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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 12 April 1949

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Territorial Army

Regular Reservists (Pay)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he can now make a statement on the regulation laying down that Regular Army Reservists joining the Territorial Army are required to renounce their right to reserve pay.

A man serving in the Reserve cannot enlist in the Territorial Army without first being discharged from the Reserve. A scheme is, however, now being drawn up by which Reservists will be able to volunteer for attachment to the Territorial Army while keeping their Reserve liabilities and pay.

Under the scheme that is being drawn up, will they be paid as volunteers and receive the allowance of volunteer members of the Territorial Army?

As the hon. Member is aware, these Regular Reservists receive pay of not less than £18 5s. a year; while they are attached to the Territorial Army they will receive the usual emoluments, but not the bounty.

Non-Commissioned Officers


asked the Secretary of State for War why ex-Squadron Sergeant-Major A. F. Beal, D.C.M., 1st King's Dragoon Guards, and other highly experienced non-commissioned officers have been discharged from the Territorial Army.

This warrant officer is a Section B reservist. As such he cannot enlist into the Territorial Army until he has been discharged from the Reserve. As a result of a mistake he went through the form of enlistment into the Territorial Army without having been discharged from the Reserve. When the mistake was discovered he opted to remain on the Reserve. I am not aware of any similar cases.

Will he be able to join the Territorial Army under the new scheme which the right hon. Gentleman announced in answer to my earlier Question?



asked the Secretary of State for War why volunteers in Greenjacket units of the Territorial Army are not issued with green berets, though a free issue is made to National Service men in Greenjacket units.

The production of coloured berets is limited, and they are being issued to the active Army first. They will, however, be issued to the Territorial Army eventually, when supplies become available.

On occasions of shortage like this, would it not be wise to give priority to volunteers even over the National Service men? Is it not necessary and desirable to encourage the volunteer?

Of course it is desirable to encourage the volunteer. We are doing all we can in that direction, but we must supply the Regular Army.

I presume that my hon. and learned Friend means the khaki berets. They go to all the men who require them.

British Army

Officers' Marriage Allowance


asked the Secretary of State for War at what age officers of the Army serving on Regular and emergency commissions, respectively, become eligible for the increased rate of marriage allowances.

Emergency commissioned officers, except those whose Army service began on or after 1st January, 1947, and Regular officers without exception, are eligible under the normal rules for the increased rate of officers' marriage allowance if aged 25 or over and for the increased rate of warrant officers' marriage allowance if under 25.

Why is it necessary to discriminate in this respect at all between two classes of officers? Is the intention to give one class more than is needed for the purpose of the allowance or to give the other class less than is needed?

The discrimination is based on the differentiation between Regular officers and National Service officers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time is long overdue when all married officers should receive this marriage allowance, and also that the War Office should cease to arrogate to itself the right to determine when a man should get married?

What I have been asked to do is to reply to the Question on the Order Paper, and not to indicate my agreement with the hon. Gentleman.

Is it not a fact that young men as married officers are not very desirable officers in a unit, and has not that something to do with the reason why this differentiation is made?

Of course, there is a rule that certain emoluments do not apply to officers who marry under the age of 25, but so far as I am personally concerned I will do nothing to discourage anyone marrying who is under 25.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why officers who are charged with the responsibilities of training and caring for their men and of inspiring discipline in them are at the same time not considered eligible to marry and bring up a family? What is the discrimination?

Any officer of the required age and in the proper circumstances is eligible to marry.

Battledress (National Service Men)

5 and 6.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he will allow National 'Service men on demobilisation to retain their khaki battledress without payment;

(2) how many suits of battledress, dyed blue, have been sold to National Service men on demobilisation; and how many National Service men, who have not returned their khaki battledresses on demobilisation, have been debited with the cost.

I am anxious to reduce to a minimum the wearing of battledress by civilians. If National Service men were given a suit of battledress on demobilisation this would increase the indiscriminate wearing of it by civilians. In present circumstances, however, provision is made to allow a National Service man to go home on demobilisation in a suit of battledress if he so desires. This battledress is regarded as on loan and he is expected and encouraged to return it within 10 days. If he does this, he is not charged for it, but a charge is made for suits not returned, in order that there may be an incentive to return them. The general issue on repayment of battledress dyed blue has not begun. Up to 6th April, approximately 6,500 National Service men had failed to return their battledress within the stated period and been debited with the cost.

Is it not a fact that many of these people go home in their khaki battledress because they have no adequate civilian dress to wear? Would not my right hon. Friend's problem be obviated if he could prevail upon the Minister of Defence to give a £10 clothing allowance?

Would not the Secretary of State for War himself put on battledress and enter the fight for demob. suits for National Service men?

Married Officers' Quarters, Middle East


asked the Secretary of State for War what was the annual rental of a major's married quarter in the Middle East before this was recently increased; and how much was the increase.

I am not aware of any recent increase in the annual rental of married officers' quarters. Since 1st July, 1946, the annual quartering charge for a major occupying a married officer's quarter has been £100 furnished or £70 unfurnished.

I have a letter containing a categorical statement about a recent increase, which I will forward to the right hon. Gentleman if he would like to see it?

I should be very glad to have it. I am not aware of any increase in the rental.

Town And Country Planning

County Committee, Cornwall


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will change the method of appointment to the Cornwall County Planning Committee so as not to exclude from representation the Camborne-Redruth Urban District.

The Cornwall county scheme, to which the Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council assented, provides that a proportion only of the county districts are represented on the County Planning Committee in any given year. The selection is made by the area committees, on which all county districts in the areas are represented, and though Camborne-Redruth were not selected this year, they have an opportunity of being selected in future years. Any amendment of the scheme would be a matter for the county council.

Is it not clear that the method at present adopted for making appointments to this committee is unsatisfactory, if it tends to exclude in any way an urban district of the size of Camborne-Redruth, which is not only the largest in the county but the most populous? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that any effective planning for West Cornwall can be done when such a large area, with all the advice that it could give, is excluded? Will he use his good offices with the county council to get them to amend this scheme?

The scheme is one which was actually approved by the Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council. If they no longer approve it, I would suggest that they might take the initiative.

Housing Development, Mobberley


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether any decision has yet been reached about the development of housing or a new town in the Mobberley area of Cheshire; what planning considerations have been applied; and whether he is satisfied that such development is in accordance with good planning.

I decided to proceed no further with the proposal for a new town at Mobberley when it became clear that there was no site in the area sufficiently large and at the same time sufficiently free from the risk of subsidence to justify the use of the machinery provided by the New Towns Act. I hope, however, to be able to announce a decision shortly on a separate proposal by Manchester City Council to develop a limited area at Mobberley for the reception of overspill population and industry from the city. Meanwhile, I can assure the hon. Member that all relevant planning and other considerations, including the need to provide land for Manchester's housing, will be taken into account in determining the nature and extent of any development.

Is the Minister justified in allowing a corporation to acquire for building purposes land which is unsuitable owing to salt and/or peat deposits?

That is a general question which I am not able to answer. If the hon. and gallant Member quotes a specific case to me I will deal with it.


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what is the amount of good agricultural land and land containing deposits of peat which are involved in the area now under consideration for the development of a new town in the Mobberley area of Cheshire; what are the precise sites under consideration; and what is the estimated loss of milk and other agricultural products which will arise from withdrawing this land from agricultural use.

I would refer the hon. Member to my answer to the previous Question. Since it is not proposed to use the machinery provided by the New Towns Act at Mobberley, the precise extent of any area that may be developed there will primarily be a matter for settlement between the local authorities concerned. The Ministry of Agriculture will, however, be consulted about the boundary of any site which it may be proposed to develop, and about the stages by which land should be withdrawn from agricultural use.

In view of the urgent necessity of producing as much food as possible in this country, is it wise to develop a new town on land which consists of part of the best agricultural land in Cheshire?

That is, of course, the reason for the discussions which will be taking place with the Ministry of Agriculture for the purpose of determining the exact site.

Cannot the overspill population of Manchester be rehoused in Lancashire on land which is of less agricultural value than in Cheshire?

That point has, of course, been considered, but some of the large towns in Lancashire themselves have overspill populations.

Are there not alternative sites within reasonable access of Manchester, where the land is of less agricultural value? Have not the National Farmers' Union already submitted alternative proposals?

I am satisfied that there is no land of less agricultural value which would be satisfactory for this purpose.

Is it not possible that if we excavated enough peat we would find an old town of Mobberley?

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the shortage of building land in Lancashire, and take whatever steps are available to provide building land in the adjoining areas?


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what will be the approximate cost of excavating the peat, filling up and compaction per acre in the sites under consideration for development of a new town in the Mobberley area of Cheshire.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my answer to the previous Questions. The cost of preparing any site for development could not be estimated until the site has been fairly precisely defined.

Will there be auger borings on a grid system to ascertain the amount of the deposits of peat and/or salt under the site in question; and is this not now more than ever necessary in view of the borings which have already disclosed deposits of peat and/or salt in that area?

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform us whether there has been or will be a full public inquiry which will cover the points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport)?

Quite naturally, if any objection is taken to the site which is eventually chosen, there will be a public inquiry.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable local apprehension about this matter, and will he initiate an inquiry before any further action is taken?

There is adequate machinery for objections. If there is this considerable apprehension, I have no doubt that it will make itself felt by objections.

Agricultural Land


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how much agricultural land was taken during 1946, 1947 and 1948 by the Ministries of Health, Transport, Fuel and Power, Civil Aviation, Works, and Town and Country Planning and by the War Office, the Air Ministry and the Scottish Office, respectively; and what acreage is expected to be required by these Departments in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

It is impracticable to give the information in the form requested since the necessary records have not been kept in the past and a forecast for the future would take some time to prepare. The existing statistics of the two Agricultural Departments, which cover nearly all the agricultural land in Great Britain, show for the years 1946, 1947 and 1948 an average net annual loss from all causes of some 8,000 acres. I should, however, point out that there are substantial variations from year to year. There was, for example a loss of 73,000 acres in the year 1946–47, and a gain of 80,000 acres in the year 1947–48. I am examining with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries whether figures which would not be misleading could be made available periodically to show changes in the acreage of agricultural land.

In view of the general planning, can the Minister give some indication of the amount of land required, at any rate in the next year? Will he give an assurance that where possible land of secondary agricultural value will be taken and not the best agricultural land?

I can certainly give an assurance on the lines of the second part of the supplementary question. As to the first part, until plans are submitted to me I am not in a position to say how much land will be involved.

Purchase Notices


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how many applications he has received under Sections 19 and 20 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947; how many of these have been allowed and rejected, respectively; and what is the average period which elapses between the making of an application under these sections and a final decision by the Minister in regard to it.

The number of purchase notices received by me under Section 19 is 570. Of these, 79 have been confirmed and my proposals to confirm 227 others have been notified to the parties concerned. In four other cases I have reversed the decision of the local planing authority which gave rise to the purchase notice and allowed the development to proceed; and in seven other cases I have notified my proposal to take similar action. In eight cases the notices have been rejected. The average period which elapses between the serving of a purchase notice on the local authority and my final decision is 19 weeks. This includes the time during which the notice is with the local authority, the statutory period of 28 days during which a hearing may be claimed, and the time needed to consider the notice. I have no information about the number of claims for compensation received by local planning authorities under Section 20.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to expedite the decision in these cases, particularly in instances where the property is situated in areas of major war damage? People have been waiting a very long time either to develop or to have their land acquired, and there is a sense of frustration on account of these delays.

I will certainly do my best, but I am not aware that there is any avoidable delay.

Development Charge (Building Land)


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether his attention has been drawn to the impossibility in many areas of obtaining sites at existing use value for the purpose of building houses and to the attempts being made by many landowners to force would-be purchasers to pay the amount of development charge twice over; and what steps are being taken by him or by the Central Land Board to deal with this state of affairs.

Yes, Sir; and the most effective step that can be taken is for purchasers themselves to refuse to buy or lease land except by one of the methods recommended in the Central Land Board pamphlet "House 1," a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend. Where approved development is being held up by the price asked for the land the Board are prepared to take the matter up with the seller and in appropriate cases to purchase land under Section 43 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, for resale to developers.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I know the pamphlet "House 1" very well indeed, having distributed mnay copies of it, but may I ask for the help of his Ministry in getting the existence of the leaflet more widely known so that people will not be held to ransom in the way that many are who want to buy sites at the present time?

Is not the complaint of the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) a necessary result of the 1947 Act because no inducement whatever is left to the landowner to sell his land?


Disabled Persons


asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the number of persons, male and female separately, on the disabled persons' register; and the number of such persons registered as unemployed at the latest available date in each of the 11 regions in Great Britain.

As the answer contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

At 17th January, 1949, there were 913,340 persons registered under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944. This figure included 840,366 males and 72,974 females.

At 21st February, 1949, the numbers of unemployed registered disabled persons in each Region were as follow:

London & South Eastern12,3011,06913,370
South Western3,0561993,255
North Midland2,417832,500
West & East Ridings5,1491565,305
North Western10,40074511,145
GREAT BRITAIN71,6563,78775,443

Displaced Persons' Camp, Full Sutton


asked the Minister of Labour whether he has now received the correspondence forwarded by the hon. Member for Howdenshire to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 4th April, regarding the behaviour of displaced persons accommodated at the camp at Full Sutton; and whether he has been able to complete his inquiries into this matter.

Yes, Sir, but the inquiries of my right hon. Friend are not yet complete.

In view of the somewhat discourteous reply which I received to a Question on this subject which I put down on 7th April, can it be made clear that this Question was first addressed to the Home Secretary and was then passed to the Minister of Labour, and when this occurs can it be arranged for the correspondence and the evidence also to be transferred?

I understand that the correspondence has been transferred. I would also assure the hon. Gentleman that we have every sympathy with his constituent and we shall take all the steps that are open to us to see that British farmers are not annoyed either by our own people or by D.P.'s for whom we have a personal responsibility.


Factory, Aberdeen


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is yet in a position to give details of the re-organisation at the factory of Tulos Limited, at Aberdeen, which has already caused serious unemployment there; and if he will take immediate steps to remedy this grave situation.

I understand that the position at the moment is very fluid and I am unable to make any statement.

Cannot my right hon. Friend devise some means whereby this exceptionally well equipped factory can be kept in production and the growing unemployment there obviated?

I can appreciate my hon. and learned Friend's concern, but it is a private enterprise factory and a private firm and, of course, it is impossible for us to interfere with its management; but we are hoping that it will be able to settle its affairs and carry on its work.

Distribution Of Industry (Wick)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give his reasons for refusing to schedule Wick as a Development Area under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, in view of the unemployment which prevails in spite of continuous emigration.

In paragraph 90 of the White Paper on Distribution of Industry (Cmd. 7540) the reasons for not scheduling small areas which form "pockets" of unemployment are given. Wick is an area which depends largely on such industries as agriculture, fisheries and tourism, for which much is being done apart from the Distribution of Industry Act.

Does the Secretary of State deny that Wick is in greater need than any other town in the Highlands, and why does he persist in refusing to use his abundant powers for the benefit of the people?

The Distribution of Industry Act lays down very definitely the conditions under which an area can be made a Development Area, and these do not apply in that sense to Wick.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how they can possibly apply to 36 small parishes in Easter Ross and yet cannot apply to Wick which is the largest town north of Inverness?

Military Training Area, Hawick


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether in view of the amount of land already lost to food production in Scotland and the fact that some 40,000 acres are now in the ownership or are otherwise available to the War Department for tank training near Hawick, he will consult with the Secretary of State for War in order to prevent the use for military training purposes of a further 4,800 acres of the highest quality sheep land in the Roberton district of Lanarkshire, which is also within about 50 miles of Hawick.

I have ordered a public local inquiry into the proposal to use the Roberton area for military purposes. I am unable to make any statement until I have considered the results of the inquiry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman have in mind that his overriding duty to Scotland is to secure the maintenance of food production and not to allow his right hon. Friend to lead him into untried paths of military activity?

The question of what is the overriding purpose of using the land in Scotland covers many things and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will raise his points in the military Debates.

In view of the fact that over 22,000 sheep have already been lost to this part of Scotland and in view of the meat shortage, will my right hon. Friend oppose in every possible way further acquisition by the military authorities?



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what extent contracts for this season's fresh or cured Scotch herring have been made with the Control Commission in Germany or are contemplated; and what are the maximum quantities in cwts.

No contracts for the supply of fresh or cured herring to Germany from the coming season's catch have yet been made but negotiations are expected to begin next week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that our people are in urgent need of food, particularly proteins and fats, and will he take steps to see that they get the first refusal of these valuable herring?

The herring are made available to our people and there is no difficulty on that score.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he estimates that the quick-freezing targets for herring set out on page 26 of the Herring Industry Report for the year ended 31st March, 1946, are likely to be achieved by 1951 or at an earlier date.

The difficulties of obtaining plant and of working at a profit under the existing price arrangements make it unlikely that the Herring Industry Board's target will be reached by 1951.

Who controls the existing price arrangements? It must be the Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member. Will he take steps to see that a price control arrangement is made possible, so that this great development can come about?

These matters are continually under discussion, and everything is being done to help the herring industry, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

Shop Premises (Tenancies)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland under what regulations it is competent for sheriff officers to serve tenants of shop premises in Scotland with notices to quit; whether such notices are authorised by the sheriff; and what steps are provided to enable tenants who receive these notices to appeal.

It is competent for a sheriff officer on behalf of the landlord to serve a notice to quit on a tenant of shop premises. This notice does not imply any decision by the court, and a tenant who receives such a notice may appeal to the sheriff for a renewal of tenancy, provided that the notice to quit has not taken effect and that application is made within 21 days of the service of the notice, or of the passing of the Act (which received Royal Assent on 29th March, 1949), whichever period ends the later.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this type of notice is now coming to be regarded as an attempt to stampede the tenant into paying the price or the rent asked for, regardless of the protection in the new legislation?

In that case perhaps this Question and my answer will clear away any misapprehension.

Ministry Of Food


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the apprehension of farm and horticultural producers in the United Kingdom, as a result of the present policy of the Ministry of Food, he will consider merging the Ministry of Food with the Ministry of Agriculture to enable the Ministry of Agriculture more adequately to protect the interests of the home producers, and to ensure increased home food production.

do not accept the implications in the hon. Member's Question, but in any case the answer is in the negative.

Is the Prime Minister aware that I never accept a peremptory answer without some fuller explanation? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware of the widespread apprehension throughout all the rural areas with regard to the policy of the Ministry of Food, which is diametrically opposed to the increased production of food at home, and will he now do something about this all important matter, in view of the fact that all rural areas are absolutely against the Prime Minister in this matter? There is no one for him.

The hon. Member is now repeating the allegation which I have already not accepted, and I do not think I can accept it that the hon. Member knows exactly what everybody in the rural areas is thinking.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the interests of consumers need protecting as well as the interests of producers, and will he do nothing to establish a monopoly for home producers which would tend to drive up prices still further?

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by his reply that not even in a tentative form does he intend to look into this desirable reform?

As the Prime Minister will not abolish the Ministry of Food or combine it with the Ministry of Agriculture, would he ask the Minister of Food to co-operate much more closely with the Minister of Agriculture, especially in enabling dollars with which he would like to buy food to be made available so that the Minister of Agriculture can buy feedingstuffs?

The hon. Member is now asking a Question which has been asked several times in the last few weeks. There is co-ordination between the two Ministers.

In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise this matter again and again. I shall go on and on. It is monstrous!

National Finance

Government Departments (Payments)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now able to make a statement on the practice of Government Departments when moneys are collected owing to a mistake of law.

This question is still under consideration.

Can the Chancellor give an assurance that a public answer will be given on this question, and would he tell me if I can usefully put a Question down again?

I am afraid I could not answer the last part of the question, but no doubt during the last part of the summer.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a public answer to the Question?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend also take into consideration a statement on Government practice where money has failed to be collected owing to a mistake in the law?

Why should there be any need to consider what action has been taken when a Government Department has money which palpably does not belong to it?

Gold Output, West Africa


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to make an improvement in the gold production of the Gold Coast to help in bridging the gap in our dollar deficit; and what consultations he has had with the Colonial Secretary on this question.

His Majesty's Government are anxious that everything possible should be done consistent with our international obligations to stimulate the output of gold in West Africa, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies gave the House some account of the measures that are being taken in his speech on 31st March. I do not, however, consider that in present circumstances a scheme along the lines of the Canadian subsidy would be appropriate.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that he is not asked anything about the Canadian subsidy in this Question? What he is asked is whether he has been in consultation with the Colonial Secretary, as the Colonial Secretary stated at the end of the Debate that most of the suggestions made had nothing to do with him but were entirely connected with the Chancellor?

But I was asked whether I would apply the Canadian subsidy scheme, with necessary adjustments, to the gold mining industry of West Africa.

On a point of Order, if the Chancellor will look at Question No. 34, there is no such suggestion there.

I apologise. There was in the original form of the Question. I presume it has been taken out.

Lecturer, Usa (Dollar Allowance)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what dollar allowance has been made to Mr. Cecil Palmer now lecturing in the United States under the auspices of the National Economic Council of America.

I regret that I cannot disclose particulars relating to the affairs of an individual.

While that may well be so, is not the Chancellor aware that this individual preaches anti-Semitism, criticises the Leader of the Opposition and attacks the Marshall Plan? As all these activities are calculated to increase the dollar difficulties of this country, is there not something he can do about it?

I am afraid I can do nothing about stopping Mr. Palmer doing any of those things.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that he can, if he desires it, get a much less coloured report of the activities of Mr. Cecil Palmer than that which the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) has just presented?

Food Prices


asked the Chancellor of the Echequer what will be the additional weekly cost per head of the increases in food prices proposed in his Budget.

The present weekly rations will cost just over 4d. per head more as a result of the increases in food prices proposed in my recent financial statement.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend appeal to the beer drinkers to give all the pennies they save on their pints to the housewives so that they can meet this additional cost?

May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in the event of a break in food prices, which has already taken place in so many commodities, he would see that it is passed on to the consumer?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would put that question on the Paper if he wishes it answered.

Post-War Credits


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated cost in the coming financial year of reducing by five years the ages at which post-war credits become payable.

May I ask the Chancellor whether, in view of the cases of proved hardship and the fact that to include the lower age limits would cost a triflng sum, he will consider whether he can do anything about that?

War Damage Claims


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now in a position to announce the number of war damage claims that have been rejected on the grounds alone that they were received too late.

The position is still as stated in the answer given on 15th February to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner).

But is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that since a recent Debate on a Private Member's Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley), I have received another additional 100 cases from the City of Plymouth alone; and would not he agree that in order that the House may consider this matter adequately, the War Damage Commission should make the information for which this Question asks available to the House?

They cannot make it available because they have not got it, I am afraid.

Social Services


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date E.C.A. approved our policy of cutting back the housing, health and education programmes in pursuance of the programme of giving priority to all uses of resources tending to create exports and go into capital formation at the cost of social services.

Is the Chancellor aware that when he appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, Mr. Finletter said that it was with E.C.A. approval that we had cut severely our housing, health and education expenditure, that they had still been somewhat troubled by our housing expenditure, but that they had come to the conclusion, after all, that the existing reduced expenditure was justified? Does not that amount to approval, and what would have happened to us if we had not had that?

Trade And Commerce

Exports (Eastern Europe)


asked the President of the Board of Trade the value of industrial and manufactured goods exported from this country to Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia during the first quarter of this year; and the value of raw material exported during the same period to these countries from the sterling area.

Export statistics are not yet available for the March quarter, but in January and February, 1949, the value of the United Kingdom exports of "articles wholly or mainly manufactured" to the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia amounted to £1,704,000, £674,000 and £866,000, respectively. As regards the second part of the Question, I regret that I am unable to supply the information desired as statistics received from Commonwealth and foreign countries are not sufficiently detailed or up to date.

Will the President of the Board of Trade bear in mind the importance of developing exports to Eastern Europe of manufactured goods rather than of raw materials for stocking-up purposes?

Is the hon. Gentleman able to say whether the imports we received from those countries were greater or less than the amount of our exports to them?

I could not say without notice, but I should be happy to give the hon. Member that information.



asked the President of the Board of Trade when he anticipates that the negotiations for a long-term trade agreement with Yugoslavia will be concluded.

These negotiations are still in progress and I cannot as yet say when they are likely to be concluded.

Periodicals (Imports)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he takes to prevent the import of sadistic literature directed to the young from the United States of America and Canada.

If the hon. Member is referring to children's comics imported as supplements to newspapers, I would remind him that this is being done under an open general licence for newspapers which has been in operation since 1939. The importation of indecent or obscene literature is prohibited under Section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876.

Is the Minister aware that the Director of Public Prosecutions drew attention to this very serious matter a few weeks ago and that since then the Home Secretary has not been able to give an assurance that the Commissioner of Police is taking proper precautions in the matter; and as most of this literature is imported from America and Canada surely his Department could take some steps in the matter; and will he give it his immediate attention?

My right hon. Friend does not think that censorship should be one of his functions. On the other hand, I think it wrong to waste dollars on newspapers which are imported not for their news content but because they happen to have these comic supplements. I have seen a number of these journals myself and, while I do not think they are any more sadistic than the ordinary British comic, I do think they are pretty trashy.

Would it not be more helpful if we could get some good literature from the United States, which none of us can buy, instead of these things?

Is not the Minister aware that apart from this stuff there is a mass of other appalling stuff that comes from America which could not possibly be classified as literature in any sense, and would he stop it from coming into this country?

Will the Minister at least try to use his influence to stop the magazine proprietors in this country from buying the rights of American stories, Anglicising those stories and presenting them to British readers as though they were the products of British writers, who are put out of work as a result of this disgraceful practice?

Barium Sulphate


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the demands for British production of barium sulphate in connection with nuclear fission protection and for other purposes, he will take steps to co-ordinate the requirements of the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Works and the Board of Trade, together with any other interested Ministries for this commodity.

Supplies of barium sulphate, mainly from home sources, are sufficient to meet all requirements. It is possible, however, that the co-ordination of specifications for special Government needs would facilitate processing of the material, and the point is being pursued with the other Government Departments concerned.

Ministry Of Health (Equal Pay)


asked the Minister of Health whether in view of the fact that men and women employed in the National Health Service in the administrative, professional and technical grades receive equal pay, he will apply the same principle to other employees of his Department in similar grades.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply about equal pay for men and women civil servants given by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on 24th February, 1949, to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle).

Surely, a sense of injustice is bound to pervade the hon. Gentleman's Department if one section of his employees is paid on one principle and the other section is paid on another principle?

There is no change in the position, because those who are actually members of the Health Service were paid on that basis in the past.

Argentina (British Pensioners)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that remittances forbidden from the Argentine include small pensions to ex-railwaymen or their dependants now in this country; and if he will take steps to have these payments resumed.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given in the House on 21st March, when it was explained that it is now possible for amounts not exceeding 250 pesos a month to be remitted to these British pensioners in this country. This restriction on the remittance of pensions in full is one aspect of the larger financial problem of payments between this country and Argentina, which is being actively pursued during the current negotiations in Buenos Aires.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the last three months many of these pensioners have spent sums of about £6 each on legal requirements, such as survival certificates and powers of attorney, in order to get a pension of less than £1 a week; that they have not qualified for National Insurance benefits in this country, and that many cases of hardship are involved?

I am aware that this is causing distress. We are doing our best in the present negotiations in the Argentine.

Can the Under-Secretary of State say how much 250 pesos amounts to in English currency?

Strike, London Docks

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statement to make on the strike at the London Docks.

Yes, Sir. In discharge of their responsibility under the scheme the National Dock Labour Board on 26th November last issued a directive to the local boards instructing them to remove from the register men who, by reason of failing health or other physical incapacity which appeared to be of a permanent nature, were unable to meet the minimum requirements of the scheme or men who for any other reason were not carrying out to the full their obligations under the scheme, whether in the reserve pool or in employment.

The National Dock Labour Board includes four representatives of employers and four representatives of workers, the workers' representatives being drawn from the Transport and General Workers' Union, the National Union of General and Municipal Workers and the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers, and I am informed by the Board that the directive was issued after full discussion and as a result of a unanimous decision.

This directive has been implemented in various ports throughout the country and in London on 10th January the local board appointed a sub-committee consisting of two employers and two trade union representatives to deal with the matter. Finally, as a result, 33 men were given notice of termination to take effect on 9th April.

The men concerned had a right of appeal to tribunals selected by the two sides of the industry, and 21 appeals were lodged. One was allowed, leaving a total of 32 men whose notices took effect. Although the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers are represented both on the national Board and the London Board, members of that union decided on Sunday last to stop work on Monday in protest against the dismissals. The strike has spread and I am informed by the Board that there are now approximately 13,000 men on strike, including members of the Transport and General Workers' Union, which union, however, condemns the strike as being unwarranted.

This is a strike against the provisions of a scheme which was adopted by a national conference of the workers. If any modification or variation of the scheme is desired the National Joint Industrial Council for the industry provides the means by which it can be discussed, and if agreed brought to my notice.

This stoppage of work, affecting as it does the whole traffic of the Port of London, constitutes a challenge to authority. There can be no doubt it is inspired by motives hostile to the best interests of the dockers as a whole and of the public. Important issues are involved and I would ask to be excused from making any further statement at present.

I think we would all understand the right hon. Gentleman's desire not to make a further statement, but may I ask how many ships are at present held up and whether he could make an estimate of the effect of this on the trade in the Port of London up to date; also whether I was right in understanding that all the unions concerned, and not only the Transport and General Workers' Union, were represented on the Board which took this decision?

I shall be glad to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question. Although I cannot say definitely, I think the number of ships held up is about 50 and it is bound to have a very serious effect on the supply of goods and requirements for the people of London, especially as it has happened, as on previous occasions, just before the holiday period. All the unions are represented and the union which has declared this an official strike is on the Board and took part in the negotiations.

But it would be fair to the other large union concerned if I informed the House of the steps they have taken. During the night they had a leaflet printed which sets out the case of each of the 32 members affected and they finished the statement by this announcement:
"On behalf of the Executive Council we desire to put the following points to our members and to call on them to remain at work:
  • (1) The policy of this union is that we must abide by the machinery which has been established between the National Dock Labour Board and ourselves under the Dock Labour Regulation Scheme.
  • (2) Every one of our members has had an opportunity of presenting his case and also has the right of being represented at his appeal by an official of this Union.
  • (3) In the circumstances we say to our members that the strike is unwarranted. The facts of each particular case are known.
  • (4) Of the total employed in the Port of London—"
  • which is approximately 27,000—
    "the number involved is as stated above"—
    that is 32.
    "(5) It cannot be said that there has been any desire or attempt to deal with any question of redundancy. The issue is whether a man is an effective Port worker or not."
    That is signed by the Docks Group Secretary of that union.

    Can my right hon. Friend say what action can be taken against these irresponsible elements in dockland who are causing this trouble and strife and also make a comment on the fact that one of the bona fide organisations ordered men to strike and completely ignored the fact that they should have given 21 days' notice? Will he also take note that the vast majority of the people involved do not know why they are on strike and their loyalty is again being exploited by irresponsible elements?

    I should like to endorse the closing words of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. There is ample evidence that this trouble is being fomented by irresponsible people. As to the action to be taken, I have today had this letter sent to Mr. Barrett, the Secretary of the National Amalgamated Stevedores' and Dockers' Union, after a conversation on the telephone. We put this in writing:

    "I refer to our telephone conversation today when you informed me that the strike at London Docks has received the official support of your Executive.
    The Minister cannot enter into any discussion on the merits of the present dispute but, as I informed you, he feels he should have some explanation of the action of your executive in lending official support to what is clearly an illegal strike.
    "I am accordingly to invite your Executive to meet me here today for that purpose."

    Perishable foodstuffs are involved and the Government will take steps 'to see that every opportunity is taken to preserve them.

    As one who has often been associated with what are known as "irresponsible people," may I ask if there is no way of handling this question that originated the strike, other than through directives? Is there any method of consultation of any kind with the dockers, apart from the fact that certain officials sit on a particular board? Is there any consultation with the dockers? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the fact that it is not desirable nowadays to show loyalty to the working class, my sympathies are all with the strikers?

    So far as consultation is concerned, the normal process with members of a union is through their union officials, and the union officials in this case took part in the preliminary negotiations and were parties unanimously to this directive, which was issued for the purpose of clearing up these matters. As to the question of where loyalty lies, loyalty lies with those who are prepared to abide by the rules of their union and not to throw them overboard.

    Is it not a fact that the only method by which willing men can get on the register is, normally, by the wastage which takes place in regard to the organisation of the dockers?

    The normal way of getting on the register is when there are vacancies and more men are required. But when one considers the conditions under which dockers had to go to work in the old days and the conditions under which they now go to work and get security of some reward if they are not required to work, it is a very great tragedy indeed that the scheme should be risked?

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a complete machinery here which can be used, and is it not a shocking thing that an organisation has a meeting on a Sunday calling an official strike on the Monday without 21 days' notice? It is a fair neither to the membership of the organisation, nor to the Government, nor the Minister of Labour.

    Yes, Sir, but I hope I made it clear that official machinery was used and the Appeal Board of two workers' representatives and two employers was used, and it was against the decision of.their own Board and constituted machinery that action was taken.

    Is it not undesirable to issue a pamphlet giving particulars of these 32 men, as 'that might jeopardise their getting employment elsewhere?

    Names are not mentioned in the leaflet, but merely the cases. When there are cases in which a man has done only one half-day's work in 50 weeks and others have done two days' work in 50 weeks and are paid their stand-off wage all the time, it is necessary that those men who had been fomented into taking action by an allegation in the leaflet of the Stevedores' Union, should have the true facts brought home to them by the loyal union.