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Commons Chamber

Volume 464: debated on Monday 2 May 1949

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House Of Commons

Monday, 2nd May, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

West Bromwich Corporation Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Works

New Buildings (Government Leases)

1.

asked the Minister of Works how many premises consisting of offices are being erected or have been licensed for erection on the understanding that, when completed, they will be let or leased for use by a Government Department or by a nationalised industry or undertaking.

Nineteen buildings are being erected for lease to the Government as offices and two more have been licensed. One building for lease to a nationalised industry has been licensed.

Can the Minister say what conditions are imposed as to the terms of these leases, and whether an economic rent is paid in all cases?

I cannot, without notice, give the exact terms of the leases, but I understand that in all cases an economic rent is paid.

Will the Minister say what percentage this building is of the total office building which is taking place in London?

Factory, Feltham

2.

asked the Minister of Works whether he can now make a statement on the future of the factory of General Aircraft, Ltd., Feltham, Middlesex.

Consultations are still continuing and I am not in a position to make any statement at present.

Can the Minister say what kind of consultations are taking place; and at the same time can he refute the statement which has been made recently that this factory is to be taken over by the American authorities?

Consultations are taking place between myself and my colleagues. I can make no further statement on other matters.

Does the Minister agree that it would be a pretty poor piece of planning to convert a factory in which many hundreds of locally resident skilled mechanics have been employed into a mere store for his Department?

Hyde Park (Bathing)

3.

asked the Minister of Works why he attempted to prevent bathing in the Serpentine, at Easter.

The normal date for opening the mixed bathing season in Hyde Park is the last Saturday in May, and there has been no demand in previous years for earlier opening. Safeguarding the lives, health and property of bathers necessitates a number of arrangements, including the recruitment of a staff of attendants, erection of canvas shelters and chlorination of the water. These arrangements take about three weeks to make.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that in future years he will take to heart the lesson which he was taught rather forcibly this year, and make the necessary arrangements in time for the first public holiday?

No, Sir. I think that it would be absolute waste of money to make these arrangements three weeks in advance and then for no use to be made of the service.

Surely the Minister realises that in this exceptionally warm weather the public are entitled to bathe? Does he think that anyone but a Government Department would give such a ridiculous answer?

I am not preventing anyone from bathing. All I am saying is that it would be unwise to make these preparations more than three weeks before the date which has been the normal date for the opening of the bathing season.

Could not members of the public who wanted to bathe have been allowed to go in at their own risk? What is there to be said against that?

I do not know that any people have been stopped. All I say is that preparations for mixed bathing could not have been made in time.

Richmond Park

4.

asked the Minister of Works whether he is now in a position to say when the road in Richmond Park between Robin Hood Gate and Pen Ponds carpark will be re-opened to motor traffic.

The road between Robin Hood Gate and the Pen Ponds carpark was opened to motor traffic on Saturday, 23rd April.

Requisitioned Premises, Bristol

5.

asked the Minister of Works if he will give an approximate date when the Ministry of Food will vacate the premises 39–45, Victoria Street, Bristol; and if he will arrange to erect temporary premises on the spare ground adjoining these premises if he is unable to find alternative accommodation, so that the offices and showrooms can be returned to the owners who have been denied the use of them for seven years.

Proposals are under consideration for a new building to house the Ministry of Food office. Until negotiations are completed I shall not be able to give a date for the release of the premises at 39–45, Victoria Street. It has not proved possible to lease the adjoining land in order to erect a temporary building.

Will the Minister do all that he possibly can to hurry up the evacuation of these premises so that the owners can use them for their legitimate purposes?

Electricity Consultative Councils

6.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why he has invited the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, which acts as an advisory committee to the executive committee of the Labour Party, to make nominations for the Electricity Consultative Councils; and what representatives of other political parties have been invited to make similar nominations.

Because it represents a large body of working-class women. My right hon. Friend has not invited any representatives of political parties to submit nominations. Although the Standing Joint Committee acts in an advisory capacity to the Labour Party on women's questions, it is not a party organisation. It has been consulted by successive Governments on a number of women's questions since its foundation in 1916 and has acted in an advisory capacity to a number of official bodies and Government committees.

May I ask the Minister why, if he considers it inappropriate to ask political parties to put forward nominations, he has invited this organisation, which I understand annually presents a report to the Labour women's annual conference, and whose chairman is the chairman who presides at that conference, and whose members are drawn from a number of Labour political organisations?

It may well be that those who are associated with other women's organisations that have been invited are also prominent members of other political parties, but that does not make the Standing Advisory Council a political body.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this body represents 2½ million working women, and as such is fully representative of the working women in the country in giving advice on these matters?

Is the Minister aware that this is one of several cases in which women members of the Labour Party with a well-known political bias have been given preference by the Government on advisory bodies?

I do not accept that at all, and the hon. Member will recollect that successive Governments of all political colours have from time to time consulted this organisation.

Coal Industry

Opencast Mining, Tankersley

8.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why Rough Warren Site, Tankersley, Yorkshire, is being requisitioned for opencast coal mining despite 10 acres of it having recently been planted with hardwoods and 15 acres comprising mature hardwoods; what is the quality of the three seams, Flockton Thick, Joan and Lidgett, which will be worked on this site; and what is the expected yield.

This site is expected to yield 79,000 tons of good and fairly good coal from Flockton Thick and Joan seams. Lidgett seam is not to be worked. The mature hardwoods are ripe for cutting and the saplings have been planted so recently that their sacrifice represents a small cost compared with the value of the coal to be won.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in the report of the Select Committee on Estimates, just published, in paragraph 33 the committee state that they were assured that care was taken to preserve woodlands and other amenities near urban areas. How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that statement with what he has just said?

Because, as I have said, the mature hardwoods are ready for cutting, and would be cut in any case.

There are about five acres of saplings planted, and the sacrifice of those five acres is worth while in view of the enormous amount of good coal which will be obtained.

Scottish Coalfield (Developments)

10.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if any statement on development in the Scottish coalfield will be made in the near future.

13.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement as to his policy in regard to the proposed pit closures in Lanarkshire.

The important developments that are taking place in the Scottish coalfields, involving the expansion of production in the Fife and Lothian areas to take the place of pits in Lanarkshire where the coal reserves are exhausted or which are hopelessly uneconomic have been fully described in the statement issued by the Scottish Divisional Coal Board on 28th January last. The general plans drawn up by the Board to promote these developments have been approved by my right hon. Friend.

Will my hon. Friend again consider the question of the great economic upset that this means in the life of Lanarkshire? It is not correct to state that the coal reserves in Lanarkshire are entirely exhausted, since there are over 600 million tons of coal in Lanarkshire. The more closures that take place, the greater the menace becomes to the workers. Will the Minister therefore consider the question of discussing this matter with the local authorities of Lanarkshire and the National Union of Mineworkers?

We realise the implications of this on the social life of the people. As I had said, my right hon. Friend did approve the general plan of the Coal Board, but I ought to emphasise that the timing of the particular closures, and the other matters of detail, are for decision of the National Coal Board after they have consulted the workers, their union and other interests affected. We are of opinion that these matters have been fully discussed, but there is nothing to prevent any interested party from having a discussion with the Coal Board as to the timing of this change-over.

Will the Minister bear in mind that miners' families do not exist by coa1 alone and that the local authorities who will be the receiving agents for those displaced, require to have other industries installed in their areas in order to employ the other members of the miners' families.

I can appreciate the anxiety of my hon. Friends in this matter, but I think it is fair to say that under private enterprise these pits would have been closed without reference at all to anybody and without any of the consideration we are now showing.

Will the Minister say if the representatives of the workers, that is, the trade union officials, approved the closures, and, if they did, why opposition is now being expressed?

As I see it, when the statement was first made there was general approval by the National Union of Mineworkers, and they consulted with the Scottish Board in order to provide an arranged programme of timing this matter, and also to bring it to the notice of the people concerned. I should imagine that hon. Members are anxious about this matter because obviously there is bound to be some social unrest by reason of this very great change-over.

May I again ask the Minister whether he is aware of the position in Lanarkshire at the moment? Is he aware that officials of the National Union of Mineworkers have prevented a huge strike, and that the Coal Board have entirely ignored them and only last week went back on a previous decision which they had taken with the union?

I cannot accept that the Coal Board have done that. They have not gone back on any decision. The fact does remain that whereas the average output is 15 cwt. per manshift in Lanarkshire, there are pits in the other counties capable of producing 30 cwt. per man-shift, and that is the most economical use of manpower in Scotland.

I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Leasehold Committee (Report)

18.

asked the Attorney-General whether, in view of the urgency of the matter, he will now publish the interim Report of the Committee on Leasehold Reform, and state what action the Government propose to take in connection with it.

19.

asked the Attorney-General whether he will publish as a White Paper the interim Report of the Committee on Leasehold Reform.

I am not yet able to make any statement on the Government's intentions regarding the interim Report of the Leasehold Committee, which is still under consideration. Its publication and a statement of the Government's intentions will not, however, be long delayed.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the concern on the part of shopkeepers and small traders at this continued procrastination in the matter? Does he know that they are worried, not only because of the many cases of suffering in connection with their leases, but also because they realise that, in the unlikely event of the Opposition becoming the Government in a year's time, they would have no hope of redress at all?

Is not it possible for the interim report to be published forthwith and the Government statement thereon to be made at a later date?

It is still under consideration and, as I have said, it will be published shortly.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when the Report was received by the Lord Chancellor?

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to use every effort to expedite the matter, because it is of real urgency? Individual traders and shopkeepers are suffering greatly.

The contents of the Report are matters of great public interest and its publication will not be long delayed. I do not think that I can add to that.

Food Supplies

Maize

21.

asked the Minister of Food whether maize will be included in the list of United Kingdom requirements to be obtained with the second annual instalment of Marshall Aid.

The programme for spending dollars received by the United Kingdom in the second year of Marshall Aid has not yet been settled, and I regret that I cannot, therefore, answer the hon. Member's Question.

Would not it be a very good thing to include maize instead of buying pork, which must be a very much more expensive way of using our dollars?

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind the vital importance of having maize, and having it early in the year, for pig breeding?

Fish Friers (Fats Allocation)

22.

asked the Minister of Food what improvement there has been during the last financial year in the supply of fats to fish friers; and whether he expects any increase in the present financial year.

During the last financial year arrangements were made whereby no fish frier now receives less than four cwt. of fat for each eight week period. In addition more than 3,000 new licences were granted. There is no prospect of any further increase in the next few months, but consideration will be given to the needs of new housing estates.

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that, even with the improvement that there has been in the industrial areas, there is a very great feeling that the present ration is quite insufficient, and will she again review the subject with the idea of increasing the ration?

We are always looking at it. I, of course, realise that every area would like a little more fat for fried fish.

Can the right hon. Lady tell us who are her advisers as to local requirements in these cases? Are they from the local food committee?

in view of the shortage of meat and the desperate need for more fried fish and chips, is it not possible to purchase more fats from other countries like New Zealand, where I understand they are available?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we look at every country where we believe that there is fat available.

Retail Licence (Sweets)

23.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will grant a licence for the sale of sweets to Mr. V. A. Larkman, Bank Road Post Office and Stores, Bank Road, Devizes, in view of the public demand for it, concerning which he has received correspondence.

My right hon. Friend grants new licences for the present only where the existing shops in an area are not able to meet the needs of the public: There are two shops selling sweets within 300 yards of Mr. Larkman's premises and we should not therefore be justified in giving him a licence.

Might I ask the right hon. Lady, first, whether she listened to the broadcast of the Lord President of the Council the other night, when he stated that the policy of the Socialist Party was to grant freedom to retail traders; and secondly, whether she is aware that, though there are those two shops, it is the evidence of the local inhabitants that those shops are not able to provide a sufficiency of sweets for the people?

I think that if the hon. Gentleman goes round his constituency he will discover that there are 40 sweet shops in the Borough of Devizes.

Algerian Wine

24.

asked the Minister of Food how much Algerian wine has been Withdrawn from bond since 5th April, 1949.

No figures of withdrawals of wines from bond since 5th April, 1949, are available.

Does that reply mean that they are unknown, or that it is not in the public interest to give them?

If the hon. Gentleman had a little more information on the subject, he would know that the figures are published in the Trade and Navigation Returns in the following month.

Is it not a fact that Algerian wine is good only for salad dressing?

As the right hon. Lady has not been able to answer a previous question, could she perhaps tell us how much of this wine was actually drunk and with what result?

Enforcement Inspectors (Visits)

27.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that farmers in Lincolnshire have been visited by inspectors on Sundays and whether he will make it clear to his Department that these visits are giving offence, and give instructions that such inspections and visits should be limited to weekdays.

No complaints have been received about such visits. For enforcement duties to be carried out efficiently enforcement inspectors cannot work to a rigid timetable, and therefore I am afraid I am unable to give the instructions suggested by the hon. and gallant Member.

Is it not really horrifying that these people should be visited on Sundays; they object to it, and surely there are six days when the inspectors could do their work, and ought they not to leave the seventh day alone?

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman believe that the potential illicit slaughterer is not prepared to practise on a Sunday?

Agricultural Workers (Meat)

29.

asked the Minister of Food what is now the value of the allowance of meat made to British and foreign agricultural workers who live in hostels; what is the equivalent allowance made to workers in heavy industry who live at home and who take one main meal a day at a factory canteen; and what is the value of the allowance of meat to agricultural workers who live at home but who have no canteen available.

The weekly allowances are as follow: Agricultural worker living in hostel and taking 12 main meals a week, 2s. 6d.; Industrial worker using canteen for five main meals a week, 2s. 5d.; Agricultural worker without canteen, 1s. 1d.

Does not the right hon. Lady think that it is extremely unfair on the agricultural worker who has not got a canteen to which he can go?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that I have answered this question on many occasions. We recognise that the agricultural worker should have his ration supplemented. That is why we give him an extra 12 oz. of cheese and extra allowances including butter and sugar during certain seasonal operations, and, of course, extra sugar and tea for hot drinks.

Will the right hon. Lady consider offering the agricultural worker the opportunity of having either the cheese or the extra meat, and then see what happens?

Has the right hon. Lady ever actually seen the amount of cheese which the agricultural worker gets each day, and is it not really a perfect mockery compared with what workers in other industries get?

Retail Prices

30.

asked the Minister of Food to state the main uncontrolled items of food, fruit and vegetables the retail prices of which have fallen by comparison with any convenient period in 1947.

ItemUnitApproximate average prices during seven week period to end MarchApproximate reduction in price
19471949
s.d.s.d.d.
Rhubarb1b.11
Turnips1b.3¾
Swedes1b.2¾
Parsnips1b.3
Savoy cabbage1b.3
Other cabbage1b.3
Cauliflower/Broccoli1b.18
Brussels sprouts1b.11
Leeks1b.
LettuceHead10102
WatercressBunch6½
CeleryHead6

Potatoes

32.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to remove potatoes, which have been purchased by his Department, which are in clamps so sited as to make the proper cultivation of the land difficult.

Preference will be given to the movement of such potatoes provided the loading of deteriorating stocks is not hindered. If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind, I will gladly look into it if he will send me details.

Transport

Forth And Clyde Canal

36.

asked the Minister of Transport what plans for the future of the Forth and Clyde Canal he has under consideration.

stantial reductions as compared with corresponding period two years ago. With permission I will circulate the details in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I regret that information is not available to show whether there has been a fall in the uncontrolled prices of any foods other than fresh fruit and vegetables.

The following is the list:

The Forth and Clyde Canal is vested in the British Transport Commission, who are responsible for its future.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman share with me a certain curiosity about its future, and would he care to surrender to the temptation and make some inquiries?

Riccarton, Roxburgh

37.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the village of Riccarton, in Roxburgh, with a population of about 100, has no road communication; and when he proposes to provide a grant to the county council to make this possible.

Yes, Sir, and it is for the Roxburgh County Council as highway authority to decide whether a road should be built here. I could only consider a grant from the Road Fund if it could be shown that the road would be suitable for classification.

Is the Minister aware that these 100 residents of Riccarton are in the main employees of the railways and that they have no road communication with the surrounding country, and would he not move in this matter and encourage the county council?

I can only repeat that the representations of the hon. Gentleman should be directed to the Roxburgh County Council which must take the first initiative in this matter.

Is the Minister aware that these conditions make this village unique but not unhappy?

Are we to understand that a community which has no roads—nothing connected with the Ministry of Transport—is unique and happy?

C Licence Vehicles

39.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will take steps to have a thorough analysis made of ownership of C licence vehicles showing, in particular, how many are held by local authorities, public utility undertakings and nationalised industries, respectively, so that hon. Members and students of transport may have the information necessary to form opinions as to the advantages or otherwise of the C licence system.

No, Sir. The labour involved would not be justified at the present time.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that on both sides of the House there is a great thirst for knowledge about this matter and that he alone can cause these figures to be produced; therefore, will he say why the effort is not worth the satisfaction that would be given by the possession of that knowledge?

I have already taken considerable steps to obtain information about C licences and that is available, but in this case the proposal would mean the diversion of labour from more important work.

Road Safety (Grants)

40.

asked the Minister of Transport whether in view of the fact that grants to local authorities for road safety campaigns have been considerably less than the approved estimates, permission will be given for the balance to be spent on actual road safety improvements, such as the provision of refuges.

As these grants are made under Section 115 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, they cannot be utilised for other purposes.

Rspa (Expenditure)

41.

asked the Minister of Transport what was the total expenditure of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents for the financial year 1948–49, analysed under main headings.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give us some statement, as we in Scotland are particularly interested to see the proportion which goes there as opposed to that which goes to England and Wales?

I assume that the organisation waits until the accounts are audited, and then it publishes them in the ordinary way.

Buses (Standing Passengers)

42.

asked the Minister of Transport what alterations he intends to authorise in the number of people permitted to stand in buses in the Metropolitan area.

The order governing the carriage of standing passengers in public service vehicles applies to the whole country and is permissive. It is for agreement between the London Transport Executive and the Union what arrangements within the terms of the order shall apply in London. I have so far received no representations asking that the order should be varied.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, before consenting to any further alteration, he will satisfy himself that grave hardship would not be caused to a very large number of people who travel in these vehicles during the rush hours in the Metropolitan area?

I have already indicated in my reply that the order, in the first instance, is permissive, and that I must await the negotiations, if they take place, between the two bodies to which I have referred.

Is the Minister aware that a certain minority of bus conductors seem to take a delight in keeping people off their buses, and could something be done to bring home to this minority the fact that they are paid for conveying the public, and not for leaving them standing on the pavement?

I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is making a general allegation regarding the whole country or is referring only to the London Transport area, which is largely involved here. If the latter, I am sure that representations to the London Transport Executive would receive proper consideration, and that the unions and the men themselves would not endorse a policy of that kind.

Would the Minister consider appointing a consumers' council of users of Government transport and getting their views?

As a matter of fact, the reply to one Question today will indicate that steps are being taken to establish one in London.

Users' Consultative Committee, London

43.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is yet in a position to announce the names of the Transport Consultative Committee for the London area.

In reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 21st February, I said that I was considering the setting up of a Transport Users' Consultative Committee for London. I have now decided to set up such a Committee to cover both passenger and goods traffic, in the area of the London Transport Executive. Steps will be taken shortly to consult representative bodies regarding the appointment of members, under the procedure prescribed in Section 6 of the Transport Act. 1947.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that among the bodies to be consulted will be the North London Traffic Facilities Committee, which is representative of North London local authorities?

No, Sir, I cannot at this stage give an undertaking on what bodies will be consulted, but if they represent local authorities as such they would certainly have representation.

When this body is set up, will it be consulted about the number of people who can travel in buses?

The hon. Gentleman, who was a Member of the Standing Committee on the Transport Bill, knows very well that that was one of the purposes for which these committees are being established.

Railway Bridges (Road Surfaces)

44.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the bad condition of the road surface on many bridges over railways; and what steps he is taking in co-operation with the local authorities concerned for their maintenance.

I am aware that road surfaces on such bridges are not always in a satisfactory condition, and the parties concerned are aware that it is my wish that they should make use of the provisions of the Bridges Act, 1929, that enable responsibility for the maintenance of such road surfaces to be transferred to highway authorities. Assistance from the Road Fund is then available to them in accordance with the classification of the road.

Will the Minister continue to use his good offices in an endeavour to effect an agreement between the local authorities and the Commission, and thus lead to the improvement of many miles of road surfaces in all parts of the country?

Armed Forces (Recruiting Appeals)

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will take the necessary steps to ensure that no Minister or hon. Member be asked to make any form of appeal for recruits for His Majesty's Services, unless they themselves have served.

Does the Prime Minister realise that appeals from the Lord President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Exchequer do more harm than good, and can he say why these two right hon. Gentlemen have given up their pacifist ideals?

Ministers And Officials (Salaries)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of his appeal made on 4th February, 1948, for the restriction of dividends, profits and wages, the Government will set an example to the country by reducing the salaries of Ministers and the salaries of highly-paid officials appointed by the Government in nationalised industries and other posts.

In view of the fact that, since the Prime Minister made his appeal on 4th February, 1948, for a reduction of profits, dividends and wages, wages have increased by nearly £100 million a year, does he realise that the real masters of this country are the T.U.C.?

Would it not be better if the hon. Member persuaded his friends of the Federation of British Industries to observe the spirit as well as the letter of this arrangement?

Has not the Chancellor of the Exchequer acknowledged on more than one occasion the co-operation—

Hm Ships, China (Air Support)

47.

asked the Prime Minister what air support was available for His Majesty's ships in the River Yangtse area on which the Flag Officer, Far East, could have called on 20th, 21st and 22nd April; of what strength could it have been; and what distance had the aircraft to fly before reaching the vicinity of H.M.S. "Amethyst."

It is not usual to provide air support for H.M. ships proceeding on their lawful and peaceful occasions, and none was available in the Yangtse area on 20th April. When our ships had been attacked, Sunderlands were sent up from Hong Kong. One of these reached Shanghai on 21st April and a second on 23rd April. In addition, a Dakota with supply dropping gear was ordered to Hong Kong. The nearest R.A.F. fighter aircraft were in Malaya, some 2,000 miles away. It was the decision of the Flag Officer, which I support, not to call upon them.

Is it not a fact that, in the middle of the 20th century, one Fighting Service is of very little use without another, and that H.M. ships ought not to be exposed to danger without air support being available somewhere near?

The hon. Gentleman, of course, is right with regard to operations of war, but in this case the ship was going up the river for a perfectly peaceful purpose, and there was no suggestion that on this occasion there should also be an offensive air force accompanying it.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that when he sends H.M. ships on dangerous missions into war areas, it is right to provide them with all possible protection?

I do not deny what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but the point has been made abundantly clear that this ship was carrying out a peaceful mission in accordance with a practice which had been carried on for some time, and without any suggestion of forcing a passage up the Yangtse. As the whole matter is to be discussed this week, perhaps hon. Gentlemen can develop their strategic and tactical ideas then.

Although the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the ship was proceeding on a peaceful mission is quite correct, was not the whole situation altered immediately "Amethyst" had been shelled by the Communists, and was it not very necessary to provide air support for any other British ships proceeding up the Yangtse?

In the judgment of the commander on the spot, the right thing was to send this ship up as soon as possible in the hope that they would be able to get "Amethyst" off under peaceful conditions.

Is the House to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the Admiral commanding had aircraft placed at his disposal? If so, when; and when could he expect them to be in his vicinity and available to him?

The Admiral commanding could have asked for aircraft if he desired them. The nearest aircraft were then between 36 and 48 hours' transit time away.

But were they actually placed at his disposal? After all, an Admiral there does not consider aircraft in Malaya as being at his disposal.

I have already informed the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Admiral could have asked for aircraft if he had said that in his opinion it was desirable to have them.

If aircraft had gone with the ship, and if the Chinese population had been bombed, how would that have helped the British subjects whom this ship was being sent to help?

We cannot discuss the whole situation now. The Question only asked what air support was available, what strength it was and what distance it had to fly—not what the Admiral might say.

In view of the difficult situation existing in China, is it not an extraordinary thing that no land-based aircraft were available in Hong Kong?

British Commonwealth And Empire

Official Designation

48.

asked the Prime Minister what steps he took to secure the agreement of His Majesty's Governments in other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire to the progressive substitution in official usage of the term "Commonwealth," for the term "Empire"; and how far it is the intention of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to put an end to the official use of the expression "British Empire."

Terminology, if it is to be useful, keeps step with developments without becoming rigid or doctrinaire. All constitutional developments in the Commonwealth, the British Commonwealth, or the British Empire—1 use the three terms deliberately—have been the subject of consultation between His Majesty's Governments, and there has been no agreement to adopt or to exclude the use of any one of these terms, nor any decision on the part of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, being aware, as he is, that the use of the words "British Empire" is held in high respect throughout the British Empire by a great many people, see to it that they are not by daily use pushed out of the picture, and other phraseology adopted in their place?

The hon. Member knows that opinions differ in different parts of the British Empire and Commonwealth on this matter, and I think it better to allow people to use the expression they like best.

If, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, His Majesty's Government have taken no decision, why do they take every opportunity to cut out the words "British" and "Empire"?

Commemoration Date

50.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give consideration to the provision of suitable arrangements for the future commemoration of 27th April as Commonwealth Day.

I agree that the 27th April has become a notable date in the history of the Commonwealth, but I doubt if it would be appropriate to add another to the occasion on which the association of the countries of the Commonwealth is already celebrated.

Does not the Prime Minister think that an event which the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) once said would be the greatest act of statesmanship in the history of the world is worthy of commemoration, and that such a day would, generally speaking, be more appropriate than 24th May?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman still consider that Empire Day is an appropriate day for commemoration?

Personal Incomes, Costs And Prices

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the Government's policy on personal incomes, costs and prices.

The White Paper of February, 1948, was based on certain principles which broadly can be summarised as follow: (1) that it is essential that there should be no further general increase in the level of personal incomes whether from profits or earnings without at least a corresponding increase in the volume of production; (2) that every effort should be made to reduce prices wherever possible; (3) that if remuneration is increased in any class of employment contrary to the intention set out in the White Paper there can be no presumption that the resulting costs will be taken into account in settling controlled prices, charges or margins or other financial matters requiring Government action.

The improvement in our state of affairs last year was undoubtedly due in large measure to the response on all sides to the plea for restraint in the White Paper. The need for that restraint is as great today as it was a year ago, and the principles of the White Paper remain as an essential and important element in the Government's economic policy. It is equally important that action should be continued to reduce prices wherever possible. I feel sure that the Government will continue to receive the wide measure of co-operation on all sides in this policy which they have been accorded over the past year.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say why he has given way to the T.U.C. to allow wages to rise on an annual basis of £100 million since he made his appeal on 4th February, 1948?

As I explained in my reply, there has, as a matter of fact, been great restraint exercised on all sides, but certain long-standing demands for increases have been met. As was explained at the time of the White Paper, it was not intended, in certain cases, that it would be possible or desirable to put an absolute bar on all changes.

Queen's Hall (Rebuilding)

51.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will now make a further statement about the proposal to rebuild the Queen's Hall, London, and the nature of the facilities to be afforded by the Government.

I have been asked to reply. The facilities which are required and will be afforded by the Government to enable the Queen's Hall to be rebuilt are, first, a renewal of the lease of the site, which is Crown Land; second, a war damage payment in respect of the destruction of the old hall by enemy action; and, third, a building licence. Discussions are proceeding about the arrangements for providing concerts in the hall when it has been rebuilt.

When there are new developments in this direction, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that several hundred thousand of the music-loving public subscribed to the Henry Wood Memorial Trust—there is very great interest in this matter—and will he undertake to keep the public informed of new developments?

We realise that there is a great deal of interest in the rebuilding of this hall, and we hope that it will not be long before the work can be started.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the new Queen's Hall will be built as a national concert hall, and, if so, what kind of governing body there will be?

Foreign Office (Registry Clerk)

54.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Miss Lilian Hemsley has been dismissed from his Department; what post she held; and whether she has been transferred to another Ministry.

Miss Hemsley has not been dismissed from the Foreign Office. She is an established clerical officer employed as a registry clerk in the Archives Department. The question of her transfer will arise if action now being taken in her case in accordance with the Prime Minister's statement of 15th March. 1948, shows this to be necessary.

Is the Minister aware that the confidential nature of the work which Miss Hemsley was doing consisted, to a large degree, in posting whisky to diplomatic missions abroad, and, further, that she applied for a transfer to the Ministry of Education as long ago as early last year? That being so, can the Minister explain the reason why she is being removed at this stage, and for what reason?

I have said that she is not necessarily being removed; my answer explained that. As to the whisky, I cannot accept that as a description of the work she did, but I must make it clear that it is not possible to make a clear distinction between secret and non-secret work in the Foreign Office.

Germany

Western Frontier Adjustments

55.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many Germans have been transferred to the Low Countries under the new frontier arrangements; and what number of these has applied to move into German territory.

The population of the areas provisionally transferred to Belgium and the Netherlands is approximately 9,000. It is not yet possible to give figures for those who have applied to move into German territory, since the returns from a large number of the localities concerned are still awaited.

Is my hon. Friend aware that among these 9,000 people he has mentioned, there is a considerable number now unemployed, and as they are suffering some considerable hardship, will he, if at all possible, give priority to those of them who apply to come back into Germany with the object of being re-employed there?

59.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent the local inhabitants were consulted before the German frontier adjustment with the Low Countries was approved and applied; and if he will refuse to sanction any further changes until a peace treaty has been signed with Germany.

The local inhabitants were not consulted before the frontier adjustments were put into effect. In doubtful cases they may, however, present their views on the definitive line of the frontier, as far as technical considerations are concerned, to the Demarcation Commissioners who will finally determine the provisional frontier. The present adjustments are provisional only, and subject to confirmation or modification at the peace settlement. His Majesty's Government will not consider any further changes prior to the peace settlement.

While I am glad to have the assurance contained in the last sentence of my hon. Friend's reply, does he realise that what has already happened represents in the minds of many Germans a bit of backstairs diplomacy, and, because that is so, does he not recognise that real democracy is brought into disrepute as a result of these new arrangements, which seem to have been achieved as the result of pressure on the part of people outside Germany?

No, Sir, I cannot agree that this is a backstairs arrangement. These changes, are, as I say, small and provisional.

Unemployment

60.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what degree of unemployment there is in Western Germany; and which trades and industries are most affected.

The provisional estimate of unemployment in the Bizone for mid-April is 1,176,446. This represents about 8.5 per cent. of the wage and salary earning force. The principal trades and industries affected are building and related industries, commercial and administrative classes, metal and related industries, unskilled workers, and agricultural workers.

In view of the serious situation which those figures disclose, will my hon. Friend use his influence to secure that those Germans who want to come to this country—where British workers will not be adversely affected as a result—will be allowed to do so for employment here? May I have an answer to that Question?

Spain (Government Policy)

61.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what instructions have been sent to the British Delegation to the United Nations regarding the proposals now before the United Nations to rescind their earlier resolutions which excluded Spain from all United Nations agencies and organisations.

So far as I am aware, no proposals to rescind the recommendation of the United Nations Assembly of 12th December, 1946, have as yet been put before the present meeting of the Assembly. I would, however, like to reaffirm that, if a move is made to rescind the United Nations' recommendation about the withdrawal of Ambassadors or the exclusion of the present Government of Spain from the specialised agencies, we do not intend to support it.

Could my hon. Friend give the House a categorical assurance that if any decision is taken to admit Spain into any technical international agencies, that will not represent the beginning of a move to include Spain in the United Nations, Western Union, the Atlantic Pact, or any of the other arrangements made between the democratic nations of Western Europe?

That is a hypothetical question and concerns many other Governments besides His Majesty's Government. What I can say is that we should oppose a move to include Spain, under her present régime, in the Council of Europe, the O.E.E.C., the Atlantic Pact, or the United Nations.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that these proposals in the first place were a direct interference with the internal affairs of Spain, whether we agree with them or not?

While appreciating my hon. Friend's announcement in his first reply that our representatives will not support the inclusion of Spain in United Nations agencies and organisations, will he make it clear that this does not presage neutrality but that we will positively oppose the inclusion of Spain?

62.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what consultations have taken place with the Government of the United States of America recently regarding action on Spain.

No consultations have taken place recently, although the two Governments keep in touch on this as on other subjects through the normal diplomatic channel.

Austria (Association Of Independents)

63.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the newly-formed Association of Independents in Austria is a neo-Fascist organisation, whose appeal is directed to former Nazis; and what steps he is taking to prevent this revival of Fascism.

The Association of Independents has not applied to the Allied Council for recognition as a political party, and, so far as I know, none of the Occupying Powers in Austria has proposed that any action should be taken against the Association on the ground that it is a Fascist organisation.

Although this organisation may not have applied for recognition as a political party, does not the Minister recognise that this is nothing but a political party, and is he not aware that a number of newspapers of a Right wing nature in Austria are supporting this organisation? Will he look into it?

The organisation has not offended any Allied Council directive. If it does so, it will be firmly dealt with.

In view of the fact that the Communists call everybody Fascists who are not Communists, will he refuse to take any notice of this nonsense?

We distinguish between organisations called Fascist and organisations called Fascist by Communists.

Ussr

Service Attachés, Moscow

64.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the total expenditure incurred by the military, navy and air attachés in Moscow last year; and what is the nature of their duties.

I understand that the total expenditure for the financial year 1948–49 was approximately £28,000. The duties of the Service attachés in Moscow, as at other posts, are to keep in the closest possible touch with the naval, military and air Services of the country in which they are stationed, to advise His Majesty's Ambassador on all mattters affecting the Armed Services and to represent their respective Service Departments as required.

Is the Minister satisfied that this expenditure is justified? Could not economies be effected?

It is justified. It could be more valuable if there were greater facilities for the Service attachés.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether sufficient opportunities for obtaining information are given to our attachés up to the same standard as the opportunities which we give to the Russian attachés in this country?

What steps have been taken to ensure that reciprocal facilities are granted so that our representatives in Russia get the same facilities as the Russian naval, military and air attachés get in this country?

"British Ally" (Mr A P Johnstone)

65.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if any inquiry was made into the political views of Mr. A. P. Johnstone, until recently editor of the paper printed in Russian called "British Ally," before he was appointed to this post; and what reports had been received, before his resignation, as to his suitability or otherwise for the position of editor of the paper in question.

53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds Mr. Archibald Johnstone was appointed to the staff of the paper "British Ally"; what were his functions; what was known of his political views at the time of his appointment; and what report has been received in regard to them since.

Mr. Johnstone had good technical qualifications and experience. His functions were those of technical editor and he was in charge of the preparation of the paper for printing. He was not responsible for its editorial policy, nor was he in a position to influence its political content. Reports on his performance of his duties during the two years since his appointment were satisfactory.

At the time of his appointment, Mr. Johnstone's personal political views were known to be somewhat extreme, but there was no sign of his having any Communist associations or tendencies. Nor, according to my information, was there any indication of any change up to the moment when he absented himself from the Embassy and his letter appeared in "Pravda."

Is my hon. Friend aware that the most exhaustive inquiries ought first to be made before anyone is appointed to such a responsible position as this? Is he also aware that this man, by the manner of his resignation, has completely betrayed the interests which he was sent to Russia to promote?

The answer to the first part of the question is that since the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last year inquiries are made about the loyalty of applicants for such posts. On the second point, my answer is "Yes, Sir."

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it was well known in Fleet Street at all material times that this man was a notorious Communist fellow traveller, and can the hon. Gentleman account for the fact that what was well known in Fleet Street was not known to the Foreign Office?

Would my hon. Friend agree to substitute the word "reactionary" for "extreme" as applied to Mr. Johnstone?

Since the dividing line between Socialists with Marxist views and Communists has never been definable, was it not most unfortunate that a man known to have Marxist views should have been appointed to this position? Further, is the Minister of the opinion that this is a good example of the Left working with the Left?

I am well aware of the political backwardness of hon. Members opposite, which makes it impossible for them to distinguish between Communists and democratic Socialists.

Would the hon. Gentleman regard it as extreme to thank the Communists for helping hon. Members in their election?

Bomber Aircraft (Prices)

68.

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he is taking to satisfy himself that the price paid for the latest type of long-distance bombers is not excessive in regard to their performance.

Aircraft delivered in accordance with contract specifications are paid for at a fair and reasonable price, based on estimates of the cost of efficient manufacture.

Catering Wages Act (Orders)