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Written Answers

Volume 464: debated on Monday 2 May 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 2nd May, 1949

Coal Industry

Merchants' Stocks


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of the bad position of coal stocks in the borough of Bexley; and if these stocks will be increased in the near future.

Merchants' stocks are low in Bexley as elsewhere, but this is not unusual at the end of the winter and I do not know of any special difficulties in Bexley. Merchants generally begin to lay down stocks in May against next Winter's needs and continue stocking throughout the Summer.

Pit Ponies (Draft Regulations)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are being taken to better the conditions of pit ponies, especially in view of the cases recently before the courts of cruelties by pony-drivers.

As I explained recently, draft regulations will shortly be introduced to amend the Third Schedule to the Coal Mines Act, 1911, so as to include in it the proposals contained in the Private Member's Bill introduced by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). I will shortly be receiving representatives of the Animal Protection Societies with a view to considering whether the draft regulations should incorporate any further proposals of theirs which are practicable and meet a real need. I have no information of cases of cruelties by pony-drivers recently before the courts.

Coke Stocks

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will make a statement on the stocks of coke now accumulated in the country, showing how the present quantity compares with normal stocks for this time of year.

Total coke stocks in the country at mid-April were 1.78 million tons. This is about 100,000 tons less than the quantity held in stock last year and slightly less than mid-April in 1944. Figures for pre-war years are not available.

Sanatorium, Northampton (Coal-Burning Plant)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that a change in the type of coal supplied to the Creaton Sanatorium, near Northampton, was followed by a considerable increase in the smoke from the sanatorium chimney; and whether he will arrange for better coal, so as to avoid harm to the sanatorium patients and nuisance to adjacent residents.

The change in the type of fuel supplied to the sanatorium was made following a careful review of existing plant. The Ministry's fuel engineers are satisfied that it is capable of burning the fuel supplied without creating a smoke nuisance and this has been demonstrated by one of our practical technicians. I have arranged for the fuel engineers to visit the establishment again to ascertain what difficulties are now being encountered and I will advise my hon. and learned Friend of the result.

Theatre Rentals


asked the Attorney-General if he will so amend the terms of reference to the Uthwatt Committee as to ensure that the specific problem of theatre rentals will be investigated and appropriate recommendations made.

No. As stated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, in answer to a Question asked by my hon. Friend on 29th March, 1949, it is already within the terms of reference of the Leasehold Committee to investigate and make recommendations with regard to theatre rentals.

Oil Supplies (Foreign Bunkers)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power on what basis he reported the London price of oil for foreign bunkers as 103s. per ton; whether he is aware that the normal price paid by shipowners is 89s.; and what would be the equivalent prices reckoned thermally for coal.

One hundred and three shillings a ton is the price at which the oil companies will make day-to-day deliveries in the London docks, and includes 4s. in respect of lighterage charges. Shipowners prepared to enter into longterm contracts are able to negotiate a lower price which, I am informed, is commonly 89s. a ton ex installation. For delivery in the London docks the lighterage charge of 4s. would be added making a total of 93s. which, on a thermal basis of four tons of coal to three tons of oil, is equivalent to a price of 69s. 9d. a ton for coal

Rent-Controlled Property (Circular Letter)


asked the Attorney-General whether he is aware that certain owners of rent-controlled dwellings are sending circular letters to their tenants urging them to pay immediate increases of rent on the representation that the Rent Restriction Acts are to be amended in the near future to legalise such increases; and whether he will consider instituting prosecutions for attempting to obtain money by false pretences in such cases.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is aware of the case to which the hon. and learned Member refers. Grossly misleading as was the particular letter to which the hon. and learned Member has drawn his attention, my right hon. and learned Friend does not think that it comes within the purview of the criminal law. He is, however, certainly prepared to consider, with a view to a prosecution, any case of this kind in which there is evidence that an increase in rent or a so-called voluntary contribution in respect of some possible future permitted increase in rent has been sought to be obtained by means of any fraudulent representation as to an existing fact.

Food Supplies

Cattle Transport And Slaughter


asked the Minister of Food whether he has considered the report of court proceedings at Colchester at which fines were imposed for unnecessary suffering caused to cattle, and the associated material on the subject forwarded to him; and whether he is satisfied that, as the result of his conversations with the Ministry of Food, the arrangements for slaughtering made by his Department are such as to prevent the unnecessary transport of animals over long distances in circumstances in which suffering may be caused.

I have seen the report and I deplore the occurrence. I am satisfied that this incident was isolated and that the arrangements for transport and slaughter are adequate if properly carried out.



asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that the Order prohibiting the washing of standard grade carrots by growers and wholesalers has been rescinded, and in accordance with the recommendations of the National Farmers' Union which have been made to him, he will review the prices to be charged by growers.

A meeting will shortly be arranged with the National Farmers' Union to discuss this point and other matters connected with carrot control.

Home-Killed Cattle (Price)


asked the Minister of Food what would be the annual cost of adjusting by ld. a lb. the producers' price for home-killed cattle, excluding bulls, cows and calves for veal.

On the assumption that the hon. Member means ld. a lb. dressed carcase weight the extra cost in the current financial year is estimated at about £3,100,000.

Sweets (Retail Licences)


asked the Minister of Food when he expects to allow the free opening of new sweets shops and the selling of sweets from slot machines.

As I told the House on 25th February licensing for sweets retailers will have to be retained until supplies are available to stock new shops as well as to cover the increased demand following de-rationing. It is not yet possible to forecast when this will be.

Jaffa Oranges


asked the Minister of Food with what organisation in Palestine contracts are made for the purchase of Jaffa oranges; and if this organisation is the owner of the groves or the intermediary for the owners.

A contract for supplies of oranges from Israel for shipment during the 1948–49 season was made with the Citrus Marketing Board, which represents growers but, so far as is known, does not itself own any groves.

Aged People, Jarrow (Meal Service)


asked the Minister of Food if he will now make a statement on the experiment for which he granted a licence to Jarrow whereby old people unable to stand in queues for unrationed food are being provided with a prepared uncooked meal of meat, vegetables and dessert delivered to their homes at a total cost of 8d.; and whether he is now prepared to issue licences to other local authorities.

As the experiment only began last week, it is too early to say how it is working. I think it would be as well to watch the progress of the experiment for some little time before issuing similar licences to other local authorities.

Bus Stop Shelters (Provision)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will consider introducing fresh legislation for placing the onus of providing shelters for bus passengers, where needed, on the bus operators.

I see little prospect of legislation on this subject during the lifetime of the present Parliament.

International Children's Emergency Fund


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the British delegate at the last meeting of the Executive Board of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund proposed that the feeding programmes for children in Bulgaria, Poland, Roumania and Czechoslovakia should cease; and which countries voted in favour of the proposal and which against.

I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The British delegate did not suggest that the allocation to these countries should cease, but that it should be reduced to allow a corresponding increase in the allocation to those countries where the need is now greatest—Greece, the Far East and the Arab countries. I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT full details of voting and expenditure.

Following are the details:

At the last meeting of the Executive Board of the Children's Fund, the British Delegate proposed that the feeding programmes for Bulgaria, Poland, Roumania and Czechoslovakia should be reduced by half, that the raw materials and medical programmes for these countries should also be reduced and that the Hungarian allocation should be entirely withdrawn. The voting on this proposal was as follows: In favour—Brazil, Iraq, Peru, South Africa, and United Kingdom. Against—Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S.S.R., United States and Yugoslavia. Argentina, China, Columbia, Equador, and Greece abstained after each had spoken in favour.

Of nearly 37 million dollars spent by the Fund out of its 1948 budget over 36 million were spent in Europe. The European allocations included 21 million dollars to Eastern Europe (i.e., Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia) including 7,703,500 dollars for Poland, 1,647,900 dollars for Czechoslovakia, 1,874,900 dollars for Bulgaria, 4,232,700 dollars for Roumania, 1,309,200 dollars for Hungary. Fifteen million dollars were spent on other European countries (i.e., France, Italy, Finland, Germany, Greece and Austria) and less than a million outside Europe.

Of the 58 million dollars so far allocated to specific countries by the Fund for the year 1949, 35.9 million are to be spent in Europe. The European allocations include 20,777,000 dollars for Eastern Europe (as above) including 6,080,000 dollars for Poland, 3,798,000 dollars for Roumania, 1,973,000 dollars for Czechoslovakia, 1,958,000 dollars for Bulgaria and 1,164,000 dollars for Hungary. Thirteen million dollars are to be spent in other European countries (as above) and 22 millions outside Europe which figure includes the 6 millions for Palestine refugees, part of which was spent in 1948.

In addition to the above, of the 2 million dollars set aside from the 1949 budget for the operation of the anti-syphilis programme within Europe, 972,300 dollars has been allocated, with only Finland of the non-Eastern European countries as recipient to the amount of 15,500 dollars. Poland is to receive 384,200 dollars, Bulgaria 51,000 dollars, Czechoslovakia 57,500 dollars, Hungary 65,000 dollars and Yugoslavia 225,750 dollars. Also one million dollars has been set aside for the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccination programme within Europe, but as yet no details are available; 500,000 is set aside for outside Europe. Over 7 million are allocated to freight, administration, training programmes and reserve, which items are not susceptible to a division by countries.


Fritz Suhren (Arrest)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information is available as to the whereabouts of Fritz Suhren, Commandant of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for Women, who escaped from British custody on the eve of his trial in November, 1946; and what action is being taken to bring this man to justice.

I am informed that Fritz Suhren was recently arrested in Bavaria and is at present in custody in the United States zone of Germany: the question of the action to be taken against him is under consideration.

Jewish Cemetery, Aachen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement concerning the desecration of the Jewish cemetery at Wuerseren-Morbach, near Aachen.

The Jewish Cemetery at Wuerseren-Morbach is in an area badly devastated by battle. There is no indication that this cemetery is in a worse condition than others in the district, most of which have suffered damage. Damage to walls makes it difficult to prevent children from playing there, but the cemetery is under normal police protection. The leader of the local Jewish Gemeinde agrees that there is no evidence of organised desecration.

Greece (British Aid)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what aid has been given to Greece since May, 1947, detailing loans, grants, goods given and sold, arms and military equipment given and sold.

Since May, 1947, His Majesty's Government have made no loans to Greece. Grants amounted to £2½ million, being drawing-rights granted under the Intra-European Payments Scheme of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. Exports from the United Kingdom to Greece between May, 1947, and February, 1949, were worth approximately £20 million. About half of these exports were arms and ammunition supplied by His Majesty's Government against payment. In addition His Majesty's Government made gifts to the Greek Government of surplus military stores to the value of about £½ million.

Ministry Of Supply

Controlled Products (Prices)


asked the Minister of Supply whether he has considered correspondence forwarded to him by the hon. Member for Colchester on the subject of the increased percentages by which prices are charged in the case of bolts, nuts, etc.; and whether he will give an assurance that in making changes in controlled prices due regard is paid to the convenience of traders and to representations made on their behalf.

Yes. I can assure my hon. Friend that representations from traders are fully considered when changes are made in control prices, but I should not be justified in raising the maximum prices of controlled products solely to simplify the preparation of invoices.

Redundant Officer


asked the Minister of Supply if he will take steps to provide a certified true copy of the original application made by Mr. A. R. Murray in 1944; and, as this has been refused by his Department on more than one occasion, if he will state the reason for this refusal.

No. Mr. Murray has been given copies of the original application made by him in 1944 on four separate occasions. My Department declined to certify these copies as true since this would add nothing to their validity, and is therefore unnecessary.


asked the Minister of Supply why Mr. A. R. Murray was dismissed by his Department under paragraph 7(A) of the Memorandum GN 100/47 instead of paragraph 9; was Treasury sanction obtained to amendments made whereby a technical grade became classified as clerical; or what authority had his Department for making such a change in the Memorandum, in view of the fact that it was not circulated as an amendment to GN 100/47 in the usual way.

When Mr. Murray became redundant his case was not dealt with under paragraph 9 of the General Notice, since the Disposals Officer grade, in which he was employed, is not a professional or technical grade having recognised standards of qualification. This grade is a departmental one with which it is appropriate to deal under paragraph 7(A) of the General Notice. Since no change in the normal procedure, or in the terms of the General Notice, was involved, Treasury sanction was unnecessary.

Three-Foot Rules, Glasgow


asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware of the difficulty experienced by Glasgow dealers in obtaining supplies of three-foot rules; and if he will take steps to have the shortage remedied.

I was not aware of a shortage of three-foot rules in Glasgow. Arrangements have been made with the trade to send additional supplies to this area, if it is found, on investigation, that a shortage exists.

Shop Steward, Maltby (Special Leave)

asked the Minister of Supply why Mr. George Godber, an Amalgamated Engineering Union shop steward at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Maltby, Yorkshire, has been placed on special leave.

Mr. Godber has been sent on special leave with pay because he comes within the scope of the Prime Minister's statement of 15th March, 1948.

German Iron And Steel Scrap

asked the Minister of Supply how much German steel scrap has been imported during the last 12 months; how much has been exported from Germany to the United States of America in the same period; what price was paid by the British and the American buyers, respectively; and in what currency was payment made.

During the 12 months ended 31st March, 1949, just over 1 million tons of iron and steel scrap was imported into the United Kingdom from Germany. I have no accurate information about the quantity which was imported by the United States, but I understand it was about 625,000 tons during the same period. Prices, of course vary, but the general price paid by the British was £7 2s. 6d. a ton free alongside German port. This was paid in sterling. The corresponding price paid by the United States was 28.50 dollars. paid in dollars.

National Finance

Income And Expenditure (Publication)


asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether it is intended to publish a popular explanation of this year's Budget and National Income and Expenditure White Paper, similar to that published last year under the title "Our Money."

Civil Service

Eire Citizens

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the position of citizens of Eire in regard to their employment by the Crown or in Government Departments.

The precise legal position of Eire citizens generally in the United Kingdom is under review. The undertaking given by the Prime Minister in this House on 25th November, 1948, that citizens of Eire shall not be treated as foreigners will be followed so far as concerns their employment by the Crown or in Government Departments.

Clerical Class (Starting Pay)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware of the wide difference between the starting pay of entrants from the First and Second Reviews, Command Paper No. 6567, to the Clerical Class of the Civil Service, which is fixed at the age point 30, £340 per annum, with effect from 1st January, 1946, against those from the schemes of 1948 and 1949 who are temporaries of, broadly, the same age range, given similar establishment to the same class but at age point 25, which is only £300 per annum; and if he will arrange for the later entrants to have the benefit of the higher rate where their age on establishment is 30 years or over.

The special starting pay arrangements were agreed for reconstruction recruitment in order to restore as far as was practicable opportunities lost because of the war, and there are no grounds for extending them to the 1948 and 1949 establishment schemes.

Southern Rhodesia (Tobacco Exports)

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether the proceeds of the 20 per cent. export tax on tobacco imposed by the Southern Rhodesian Government have been allocated for any particular purpose; and whether the tax has been levied to discourage exports.

The Government of Southern Rhodesia published on 15th April new proposals to take the place of the 20 per cent. ad valorem export duty on tobacco which had been announced on 18th March. These new proposals, to which it is understood tobacco growers in Southern Rhodesia have agreed, provide for a compulsory saving scheme under which 15 per cent. of the proceeds of sale will be taken as a loan subject to certain abatements on gross sales of up to £4,500.

Agriculture (Egg Prices)

asked the Minister of Agriculture at what dates the periodical reviews in the price of eggs will be announced.

The date on which the winter period for egg prices will be announced has not yet been fixed.

Sutton Court School, Chiswick


asked the Minister of Education what is the result of his recent consultations with the Minister of Works regarding the release, for use as school premises, of rooms in No. 11. Ellesmere Road, Chiswick; when a decision will be taken; and when Mrs. C. C. Robinson will be informed.

My consultations with the Minister of Works are concerned with the release of Sutton Court School, Park Road, Chiswick, which is at present used as a local food office. The matter is being dealt with as quickly as possible, but so far no alternative accommodation for the local food office has been found.

Capital Punishment (Royal Commission)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the names of the members of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment will be announced.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council gave to the Question by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) on 28th April last.