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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 28 April 1949

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Disabled Persons (Registration)


asked the Minister of Labour why he requires a person who is in receipt of a disability pension from the Admiralty to be medically examined by a Ministry of Health Board before registration as a disabled person; and if he will take steps to eliminate this procedure.

Registration under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944, is open only to those whose disability causes a substantial handicap in getting or keeping employment. The receipt of a war disability pension does not necessarily show that there is a substantial employment handicap. It is therefore necessary in some cases to obtain a medical assessment directed to this specific point. For this reason the answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative.

Is it not a fact that there is no co-operation at all between the Departments in this matter and that all people who are in receipt of a disability pension, however disabled they may be, are automatically required to be examined by the Ministry of Health doctors? Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that this is not so?

I am afraid the hon. Member is misinformed; there is the most complete co-operation. Every man who applies to be registered as a disabled person can put in his pension documents as evidence and only where the handicap is not clearly visible is he referred to a tribunal.

If I send particulars of a case which denies his statement, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to look into it?

Teachers' Pensions (Regulations)


asked the Minister of Education what provision is made in his regulations for early rectification of a mistaken option by a teacher in favour of one of the alternative pensions schemes.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the National Insurance (Modification of Teachers' Pensions) Regulations. The answer is "None, Sir."

Does that answer mean that, where a perfectly genuine error is made by a teacher and is ascertained within the matter of weeks, his Department decline to allow rectification in any circumstances?

The decision was taken that this option should be irrevocable after a period of some five months in which all the circumstances were explained and it was pretty generally known. Each teacher was acquainted with the circumstances and it would be impossible to have people flitting in and out.

Is the Minister aware that in fact mistakes have been made and that the documents concerned are very complicated? What is the objection to allowing rectification, at any rate for the first few months of the scheme?

The objection is the difficulty in connection with the administrative side of this work if such a practice were allowed.

Trade And Commerce



asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an estimate of what loss would be involved if he released for current use at the present market price the Government stock of pulp for newsprint manufacture.

As I informed the hon. Member in reply to a Question on 24th February, pulp is not purchased specifically for newsprint but for the production of all descriptions of paper in which such pulp is used.

Would not the President of the Board of Trade feel it right to answer the Question on the Order Paper and, if I may put a supplementary question, will he tell me if it is a fact that the Newsprint Supply Company have offered to take over the Government's liability for this bulk purchase of pulp, if the Government get out of this business altogether?

I have had many discussions with the Newsprint Supply Company and I have suggested to them that they might care in their own selling prices to anticipate the reduction which it is confidently expected the Government will be making in the near future.

When will the Government get out of this business altogether, so that a true market price can rule?


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is satisfied that the large stock of mechanical pulp now held in store on Government account will not deteriorate in condition.

There should be no danger of deterioration provided the stocks are used by the mills in the order of receipt.

Is it not a fact that fungus is already growing on some of these stocks of print and mechanical pulp, and that that is causing a break in the flow of production into newspaper offices at the present time?

As the hon. Member knows, the rate of consumption of newsprint has been increased in the last few days. That will help to reduce stocks somewhat, and, as I have said, if they are used in proper order there is no danger of deterioration.

Dominions And Colonies (Agreements)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what reciprocal arrangements for the long-term purchase of British manufactured goods are made with the Dominions and Colonies with whom we have entered into agreements for guaranteed purchase of food and raw materials on a long-term basis under bulk-buying arrangements.

Does it not seem very undesirable that we should give concessions on the question of long-term purchase and get nothing in return in the way of guarantees?

I think that my hon. Friend is wrong to suggest that we get nothing in return as a result of long-term purchase arrangements within the Commonwealth, because that is of great benefit. But it is not necessary in the case of those countries, as it is in the case of many others, in the course of bilateral negotiations to use those discussions to remove or relax import restrictions upon British goods wherever we can.

Civil Defence Organisation


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why no directions or guidance as to their duties under the Civil Defence Act, 1948, have yet been issued to local authorities; and whether directions or guidance will be issued in the near future.

Since the passing of the Civil Defence Act, Departments concerned have, in accordance with undertakings given by Minis- ters, been discussing with representatives of the local authorities the general arrangements for reconstituting a Civil Defence organisation. These have made good progress, and my right hon. Friend hopes to lay appropriate regulations before Parliament at an early date.

Were not such instructions issued some time ago for the Armed Forces, with which Civil Defence will have to co-operate? Is it not of great importance that Civil Defence should be prepared to deal with emergencies, and should not instructions be hastened and issued accordingly?

I agree that it is important that we should get out instructions as quickly as possible. My right hon. Friend hopes that the first regulations will be before Parliament before the end of next month.

Police Pay (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has yet received the Oaksey Committee report on conditions of pay in the Police Force.

Yes, Sir. The first part of the Committee's report dealing with pay, allowances and pensions has now been published as a Command paper.

In view of the long time that has been taken to produce this report, could the Under-Secretary say how long his Department will take to go into it, and when this House may have an opportunity to discuss it?

I am afraid that I cannot state any actual date. Obviously it has to be considered by a number of interested bodies as well as by the Department. There will be no unnecessary delay.

As the police force in many of our towns is under-manned and well below establishment, will my hon. Friend push on as rapidly as possible with a decision about implementing these recommendations?

Will that be done without waiting for the remainder of the recommendations?

Will my hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary to consider the advisability of consulting the Police Federation again before the report is implemented?

All the police bodies will be considering this report within the next few days or weeks.

In view of the fact that this Committee has been at work since last December, cannot the Under-Secretary give us some estimate as to when the Government will make up their minds on this matter and announce their decision to the House?

Do I understand from the reply of the Under-Secretary that he is proposing to take action to implement a report before the matter has been discussed by Parliament?

I said nothing of the kind. I suppose the hon. Gentleman was referring to the question in which I was asked, if I understood it rightly, whether it would be necessary to await the second part of the report before anything could be done on the first part, which has been published. That was the question which I intended to answer, and if it was another question which was put to me, that is a different matter. That is how I understood the question.

Horsley Hall School


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, previous to recent proceedings, the Horsley Hall School was recognised by juvenile courts as a condition of residence school under probation orders.

My right hon. Friend knows of only one occasion on which a juvenile court has made it a condition of a probation order that the probationer should reside at Horsley Hall School. The condition, which was imposed in August, 1947, on medical advice, has since been deleted and the boy has left the school.

What care is taken to see that such peculiar action is not taken in future?

There may have been a misunderstanding on this occasion; it is the only one of which we know. There are arrangements under a probation order for ensuring that persons shall not be required to reside at an institution unless it is within certain categories.

Typhoid (Research Worker's Death)


asked the Minister of Health if he will consider the payment of compensation to the parents of Edward Gill, of Stone Road, Stafford, who died from typhoid fever as a result of his work in a bacteriological laboratory in Stafford at the time of the typhoid outbreak in Shropshire.

While I deeply sympathise with the parents I am advised that I am not liable for such a payment. But a grant has been made ex gratia to Mr. Gill's father, which he has accepted in full and final settlement.

Is the Minister aware that the National Insurance officer has given a decision that the tragic death of Edward Gill resulted from his employment, and does he not think that the Medical Research Council, as the employers of Edward Gill, should have accepted some responsibility? Is he further aware that their more generous offer has only been made since this Question was raised?

The last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question reveals the value of the House of Commons itself. In reply to the first part, I think it is quite clear that it is admitted that the boy contracted typhoid in the service of the Medical Research Council. That is the reason why, in consultation with the Treasury Solicitors, an ex gratia grant of £132 was made to the father.

National Health Service

School Clinics (Medicines)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that, when children are given prescriptions by a doctor at a school clinic, their parents have to pay the chemist for the medicines supplied; and, as this is contrary to the principle of the Health Service, if he will take steps to amend the regulations so as to provide that no charge shall be made.

Any medicines supplied at these clinics are provided free but if a school medical officer thinks a pupil requires a prescription he would no doubt refer him to his National Health Service doctor, who could prescribe for free supply under the service.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the case I sent him a prescription was given by the school doctor, and is it not rather a cumbersome proceeding for one doctor to have to send a child to another already overworked doctor?

No. The school medical service is grant-aided and it would be extremely difficult to operate the National Health Service in respect of this matter through the grant-aided service of the schools. It is also exceedingly undesirable for two doctors to have charge of one patient.

Is the Minister aware that these children are sent to the school clinics by the authority, and surely the doctors there are fully qualified? Is it not advisable that they should be given the same right as any other doctor to give a prescription?

The whole difficulty is to operate the National Health Service through the grant-aided medical service. Very little difficulty need be experienced by a person going to his own family doctor. My hon. Friend knows that it is the intention eventually to assimilate the therapeutical side of the school medical service into the National Health Service because of these difficulties.



asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that some opticians are advising applicants for spectacles under the National Health Service that it will be months before they can receive them, whereas if they pay for them they can be supplied with glasses in a few weeks; and whether this practice conforms to his regulations.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) on 17th February. I shall be glad to have inquiries made into any specific cases which are brought to my notice.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he has evidence that this is becoming a widespread practice, and is he satisfied that there is adequate local machinery for getting this put straight?

I do not think it is becoming a more extended practice than it was before; I believe that it is getting less. There are, I believe, some opticians who are doing this, and I think it is highly undesirable that it should be done.

Hospital Administration


asked the Minister of Health why he is unable to ascertain how many persons are now in receipt of payment for jobs in hospitals which were done voluntarily prior to 5th July, 1948.

I could no doubt ascertain the numbers, but do not consider it of sufficient importance to justify asking for a special return from 2,835 hospitals when they are so fully occupied otherwise.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a matter of administration which he could ascertain from those responsible for the administration without interfering with the medical service which has to be given in these hospitals? Is not it right that Parliament, which votes this money, should ensure that there is no unnecessary extravagance?

The administration of the hospital is responsible for providing the medical services of the hospital. If the administration have additional work to do they cannot do their medical administration as they should—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] As I have had interpolations of "nonsense" I would point out that it is from the other side of the House that we are continually having reproaches about administrators having to fill up too many forms, and there being too much paper work. Further, it would be necessary to investigate how every voluntary hospital in Great Britain did its work before and compare that with how it is doing its work now in order to get this information.

Would not it be in the public interest if sample inquiries could be made, not necessarily covering all the hospitals, to find out the dimensions of this problem? Surely the Minister realises that his scheme stands or falls by the economical and efficient way in which it is enabled to spend the nation's money?

It is, as hon. Members know, a very remarkable thing today that the whole of the Health Scheme is administered by 10,000 to 11,000 voluntary persons who are not paid anything at all; and that is a very remarkable tribute to the voluntary principle. We cannot call to account officials employed in an official capacity unless they are paid a salary.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that without information of this kind, his denials of extravagance in the administration of this service are worthless?

And without information of this kind accusations of extravagance are nonsense.

Aged People (Welfare Service)


asked the Minister of Health how far, in view of the number of old people living alone in unsatisfactory circumstances, his regulations, made under the National Assistance Act, 1948, enable local authorities to provide a welfare service for them in their own homes.

I do not fully appreciate what kind of welfare service my hon. Friend has in mind, but the health visiting, home nursing and domestic help services of local authorities under the National Health Service Act are available to old people living in their own homes, and the National Assistance Act empowers local authorities to contribute to voluntary organisations which provide recreation or meals for old people. A local authority who are a civic restaurants authority can include a mobile meals service in their civic restaurants service which is, of course, of particular help to old people.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that surveys made in certain industrial areas have shown that there are hundreds of old people living alone who require visiting, and who require someone to keep in touch with them, and perhaps do their shopping, and so on? It would appear that this power is not in the hands of local authorities under the National Assistance Act, and they would welcome being able to do that. Would he have any objection to their undertaking this service as welfare authorities under the National Assistance Act?

That is another matter, and I will certainly look into it. I fully appreciate the fact that there are very large numbers of old people who are now living in their own homes, which fortunately they are now able to do in much larger numbers. I will certainly look into the possibility of extending the service.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the National Assistance Board will not co-operate with local authorities in giving them information? Where they have to give a supplementary grant to assist old people they refuse to give information to the local authority so that the welfare authority can follow up these cases and see if these people need any further assistance.

I cannot at this stage agree that the National Asssistance Board is not going to help, but I certainly will inquire to see what co-ordination can be brought about.

Undeveloped Land (Housing Authorities)


asked the Minister of Health why he requires local authorities in possession of undeveloped land to obtain planning consent under Circular No. 61 of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning where planning consent had already been obtained under the old procedure prior to the issue of the circular.

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a circular which I issued on 11th April to housing authorities on this question.

Will the Minister state whether he is prepared to waive this requirement where it can be shown that the council will experience delay in developing its housing scheme when it has already obtained planning consent to develop under the old procedure?

If my hon. Friend will examine the circular which I am sending to him I think he will find that we are simplifying the procedure, because of the matters raised by him.


asked the Minister of Health whether in dealing with applications for the speedy acquisition of land from Rural District Councils, it is his policy to refuse authorisation under Section 2 of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, where the local authority already possesses undeveloped land in some part of its district.

No, Sir. My decision whether to issue such an authorisation depends on the circumstances of each individual case.

Royal Commission On Gambling


asked the Prime Minister if he will increase the number of persons who have agreed to serve on the Royal Commission on Gambling, so as to include a representative of Tattersalls and/or the National Greyhound Racing Society.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the present members of the Royal Commission have sufficient practical experience, and is he aware that, apart from one member of the Royal Commission, the rest of the members have not the remotest idea, by virtue of the constitution of this Commission and their qualifications, of how to ask any questions on this matter, because they would not understand it?

I think that generally the House would agree that this is a matter upon which objective impartiality is desirable rather than having people who are so expert that it might be difficult for them to free their minds from their expertness. No doubt the assistance my hon. Friend contemplates could be made available to the Royal Commission by means of people like those about whom he is concerned giving evidence in the usual way.

Capital Punishment (Royal Commission)


asked the Prime Minister if he will now announce the names of the Members of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment.

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. As my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, informed the House on Thursday, 20th January, 1949, the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment will be Sir Ernest Gowers, G.B.E., K.C.B. The King has now been pleased to approve the appointment of the following members of the Commission:

  • Mrs. Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Cameron, C.B.E. (As a writer, known as Elizabeth Bowen),
  • Mr. Norman Roy Fox-Andrews, K.C.,
  • Miss Florence Hancock, C.B.E.,
  • Mr. William Jones, C.B.E.,
  • Mr. Horace Macdonald,
  • Mr. John Mann, C.B.E., J.P.,
  • Sir Alexander Maxwell, G.C.B., K.B.E.,
  • Professor George Allison Montgomery, K.C.,
  • Earl Peel,
  • Professor Leon Radzinowicz and
  • Dr. Eliot Slater.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Commission embodies sufficient practical experience? Has any of these ladies and gentlemen ever served a commuted death sentence?

Fishing Industry



asked the Minister of Agriculture what immediate action he is taking to protect the North Sea and other near water fishing grounds in view of their depletion.

An Order is already in force prohibiting the landing and selling of undersized fish as recommended by the Overfishing Convention of 1946. It is hoped shortly to lay before Parliament a further Order raising the minimum size of mesh of nets which may be used in the North Sea and waters adjacent to the British Isles.

While I appreciate these measures, has not the time come for an international conference at Ministerial level, because of the importance of this question? There is hardly a trawler fishing in the North Sea today which is paying its way.

I could not agree more with the hon. Member about the urgent necessity of giving effect to the Order referred to, and we are in fact at this moment considering whether or not the six nations who have ratified the Order should bring it into operation at once.


asked the Minister of Agriculture when the new order to give effect to the recommendations of the Overfishing Convention, held in London in 1946, with reference to the alteration in the minimum sizes of the mesh of nets, will be introduced; and from what date the new mesh sizes are to become effective.

It is hoped shortly to lay an Order before Parliament fixing new sizes for nets. The date on which they will come into operation will be fixed having regard to the position of fishermen and manufacturers so as to enable the fullest use to be made of existing nets.

Before the right hon. Gentleman does that, will he assure himself that the other signatories to the Convention will implement regulations which are equivalent to the restrictions which we propose to put upon our own fishermen?

Yes, Sir. As I said in reply to a previous Question, the five other signatories are being consulted as to the appropriate date for bringing the Order into effect.

Does that reply mean that the British Order will not be applied until all the other nations have agreed to come in on the same date?

It will not apply until those who have already ratified the Convention have agreed on the same date.


asked the Minister of Agriculture when the next meeting of the Standard Advisory Committee set up at the Overfishing Convention, 1946, will take place.

The Standing Advisory Committee was set up for a specific purpose and its report was issued in Command Paper 7387. It contained a recommendation that the Committee should become the permanent Commission provided for by Article 12 of the Overfishing Convention, 1946. The Convention is not yet in force as six Governments have not yet ratified it. I am, however, considering the desirability of inviting Governments, which have already ratified, to agree to the Convention being brought into force so that the permanent Commission can be appointed.

Will the Minister name those Governments who have not ratified the Convention?

Headless Fish (Landings)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he intends to take to stop the landing of headless cod and other long fish from the distant fishing grounds in view of the damage to their keeping qualities; the fouling of grounds; the loss of fishing time; and the loss of fishmeal for cattle, pigs and poultry feeding.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a Question on this subject by the hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) on 4th April. There is no conclusive evidence that the heading of fish at sea substantially affects keeping quality or is detrimental to the fishing grounds. It does not necessarily involve a loss of fishing time. More fishmeal could be obtained by preventing heading at sea, but this might lead to less fish being landed for human consumption.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the fishing industry is unanimously in favour of returning to the traditional practice of landing fish whole? This new practice has simply come about because of the interference of the Minister of Food in a well-meant endeavour to bring in more fish, and all he is doing is to bring in more bad fish. Should it not be stopped? The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the production of all food.

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member is aware that while I appreciate the urgent need for more fishmeal as protein feedingstuff and so forth, I am also anxious to see that the human family are not deprived of any of the fish we could obtain while there is such a shortage of meat.

Is the Minister of opinion on examination of this question that the heading of fish does reduce the keeping qualities, and what is the scientific estimate of the effect of the heading of fish on the fouling of the fishing grounds?

Experiments carried out by the Torry Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research have shown that as regards the keeping qualities there is no great advantage or disadvantage directly attributable to the heading of fish at sea.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that to retain the head of a fish decreases the effect of the weight of the fish on those in the lower strata in the hold, because the heavy bone in the head of the fish reduces the pressure on the fish underneath?

It is obvious that if all the fish are headed there is more accommodation for the bodies of the fish, of which the human family are in urgent need.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that all the people in the longshore fishing industry are agreed that this practice has spoiled some of the best fishing grounds not only in the North Sea, but in the White Sea and in the far fishing grounds, and would he do something to get this practice stopped instead of spoiling the fishing?

I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no unanimity among the trawler owners. There is no reason why they should not start bringing in whole fish instead of heading them at sea.


County Committees (Accounts)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange for each county agricultural executive committee to publish annual accounts covering all its activities, starting with the year 1948–49.

Any accounts for county agricultural executive committees which are to be published will be submitted by my Department to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for audit. The figures relating to such transactions of all the committees already appear in the annual Appropriation Accounts of my Department. It is proposed to publish annual trading accounts relating to the various trading services of committees, commencing with the year 1948–49. The exact form of these accounts and in particular the question whether separate figures will be given for each committee has not yet been settled.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that generally when people have good accounts they are keen to publish them, and when they have bad accounts they are sometimes reluctant to do so; also will he remember that his present policy encourages the opinion that there are certain extravagances which will be concealed? Does he not agree that that is not fair to the individual committees who are doing such excellent work?

Does not the Minister agree that it would be of great interest and value to the country if the county committees would publish their accounts separately in view of the fact that many county executives are doing their job efficiently and that some are not doing it efficiently? In view of the need for keeping down expenditure does he not think that that is desirable.

I have said to the House on several occasions—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) did agree with me a few years back—that to publish separate accounts would necessitate very long explanatory notes at the bottom, comparing county with county geographically, with the rainfall and all the rest, or wrong conclusions might be reached.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that that may have been true, and was true, for three or four years, during and immediately after the war, but it does not follow that it is still true or that it will be true in future?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the geographical considerations, the rainfall and other factors, have not changed during the past three years.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, having regard to the geographical factors being one consideration, that a common system of accountancy is very desirable in these matters.

Is the Minister aware that there is a very great demand in the counties that these accounts should be published; and does not he agree that if they were published it would greatly strengthen the position of the county executive committees which are now closed corporations in the eyes of the inhabitants and the farmers?

I assure the hon. and gallant Member that I have received no such representations from any county.

Flooding, Lincolnshire


asked the Minister of Agriculture what action is being taken to close the gap in the sand-hills at Anderby Creek, Lincolnshire, through which a considerable quantity of arable land was recently flooded; and what compensation is available to the farmers concerned.

I understand that the Lindsey County Council are considering a scheme for closing the breach in the sandhills near Anderby Creek. I regret that I am not aware of any funds out of which farmers who suffered losses as a result of the recent flooding could be compensated.

Does the Minister realise that a considerable number of houses have either been destroyed or damaged in this area for which he is ultimately responsible; and does he also realise, with reference to the last part of his answer, that the present Bill before Parliament does not improve the possibility of giving any assistance to these people in any way whatever?

I can only repeat that I know of no source from which funds are available for compensation in these cases. I certainly have not any at my disposal.

Willow Beds (Planting)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the increase in price of Argentine willows and exchange difficulties with that country, he will take steps to encourage the planting of new willow beds in England.

The difficulties to which the hon. Member refers and the consequent restrictions on the importation of willows from the Argentine in themselves provide an encouragement to home willow production.

If the willow growers make proposals to the right hon. Gentleman for the limitation of these imports, either by quantitative control or tariffs, will the Minister consider that seriously?

I can assure the hon. Member that I have already had conversations with representatives of the willow growers. Arising out of these conversations, I believe that the parties responsible are considering the possibility of a marketing scheme.

Is there anything in any international agreement to prevent the Minister taking advantage of the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles)?

Forestry, Forest Of Dean


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether in view of the long delay and misunderstandings that have arisen between the Forestry Commission on the one hand and local authorities and industrial concerns on the other in the Forest of Dean over matters of public interest, he will consider setting up machinery whereby these difficulties do not in future arise.

No, Sir. I am aware that there are certain difficult questions to be settled in this area, but I am satisfied that the existing machinery for dealing with them is adequate.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it might be desirable for the Director of Forestry for England and Wales to meet local bodies in the Forest of Dean from time to time in order to thresh out difficult questions as they arise?

The Chairman of the Forestry Commission is fully aware of the difficult propositions in the Forest of Dean. I can assure my hon. Friend that they are doing their best to square them up.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a local authority in the Forest of Dean recently wanted an extension of a cemetery and was offered by the local officials a marsh at an old colliery working?

That may be, but I understand that in the same area there was also some idea of building a crematorium.

Land Settlement Association


asked the Minister of Agriculture what are the total head office expenses of the Land Settlement Association.

Head Office expenses of the Land Settlement Association, Ltd., were £38,525 in 1947–48, the last year for which audited accounts are available.

Traffic In Horses (Committee)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now announce the names of the other members of the Committee he has set up to inquire into the traffic in horses.

Yes, Sir. I have already announced that the Earl of Rosebery will be Chairman of this Committee and I am now able to state that the other members will be my hon. Friend the Member for South Battersea (Mrs. Ganley), the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White), Lord Digby, and Professor W. M. Mitchell, Principal of the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College.

Will my right hon. Friend impress upon these people the urgency of presenting a report as soon as possible, and can he say whether they will be able to commence their sittings right away?

Will the Minister say whether there are any Scotsmen on this Committee?

Electricity Cables, Berkshire


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if his attention has been drawn to the inability of the Southern Electricity Board to proceed with their plans to supply electricity to Woodland St. Mary and Lambourn Woodlands in Berkshire, owing to the high costs consequent on the requirement of the Air Ministry that part of the cable should be laid underground and if, in view of the urgent need for electricity to be supplied to these districts, he will consult with the Service Departments to ensure that such adventitious costs are met from public funds.

The question whether the Southern Electricity Board should proceed with this particular extension is a matter relating to the day-to-day operation of the Board and not one in which my right hon. Friend can intervene. As regards the cost of the work, there do not appear to be any special circumstances which would justify an approach being made to the Service Departments with a suggestion that they should vary the recognised practice in such cases.

Is it not a fact that the Southern Electricity Board have reached agreement with the local residents to proceed with their scheme, and that, through the action of the Air Ministry, the cost of the scheme was made prohibitive by some £4,000 or £5,000 by their requirement that some of the cables must be laid underground? Should that not be a charge on public funds rather than a prohibition on local residents?

There are many occasions when it is necessary to lay underground cables rather than have overhead wires, and this case did not seem to be one for intervention by the Department.

Is this not another case similar to one we heard about in. the last few weeks? Surely, the Government made the claim that nationalisation would provide cheap supplies of electricity in the rural areas?

Not at all. That has nothing to do with it. This has been the common practice of the electricity industry for many years.

Coal Industry

Opencast Mining (Cost)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the average cost of production per ton of opencast coal which is being obtained at present.

The estimated average cost of opencast coal for the year ended 31st March, 1949, was 44s. 6d. per ton, of which 29s. was the cost of production at site.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary explain to the House why there should be this immense disparity between the cost of producing opencast coal and producing iron ore, which is a similar process in almost wholly similar conditions?

There are differences, of course, in the production of opencast coal, as compared with the production of iron ore, because of the varying depth at which the coal is found.

Would not the cost of opencast coal be much lower if the Departmental overheads were not so high?

I do not think so. I think the Department runs it very efficiently, if I may say so.

Is it not a fact that the seams now being worked are of lower quality than hitherto, and that therefore the amount of coal obtained is less than hitherto?

No. The seams vary from area to area, and in many cases are as good in quality as deep-mined coal.

Can the Minister say whether the cost per ton as given by him, includes the cost of the reinstatement of the land in its former condition?

Yes, it does, and that is one difference with iron ore, where, of course, the land is not reinstated.



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he is taking to ensure that the cheaper prices that merchants are paying for coal to the National Coal Board than that paid to factors will be passed on to the consumer.

It cannot be assumed that there will necessarily be a saving to be passed on to the consumer. The factors performed wholesale distributive services which will have to be provided either by the National Coal Board, in which case an appropriate charge to the merchant will be made, or by the merchant himself, who will incur additional expenses.

Is the Minister aware that in the trade it is suggested that the merchants will get as much as ls. 6d. per ton in buying direct from the National Coal Board, and will he take steps, if that is so, to see that it is passed on to the consumers?

Yes. If there is a reduction in the distributive costs as the result of merchants buying from the Coal Board that will be reflected in the review made from time to time by my Department and the necessary adjustments in retail prices will be made.

Is there any clear and universal definition of "merchants" and "factors" in this particular context?

All the alteration did was to enable merchants to go direct to the National Coal Board or to a factor, if they so desired, or for the Coal Board to do the factoring themselves.

Petrol (Price)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can now state if there will be a reduction in the price of petrol per gallon following the termination of the petrol pool.

My right hon. Friend has no evidence at present that the dissolution of the Petroleum Board by itself would justify a reduction in the price of petrol. The prices of all petroleum products depend upon the costs of importation and distribution. The possible effect on prices of recent changes in these costs is at present under discussion between my Department and representatives of the distributing oil companies.

May I ask the Minister why, in view of the fact that there has been a substantial reduction in the cost of fuel oil in all parts of the world, it is only in this country that no reduction can be made? Why is it that we never know where we stand under the present Government?

In reply to the latter part of the question, I might suggest that it is the incapacity of the hon. Gentleman to understand many of the things said in this House. In regard to the cost of fuel oils, the price of gas oils and of other fuel oils has been reduced. The hon. Gentleman's Question. however, was about petrol.

I want to know where we stand. I am vexed about this, and I am not going to be put off.