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Written Answers

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Tuesday, 3rd May, 1949

Employment

Vacancies (Statistics)

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will arrange to publish regular statistics as to the number of vacancies filled by local offices of the Ministry and of the number of vacancies unfilled, analysed by regions.

These statistics in respect of Great Britain are already published each month in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. I am arranging to add a regional analysis in the Gazette, beginning with the issue for May.

Docks (Welfare Officers)

asked the Minister of Labour how many welfare officers are employed by the National Docks Labour Board; how many of these operate in the London Docks; what is the total cost of their salaries and expenses; and what are their duties.

The staffing of the National Dock Labour Board is not a responsibility of the Ministry of Labour.

Wallasey

asked the Minister of Labour what was the number of people registered as unemployed in Wallasey on 14th April, 1949, or the nearest convenient date.

Improvement Scheme, Knoydart

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered the memorial presented to him on behalf of residents in Knoydart with regard to land settlement in that area; and what action he proposes to take.

I have considered the memorial referred to but I can find no grounds which would justify any modification of the decision I announced in the House on the 5th April—a decision which was taken after the most careful and sympathetic consideration of the possibilities of land settlement in the area.

British Army (Married Quarters)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many non-commissioned officers have been waiting a year or longer for married quarters; how far their needs will be met in the current year; and if he is aware that from this cause the Army is losing many instructors whose experience is essential for the proper training of National Service men.

In the United Kingdom approximately 420 non-commissioned officers have been waiting a year or longer for married quarters. At least 850 new married quarters for other ranks are to be completed this year, and I hope that this number may in fact be exceeded. As I said in the course of the Debate on Army Estimates, the provision of suitable housing is vital and is being treated with the utmost sense of urgency.

National Finance

Dollars (Diversion)

28.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to prevent the diversion of dollars from the sterling area, through the action of foreign governments, which, despite assurances to the contrary, are permitting commodities purchased in sterling by their countries to be shipped to European countries, and thence re-shipped against dollar sales to the United States of America; and whether he is aware that statistics available to him show that such diversion has resulted in the loss of more than 4 million dollars in the first three months of the present year, in the case of one commodity alone.

The problem to which the hon. Member refers is receiving my attention. In considering it I am taking into account the information which which he has been good enough to furnish me.

Northern Ireland

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total sum paid annually from the British Treasury in respect of Northern Ireland, specifying the amount incurred on social services, military defence and border Customs, respectively.

For 1948–49 it is provisionally estimated that the gross Northern Ireland residuary share of reserved taxes will be £48,500,000, from which will fall to be deducted £4 million, representing the cost of reserved services, and £21,500,000 representing Northern Ireland's contribution to Imperial Services. Expenditure on military defence, which is included in the Imperial Services to which Northern Ireland contributes, cannot be allocated between different parts of the United Kingdom; for 1948–49 the cost of border Customs is estimated at £112,500: in the same period payments to Northern Ireland under Social Services Agreements were £2,800,000.

War Damage Claims, Liverpool

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give the number of war damage claims for houses and business premises not yet settled in the county borough of Liverpool.

Claims for cost of works can only be made on the War Damage Commission after the repairs have been carried out. This is the responsibility of the owner of the property after obtaining a building licence. The information is therefore not available.

Income Tax (Foreign Workers)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why foreign workers, working for an agricultural executive committee and billeted by them, are not liable for Income Tax on the 30s. a week, deducted by the committee for lodgings.

Apart from the provisions of Part IV, Finance Act, 1948, the general rule of the Income Tax law is that where an employer undertakes to provide free board and lodging which cannot be converted into cash the value is not income for taxation purposes.

Trade And Commerce

Kitchen Waste (Prices)

48.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the circular instructions dated 23rd April, 1949, and served on 25th April, 1949, from the Directorate of Salvage and Recovery to local authorities will increase the price of concentrated kitchen waste to farmers and others from £4 10s. per ton to approximately £7 per ton, the increase to operate from 2nd May, 1949; that local authorities and merchants cannot contact the purchasers in the time available; and if he will postpone the operation of the increase to 1st June, 1949.

I regret that there was some unavoidable delay in reaching a decision on a new scale of prices for concentrated and raw kitchen waste, but as the Government subsidies on these feedingstuffs terminated at the end of April, it was felt that the new maximum prices should operate as soon as possible after that date.

Indonesia

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he will make available to Members of this House and to the public the text of the bilateral agreement for direct trade between the United Kingdom and Indonesia, referred to in the Board of Trade Journal for 12th March, 1949;(2) what were his reasons in coming to the bilateral Agreement for direct trade between the United Kingdom and Indonesia, mentioned in the Board of Trade Journal for 12th March, 1949, in view of the fact that most of the commodities which His Majesty's Government have contracted to buy from Indonesia are produced in Malaya, and that Singapore is accustomed to handling manufactured goods for distribution in South-East Asia and is equipped therefor with long-established, highly-developed and specialised entrepôt facilities.

There have been no separate trade talks with Indonesia. But in the recent talks with the Kingdom of the Netherlands agreement was reached to provide for an expansion of trade with Indonesia in both directions. Trade with Indonesia is carried on partly directly and partly through entrepôts such as Singapore and Amsterdam, and there is nothing in the present arrangements to disturb this traditional pattern. A fuller note is being prepared for the Board of Trade Journal and I will send a copy to the hon. Member. The relevant facts have already been communicated to trade associations concerned. As regards goods which we are buying from Indonesia, and which Malaya also provides, we are willing to buy whatever may be available in Malaya at a reasonable price, but the quantities we need are greater than Malaya can provide.

Hong Kong (Immigration)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are contemplated for controlling the settlement of non-British citizens in the Colony of Hong Kong, in view of the pressure of populations caused by the unsettled conditions in the Far East.

The entry of aliens into Hong Kong is governed by the provisions of the Hong Kong Immigration Control Ordinance, 1949. It would not be in the public interest to disclose the preparations made for the enforcement of these provisions should conditions in China result in abnormally large numbers attempting to enter the Colony.

National Insurance

Ministry's Staff

asked the Minister of National Insurance to state in tabulated form the number of men and women, respectively, engaged in the administration of his Department and their locations.

On 1st January, 1949, there were 22,708 men and 15,934 women employed in my Department, including temporary clerks. This staff was distributed as follows:

OfficeMenWomenTotal
Headquarters7524981,250
Newcastle4,0153,1707,185
Blackpool1,1921,6472,839
Acton6128431,455
English Regions13,2587,58520,843
Scotland1,6911,5823,273
Wales1,1766211,797

Contributions (Missing Cards)

asked the Minister of National Insurance (1) if he is satisfied that in the change-over to the new insurance scheme last July none of the cards containing records of contributions for the year prior to July, 1948, were lost; and if he will ensure that people are given the benefit of the doubt in any case which may arise when pension applications are eventually made to his Department;(2) whether, in view of the importance of the matter to people over 50 years of age, he will ensure that all the cards of such people, representing contributions for the year preceding 5th July, 1948, have been received by his Department; and whether, in those cases where cards cannot be traced, the persons concerned will be so informed in order that they may prove that contributions have been made.

Of the cards issued for the year ending July, 1948, about 21 million have been duly accounted for, but I cannot guarantee that none have been mislaid. Anyone whose record for that year appears to be deficient (including those whose cards seem to be missing) will receive a notice stating the amount of the deficiency and will have the opportunity of submitting alternative evidence of payment of contributions.

Sheep (Statistics)

asked the Minister of Agriculture the numbers of breeding ewes and other sheep in each county of England and Wales in 1948, 1938 and a convenient year before 1914.

I am sending the hon. Member a statement giving the desired information.

Zinc Prices

asked the Minister of Supply why the price of zinc in the United Kingdom is 720 per cent. above the 1938 average, as compared with 225 per cent. dearer than pre-war in the United States of America.

The following factors account for the difference in relative prices in the United Kingdom and the United States of America at the present time and in the pre-war period:—

  • (i) The price of zinc in the U.S.A. in 1938 averaged 4.61 cents a lb. (equivalent to about £21 0s. 0d. a ton at the rate of exchange then ruling) whereas the price in London in the same year averaged only £14 a ton.
  • (ii) It is only within the last six weeks that the internal price in the U.S.A. has fallen from 17.5 cents a lb. (£97 7s. 6d. a ton at the present rate of exchange) to 12.5 cents a lb. (£69 10s. 0d. a ton); near the beginning of that period (4th April) the price in the United Kingdom was reduced from £106 to £101 a ton.
  • (iii) The U.S.A. prices quoted in (ii) are exclusive, the United Kingdom prices inclusive, of costs of delivery.
  • (iv) We have to buy a large proportion of our zinc metal from the dollar area, but our dollar expenditure is kept to a minimum through our arrangements with the producers in the sterling area, by which we take as much zinc as possible from them. These arrangements include the periodical agreeing of prices and the selling price in the United Kingdom is based chiefly upon the prices so agreed. Current prices were agreed before the latest falls in the American price and the present selling price is related to our current costs.
  • Feedingstufes (Groundnuts)

    asked the Minister of Food, in view of the fact that most cattle feedingstuffs have doubled in price in 1949 compared with 1948 and especially groundnut components, what steps he is taking to secure all or part of the 270,000 tons of the current year's crop and 44,000 tons of last year's crop of groundnuts which had accumulated and were deteriorating at Kano, Nigeria, on or about 10th April, 1949, for the purpose of conversion into cattle feed.

    All the groundnuts available for export from Nigeria both from the 1947–48 and the 1948–49 crops have been bought by the Ministry of Food and will be used for the production of oil and animal feed.

    House Of Commons Catering

    asked the hon. Member for West Walthamstow, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, why Arthur Swan, a waiter with three and a half years' service, was summarily dismissed on 14th April; and if he will arrange for him to appear before the Kitchen Committee.

    The man concerned was given a week's notice and paid up to 23rd April. His work was unsatisfactory. The answer to the last part of the Question is "No."