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Commons Chamber

Volume 465: debated on Monday 16 May 1949

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House Of Commons

Monday, 16th May, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Bradford Corporation Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Halifax Corporation Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Harwich Harbour Bill Lords

Read a Second time, and committed.

Royal Alexandra And Albert School Bill Lords

Read a Second time, and committed.

Royal Holloway College Bill Lords

Read a Second time, and committed.

Shoreham Harbour Bill

To be read a Second time To-morrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Hotels (Racial Discrimination)


asked the Attorney-General what steps he proposes to take to remove any doubt as to the illegality of covenants or conditions in leases of inns purporting to prohibit or restrict the reception of coloured travellers.

I was not aware that such covenants are inserted in leases of inns, but if the hon. and learned Member would care to supply me with some specific examples I will look into the matter. Whilst I could not express any final opinion without seeing the terms of the particular lease, it might well be, of course, that such covenants are void as being contrary to the rules of public policy upheld by the English courts. Moreover, the legal duties falling upon an innkeeper are not affected by the colour of the traveller.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that in column 1433 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 6th May, 1949, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth relations referred to cases of leases of this kind as regards inns?

I can only say that no specific instances of such leases have been brought to my own notice.

Is the Attorney-General aware that this applies not only to coloured people; and that last week I sent the Home Secretary a letter from a boardinghouse keeper to an applicant for accommodation, printed along the bottom of which is the statement:

"The management reserve the right to refuse accommodation to Jews";
that the Home Secretary disapproved of that, but said he had no power to do anything about it; and will the Attorney-General do anything about it?

My answer would apply to cases of discrimination on grounds of race or colour.


asked the Attorney-General whether he will introduce legislation to prohibit in leases of premises to be used as hotels of any kind, lodginghouses, boardinghouses, inns or restaurants any covenant or condition requiring racial discrimination.

No, Sir. I do not think that such legislation would be practicable. The courts have, under the existing law, full powers to decide whether such covenants discriminating between different classes of His Majesty's subjects are not void as being contrary to public policy.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the position as regards lodginghouses and boardinghouses is substantially the same as that regarding inns?

Well, no. The lodginghouse or boardinghouse keeper is not under the same legal obligations to give accommodation to travellers.

Is the Attorney-General aware that the provision of accommodation for coloured people is one of the greatest problems facing those who are responsible for the welfare of Colonials in this country; and that the problem does not rest in leases but in the failure on the part of those people who have accommodation to let it to coloured people?

Food Supplies

Chocolates And Sweets


asked the Minister of Food why small retail shops in Brighton and Hove and small wholesalers are not receiving their regular supply of sweets, whereas the larger stores have enough sweets to sell.

The distribution of sweets is primarily in the hands of the trade. The manufacturers gave me an assurance before we de-rationed sweets that the increased supplies would in the early stages be distributed as fairly as possible throughout the country, based on the wholesalers' or retailers' trade under rationing.

Is the right hon. Gentleman really satisfied with that answer; is he going to do nothing to help the smaller people; does he not think that the smaller people should be looked after a bit; and does he not realise that they cannot possibly carry on as long as this situation continues?

I see no reason to accept the implication that manufacturers or wholesalers are being unfair to smaller retailers.

Does my right hon. Friend now at least recognise the folly of Lord Woolton's theory that the economic troubles of this country would be removed by the removal of sweet rationing?

Having put the Question to the right hon. Gentleman and intimated the problem, am I to understand that he will do nothing about it?

The hon. Gentleman has very strongly urged me to interfere with and coerce wholesalers and manufacturers in this country, but I shall not do so until I am sure that there is a case for doing so?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in this House I asked him whether he was satisfied that on de-rationing sweets, there would be sufficient sweets to go round, and that he said there would be?

I said, and I repeat, that the estimate of the manufacturers is that the present level of manufacture will satisfy the demand. We shall see whether or not that estimate proves right.


asked the Minister of Food whether, in connection with the shortages of both chocolates and sweets which are occurring in some parts of the country, he will make additional allocations of raw materials of chocolate to sweet manufacturers so as to ensure that the public are not faced with shortages in the near future.

Is the Minister aware that that answer is quite misleading? Is he further aware that in order to make the rationing scheme, which is vitally necessary to the country, work, he has to give an allocation of seven ounces per person. It is no good giving a miserable half-ounce. What is the good of all this jiggering about? Do something about it.



asked the Minister of Food how many tons of the 270,000 tons of the current year's crop of groundnuts and of the 44,000 tons of last year's crop, respectively, have been shipped to Britain; and what price he paid for them.

The Nigerian crop of groundnuts for 1947–48 amounted to 314,000 tons, not 44,000 tons. Of these, 274,000 tons have now been shipped to this country. The current year's crop will amount to about 315,000 tons, not 270,000 tons; 28,000 tons have been shipped to this country. We are paying £55 per ton c. and f. for decorticated nuts from the 1948–49 crop and £45 per ton in respect of the 1947–48 crop.

Is the Minister aware that the point of this Question is not what he has bought but what has been shipped? How many tons are lying rotting in Kano? Is he aware that I have received letters from West Africa to the effect that it is not the scheme but the Minister of Food who is nuts?

Disregarding the brilliant wit of the hon. Member, I would point out that my reply refers to nuts shipped and not to nuts bought.

Why will the Minister not make up the short-fall from East Africa by shipping from West Africa the many thousands of tons waiting there to be removed?

Dairy Produce (Distribution)


asked the Minister of Food in view of the fact that the policy of his Department is not to show preference to any particular area in the distribution of rationed foods, why eggs, butter and cheese are more plentiful in Scotland than they are in the South of England, as shown by particulars which have been sent to him.

We show no preference to any particular area in distributing these foods. Eggs have recently been more plentiful in country districts, but that is in practice unavoidable.

When will the Minister of Food realise that his regulations are really a mockery and that many thousands of people are breaking them, perhaps unwittingly? How many more times have I to tell him that if he breaks the law of supply and demand, that law will break him?


asked the Minister of Food whether he will review the present system of distributing eggs imported from Europe, with regard to the special needs of London and other big centres of population.

At present we distribute all the eggs that come under my Department's control on the basis of population. If my hon. Friend will let me know precisely what he has in mind as an improvement on this system, I shall be glad to consider it.

Meat Products (Price)


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the substantial increase in the price of made-up foods with a meat content that has taken place since the 4d. per lb. increase in meat prices; and if he intends to deal with any such increases found to be unwarranted.

The principal meat products are controlled in price, and the recent increase in the price of meat will be no more than reflected in the new prices. I am making inquiries to find out whether there has been any unwarranted increase in the price of those meat products which are not controlled.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in certain districts there has been a grave disparity between the recent increase in the price of meat and the prices charged for made-up products?

That can refer only to made-up products that are not price-controlled.

Agricultural Workers (Meat)


asked the Minister of Food what is the meat ration of European voluntary workers who are employed as agricultural workers and of others living in camps; and how does it compare with the meat ration of British agricultural workers living in their own homes.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) on 2nd May.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that that reply gave no satisfaction to farm workers? Will he now take into account the very important work which these men have to do in the great meat crisis? Cannot they have additional meat, instead of cheese, on the same basis as the miners?

I cannot follow that supplementary question in relation to the original Question.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the reply to which he has just referred has caused the gravest disappointment and distress to farm workers, and is liable and probably is going to affect our output throughout the summer?

While we are not in the least anxious to cut down the meat allowances to the European voluntary workers, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the disparity between what they get in the country districts and what our own farm workers get has led to unnecessary bitterness, with all sorts of other consequences?

If there is any such bitterness, it is because of the persistent implication that these foreign workers are receiving more than the British workers living in the same conditions. That implication is totally untrue.



asked the Minister of Food what was the loss to his Department in the dealings in last year's potato crop.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 19th January, 1949. The 1948 crop is unlikely to be cleared for another two or three months.

When will the Minister, who keeps on wriggling out of giving the figures of his losses, realise that State trading is dangerous, and that with State trading there are inevitably losses for the taxpayers? Is he aware that the only cure is to return to healthy competition and to——

The Question is quite a direct one as to the amount of losses, and the hon. Member has received the answer.


asked the Minister of Food why the date for the importation of early potatoes has been extended from 14th May to 24th May.

In order to get the extra supplies which, in view of recent price increases, are evidently needed.

Directly resulting from the Minister's reply, will he consider extending the date in Cornwall for the delivery of early potatoes, owing to the drought, of which he is no doubt aware?

The extension of the date is precisely because we fear that the supplies of new potatoes as a whole are short.

Canned Fruit


asked the Minister of Food whether he will now give facilities to provision merchants in the United Kingdom to sell canned fruit, free of points, on the home market.

All home-produced canned fruit, as well as imported canned grapes and canned apples, are already sold free of points. I shall take the other varieties off points as soon as I am satisfied that I can justifiably do so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British provision merchants have now to compete against the Republic of Eire, which is selling all kinds of canned fruits on the market without import licences and therefore without paying duty? What action does he propose to take to protect our own provision merchants?

It is, of course, illegal for residents in this country to import from Eire without a Board of Trade licence.

Is the Minister aware that provision merchants in this country are finding that the Republic of Eire are advertising their goods on the home market both by way of advertisements and circulars? Will he not, therefore, make representations to Eire?

Perhaps the noble Lady will give me direct instances of that practice.

Canned grapes come from various parts of the world, including South Africa.

Meat Ration (Change)


asked the Minister of Food how many days' supply is represented by the present reserve of meat in this country.

I regret that it would not be in the public interest to give this information. I am, however, glad to be able to tell the House that our stocks of carcase meat have now increased sufficiently to enable us to substitute an additional 2d. of carcase meat for the 2d. of canned corn meat at present being issued. As from 22nd May, the meat ration of 1s. 1d. will again consist entirely of carcase meat.

Can we take it from the Minister's reply that we can anticipate an increase in the meat ration in the not-too-distant future?

Overseas Visitors (Ration Cards)


asked the Minister of Food if he will simplify the arrangements for issuing temporary ration cards to foreigners visiting this country.

Everything has been done to make the arrangements as simple as possible. Overseas visitors staying in hotels do not need ration documents for the first four weeks of their stay and I am arranging that from 22nd May this arrangement will be extended to the first eight weeks of a visit. Overseas visitors who stay with friends need temporary ration cards, but these can be obtained at any food office on production of the visitor's passport or travel documents. Personal attendance is not necessary.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that overseas visitors sometimes have to wait for hours at a food office to get a card? Could not arrangements be made to issue the card at the time of landing at the port?

I think that would be difficult, but the overseas visitor does not have to attend a food office. I agree about the great importance of making the visits of people from overseas as agreeable and as easy as possible.

Overseas Food Corporation (Report)


asked the Minister of Food what period will be covered by the first annual report of the Overseas Food Corporation; and when he expects that this will be published.

The report of the Overseas Food Corporation will cover the period from the establishment of the Corporation on 16th February, 1948, to the end of their first financial year on 31st March, 1949. In accordance with the normal practice of large commercial undertakings the report will be published within a reasonable number of months' time of the end of the period to which it refers.

As the Minister is going to Tanganyika next month to see what is happening to the groundnuts scheme, would he, simultaneously with the Corporation report or before the Summer Recess, let us have the benefit of his second thoughts?

When I return from Africa, I shall be willing to make a statement if the House so desires.

What does the right hon. Gentleman consider "a reasonable number of months" to be?

The usual commercial practice of large undertakings is within six months, I think.

Then we shall not be able to get a Debate before the Summer Recess.

Not necessarily on the annual report, but no doubt an occasion can be provided.

Polish Confectionery (Import)


asked the Minister of Food the quantities of boiled sweets and other confectionery now being imported from Poland.

Under the trade agreement with Poland private imports of £60,000 worth of confectionery will be permitted during 1949.

If the Poles have the sugar to spare, should not we buy it from them, rather than manufactured sweets?

No, Sir, I think that in this case, and taking the agreement as a whole, this was a reasonable arrangement.

American Pork


asked the Minister of Food whether he now has any further statement to make on his purchase of pork in the United States of America.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that statements have appeared in the Press on this matter? Can he explain where he is getting the additional meat to increase the fresh meat ration?

The hon. Member's Question refers to an additional purchase of meat. This is part of the additional supplies we have, of course.

Jam-Making Sugar


asked the Minister of Food whether he is now in a position to make greater supplies of sugar available to housewives for making jam.

No, Sir. We are already giving 7 lb. in jamming bonuses this year as compared with 5 lb. last year, and we have also increased the weekly ration from 8 to 10 oz. I should have thought that any future improvement of supplies ought to be used for the domestic ration.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that housewives use less sugar for making jam than jam factories do, and that if he would give more sugar to housewives and less to the factories he would achieve an overall economy?

It is partly for that reason that we have increased supplies of jamming sugar to housewives.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting the English language to its traditional use instead of inventing absurb jargon, such as "jamming bonuses?"

"Jamming sugar" is a term very frequently used by housewives, and is a very sensible term.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the alleged increase of sugar to a large number of housewives who grow their own fruit and want to make their own jam, results in considerably less sugar going to them than they had before the alleged increase?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the waste of the fruit itself?

Soap Supplies


asked the Minister of Food if he will now make a statement regarding the de-rationing of soap.

The soap ration was increased by one-sixth as from 30th January. What we are now doing, from 22nd May, is to allow competition between manufacturers within the limits set by the present ration. We have not the raw materials to do any more at present.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he may be able to take soap completely off the ration?


Sea Passages (Jamaica)


asked the Minister of Transport what degree of priority is exercised by Government Departments for sea passages from Jamaica to this country; and whether he will give the figures for the May voyage of the "Ariguani."

By arrangement with the shipping companies concerned, 50 per cent. of the passenger accommodation from Jamaica to this country is being allotted to Service personnel, 25 per cent. to Colonial Government passengers, and 25 per cent. to other civilians. I understand that the accommodation on the "Ariguani," which sails on 21st May, will have been allotted in these proportions.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great dissatisfaction in Jamaica about these priorities, which are often taken up at very short notice with the result that someone who may have booked months ahead is put off at the last moment?

I am aware of the difficulties, and I have been making arrangements with the Australian Government for the "Georgic" to pick up the backlog.

Cambridge Arterial Road


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is prepared to accede to the request of the Edmonton Borough Council for a speed limit on a section of the Cambridge arterial road.

Traffic conditions on this road have been thoroughly investigated in recent months, and I am considering the practicability of a number of measures to increase road safety which would probably be more effective than a speed limit.

London (Working Party's Report)


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the delay in publication of the report of the working party on London transport, he will give details of such urgent plans for improvement as he has already approved.

This report will be published shortly. I have not so far given approval to any of the proposals contained in it.

Ministry Of Supply

Official Car Service


asked the Minister of Supply what figures he has available to show how much overtime is being worked from time to time by drivers and staff of the official car service.

Overtime worked by drivers and staff of the official car service varies considerably in the car pools throughout the country. During the past six months the average overtime worked by each employee was 20 hours a month.

Are not these figures symptomatic of the gross waste of this service, and cannot economies be effected?


asked the Minister of Supply how many new cars have been purchased for the official car service since the beginning of the year; and what was their total cost.

As the service is already very well covered by new cars, could not these cars have been exported, instead of being added to this extravagant service?

Motor Industry (Electrical Equipment)


asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the need to reduce costs in the motor industry, he will recommend to the President of the Board of Trade that the Commission on Monopolies should investigate the supply of certain types of electrical equipment, such as dynamos and starters, which at present is almost exclusively in the hands of one firm.

It is not at present intended to add to the cases which have been referred to the Commission.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the high cost of motor components is a severe handicap to our motor exports, and will he treat the matter as one of great urgency?

Steel Tubes (Export)


asked the Minister of Supply what are the present restrictions on the export of second-hand steel tubes; what are the reasons for these restrictions; and when will they be removed.

Steel tubes which can be used again as they are or redrawn may not be exported, owing to the present acute shortage of new tubes. The production of new tubes is increasing, but it will be some time before the restrictions on the export of second-hand tubes can be removed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman nevertheless allow export permits for steel tubes which are not required here, and which are being kept in dumps awaiting disposal?

The export of certain steel tubes which are not wanted in this country is permitted.

Ministry Of Works

Slate Quarries, North Wales


asked the Minister of Works whether he proposes to take any further action on the reports of the inquiries into the slate industry in North Wales.

Most of the recommendations in these reports have already been implemented. I am awaiting proposals from the industry about research. With regard to financial assistance, I cannot add to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) on 15th November.

Is everything possible being done to reduce silicosis in this industry, which is preventing recruitment?

Are the counter proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has received from the industry confined to research alone? Has the right hon. Gentleman received counter proposals in general terms, and if so, what has been his reaction?

There is only one other point in the replies I had and that dealt with financial questions, which are being given consideration.

Clarence House


asked the Minister of Works whether he can give an estimate of the cost of repair and decorations to Clarence House.

I have no reason to believe that the sum of £50,000 voted by Parliament for the alterations to and modernisation of Clarence House is likely to be materially exceeded.

Will the Minister look into the statement made by the district secretary of the Associated Society of Woodworkers in order to ascertain whether it is not the case that the amount spent on repairs and decorations far exceeds the £50,000 estimate, and will he give an assurance to the House that that exorbitant sum will not be exceeded unless a Vote is presented to the House?

As I have said, I have looked in this matter and I do not think there will be any material excess over £50,000.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give comparative figures for the "Daily Worker" building?

Could the Minister tell us how many homes could have been provided for the homeless with this money?

Building Restrictions


asked the Minister of Works whether, in view of the plentiful supply of building materials to be seen at the British Industries Fair at Castle Bromwich, he will consider a relaxation in the near future in building restrictions.

The present order under Defence Regulation 56A prescribing the financial limits above which a building licence is required expires at the end of June. The action which will then be necessary is at present under consideration, and I am not yet in a position to make a statement on this subject. But I would point out to my hon. Friend that the supply of building materials is only one of the factors to be considered and that, in any case, supplies of some building materials, notably softwood, are by no means plentiful.

In view of the fact that the buyers are so satisfied with the quality of the products and have expressed themselves in that manner, will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to the relaxation of the regulations that exist?

I said that the prices and the supply of the materials is not the main factor to which I have to give consideration. What I have to give consideration to is the use to which the materials are to be put and the labour to be employed in using them.

Does the Minister agree that the materials supplied for the organisation of the British Industries Fair at Castle Bromwich are to the profound advantage of the export trade of this country?

In view of the dislocation that must ensue in the building industry from the Minister's indecision in this matter, will he give the House an assurance that he will make up his mind as soon as possible?

Fuel And Power

Miners' Concessionary Coal


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what was the amount of free coal and coal at reduced prices, respectively, issued to workers at the coalface, other workers and staff and management, respectively, during the year 1948; and the total value of such concessionary coal.

The provisional figure for the quantity of concessionary coal made available during 1948 is 4,990,000 tons. The further detailed information requested is not available.

Supplementary Petrol Allowances


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what considerations are taken into account by his Department when deciding to overrule the recommendation of another Ministry for an extra allocation of petrol; and why he has refused an extra allocation for Messrs. Evershed of Brighton although the application was endorsed by the Ministry of Food.

The firm is already receiving supplementary allowances for its cars at the maximum of the appropriate scale and I could not agree to give the firm more favourable treatment than other firms in a similar position.

Is not this a crazy way of doing things? If the Ministry of Food recommended this as being essential in the interests of the distribution of food, on what grounds does the right hon. Gentleman override the Ministry of Food and say it is not essential?

I would not agree that the Ministry of Food recommended that extra petrol was essential for the distribution of food. It is perfectly true that they recommended it should be given, but I have to take account of the needs of other users of petrol as well as those in the food distributive trade.

Jerusalem (Conciliation Proposals)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he expects that the report of the Conciliation Commission on the problem of Jerusalem will be presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The Conciliation Commission was instructed by the Assembly Resolution of 11th December last to present its proposals for Jerusalem to the Fourth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which is expected to meet in September next.

While the whole Christian world will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he is doing in this matter, will he urge the Commission to take every step to see that the Holy Places are safeguarded in the future?

Have the United Nations any means of imposing their will in regard to Jerusalem if either of the parties declines to accede to the recommendations of the Commission?

They have the means, but up to now they have not shown any desire to exercise them.

Bulgarian Legation (Note)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has made to the Bulgarian Note of protest concerning the demand of His Majesty's Government for the recall of M. Bogomil Todoroff, Third Secretary of the Bulgarian Legation.

Does not my right hon. Friend feel, on looking back, that it is rather provocative to regard the withdrawal of a diplomatic representative merely as a sort of tit-for-tat?

I merely wanted to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman does not think that this kind of thing tends to exacerbate quite unnecessarily the unhappy feelings between our two countries?


Berlin Air Lift


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why it is proposed to continue the air lift to Berlin after the date on which it has been agreed on both sides that all existing restrictions on transport into and out of the city shall be lifted.

I would refer the hon. Member to the remarks I made on this subject in the course of my statement on 5th May. I indicated then that the air lift would continue in operation until the situation had been further clarified. It is particularly important to convey supplies to Berlin by air as well as by surface routes in order to restore stocks in the city to a satisfactory level as quickly as possible.

As the Americans have had the decency to recall General Clay, would it not rather help to ease the situation if we played our part and assisted by calling off the air lift?

No, sir. I am a trade unionist, and I never call off the strike until I am sure there is no victimisation.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in what way he proposes to show the appreciation of this House for the part played by civil aviation in the Berlin air lift.

I am grateful for this opportunity of paying tribute to the contribution which the British civil air charter companies have made to the success of this great operation. No less than 26 of these companies have participated in the air lift at one time or another during the past 10 months. Official figures provided by the Air Ministry show that almost a quarter of the total supply tonnage borne to Berlin by British aircraft operating in the air lift was carried by these charter companies. Another fact which is perhaps not sufficiently known is that the entire quantity of liquid fuels, including petrol, diesel oil and kerosene which the Western sectors of Berlin have received by means of the air lift, was carried in British civil aircraft. In the month of April, for example, supplies of this kind amounting to over 400 tons per day were carried in a fleet of civil air tankers specially adapted for the purpose. I feel sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will wish me to express their thanks for what has been done by the crews and staffs of these civil companies who have so ably assisted the Service organisations in the achievement of the air lift.

I rise only to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his broad expression of appreciation for the work done.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the charter companies will greatly value this statement as a supplement to the very considerable profits they have made out of the operation?

Ilo (Participation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps have been taken in drafting the Occupation Statute, Clause 2 (c), to ensure that Western Germany under a Western German Government will not be debarred from full participation in the International Labour Organisation.

Careful consideration was given in the drafting of the Occupation Statute to the desirability of facilitating Western Germany's participation in the International Labour Organisation and other Specialised Agencies in relationship with the United Nations. My hon. Friend will appreciate the necessity for reserving to the Occupation Authorities powers in the field of foreign affairs, including international agreements and conventions. Subject to this, it should be possible for Western Germany to participate in the work of the I.L.O. to the fullest extent consistent with the Constitution and the established constitutional practices of the Organisation.

Does that mean that Western Germany would only be represented by the Occupation Powers in the I.L.O. when she becomes a member, and does not my hon. Friend agree that it is unfortunate that there should be any sweated labour in Germany? In the interests of British and other competitors with Germany, is it not equally important that there should be equitable conditions of employment, and, therefore, costs in Germany, and will he ensure that Germany is directly represented as quickly as possible?

I can assure my hon. Friend that Germany will be represented as quickly as possible, but we have the transition stage to go through, and I have to take account of the constitution of the I.L.O. I am trying to take every possible step to associate the German people with the International Labour Organisation, but the acual steps that have to be taken will be rather tentative at the beginning.



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of recent happenings in China, His Majesty's Government will reconsider the position of Formosa under the Cairo Agreement in order that the surplus population and industries of Hong Kong may be transferred there.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that Formosa was actually offered to Britain in 1895 before the Japanese took it over? Does he further realise that Hong Kong cannot go on absorbing the Chinese and others, and if these people want the protection of the British why not allow them to have it in Formosa?

I think my predecessor in 1905 was a very wise statesman in not taking it over.

In 1895 then. I confess I have not looked it up. I hope I am keeping up the tradition of the Foreign Office in being as wise now. I cannot agree with the hon. Member in the proposal which he now makes.

In view of recent happenings in China, would the right hon. Gentleman consider taking the very sensible step of making direct diplomatic contact with the liberation forces in China, and then there would be no need to worry about Formosa?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his reply to me suggests that he is not taking the question of Formosa very seriously? It is not handed back yet to China and there is likely to be great trouble about it in the near future.

I have given serious consideration to Formosa, and I think the hon. Gentleman's Question was rather startling. In reply to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), I do not think what he asked has anything to do, with the Question.

International Children's Fund


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the proportion of needy children who are being relieved from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.

The Children's Fund estimate that they are giving extra food to approximately 4½ million children in Europe and the Middle East. Aid is also being given in the form of wool and leather, which the countries concerned turn into clothing and shoes for children.

Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that that is a very small proportion of the needy children requiring aid?

I recognise that fact, and Great Britain has made as good a contribution as she possibly can in this matter.

In view of the fact that these 4½ million children are only a quarter of the estimated number of children who are in desperate need in Europe at the present time, will my right hon. Friend consider trying to find some way of increasing the Government's contribution to this fund in order that the millions of American dollars which have been pledged should be matched by the much smaller sums from Europe, and not be lost?

Does the number given include children in Eastern as well as in Western Europe?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the financial position of the United Nation's International Children's Emergency Fund; and what steps are being taken to ensure that its work can be carried on.

It is understood that the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund has now allocated all the funds at its disposal to continuing its present programme of feeding, clothing and medical aid and that, unless Governments contribute further to the fund before the end of June, thus releasing further matching funds from the remaining Congressional appropriation of 20 million dollars, then the organisation will have to cease its operations by the end of this year. It is understood that a general appeal has been issued for further contributions.

In view of the past generosity of Australia and Canada, who have provided far more funds than we have, and also the generosity of America, will not the British Government make a more substantial contribution in order to save this fund?

Would my right hon. Friend consider inviting the Soviet Union, who are responsible for this terrible situation, to do at least something for these unfortunate children?

We are trying to interest every Government in the matter. It is the worst thing in the world to let children or anyone else suffer. The tragedy of all this business is that poor unfortunate people who have no power are the victims of all this business.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many people in this country who are very concerned at the thought that this country might not take part in this work and who regard this work as one of the most beneficent things that the United Nations are doing? I urge the Foreign Secretary to keep this fund going.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that substantial sums were sent to China during the war by the Lady Cripps fund? Would it not be a good gesture to bring the nations together in continuing that fund, when there is so much suffering?

Can my right hon. Friend give some hope to the House that the British Government will take the initiative by seeing that the balance of the money needed is raised, in order to enable the fund to continue after 1949?

I will not express hopes until after the Chancellor of the Exchequer returns from his holiday.

Japan (Reparations)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the present attitude of His Majesty's Government with regard to the payment of reparations by Japan.

The statement on this subject made in the Far Eastern Commission on 12th May by the United States representative is at present being studied and I am not yet in a position to comment.

Do I understand that the statement was issued in the United States without any previous consultation with the British Government?

House Of Commons Catering


asked the hon. Member for West Walthamstow, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether the Committee's receipts during the year 1949–50, if continuing at their present level, will suffice to cover, while the House is sitting, expenditure at its present level.

It is difficult to know what is meant by "their present level," either in relation to the receipts or to expenditure. Receipts and expenditure vary widely from week to week, but receipts for this year to date show a considerable decrease on the previous three years, and an estimate of expenditure does not show a similar decrease. Whilst it is not possible to estimate with any degree of accuracy what the future receipts or expenditure will be, it would appear that unless an improvement takes place receipts will not cover expenditure for the year 1949–50. It is because these conditions have existed for many years that my Committee recently issued its Special Report, and I respectfully draw the attention of Members particularly to the last four paragraphs of that Report.

Is the hon. Member aware, in view of the Chancellor's remarks regarding Supplementary Estimates and in view of the gradual falling off of the receipts, that the Committee is facing bankruptcy?

I am quite sure that the Chancellor himself will be able to take care of that.

Hms "Amethyst"


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he has any further statement to make regarding H.M.S. "Amethyst" and her ship's company.

No, Sir. The "Amethyst" and her crew are still safe. The vessel has remained unmolested.

Bearing in mind the great interest which is taken in this matter, and the anxiety that exists, will the Minister pledge himself that he will keep himself and the House informed about what is happening?

Gerhardt Eisler (Arrest)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the arrest of Herr Eisler on the Polish ship "Batory."

I am informed that on 14th May a United States Embassy representative applied to a Southampton magistrate for a warrant for the arrest of Gerhardt Eisler, who was on board the s.s. "Batory," anchored in Cowes roads, on the ground that he had been convicted in the United States of perjury, that perjury was an extraditable offence under the Extradition Treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States, and that he had as an appellant broken his bail. The Southampton magistrate decided to issue a warrant and it thereupon became the duty of the police to execute it.

Two Southampton police officers, accompanied by two Scotland Yard officers, accordingly boarded the ship in Cowes roads and informed the master that they had a warrant for the arrest of Eisler. Two Polish consular officials who were on board the ship protested against the arrest on the ground that Eisler was under the protection of the Polish Government. The police officers asserted their right and duty to execute the warrant, but offered to delay execution, provided that the master would give an undertaking that the ship would remain in Cowes roads, until this afternoon in order that the matter might meanwhile be further considered. This offer was not accepted and the police proceeded to execute the warrant. Eisler resisted arrest and was carried off the ship by police officers and lodged in Southampton police station.

Eisler appeared before the Southampton magistrates this morning and was remanded forthwith to Bow Street Police Court, where applications for extradition are dealt with.

May we take it that the arrest of Herr Eisler does not involve any departure from the British principle that we do not extradite for offences of a political character, since the question as to whether it is of a political nature, which is partly a matter for the magistrate and partly for the discretion of the Home Secretary, does not arise until the facts have been investigated by the magistrate? Does my right hon. Friend further agree that these matters of civil liberties are of equal importance whether the request comes from the East or the West?

As far as the last part of the supplementary question is concerned, I agree with the statement made by my hon. and learned Friend. With regard to the other part, we must await the receipt and the investigation of the evidence before any decision can be made.

Is the Minister aware that the suggestion of perjury arises from the fact that when Herr Eisler was an anti-Nazi refugee and——

Whether it is perjury or not is a matter which is sub judice. That is now before the courts and we must not raise it here.

Then I will ask another question, Mr. Speaker. Is the Home Secretary aware that it is a tragic situation when Ministers who claim to be Socialists are responsible for such a shocking and shameless affair as the treatment of this anti-Nazi refugee? Is there any limit to the depths of degradation to which this country can be drawn at the command of America?

It is not an improper insinuation; it is God's truth. [Interruption.] Quiet, you fellows—

"This England …"

May we assume from what the Home Secretary has said that, irrespective of the technical issue as to whether it is an extraditable offence or not, if Herr Eisler claims to be a political refugee the Home Secretary will accord him the traditional right of asylum accorded political refugees by this country?

No, Sir. It is not what the man claims to be; it is what the facts reveal him to be.

In the first place, may I ask the Home Secretary whether, when the magistrate at Southampton granted a warrant for this man's arrest, he was satisfied that there was a prima facie case of perjury——

One must not challenge the magistrates on whether there is a prima facie case of perjury. The matter has now gone to Bow Street and the whole thing is sub judice. The only thing which may be criticised is the action of the Home Secretary.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. With reference to your last Ruling, may I draw your attention to the terms of the Act on which our Treaty with the United States of America is based? It provides quite expressly that a matter of this sort is never in a sense sub judice so as to take it out of the purview of the Home Secretary, who, as the Act expressly provides, may at any time intervene when he thinks a matter is a political matter and may stop all proceedings almost as though he were the Attorney-General. I am referring to Section 7 of the Act of 1876, which no doubt you have in mind, Mr. Speaker.

I cannot carry all these Acts in my head. What the hon. Member says may be right or it may be wrong. However, I am certain that it is quite wrong for us to discuss a matter which is now before the courts, and that is my Ruling.

Further to that point of Order. As the matter is of great importance to everyone in this House who is concerned with the tradition of Great Britain in protecting political refugees—[Interruption.]—on this side and I believe some on the other side as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Czechoslovakia."] There is not a single example of this sort of business in Czechoslovakia. Can hon. Members opposite give a single example? [Interruption.] If I may proceed with the point of Order, before you make your Ruling as to whether this is sub judice or not, Mr. Speaker, may I read you the terms of Section 7 of the Act, which runs as follows:

"If the Secretary of State is of opinion"—
I interpolate by saying not as result of evidence before the magistrate necessarily but on any grounds at all—I will show why that is the proper construction in a moment—
"that the offence is one of a political character, he may, if he thinks fit, refuse to send any such order"—
that is, the order which precedes the arrest, and therefore it does not give the possibility even of the opinion of the Home Secretary being based on evidence before the magistrate because this anticipates the proceedings—
"and may also at any time order a fugitive criminal accused or convicted of such offence"—
that is, an extraditable offence—
"to be discharged from custody."
That being so, I have no doubt that you, Mr. Speaker, would say that discussion in this House as to the political content of this man's alleged offence, or the offence for which he has been convicted in America, is really not debarred by the fact that at some time in the future some magistrate or some other court may consider the matter. I ask you to say that all questions as to this man's clearly publicised claim that he is a political refugee should be open to the consideration of the House with a view to our trying to induce the Home Secretary to take the obvious and honourable step of discharging the man at once.

Further to that point of Order. I would point out that this arrest was not effected under that machinery. This man was not arrested as a result of my order——

but under an alternative procedure where the responsibility is on the magistrate.

Is not my right hon. Friend clear that, under whatever procedure the man may be held in custody, the duty of the Home Secretary, if he thinks fit, is to order his release at any stage of the proceedings as soon as he is satisfied that the crime put against him by the Yankees—I beg pardon—the requesting country is of a political character?

I have certain very extensive powers, and very responsible duties to discharge, under this Act, but I must have the evidence in front of me before I can make up my mind.

Can the Home Secretary explain how it was that several officials from the United States Embassy were present with the police on board this boat, what their function was and why they were allowed to intimidate the captain of the vessel in order to get Mr. Eisler arrested?

Certain United States Embassy officials laid the information before the magistrate and they went to the ship. As far as I know, there was no intimidation of the captain of the ship. I have no evidence before me to indicate that.

May I ask the Home Secretary, in view of the terms of Article 6 of the Anglo-American Extradition Treaty which specifically exempts from the terms of the Treaty those whose crime consists of a political offence, whether he will give an assurance that he will decide on the basis of that Article before there is any question of deporting Mr. Eisler to the United States?

I shall have to discharge my duties as soon as I can get the evidence. When the evidence comes, I shall examine it most carefully and make up my mind on the decision I ought to take, but at this stage I will not do anything that indicates a prejudgment as to what the evidence will be when it comes.

Is my right hon. Friend quite satisfied that the request by the American Government and the arrest of this man is valid under international law?

That is a thing which the magistrate to whom the application was made had to decide. I was not asked to arrest this man.

Is it not a fact that the procedure as to arrest would have been exactly the same if this had been a Polish request affecting somebody on an American ship?

Yes, the procedure would have been exactly the same if the Polish Government had gone to the magistrate instead of asking for an order from the Secretary of State.

Further to a recent answer of the Home Secretary, are we to take it from that answer that if any citizen of this country lays information about another, he has a right to go with the police and to participate in the arrest of the one against whom he has laid the information?

The hon. Gentleman is not to understand that. The United States officials went on the ship on their own responsibility and not on the responsibility of the police.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the ruthless attitude adopted towards this well-known anti-Nazi political refugee, the attitude towards the officers of the ship, the fact that American officials were allowed to accompany the British officers aboard this Polish vessel and to use threatening languag