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Commons Chamber

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 3rd May, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

New Towns

1.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what new towns have so far been designated; what population each will contain; from which built up areas population will be attracted; and what stage of development has been reached in each case.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. King)

As the reply is somewhat long, and includes a list of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is my hon. Friend aware, in view of the fact that the local authorities in Greater London, including the London County Council, are not now able to develop housing schemes outside their boundaries, how urgent and important it is that new towns in the Greater London area should be expedited as quickly as possible; and would he give an assurance that this has been borne in mind?

We are certainly hurrying these matters as much as possible. The circumstances mentioned by my hon. Friend largely account for the conception of the new towns.

In connection with any sites for new towns in the future, will my hon. Friend try to arrange for a little more imagination to be shown in the selection of those sites, and also see that due regard is paid to the fact that agricultural land should be avoided as far as possible in any choice which is made?

In co-operation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, we always have regard to agricultural interests, and endeavour to secure agreement on this matter.

Following is the reply:

Following is a list of the new towns which have so far been designated, together with their proposed population:

  • (1) Aycliffe (10,000).
  • (2) Basildon (50,000).
  • (3) Crawley (50,000).
  • (4) Harlow (60,000).
  • (5) Hatfield (25,000).
  • (6) Hemel Hempstead (60,000).
  • (7) Peterlee (30,000).
  • (8) Stevenage (60,000).
  • (9) Welwyn Garden City (36,500).
  • The seven new towns in the south are designed to attract population from the congested areas of Greater London. Detailed arrangements for associating particular new towns with particular congested areas are at present under consideration. Aycliffe will mainly provide for people working in the neighbouring trading estate, and Peterlee for the mine workers in the neighbourhood together with such other workpeople as will be desirable to produce a balanced community.

    As regards the last part of the Question, it will be appreciated that the early work of creating a new town is essentially that of surveying the ground, preparing plans and initiating basic services. Actual building has, however, been begun by most of the older established Corporations.

    National Insurance

    Lost Contribution Card

    2.

    asked the Minister of National Insurance why Mr. George Hardy, of 33, Holland Street, Sutton Coldfield, Number BA970523, was informed by letter dated 6th January, 1949, that his 1947–48 contribution card showed no contributions paid and 10 credits only, when in fact it was fully stamped up to 3rd May, 1948, and had, between August, 1948, and the end of that year, been lost by the Department at Newcastle; and why Mr. Hardy was not informed in January that his card was missing.

    I reget that a mistake was made in this case. Mr. Hardy's contribution record has since been investigated and as a result he will be treated as having a full record for the year 1947–48.

    Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the point is that not only was a false statement made, but a statement was made which the Ministry could not possibly have believed to be true? Will he therefore please explain how this arose?

    The clerk in the local office who was dealing with this matter unfortunately gave the wrong impression to Mr. Hardy; but Mr. Hardy was visited by one of our inspectors in January and in February and there was no misapprehension or misunderstanding in his mind as to the actual cause of the delay.

    But the Ministry said that Mr. Hardy's card showed no contributions paid. How could they say that when they had lost the card?

    I think it must be appreciated that the local offices were working under great strain at this time, and the clerk, unfortunately, worded the message to Mr. Hardy in this way. Mr. Hardy was visited by one of our inspectors in January and in February and he appreciated why the delay occurred.

    Supplementary Allowances (Aged Persons)

    3.

    asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will alter the regulations for supplementary allowances under National Assistance, to ensure that aged persons living alone shall be assured an income of not less than £2 per week, and married aged couples living together, not less than £3 15s. per week.

    Any alteration in the present regulations, which were approved by this House as recently as 16th June last and came into force on 7th July, is a matter in the first instance for the National Assistance Board. The Board inform me that they have recently reviewed the position in the light of representations made to them by deputations including representatives of old age pensions associations, but do not consider that there are grounds at present on which they would be justified in recommending increased rates.

    Would the Parliamentary Secretary, at any rate, ask the advisory committee to review this question, because if aged people are taken into the hostels that have to be set up by the local authorities the cost per person in the hostels is approximately £3 per week, and it is silly to imagine that a person for whose maintenance in a hostel £3 is required can manage outside on less than £2 per week?

    I understand that this was one of the matters which was discussed when the deputation met the chairman of the Assistance Board.

    Can the Minister say how much of the hostel cost is accounted for by the provision of staff?

    Employment

    Canteen Advisers

    4.

    asked the Minister of Labour how many persons are employed by his Department as factory canteen advisers throughout the country; what amount is spent in this connection; and what average percentage of the recommendations put forward by these advisers are adopted by factory managements.

    There are 18 canteen advisers and the present cost of their salaries is about £11,000 a year. As to the third part of the Question, statistics are not available. The advisers visit factories for the purpose of giving advice on all sorts of matters of detail connected with the running of canteens, and it would be quite impossible to say what percentage of their suggestions is in fact adopted, though employers do, in general, welcome their advice and most of the advisers' visits are made in response to direct requests for help by managements.

    Is the Minister aware that one of these advisers visited a firm in Macclesfield which is exporting 90 per cent. of its output and that, among many recommendations, one was that the porcelain sink should be replaced by a galvanised one; and would the right hon. Gentleman please instruct the advisers that, while they carry out a useful job, they should try to be a little more serious about their recommendations?

    I would not care to express an opinion on that until I knew all the facts of the case, but now that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has raised the matter I will have it looked into.

    Has an adviser the right to walk into any canteen without permission; and is a firm liable to prosecution if it does not carry out the recommendations of the adviser?

    Shoe Factory Foremen (Advertisement)

    5.

    asked the Minister of Labour why the approval of the employment exchange at Northampton has to be obtained before an advertisement offering employment to foremen in a shoe factory in South Africa can be inserted in a Norwich newspaper; and under what regulation this is required.

    I have been unable to trace this case, but I shall be glad to make inquiries if the hon. and learned Member will send me details.

    As I understand that the branch of the Ministry of Labour at Norwich gave this information which, of course, recognises the importance of Northampton, I will give the right hon. Gentleman particulars and perhaps he will say later whether there is any regulation which makes this necessary?

    If the hon. and learned Member will send me particulars, I will let him have the fullest information possible.

    Displaced Persons, Conway

    6.

    asked the Minister of Labour why his Department refused permission for 12 displaced persons to be loaned to Conway Borough Council from a neighbouring camp to assist temporarily in developing the borough's water supply scheme.

    Because suitable unemployed British workers were available locally. All the contractor's demands have been met promptly by the submission of suitable British candidates. At the time the borough surveyor was trying to arrange for the contractor to be supplied with 12 E.V.W.s, the contractor had no outstanding demands with the local office. He then asked for six British and these were sent the following day. All demands put in later have also been met.

    Employees (Political Tests)

    8.

    asked the Minister of Labour whether, before making the facilities afforded by his Department available to commercial firms, he will come to a general agreement with them that no political tests shall be imposed on employees supplied by him.

    No, Sir. In submitting workers for employment my Department does not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, sex or belief.

    Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the recent proposals by the John Lewis partnership to make members of their staff sign a political declaration on pain of dismissal if they refuse to do so, and does he consider that the security problems involved in the sale of ladies' underwear are sufficiently important to warrant this intolerable intrusion into the private lives of their employees?

    I can only say that as far as my Department is concerned, we do not discriminate in these political activities. I hope that firms also will follow the same example.

    Would not the-Minister agree that although a great many Communists are notorious trouble makers it is very undesirable that there should be any discrimination by commercial firms against the employment of all Communists as such?

    In reply to that question. I think that it is fair to state that there are many known and active Communists who in the workshops are first-class and reliable workers.

    Can the Minister say whether any man dismissed under this arrangment would be entitled to unemployment benefit and, if so, whether there is any method of preventing this firm from applying their own political opinions to their staff at the public expense?

    So far as unemployment benefit is concerned, without expressing myself too definitely, I should have thought that this would not deprive a man of his right to benefit, but as to whether we have any influence with the firm, all I can say is that I hope that they will not continue this practice.

    We cannot go on with this Question indefinitely. I once said, "Is your supplementary really necessary?" We must get on with Questions. I called the hon. Member to ask Question No. 9.

    While welcoming the Minister's assurance, in view of the tremendous political importance of the principle involved. I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity to raise the whole matter on the Adjournment.

    Germans

    9.

    asked the Minister of Labour what are the safeguards subject to which he decides whether or not to allow employers to employ Germans.

    The safeguards are the same as those applied in the case of other foreign nationals. Permits are granted only if the employment is of a useful and necessary character, if no workers resident in this country are available and if the wages and other conditions of employment proposed are not less favourable than those commonly accorded to British workers.

    Scotland

    Housing

    11.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether in view of the effect on house property of the Scottish rating system and Rent Restriction Acts combined, he is prepared to review, with a view to alteration, one or both of these Acts.

    The effect of the Scottish rating system on the provision of houses was examined in 1944 by a Committee presided over by Lord Sorn and the position under the Rent Restriction Acts was considered by the Ridley Committee in 1945. I regret that in present circumstances I cannot hold out any prospect of legislation.

    In view of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks in the Scottish Housing Debate on 13th April, what steps does he propose to take to end the deadlock in the possibility of getting housing, particularly in Glasgow, repaired?

    That, of course, is another question which is not necessarily connected with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his first Question.

    Would the Minister not consider getting the De-rating Act withdrawn in view of the fact that if it were withdrawn, many local authorities would receive rates which would more than cover any deficit they have in their housing accounts?

    Might I have an answer to the question I put? Are there any steps to be taken by the right hon. Gentleman?

    I said in the original answer that I could not hold out any hope at present of legislation on this matter.

    Can the Minister say what he means by the words, "present circumstances"—is he referring to the nearness of the General Election or what?

    I should say that in view of the fact that the Conservative and all previous Governments were unable to find any solution for their own friends' problems, it is not very easy for us to find one in such a short time.

    Poultry Ration

    12.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will permit farmers who occupy more than one farm to draw a poultry ration in respect of each of the farms that they occupy, although the poultry is, for the purposes of economical management located at one of the farms only.

    Where adjoining holdings are worked as one, my Department are prepared to consider the combined acreages for the purpose of assessing rations.

    Would not the Secretary of State extend this to cases where the holdings are not adjoining?

    I think the hon. Gentleman should not grumble at a satisfactory answer.

    Ministry Of Pensions

    Tuberculosis Patients (Allowances)

    13 and 14.

    asked the Minister of Pensions (1) how many ex-Service men and women disabled by tuberculosis were receiving pensions on 31st December, 1948; how many so disabled were drawing constant attendance allowance; and whether, in practice, such cases are excluded from constant attendance allowance unless they are regarded as incurable;

    (2) how many ex-Service men and women receiving pensions in respect of disablement by tuberculosis were, on 31st December, 1948, also receiving unemployability allowance; and whether, in practice, such cases are excluded from unemployability allowance unless they are regarded as incurable.

    The estimated number of ex-Service men and women pensioned for tuberculosis is 53,000 but not all are totally disabled. Eligibility for the grant of constant attendance allowance or the unemployability supplement does not depend upon the disease being incurable. The constant attendance allowance is given when personal help at home is necessary, and the unemployability supplement is granted when the pensioner is not likely to be able to resume work within a reasonable period. The numbers of constant attendance allowances and unemployability supplements in payment to pensioners suffering from tuberculosis are approximately 800 and 3,500 respectively. In many of these cases happily the prognosis is favourable.

    Can the Minister state whether he has any cases where constant attendance allowance has been refused and where it has been applied for again, and whether there are cases of hardship which are not being sympathetically considered?

    Constant attendance allowance is only payable when personal attendance in the home is necessary for the pensioner. These cases are all dealt with on a very sympathetic basis and where a claim is proved to he necessary, a grant is made. It would be unfortunate to give the impression that this grant implied that the disease is incurable, because that is not so. Many of the people who are getting the constant attendance allowance and the unemployability supplement are curable.

    Can the Minister say whether any statistics are preserved of the numbers of those who have applied for a pension on this ground but have failed to establish attributability?

    The number of ex-Service pensions for tuberculosis in the 1914–18 war is 18,000, and for the 1939–45 war, the number is 35,000.

    Is it not a fact that quite recently the Government have widened the application of the pensions to people who were previously turned down?

    The number of people receiving 100 per cent. pension for tuberculosis from the 1914–18 war is 4,000 and for the 1939–45 war 19,000.

    Claim, Stafford

    15.

    asked the Minister of Pensions why there has been a delay of four months in considering the claim to a higher pension of Mr. F. H. Dix, 18 Reva Road, Stafford, about whom the hon. Member for Stafford wrote to his Department on 7th April; and when a decision may be expected.

    As I have explained in the letter I am sending to the hon. Member, some unavoidable delay occurred in obtaining the necessary medical evidence. But I am glad to say that Mr. Dix's claim has now been accepted, and his pension will be increased from the 20 per cent. to the 50 per cent. rate. The increase will date back to the date of his claim in December last.

    While thanking the Minister for that reply and for the action he has taken, may I ask if he is aware that the medical examination in connection with this claim took place in January, and that Mr. Dix went to Birmingham twice in January for medical examination, and that, therefore, the delay which has taken place since January hardly seems to be justifiable?

    These cases are given the most careful consideration. As there is a favourable outcome of this case, I think the delay was justifiable. The hon. Gentleman will have an explanation in the letter which I am sending him, but which I do not think it is fair to give to the House, for certain reasons.

    Territorial Army

    Motor Cars (Allowance)

    16.

    asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now make a statement with regard to the licensing and insurance of motor cars owned by members of the Territorial Army and used in connection with their duties.

    It has been decided that the difference between full rates and half rates will be refunded to members of the Territorial Army who have to pay full licence and insurance when they draw supplementary coupons solely for journeys in connection with their Territorial Army duties. The scheme will be promulgated as soon as administrative details have been settled.

    Did the right hon. Gentleman say that the extra cost of insurance would also be refunded?

    Camp Training (Clothing)

    17.

    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will issue, at any rate for the period of annual camp training, an additional set of battle dress and additional pair of boots to Territorials attending camp.

    I regret that it is not possible to increase the scale of clothing for the Territorial soldier as suggested.

    Does the Minister realise that, when it is wet in camp, as it very frequently is, the only alternative to a wet pair of boots and a wet battledress is to wear denims? Would it not help to popularise the Territorial Army, and would not need a further issue, as the articles could be held in the quartermaster's store merely for the period of the camp?

    I can hardly imagine that members of the Territorial Army would be troubled by a little wet.

    Week-End Training (Allowance)

    25.

    asked the Secretary of State for War why a married soldier who previously would have received £1 7s. for attending week-end Territorial Army training now only receives 8s.; and if he will take immediate steps to ensure that every encouragement possible is given to week-end training in the Territorial Army.

    Under the new arrangements, men are eligible for pay and free rations for training periods in excess of eight hours. Under the previous arrangements, by being in camp on Friday night for the week-end, it was possible to qualify for pay and full allowances, whereas the man who could not get there till Saturday, although he did the same amount of training, could only qualify for a maximum of 9s. 0d. training expenses allowance, out of which he had to pay for his rations. The revision was made to obviate anomalies of this sort, and the great majority of men benefit substantially from the change.

    Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that a marriage allowance is not now permissible, that many of these men have to go very long distances to do their training, and are put to considerable inconvenience and expense?

    British Army

    Stores (Losses And Thefts)

    18.

    asked the Secretary of State for War in view of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on page vii of the Appropriation Account, 1947–48, paragraphs 25 and 26, in which he refers to losses and theft due to fraud and gross negligence, what steps he is taking to discover and take disciplinary action against the offenders.

    The losses occurred mainly at overseas stations, many of them during or immediately following the war. Large quantities of stores and supplies were necessarily stored in the open or in inadequate accommodation, and sufficient reliable guards were rarely available. Whenever Army personnel were involved in the losses, Courts of Inquiry were held, and disciplinary action has been taken where appropriate. The hon. Member will, however, appreciate that the thefts were usually by local civilians.

    Chelsea Pensioner (Maintenance)

    19.

    asked the Secretary of State for War why the pension payable from the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, to a pensioner who is an inmate of a mental hospital is used for the maintenance of the pensioner in that institution, instead of being paid direct to his wife, as is the normal practice in the case of pensions paid by the Ministry of Pensions.

    A Chelsea pension is not used for the maintenance of a pensioner of unsound mind. It may, in suitable cases, be diverted for the maintenance of dependent relatives. If the hon. and gallant Member has a particular case in mind, I shall be glad to investigate it.

    Ex-Officer's Claim

    21.

    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the case of 224048 ex-Captain John Routcliffe Squire, M.B.E., Royal Engineers, which was forwarded to him on 21st April; whether, in this case, he is prepared to recommend any financial compensation for wrongful imprisonment; and if he will make a statement.

    I understand that this ex-officer is taking proceedings forthwith in this matter. It must, therefore, be regarded as sub judice.

    Cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell the House and the public, who are taking such an interest in this case, whether some compensation is not allowable in a case of this sort, where a man has tried to clear his name and has spent much of his private income, apart from receiving insults about which I have told the Secretary of State? Cannot he tell the House whether some compensation is allowable?

    This ex-officer is taking proceedings, and it would be quite improper for me to express an opinion at this stage.

    I understand that proceedings are taking place in this case, and therefore we cannot discuss it. I should not have allowed the last question.

    Detained Soldier (Discharge)

    22.

    asked the Secretary of State for War, in view of the fact that the hon. Member for Finsbury was informed by his Department on 29th March that discharge action had been taken in the case of 5433205 Private E. Tibbitts, why that soldier was not forthwith discharged; why he has still not been discharged; on whose authority has his discharge been cancelled; whether he is aware of the suffering this delay and these contradictory orders have caused both to the soldier and his wife and children; and what instructions he now proposes to issue.

    This soldier's discharge from the Army was authorised towards the end of March. Before discharge could be carried out, it was necessary to review the sentence of detention the soldier was serving with a view to remitting the balance of the sentence. As soon as the competent authority authorised remission, discharge was carried out, and the soldier was released on 28th April.

    I regret that there was some delay in reviewing the sentence. The desirability of giving immediate consideration to the remission of balance of sentence in such cases has been brought to the notice of the reviewing authority.

    In consequence of the discharge having been carried out originally on 12th April, 1949, Mrs. Tibbitts' allowance order book was recalled by the Paymaster on 21st April. As soon as this was realised, the notification of discharge was cancelled, not with the object of holding up the discharge, but purely to permit the issue of the allowance up to the date on which the soldier was actually released from the detention barrack.

    Will the Minister recognise that in this case, where no proceedings are contemplated, because this is only a working man ex-soldier, the month's delay between the inception of proceedings for discharge—which was understood by all of us to be discharge from his detention—has caused great anxiety to his wife, and would he not consider making an award of compensation in this case?

    In the first place, I should like to say that I resent the inference that we treat the private soldier differently from the officer. It is quite untrue. As regards the delay, I am sorry that it took place, but I cannot see that any question of compensation arises.

    On a point of Order. May I not make some response to the suggestion that there was an inference in my question? You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that in a previous question of a similar character, attention was drawn to the fact that there were proceedings taking place. No one in the world would ever dream of a Finsbury soldier having a private income to use in taking proceedings against the Minister. It is that to which I wish to draw attention.

    Medical History Sheets

    23.

    asked the Secretary of State for War why, in a case of which he has particulars, the legal advisers of an ex-soldier were denied a copy of his medical history sheet.

    A soldier's medical history sheet is maintained for strictly Service purposes, and copies are not furnished to individuals or their legal advisers. The disclosure of medical history sheets would be detrimental to the public interest, as tending to deter Service personnel from seeking medical treatment, and to impair the frankness of Service medical officers in reporting on them. It is the invariable practice to plead privilege for Service medical documents, a fact which is, I think, widely known.

    Is the Minister aware that this particular ex-soldier was, in the course of matrimonial proceedings, seeking to disprove a serious allegation that he had contracted venereal disease while in the Army? In those circumstances, why would not the War Office help in a matter affecting the private, personal and moral character of an individual, where it could not possibly affect any question of privilege or security?

    This case has now been settled, and I think we had better leave it alone.

    Recruiting Campaign

    24.

    asked the Secretary of State for war how many officers and men are now employed on the recruiting campaign; what was the total cost of recruiting in the three months ended 31st. March; and how these figures compare with those for the previous quarter.

    No serving officers or male other ranks are employed specifically on recruiting duties; the only serving personnel so employed are 53 noncommissioned officers of the W.R.A.C. in Army recruiting offices, the staffs of which otherwise consist of retired officers, ex-soldiers and other civilians. The staffs of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations and officers and men of the Territorial Army are of course also helping in the campaign. Records are not kept in a form from which figures of quarterly expenditure on recruiting could be produced without a disproportionate amount of work.

    Is the Minister aware that the Minister of Defence has already given certain figures, and cannot he tell us what was the cost of this recruiting campaign?

    If my right hon. Friend has already furnished figures to my hon. Friend, he ought to be satisfied.

    Has the Minister made any attempt to get into touch with the leaders of the Communist Party in order to get advice on how to conduct a campaign?

    Horticulture (Ministerial Responsibility)

    26.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will make arrangements to enable the pre-war practice to be resumed whereby the Minister of Agriculture assumed responsibility for the production and distribution of all horticultural products and the correlation of imports of horticultural produce with homegrown foodstuffs by arrangement with the Board of Trade.

    I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister thinks that the hon. Member is under some misapprehension about the extent of the pre-war responsibilities of the Minister of Agriculture, and, in any event, he sees no reason to alter the present arrangements.

    Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that most of the difficulties that have been created are felt by the horticultural producers to be due to the split responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food; and would it not be desirable that the Prime Minister should impose a responsibility for horticulture on one Minister, and particularly one who has the full confidence of the horticultural industry?

    I do not think that my right hon. Friend would agree with the implication in the hon. Member's question.

    Hong Kong (Defence)

    27.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement regarding the steps which are being taken to safeguard Hong Kong against external aggression and possible fifth column sabotage.

    I have been asked to reply. I would ask the hon. Member to await the statement which will be made in the Debate on the China situation next Thursday.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that statement will include what steps the Government propose to take in order to safeguard Hong Kong against the danger which is imminently threatening it?

    I have no doubt that in the preparation of the statement, account will be taken of the question put by the hon. Member.

    National Finance

    High Court Judges (Salaries)

    29.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now introduce legislation to increase the salaries of His Majesty's High Court judges, in view of the increased cost of living since these were last fixed in 1831.

    My right hon. and learned Friend has this matter under consideration in consultation with the Lord Chancellor.

    As this matter has now been so long delayed, can the right hon. Gentleman indicate when some steps are going to be taken about it?

    Yes, Sir. Legislation will be necessary, and I think I can promise the House that that legislation will not be long delayed; it will certainly be this year.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman also consult with the Scottish authorities in connection with the High Court judges of Scotland?

    Do not the Government agree that public interest suffers unless His Majesty's judges are remunerated on a scale commensurate with the salaries paid to high executives in industry, and that there is an unanswerable case for reconsideration?

    Obviously, all those points will be taken into consideration when a decision is arrived at in this matter.

    Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government have taken the trouble to draw the attention of the High Court judges to the White Paper on Personal Incomes Costs and Prices?

    Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what was the purchasing power of the pound in 1831 as compared with 1949?

    If the hon. and gallant Member will put down that question, I will answer it.

    Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the constitutional implications, because in 1931 His Majesty's judges made representation, when it was proposed to reduce their salaries, to the effect that we had not that power, and that it was a grave breach of the Constitution to interfere with their terms of employment?

    Erp Aid

    30.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now state the amount of Marshall Aid to be received by the United Kingdom in the period beginning July, 1949, and, of this, how much is gift and how much loan.

    No, Sir. The amount of E.R.P. aid that may be made available to the United Kingdom in the period beginning July, 1949, is not yet known; nor is it known what, if any, proportion of such assistance would be in the form of a loan rather than grant.

    Is not the Economic Secretary aware that the necessity for the continuance of Marshall Aid is mainly due to the presence of a Socialist Government in Great Britain?

    Pound Sterling (Purchasing Power)

    31.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, taking the purchasing power of the £1 in 1914 as 100, he will give the corresponding figure for the latest available date.

    In March, 1949, the purchasing power of the pound reckoned over the whole field of consumers' expenditure, was about 35 per cent. of its purchasing power in 1914.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if this Government remain in power, the purchasing power of the pound will go to nothing? What is the good of 100 paper pounds a week if the money is worthless?

    The hon. Gentleman forgets that a large part of the fall occurred between 1914 and 1920.

    British Salesmen, Us A (Currency Allowance)

    32.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the Government's desire for British salesmanship in the United States of America to extend beyond the Atlantic seaboard, he will undertake to provide the extra dollars required for British salesmen to make their efforts more widespread throughout that country.

    As my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made clear in his speech in the House on 11th April, the Government are most willing to provide dollars for any legitimate purposes connected with the export trade to the United States. So far as business travel is concerned, the Bank of England is prepared to provide currency up to a maximum of £10 per day to all businessmen who wish to visit the United States for the purpose of promoting our exports. Moreover, where an exceptional amount of travelling is involved and the tickets cannot be paid for in sterling before departure, the Bank will be prepared to make an extra allocation of currency to meet travelling expenses. I am not aware that the efforts of businessmen are hampered in any way through lack of dollars for business visits, but, if there is any evidence to the contrary, I will gladly look into the matter.

    Tobacco Tokens (Retailers' Refunds)

    33.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the long delay that retail tobacconists are experiencing in obtaining a refund on tobacco supplies to old age pensioners, he will review the present arrangements which are having an adverse effect upon the benefits derived from this concession by old age pensioners.

    I am not aware of any delay, but, if the hon. Member has any particular case in mind, I will look into it.

    Education (Aliens And Non-Residents)

    34.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the annual cost to the British taxpayer of providing scholarships and other educational facilities to individual aliens and to individual British subjects who are not residents of Great Britain.

    I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving the cost of certain arrangements for the provision of scholarships and educational facilities for the persons mentioned.

    Will my hon. Friend say whether, in view of the heavy taxation in this country, expenditure on things like these are essential?

    I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that in 1947 we passed an Act through this House—I think by general consent—the Polish Resettlement Act, in which certain provisions were made which, of course, the Government have had to implement.

    In view of the fact that this money is very well spent, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it is the intention of the Government to continue this policy?

    Following is the statement:

    Apart from the cost of the special services mentioned below, the cost to public funds of providing educational facilities for the persons mentioned is not known but is thought to be very small. The Polish Resettlement Act, 1947, gave the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland specific powers under which they can provide Poles who elect not to return to Poland with the education necessary to fit them for resettlement here or overseas. The total cost of all services so provided, including the cost of schools for Polish children, is estimated at £1,936,400 in 1949–50. The net expenditure of the British Council in the financial year 1948–49 in providing scholarships and other educational facilities for the persons mentioned was £201,800. Expenditure by the Colonial Office in 1948–49 for the same purpose was approximately £275,300.

    Displaced Persons (Income Tax)

    35.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his regulations provide that displaced persons, who are employed in this country, shall be liable to pay Income Tax on their earnings.

    Gold Price

    36.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions have taken place between His Majesty's Government, other members of the sterling area and the International Monetary Fund on the adjustment of the gold price, both for monetary and non-monetary purposes.

    No discussions have taken place on this subject between His Majesty's Government and the International Monetary Fund. The other members of the sterling area who are members of the I.M.F. are members in their own right, and any discussions between them and the Fund are the concern of those Governments. We are, of course, in close touch on all these matters, as part of the normal exchange of information between the Commonwealth countries.

    Does that answer mean that His Majesty's Government will support any move by members of the sterling area to secure a more equitable price, particularly for non-monetary gold?

    No, Sir, it does not necessarily mean that. That is another question which the hon. and gallant Member might put down.

    As this Question asks most particularly whether any action has been taken on this matter, cannot the hon. Gentleman at least give an indication of the view of His Majesty's Government?

    I cannot give an indication of what our view might be on a subject which has not arisen, but, as I say, these matters are normally discussed between members of the Commonwealth in the ordinary course of business.

    Raw Materials (Prices)

    37.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the urgency to secure more dollar earnings, when he expects that British manufacturers will be able to secure raw materials at prices not higher than those paid by their competitors in the United States of America.

    The hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware of the difficulty of making a comparison in such general terms. I assume that the Question is related primarily to raw materials purchased centrally by the Government. The object here has been, except, where it is the Government's policy to subsidise, to make over a period neither profit nor loss. Thus, while prices were rising, certain raw materials were from time to time on sale at prices below the general world level. Now that some prices are falling, the converse may be true. Where export markets are involved, however, it may be necessary to adjust selling prices without too close regard to original cost. The Government are alive to this, and certain price adjustments have already been made.

    Can the hon. Gentleman state, particularly in regard to linseed and base metals, what action His Majesty's Government are taking, or propose to take, to ensure that British manufacturers can secure those materials at the same price as their American competitors?

    As I say, our policy is, on the one hand, to even out profits and losses over a period, but, on the other hand, where exports are concerned, to see that our manufacturers are not placed at a disadvantage.

    Could the hon. Gentleman say, in regard to these particular materials, to what extent we are bound by long-term contracts to take them at more than the world market price?

    There are no long-term contracts at fixed prices in the raw materials' field, but in some of the cases mentioned we do not always bind ourselves to sell a commodity at the price at which we bought it.

    As the Government in this instance are charging 25 per cent. more than the world prices can the hon. Gentleman state when those prices will fall to the level of world prices?

    No, I can give no precise answer, but as world prices of some of these commodities vary from day to day, obviously we could not keep exactly in line in all cases.

    Purchase Tax

    39.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what reductions have so far been made in Purchase Tax upon general household goods and commodities; and what is the gross value of those reductions and the individual amounts in each classified group.

    I regret that information in this form is not available. I will, however, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the principal reductions made in the Finance Act, 1948, and subsequently by Treasury Order, at an estimated cost of about £60 million a year, additional to the reliefs accruing from extensions of the Utility Schemes.

    Could my hon. Friend say whether these reductions have, in the main, been passed on to the consumer?

    So far as we know they have in the great majority of cases. The revenue has certainly been conceded by the Treasury.

    Is the Minister aware that there is a very strong feeling that Purchase Tax should be removed from all household goods and necessities and will he draw the attention of his right hon. and learned Friend to that before the Finance Bill comes in so that the Purchase Tax may be removed as the people desire?

    Purchase Tax has already been removed from the great majority of real necessities.

    Following is the list:

    Brief DescriptionRate at 1st April 1948Current Rate
    Per cent.Per cent.
    Groups 1, 2, 3—
    Silk garments5033⅓
    Sheepskin garments, head gear and gloves for in dustrial use5033⅓
    Non-Utility fur garments, headgear and gloves125100
    Hand-knitted and hand embroidered garments33⅓Exempt
    Hand-knitted and hand embroidered headgear and gloves50Exempt
    Headgear, other non-Utility5033⅓
    Gloves, other non-Utility5033⅓
    Group—
    Haberdashery of fur125100
    Haberdashery, hand-knitted50Exempt
    Haberdashery, other non Utility5033⅓
    Group 5—
    Domestic textile articles (non-Utility) of pile or woven-figured fabrics12566⅔
    Non-Utility pillows, bolsters and mattresses5033⅓
    Group 6—
    Ribbons, etc., not more than 3 inches wide5033⅓
    Pile and woven-figured fabrics (non-Utility)12566⅔
    Group 8—
    Fur skin, dressed125100
    Group 9—
    Certain tiles and strips for floor covering50Exempt
    Fur rugs125100
    Other floor coverings, except linoleum5033⅓
    Group 10—
    Paper towels and hand kerchiefs50Exempt
    Group 11—
    Glassware of cut glass125100
    Galvanized baths not less than 42 inches long33⅓Exempt
    Hardware, tableware, etc., except vessels for food and drink5033⅓
    Furniture, non-Utility5033⅓
    Group 12—
    Vacuum cleaners, and other gas and electric appliances (except heaters)5033⅓
    Gas space and water heating appliances7566⅔

    Brief DescriptionRate at 1st April,1948Current Rate
    Per cent.Per cent.
    Group 13—
    Cutlery5033⅓
    Group 14—
    Lighting fittings5033–
    Incandescent mantles5033⅓
    Electric filament lamps5033⅓
    Oil burning lamps50Exempt
    Group 15—
    Hand lamps and hand torches5033⅓
    Group 16—
    Electric lawn mowers7533⅓
    Garden ornaments125100
    Garden furniture5033⅓
    Group 17—
    Clocks and watches (not of gold or silver)5033⅓
    Clocks and watches of gold and silver125100
    Group 18—
    Wireless and television sets and valves5033⅓
    Group 19—
    Pipe organs, etc50Exempt
    Gramophone records not produced for general sale50Exempt
    Group 20—
    Toys and some sports goods5033⅓
    Group 21—
    Wooden walking sticks5033⅓
    Group 23—
    Trunks, bags, etc., of leather125100
    Plain baskets5033⅓
    Group 25—
    Pictures, vases, etc.125100
    Groups 26, 27, 28—
    Jewellery, gold and silver ware, etc.125100
    Group 29—
    Most fancy goods125100
    Group 30—
    Hair-waving and hair-drying machines5033⅓
    Group 31—
    Electric dry shavers12533⅓
    Brushes, combs, scissors, razors, toilet paper, etc.5033⅓
    Other toilet requisites125100
    Group 32—
    Perfumery and cosmetics125100
    Toilet soap, toothpaste and other toilet preparations5033⅓
    Group 33—
    A range of non-proprietary medicines; and certain other medicines used in dispensing33⅓Exempt
    Group 34—
    Stationery and office requisites5033⅓

    Kano Aerodrome (Currency)

    38.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the irritation caused to air passengers at Kano aerodrome by the refusal of the authorities to permit payment for refreshments in sterling or South African pounds; and if he will issue instructions that such payments can now be made.

    The question of what currency will be accepted in payment for refreshments at the Kano aerodrome is, of course, a matter for the Nigerian authorities. So far as United Kingdom residents are concerned, however, I am not aware that any inconvenience is caused by the present arrangements. United Kingdom residents travelling by air can pay for refreshments at the aerodrome in sterling area travellers' cheques, West African pounds or, if they are travelling by B.O.A.C., B.O.A.C. currency coupons purchased for sterling which are freely exchangeable into local currency at the aerodrome. I cannot agree to United Kindom sterling notes being used for such payments. Nor can I, of course, issue any instructions about South African pounds: this is a matter for the South African Government.

    May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that at Kano the least demonination of sterling one can change is £1 and that, even with the best will in the world, one cannot spend £1 on tea? One is, therefore, left with a large amount of Nigerian currency which is unchangeable anywhere else. At every other stop by any air service it is possible to exchange sterling or South African pounds. Surely, therefore, it would be only fair to everybody concerned to allow the same thing at Kano.

    This is a matter for the Nigerian authorities. Nevertheless, I would remind the hon. Member that it is possible for travellers going out there to take Nigerian currency and to have the allowance split here, before they go, by arrangement with their bank.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that before they leave on a trip of this kind people ought to provide themselves with 2s. 6d. in Nigerian currency in case they want tea at Kano?

    No, but what I am suggesting is that this House should back the Government in order to see to it that we prevent currency from being freely exchanged abroad in defiance of the exchange control which exists.

    Could the irritation possibly be removed by the free issue of a draught of groundnut oil easily obtainable at Kano?

    Banks (Closing Days)

    40.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will permit branch banks in England and Wales to be closed to the public on 1st July next and 2nd January, 1950, to enable the staffs to deal with the balancing of books and the heavy dividend and interest load and to ensure smoother working and greater efficiency of service to the public on succeeding days.

    No, Sir, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 18th November, 1947, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) and the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. H. Hynd). My right hon. and learned Friend has recently reviewed the question but sees no reason to alter his opinion that it would not be in the public interest to close the doors of the banks to the public on the days mentioned.

    As there is considerable evidence that it would be both in the public interest and in the interests of the staff that this heavy burden should be relieved by closing the banks to the public on those days, could the matter be considered, especially in view of the fact that this practice was followed during the war and was found of great benefit?

    They certainly were closed during the war, but it was because of the shortage of staff. I understand that the banks now have their staffs back and it does not, therefore, appear reasonable that the banks should be closed for these two extra days and that the public should be robbed of the facilities which otherwise would be provided.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that in any event at the end of this year the banks will be closed to the public for one-and-a-half days?

    Civil Service (Retiring Age)

    41.

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in view of the steady increase in longevity and the improvement in health of the nation and the urgent necessity of increased production, he will ensure that no person shall be dismissed from Government service on account of age before he has reached at least 65 years of age.

    So long as there is a manpower shortage Government Departments are instructed to employ men and women beyond the age of 60 in all cases where they are willing to stay and are fully fit and efficient in the duties of their grade and where there is a real need to retain their services. Established staff are allowed to retire at 60 but can be retained in an established capacity until they are 65 and even, exceptionally, beyond that age. Departments may retain temporary staff, or may re-employ retired established staff in a temporary capacity, after the age of 65.

    Cotton Industry

    Re-Equipment

    42.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Government's present policy with reference to the re-equipment of the cotton industry.

    The main policy governing this question is that which was stated during the Second Reading of the Cotton Spinning (Re-equipment Subsidy) Act, 1948. My hon. Friend will be aware that the period initially allowed under that Act for the placing of contracts expired at the end of April. An extension of this period to the 5th April, 1950, has now been made in view of the difficulties encountered by certain groups in framing their modernisation plans. I hope this modification will lead to further progress in placing contracts for re-equipment.

    Would the Parliamentary Secretary say how many applications had been received under the Act by the appointed date; what assurance he has that a considerable number more will be forthcoming during the period of the extension; and whether he is aware that informed circles in Lancashire—by which I mean the progressive parts of Oldham—are very considerably concerned about the delay in the re-adaptation and re-equipment of the industry?

    So far, a total of 17 groups have been registered, comprising 284 mills and approximately 17½million spindles, which is about half of the spindles in the trade. I can only hope that, with the encouragement which has been given by the recent doubling of the initial Income Tax allowance on new capital equipment, there will be greater progress in the next year.

    Japanese Competition

    43.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any decision has yet been reached on the British proposal to send an Anglo-American mission to Japan to discuss the encouragement given, by the Allied Supreme Command, to Japanese concentration on cotton textiles to build up their export trade.

    No, Sir. Discussions are still in progress between the United Kingdom and the United States cotton textile industries on the proposal for a Joint Mission to Japan about the international trade in cotton textiles.

    While these discussions are taking place are His Majesty's Government taking any steps to prevent the dumping of Japanese textile goods in the Colonial markets, thereby endangering the staple industry of Lancashire?

    That is an entirely different matter and perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put a question down upon it.

    Liverpool Exchange

    46.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now consider the urgent question of re-opening the Liverpool Cotton Exchange.

    No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on 18th January.

    In view of the answer which has been given to Question No. 37, is the Minister aware that the urgency of re-opening the Liverpool Cotton Exchange and allowing the textile industry to compete in America and elsewhere is very much greater even than it was in January, and will he not reconsider the matter as one of prime and immediate importance?

    May I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied with the present arrangements for the supply of raw cotton to the spinners?

    That is an entirely different matter, but I am completely satisfied that the re-opening of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange would not do away with the currency difficulties, which are the main cause of our present troubles.

    Machinery

    51.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade how many spinning mills and weaving establishments have respaced their machinery; how many are in the process of so doing; and how many have not yet commenced such work.

    I regret that the detailed information requested is not available. A considerable amount of respacing has been carried out, and a sample inquiry of nearly 600 weaving sheds in fact showed that 60 per cent. had been respaced.

    52.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade how many automatic looms have been installed in the cotton textile industry since 1st July, 1946; and if he is satisfied with the present rate of delivery.

    The preliminary results of a recent survey of the cotton and rayon weaving industry showed that there were approximately 27,000 automatic looms, and approximately 3,000 Lancashire looms fitted with automatic attachments, in the industry on 1st September, 1948. These figures compared with 18,000 and 1,350 respectively in 1939. Information concerning the position at 1st July, 1946, is not available, but the bulk of the increases have taken place since that date. I am not entirely satisfied with the recent rate of delivery of automatic looms to the home market, but an improvement has been arranged for the near future.

    Subsidy

    53.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade what portion of the subsidy offered to the textile industry had been merited up to 31st March, 1949; and whether he is satisfied that full advantage is being taken of the Government's offer.

    No payment under the Cotton Spinning (Re-equipment Subsidy) Act, 1948, had been made up to 31st March, 1949. The first claims for subsidy have recently been made and are being examined. It is too early yet to measure the extent to which advantage is being taken of the scheme, but we have recently impressed upon the industry the need for quicker progress in submitting plans for modernisation.

    Trade And Commerce

    New Factories, London And Se Region

    44.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the number of new factories and extensions, respectively, that have been erected in the London and South-Eastern Region, also the number approved since December, 1944, up to the latest available date.

    A total of 148 new factories and 337 extensions to existing factories of 5,000 sq. ft. and over were approved in the London and South-Eastern Region during the period December, 1944, to February, 1949. Of these, 42 new factories and 98 extensions have been completed.

    Imports (Statistics)

    47.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in order to provide a better basis for comparison with exports, he will, each month, publish the approximate f.o.b. value of monthly imports in addition to the c.i.f. value.

    No, Sir. In accordance with the International Convention relating to Economic Statistics signed by this country at Geneva in 1928, the statistics of imports into the United Kingdom published monthly in the Trade and Navigation Accounts must include the value of insurance and freight, and it would be very confusing if, in addition, estimated figures of imports on a f.o.b. basis were also published regularly. There are, moreover, difficulties in establishing a reliable estimate in the difference of the value of imports calculated on a f.o.b. and c.i.f. basis. We are, however, having the difficulties investigated, and hope that it may be possible to assess the relative importance of the value of insurance and freight included in the published figures.

    Exports (Europe And Canada)

    50.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the quantity and value of steel, machinery and other goods desired by Canada, which have been sold to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other European countries during the past two years; and why these goods were allocated to those countries rather than to Canada.

    With the hon. and gallant Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures showing actual United Kingdom exports of steel, machinery and other goods to the countries in question for 1947 and 1948, but he will appreciate that these figures do not provide any general assessment of what Canadian importers desired to buy from United Kingdom exporters. As regards goods subject at the time to allocation or analogous arrangements, I may say that, with the exception of finished steel, I have no evidence that, if we had failed to send the quantities in question to Europe, they would necessarily have been purchased by Canadian importers. By selling small quantities of steel we secure in return the entry to these markets for much larger quantities of goods which are not readily saleable in Canada and thus increase our power to purchase essential foodstuffs and raw materials. I may add that exports are not now allocated by markets, but, in the guidance exporters are given about the relative desirability of the various markets, we have repeatedly emphasised that Canada and the United States should come first.

    Can it be denied that Canada has not received those articles from this country to the full amount she desired, and that some of those articles were sold to other countries unfriendly to us, that they might send back other goods that we did not want? In view of the fact that it is necessary to increase our dollar savings to the utmost amount possible, and also in view of the immense contributions of Canada to this country since the war, is it not incumbent on us to meet the wishes of Canada, and to let her have all the goods she desires to take from us?

    I do not accept all the implications of the hon. and gallant Member's remarks. The figures of exports to Canada for 1947 and 1948, respectively, were £44 million and £70 million, which, by comparison with the figures for our European exports, were high, and so I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that it is quite wrong of him to suggest that we are neglecting the Canadian market. Nevertheless, I accept his main conclusion that it is our business to expand this market in every way we can.

    In view of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the baffling problem of the dollar deficit, and the fact that America and Canada demand dollar payments, is it not desirable that the greatest possible measure of trade should be developed with the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern Europe?

    To clarify this position, may I ask whether what the hon. Gentleman has said covers the question of tinplate, in respect of which, certainly in January, I found a good deal of Canadian anxiety, because of the belief that it was going to Russia and Poland, and Canada would have liked it for the tinning of salmon?

    Following are the figures:

    UNITED KINGDOM EXPORTS
    Iron and Steel (a)MachineryOther GoodsTotal
    19471948194719481947194819471948
    Tons£'000Tons£'000Tons£'000Tons£'000£'000£'000£'000£'000
    To:
    Canada22,9711,03241,6221,84510,9783,66313,9955,12038,78762,62143,48269,586
    Soviet Union2,54416821,31447447,30710,4088,9623,5381,6961,29812,2725,310
    Poland9641412,4234015,2819976,1921,1206,4455,6977,5837,218
    Czechoslovakia5,2315957591254,4891,3124,6881,4575,9693,9687,8765,550
    All Other European Countries (b)629,73828,116659,52534,200187,49449,435255,08573,206282,711390,656360,262498,062
    (a) Comprises in addition to iron and steel, certain manufactures thereof. Separate figures for iron and steel are not readily available.
    (b) All countries in Europe, including Iceland, the Faroes, Turkey (European and Asiatic), Cyprus, Azores, Madeira and Malta.

    Colliery Tip, Wales (Removal)

    45.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the number of acres of land that will be made available for other purposes upon the removal or levelling of the Beiliglas colliery tip at Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, Wales.

    The first proposals for the clearance of this tip were rejected because we did not consider that the results would justify the expense. The local authority have been invited to submit amended proposals, but these have not yet reached the Board of Trade, and I am therefore unable to state what acreage of cleared land may result if it should be decided eventually to make a grant in respect of the scheme.

    Children's Clothing (Supplies)

    49.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the great shortage and increased prices of children's shoes, clothing and underwear; and what steps are being taken to augment the supply of these goods.

    There is no general shortage of these goods; for example, supplies of children's shoes to the home market are about one-third higher than pre-war. There are, however, shortages of a few kinds and qualities for which all practicable steps to improve home supplies are being taken. As regards prices, there have been some increases, due mainly to increased raw material costs, but there have also been some decreases.

    Is my hon. Friend aware of the widespread discontent there is over this matter, and especially because there is a large number of fancy articles at very high prices but a shortage of the more ordinary things children want?

    If my hon. Friend will give me examples of cases he has in mind I will gladly look into them.

    "The Times" (Students)

    54.

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the decision of the Newsprint Rationing Committee that the scheme of "The Times" newspaper enabling students to buy it at reduced rates must cease, although the sales so made are not included in the circulation figures of "The Times," he will instruct the committee to amend its regulations so that the scheme may continue.

    One of the considerations which influenced my right hon. Friend in agreeing to the restoration of the unrestricted circulation of newspapers at the beginning of this year, was the rule of the Newsprint Rationing Committee prohibiting newspapers from canvassing for orders by any method and offers of any benefit to members of the public as an inducement to purchase. In the circumstances, he has not felt called upon to intervene in the case to which my hon. Friend refers, although he has observed a reference to it in the Press.

    Is the Minister aware that students have now enjoyed and valued this concession for over 20 years? Is it not really a little unfair of the Labour Government that we should be put into this situation, in which we are taking away a concession for which we have to pay nothing, from a very important and sometimes indigent section of the community?

    I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend's point. Indeed, I once profited by this arrangement myself. However, this is a matter primarily for the newspaper industry. If either "The Times" or anyone else cares to refer the case to us, we will consider it, but it is a matter in the first instance for them.

    Was this particular regulation put before the President of the Board of Trade and sanctioned by him before it came into operation?

    This is an arrangement which is made by the newspaper people themselves, and is not a matter for which the Board of Trade takes the responsibility.

    In view of the seriousness of any further rise in the cost of living to the clergy of the Church of England, can my hon. Friend say whether this decision of the Newsprint Rationing Committee will alter the present arrangement whereby clergy can buy "The Times newspaper at a reduced rate?

    In view of the fact that this concession does not come within the category to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention, could not the President of the Board of Trade make representations, without giving directions, that he regrets this decision, to see if it can be withdrawn?

    I should not be willing to suggest my right hon. Friend's intervention in the case. It is a matter for the newspaper people themselves, unless they wish to bring it in front of us. It is not our business but theirs in the first instance.

    Would the hon. Gentleman make it clear that this kind of concession cannot by any means be described as canvassing for orders? Could he not make that clear to the Newsprint Rationing Committee?

    In view of the fact that there is fairly strong feeling on this matter, would my hon. Friend be good enough to receive some hon. Members about it, to see if he can use his good offices to restore the concession?

    I should be very happy to discuss the matter with hon. Members on either side of the House, but I cannot agree to commit my right hon. Friend to intervention.

    Bill Presented

    Ireland Bill

    "to recognise and declare the constitutional position as to the part of Ireland heretofore known as Eire, and to make provision as to the name by which it may be known and the manner in which the law is to apply in relation to it; to declare and affirm the constitutional position and the territorial integrity of Northern Ireland and to amend, as respects the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the law relating to the qualifications of electors in constituencies in Northern, Ireland; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid," presented by the Prime Minister, supported by Mr. Herbert Morrison, Mr. Ede, Mr. P. Noel-Baker and The Attorney-General; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Thursday, and to be printed. [Bill 119.]

    Orders Of The Day

    Iron And Steel Bill

    As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

    [4TH ALLOTTED DAY]

    3.32 p.m.

    On a point of Order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in the event of the Report stage of the Bill being concluded before ten o'clock, you propose to call a Motion on the Order Paper in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side to recommit the Bill in respect of certain Amendments to Clause 15, dealing with compensation?

    So far as the Government are concerned, and subject to your seeing no objection, Mr. Speaker, we see no objection to the method proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.

    Of course, if a complete recommittal were proposed, I think it would be out of Order under the Guillotine procedure. As it is a recommittal in respect of certain Amendments to a Clause, it is in Order, and the only qualification I have to make is that I shall call it if there is time.

    Clause 35—(General Reserve)

    I beg to move, in page 40, line 34, to leave out "replacements," and to insert:

    "depreciation of assets or renewal of assets."
    This is a very limited matter. In Clause 37 it is provided that proper provision for depreciation of assets or for renewal of assets shall be included as outgoings properly chargeable to revenue account. It would appear that Clause 35, which is worded differently, is intended to have a different meaning. The object of the Amendment is to try to bring the two Clauses into line if, indeed, the same intention is covered by both. It is little more than a drafting Amendment. If I have not interpreted the intention correctly, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me?

    We have had this matter raised before in previous nationalisation Measures, and if my recollection serves me aright, we have had discussions on this point. Wording such as this was included in the Transport Act, in the Electricity Act and, to my own recollection, in the Gas Act. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are forgetting that Clause 37 deals with the point which he has in mind, and deals with the question of depreciation and renewal of assets. I must admit that when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking my attention was distracted, and that he may have put this point to me. If so, I apologise. What I am saying now is that in our view the word "replacements" is the correct word, and I must ask the House to adhere to it.