of the conversations going on at present between the British Ambassador in Buenos Aires and the Argentine Foreign Secretary concerning compensation to be paid to British shareholders in the Buenos Aires Tramway Corporation, any postponement of the liquidation of the assets scheduled for Tuesday, 12th April, can be arranged until some arrangement has been reached.

The instructions of His Majesty's Ambassador at Buenos Aires are to try to bring about direct negotiations between the British companies forming part of the Buenos Aires Transport Corporation and the Argentine Government, with a view to the purchase by the latter of the companies' holdings at an acceptable figure. If agreement on this course can be reached, the date fixed for the liquidation of the Corporation will, presumably, be deferred. The Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company consider that the Argentine Government has not adhered either to the terms on which the Buenos Aires Transport Corporation was set up in 1938, or to the terms of a financial agreement signed in 1942 between the Argentine Government, the Buenos Aires Transport Corporation and a financial group. My right hon. Friend has not been informed of the total amount claimed by the various companies concerned, nor what figure they would regard as acceptable.

While appreciating that the hon. Gentleman cannot go into any further detail while the negotiations are in progress, may I ask him if he will bear in mind that the original sum suggested by Senor Miranda, amounting to over £11 million, would mean something like 4d. on our meat ration? As the sum claimed by the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company for the Buenos Aires Corporation is about £20 million, which would be about 8d. worth of meat on our meat ration, will he assure us that British shareholders' claims will continue to be backed by the Government even if liquidation is forced within the next few days?

Meat Shipments


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the date upon which, at the request of the Minister of Food, His Majesty's Ambassador in the Argentine was instructed to bring pressure on the Argentine Government at the highest level to speed up shipments of meat.

His Majesty's Ambassador at Buenos Aires was instructed by telegram on 10th December last to inform the Argentine Government immediately of the unsatisfactory situation resulting from their having fallen behind in shipments of meat, and to request assurances of improvement in these shipments due under the Andes Agreement.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food stated, on 17th March, that at the time these representations were made it was physically impossible for meat to be delivered by the end of the contract date? Why has the matter been left until it is too late?

That is clearly a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food who, I am sure, will enjoy answering it in due course.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if we try to question the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on matters coming within the ambit of the Foreign Office, our inquiries are transferred to the hon. Gentleman's Department?

Is there any reason why my hon. Friend should answer when the Minister of Food was refused an opportunity of answering in the food Debate recently?

North Atlantic Pact


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the question with the other signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty as to inviting the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to become a signatory.

What is the objection? In explaining to the House what his objection is, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the statement made in Washington officially the other day that they had no objection to the Soviet Union taking part in the Atlantic Pact subject to one or two provisos? Surely, the hon. Gentleman will conform with what Washington wants?

I am not aware of the Washington statement, but in view of the attitude of the Soviet Government to the Pact, the hon. Member's suggestion is purely academic.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Pact is described in the Communist Press as a capitalist conspiracy against the Soviet Union?

Poland (British Property)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the Polish Government has yet agreed to pay compensation for nationalised British property in Poland.

Yes, Sir. The Polish Government agreed in principle to pay compensation for nationalised British property in Poland in the agreed minute of 31st October, 1947, which was published as a White Paper, but no arrangements could be made for transfers at that time. The Anglo-Polish Trade and Finance Agreement of 14th January, 1949, provides for the payment of certain funds for the satisfaction of British claims for compensation. A Polish delegation recently spent a month in London discussing compensation with representatives of the owners of British nationalised property, and they have undertaken to return in June to continue the negotiations.

Will the hon. Gentleman watch these negotiations carefully to see that we receive fair compensation?

South Schleswig (Scout Uniforms)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why members of the Danish South Schleswig Boy Scouts Association are not allowed to wear their uniforms, whereas they were allowed to do so during the whole of the Nazi régime; and whether he will now consent to allow them to wear their uniforms.

Under a special dispensation by Military Government, the children of Danish-minded parents in South Schleswig who were members of the Association in question have been permitted to wear their uniforms, though not in public, since 4th March, 1946. This concession did not apply to German children in other parts of the British zone. On 7th February, 1949, however, the British authorities issued a new instruction stating that the wearing of scout dress was freely permitted throughout the British zone.

Is the Under-Secretary of State not aware of the value of this splendid organisation, and should not His Majesty's Government give their fullest support to it?

Cardinal Mindszenty (Appeal)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further information concerning the appeal of Cardinal Mindszenty.

I regret I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member on 16th March last.

Can the Under-Secretary say whether anything further has been done on the part of His Majesty's Government, and is it not possible for the Hungarian Government deliberately not to permit an appeal to be made so that if the matter comes before the United Nations they can say that it is still sub judice?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the note which we sent recently to the Hungarian Government, as he may also know that this matter is to be raised at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Germany (Icelandic Fish)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how much fresh fish from Iceland has been contracted for by the Control Commission for delivery to Altona and Hamburg; and to what extent does the British taxpayer bear the cost.

A contract is being placed with Iceland for the delivery during 1949 of up to 67,000 tons of fresh fish to the Western zones of Germany. The cost is being met by His Majesty's Government and is due for repayment from the proceeds of future German imports.

In view of the food shortage here, can we afford to buy 60 thousand odd tons of fresh fish, for which the British taxpayer has to pay, for Germany, and is it not time that we let the Germans fish in Icelandic waters as they have done for many years?

Can the Under-Secretary say what progress has been made by the Germans with the trawlers which they have been allowed to build?

Why is it that the Foreign Office will not permit the Germans to build trawlers a little bigger than those now being built so that they can fish Icelandic waters, which they are willing to do?

Food Supplies



asked the Minister of Food whether he will now remove all the controls on poultry buying and supplying with a view to preventing the black market extending owing to the increasing public demand for poultry, due to the reduced meat ration.

I regret that my right hon. Friend cannot yet make any announcement on this subject.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise the great hardship on the poultry keepers as the result of the increase in the price of feeding-stuffs? Is it not necessary to make some further adjustment to prevent the spread of the black market?

Animal Fats


asked the Minister of Food as leading medical authorities attribute the tiredness and apathy of large sections of the public today to the fact that these people are getting a diet with insufficient animal fats, what steps he is taking to remedy this as far as practicable by providing additional quantities and varieties of other commodities to take their place.

The Economic Survey for 1949 estimates that total fat supplies (including animal fats) will be some 5 per cent. higher and supplies of fat sold in the form of fat (including butter) some 12 per cent. higher in 1948–49 than in the previous 12 months. But naturally we are doing all we can to improve supplies still further.

Surely the right hon. Lady realises that one of the greatest energy givers would be an additional supply of sugar? Has she ever heard of the demand for more sugar?

Has the right hon. Lady not noted with alarm the tiredness and apathy of the Socialist supporters in the county council elections?

Fruit And Vegetables (Director)


asked the Minister of Food what is the name of his Department's Director of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables; and if he will give details of his qualifications for this post.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT on 28th March.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that fresh fruit and vegetables would be much better distributed and a larger number available if this appointment were dispensed with? Is not the present holder of the office a joke in the trade?



asked the Minister of Food if he will make an advance payment on all potatoes purchased by his Department.

All growers receive the acreage payment, usually in the autumn, which is, in effect, an advance payment equivalent to about 30s. per ton. In addition, advance payments are made on potatoes bought by my Department for end of season use. My right, hon. Friend is not able to do more than this.


asked the Minister of Food why, in view of the large surplus of potatoes, a circular from the Potato and Carrot Division, dated 31st March, 1949, Ref. A/E No. 90/, has been sent to merchants, stating that no further orders can be accepted for English grade A potatoes and that Gladstones from Ireland are still available.

There is no surplus of English grade A potatoes and Ministry stocks offered to London merchants have all been taken up. The attention of the trade was, however, drawn to the Northern Ireland Gladstones, as my Department is responsible for moving the United Kingdom surplus as a whole.

Can the right hon. Lady say how many tons of grade A potatoes, which the Minister bought under the guaranteed price, have been used for stock feed?

It is quite impossible for me to do so, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that those which were used for stock feed were deteriorating.

Ministry (Temporary Clerks)


asked the Minister of Food how many temporary clerks have been engaged by his Department for the work of issuing new ration books; for what period they were engaged; and if he is satisfied that the terms of the engagement made clear that employment was on a daily or hourly basis and that no wages would be received for days lost, owing to food offices being closed for Easter holidays.

Thirteen thousand four hundred and thirty temporary clerks have been engaged for this work. While they are mostly employed on a day-to-day basis, they are given an indication of how long they will be needed. If it is intended to continue their employment after Easter they will be paid for the Easter holiday. These clerks are recruited through the Employment Exchanges and the conditions of employment are made clear to them.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that assurance, may I ask whether the payment of those whose services will be further employed after Easter will apply to those areas where the offices close for one week at Easter time?

I would like notice of that, but I think I can assure my hon. Friend that that is so.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether these temporary clerks have to tear out the clothing ration books from the new food ration books, as they are no longer required?

Identity Cards (Stamping)


asked the Minister of Food under what statutory powers his officers are authorised to stamp or otherwise mark identity cards.

By the authority of the Registrar-General, under Regulation 31A of the National Registration Regulations (S.R. & O. 1941 No. 991).

Meat Ration


asked the Minister of Food how he will relate the increase in the price of meat to the meat ration.


asked the Minister of Food what changes he is making in the money value of the meat ration so as to prevent the rise in price reducing the quantity permitted on the ration; and when these changes will take effect.

Can my right hon. Friend say when that is likely to be, and will she try her utmost to make it as soon as possible so that both the consumers and the butchers will know where they stand in this matter?

Could the right hon. Lady give an absolute assurance that none of these changes will result in any reduction in the actual quantity of meat permitted?

I think so, yes. [HON. MEMBERS: "You think so?"] I can give the assurance.

Linseed Oil Imports


asked the Minister of Food what are the main countries from which linseed oil is being imported; and what are the relative prices he is paying.

The main country from which linseed oil is being imported at the present time is Uruguay. It is not in the public interest to disclose information about buying prices.

Could the Minister at least say whether we are buying from the United States and what are the relative prices which we are paying to the United States compared with those which we are paying to other countries? Is it not a fact that we are paying much more?

No, Sir, we are not buying from the United States because of the dollar situation.

Does that mean that the previous greatest supplier of linseed oil, the Argentine, is altogether out of the negotiations?

Sugar (Brewing Industry)

33 and 34.

asked the Minister of Food (1) whether he is aware that, as a result of the 1938 figure being taken as the datum year, brewers in 1948 received only 60.2 per cent. of their normal sugar supplies and that, for the last three months of 1948, the percentage dropped to 56 per cent.; and whether he will cause an early review to be made as to how the sugar requirements of the brewing trade can be better met;

(2) whether he is aware that the reduced sugar allocation to brewers involves the use by them of a larger amount of barley for brewing than would otherwise be necessary; and whether, in view of the present adequacy of sugar supplies and the need for using as much barley as possible to improve the supply of animal feedingstuffs, he will review at an early date the present position with regard to brewers' sugar supplies.


asked the Minister of Food whether he will extend to the brewing industry an increase in the sugar allocation proportionate to that given to other industries.

The Brewing Industry at the moment get approximately 66 per cent. of their pre-war usage of sugar and glucose. We cannot allow them more at present because of the dollar difficulty.

As the latest figures are, in fact, only 56 per cent. of the pre-war usage and as this cut involves a greater use of barley, will the Minister reconsider the matter so that the barley can be reduced and the more plentiful sugar increased?

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his figures. I cannot trace them anywhere, and if he will let me know where he gets them I shall be obliged. As to the second part of the supplementary question, the hon. Gentleman must remember that barley and sugar are both short.

Is there any point in taking a penny off a pint of beer if the brewers cannot get the ingredients to make it?

Is not our main concern to see that the sugar goes into the homes of the people rather than in the direction suggested in the Question?

If I might answer the first supplementary question, the brewers are receiving 38 per cent. of the barley produced in 1948.

Prices And Stocks (Publication)

36 and 37.

asked the Minister of Food (1) what considerations are taken into account by him, and upon what principles he acts, before deciding whether or not it is in the public interest to disclose the price paid for any particular commodity in which his Department is interested;

(2) what considerations are taken into account by him, and upon what principles he acts, before deciding whether or not it is in the public interest to disclose the stocks of any particular commodity held by or under the authority of his Department.

The considerations are those which any prudent trader would take into account or act on in similar circumstances. The Ministry's policy has normally been not to publish particulars of stocks held or the prices paid for supplies. The grounds for the policy are that publication of such data would prejudice the Ministry's trading operations.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the general belief is that these figures are only disclosed when favourable to the Government and not disclosed when unfavourable? When the right hon. Lady mentions future trading arrangements, does she mean that her Department is proposing to buy further supplies of Algerian wine?

Is not the Minister aware that eventually we find out what these prices are, since usually they are published abroad and drift back to us in this country? Why should she not tell us sooner?

The hon. Gentleman has been asking questions this afternoon about other commodities. Surely, as a business man, he must appreciate the position at this moment, when we are negotiating with the Argentine for meat, animal feedingstuffs and linseed oil. Surely it would be imprudent to disclose now what our stocks are and what are the prices which we have paid?

The right hon. Lady specifically referred to the consideration of future purchases. As she has now said that it is not her intention to purchase any more Algerian wine, will she say why the price and the stocks have not been disclosed?

When I said we are not going to purchase any more Algerian wine, I was talking about our short-term programme.

Disabled Ship (Chartered Tug)


asked the Minister of Transport why a British-owned tug which was available was not used to tow the "Ramara" which was disabled at Gibraltar to a West Italian port; and, in view of the necessity of saving foreign currency, if he will in future use British tugs when available.

British tug owners were given the opportunity to tender for this tow, but their lowest quotation was substantially higher than that accepted by the managers of the vessel. The accepted tender came from a Dutch company and there were therefore no currency grounds for departing from normal commercial practice and the policy of non-discrimination in these matters.

Is it the policy of the Minister of Transport when chartering tugs, even if he has to pay a bit more in sterling, not to charter them if dollars are involved?

Defence Talks


asked the Prime Minister on what date he expects to have a confidential talk with the Leader of the Opposition on matters of defence.

This is a matter which will be decided by the right hon. Gentleman and myself.

In view of the mischievous and irresponsible statements that have recently been made in the United States by the Leader of the Opposition, statements which are aimed to lead to war, would the Prime Minister—

The hon. Member must not make these imputations and insinuations. He knows it is quite wrong to do so.

Would the Prime Minister therefore reconsider his previous decision to meet the right hon. Member in order that he should not make more mischief?

Is it not the recognised custom for historic talks to be broadcast? Can these not be on the television programme?

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is quite mistaken. If he had had a little more experience he would know that these conversations are never broadcast.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) has been appointed P.P.S. to the Leader of the Opposition?


Cattle Transport


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange that horned and hornless cattle are not transported from farm to slaughterhouse in the same truck or van.

The separation of horned and hornless cattle would not prevent the horned cattle injuring each other. I will, however, look into the matter and consider whether it is possible to secure the desired object in some other way.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that sympathetic reply, may I ask whether he will bear in mind that, apart altogether from the pain involved in these injuries, there is serious deterioration caused to stock?

The hon. Gentleman's suggestion would not prevent one horned animal injuring another horned animal even if the hornless cattle were separately transported?


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a regulation forbidding the transport of young calves to central slaughterhouses unless conditions in respect of food and space during the journey are satisfactory.

It is an offence under the Transit of Animals Orders of 1927 and 1931 to overcrowd any railway or road vehicle to such an extent as to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to the animals carried therein. It would hardly be practicable to make the feeding of young calves in transit a statutory obligation but I will consult with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food as to whether it would be possible to place some limitation on the distance calves are sent from collecting centres to slaughterhouses.


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will introduce legislation making it imperative that cattle intended for slaughter shall have their horns treated by caustic to prevent their growth while still newly-born calves.

No, Sir. Although I agree that dis-horning diminishes the risk of injury to cattle when in yards or in transit, I do not consider is advisable to introduce legislation making it compulsory.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he were to accept the suggestion in this Question, it would give him an answer to my suggestion in Question 47?

Fruit Census


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will consider holding a fruit census this year rather than in 1950.

I regret that it will not be possible to undertake a comprehensive fruit census until March, 1951, at the earliest. Returns of acreages under fruit are collected annually and other more urgent inquiries before that date will fully absorb the resources of my statistical department.

Egg Prices


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will confer with the Minister of Food with a view to ensuring that egg producers in the United Kingdom receive an average overall return for eggs of 4s. 6d. per dozen throughout the year, with special regard to the increased production costs incurred as a result of the increase in the price of feedingstuffs.

When the price of eggs for the year 1949–50 was fixed full account was taken of all relevant factors, including the recent increases in the price of feedingstuffs.

Does not the Minister realise the simple fact that there is widespread discontent among poultry keepers about the price of feedingstuffs?

I was speaking to about 500 farmers on Saturday afternoon, and during one and a half hours of questions nobody talked about eggs.

Horticultural Cropping Orders


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is now in a position to revoke the Horticultural (Cropping) Orders, 1941, No. 953, 1941, No. 1761 and 1942, No. 1347, in view of the changed circumstances for the better.

The orders to which my hon. Friend refers have been revoked. I assume he has in mind the arrangements under which commercial growers who wish to be assured of fuel supplies are required to sign an undertaking to devote a proportion of their glasshouse space to food crops. These arrangements are at present under review in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power and I hope to be able to make an announcement on the subject shortly.

When will my right hon. Friend be in a position to give some good news to the horticultural growers?

I am afraid that I could not say more at present than is in the latter part of my answer.

Marginal Lands


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has consulted the agricultural executive committees of the counties which have considerable acreages of marginal land; and when he will make known proposals to assist farmers to reclaim such land for full food production.

Close touch is maintained between myself and the county agricultural executive committees, including those to which the hon. Member refers. The efficient use of all agricultural land is a responsibility of my Department which receives unremitting attention, and a variety of expedients have been adopted to increase the output from marginal lands.

Bearing in mind what was said from both sides of the Committee during the meat Debate last week, will the Minister press on with reclaiming marginal land for food production, and let us have some news immediately after Easter of what he intends to do?

As the hon. Member is aware, we already have important schemes, in the hill farming scheme, the hill sheep and hill cattle subsidy schemes, the marginal production scheme which was announced a few weeks ago, the goods and services scheme and various other schemes, all leading to the same results.

Is the Minister really content with the progress in dealing with marginal land?

Can my right hon. Friend tell us how many acres are covered by the schemes now operating?




asked the Minister of Transport if he will continue the temporary order, permitting tractors with narrow rim front steering wheels to use the roads.

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend will continue the present relaxation until 31st December, 1949, but, as at present advised, does not propose to extend it further.

Pedestrian Crossings


asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the results of the Pedestrian Crossing Week.

Preliminary reports on the results of the Pedestrian Crossing Week show that the effort to secure greater use of the crossings gained general public approval. Propaganda was intensive and widespread, and took many novel forms. More than 900 local authorities took part and a great deal of work has been undertaken by the police. Road safety meetings and displays aroused considerable local interest and were well attended. There has been a noticeable increase in the use of the crossing places by pedestrians and motorists have cooperated in a marked degree. It is hardly to be expected that the habits of years can be changed by a seven days' campaign, and to consolidate the results I ask for the continued co-operation of all road users. I am grateful for the support that came from many organised influential bodies of opinion and for considerable publicity by the Press and the B.B.C. I am certain that the results of the week have been well worth the efforts put in by many voluntary workers.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the conclusions he has drawn from this have not been caused by so many pedestrians crossing over to the other side in the local elections?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether one of the matters likely to he discussed as a result of the Pedestrian Crossing Week is an increase in the number of pedestrian crossings? In some areas they were found to be insufficient.

The Committee on Road Safety has recommended to the Minister that existing pedestrian crossings shall be reviewed to see if they are sited in the right places.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have observed many lone women crossing roads at any old place other than the recognised crossings? Will he do something to stop this?

That is why it is so very important that we should maintain this campaign.

Can my hon. Friend give us some clarification on the question of whether motor-cars or pedestrians take precedence at pedestrian crossings?

New regulations will be laid before the House by my right hon. Friend very shortly.

Has my hon. Friend in mind any organised follow-up of this week's effort, in order to prevent any backsliding?

Yes, Sir. There will be continuing propaganda conducted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Can the hon. Gentleman say why the Pedestrian Crossing Week was held before the regulations clarifying the position about traffic lights were published? Is he aware that a great deal of the valuable propaganda and educational work of this week has been lost because there is still very great confusion where pedestrian crossings coincide with traffic lights?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the observations which have been made during this week will enable us to make the regulations more perfect when they are issued.

Has my hon. Friend any figures showing whether during this week there was any diminution in the number of accidents occurring on pedestrian crossings compared with recent weeks?

It may be that if we concentrate more pedestrians on crossings, more pedestrians will be injured at those points but fewer on other parts of the roads.

Questions To Ministers

May I ask the acting Leader of the House whether he has any statement to make about the order of Questions?

The House will recall that on 23rd February a request was made that Foreign Office Questions should be given a fixed position to ensure that some of them are reached every week. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House then agreed to see what could be done.

The matter has been discussed through the usual channels and with the authorities of the House. As a result of this, a suggested re-arrangement has been made which will, I hope, meet the difficulty over Foreign Office Questions and still maintain the balance which we have tried to keep in the past.

The principal changes mean that Foreign Office Questions will be fixed after the Prime Minister's group on Monday, in place of Ministry of Agriculture Questions which will be moved to a similar fixed position on Thursday. Ministry of Fuel and Power Questions will move from Thursday to Monday to redress the balance. Foreign Office Questions will continue to be taken in rotation with other Departments on Wednesday.

I suggest that it would be convenient for the revised order of Questions to operate immediately after the Easter Recess and a printed list will be made available to hon. Members to-morrow. Hon. Members who have already handed in Oral Questions for answer after the Recess may wish to take steps to alter the dates of their Questions to correspond to the new arrangements.

I commend these proposals to the House as a reasonable way of meeting the desires that have been expressed and I hope they will be given a trial.