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Commons Chamber

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 11 May 1949

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 11th May, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Macclesfield) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Borough of Macclesfield," presented by Mr. Bevan; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 124.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Morley) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Borough of Morley," presented by Mr. Bevan; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 125.]

Ashdown Forest Money

Committee to consider of authorising the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of expenses incurred or payments to be made under any Act of the present Session vesting part of Ashdown Forest in the Secretary of State for the War Department and providing for the acquisition of other lands in substitution for such part, for the use of the said Forest for military training, and for the repayment to the Conservators of the costs, charges and expenses of the promotion of the Bill for the said Act (King's Recommendation signified), To-morrow.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Germany

Control Commission

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the Control Commission staff now employed have already proved redundant, and whether it is his policy to terminate the contracts of those who are redundant and pay the necessary compensation.

Reduction of the Control Commission because of redundancy is now a continuous process, and there are about 670 existing members of the staff under notice of termination. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "Yes," compensation being payable only to those entitled to it by their terms of service.

While my right hon. Friend may be perfectly right in saying that this is a continuous process, will he say if this continuous process is prompt enough?

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what incentives are offered to members of the Control Commission for Germany to learn German; when official examinations were instituted; and how many members have, respectively, sat for and passed these examinations.

A knowledge of German is a pre-requisite for employment in certain posts in Germany, and is more and more regarded as desirable for the whole staff of the Commission. Every encouragement is accordingly given to learn German and to obtain formal qualifications by examination. Official examinations have now been introduced for Kreis Resident Officers and analogous posts. The first of these examinations was held in December, 1948; there were 204 candidates, of whom 79 were declared successful.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman think that the best encouragement that could be given to members of the Control Commission to learn German—which is, surely, very necessary—would be to give some financial bonus to those who pass with high marks? Does he not think it disappointing that at the present time the only way by which one can get anything in the way of a financial bonus is to change from an official character and become a professional interpreter?

A good many of us have had to learn things in this life without having any bonus. I should have thought that these facilities offered to them would have been a great encouragement to them to learn German, with the great opportunity it gives them in Europe.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider making it compulsory for Control Commission officers to learn German when they have been out there more than a year or so, and to pass an elementary examination?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that there should be more personal contacts between the members of the Commission and individual Germans, and would not the acquisition of the German language facilitate those contacts?

I do not know. I think the Control Commission has had a very difficult job, and I should not like to give answers to these questions without careful consideration whether we have been wise or unwise in the steps we have taken.

Is there any reason why the payment of the ordinary allowance for knowledge of a foreign language, which is current in the Foreign Service, should not be extended to the Control Commission?

Max Reimann (Sentence)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds Max Reimann, leader of the Communist Party in Western Germany, was recently sentenced to prison; and on what grounds he has been released.

Max Reimann was convicted for a breach of Military Government Ordinance No. 8, which provides, among other things, that nothing may be said or written which encourages discrimination against persons who give or may give aid to the Allied Authorities. He was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, which was suspended by the Military Governor in order that he may continue his work on the Parliamentary Council at Bonn.

What is to happen now that the deliberations on the basic law for the German Parliament are complete?

War Crime Trials

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress in Germany of the series of trials known as "operation Old Lace."

The trials of members of the organisations declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal, which were begun in June, 1947, are now nearing completion. By the end of last year over 20,000 persons had been tried, of whom, 75 per cent. were convicted. At 6th April, which is the latest date for which figures were available, 168 cases had still to be tried, and 203 cases were under investigation prior to being brought to trial.

Does the reply of the right hon. Gentleman mean that there are now only 168 persons still in custody awaiting trial?

Foreign Assets (Seizure)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the German authorities in the Western zones have yet enacted legislation to provide compensation in German currency for losses arising from the seizure of foreign assets for reparations; and why certain German ex-prisoners of war still find themselves unable to obtain compensation for Italian lire impounded from them on their capture in Italy.

The task of equalising burdens arising from the war and other causes has proved so complex that the German Authorities in Western Germany have, so far, been unable to do more than draw up a measure designed to relieve the most urgent cases of distress. The provision of compensation for losses arising from the seizure of foreign assets, including foreign currency, must await more comprehensive legislation on the subject which is unlikely to be ready for some time.

In view of my right hon. Friend's statement, will he say to whom people who consider that they have urgent cases should make their representations?

Former Baltic States (Assets)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now make a statement as to the use of assets of the former Baltic States now held by the Custodian for the satisfaction of claims of British creditors of these States.

The matter is still under consideration, and at the present time I have nothing to add to the statement made on 12th April, 1948, by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.

Can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope that he will be able to come to a decision on this matter before very long?

Uk Visas (Members Of Legislatures)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in how many cases His Majesty's Government's consular or diplomatic agents have refused to grant a visa to an American senator or representative; when, and for what reasons; and how far it is the practice of such agents to make inquiries into the political opinions of members of the Legislatures of Allied countries or to subject them to any form of political test in peace time before granting them visas to visit Britain.

I am not aware of any cases in which a visa for the United Kingdom has been refused to an American senator or representative. Members of foreign legislatures are dealt with in the same manner as other foreign visitors to the United Kingdom. No special tests are made as to a person's political opinions before granting him an entry visa for the United Kingdom.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that it will do a great deal to promote the spread of common sense in the world if at least the English-speaking peoples allow the members of other legislatures to travel quite freely between the countries which they represent and stop the imposition of bans and that kind of thing? May I have an answer?

Does not this demonstrate that our democracy is superior to that of America?

Will my right hon. Friend, in view of the fact that he once said that he would like to be able to go to Victoria and take a ticket to where the hell he liked—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—endeavour to use his good offices to prevent the American Embassy using secret dossiers on Members of this honourable House?

Israel (Attacked British Aircraft)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the protest sent to the Israeli authorities when British fighters were attacked over Egypt on 7th January, 1949; what inquiry there has been into the charge that Spitfires used by the Jewish Air Force carried certain markings similar to those of the British Fighter Squadron in that area; what compensation is being claimed from the State of Israel; and what is the state of the latter negotiations.

I am publishing in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement issued in London shortly after the five R.A.F. aircraft were attacked and shot down. His Majesty's Representatives in Haifa and at the United Nations were instructed to communicate this statement respectively to the Israeli Government and to the Israeli Representative at Lake Success and to make a strong protest, stating that His Majesty's Government reserved their rights with regard to compensation. His Majesty's Government also requested the United Nations Acting Mediator to furnish a report on the incident and have since urged Dr. Bunche to complete this report as soon as possible. The question of compensation has not meanwhile been raised with the Israeli Government and there have been no negotiations on this subject.

Can the Foreign Secretary answer that part of my Question which asks whether any explanation has been received regarding the Government's charge that the Jewish Spitfires were carrying red spinners, as I believe they are called, in imitation of a British Fighter squadron stationed in the area.

An R.A.F. Court of Inquiry was held to investigate this incident and reported that the Israeli fighters were Spitfires with the British type of camouflage and red air-screw spinners similar to those of No. 208 Squadron. A full statement was made on this subject to the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air on 17th March.

In view of the fact that there is now an accredited representative of the Israeli Government, will the right hon. Gentleman take the matter up through diplomatic channels rather than with the United Nations?

I am very anxious to get this report, which was called for at the time, from Dr. Bunche. I think that the report ought to be presented, and then I shall proceed through diplomatic channels.

Following is the statement:

Statement issued in London on 8th January of the circumstances in which five British aircraft were shot down over Egyptian territory on 7th January, 1949.

During the last few days, R.A.F. aircraft from the Canal Zone have been carrying out reconnaissances to ascertain the depth and scale of Jewish incursion into Egyptian territory. These reconnaissances have been strictly confined to the Egyptian side of the frontier.

On the morning of 7th January, two formations, one of four R.A.F. Spitfires, and one of a single Mosquito escorted by four Tempests, which were on reconnaissance inside the Egyptian Frontier, were attacked by Jewish fighters and the four Spitfires failed to return from the mission. A few hours later, a further air reconnaissance force, despatched to obtain information as to the fate of the missing Spitfires, was also attacked by Jewish aircraft and one Tempest has been reported missing.

The R.A.F. aircraft in question had strict orders not to cross the frontier into

Palestine. The pilot who was the leader of the Spitfires reported he was attacked 15 miles inside Egyptian territory and compelled to bale out. He was wounded and was picked up by a Bedouin near Bir Gabr Amir approximately 15 miles West of Rafah.

Our aircraft had been under strict orders to avoid combat. In view of these unprovoked attacks, our aircraft have now been instructed to regard as hostile any Jewish aircraft encountered over Egyptian territory.

"British Ally," Moscow (Editor)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what were the technical qualifications and credentials of Mr. A. R. Johnstone at the time when he was appointed editor of the "British Ally" newspaper in Moscow; and whether either the Institute of Journalists or the National Union of Journalists was consulted about his reliability for this post.

Before being appointed to the staff of "British Ally" Mr. Johnstone had had 20 years' experience on the staff of well-established newspapers in Scotland, Manchester and London. As regards the second part of the Question, the vacancy for an editor for "British Ally" was reported to the National Union of Journalists by the Appointments Department of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, to whom it was notified by my Department. It is not, however, the practice of the Foreign Office to consult professional organisations as to the reliability of candidates for appointments.

Will the Foreign Secretary ensure that in future the Institute of Journalists is also consulted about vacancies of this kind? Would it not be a good policy for the Foreign Office to check up with one or other of these professional organisations whenever a Press attaché or anyone of that kind is being appointed to the Foreign Service?

I do not think so. It is better to deal with the question by what we call vetting people in our own way than to ask organisations to suggest people to fill vacancies in these posts. I think that it would place them in a most unfortunate situation if we adopted that policy.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider, when making fresh appointments to the "British Ally," that it is undesirable to describe as editor someone who, as the Parliamentary Secretary explained last week, does not in the ordinary sense edit; and if the editor is not to be responsible for policy and the contents of the paper, is it not desirable to describe him as a sub-editor or something of that kind?

I think that I will consult the hon. Member on the set-up of the "Spectator," which may be a good guide.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether this gentleman's competence to do the job for which he was appointed was ever questioned by anybody until his recent resignation; and whether his competence or reliability has ever been questioned since, except on the grounds of his declared sympathy for the legal government of Spain, a sympathy which many of us share?

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it wise to appoint known fellow-travellers to posts of this kind; and was it wise to express surprise when this gentleman took the course that all his antecedents made it likely that he would take?

If I adopted that policy, what should I do with the applicants from the universities?

May I ask, Mr. Speaker, on a point of Order, whether the Foreign Secretary's answer was meant to be an innuendo on the character of the universities, and, if so, whether that is in accordance with the traditions of this House and in order?

May I repeat the question which my right hon. Friend said he had not grasped? It was in two parts. First, had the competence or reliability of this gentleman ever been questioned by anybody until his resignation; and secondly, had his competence or reliability ever been challenged by anybody except on the ground of his declared sympathy with the legal Republican Government of Spain—a sympathy which many of us share?

Transjordan (Arms Embargo)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that armistice agreements have been made between Israel and Transjordan, he will consider raising the arms embargo on the latter country and on any other Arab state that signs an armistice.

It is the desire of His Majesty's Government that the arms embargo should be lifted as soon as peace and tranquillity are reasonably well established. I have the matter under constant review and I hope that the time will not be long delayed.

Since the Government of Transjordan have signed an armistice agreement with Israel, would not my right hon. Friend consider now lifting the arms embargo for Transjordan and all those who have signed similar agreements?

We hope to clear up the whole situation so that everybody will be in exactly the same position.

Would it not be more humane for this country to sell food instead of selling arms to the Arab States, and medical supplies in order to relieve the tens of thousands of Arab refugees who are in danger of dying from starvation and disease?

We are under contract we interrupted this contract under the decision for an armistice, and these people are quite entitled to have those contracts resumed when those conditions are removed. As for the Arab refugees, I think our country has done more for them than any other country in the world, and it would have been very much better if the country who drove them out had not done so.

Spain (Diplomatic Relations)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the United Kingdom representative on the Political Committee of the United Nations abstained on the resolution to permit members of the United Nations to re-instal Ambassadors in Madrid.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary stated in the Adjournment Debate on 2nd February, His Majesty's Government feel that there are practical advantages in having a channel of information and a possible means of humanitarian representation in the form of an Ambassador in Madrid. But, as he also said on the same occasion, we do not attach great importance to this question and are content to abide by the decision of the United Nations as a whole. Our delegation were accordingly instructed to abstain from voting on it.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the speech made on this occasion by the United Kingdom representative was distinctly in favour of the resolution, and that it was a surprise to many of the United Nations that he abstained; and can he tell us how he reconciles this action taken at Lake Success on behalf of the United Kingdom with the statements made in the past week by the Under-Secretary, who definitely gave an assurance on more than one occasion that in this matter the Government stood where they did in 1946?

I still stand where I did in 1946, and I am sorry there was the interruption in 1947 by taking away the Ambassador.

Will the attitude of the United Kingdom representative be the same when the matter comes before the General Assembly, where a two-thirds majority is required?

Is not the question whether or not we have an Ambassador in Madrid one of principle and not merely whether it is to our advantage or disadvantage? I understand we have an Ambassador in Moscow, a country which is far from being friendly to this country and is a danger to the peace of the world, but we have not one in Madrid.

What practical difference, either as a channel of communication or as a means of humanitarian intervention, does the presence of an Ambassador make, compared with the previous set-up where there was a full Embassy staff with that one exception; and is not my right hon. Friend aware that the only practical result of this move is to provide ammunition for Communist propaganda, as is evidenced by this Question?

I do not think that Communist propaganda has very much effect in these days. This was a decision which I thought did not serve the interests of either country when it was taken, but we are in the habit of observing the rules; we are parties to the United Nations, we honoured the decision, and ever since, Members who are opposed to Spain have been asking me questions about why I do not intervene.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no good purpose will be served by our representative abstaining from voting when the matter comes before the General Assembly, and that that abstention will be interpreted as meaning either that His Majesty's Government have not made up their mind or that they are frightened of declaring where they stand?

Does not the Foreign Secretary recognise that the public conscience will be outraged if he puts back the Ambassador in Madrid?

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that if the British Ambassador returns to Madrid he will then intervene in defence of political liberty in Spain?

Burma (British Policy)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any statement to make about the policy of His Majesty's Government towards Burma.

In the course of the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London, the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan and Ceylon met together to consider the Burmese Prime Minister's request for assistance in the early restoration of law and order in Burma. They are agreed in their desire to give whatever support they can to the Government of Thakin Nu, to the end that peace may be rapidly restored in Burma. Necessary machinery has been set up to ensure speedy implementation of this decision.

Is any loan to be given to the Government of Burma to achieve this end?

That all depends on what is recommended by this machinery. We shall take into account financial assistance, arms assistance, or other assistance. The whole matter is being coordinated by the Governments I have mentioned.

Is there, among the various forms of assistance that are being considered, the provision of technical advisers; and in view of the extreme urgency of the situation in Burma, would he do his best to speed the conclusions?

Is this same machinery, which according to the right hon. Gentleman will consider the advisability of a loan to Burma, also considering the very large claims which dispossessed industries in this country have against the Burmese Government.

Our position in that regard has been made perfectly clear. It is essential for South-East Asia that steps be taken to get order in the whole of that territory, and this is a co-ordinated effort to try to assist in getting law and order first.

Does not the Foreign Secretary realise that the most urgent need is to see that a flow of consumer goods gets into the hands of the rice producers in Burma so that the flow of rice so badly needed shall come out regularly?

Well, I think that the rice exports up to now, notwithstanding the civil war, has been remarkable this year—far better than we expected. We are ready to assist in the distribution of consumer goods, or in supplying them or any other supplies. We felt it was essential that instead of having one Commonwealth Government appealing against another, we should co-ordinate their efforts, and we adopted this method.

Would the right hon. Gentleman enlarge upon the machinery to which he referred? What sort of machinery? What does he mean exactly? Would he explain a little more what kind of machinery has been set up for this purpose?

It has been mainly the Ambassadors in Rangoon providing the technical assistance and the people available.

Japan

Peace Treaty (Proposals)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the recent American recommendation that Japan should be allowed to attend certain international conferences, he will consider the desirability of re-opening the question of a peace treaty with Japan, or, failing that, a settlement of Japanese reparations.

Our views on the desirability of concluding a peace settlement in the Far East are well known. But this is not a subject on which we can make progress alone. The proposal to which the hon. Gentleman refers does not represent any fresh development towards removing the obstacles which have hitherto prevented consideration of a Japanese peace treaty.

In view of the suggestion that the Japanese should attend international conferences and of the possibility that the United States may press for Japan receiving most-favoured-nation terms, surely we ought to come to some decision on reparations beforehand; and, as things are now getting better with Russia, would not this be the moment for us to press for a peace treaty with Japan?

I think we must wait for the convalescence to be effective before taking another step.

British Nationals (Taxation)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why British firms and British subjects now residing in Japan have to pay Japanese taxes; to what extent these taxes are to repair damage done to Japanese plant, machinery and houses by the Allies during the war; and whether such sums paid by British subjects will be offset against Japanese debts owed to Great Britain.

British firms and nationals in Japan cannot justifiably escape the payment of normal taxation, which contributes to the stabilisation of the Japanese economy and from which they themselves therefore derive benefit. The taxes are non-discriminatory and are paid by all other United Nations nationals in Japan. United Nations nationals are not, however, required to pay taxes which are either based upon income received in non-yen currencies, or primarily designed to meet costs directly arising out of the war. For this reason they have been exempted from the provisions of the Capital Levy Law of 1946, the Non-WarSufferers Special Tax, and wherever appropriate, from the War Indemnity Special Measures Law. It is not possible to compute the extent to which ordinary national and local taxation is devoted to repairing the ravages of war. The answer to the last part of the Question is "No, Sir."

If we have to pay taxes to Japan, and are not being allowed to receive reparations for damage done in different parts of the Empire, does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it is high time that we ceased to argue that it is the United States who is indirectly paying us if we press Japan? We are paying this money and, that being so, why should it not be canalised for our own reparations?

Eastern Europe (Treaty Violations)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he is proposing to take under Article 36 of the Peace Treaty with Bulgaria, and similar articles of the Treaty with Hungary and Roumania, in respect of treaty violations by those countries.

As foreshadowed in the reply made to a Question by my hon. Friend on 16th March, notes were addressed to the Governments of Bulgaria, Hungary and Roumania on 2nd April charging them with having violated the human rights clauses of the respective treaties of peace. Similar notes were sent by the United States Government. The replies which have been received from these Governments are unsatisfactory, and His Majesty's Government are at present considering, in conjunction with the United States Government and the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Governments, what further action they will take.

In view of the continued violation of this Treaty does not my right hon. Friend consider that we should no longer regard it as valid?

We must consult with other signatories to the Treaty. I do not despair of circumstances arising in which we may be able to carry it out. It seems to me that a situation is developing in which we may even be called comrades again.

In view of the fact that the Americans are now, very sensibly, calling off the cold war had not the right hon. Gentleman better stop this silly provocation of the Eastern European Governments?

British Guiana (Uranium Ores Concession)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why Mr. John Younglove Cole, an American citizen, was given exclusive rights to search for radio-active uranium-bearing ores in the Kanuku Mountains area of British Guiana.

I understand that Mr. Cole applied for the rights in the usual way. There is no discrimination, on nationality grounds, in the grant of such rights.

Does this mean that, with other Western Empires, we shall yield to the Americans the exclusive right to take radium bearing minerals from our Colonies? Is this to help the Americans in their preparations for an aggressive war?

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question does not arise, as the Governor of the territory has complete control over the exploitation of these minerals.

Colonial Empire

Trade With Japan

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent Colonial legislative councils and Colonial chambers of commerce were consulted before the conclusion of the recent trade agreement between the Commonwealth and the Allied authorities in Japan.

Colonial Governors were consulted before the conclusion, last November, of the arrangement relating to trade with Japan in the year ending June, 1949. I am unable to say to what extent legislative councils and chambers of commerce in the Colonies were consulted.

In view of the very far-reaching effect of this agreement, will the right hon. Gentleman take care to see that there is full consultation with legislative councils and chambers of commerce?

Trade Unionists (Visits To Uk)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent the Trades Union Congress in this country has been consulted and their co-operation secured in regard to facilities for West African and other colonial trade unionists to visit this country and secure experience of British trade union methods and organisation.

Preliminary consultation has taken place with the Trades Union Congress on facilities for a number of Nigerian trade unionists and I am awaiting particulars of the proposed trainees in order that arrangements for practical training with individual unions here can be explored. The Trades Union Congress have agreed to co-operate in a scheme under which West Indian trade unionists are to be given six months' practical courses in trade union work in this country.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how many prospective trainees will come to this country?

Is the Minister aware that a deputation from the trade unionists of this country to the various Colonies would do more than anything else to create good feeling and confidence amongst the natives, and would he invite the Trade Union Congress of this country to send such a deputation to the various Colonies?

Dar-Es-Salaam (Port Equipment)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how much of the port equipment ordered in 1947 has now been installed in Dar-Es-Salaam.

The following are the details: Tugs, three ordered and three in use; Barges, four ordered and four in use; Lighters, 20 ordered and one in use; Flat wagons, 25 ordered and five in use; Coal grabs, five ordered and five in use; also, one new transit shed.

North Borneo And Sarawak (Rice)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the fact that North Borneo and Sarawak import about half their rice supplies, he will make a statement on the progress of the schemes to grow rice there on a large scale by mechanical methods.

Trials are proceeding in Sarawak for the mechanised cultivation of rice. Any question of large-scale mechanised schemes in both Sarawak and North Borneo must wait until it is established that small-scale trials are successful.

Hong Kong

New Civil Aerodrome

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is in a position to state when the new civil aerodrome in Hong Kong is likely to be finished and ready for use.

It has been decided in principle to proceed with the construction of a new airport on the shores of Deep Bay, but it is not yet possible to say when it will be ready for use.

Is it not a fact that this aerodrome has scarcely been started, although it has been well known for years that the Kai Tak aerodrome is one of the most dangerous in the world?

There has been considerable examination of this problem, but it is true that building has not yet begun.

In view of the aggravated threat from Communist armies approaching this place is it not time that something was done about this matter? Will the right hon. Gentleman speed it up in every possible way?

Legislature

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the Hong Kong Legislature does not enjoy the confidence of a large and responsible section of the community; and if he will consider changes in the constitution of the Colony to permit of an elected Legislature.

No, Sir. As to the second part of the Question, as in all Colonies the constitutional position is constantly under review and, where necessary, steps are taken to bring it progressively into line with current needs.

Is it not a fact that at a recent meeting of the Reform Club in Hong Kong a statement about lack of confidence in the Legislature was agreed? Is not that having an effect in the slow recruitment for the Hong Kong Defence Force?

The slowness of constitutional change in Hong Kong arises from the apathy of the general public.

Chinese Repatriates

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the action of the Hong Kong Government in preventing Chinese deported from Malaya and Indonesia from landing at Hong Kong so that they may return to China and avoid the arrest which awaits them at Swatow or Amoy; by what authority such action has been taken; and if, in view of the fact that the military situation in Malaya necessitates deportation without trial, he will advise the Government to allow such deportees to land at Hong Kong.

Yes, Sir. Chinese repatriates from Malaya are sent direct to a Chinese port in accordance with international practice. The Hong Kong Government, for good reasons, does not permit their landing and I feel unable to interfere with the Governor's discretion in this matter. If the Hong Kong Government have prevented Chinese deported from Indonesia from landing there that too would clearly be within their discretion.

Would my right hon. Friend look again at the correspondence he has had about this matter from Bishop Hall, who is in a position to know the facts and the hardships and to regard them in an unbiased way, especially, in view of the importance of developing good relations with the victorious forces in China?

Certainly I will look at the correspondence, but I gathered that there had been no hardship.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be the height of folly to allow these men to enter Hong Kong when for good reasons they have been deported from Malaya, and would he also agree that it is by no means certain that entry into Swatow is followed by arrest, as stated in the Question, and that the flow is now being adequately handled and no great hardship is being caused?

Malaya And Singapore

Japanese Textiles (Imports)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the policy of the Governments of the Federation of Malaya and of Singapore regarding the importation of Japanese textiles.

The policy is governed by the trade arrangement between sterling area countries and the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, in Japan, for the period July, 1948, to June, 1949. An import quota for cotton piece goods has been established within the framework of this arrangement, and particulars of allocations have been notified to importers.

Does that mean that the interests of Lancashire have been safeguarded, or are no limits likely to be imposed on the importation of Japanese textiles?

I do not think that the interests of Lancashire are involved at all in this arrangement.

Contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, is it not a fact that the interests both of Lancashire and the distributing entrepôt in Singapore are being seriously damaged by imports of Japanese grey cloth which is processed here and sent abroad? It is creating great competition with Lancashire.

Shooting (Police Action)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what information he has about the two women killed by the police in Malaya on the 23rd February entitling him to define them as bandits.

The circumstances in which these women were killed leave no room for doubt. One of the women was in uniform and armed with a pistol and a hand grenade.

The Minister has not accounted for the other woman, and in view of the fact that the House must assume that no statement was taken from her because she was killed before any statement could be taken, could he say on what basis he states that she was a bandit?

I think the evidence is complete from the documents which were found on the woman.

Could my right hon. Friend tell us how long it has been customary for bandits to wear uniform?

Detained Persons

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many persons were detained in Malaya and Singapore at the latest available date; how is their time occupied; if they perform productive work; and how they are paid for their labour.

One hundred and fifty-six persons were detained in Singapore on 1st May. Four thousand and thirty-nine persons were detained in the Federation of Malaya on 31st January. I will make inquiries about the other points and will write to the hon. Member.

Could my right hon. Friend say how many of these were Chinese and how many were Malays?

Kenya

Registration (Fingerprints)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that all males over the age of 16 in Kenya Colony are about to be forced to have their fingerprints registered, that this includes the white population; and why it has been thought necessary to do away with the present method of registration for natives known as a red book, which was an entirely effective method of registration.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) last Wednesday. The new system is a more effective and more generally acceptable method of registration.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this system, which is about to be put into effect, is bound to have the adverse result of lowering the prestige of the white population in the eyes of the native population, and is much resented?

I recently returned from Kenya, and I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that this arrangement was reached by a committee on which both Europeans and Africans worked. They unanimously recommended the policy which has been adopted, and which is being carried through by statute in the legislative council with the support of Europeans.

The right hon. Gentleman says that the arrangement was generally acceptable, but does he not agree that meetings have been held throughout Kenya lately at which majorities have voted against this step?

It is true that meetings have been held recently in a large number of places and that many protests have been made, but, on the other hand, Europeans in the Legislative Council are standing firm about the wisdom and rightness of the legislation they have put through.

White Settlers (Protection)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that members of the Kitosh tribe are actively engaged in arson in the Kenya highlands; what steps are being taken to protect the property of white settlers; and if he will make a statement.

I am consulting the Governor on the subject and will communicate with the hon. Member when his reply is received.

When the right hon. Gentleman is communicating with the Governor will he draw attention to the fact that the white residents of the Kenya highlands are not getting sufficient attention from Nairobi, and would he ensure that the Governor would give this matter urgent attention?

The observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman will be conveyed to the Governor.

Jamaica (Water Storage)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the cost of building the storage tank at Mount Moreland, Jamaica; to what extent the costs and funds have been met from the Colonial Welfare and Development Funds; and why the tank does not hold water.

The whole cost, totalling £2,795, was met from Colonial Development and Welfare Funds. The Jamaica Public Works Department is not satisfied that there is excessive loss of water. Further tests will be undertaken after the next flood rains.

Is it not a fact that this tank never held any water at all? Would the right hon. Gentleman like me to send him some photographs, showing that the tank is split from end to end?

This is a matter which is within the competence of the Jamaica Government, but I shall be happy to see the photographs.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is great similarity between his reply and the tank?

Northern Rhodesia

Land Settlement

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent the pronouncement made by him at Salisbury, Rhodesia, on the need for controlling white settlement in Northern Rhodesia involves any modification of the policy on this matter announced by Mr. R. A. Hudson, Secretary of Native Affairs in Northern Rhodesia, to the African Representative Council last August.

I stated in my remarks to journalists at Salisbury the policy as stated by Mr. Hudson. There has been no modification or suggestion of change. As I made clear in a number of speeches during my tour no change in existing land policy or settlement is or has been foreshadowed as it affects either Europeans or Africans.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while there may be something to be said for maintaining the present policy and perhaps something to be said for changing it, it is most unfortunate that he used phraseology which gave a wide impression that a change was intended when, in point of fact, no change was intended?

I am afraid I did nothing of the sort. I made it perfectly clear that there was an enormous opportunity, both industrially and agriculturally, for European enterprise in Northern Rhodesia, but I added the proviso that Northern Rhodesia was a Protectorate, and, consequently, because of the land laws of Northern Rhodesia, there were limitations in regard to European settlement.

Is my right hon. Friend in a position to give a categorical assurance to the House that there will be no modification of British policy in this area in respect of this or any other matter without consultation with the representatives of the native population concerned?

Yes, the representatives of the Africans serve on the Legislative Council and any change would have to go through that Council.

Executive Council

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what changes in the powers of unofficial members of the Executive Council in Northern Rhodesia will follow his recent pronouncement on the subject.

The constitutional status of the Executive Council has not been changed. The position is that where the four unofficial members of the Executive Council which includes a representative of African interests, tender unanimous advice to the Governor, he will accept it, except in those instances where he would feel called upon to use his reserve powers.

For the information of hon. Members, I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a copy of the statement issued after my discussions in Lusaka.

Following is the statement:

The Secretary of State has agreed, in consultation with His Excellency the Governor and the unofficial members of the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia, that the conclusion reached in the London discussions last July that the views of the unofficial members of the Executive Council will carry the same weight in the Executive Council as they do in the Legislative Council, subject to the Governor's reserve powers, should be understood to mean that without prejudice to the constitutional position of the Executive Council, the Governor will accept the advice of the unofficial members of the Executive Council when the four unofficial members are unanimous, except in cases where he would feel it necessary to use his reserve powers.

At least one of the unofficial members of the Executive Council must always be a representative of African interests.

In matters where the Governor is doubtful whether the unanimous opinion of the unofficial members of the Executive Council is supported by the unofficial members of the Legislative Council, the views of the unofficial members of the Legislative Council would be sounded by way of a motion in the Legislative Council or by discussion at an informal meeting of all Members of the Legislative Council.

Industry (Africans)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made in abolishing the industrial colour bar on the Northern Rhodesia copperbelt.

Little progress has been made in the discussions on the recommendations of the Dalgleish Report on the advancement of Africans in industry. I took the opportunity of discussing the matter with the bodies concerned during my recent visit. I hope discussions will be continued.

Mineral Royalties

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what agreement has been reached regarding the ownership and taxation of mineral royalties in Northern Rhodesia.

The Government of Northern Rhodesia have not entered into any negotiations with the British South Africa Company regarding the acquisition or taxation of mineral royalties in the territory. There is therefore no question of any agreement having been reached.

Sierra Leone

Agricultural School

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies for how long no agricultural or teacher training courses have been available at the Agricultural School at Bo in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone; and when he intends that these courses shall be re-opened.

Agricultural and teacher training courses in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone are at present provided at Njala and not at Bo, which is a Boys' Secondary School.

Does my right hon. Friend consider it desirable that this school should be opened as soon as possible?

The whole question of educational development is now engaging the active attention of the new Governor.

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the post of Principal of the school at Bo in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone has been vacant for almost five years; and why this long delay has been permitted.

The post has been filled by the acting appointment of local officers, but it was decided last year that a person with considerable experience of secondary institutions ought to be selected for the substantive appointment. An officer with these qualifications has been selected and is on leave prior to taking up his appointment.

Hospital Accommodation

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies for how many years has no doctor been available in the hospitals at Port Loko, Kabala and Putchum, in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone; how many beds have been closed down in consequence; and how many miles away is the nearest doctor now available.

All three hospitals have been temporarily converted into dispensaries owing to shortage of medical officers. I am asking the Governor for the detailed information required.

Uganda (Makerere College)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Africans and women serve on the Council of Makerere College.

Will my right hon. Friend take some steps to see that Africans and women are given adequate representation on the Council of this college?

The constitution is one which has been agreed in consultation with the Inter-University Council of this country, and there is no reason at all why, from the various groups who now make up the Council, Africans or more women should not be appointed.

In view of the fact that there is only one African on it cannot some steps be taken to see why more Africans do not serve on the Council?

There are no Africans, but the opportunity to serve on the Council is there and I will bring this to the notice of the chairman of the Council.

Nyasaland (Crop Prospects)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present situation regarding famine in Nyasaland; at what price maize is being sold in government shops; and whether the possibility of using part of the unspent Native Welfare Fund of £250,000 to subsidise the price of maize has been considered.

Crop prospects have considerably improved. Both the Northern and Central Provinces are now expected to be self-supporting but maize is being imported into certain areas of the Southern Province and is sold at 3d. per pound which involves a subsidy from Government Revenue. It is considered undesirable to charge that subsidy to Native Development and Welfare Funds.

Royal Navy

Wounded Personnel, Hong Kong

39.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is satisfied that a suitable reception was provided for the naval wounded on arrival at Hong Kong; and whether the hospital facilities and amenities made available were appropriate to the occasion.

Yes, Sir. Naval wounded were brought from Shanghai in the U.S. Hospital Ship "Repose" and transferred to the R.N. Hospital, Hong Kong. This hospital is equipped with all modern facilities. I am satisfied that the staff gave every possible help to the men on their arrival.

I would like to take this opportunity of denying a report which appeared in the "Daily Express" recently alleging that the people of Hong Kong had neglected to welcome the wounded on their arrival there. The report is grossly inaccurate and the House will, I know, be glad to hear that, on the contrary, both individuals and firms have shown the utmost desire to help the men in any way open to them.

Will the Minister understand that it was because of that report and to give the Minister an opportunity to refute it that this Question was asked?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I received a cable from Hong Kong this morning stating that officials, official organisations, other organisations and the people of Hong Kong have subscribed £28,000 towards the casualties.

Fleet Dispositions

40.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what is the latest date as at which he is prepared to disclose the disposition of His Majesty's ships.

As previously explained to the House, it is not in accordance with the policy of His Majesty's Government to disclose the present disposition of the Fleet. The considerations on which this policy is based apply equally to dispositions in the recent past.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that his answer involves an answer to the question: What does he mean by "the recent past"? Is it not a fact that history ends and security begins at the point where His Majesty's Government begin to be embarrassed?

While I am not prepared to try to dispute the hon. Gentleman's attempt at epigram, I would like to inform him that, so far as we are concerned, the recent past means since the end of the war.

Courts Martial

42.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what system of legal aid exists in the Navy comparable to that which prevails in the Army and Royal Air Force in the case of persons tried by court martial.

A scheme for the provision of professional defence for persons tried by court martial in the United Kingdom has been in operation in the Royal Navy since July, 1948. This scheme is comparable to that of the Army and Royal Air Force. Arrangements are being made to extend the scheme overseas.

43.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the numbers of naval courts martial held in the years 1938, 1943 and 1948, respectively, distinguishing between those held at home and abroad.

In 1938, there were 36 naval courts martial, of which 14 were at home and 22 abroad. In 1943, there were 520 courts martial, but I regret that it is not possible without a disproportionate amount of work to distinguish between those held at home and abroad. In 1948, there were 119 naval courts martial, of which 90 took place at home and 29 abroad.

No, Sir. There were disciplinary courts during the war. There were 237 of such courts in 1943.

44.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the legal qualifications required of a person acting as Judge Advocate at a naval court martial.

No legal qualifications are required under the Naval Discipline Act or the court martial regulations of the person appointed to officiate as Judge Advocate at a naval court martial. In practice, however, all officers selected for these duties have received a special legal training.

Does not the Minister think that the time has come when such persons should have legal qualifications and that the officers who take part in those duties should have a legal training?

We are now going into that matter and we are in fact providing, at the public expense, legal training for officers, so that they may become legally qualified.

Rms "Magdalena"

41.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the plates of the R.M.S. "Magdalena" are riveted or welded.

The whole of the shell plating of the R.M.S. "Magdalena" was riveted and all deck beams, ship's side-frames and double-bottom floors were riveted to the plating. The plates for decks, bulkheads and tank tops were welded.

I could not answer that question, but I can tell my hon. Friend that an inquiry is taking place under the Merchant Shipping Act, and that no doubt that point will come out in the report which is to be made to the Ministry of Transport.

Because the Admiralty is the responsible Department for merchant shipbuilding.

Declarations (Signatures)

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will issue instructions to all Government Departments that in cases where a declaration has to be signed by a responsible person Members of Parliament shall be empowered to sign.

I have been asked to reply. The hon. Member's Question is rather vague. There are, of course, many kinds of declarations on which the signature of a responsible person is required, and it is clear that these cannot all be covered by the same general rules. If, however, the hon. Member knows any instances where the signature of a Member of Parliament has not been accepted on such a declaration perhaps he would send my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister detailed information, and he will have the matter examined.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even in regard to a disability pension, a schoolmaster or a police sergeant is empowered to sign the form as a responsible person, but not a Member of Parliament. Is not that an invidious distinction, carrying the reflection that Members of Parliament are not responsible people?

If the hon. Gentleman will send those particulars to the Prime Minister he will have them examined. I would not like to answer dogmatically about them, on the spur of the moment. I remember that there are certain dis- criminations about Members of Parliament in relation to the office of justice of the peace. However, if the hon. Gentleman will send those particulars to my right hon. Friend he will be glad to look into them.

Would the right hon. Gentleman also look into the whole question affecting declarations made by supposedly responsible persons?

Would my right hon. Friend arrange that absolution be granted to those hon. Members who, like myself, have often signed forms of this kind in error?

We will consider that point. We would agree that hon. Members are sometimes embarrassed by signing things.

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a Member of Parliament who has retired from one of the Armed Forces cannot sign his own pension form as correct?

Armed Forces (Family Pension Scheme)

46.

asked the Minister of Defence whether the review of pensions to widows of officers of the three Services has now been completed.

47.

asked the Minister of Defence if the review of arrangements which will govern the award of pensions to widows of officers of the three Services has now been completed and if he is yet able to announce a substantial increase in their amount.

49.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now make an announcement with regard to the pensions for widows of officers of the three Services.

50.

asked the Minister of Defence what are the future arrangements which will govern the award of pensions to widows of officers of the three Services; and whether he will now make a statement.

51.

asked the Minister of Defence what has been the cause of the delay of more than a year, since an early statement was promised, governing the terms of award of pensions to widows of the three Services; whether he is aware of the anxiety that this delay has caused; and if he will now make a full statement.

52.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will now give the reply promised a year ago about pensions to widows of officers.

53.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he is yet in a position to make a statement on pensions to widows of officers of the three Services.

54.

asked the Minister of Defence if he has now concluded the review of officers widows' pensions announced on 12th May, 1948; and if he will make a statement.

55.

asked the Minister of Defence if he is now in a position to make the promised statement on pensions to officers' widows.

56.

asked the Minister of Defence if he is now able to make a statement regarding the award of pensions to widows of officers.

57.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he has any statement to make about the rates of pension paid to officers' widows.

As hon. Members are aware, a review was initiated some time ago into the long established scheme of non-contributory pensions for the widows and orphans of regular members of the Armed Forces. While this review was in progress His Majesty's Government decided to promote a fam