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Commons Chamber

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 14th April, 1949

The House met at Eleven o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

National Health Service

Patients (Clinical Information)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the senior administrative medical officer of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has instructed medical officers at venereal disease clinics in the area that information about patients attending the clinics should not be disclosed to medical officers of health, even if requested for purposes of contact tracing; and, in view of the fact that medical officers of health in all parts of the country have always had free access to information about patients, which they have treated with confidence, if he will take steps to have this instruction withdrawn forthwith.

The Regional Hospital Board has rightly taken this step to ensure that the statutory regulation about secrecy of V.D. treatment is scrupulously observed.

Is the Minister aware that in the interests of an efficient health service it is vital that there should be the same free access to information by medical officers of health which they have had in the past not only for the essential purpose of contact tracing, but in order to ensure that proper after-care attention can be given to children whose mothers are known to have suffered from this disease?

It is not necessary for the purposes that my hon. Friend has in mind that there should be a disclosure of clinical details to medical officers of health. The patient's own doctor is, of course, made aware of all the circumstances.

How can health visitors deal with these matters unless they know the facts of the case?

The man's own doctor will be aware of all the facts of the case, and as the man's own doctor is a family physician, he will be concerned about the welfare of the children.


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the senior administrative medical officer of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has advised the secretary of the Bolton Hospital Management Committee that if medical officers of health ask for information about patients who are discharged from hospital and are in need of aftercare, only the address need be given; and, in view of the fact that after-care attention is often necessary and that children classed as handicapped are entirely the responsibility of the local authority, if he will take steps to cancel this instruction.

I understand that the Board has encouraged management committees to co-operate fully with local authorities but has rightly advised them not to disclose to them clinical details of patients which should generally be treated as confidential.

Will the Minister bear in mind that under the National Health Act there is a responsibility on local authorities in respect of after-care work, and to refuse medical officers of health any information other than the address is to reduce them to the level of laboratory assistants which will have a deleterious effect on the whole health service?

My hon. Friend is attributing a status to the medical officers of health which they themselves do not claim. He ought not to refer to them in such terms. It is undesirable that there should be a general access to clinical details of patients' conditions. It is only necessary for that to be done where tracing is absolutely essential.

Nurses (State Register)


asked the Minister of Health if he will give an undertaking that the printing, publishing and placing on sale of the State Register of Nurses shall not be abolished as advised by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales, the governing body of the nursing profession.

This matter is dealt with in the Bill which has now been introduced in another place.

Will the Minister answer my Question? Is he aware that nurses value registration?

If the hon. Member will look at the Bill which is being introduced in another place he will find his Question answered there.

Hospitals (Administrative Staffs)


asked the Minister of Health how many hospitals have come under the jurisdiction of his Department since the National Health Service Act came into operation; how many persons in such hospitals are now paid for doing work which was previously done voluntarily; and what is the total cost of employing such persons.

Two thousand, eight hundred and thirty-five hospitals and convalescent homes were transferred to the Minister on the appointed day. I regret that the information asked for in the second and third parts of the Question is not available.

But does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he ought to get such information in view of the fact that a return to the voluntary system might offer quite considerable opportunities for economy in this field?

The voluntary system of administration has not been departed from. The voluntary system is being administered by 10,000 to 11,000 devoted voluntary workers.

But is not the Minister also aware that there are many instances of people who were doing voluntary work in such positions as treasurers to hospitals who are now getting salaries of £1,400 or £1,500?

Can my right hon. Friend say how many people are now getting into hospitals who could not get in before because they did not know the right person?

Opticians (Inquiry)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that, owing to the fact that anyone may practise as an optician, even though he has no qualifications for doing so, members of the public have, on occasions in recent years, been seriously defrauded; and whether he will introduce legislation to enable him to require the registration of opticians.

It has been decided to set up a committee to inquire into this question. The precise form which the inquiry is to take is not yet settled but I hope to be able to make a further announcement shortly.

Would the Minister kindly consider the possibility of warning the public against the activities of certain bogus opticians pending the findings of that committee and taking action upon them?

If the hon. Member will bring to my notice any bogus opticians he has in mind, I will certainly do so.

Medical Practices (Disposal)


asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that medical practices are still being advertised by private agencies for sale and purchase; and what steps he proposes to take to put an end to this practice;

(2) whether he can now make arrangements to establish official agencies for the transfer of medical practices, partnerships and assistantships.

There is no prohibition on the sale and purchase of purely private practices and I see no objection to such transactions being handled by private agencies. The transfer of practices, and the introduction of new partners and assistants, in the National Health Service, are already controlled by the appropriate official bodies.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that practices are being advertised which include as part of their income the income from the National Health Service? And does he not regard it as highly undesirable that the professional careers of duly qualified medical men should be left in the hands of these commercial agencies?

If my hon. Friend will let me have information about such advertisements, I will have inquiries made.


Private Building (Ratio)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that there are private builders with labour and materials available ready and willing to build houses cheaper and quicker than local authorities, but they cannot obtain the permits; and if he will now alter the ratio of private building allowed.

No, Sir. Builders who are willing and able to build houses should be able to do so for private owners possessing building licences, for local authorities under contract or for local authorities under special arrangements set out in the circular of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy.

Is the Minister aware that the firm about which I am thinking has the plant and the men and can build houses up to the standard required by the Government in a very short time and do it £100 cheaper than the local authorities can do it? Yet the firm is not allowed to do this because of the absurd ratio.

The hon. Member is in error. The Girdwood Committee could not find any evidence that private building was cheaper than building by local authorities.

But I have given the Minister evidence. He has had letter after letter.

If the hon. Member has evidence, I should advise him to send it to the committee.

Is it not the case that the firm can build these houses if it is willing to sell them to the local authority for letting to people on the priority lists?

I have already explained that the local authorities have power under the circular I have sent them to enable local private builders to build houses for sale to local authorities.

Empty Houses, London


asked the Minister of Health if he will now publish a list showing the number of empty houses in each metropolitan borough according to his recent survey.

I have nothing as yet to add to the reply I gave the hon. Member on 15th March.

When the information is forthcoming, will the right hon. Gentleman use it with the object of again considering the plan for pooling the accommodation in London so that the desperately pressed boroughs, of which Finsbury is typical, may have a chance of access to the increased accommodation in lordly and spacious areas like Maryle bone, Chelsea, and Westminster?

When the information is available, it will be examined and the distribution of the empty houses over the different parts of London will be taken into account. The hon. Member knows that there is in Committee upstairs a Bill which is designed to enable large houses to be converted into flats in order to provide more accommodation.

Water Supplies

Farm, Gilberdyke


asked the Minister of Health what progress has now been made regarding a supply of water for Mr. R. J. Gibson, of Oxmardyke Farm, Oxmardyke Lane, near Gilberdyke, Yorkshire, who has been pressing for a water supply over an extended period.

A local inquiry into coordinated schemes submitted by the Beverley, Howden and Pocklington Rural District Councils will, it is expected be held at an early date. The extension to Oxmardyke Lane is included in these schemes.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been considerable delay in formulating these schemes and bringing the matter to a conclusion, and will he expedite this inquiry as much as possible?

Yes, Sir, but I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that a great deal of delay is due to the intricacies of the Water Act of 1945.

Emergency Schemes


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the growing shortage of water, he has sent instructions to local authorities to prepare schemes for water rationing during the summer months.

No, Sir; but the general position is being watched, and water undertakings are well aware of the steps that must be taken should there be any shortage.


Students (Loans)


asked the Minister of Education what action has he taken to abolish the practice of certain local education authorities of making loans to students instead of giving assistance by way of grant.

Local education authorities are fully aware from a Circular issued in 1945 of my Department's objections to the practice of making loans, and the number of authorities doing so has greatly diminished. I have refused to approve new arrangements for initiating or extending the practice. If as I expect there is in the near future a general review of local authorities arrangements this will give me an opportunity to press for the practice to be abandoned.

But is my right hon. Friend satisfied that those local authorities still carrying on this practice are paying adequate attention to his circular?

Independent Schools (Inspection)


asked the Minister of Education if his attention has been directed to the proceedings which took place before the magistrates at Eccleshall, on 7th April, at which two male persons, without academic or other qualification, were found to be unfit to have care of pupils; and what action he proposes to take.


asked the Minister of Education whether his attention has been drawn to the conditions prevailing at a private school known as Horsley Hall in the county of Stafford, owned and managed by Mr. Copping, recently convicted at Eccleshall in the same county, of being an unfit person to have the care of children; and what instructions as to the use of powers of inspection or supervision have been issued with a view to the prevention of similar cases.

I have recently made arrangements, of which particulars are given in a circular which I am sending the hon. Members, for the inspection of all independent schools under Section 77 of the Education Act, 1944. I understand that there is an appeal pending on the particular case mentioned in the Question, and I would therefore prefer not to make a statement at present.

May I ask this of the Minister, notwithstanding the appeal, that he will take such measures as are possible in the Ministry of Education to prevent any schools operating in similar circumstances in the future?

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the information contained in the circular which he is sending to the hon. Member becomes available to other hon. Members of this House?

Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to suppose that there are any other cases at all similar to this, or is this unique?

I would not like to say. I have only just taken the power to inspect, and we are inspecting all independent schools. It is a very big job. My object would be that those which are brought to my notice of which there is any suspicion at all, should be taken first.

Is this inquiry also to be conducted into schools like Eton and Harrow, where there are undesirable cases of corporal punishment?

Trade And Commerce

Molasses (Price)


asked the President of the Board of Trade how much of the £4,783,000 profit he hopes to make on molasses for the year 1949 is the result of a reduction in the price given to the West Indian producer.

My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The figure he quotes is not a trading profit. It is the estimate of the excess of cash receipts over expenditure in connection with the purchase and sale of molasses, etc., during the year 1949–50, as shown in the Civil Estimates published recently.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the price in the West Indies has been cut by half, and is havng a serious effect on the sugar producers in the West Indies?


asked the President of the Board of Trade how much molasses he intends to buy from dollar sources during 1949; and at what price.

Is my hon. Friend aware that by withholding this information, the worst possible impression is being created in the West Indies, which are absolutely dependent upon the sugar industry for their livelihood? Will he urge on his right hon. Friend to cease treating this as a purely economic question and to consult with his other right hon. Friend, the Colonial Secretary, to see if they cannot arrive at some better arrangement?

Could the hon. Gentle-say the reasons why it is not in the national interest to disclose this information?

Control Of Exports (Eastern Europe)


asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent imports of grain, feedingstuffs, timber and other necessities from the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics and other countries of Eastern Europe are likely to be diminished by the restriction on exports to such countries announced recently.

As stated by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury on 7th April, it is not expected that the control of exports of certain classes of goods for security reasons will restrict the scope for mutually useful trade between ourselves and Eastern Europe.

Will my hon. Friend always bear in mind that the recovery of this country and Western Europe, and our independence by 1952, depend in part on an intensification rather than on any diminution of this trade?


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish in HANSARD a list of the main exports, especially required by the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics and other countries of Eastern Europe, which will not be affected by the restriction on exports to such countries announced recently.

It is not practicable to furnish this information, since I cannot surmise what United Kingdom goods are especially required by the Governments of Eastern European countries.

Could the Minister say whether the other O.E.E.C. countries are adopting the same commercial policy in regard to these lists of prohibited goods, or are we doing it on our own?

I cannot say precisely what is happening but, of course, there is a general understanding.

But could the Minister make an estimate based on the needs of the Soviet Union as indicated in the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement of last year? Their needs will probably be similar now, and he could possibly make an estimate on that. Would he do so?

No. We are discussing these matters with the Soviet Trade Delegation at the moment, and they have said they will let me know what they require.

Referring to the answer the Minister gave me, is it not absolutely essential that there should be a common policy?

There is a desire for a common policy, but each sovereign Power has its own responsibilities and must accept them.

Anglo-Soviet Agreement


asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the position now regarding the talks relating to the extension of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement of 1947.

My right hon. Friend and I met the Head of the Soviet Trade Delegation on 12th April and had preliminary discussions about the principles on which a one-year Trade Agreement might be based.

Does my hon. Friend think that the President of the Board of Trade appreciates that if he gives way to the pressure now being exerted from the opposite side of this House, and from America, to diminish, even to end our trade with the Soviet Union, he gives a guarantee that Great Britain will be engulfed in a major economic disaster, with mass unemployment and all the misery attendent upon it, and that that position is even now approaching our country?

It is not our side alone that is holding up these negotiations. We are anxious to get an agreement.

In view of the statement made by the Chancellor in introducing his Budget about the baffling dollar deficit, would not the Minister help the Chancellor to get out of his mess by developing alternative sources of supply with the Soviet Union and the Eastern countries of Europe? It is the only solution of the baffling problem of the dollar deficit; it is not a rouble deficit.

My right hon. Friend and I have been trying for many months to get these supplies.

Germany (Discussions)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has now been made in the discussions with the Joint Export/Import Agency regarding British trade with the Bizone of Germany; and when it is expected that a bilateral trading agreement will be concluded.

Detailed discussions on trade during the first half of this year were concluded on 8th March, and I am sending to the hon. Member a copy of a note published in the "Board of Trade Journal" of 26th March on the results. General discussions on trade during the second half of this year and the first half of 1950 were held at the end of March and will be resumed, in further detail, in May or June.

Does not my hon. Friend accept this long delay in getting us any right to trade with Western Germany as certain proof that the Americans, holding Western Germany as a puppet, are intending to use her industrial potential as a weapon to knock Britain clean out of the European market?

Japanese Wool Production (Subsidy)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the United States of America is subsidising Japanese wool production to the extent of 20 per cent. on yarn and 40 per cent. on cloth; and, in view of the effect of this, in addition to the low wages paid to the workers, on the competitive price on the world market, whether he will immediately take up this matter with the United States Government.

I understand that new yen exchange rates recently announced have brought an end to the concealed exchange subsidies to which the hon. Member refers. The new rates will, I understand, give a small subsidy to Japanese exports of woollen cloth but it is too early to say what the effect of this subsidy will be.

Why cannot the hon. Gentleman give a straight answer to a very straight question: Are the Americans

"subsidising Japanese wool production to the extent of 20 per cent. on yarn and 40 per cent. on cloth,"
as the Question asks? Is that the case, for a well known authority on the matter in this country stated it only last week? If that is the case, what steps does the Minister propose to take in the matter of this unfair competition?

I thought I had already indicated that in my answer. With regard to any further consideration, that will have our attention and we shall make representations, if necessary.

Film Industry


asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure the fulfilment of the film quota, in view of the widespread closing of film studios.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given him on 10th February on this subject.

Is the Minister aware that large numbers of studios are now vacant and that we are losing a great many dollars as a result of the accumulated sterling; and will the Minister be good enough, in those circumstances, to recommend to the Cabinet that we should take over the vacant studio space and let it to co-operatives of producers, actors and directors so that we may be able to fulfil the quota?

I cannot give an affirmative answer to that question, but I can say that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has the matter very much in hand.



asked the President of the Board of Trade why the Government are not passing on immediately to the newsprint mills the benefit of the reduction in the price of pulp.

The reduced prices at which pulp is being bought have only become effective in April. As the hon. Member was informed on 24th February our selling prices are fixed from time to time at levels which should enable us to dispose of our stocks without loss.

Is it not a fact that the true price of pulp in a free market today is £18 a ton to the mills, whereas the Government are charging £26 10s. a ton, and does not this mean that they have bought too much pulp at too high a price?

We should have had the argument the other way round if we had not bought sufficient.

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that it is impossible to buy pulp at the reduced price or simply that the Government were not willing to buy it?


asked the President of the Board of Trade how many tons of pulp for paper-making are held in stock by the Government; and how long he estimates these stocks will last at the current rate of consumption.

The total stocks of woodpulp at 5th March amounted to 309,000 tons or about 14 weeks' consumption at the current rate.

Can the Minister say whether there is any danger of pulp deteriorating in store if kept for several months?

In view of this large stock which the Minister says he has, why spend dollars on buying Canadian newsprint when we can spend those dollars on getting food or feeding grains from Canada, especially if it be true that this pulp will deteriorate? Surely, this is bad business.


asked the President of the Board of Trade to what proportion of their capacity the newsprint mills are now working; and what proportion of the licensed output this represents.

The rate of production in March (exclusive of certain special arrangements for export) was 51 per cent. of pre-war against a general quota of 50 per cent. for the current licensing period. I am not aware that any particular change in the rate of production has taken place in April.

Does not this really show that it is high time the Government got out of this business altogether? When do they intend to do so?

Waste Paper Collection


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered information sent to him to the effect that voluntary organisations who are assisting in the collection of waste paper are now being told that no more salvage is required on account of imports of woodpulp; and what is his policy with regard to the collection of waste paper and in particular to the encouragement of voluntary efforts for its collection.

Voluntary organisations who are assisting in the collection of waste paper are not being advised by the Board of Trade in the sense suggested by the hon. Member, although I understand that one waste paper merchant has on his own initiative communicated with one such organisation. I hope that the voluntary organisations will continue to co-operate with local authorities in order that collections of waste paper may be maintained and, in this connection, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. P. Wells) on 7th April.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that once these voluntary activities are carried on and maintained, the paper they collect, will, in fact be taken up and used, and that the stocks at present being accumulated will not interfere with this activity in future once stocking up can be started again?

I agree that this is a matter of co-operation between the local authorities and the voluntary organisations.

Rifle Clubs (Ammunition)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will permit the import of £100,000 worth of American Remington and Winchester.22 rifle ammunition for the use of small bore rifle clubs in Britain.

No, Sir. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply that while there has been a temporary falling off of deliveries to rifle clubs, their requirements in 1949 should be substantially met by home production and token imports.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the home production is of a quality very far below what it used to be before the war, and can we have an assurance that, if he will not allow imports to come in of the nature asked for in the Question, he will facilitate the making of I.C.I. "All Range" ammunition, which was what was required before the war?

The Ministry of Supply are looking at this matter with a view to seeing if supplies can be given.

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the point put to him by my hon. Friend, that if he cannot allow the import of American ammunition, he will use his influence to see that really first-rate ammunition is produced here? This is so important for defence purposes.

—and that if supplies are available there is no need for these imports from the dollar area.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that important training is being held up by the shortage of ammunition?

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there is a defence aspect to this question and that if he discourages small-bore rifle clubs it will make this country less prepared.

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are not anxious to discourage them.

International Trade Fair, Barcelona


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has had under consideration the provision of facilities to enable British manufacturers to exhibit at the Industries Fair at Barcelona, which takes place during the month of June; and if negotiations are in process to provide accommodation for British exhibitors who desire to exhibit at that Fair.

The usual facilities are available to manufacturers who wish to exhibit at the Barcelona International Trade Fair. Negotiations for space take place between the exporter or his Spanish agent and the Fair authorities without the necessity for intervention by His Majesty's Government.

Are the Board of Trade taking any steps at all to advertise this exhibition and to offer facilities to those who would like to exhibit British goods there; and would not this help to bring us closer to Spain, which is so desirable in the interests of Spain and of ourselves?

Fuel And Power

Gas Consultative Council, Se Region


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power which bodies and associations were invited to nominate candidates for appointment to the Gas Consultative Council South Eastern Region; and if he will give the names of the bodies or associations whose candidates have been appointed to the committee.

As regards the first part of the Question, since the list is a long one I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The South Eastern Gas Consultative Council has not yet been appointed, and the second part of the Question, does not, therefore, arise.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's action in providing that vesting day shall be 1st May, can he give an assurance that this Council will be appointed before vesting day?

No, Sir. Under the Act a period of six months is allowed after vesting day before the Council has to be appointed.

Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied to leave consumers without any protection whatsoever for that period?

No, Sir. I expect the Council will be appointed well in advance of the six months' date.

Is not this all part of the Socialist Party's policy for a better deal for the consumer?

Following is the list:

The following bodies have been asked to nominate candidates for appointment to the South Eastern Gas Consultative Council under the Gas Act, 1948:

  • The Association of Municipal Corporations.
  • The Urban District Councils' Association.
  • The Rural District Councils' Association.
  • The County Councils' Association.
  • The Joint Standing Committee of Metropolitan Boroughs.
  • The London County Council.
  • The Association of British Chambers of Commerce.
  • The Federation of British Industries.
  • The National Union of Manufacturers.
  • The Parliamentary Committee of Cooperative Congress.
  • The Trades Union Congress.
  • The National Council of Women.
  • The Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations.
  • The National Federation of Women's Institutes.
  • The Women's Gas Council.
  • The Women's Voluntary Services.

Petrol Imports


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what percentage of our petrol imports during 1948 came from the dollar area; and what was the cost in sterling.

In 1948, United Kingdom imports of motor spirit (including aviation spirit) from dollar sources amounted to 43 per cent. by value of the total from all sources. The cost, in terms of sterling, was approximately £16 million f.o.b.

In view of the fact that £18 million was spent on dollars for tobacco, which is a luxury, surely it is most unfair that the motorist in this country, whether he motors for pleasure or for industrial purposes, should be treated so improperly?



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many additional staff his Department has taken on since 1st March, 1949.

No additional staff have been recruited since 1st March, 1949. There was a small net decrease between 1st March and 9th April.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many persons are required to take over the checking of stocks of petrol and coupons at garages, which task was previously performed by the petrol supply companies.

The number of persons required to take over the checking of petrol coupons returned from garages, etc., cannot be precisely determined until some experience of the work involved has been gained, but it is estimated that only 11 additional staff will be required.

Will these additional staff come from the existing staff in the Ministry and, if so, from what jobs?

I could not say without notice. There will not be 11 people exclusively engaged on this work, which will be combined with other work.

Imported Periodicals


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Commissioner of Police, in watching for sadistic literature, directed to the young and imported from the United States of America and Canada, has requested the Director of Public Prosecutions to forward him copies of the publications referred to in his speech on 28th January at Portsmouth.

I am informed that the Director in his speech of 28th January was speaking in general terms and was not referring to any publications in his hands at the time.

Jury Cases (Newspaper Reports)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to prevent the publication of newspaper reports of cases committed for trial by jury until after the jury's verdict has been given.

No, Sir. I have no reason to think that in cases in which a fair trial seems likely to be prejudiced by newspaper reports the powers of the courts to punish for contempt are insufficient.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British juries always desire to be impartial, but that their impartiality can be greatly strained by having read the committal proceedings, which generally contain only the prosecution case and often contain evidence which is inadmissible at the trial? In those circumstances, will he remember, bearing in mind the small area from which juries often have to be chosen, that it is a matter which sometimes causes injustice by imposing such a strain on the jury?

No, Sir. I should have thought that the directions of the judge and the proceedings of the trial would bring home to the jury their responsibility for judging on the evidence. I do not like the idea of introducing at any stage unnecessary secrecy into criminal procedure.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the public can eventually get the whole of the evidence, but that they must wait for it until after the conviction or acquittal, if this suggestion is accepted?

I am quite certain that if a case was not committed for trial as a result of proceedings which took place in secret, there might be insinuations which would be very harmful to the tradition of British justice.

Betting (Royal Commission)


asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to announce the names of the members of the Royal Commission on Lotteries. Betting and Gaming.

Yes, Sir. As I informed the House on Thursday, 10th February, 1949, the Chairman of this Royal Commission will be Mr. H. U. Willink, K.C. The King has now been pleased to approve the appointment of the following members of the Commission:

  • Mr. James Campbell.
  • Sir Gerald Bain Canny, K.C.B., K.B.E.
  • Sir Eric Gore-Brown, D.S.O., O.B.E., T.D.
  • Professor Herbert Arthur Hodges, M.A., D.Phil.
  • Colonel Evan Austen Hunter, C.B.E.
  • Professor John Jewkes, C.B.E.
  • Mr. Ivor Jones.
  • Miss Margaret Kidd, K.C.
  • Sir Eric Charles Miéville, G.C.I.E., K.C.V.O., C.S.I., C.M.G.
  • Mrs. Elsie Parker.
  • Mr. Herbert Sutcliffe.
  • Mr. Frank Wolstencroft, C.B.E.

In view of the fact that the Chancellor has postponed the question of taxing betting and that in the meantime the incidence of taxation as between, for example, horseracing and greyhound racing is most unfair, will the Prime Minister do what he can to expedite the work of this Commission?

We cannot expedite the work of the Commission. The Commission must take the proper time and that is not my responsibility.

How many of the members of the Commission know anything about betting conditions in Scotland?

Will my right hon. Friend circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the details of the past official connections of the members of the Commission?

Armed Forces


asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint a special commission, similar to the Hoover Com- mission in the United States of America, to inquire into extravagance and overlapping in the Armed Forces.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Commission in America has already performed useful service in drawing attention to waste in the Armed Services, and does he know that there is considerable disquiet in this country about our £760 million expenditure? Does he think that a commission would serve a useful purpose here?

No, Sir. I do not think this device would be particularly appropriate here. We have looked at the matter to see if there were any valuable lessons to be learned from it, but here we have a different administration, having set up a Ministry of Defence, and already we have anticipated many of the proposals contained in the Hoover Report.

Strike, London Docks


asked the Minister of Labour to what extent he has exercised, or proposes to exercise, his statutory powers with a view to terminating the recent strike at the London docks, or in connection therewith.

The question of legal proceedings is under consideration.

As the law has been challenged and defied by officials of a powerful union, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that those officials will be brought to justice forthwith?

Is it not the duty of the Minister to enforce the law or relinquish power?

It is also the responsibility of the Minister to see that he says nothing to disturb the course of events as they are proceeding. The hon. Member has a right to ask the question and I have a right to decide on the terms of my answer.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information whether the position is any easier? I also understand that the lightermen, to their credit, refused the advice of their executive to join in the strike. Is it not a fact, therefore, that the advice of the executive was a direct incitement to their members to break the law?

I think the right hon. Gentleman might have given me a little notice about that latter point. It is very difficult to answer "off the bat." I do not know whether the circumstances are as stated or not and it is impossible to answer. As to the position at the moment, the situation this morning is somewhat confused. Some docks are working normally, while at others men are presenting themselves for work, but on changed conditions, not acceptable to employers. The meeting of stevedores, which started at 10.30 this morning, is still in progress and, in the circumstances, I am afraid I am not able to give any more accurate assessment of the position.

In view of the fact that the Easter Recess is coming on, and that we cannot question the Minister again until the House reassembles, can we have a further assurance that the food supplies of the country will in no way be held up during the Recess?

I can only confirm the assurance I gave the other day that it is the intention of the Government that food supplies and other necessary goods will be kept moving.

May I also say that the broadcast of the right hon. Gentleman last night was very acceptable?

As every single strike since the war, except the one at the Savoy, has been illegal and there have been only three prosecutions out of the thousands of disturbances of this kind, will the right hon. Gentleman see that no action likely to discriminate against these dockers is taken while we are in Recess, or at all, and will he consider discouraging the attempts coming from the other side of the House to abuse and threaten the dockers?

I can only answer that I will read the hon. Member's Question carefully when I see it in the OFFICIAL REPORT and, in making up my mind, will bear in mind the bias of the hon. Gentleman who asked it.

On a point of Order, is it in Order for an hon. Member, or a Minister of the House, to refer to another hon. Member's remark as biased?—[Interruption]—behave yourselves.

A Minister of the Crown—you behave yourself. Is it in Order for a Minister of the Crown particularly to refer to the remark of another hon. Gentleman as being biased and to say that when taking the question into consideration he will also remember his bias?

I should have thought there was nothing in the point of Order. From a party point of view, I suppose we are all slightly biased.

In view of that Ruling, may I be allowed to claim great credit for the bias I hold in favour of the dockers of Great Britain?

Is it in Order, Sir, for the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) to tell you to behave yourself?

I take it that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) may have noticed that while my expression included the pronoun "you," my eyes were directed to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter).

May I ask whether the Minister is aware that the policy pursued by him in similar cases has led to this country having a better record in respect of strikes than any country in the world?

Is he also aware that the policy the Minister pursued in respect of the last dock strike is one of the instances which led the Prime Minister to move his next constituency a little further inland?


May I ask for the indulgence of the House in order to make a statement?

I have just been informed that, at a meeting now in progress, the General Secretary of the Stevedores' Union has explained the illegality of the strike and has instructed the members to return to work to enable the Executive to give the 21 days' notice of a dispute, as required by the National Arbitration Board.

I am sure the whole House will be glad to hear that the Executive of the Stevedores' Union do now realise the illegality of their action and are taking steps to see that the law regarding industrial disputes, which has been of such great value to all parties, is upheld and obeyed.

National Finance

Austrian Conversion Loan (Italy)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a formal request to the Italian Government to end their default on the drawn bonds of the Austrian Conversion Loan, in view of the fact that they have sufficient sterling credit for the purpose and that the Governments of France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland and Denmark have fulfilled their obligations on such bonds.

We have already pressed the Italian Government to meet this obligation, and we shall continue to do so.

Would the Economic Secretary say whether the Italian Government have been informed how much their credit would improve if they joined the company of States which have honoured their obligations on these bonds instead of remaining bracketed with the only other defaulter, Czechoslovakia?

I am sure that the Italian Government will take note of what the hon. Member has said.

Estate Duty


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what allowance he proposes to make in cases where payment has been accepted in commutation of legacy or succession duties, in view of the increased charge of Estate Duty in substitution for these duties.

I must ask the hon. Member to await the publication of the forthcoming Finance Bill.

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give an assurance that the Chancellor, having eaten his cake, does not propose also to have it?

I do not know what the hon. Member means by that supplementary question. Of course, this point will have to be dealt with when we reach the Finance Bill.

Will the right hon. Gentleman carefully study that question in HANSARD?

Erp Commodities


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will detail the goods and their value which we received under the European Recovery Programme during 1948–49.

During the period 4th April to 31st December, 1948, the total value (f.o.b.) of arrivals of E.R.P. commodities for which procurement authorisations had been granted or were expected at the end of the period was approximately 845,750,000 dollars. For details of the goods involved, I would refer the hon. Member to Table B appended to the Second Report on Operations under the Economic Co-operation Agreement published as Cmd. 7654. Reports on the operations in subsequent quarters will be published in due course.

Bathroom Cabinets (Taxation)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why permission was given to Modern Industries, Limited, of Kingston-on-Thames, to dispose of recess bathroom cabinets, without the addition of tax, up to 31st March, 1949, when at that time such goods were generally held liable to tax; and what steps have been taken to ensure that similar privileges are not granted to other individual suppliers to the detriment of their competitors.

This situation arose from a misunderstanding. The circumstances are not likely to recur.

Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that no discrimination of any kind took place in the exercise of the authority of the Treasury?

Yes, certainly. I think there was a genuine misunderstanding. We are taking steps to see that it does not occur again.

Financial Year (Budget Date)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will in future alter the financial year so as to make it coincide with the calendar year and introduce the Budget as soon as possible after the beginning of the year.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the accident of an April Budget is due solely to the fact that the Chancellor in 1832 had influenza in February, and that there is no sound reason for this inconvenient division of the year from a business and financial point of view? Is it not about time that the right hon. Gentleman faced the future?

House Of Commons Catering (Report)


asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he will now make a further statement as to whether, and by what means, he intends to give effect to the majority recommendation of the Kitchen Committee that the entire cost of the staff and equipment in the Refreshment Department throughout the year should be defrayed by the Treasury.

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave on 7th April to the Question put by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe).

In view of the ambiguity of that reply, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no action will be taken on these lines unless and until the consent of this House has been obtained?

Obviously the consent of the House will have to be obtained for any expenditure of money. The report has not yet been adopted, and it is not for me to say whether it should be, or, if it is agreed, when it should be.

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to correct two statements which he made last Thursday both of which were inaccurate? The first was that I had supported this recommendation of the Kitchen Committee. The second was that if it were put into effect, no Supplementary Estimate would be required this year.

I still stand by what I said. I said that there is an Estimate for this year of I think £14,500, and it is not proposed to exceed that amount.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Estimate, which relates solely to the anticipated deficit under the present system, has nothing whatever to do with the expenditure which would be involved if this special report were accepted? Will he make it clear whether his answer of 7th April referred to the ordinary deficit or to this extraordinary expenditure?

I dealt with the situation which had arisen. We are now referring to a report made by the Kitchen Committee. On the occasion to which I refer, if my recollection serves me aright, certain Members referred to the report but the report as such was not before the Committee on that occasion.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that if effect were given to this special report of the Kitchen Committee it would require a Supplementary Estimate of at least £35,000, and that the sum in the present Estimate only allows for the staff to be paid during the Recess whereas the special report wishes to put the cost of their pay and of the equipment on the taxpayer for the entire year?

I hope that nothing I have said would lead the House to believe the contrary.

Would the right hon. Gentleman correct his statement about my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling)?

All that I said, in reply to a supplementary question, was that I assumed that the hon. Gentleman had been a party to the decision. I take it that in a democratic community, when a matter goes to a Division and it is decided by an overwhelming majority that representations should be made to the Treasury, as was the case on that occasion, the hon. Gentleman shares with his colleagues the responsibility of that representation.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that whenever one's name appears in the Division List among the "Noes" one must be assumed to have been a party to the decision if the "Ayes" have it?

No, Sir. But there is such a thing as being loyal to one's colleagues if one serves with them on a committee, or of resigning from that committee.

Would it not be graceful for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw what was obviously a mistake on his part? My hon. Friend voted against this proposal. He cannot possibly be held to agree with it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman trying to establish as a principle for the conduct of Members in this House that loyalty should be a stronger motive than either conscience or reason.

Israel (Commercial Representative)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet appointed a commercial representative to the State of Israel.

Yes, Sir. A First Secretary (Commercial) has been appointed to the staff of the United Kingdom Representative in Israel, and it is planned that he shall proceed to Tel Aviv with the other members of Mr. Helm's staff as soon as possible.

Could the hon. Gentleman tell us the name of this representative.

What are the qualifications of this gentleman who has been appointed? Does he know conditions in Israel?

So far as I am aware, the person concerned has a record of long and reliable service in the Foreign Service.

Would my hon. Friend also consider the sending out of a commercial delegation to extend friendly relations with the State of Israel in order that this country may not be pushed to the bottom of the queue in this part of Palestine?