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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 12 May 1949

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Trade And Commerce

Government Surplus Stores (Resale)

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he takes to prevent profiteering in the resale of Government surplus stores which have been auctioned.

Traders who sell Government surplus goods which have been bought at Ministry of Supply auctions are not exempt from price control, and a warning to this effect is given whenever price controlled goods are sold by auction. I do not think any other action is required. No complaints of alleged breaches of price control regulations in respect of such goods have been received for some considerable time by the local price regulation committees.

Wood Pulp

6.

asked the President of the Board of Trade for an estimate of what loss would be involved if he released for current use at the present market price the Government stock of wood pulp for the production of all descriptions of paper.

It would not be in accord with normal practice to give this information.

Would it be very far wide of the mark to say that altogether the figure is about £3 million; could the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether further purchases are being made on contract to build up more stocks; and when will he be able to tell the paper trade as a whole that they will be free to go ahead and make their own contracts at market prices?

I make no comment on the first statement. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to put down a Question on the second.

Does the hon. Gentleman's answer imply that the Department is committed to further bulk buying on a falling market?

It implies nothing of the kind. I ask that that question also should be put down.

In view of the fact that the majority of this pulp is of Finnish origin, does it not go against the Government's plans for trade with Canada that this stock should be overhanging the market?

Footwear (American Markets)

7.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will supply the boot and shoe industry with information as to the type of footwear of British make in demand in the American markets; and if the boot and shoe industry is assured of the quantity and quality of leather which will enable the increased export pairage to be produced.

The Board of Trade is always ready to provide exporters with the fullest available information about products in demand in the United States, Canada, and other markets. They are at present in close touch with the footwear industry about its plans for increased sales in North America. Every effort will continue to be made to supply the industry with the quantity and quality of leather necessary for increased exports to these markets.

How can the Minister expect boot manufacturers in this country to export large quantities of footwear to the United States when boot manufacturers here are paying 30 per cent. more for their leather than their competitors in the United States, owing to the Government's methods of bulk purchase?

I appreciate the difficulty, but I would ask the hon. Gentleman to understand that the difficulties of buying leather, particularly in countries like the Argentine, are very great indeed.

If the hon. Gentleman is not able to use plain English will he explain what he means by the extraordinary term to which my hon. and learned Friend called attention? What is the meaning of it?

Is not my hon. Friend aware that when a member of the boot and shoe trade asks a Question about that trade he uses the terms that are used in the trade?

Fireguards (Steel Allocation)

8.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why the allocation of steel for the manufacture of fire guards to Messrs. Smith Brothers, 64 Clement Street, Birmingham, has been reduced; and if, in view of the statutory obligation to provide fireguards and the existing shortage, he will increase the allocation and obviate the necessity of workers already engaged upon this work being displaced.

As I have already told my hon. Friend in my letter to him of 11th April, there is, so far as I know now, no shortage of fireguards. In these circumstances we have not been able to continue the specially large allocations of steel which were made to overcome the shortage last year. We are, however, reviewing the allocations of steel to the makers of these articles and I hope that some small improvement may be possible in the next quarter.

While I appreciate that answer, I did gather it to mean that 14 per cent. of retailers did not stock these fireguards, and in view of the fact that women who are anxious to go out and do a job of work fear to leave their children exposed to danger without this very necessary protection, will the Minister take steps to see that this steel allocation is increased?

I should make it plain that the retailers non-stock index for fireguards has fallen from 43 per cent. in 1946 to about 14 per cent. at the present time. We have, in fact, had no complaints for over a year about the shortage of any type of fireguard. If my hon. Friend has any case he would like me to examine perhaps he will let me have particulars.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary examine how far this affects employment; and is the Board of Trade keeping in constant touch on this allocation of steel in order to prevent a rise in unemployment in various industries?

Certainly, and I have no reason to suppose that there is any risk of unemployment in this trade at the present time.

Mexico

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if special effort is contemplated with the object of the development of Anglo-Mexican trade; if he is satisfied that the present commercial diplomatic establishment in Mexico is adequate for this purpose; and if instructions will be issued for the exploitation of the Mexican market in the interests of British export trade.

I am anxious that United Kingdom exporters should do their utmost to increase their sales to Mexico, which is a dollar market, and if the hon. Member has any specific suggestions to make I shall be glad to examine them. The commercial diplomatic establishment in Mexico has recently been reviewed and strengthened and I am satisfied that it is adequate for the purpose.

Is the Minister aware that in Mexico there is a great desire to cultivate expanding trade with this country; and is he satisfied that our present commercial diplomatic establishment and secretariat are equal to pressing that forward in Mexico?

Yes, Sir, I think so. As I said, we have recently strengthened our secretariat there.

Czechoslovakia

10.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the potential trade development between this country and Czechoslovakia; and if he considers the present provision for British commercial diplomatic establishment in that country adequate to the development of reciprocal trade possibilities.

As to the first part of the Question, a Czechoslovak delegation of trade and financial experts is expected to arrive in London at the end of this month, and the whole question of Anglo-Czechoslovak commercial and financial relations will then come under review. The answer to the second part of the Question is "Yes, Sir."

Does the Parliamentary Secretary not realise the importance of the Anglo-Czechoslovak trade which existed before the debacle took place in Czechoslovakia; and is he doing everything possible in the Board of Trade to restore the generous understanding between the two countries which prevailed then?

During these negotiations will the Minister bear in mind that large sums in debts are owing by the Czech Government to traders in this country; and will he bracket these two questions together when he is considering this matter?

Certainly. I would point out that at the present time we have no trade agreement with Czechoslovakia, partly because of the fact to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred.

Will the Minister also bear in mind that the Spitfires of the Israeli Air Force appear to have been sold to Israel by Czechoslovakia—

On a point of Order. Owing to the fact that I was unable to complete my sentence, it was impossible for me to say that these Spitfires appear to have been sold to Israel by Czechoslovakia, to whom we had previously sold them, and—

Spain

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is satisfied that the provision of the British commercial diplomatic establishment in Spain is adequate for the potential expansion of the Spanish market for British export trade; and if full encouragement is being given to the extension of Anglo-Spanish trade development.

I am satisfied that the staff in the commercial department of the British Embassy in Madrid is sufficient to promote the development of healthy trade relations with Spain. The answer to the second part of the Question is "Yes, Sir."

But what about Barcelona and the other great cities in Spain with which we traded before the trouble with Spain arose; is not the Minister anxious to cultivate our trade with Spain in every way possible?

Certainly, but I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that at the present time Spain is very short of sterling, and that is limiting our trade prospects in that country.

Indonesia

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that in concluding the Trade Agreement with the Netherlands providing for an expansion of trade with Indonesia care was taken by his Department to ensure that the sale of goods purchased from this country and stocked in Singapore was not prejudiced by that agreement.

Yes, Sir. My Department was well aware of the importance of the traditional entrepôt trade of Singapore, and as was stated in my reply to the hon. Member's question of 3rd May, this trade is not prejudiced by the trade arrangements recently concluded with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, quite contrary to what he has said on this occasion or the other it has done and is doing great harm to the entrepôt trade, and that representations have been made to him by chambers of commerce, both native and European; and will he review this question and give me an answer which is a little nearer to the facts?

I do not accept the view that this trade agreement is the cause of the difficulties of the entrepôt trade at the present time. I think that is to be explained by other causes, into which I cannot now go.

In view of the very unsatisfactory and, as I believe, rather glorified case which the Minister has put up, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first possible occasion.

Sexual Offences

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Earl WINTERTON:

17. To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of convictions and acquittals in sexual cases by magistrates and juries, respectively, in 1948.

As this Question asks for a number of figures I should prefer to have a written answer.

I was quite prepared to give the figures.

Cruelty To Children (Penalties)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to increase the maximum penalty for cruelty to children.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider the introduction of legislation to increase the maximum penalty for cruelty to children and to make other provision for dealing with this social problem.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction for cruelty to children is six months' imprisonment and a fine of £25, or further imprisonment in default of payment. On conviction on indictment the maximum penalty is two years' imprisonment and a fine of £100. The Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, contains provisions to safeguard a child in respect of whom a person has been convicted of cruelty. I see no reason to think that the powers given by the existing law are inadequate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of penologists who have studied this question believe that in some cases of cruelty to children by neglect, the parents, being of low mentality, should be given remedial treatment; and that the treatment for Belsen-like cruelty to children, which is a disgrace to this country, should be punished by far longer terms of imprisonment than those existing today.

If a person is sentenced to imprisonment, under the existing law he may, if suitable, receive treatment of the kind suggested; also, under the Criminal Justice Act, it is of course possible for it to be made a condition of the probation order that a person convicted shall receive remedial treatment. I think myself that the penalties I have read out indicate that there is a very substantial reserve of power in the hands of magistrates, which they do not always use when dealing with persons who have been so convicted.

As this is a problem which perhaps can only partly be dealt with by punishment, will the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Minister of Education, confer with the leading religious, educational and social workers to try to find the reason for what appears to be a growing amount of this very unhappy crime?

I have no reason to think—and I have given some attention to this matter—that these offences are growing. I think that a quickened public conscience has made some of these cases of more news value than they used to be. I am constantly considering what it is possible to do in the case of all children who suffer neglect or are deprived. I do consult from time to time with my right hon. Friend.

Will the Minister consider issuing a circular reminding magistrates that the offence of cruelty is just as antisocial as offences against property?

I have considered, in the light of certain cases which have been recently reported, whether it may not be desirable to draw the attention of magistrates to the powers they possess.

Will my right hon. Friend consider issuing orders that all such cases should be reported to the children's committee of the appropriate local authority?

I do not know that I have power to issue an order to anyone in that respect, but I would hope that the local authority charged with the duties under the Children Act and under the Children and Young Persons Act would interest themselves when such cases come forward. In the recent notorious case, which I think has given rise to these Questions, the child has been handed over to the children's officer by name.

Is not aftercare of the victim even more important than the punishment of the perpetrators of the crime? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that adequate care is taken in regard to the after-life of these children, who may be mentally warped as a result of their experience?

Yes, Sir. As I have just said, in the case of what is known as the "Reading case," that has taken place, and the child is still in the care of the children's officer.

In view of the obvious concern felt in all parts of the House and country, I should like to give notice that, if successful in catching Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall raise this matter on some future occasion—I cannot do it on the Adjournment because it involves legislation. The amount of child cruelty in this country and the inadequate penalties at this time are a disgrace to a great nation.

Cardiff (Petition)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether consideration has now been given to the petition presented by the Cardiff City Council asking for Cardiff to be recognised as the capital city for Wales; and what answer he has returned.

While it is under consideration, will the Home Secretary bear in mind that comparatively speaking Cardiff is a modern excrescence on the landscape, and that it will be wrong to ignore an historic and cultural centre such as St. David's if a change is to be made in the present arrangements?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this Irish interference in questions of the Principality of Wales reflects credit on no one? Will he further bear in mind that this petition is very widely supported throughout the Principality, and that the City of Cardiff needs no recommendations from Bedford or any other area in this matter?

Is the Home Secretary aware that the general support accorded by the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) does not reach the ancient borough of Caernarvon? While expressing no opinion on the merits of these two ancient towns, comparable to Glasgow and Edinburgh, does not the Home Secretary agree that the time spent by a lot of worthy and enthusiastic persons on these claims might be better spent in dealing with more urgent matters in Wales?

I know that there are many claimants for the honour of being the capital city of Wales, and three have been mentioned today, but there are other places whose claims could not be overlooked and which have not been advanced this afternoon. I do not think it is exactly fair to all the claimants for the claims of one to be pressed by Question and answer in the House.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Liverpool also claims to be the capital of Wales?

I had occasion recently to inquire where was the most convenient place for the education authorities of Wales to meet me and I was assured that it was Shrewsbury.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he visits the Principality and goes to Cardiff he will find it is already the capital for all administrative purposes?

No, Sir. I have been to Cardiff on many occasions and I can think of other places that have claims.

Local Authorities (Chairmen)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to provide that the chairman of a county council or mayor of a borough shall not be elected until the council has been fully constituted by the filling of aldermanic vacancies.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the present law, whereby a council is not fully constituted until after the mayor or chairman has been elected, made possible in London what the "Tribune" called "The creation of a faked majority, contrary to the principles of democracy," and what the "New Statesman" called "Boss rule—the wangling of a majority?" How can the Home Secretary justify a law which makes that possible?

Prisoners (Productive Work)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons were serving prison sentences at the latest available date; how many of them were employed in productive work; and how they are paid for their labour.

As the answers to the first and second parts of the Question consist of statistical statements, I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In answer to the third part of the Question, I can say that prisoners are paid weekly in cash under the prison earnings scheme, details of which I will send to the hon. Member if he so desires.

While informing the right hon. Gentleman that I do so desire, does he not recognise that this is forced labour?

May I ask my right hon. Friend to assure me that the pay is sufficient at least to enable prisoners to maintain their insurance cards so as not to jeopardise their benefits?

I am considering these matters from time to time, and this is one of the matters to which I have to give consideration.

Is the Home Secretary aware that in Peterhead the men are taken out to work in the quarries and get little or nothing for it? Is he further aware that a man who lost his leg got no compensation because he has no legal rights? If that is not forced labour, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me what is?

I can understand the interest of the hon. Member and his hon. Friend in forced labour, but I would point out that Peterhead does not come within my jurisdiction.

Following are the answers:

On 3rd May, 1949, the number of persons serving prison sentences was 16,543. I regret that I have no details of the employment of prison labour on that date, the latest available figures being for the year ended 31st March, 1948. During that year the daily average number of prisoners was 14,768; of these 12,835 were available for employment and were occupied as follow: Manufacturing, 8,198; Outside work, 878; Farms and Gardens, 146; Building Services, 1,049; Domestic Services, 2,573.

Juveniles (Cinema Attendance)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether in view of the fact that a Departmental Committee is considering the question of the effect on children of attendance at the cinema, he will recommend to local authorities that local action to combat juvenile delinquency should, for the present, avoid any study of the role which cinema attendance may play in this matter locally.

I agree that until we have the findings of the Departmental Committee on Children and the Cinema it would be better to defer any local inquiry into the influence of the cinema on children. Those concerned will no doubt bear this consideration in mind in acting upon the suggestions in the memorandum on juvenile delinquency which was recently sent to the heads of local authorities by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and myself.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is no desire or intention in this Question to discourage local authorities taking an active concern in this problem, and can he say whether the report and findings of the Departmental Committee can be accelerated?

National Health Service

Dentists

26.

asked the Minister of Health what record is kept in his Department of the complaints of patients on the conduct of dentists under the terms of the National Health Service Act in regard to discourtesy and refusal to treat urgent cases; how many such cases have been brought to his notice; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

25.

asked the Minister of Health whether his regulations permit a dentist who is approached for treatment under the National Health Service to refuse to accept the patient as a non-fee paying patient, but offer to give immediate treatment if a fee is paid.

No separate record has been kept of these complaints. A dentist has a right under the Act to decide whether he will accept any particular patient for treatment under the National Health Service but the simplified emergency procedure introduced on 1st April has, I believe, largely removed any cause for complaints of refusal to treat urgent cases.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable feeling on this matter where patients are suffering from acute toothache and are refused attention and told to come back in three months? Is it not possible to arrange some kind of roster system similar to that followed by the chemists whereby one of them takes on the duties of dealing with urgent matters while the others are closed?

Since the simplified procedure to which I have referred was introduced on 1st April as many as 33,768 cases have already been dealt with under it, and my information is that abuses to which reference has been made are on the decline. It is, of course, a quite unreasonable exercise of the right of a dentist to refuse to take a patient under the National Health Service and then to accept that patient for a private fee. It is not that it is illegal, but I believe that this bad practice is on the decline as the moral standards of the profession are raised.

If specific details of a case of an attempt to defeat the purposes of the Act are referred to my right hon. Friend, will he take action?

As I said, higher standards of conduct prevail, and I should have thought that to refuse a particular patient under the National Health Service and then treat that same patient immediately afterwards as a private patient is a practice that will be universally condemned.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that only a small number of dentists are following non-professional conduct, and that the large majority of dentists are working hard to make a success of the scheme.

As I have said, the practice is on the decline, and the vast majority of the dentists are operating quite properly.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to imply that private fees are on the whole higher than those under the Health Scheme?

I have made no such suggestion, but hon. Members can guess for themselves whether this arises.

68.

asked the Minister of Health in view of the fact that negotiations between the public dental officers and the local authorities have now reached deadlock, what steps he is taking to stop the drift of dentists from the public service and to implement the Health Act as regards the priority classes.

This is primarily a matter for the local health authorities upon whom rests the duty of providing dental care for expectant and nursing mothers and young children. The Associations of local authorities concerned have not yet entered upon negotiations on the pay claim made on behalf of the public dental officers, but I am pleased to note that some local health authorities are making interim adjustments of salary scales pending the negotiations.

If these negotiations break down, will the Minister stand by and let the whole of the dental service for priority classes break down also or will he step in if no agreement can be reached?

I am ready to help the progress of negotiations by forming a dental Whitley Council, but I can do this only if both the dental organisations and the local authorities agree. I understand that the dental organisations, who previously refused to join such a council, are now prepared to come in, subject to certain reservations. The local authority associations have not yet agreed to come in. Discussions with them are in progress.

Has my right hon. Friend considered offering his good offices to settle this unfortunate dispute?

My hon. Friend can assume that I am not standing idly by seeing matters drifting.

Parkinson's Disease

28.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will report on the claims of Dr. Klemme, in America, to have cured cases of Parkinson's disease by operative treatment; and whether these claims have been substantiated.

My advice is that the methods are well known, but that their general adoption is not justified on present experience.

In view of the exaggerated hopes which have been raised in the minds of some patients by statements in certain sections of the Press will he appoint a Commission of Inquiry to make a definite statement about this method of treatment?

If I appointed a Commission of Inquiry every time a newspaper made exaggerated claims for some particular form of health or therapy I would have a series of commissions running all the time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Dr. Voeller in Germany has had similar claims made about him, and that there are a large number of people desperately anxious for facilities to go to Germany to take this treatment? Will my right hon. Friend have the claims investigated and, if they prove to be substantiated, make representations to the Treasury to give facilities to people to attend.

This, of course, is another claim entirely of a different kind. I have already said, if my memory serves me correctly, in answer to a Question a little while ago, that I was having the German claim investigated.

Tuberculosis Patients

33.

asked the Minister of Health the number of tuberculosis patients awaiting hospital treatment in England and Wales.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many patients who are kept waiting for long periods through no fault of his, and could he take any steps to expedite the matter?

I have asked the Tuberculosis Standing Advisory Committee of the Central Health Services Council to make an inquiry into this matter. The House will appreciate that the increase in the number of tuberculosis patients awaiting treatment is due to the better diagnostic facilities and mass radiography, but it is desirable to get them into tuberculosis institutions as early as possible. The difficulty is lack of staff.

Could my right hon. Friend give the figure separately for England and Wales?

If my hon. Friend will put a Question on the Order Paper I certainly will give him a reply.

Leprosy (Notification)

34, 35 and 36.

asked the Minister of Health (1) how many adults and how many children in this country are known cases of leprosy;

(2) what is the number of persons being treated in hospital for active and infectious leprosy; how many such hospitals there are in this country; and the number of beds available;

(3) if he will take steps to make leprosy a certifiable disease in this country.

I am considering steps for making leprosy notifiable. As it is not so at present, reliable information about the number of cases is not available. There is one leper hospital, run by a voluntary body, which can accommodate 13 cases and has 12 there now. Arrangements are being made to supplement this by another provided as part of the National Health Service.

Hospital Staffs (Fascists And Communists)

41.

asked the Minister of Health how many hospital boards or management committees require an undertaking from persons seeking to join their medical, nursing or administrative staffs that they are not or have not been associated with either the Fascist or Communist Parties; to what extent such action has been taken on his instructions or with his approval; and whether he will make a statement on the matter.

I have no information that this undertaking is being asked for. If it is, it is neither on my instructions nor with my approval.

Medicine Bottles

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has any further statement to make on the subject of making a charge for medicine bottles supplied under the National Health Service.

Hospital Services (Expenditure)

44.

asked the Minister of Health if the proposed cut of seven per cent. in the expenditure of the hospital service will apply to the administrative staffs of the regional hospital boards also.

Regional hospital boards have been asked to prepare, within a reduced total sum in each case, revised estimates of the whole of their expenditure including the cost of their own administrative staff. The boards have been instructed to adjust their estimates so that the interests of patients are not affected.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether the regional boards were informed that these cuts are to be carried out even if they mean a less effective service to the public, and is it the intention to insist on them when they do?

It is neither my intention to close down hospital beds nor to prevent the opening of additional beds where that is practical, as a consequence of the attempt to operate these reductions.

Hospital Staffs, West Midlands

67.

asked the Minister of Health what is the present non-medical staff of the West Midland Regional Hospital Board; and how many of this non-medical staff are employed at the headquarters of the Board in Birmingham.

The Board employs approximately 23,000 non-medical staff; 65 of these are employed at its headquarters. These figures include all the staff of hospitals, whole-time and part-time.

Does not my right hon. Friend think this a very inflated number for this work?

My hon. Friend should realise that when we speak about non-medical staffs we mean all the staffs at the hospital, including the nurses.

Deaf Persons (Lip-Reading)

27.

asked the Minister of Health if he will consult with the Minister of Education in order that teaching in lip-reading may be provided for those who become provided with the Medresco hearing aid; and if he will bring to the notice of those using hearing aids the additional advantage to be derived from combining the use of the aural aid with lip-reading.

I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education that local education authorities provide lip-reading classes where the need is established. A number of the hospitals distributing hearing aids also provide training in lip-reading, and these facilities will be extended as circumstances permit.

Will my right hon. Friend bring to the notice of every person who is issued with an aid the desirability of supplementing the value to be derived from the aid by lip-reading lessons?

Certainly I will see what can be done, but in that connection it would be undesirable to excite the individual over lip-reading if there is a lack of facilities to provide the education.

Juvenile Workers (Medical Examination)

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that firms have to pay for the compulsory medical examination of their juvenile labour; and why medical examination of this kind is not provided under the National Health Service scheme.

These examinations are required by the Factories Acts and employers are not relieved of these obligations by the National Health Service Act.

While appreciating the necessity and propriety of these investigations, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a factory which employs its own doctor is not allowed to use that doctor to conduct that examination, and that the firm have to pay substantial premiums under the National Health Service for which they get no benefit for examining their own employees? That is a great injustice.

There are a number of Acts under which employers are compelled to examine their employees and for which they have to pay for certification. This, of course, is included under the National Health Act, and until the Act is amended the powers will be required.

Would the right hon. Gentleman have a look at this again, because it all adds on to the cost of the eventual product, and see whether it is possible for them to employ their own doctors in cases where large firms have their own doctors?

Broadcasting (Committee Of Inquiry)

46.

asked the Lord President of the Council if he is now able to give the names of the Members who will serve on the Committee of Inquiry which is to advise on the organisation of British broadcasting on the expiry of the present Charter.

I informed the House on 31st January that Sir Cyril Radcliffe had accepted the chairmanship of the Committee. In consultation with the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General and I have appointed the following members of the Committee:

  • Mr. A. L. Binns, C.B.E.;
  • Mr. J. Bowman;
  • Sir William (Henry) Coates;
  • My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies);
  • The Earl of Elgin, K.T.;
  • The hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd);
  • The hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George);
  • Mr. W. F. Oakeshott;
  • My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves);
  • Mrs. J. L. Stocks.
The terms of reference will be as follow:
"To consider the constitution, control, finance and other general aspects of the sound and television broadcasting services of the United Kingdom (excluding those aspects of the overseas services for which the B.B.C. are not responsible) and to advise on the conditions under which these services and wire broadcasting should be conducted after the 31st December, 1951."

Would my right hon. Friend say whether those terms of reference are wide enough to include the relationship of the Corporation with organisations representing their employees?

At first sight there is certainly one, but we never know. Scots have a habit of turning up unexpectedly. There may be others.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the terms of reference are wide enough for the Committee to consider whether or not a separate broadcasting corporation should be set up for Scotland, as is universally wanted in that country? Is he satisfied that the representation of Scotland on that Committee is strong enough?—because I am not.

I am not pronouncing upon the merits of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's idea. It would be competent for evidence to be given on that subject and for the Committee to make any representations they thought fit.

What facilities are to be made available to the Corporation and to the public to lay evidence before the Committee, and what facilities will be given to the Committee to ensure that all relevant information comes before them?

It will be for the Committee to make its own arrangements, but I imagine that it will be competent for members of the public to apply—it certainly will be—to give evidence. No doubt the Committee would give consideration to any application so made. Whether it will meet in public or private is for the Committee to determine, but on the last occasion it met in private.

Is there any special reason why, when the personnel of a committee is read out, I never hear any reference to the hon. Member for West Fife? In view of the necessity for getting some Communist propaganda across the B.B.C., will not the right hon. Gentleman consider putting me upon the Committee?

Is the Earl of Elgin supposed to represent Scotland, or the House of Lords?

The people who are put upon this Committee are there because they are considered to be competent for the post. I do not think that it would be wise to go into the question of what they represent. They are not delegates.

Television Advisory Committee (Chairman)

47.

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement about the chairmanship of the Television Advisory Committee.

Yes, Sir. Lord Trefgarne, who has served as chairman for well over three years, now feels compelled by pressure of his other commitments to ask to be relieved of his post. [Interruption.] That is a very rude and ungracious intervention. I feel sure the House would wish me to express their keen appreciation of the important public service which he has rendered in this capacity. I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General has been fortunate enough to secure the services of Sir William Coates as Lord Trefgarne's successor. Sir William Coates will be a member of the Committee of inquiry which is to advise on the organisation of British broadcasting.

Agriculture

Sheep-Worrying (Dogs)

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the serious problem created for farmers by sheep-worrying by dogs; and whether he is satisfied that the regulations in force provide sufficient powers for dealing with it.

Yes, Sir. I am well aware of the problem, and I think the existing regulations go as far as is practically possible in dealing with it. The main difficulty is, I fear, that of tracing dogs responsible for worrying sheep.

Would the right hon. Gentleman try to bring about something like "pairage" between dogs and sheep?

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the damage to farming and the cruelty caused by the destruction of sheep by dogs not under proper control, he will introduce legislation conferring power upon the police to seize and destroy such dogs if a court order has been made for their destruction.

Section 2 of the Dogs Act, 1871, already gives power to any court of summary jurisdiction, where it is satisfied, on complaint, that a dog is dangerous, to make an order directing the dog to be kept by the owner under proper control or destroyed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the police apparently have no power, where a dog has been proved to be dangerous to human beings—for instance, has bitten children—or has tortured to death sheep and lambs, to seize that dog, and destroy it, in cases where a contumacious person continues to keep it? It is true that the person is liable to a fine, but will the right hon. Gentleman have the law altered so that a dangerous dog can be seized and destroyed?

The magistrates have power, once it has been proved that a dog is dangerous to man or beast, to insist upon the dog being placed under proper control or destroyed. If the decision is in favour of destroying the dog, the owner has the right to appeal to quarter sessions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have been several cases where the owner has been fined, but has refused to have the animal destroyed? Would not the simple and sensible way be to give the police power to seize the dog?

Some persons have continued to keep their dogs, despite an order of the court for destruction, but they have had to pay a very heavy penalty for keeping the dogs alive.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to consider the registration of dogs through the police instead of through the Treasury and the Post Office, in order that the police may secure more adequate control?

Plant Disease (Fertilisers)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will appoint a committee to inquire into the causes of increase in plant disease, the possible connection with greater use of artificial fertilisers, and the comparative results achieved by the Indore and similar methods depending on the biological basis of soil fertility.

No, Sir. I am advised that there is no evidence that the increasing use of so-called artificial manures has had the effect that is suggested. I would add that scientific opinion is unanimous that the so-called artificial fertilisers should be supplemented by the addition to the soil of organic materials such as dung and compost or by the ploughing in of grass and clover swards.

While agreeing with the observations of my right hon. Friend on this Question, I would like to ask whether he is not aware that there is a good deal of conflicting evidence on the subject. Does he not therefore think that some inquiry on this subject would serve a useful purpose?

Is not the word "evidence" a misnomer? Should not the hon. Member say "conflicting statements"? There is no conflicting evidence.

I was going to say to my hon. Friend that there is no conflict- ing evidence. In fact, this is a continuous investigation that goes on day by day and month by month.

Form-Filling

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now consider taking steps to simplify and reduce the number of forms that at the present time farmers are required to fill in, with special regard to forms for feedingstuffs rations, fat stock sales, acreage payments, taking into consideration the elaborate farm accounts required, and the additional work of Pay As You Earn.

All forms directly concerned with agriculture that farmers are required to complete are being scrutinised with a view to the elimination of any which do not serve an essential purpose, and to the simplification of the remainder.

How can the right hon. Gentleman expect increased food production if recovery and progress are obstructed by interminable regimentation, bureaucracy and form-filling and unless forms are very drastically reduced?

Unless they are reduced this Government must go, and we must have another which will do something really effective.

Horses (Veterinary Sera)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the present practice with regard to the inspection of horses used in the production of sera for veterinary use; and what steps are taken to ensure that they are treated with the same consideration as those animals furnishing sera for human beings.

Horses used in the production of sera intended to be used solely for veterinary purposes are not at present subject to official inspection. I am, however, now preparing for consideration and discussion with interested parties the draft of an order under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1935, regulating the manufacture of veterinary therapeutic substances and including provisions relating to the health and treatment of animals used in the production of sera.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether his answer means that the inspection for which I have asked, and which is very necessary in the case of some firms which are not as reputable as others, will be insisted upon?

Allotments Advisory Committee (Report)

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, how soon he anticipates receiving the report of the Allotments Advisory Committee.

The committee have not yet submitted their report, but I have reason to hope that they will do so before the Summer Recess.

Cottage Homesteads (Purchase)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether tenants occupying cottage homesteads on Land Settlement Association estates will be allowed to purchase their houses in view of the fact that some of the estates are being purchased by local authorities within whose areas they are situated.

The future of these housing estates is under discussion with the local authorities concerned but no decisions have been taken. As the cottage homesteads were acquired with the aid of public funds for the relief of unemployment, I would prefer they should now pass to the local authorities, subject of course to existing tenancies, and become part of the general housing pool. The wishes of some of the tenants to purchase the properties they occupy will however be borne in mind.

Machinery Imports

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will give the number and types of agricultural machines, giving country of origin, imported into this country during the last six months; and how the prices of such imported machines compare with similar machines manufactured in this country.

The reply to the first part of the Question involves a number of figures, which I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT. No close comparison can be made between prices of home manufactured and imported machines because of differences in types, models and sizes, but the prices of imported machines are generally somewhat higher.

Following are the figures:

Imports of the main types of agricultural machinery in the six months ended 31st March, 1949, were as follow:

MachineCountry of originQuantity
Tracklaying tractorsU.S.A.202
Wheeled tractorsU.S.A.371
PloughsCanada300
Eire60
Belgium54
U.S.A.13
DrillsCanada528
Eire103
Sweden19
MowersFrance450
Eire195
BindersCanada980
Combined harvestersU.S.A.250
Canada214
Germany67
Pick-up balersU.S.A.964
Germany30

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that works manufacturing agricultural machinery in the development area of South Wales, where there are large numbers of unemployed, are being handicapped by the importation of such machinery from abroad; and if he will take steps to permit British firms to meet our own needs in this respect before any more is brought from other countries.

I am not aware that home manufacturers are so handicapped. Every encouragement is being given to home manufacturers to expand their output of all kinds of agricultural machinery, and imports are confined almost entirely to items that are not yet available in sufficient numbers from home sources.

While that reply gives me some satisfaction, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he will inquire into works which are manufacturing agricultural machinery, particularly in the South Wales Development Area, with a view to seeing whether those works can make a much greater contribution towards the manufacture of such machinery? Is he aware that in the areas where these works are situated very large numbers of men are still unemployed?

If my hon. Friend will bring to my notice any case where the imports of agricultural machinery are adversely affecting local production, I shall be very happy to look into it.

In considering this matter will the right hon. Gentleman also give consideration to the steps which his colleague the Minister of Food is taking and, in the words of the Question:

"Permit British firms to meet our own needs"—
in horticultural products—
"before any more is brought from other countries"?
What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Sugar-Beet Pulp (Cost)

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the reason for the considerable increase in the cost of sugar-beet pulp.

The increase in price of dried sugar-beet pulp is part of the general increase in the level of feeding-stuffs prices announced in the statement I made in reply to my hon. Friend, the Member for Winchester (Mr. G. Jeger), on 24th January.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a more than 100 per cent. increase in the price of this feedingstuff bears extremely hard on those farmers who make most use of it? Does he realise that in the Eastern counties this will have a very serious effect on the production of milk and beef? Will he listen to representations that some reduction should be made in the increase?

The increase in the price of this feedingstuff was taken into account when fixing prices for beet in the February review and also when we were fixing the price of the end product, namely, beef.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is thoroughly unsatisfactory?

Sugar-Beet Acreage, Norfolk

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what acreage of sugar-beet the Norfolk farmers have contracted to grow in 1949; how this figure compares with that of 1948; and whether he will give an estimate of the anticipated difference in the nett income to the grower per acre in 1949 compared with that in 1948.

At 30th April last Norfolk farmers had contracted to grow 94,602 acres of sugar-beet this year, as compared with final contracts for 94,088 acres in 1948 and with 95,324 acres actually grown last year. No significant difference in the net income per acre of sugar-beet compared with 1948 is expected.

Has not my right hon. Friend omitted the fact that most of the growers also buy back the pulp? The price of the pulp has been raised by no less than £7 a ton and the cheque does not include the cost of the pulp, so that the nett amount is bound to be less.

Yes, Sir, but by the same rule there has been an increase of 2s. per ton over the average price for sugar-beet announced in 1947, and, of course, once the beet tops are fed to beef animals, there has also been an increase of 4s. 6d. a cwt. in the price of beef.

Has not my right hon. Friend forgotten that he has allowed for a decrease in the price of the very large, beautiful bullocks now fattened in that area?

If my hon. Friend will look at the price of feedingstuffs, he will find that the price of dried sugar-beet pulp is very much less than the price of other feedingstuffs; for instance, beet pulp, £12 11s. 3d. to £13 1s. 3d. compared with oats, £22 2s. 6d., maize, £19, and linseed cake or decorticated groundnut cake, about £21. Therefore, the price is not excessive.

National Finance

Purchase Tax

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason single deck chairs are subject to Purchase Tax whereas two deck chairs permanently joined together are not subject to Purchase Tax; and whether he will investigate the possibility of rectifying this anomaly.

Chairs that are structurally joined together for use in concert halls and similar purposes are free of Purchase Tax. On the other hand, all garden furniture is chargeable. If my hon. Friend is interested in a particular case, perhaps he would let me have details of it.

Why is my hon. Friend putting this premium on the comfort of solitude? Is he aware that if two chairs are tied together there is no tax whereas if they are single there is a tax?

This House has decided that domestic chairs should be subject to Purchase Tax. We take the view that when a number of chairs are joined together they are not domestic.

Is it not a complete reversal of the normal principle of taxation that two people permanently joined together should have to pay more tax than if they were single?

Trade Profits (Assessment)

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to set up the small independent committee to inquire into the method of computing net trade profits and the basis period for assessment to Income and Profits Tax.

Double Taxation (Eire)

65.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Agreement of 1926 with Southern Ireland to prevent double taxation will remain in force with the newly-created independent Republic; and what loss of revenue to the British Treasury has resulted from it to date.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes." As to the second part, information is not available but I would remind the hon. Member that the Agreement is a reciprocal one which benefits taxpayers of both countries.

Are there any agreements similar to this with countries which are not still members of the British Commonwealth?

Yes, Sir, we have double taxation agreements with quite a large number of countries not all of which are in the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Lcc Housing Estate, Oxley

70.

asked the Minister of Health if he will state the date of the confirming of the Compulsory Purchase Order for the new London County Council housing estate at Oxley.

Typhoid Outbreak, Crowthorne

73.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has received any information from the local authorities as to the cause of the outbreak of typhoid in Crowthorne, Berkshire.

The cause of this outbreak is being closely investigated by the local medical officials in association with medical officers of my Department and the Public Health Laboratory Service.

Has the right hon. Gentleman no further information yet as to the actual cause of the outbreak?