House Of Commons
Wednesday, 4th May, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Detained Aircraft, Milan
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will make a statement on the circumstances under which Consul aircraft G-AIOX of Airspan. Travel Limited has been held by the Italian authorities at Milan since 23rd March.
I understand that the Italian authorities detained the aircraft on the 23rd March because the company failed to obtain the prior permission for the flight that is required, under the Italian regulations, for all commercial non-schedule flights. They were, no doubt, influenced by the fact that this was the second time within a month that the aircraft had been flown to Italy without such permission. His Majesty's Embassy in Rome have been in touch with the Italian authorities but have been informed that the aircraft could not be released for the time being. It appears that it is being held pending an investigation into the documents covering the cargo. There appears to be a conflict of evidence about the cargo manifests and a further report is being asked for.
Is it normal to hold the aircraft itself for such a long period, involving a great loss to the company, when there is some question as regards the manifests?
Yes, Sir. If it is alleged that the aircraft owner or the pilot has infringed the regulations of the country, it is normal practice to hold the aircraft until satisfaction has been obtained.
If it turns out that a mistake has been made in this case in which evidence is conflicting, will the Minister look into the possibility of compensation being paid to this airline company?
That is an entirely different question.
North Atlantic Treaty
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the terms of paragraph 2 of the preamble and of Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty, and the Anglo-American policy of encouraging the formation of an Atlantic community of democracies with equal rights, he will propose to the United States Government that the United Kingdom and the United States of America should apply the principles of reciprocity by allowing members of the national legislatures of both countries equal freedom to enter each others territories and to accept invitations from reputable citizens of the country visited to travel, speak, broadcast and write.
My right hon. Friend does not consider that any special agreement on these lines is required. It is the right of every Government to decide to whom it should allow entry to its country. This is in no way inconsistent with the principles of the North Atlantic Treaty to which the hon. Member refers.
Does my hon. Friend's reply mean that His Majesty's Government are content to accept a status of inferiority and inequality for hon. Members of this House as compared with members of the United States Congress?
No, Sir, certainly not.
As people far more sinister and far less romantic than the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) are able to get into the United States quite easily, does not my hon. Friend think that it is something of an affront to the dignity of this House that a Member of the House should be banned from entering that country?
It is a matter for the Government of the United States.
Will my hon. Friend at least make clear that whatever the legal position may be, it is regarded as an insult to the Mother of Parliaments—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that Members of this House should be debarred from entering the United States, and that it is incompatible with the friendship which exists between our two countries?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have been trying for three and a half years to enter the Soviet Union, and can he ask his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) whether he can persuade the authorities in the Kremlin to allow me to go to that country and thus take advantage of the democratic principles which his hon. Friend apparently supports?
That is entirely a matter for the Soviet Government.
For the purposes of the record, could we have it quite clear whether the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) said "romantic" or "rheumatic"?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the terms of Article 7 of the North Atlantic Treaty and of Article 103 of the United Nations Charter, he will give an undertaking that His Majesty's Government, when deciding upon the action necessary under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, will always observe the obligation in Article 53 of the Charter not to take enforcement action against aggression without the authorisation of the Security Council and the obligation in Article 51 of the Charter to exercise the right of self-defence in such a way as not to affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council as the guardian of peace.
As a member of the United Nations, His Majesty's Government will naturally observe the obligations of the Charter under Article 51 and under Article 53. I should, however, point out to my hon. Friend that Article 53 of the Charter has no bearing on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Article 5 of the Treaty is based on Article 51 of the Charter, and provides for collective self-defence in circumstances where an attack has occurred but where the Security Council has not yet taken the measures necessary to maintain peace and security; whereas Article 53 of the Charter relates to enforcement action, a term which means action following a decision of the Security Council authorising it and in this context, taken under regional arrangements or agencies.
While I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask am I to understand from it that His Majesty's Government will always observe the obligation under Article 51 of the Charter, which declares that measures taken in the exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence shall not affect in any way the authority and responsibility of the Security Council?
Yes, Sir, and I think that is specifically written into the Atlantic Treaty.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, whereas under Article 51 of the Charter, the decision where action by the Treaty Powers ends and action by the Security Council begins is in the hands of the Security Council itself, under Article 5 of the Treaty, by a subtle change of wording, that decision is left in the hands of the Atlantic Powers, which is an important difference?
I should like notice of that question.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, by stating that action under Article 51 shall not in any way affect the authority of the Security Council, that action is strictly limited to minor measures, and means that for all practical purposes Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty becomes a dead letter?
No, Sir; it means nothing of the kind.
Will the Minister ask anyone living in Eastern Europe, Greece or the Arab countries to what extent they look upon the Security Council, gagged as it is by the Russian use of the veto. as the guardian of peace?
Does the Minister agree that the Charter of the United Nations provides no remedy whatever against aggression by a major Power, since that major Power has the right of veto?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now made arrangements to enable British citizens to make visits to Western Germany.
Arrangements agreed between the three Western Occupying Powers already exist for persons having business or compassionate grounds to visit Germany. The extension of these arrangements to cover certain other categories of visitors is under consideration and my right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make a statement shortly.
Can the Under-Secretary say what he means by "shortly"? Will it be before the holiday season is over or not?
Yes, Sir; it will.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action has been taken to secure the release of the British officer and other ranks apprehended by Soviet military authorities in the British sector of Berlin on 22nd April, 1949.
These men were released on 30th April, following our representations to the Soviet Chief of Staff.
While in no way imitating the example of the Opposition in asking for action without specifying what kind of action ought to be taken, may I ask my hon. Friend whether there have not been far too many incidents of this character, whether he has taken that into account, and whether some form of retaliation may be considered?
I am not asked for any specific action in that Question, and I will not comment on this incident further until we have received the report which we are expecting from our authorities.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the nature of the conversations recently held with the representatives of the Soviet Union with relation to the Soviet blockade of Berlin; and what result has been achieved.
Exploratory conversations have taken place between Dr. Jessup, United States Ambassador at large, and M. Malik, the Soviet representative on the Security Council, regarding the possibility of lifting the blockade. M. Malik has indicated that the Soviet Government are prepared to agree to the simultaneous lifting of restrictions on communications, transportation and trade between Berlin and the Western Zones of Germany and between the Western and Eastern Zones of Germany, followed by a Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. If it is confirmed that this represents in practice the position of the Soviet Government, the way should be clear for a raising of the blockade, followed by a Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers.
In view of the undesirability of purely bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union, may we be assured that His Majesty's Government have been consulted in every stage and brought into co-operation at every stage of these negotiations?
There is no question of bilateral consultations. We have been fully informed at all stages, and all four representatives are meeting today.
"British Ally," Moscow (Publication)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the cost in 1948 of printing and publishing "British Ally," the British Government's publication in Moscow; what is the average number of copies distributed of each issue; and if he has considered the desirability of ceasing further publication.
The cost in 1948 was approximately £88,500 and the receipts from sales £108,139. The average number of copies distributed weekly is 50,000. This is the maximum circulation permitted by the Soviet Government. It is not proposed to cease publication.
Would my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that there will be no change in the policy of "British Ally," in giving a faithful reflection of the views expressed in this country about affairs in Russia and elsewhere?
We shall always try to that, and we do not contemplate any change of policy.
Does the Minister contemplate any change in the title?
China (British Policy)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if His Majesty's Government will consider itself bound by the declaration of policy made in Moscow in 1945 regarding the future of China in view of the changed international situation and the signing of the Atlantic Pact aimed at preventing further Communist expansion in Europe.
I would ask the hon. Member to await the statement on this subject which will be made during the course of the Debate tomorrow.
Aden (Language Teaching)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider the teaching of a common language, either Arabic or English, in Government-aided schools in Aden, to promote a greater understanding among the different races.
Mauritius (Teachers' Salaries)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government Teachers Union of Mauritius has been consulted on the application of the revised scale of salaries recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.
Yes, Sir. Consultations between the Government and the Government Teachers' and Aided School Teachers' Unions have been in progress since 31st March.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the large meeting which was held in April protesting against the inadequacy of the scales and the fact that they were imposed on the teachers without any con- sultation, and does he think that this encourage the growth of trade unionism in the Colonies?
:As I have said, consultations are now proceeding with the unions.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken, or are proposed to be taken, and what money has been spent, or is proposed to be spent, in connection with developing the Hong Kong Radio Station in order to extend its range, particularly throughout China.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to strengthen the radio station at Hong Kong.
The broadcasting coverage of the Far East, including China, is the function of the B.B.C's. station in Singapore, not of Radio Hong Kong. The possibility is being examined of an increase in power for Hong Kong's medium frequency broadcasting service; I am not able to give an estimate of the cost which may be involved.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the Malayan station is going to take a long time to complete and will certainly not be effective in reaching North China, and possibly not Central China, and that, therefore, the Hong Kong station in present circumstances should be given priority?
No. I do not accept some of the allegations of the hon. Gentleman. I am informed that the Singapore station will be very effective.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that his statement that the B.B.C. has the responsibility for Singapore is utter nonsense, and contains just about as much sense as if he said that the responsibility for Canadian broadcasting was that of the B.B.C. in this country? Cannot something be done to increase the power of the station at Hong Kong?
We are doing that.
Is the Minister aware of the importance of developing the station at Hong Kong?
I am well aware of that and we fully realise the importance of increasing the power of the Hong Kong station.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the increasing gravity of the situation in China, he is taking steps to ensure that early improvement is made to the airfields and seaplane bases in Hong Kong.
Yes, Sir. Contracts are already being let for the repair of the runways at Kai Tak, and work will start this month. I am not aware of any inadequacy in the existing alighting facilities for flying boats and seaplanes.
Should not the Minister be aware of the very great difficulty which exists with regard to the landing, and particularly the taking off, of flying boats with the accommodation at present available, which is well known to everybody who has been there?
Is the Minister aware that Kai Tak is quite an unsuitable aerodrome at which to land aircraft at all, and further, that I asked three years ago that arrangements should be made for building a new airport in Hong Kong?
That is another matter.
National Registration (Fingerprints)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that British settlers in Kenya Colony are being compelled, when the National Registration Bill comes into force on 16th May, to submit to the taking of full fingerprints of both hands for identification purposes; and if he will take steps to see that this practice shall not be put into operation.
The Bill was passed by the Legislative Council in 1947 after full public discussion. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the measure commands wide support locally, and he sees no reason to intervene.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman why British subjects should be subjected to such degradation?
It is not degradation at all. The Committee, representing all races, recommended this in 1946.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise the very great resentment against this infringement of civil liberties which is felt by the European population, and will he look into the matter again and do something about it?
No. The European population were represented on the Committee in 1946 which made this recommendation.
Crown Lands (Resettlement)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies where, in Kenya, the 384,000 acres of Crown Lands offered for alienation are situated; and whether he has approved the alienation in view of the urgent need for the resettlement of considerable numbers of the native African population.
My right hon. Friend would, I feel sure, approve the arrangements proposed by the Kenya Government to bring into more effective use this land which is in North Laikipia within the settled area and can only be economically used for large scale ranching.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this land has been chosen for climatic conditions, that settlers are waiting to go there to increase the food production, and will he do everything he can to facilitate its transfer as quickly as possible?
Before any more land is handed over for native cultivation, will the hon. Gentleman take care that supervision is retained in order to see that the natives do not erode the land as they are doing in their own settlements at the present time?
Labour Efficiency Survey
26 and 28.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) what steps will be taken in East Africa to secure further improvement in facilities for primary and technical education, in the light of the Report of the Kenya and African Labour Efficiency Survey;(2) whether he has considered the references in the Kenya and African Labour Efficiency Survey concerning grave discontent among African workers as a result of continued colour discrimination, grievances concerning alienation of land and lack of opportunities for advancement; and what steps it is proposed to take in these matters in the light of this survey.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action is proposed on the recommendations of the recent Survey of Labour Efficiency in Kenya that a more extended inquiry into the economic and social life of the African should be undertaken; what steps are being taken to provide a larger number of maternity and child welfare clinics in view of the conclusion that many Africans are suffering from malignant malnutrition developed in infancy; and whether the Kenya-Uganda railway administration is setting up an African Housing Advisory Committee as recommended in the Survey.
The Report is at present under consideration by the East African High Commission and the East African Governments, and my right hon. Friend is awaiting their observations on its recommendations. With regard to the first part of the Question by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton), a more extended survey is not at present contemplated.
In view of the emphasis which has been placed on race discrimination, is the Minister aware that a large proportion of these charges of race discrimination arise from misapprehension on the part of the African community; that a large number of them are matters which could be avoided or properly discussed with the African community, and that some could be avoided by proper legislation? That being so, will he consider—arising from this Report—the advisability of setting up a joint Anglo-African Commission to inquire into the possibility of removing or modifying this race discrimination?
There is a good deal in what my hon. Friend says. I will put the suggestion to my right hon. Friend.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Governor of Kenya has banned the importation of the "Labour Monthly" newspaper; why this step was taken; and if he will take steps to rescind this order.
Yes, Sir. The importation of this newspaper was banned as a result of recent articles in it glorifying Communism, revolution and mutiny. My right hon. Friend sees no reason to intervene in the matter.
Is not the Minister aware that this paper, which has now been published for some 27 years, is in the Library of this House and is accessible to every intelligent Member who desires to read it? If that is the case, why should it not be equally accessible at least to white citizens in Kenya?
I have not heard of any demand by white citizens in Kenya for this paper, and the Government do not think that it is a good thing to put before any of the people in that country.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it would be a good thing if the Governor prohibited other subversive papers in Kenya for stirring up strife amongst a primitive and ignorant people?
Is not the Minister aware, as he should be, that this is one of the finest and best journals, that it is a highly valuable educational organ particularly in doing away with racial discrimination and racial superiority and, above all others, should be circulated in those areas? Will the Minister see that it is circulated?
Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that this paper has not been guilty of publishing the Communist manifesto to celebrate its centenary?
Can my hon. Friend say whether the Governor concerned is the same one who recently said that he hoped soon to retire from work and take up farming?
Grenada (Nutmeg Production)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has considered the resolution sent him from a large meeting of the peasantry in Queen's Park Pavilion, St. George's, Grenada, expressing dissatisfaction with the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association and requesting that the Association be made a voluntary organisation, leaving producers free; and what action he has taken, or proposes to take in this matter.
My right hon. Friend has not received the resolution which, it is understood, was not addressed to him but to the unofficial members of the Grenada Legislative Council.
In view of the fact that I have sent the hon. Gentleman the resolution and that the people of Grenada see the folly of State control, when will light dawn on the British Government?
The people of Grenada see nothing of the kind; the people of the Colonies are in full accord with our policy, but, in any case, a Bill to amend the ordinance referred to will shortly be put before the Legislative Council.
Jamaica (Newsprint Allocation)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is yet in a position to make a statement regarding permission granted to the Jamaican "Gleaner" newspaper to increase its advertising content up to 60 per cent. of the total newsprint used; and why the Jamaican "Daily Express" has been cut in its newsprint allocation to eight pages of tabloid size whilst the "Gleaner" is permitted 14 pages standard size.
The Jamaica "Gleaner" newspaper has agreed to restrict its advertising space to an average of 60 per cent. as against a previous 70 per cent. of the newsprint used. In consequence the Government of Jamaica decided to withdraw a newsprint control Order of 1948 formally restricting advertising content. As regards the second part of the Question, my information is that the Jamaica "Daily Express" still publishes a 12-page issue.
Will the hon. Gentleman say why there should be this disparity between the newsprint allowed to one newspaper, which is of standard size, and the newsprint allowed to the other newspaper, which is of tabloid size; and will he also say what justification there is for allowing Jamaican newspapers to use as much as 60 per cent. of their newsprint for advertisements when nothing like that percentage is allowed here.
As I have said, the former Order was withdrawn, and the Government are now operating on an agreement between themselves and the newspapers. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the conditions in this country are not in all respects similar to those in Jamaica.
But why the disparity between the two newspapers?
The disparity, as I have said, is not really a matter under the control of the Government; it is a matter controlled by the trade.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the appeal by Mr. Ganapathy against sentence of death in Malaya has been heard; and if he will make a statement.
On 1st March last this man, when challenged near Rawang in Selangor by a party of special constables, showed fight and grabbed a revolver which he had in his belt. After a short struggle he was overpowered, and the revolver was found to be loaded with six rounds of ammunition. Mr. Ganapathy was charged and convicted of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition under the Emergency Regulations. Both assessors (one European and one Indian) found him guilty without retiring. His appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. The Ruler in Council has declined to exercise the prerogative of mercy in his favour, and he was executed this morning.
Is the Minister aware that the announcement he has just made will be met with widespread disapproval in the Labour movement in this country as Mr. Ganapathy was a leading trade unionist in Malaya; and, further, is the Minister equally aware that this penalty of death for the carrying of arms in Malaya is something which does not conform with what he has often declared is the Western way of life, and will he therefore remember what he previously said in this particular matter?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many local men in Malaya have been given senior official appointments since the end of the war; and to what extent have the recommendations of the Trusted Report been implemented.
The figures are not readily available, and I will write to my hon. Friend when they have been obtained from Malaya. As regards the second part of the Question, most of the principal recommendations in the Trusted Report have been implemented with retrospective effect.
Is the Minister aware that there is a general feeling in the Federation that the Government are putting obstacles in the way of the implementation of this Report, and will he do what he can to remove this feeling?
I can hardly think that what my hon. Friend says can be entirely correct because most of the recommendations have already been implemented. There are a few which have not, and we are awaiting a report on those.
Is my hon. Friend also aware that the probable reason why the figures are not available is because no local men have been appointed to the senior appointments?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the conditions laid down for members of all races resident in Malaya to become Malayan nationals.
As the answer is necessarily long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is the Minister aware that the Pan-Indian Federation are calling upon the Indian Government to protect their nationals until the Malayan Federation comes to a decision with reference to the nationality of the Pan-Indian Federation?
Malayan cititzenship is not a nationality, and I was not aware of the matter to which my hon. Friend has referred.
Following is the answer:
Malayan citizenship is not a nationality, and does not affect or impair the status of British or other nationals who become Federal citizens. Citizenship may be acquired either automatically or on application. The following persons are automatically Federal citizens:
The provisions regarding the acquisition of citizenship by application are as follow:
The High Commissioner may grant a certificate conferring the status of a Federal citizen on any person who applies and satisfies the High Commissioner—
In the case of any person over the age of 45, who has been resident in any of the territories comprised in the territory of the Federation for 20 years, and who applies for citizenship within two years from the appointed day, the language qualifications will be waived.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the amount of the accumulated profits transferred to the Nigerian Marketing Board for groundnuts, benniseed, palm oil and palm kernels, relating to the period between the end of hostilities and 1st February, 1947.
The West African Produce Control Board did not sell at a profit during this period. The question of transferring accumulated profits does not therefore arise.
Is the Minister aware that last week the Parliamentary Secretary disclosed the fact that very considerable profits were made during this period by the Ministry of Food on this produce, and will he take up the matter with the Ministry of Food to see that the Nigerian producers get their fair share of profits?
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension on this point, and had he read last week's Debate, as I suggested, he would be clear about it. He does not appreciate the difference between trading surpluses of the Board and the resultant profits of the Ministry of Food after the produce has come into their hands.
Is the Minister aware that during the Debate on 24th February, he carefully avoided any reference to profits made during the period in question, and will he now give an explanation?
It is quite clear from the Debate recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT why there were no trading surpluses up to 1st February, 1947, and why there have been surpluses since that date. There was then a change of policy.
Is it not a fact that the farmer in Nigeria receives for his groundnuts only about half of what the Minister of Food proposes to pay the Overseas Food Corporation in East Africa?
That is another question.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is yet in a position to make a statement on the removal of controls imposed on the commercial export of goods from Nigeria.
Export is freely permitted, except where the produce is internationally allocated or marketed centrally through a statutory organisation. Exports to the sterling area are under open general licence, but specific licensing remains necessary for exports elsewhere to ensure compliance with exchange control regulations.
Is the Minister aware that within a week after I asked this Question at the end of March, the Nigerian Government made a change of policy which they announced to Nigeria, and will he now make a statement on that change of policy which he has not yet disclosed and of which he has not shown he is aware?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that question down.
Development Corporation (Report)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has yet received the first report of the Colonial Development Corporation; and when he proposes to publish it.
The Corporation's report is expected shortly by my right hon. Friend. It will then be laid before the House.
Retired Civil Servants (Pensions)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what further attention has been given to the need of increasing pension rates for retired colonial civil servants and their dependants in view of the hardship now being experienced by many of them.
Colonial Governments were invited to revise their pension increase schemes to conform to the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1947, of this country, and most of them have done so. No further general increase is at present proposed.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is still great hardship? Cannot some action be taken by which all the various Colonial Governments are brought into line to meet what is admittedly a very grave hardship?
Most of them have, and we are constantly making suggestions to those who have not come into line to do so.
Could the Under-Secretary say what percentage increase has been allowed?
Not without notice.
West African Cocoa Research Institute
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action has been taken to increase the staff and facilities of the West African Cocoa Research Institute, as recommended by the expert commission four months ago.
Their requirements have been formulated by the managing committee of the Institute, and urgent action to meet them is being taken here and in the Gold Coast.
Can the Under-Secretary say when that action is likely to be implemented, as there is a certain urgency about it?
In the case of technicians, quite a number have gone out or are being engaged locally. In the case of buildings, of course, it will take a considerable time to get them erected.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make concerning recent disturbances in Uganda; and what steps are being taken.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the riots in Uganda and the steps being taken to deal with the situation there.
Disturbances broke out in Kampala on 25th April with attacks on Buganda Government chiefs and workers. Prompt action was taken by the police and military and the situation is now quiet. Five rioters were shot dead, three while attacking the police, one in self-defence by an African, and one in circumstances now being investigated. The Governor has appointed a Commissioner to inquire into and report upon the original causes and development of the disturbances, and the measures taken by the Government to deal with them.
Can the Minister give any indication of the number of organisations and the proportion of the African community which they represent who were involved in initiating these disturbances?
I have some information, but I would rather not make any statement on that sort of issue while this Commission is pending.
Pending the report of the Commission, could not the Under-Secretary at least indicate what were the circumstances which gave rise to this very grave occurrence? Surely, there must be some kind of information on that point.
I would rather not make any statement until the matter has been investigated.
Is not the primary cause of these disturbances the fact that these people have been treated as aliens in their own native land?
That is certainly not the cause of the disturbances.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what reply he has made to Mr. Semakula Mulumba, the London representative of the Bataka people in Uganda, who protested to him against the use of British troops against African demonstrators; and whether he will make a statement on the situation in Kampala, Uganda.
For reasons which he made clear in reply to a Question on 3rd November last, my right hon. Friend is not disposed to accept seriously Mr. Mulumba's views on affairs in Uganda. No reply has been sent to his communications about the recent disturbances which are now the subject of a Commission of Inquiry. I have already given an account of the situation in Uganda in reply to my hon. Friends the Members for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) and Leyton, West (Mr. Sorensen).
As the hon. Gentleman has not given an answer to the earlier Question, will he now take the opportunity of explaining what exactly happened, at least in the light of the report that he has received from the Governor without necessarily waiting for the Commission's findings?
I have said what happened. I said that an inquiry was being made into the causes and also into whether the right action was taken by the Government.
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Governor of Uganda had previously taken any action with regard to "Labour Monthly"?
Are we to understand from the Under-Secretary's reply that he has no definite information until the Commission reports? Are we, therefore, to infer that the Governor is not prepared to make a statement because, perhaps, the Governor himself was involved in certain matters of which he is ashamed?
It is clearly out of Order to make inferences of that kind and accuse the Governor of being implemented. The hon. Gentleman is very wrong.
Mr. Speaker, the officer referred to is His Majesty's representative in the Colony concerned. If the remark is out of Order, should not the hon. Member be asked to withdraw it?
I thought I gave the hon. Member a strong enough reproof. I could not have made it much stronger without asking the hon. Member himself to withdraw.
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As you have not ordered me to withdraw, I have no intention of withdrawing, for this reason—
That makes it worse. I did not order the hon. Member to withdraw, but when the hon. Member says "I have no intention of withdrawing" that makes it much worse. I am afraid that now I must order the hon. Member to withdraw.
I do not wish in any way to dispute with, or to reflect upon, the Chair. I respect your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I do want to say this: If the last statement which I made reflects on the Chair, then I withdraw it. With regard to the earlier statement, may I take this opportunity of explaining that I am reluctant to make statements of that kind in this House, and I have not made many, but it was the Under-Secretary's earlier reply that five people had been killed in this particular occurrence that caused me to make that statement. I am sorry to have offended the Chair.
What the hon. Member has said was a reflection. He said that the Governor had been implicated in riots and disturbances, and that was wholly improper. I thought I was being very moderate in not calling upon the hon. Member to withdraw. As he did not respond of his own accord, I now feel obliged to tell him that he must withdraw. I really must insist upon that.
In deference to yourself and to the honour of the Chair in this House, I withdraw.
British Guiana (Amerindians)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the scheme prepared by the Commissioner of the Interior of British Guiana for improving the conditions of the Amerindians and the Report by the Amerindian Welfare Officer will be published.
Both reports were laid before the Legislative Council on 2nd February.
British Honduras (Ex-Service Men's Camp)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken by the Government of British Honduras to remedy the conditions at the ex-Service men's camp at Baking Pot on which a report was made to the Government by Mr. E. A. Grant.
My right hon. Friend is asking the Governor for a report on this matter and will write to my hon. Friend when it has been received.
Hm Ships, Pacific
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will state the number of His Majesty's ships by classes present and available in the Pacific on 20th April, 1949, with comparable figures for 1st January, 1947.
No, Sir. To give the disposition of the Fleet would not be in accordance with the policy of His Majesty's Government on the disclosure of defence information. In this connection I would refer the hon. Member to the statements made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during the Debate on the Defence White Paper on 3rd March last and by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord during the Debate on the Navy Estimates on 8th March.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how the public in- terest can be adversely affected by disclosing the disposition of the Fleet two-and-a-half years ago, and can he also say how this House can discharge its responsibility in this matter if the relevant facts are deliberately withheld?
The hon. Member asked not only for the strength two years ago but for the strength now, and that is quite a different matter. It is a matter of general policy upon which statements have been made on a number of occasions, as I have said, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others.
As it is quite obvious to the House that there is no aircraft carrier on that station, can the Minister say when there was last an aircraft carrier on that station?
That is quite another question. There was in October, 1947.
Why was it withdrawn?
It was withdrawn because it was considered, and His Majesty's Government were satisfied, that the allocation of ships to the Far East station at that time was in proper proportion to the total available for service abroad and adequate for the duties of the Royal Navy in Chinese waters.
Are not aircraft carriers an absolute necessity if a Fleet is to be in proper proportion when there are a large number of ships on any station?
In view of the fact that we had only 23 tanks in France and Belgium in May, 1940, are not these questions rather fantastic effrontery?
In view of the fact that, in reply to a supplementary question, the Parliamentary Secretary disclosed part of the information which he refused to give in answer to the original Question, can he say how he can now defend his refusal to give the full facts?
No, Sir, I did not. In fact, I disclosed a piece of information, whereas I was asked for the full disposition of the Fleet, which is quite another matter. I have nothing to add.
Rnr (Merchant Navy Officers)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that Merchant Navy officers who contribute to the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund are not credited for the periods they spend attending the Royal Naval Reserve, unless they are in receipt of pay from the ship owner for that period; and whether the Admiralty, as the employing authority for the time that these officers are with the Naval Reserve, will agree to contribute the employers' share of contribution.
The position of these officers in this respect has been carefully considered by the Admiralty on a number of occasions. It is established policy that the State should not accept liability for the financial commitments incurred in civil life by members of the Forces and, while I wholeheartedly appreciate the value of the services rendered by Royal Naval Reserve officers, it would not be possible to treat them differently from other Reservists by giving them what would be, in effect, an increase in emoluments.
Is not this an example of the Admiralty revealing itself in the role of an exceedingly bad employer?
asked the Postmaster-General if he now has a further statement to make regarding the date on which the television service will be provided in Lancashire.
When my right hon. Friend's Department decided to extend the television service surely, apart from the question of equipment and cost, they must have taken account of the time factor. Is not my right hon. Friend in a position to give any indication to this House and to the people of Lancashire when they may expect to have the benefits of the television service?
Will the Minister see, when the time comes, and in view of the very staggering, vacillating figures which sometimes appear, that a very steady appearance is given to people, including hon. Members from Lancashire, who may appear on the screen?
In considering this question would the Postmaster-General see whether he can give a television service which can be extended to Northern Ireland, whether from Lancashire or somewhere else?
We regularly consider a television service to all places.
asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that the Publicity Office of his Department have stated that the number of television licences current at the end of February, 1949, was only 111,850, whereas he himself, in a recent statement, said that the figure was 120,100; and if he will explain the discrepancy.
The Press notices issued by my Department contained no discrepancy. They gave 111,850 as the number of television licences in force at the end of January and 120,100 as the number in force at the end of February. I referred to the latter total when replying to my hon. Friend on 30th March.
asked the Minister of Defence whether he is aware that National Service men are now serving for approximately the same length of time as did men of age and service groups 70 to 78, but do not get the same release benefits; and whether he will review the release benefits of National Service men. with a view to removing the disparity.
The point to which the hon. Member refers received careful attention during the recent review of the scale of release benefits for National Service men and no undertaking can be given to reconsider the question.
Can the Minister give no logical explanation of the distinction, or are the men concerned to assume that whereas the earlier scheme was introduced by a Coalition Government and is more favourable, the latter scheme was introduced by a Socialist Government and is less favourable?
The inference is quite unwarranted. The whole of the earlier scheme was related to war service and was worked out on that basis. We came to a decision, which was announced as far back as January, 1947, and it is only in the recent months that any question has been raised about the differentiation between the position of these men and those who had war service and were being released under the age and service group scheme of demobilisation.
In January, 1947, a shorter period of service was contemplated.
The National Service Act had not been introduced.
Is the Minister trying to tell the House that groups 70 to 78 had war service? Is that correct?
I was saying nothing of the kind, but I am quite sure that hon. Members with long experience of the House know that when a change of policy takes place, from wartime, there must be a dividing line somewhere, and the date was fixed.
In view of the adverse vote at the Co-operative Party conference, will not the Minister withdraw National Service altogether?
asked the Minister of Defence what facilities are available to young men serving their time in the Services under National Service regulations for pursuing studies in preparation for professional and other examinations.
The Services are anxious to help National Service men who wish to prepare for professional and other examinations in their spare time and various facilities are provided for them. These include libraries, quiet rooms for study, personal advice, and assistance by the Forces Educational Services, correspondence courses, and instruction at units and education centres or in institutions run by local authorities.
Hong Kong (Defence)
asked the Minister of Defence whether the Committee of Commanders-in-Chief of the three Services in the Far East have completed their recommendations in regard to the measures required to maintain the security of Hong Kong and the new Territories in view of the deteriorating military situation in Southern China; and if he will give an assurance that action has been taken accordingly.
asked the Minister of Defence if he is satisfied that the air defences of Hong Kong are adequate.
I would invite the hon. Members to await the Debate to take place tomorrow during which a statement will be made on behalf of His Majesty's Government with a reference to the defence of Hong Kong.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the precautionary measures taken to safeguard the mainland frontiers of Hong Kong are now sufficient to protect the Colony when the Communist armies reach there?
I think we had better wait for the Debate tomorrow and the statement which will then be made.
While I appreciate that the Minister wants to make a statement tomorrow, will he make specific reference in tomorrow's Debate to the air defence of Hong Kong?
Let us await the statement.
British Mission, Burma
asked the Minister of Defence how many officers and other ranks of His Majesty's Forces are serving with the Government of Burma.
According to the latest information available the strength of the British Services Mission in Burma is 85 officers and 87 other ranks.
Farm Workers' Rations
asked the Minister of Food if he will consult with the National Farmers' Union and the National Union of Agricultural Workers in order to arrange a more satisfactory method of issuing the seasonal rations to farm workers this Summer.
My Department has been continuously in touch with both these organisations. The arrangements for seasonal rations were revised last Summer and I think they should work satisfactorily this year.
Has the Minister now agreed that these rations can be drawn directly by the farm worker, as the miner draws his extra rations?
No, Sir. In an answer which I shall give to another Question this afternoon the House will see the exact arrangements which have now been come to, but they do not amount to direct differential rationing, which we are advised against.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say who it is, or what organisation it is, that is objecting to the workers drawing their own rations, or is it he and his Department; and if so why?
Certainly my Department objects to extending differential rationing, I think for good reasons, and so does the Trade Union Congress Advisory Committee.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is not only a question of a differential ration, but that it is a question of how the ration is drawn?
Yes, Sir. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman should know that that is precisely the question at issue. The way it is drawn at present does not amount to a differential ration, but the proposed way would amount to such.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say why?
asked the Minister of Food if he will state the quantity and value of the Danish blue, Rocquefort and Gorgonzola cheese to be imported this year; and the quantity and value of the Stilton cheese which he will permit to be made here this year.
The total quantity of Danish blue, Rocquefort and Gorgonzola cheese to be imported this year is estimated at 8,500 tons, and the total cost at about £2,400,000 f.o.b. Home production of Stilton cheese is estimated at about 400 tons over the year, and the value, based on the manufacturers' selling prices, at about £200,000.
Will the right hon. Gentle-give us an assurance that he will allow home producers of this specialist cheese a fair crack of the whip as compared with the Frenchmen making Rocquefort and other cheeses?
Yes, Sir. At the moment we are allowing the manufacturers of Stilton cheese all the milk they can take, but that is, of course, while milk is plentiful. We could not allow them unlimited supplies during the scarce season during the winter.
Is not this great and welcome variety of cheese which is now allowed a most disgraceful pandering to individual tastes?
No, Sir, it is a most sensible and reasonable provision.
asked the Minister of Food what is the reason for the surcharge of £11 5s. per ton levied on the 15,000 tons of Polish farina being imported to this country at a cost of £30 per ton.
The price charged by the Ministry of Food for starch is based upon the weighted average cost of starch to the Ministry. The Polish farina to which the hon. Member refers is only a small part of the total supply.
What is the point of taxing this essential raw material for the textile export industry? The surcharge is nothing less than a tax.
I hope my reply made it clear that there was no tax. We pass on the supply at the cost to ourselves on the average.
asked the Minister of Food the average number of shell eggs now available weekly to each person; and if he is satisfied that all parts of the country are getting a fair allocation.
Shell egg allocations in April averaged 2.8 a week. The answer to the second part of the Question is "Yes, Sir, as far as is practicable in the distribution of this food."
Is the Minister aware that a statement by his Parliamentary Secretary led people to believe that more eggs would be available to make up for the cut in the meat ration, but that there are complaints from many parts of the country that people are not even getting their ordinary ration of eggs? Is he aware that there are complaints from every part of the country regarding the unequal distribution of surplus eggs? What is he going to do about it?
No, Sir. Very appreciably more eggs have been available this year than last, and in some parts of the country there have been surplus eggs above the allocation.
People throw them at Communists.
What is happening to all these surplus eggs? Is there some priority given to the shops, or is priority given to restaurants and cafés, because my constituents have been writing to me to say they can always get eggs in restaurants and cafés but cannot get any surplus eggs in the shops? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that there is a fairer distribution to the housewives?
There is an allocation of surplus eggs to catering establishments because they are not receiving dried egg at the moment. That is all.
Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the matter again? Will he look at the Press to see how these complaints are circulating daily, and will he take some action?
asked the Minister of Food why, by Statutory Instrument, No. 612, 1949, he has provided that the registration number of the purchaser of eggs for hatching purposes shall be stated on the declaration required to be made by him.
This requirement, which has been in force since 1944, is a check on the identity of persons buying eggs for hatching.
Can the right hon. Gentleman point to one case in which the registration number has actually operated to identify a single purchaser?
I should have thought that it would materially have helped to identify him.
In which case? This is purely theoretical.
asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that many children in Newport have been unable to obtain any allowance of bananas this year, in spite of the fact that there are deliveries about once a fortnight and that other people are frequently able to obtain them; and if he will take further steps to sec that his regulations are enforced in this respect.
My enforcement inspectors are instructed to do all in their power to see that the provisions of the Bananas Order are being observed. I shall be glad to investigate any case of an alleged offence against the order if particulars are sent to me.
What action is taken against a retailer who does not give priority to children?