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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 465: debated on Monday 23 May 1949

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Food Supplies

Elderly People (Meals)

1.

asked the Minister of Food if he has now had an opportunity of examining the results of the experiment for which he granted a licence to Jarrow to enable old people to be provided with a prepared uncooked meal of meat, vegetables and dessert; and whether he is now prepared to issue similar licences to other local authorities.

When the Jarrow Corporation proposed this most interesting experiment to my Department we agreed with them to run it for a trial period of six months. It was accordingly started on 25th April last. I think I ought to wait at any rate till a rather longer portion of the trial period has elapsed before expressing an opinion on it.

In view of the fact that old people find it extremely difficult to stand in queues waiting for unrationed food, will the Minister ask the council to give some account of the results soon, so that he will be able to exercise his rights elsewhere in a similar direction?

Yes, Sir, but we ought to wait rather longer than three weeks out of the six months' period.

If this experiment is successful, will the Minister make a general appeal to voluntary organisations in the country to help in the distribution of this food?

This is more a case for the initiative for such an appeal coming from the local authorities. What we would do is to give the necessary licences to the local authorities.

Will the Minister continue to encourage the excellent meals-on-wheels service now being provided by voluntary organisations in association with local authorities?

I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for mentioning it. I do not think I ought to show any partiality or preference between the forms of doing this very meritorious service.

Does the last answer but one that the Minister has given mean that he would not issue licences to voluntary organisations, even if they were inclined to be most suitable for the distribution of such meals?

Potatoes

3.

asked the Minister of Food if he will now say how many tons of potatoes bought by him have been sold for cattle feed; and at what prices.

I still cannot tell the hon. Member what will be the total amount of potatoes which will be used as animal feedingstuff in order to produce meat. For they are not all sold yet, but on 14th May, about one million tons of potatoes from the 1948 crop had been sold by my Department mainly for feeding pigs, not cattle, at an average price of about 68s. per ton.

Is it not a fact that the Ministry of Food give £8 15s. per ton for these potatoes? Is the Minister not aware that because he pokes his nose into the retail distributive business his officials refuse to do business on the telephone, that this leads to delay and that the merchants cannot get what they want because of his interference?

Is it with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman that, without removal, the potatoes are sold to his Department for £10 per ton and are sold back to the owners at £3 or £2 10s. per ton, and that the total transaction is to pass a cheque through the post to the farmer for the difference?

No, Sir. Those are not the figures. It is true that potatoes are fed to animals at a subsidised rate, but then so are all other animal feedingstuffs. Potatoes are not unique in that respect.

How many tons of these potatoes have been used for cattle and how many have been sold to fish friers?

11.

asked the Minister of Food how many prosecutions by his enforcement officers have been initiated or are pending against potato growers who sold potatoes to his Department at £8 15s. a ton and bought them back at £2 15s. a ton to be dyed for cattle feed and are re-selling them for human consumption; and how many tons are involved.

In view of the fact that the Minister lost £10 million speculating with last year's potato crop, how much longer is he to be allowed to play ducks and drakes with the food of the people?

That is, of course, a grotesque way of describing the fact that the farmers are paid a guaranteed price for their potatoes. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would make it quite clear to the farmers of the country that he is against their being paid a guaranteed price for their crops.

Ice Cream

4.

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the high food value of ice cream and in order to improve the quality, he will consider reducing the control on the using of fresh milk by ice cream manufacturers.

While not yielding to my hon. Friend in partiality to ice cream, we must meet the needs of the market for liquid milk and essential milk products first, and can only spare small amounts for ice cream.

Does that mean that there is a temporary lifting of the ban on the use of milk for ice cream while the milk is de-rationed?

Yes, Sir. We have allocated small quantities of milk for ice-cream in recent weeks and shall continue to do so as long as the milk is available.

Livestock (Grading)

5.

asked the Minister of Food, in view of the report of the Auditor General revealing over £2 million loss resulting from faulty grading of animals for slaughter and of further losses still unknown, what steps he is taking to end this inefficiency and waste of taxpayers' money; and what disciplinary action he proposes to take against the officials concerned.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General to which the hon. Member refers relates to the trading accounts of the Ministry for the financial year 1947–48 and an indication is given in that report of the causes of the loss in that year. The report mentioned as one unusual factor in 1947–48 the exceptional condition of the animals following the severe winter of 1946–47 and the subsequent drought. £890,000 of the £2 million was in respect of carcases condemned for reasons that could not be detected at the point of grading: this is quite usual and is allowed for in the prices that are fixed for fatstock. The total loss is under 2 per cent. of the amount spent in the period referred to. Continuous efforts are being made to improve the standard of grading, upon which the financial result in part depends. A staff of livestock inspectors constantly supervises the grading work. These inspectors are instructed to concentrate on centres where grading is least satisfactory. Individual graders are relieved of their appointments if inefficiency is proved against them.

Talking of grading, is the Minister aware that in my opinion he is the lowest grade Minister in English history?

Meat Ration

6.

asked the Minister of Food whether it is proposed to increase or decrease the amount of the meat ration during the remainder of 1949.

I never speculate on the future level of rations. But on this occasion it may be appropriate to say that at present no factors in the situation are apparent which would compel us to decrease the ration during the remainder of 1949.

Black Market Inquiry (Newcastle District)

10.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement on the result of his inquiry into "Operation Octopus."

Yes, Sir. The purpose of this operation was to follow up information which purported to show that there was a highly organised black market in the Newcastle district with ramificacations all over the North of England. The people concerned were alleged to be dealing extensively in a large variety of foodstuffs both imported and home-produced.

The principal source of this information was a recently appointed intelligence officer attached to my Northern Divisional Food Office. This officer was furnished with sums amounting in all to £2,333 in order to make purchases with a view to securing intelligence which would lead to the prosecution of the principals said to be in the background.

The inquiry has shown that insufficient care was taken to check the original, information furnished by the intelligence officer and that there was inadequate control of that officer by his superiors in the expenditure of the sums advanced to him. There was also undue delay in calling in the police. When Scotland Yard investigators were brought in to carry on with the investigation it was found that there was no reliable evidence to confirm the original suspicions of a big black market in the area and that the intelligence officer had, owing to his inexperience and in spite of warning, made purchases which were open to serious criticism on the ground that they were encouraging the commission of offences. The operation was called off and subsequently the intelligence officer resigned from the Ministry.

The administration of enforcement, both at the Ministry's headquarters and in the divisions, is being reorganised so that divisional food officers shall have a tighter control on the work of enforcement staff and that there shall be the strictest supervision of any officer who is exceptionally authorised to make purchases outside the normal test purchase procedure. I am confident that this reorganisation will prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

From the evidence at the inquiry, did it not appear that most of the goods which were coming into the black market came from depôts and not from small dealers? Has Mr. Collins received the salary or wages due to him?

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, I believe they came from both sources, though I could not say the proportion. As to the second part of the supplementary question, Mr. Collins was not an employee of the Ministry at the time.

In view of the fact that the Minister has used the expression "owing to his inexperience," about the intelligence officer, will he say what steps were taken to see that the man was suitable before he was appointed?

He was an officer with a very fine military record, but he did not prove suitable for this work.

Was not nearly £2,500 an immense sum for which to have given authority, even if it had been properly spent? Surely, it must have meant acquiescing in very large purchases indeed in the black market in order to get evidence?

No, Sir. I do not think that the size of the sum was necessarily undue, because it was spread over quite a long period, but I think its use was injudicious and, in fact, wrong, and that was why the operation was called off.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the employment of agents provocateurs is not only inimical to the British way of life, but has also been found by long police experience to be generally ineffective, and will he consider that very carefully before making experiments such as the one he made in this case?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why Scotland Yard was not informed and called in at first, instead of the intelligence officer?

In reply to the first supplementary question, I think that on this occasion the methods used went dangerously near agent provocateur methods and that is why we have taken in this respect the steps which I have outlined. As to the second supplementary question, as I said, I think Scotland Yard should have been called in earlier.

The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the operation going on a long time. Can he tell the House what was the length of the period?

Have we not been frequently assured by the Minister that agents of the Minister would not be used in the way in which this man was used?

No, Sir. I have repeatedly defended the test purchase procedure, and there is a difference of degree between that and what was done here. However, I repeat that I think this officer went too far in the methods he used on this occasion.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have evidence that Mr. Collins has a letter from the Ministry saying that his wages were being held up until the inquiry was completed, and does he still say that Mr. Collins was not employed by the Ministry?

Mr. Collins was undoubtedly employed as an agent of the Ministry. The hon. and gallant Gentleman used the word "wages." Undoubtedly there were sums due to Mr. Collins out of the amount I have mentioned, but I should not have described them as wages.

I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Irish Canned Fruit (Prosecutions)

14.

asked the Minister of Food how many prosecutions he has caused to be instituted against inhabitants of Britain for obtaining canned fruit from the Republic of Ireland; how many of these were successful; and how many prosecutions are pending.

There have been nine prosecutions of which eight were successful and 15 prosecutions are pending.

Is the right hon. Gentleman doing his best to see that publicity is given to these prosecutions so that in future people shall not unwittingly commit offences? Secondly, is there any means of bringing to book the real culprits, who are the sellers in Southern Ireland, as soon as they set foot in this country?

Chocolates And Sweets

15.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will take action to ensure that manufacturers make a fair allocation of sweets to small shopkeepers.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Teeling) on 16th May. I shall not interfere with the manufacturers' arrangements until there is a clear case for doing so, but I will willingly look into any case my hon. Friend may have in mind where a small shopkeeper has been left without supplies for an unduly long time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread dissatisfaction that has been expressed by small shopkeepers all over the country at what they consider to be unfair discrimination by manufacturers in favour of large retailers? Will my right hon. Friend at least ask the manufacturers to exercise a little more discrimination in favour of the small shopkeepers.

We must see what representations we get from the various trade associations on the matter. We will certainly pay attention to them when we receive them.

Will not the Minister appreciate that consumption has been misjudged and that the matter needs complete reconsideration to find out how the problem can be solved?

In view of the reports he must have been receiving from all over the country, is not the Minister fully satisfied that he was foolish to accede to the requests of hon. Members opposite and take off the ration altogether?

Is not the Minister aware that every Member of Parliament must be getting complaints, especially those from working-class districts, that people who could get sweets when they were on the ration are getting no sweets at all at the moment?

17.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will give details of his release of 1,000 tons of sugar for the manufacture of sweets; and whether he is releasing a corresponding quantity of fats for this purpose.

13.

asked the Minister of Food if in view of the continued shortage of sweets and chocolates, he will either further increase the allocations to manufacturers or reintroduce rationing as soon as possible.

We have now released sufficient sugar, fats, and other ingredients to enable the manufacturers to put an additional 9,000 tons of sweets on the market. As to the suggestion of my hon. Friend that we should at once reintroduce rationing, I should like to say this. In my opinion it would be unfair to consider this step until the new method of free distribution has had at least some months of trial. After all sweets are not by any means a staple food; that was, of course, why we chose them for de-rationing, which had been so strongly pressed upon us in respect not only of sweets but of some staple foods. On the other hand, I agree that if the supply and demand for sweets and chocolate did not by, say, the autumn come into approximate balance both the trade and the public might well prefer the reintroduction of rationing to the indefinite continuance of acute shop shortages.

Arising out of that reply, did not the Minister of Food anticipate that there would be an increased demand when sweets were de-rationed, and if so, why did he not make this release much earlier?

Does the hon. Gentleman think that we made no increased release of ingredients? Of course we made an enormously greater release of ingredients than this some months before de-rationing.

Will my right hon. Friend make clear what he meant by saying that he was putting 9,000 tons on the market? Within what period of time?

We have just released the ingredients, and I cannot tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, without notice, exactly how long it takes between that and the coming of the sweets into the shops, but it will be a matter of a few weeks.

The right hon. Gentleman has released the ingredients for the whole 9,000 tons now?

Surely this is negligible? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the minimum requirement is 7 oz. per person per week?

Imported Sugar (Shipment)

16.

asked the Minister of Food how much of the sugar imported from the West Indies in 1948 was carried in chartered boats; how much in regular service passenger and freight vessels; and what was the proportion carried in foreign vessels and British vessels, respectively.

All sugar imported into the United Kingdom from the British West Indies and Haiti in 1948 was carried on British liners. From Cuba, 764,080 tons were shipped in chartered vessels, of which 38,600, i.e. 5 per cent. were foreign, and 21,000 tons in British liners. From San Domingo 185,691 tons were shipped in chartered vessels, of which 16,000 tons, or 7.6 per cent. were foreign, and 23,750 tons in British liners.

Has the Minister considered any reports to the effect that the British West Indian shipping services would be greatly stimulated if all contracts from his Department were placed for carriage in British ships? As this would be to the great advantage of Colonial development in the West Indies, will he look into this matter with a view to stimulating a regular and more frequent service of British ships with the West Indies?

I should have thought my reply showed that the margin is rather small.

Grains (Export)

18.

asked the Minister of Food if he will give details of the £49 million of cereals, including cereal feedingstuffs, sold for delivery abroad during the year ended 31st March, 1948, showing the amounts sold to each country.

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The hon. Member should note that virtually all the grains were intended for human consumption.

Can the Minister give an assurance that these sales were effected at a profit and not at a loss?

I must have notice of that financial question. Some would be subject to subsidy and some not.

Following is the information:

DestinationQuantityValue
Tons£
Crown Agents for the Colonies.791,00025,009,000
Middle East and Oil Companies.32,000923,000
Services Overseas, War Office Civil Affairs Admiralty and N.A.A.F.I.151,0004,332,000
Egypt172,0005,156,000
France8,000262,000
Germany158,0005,945,000
Saudi Arabia9,000236,000
Sudan7,000209,000
Eirc5,000124,000
India229,0006,269,000
Iraq18,000655,000
Burma15,000487,000
Southern Rhodesia8,000132,000
Private Traders1,00044,000
TOTAL1,604,00049,783,000

Of the total quantity of 1,604,000 tons little over 1,000 tons were delivered out of United Kingdom stocks. The remainder were purchases for countries for which we had procurement responsibility or acted as purchasing agents.

Of the total of £49 million, wheat and flour account for about 84 per cent., maize for 6 per cent., barley for 4½ per cent., and rye and oats together for 1½ per cent. Virtually all these grains were intended for human consumption.

Transport

Railway Electrification (Liverpool Street—Shenfield)

20.

asked the Minister of Transport if he has any further information regarding the date when the electrification of the line between Liverpool Street and Shenfield will be completed and the service in operation.

I understand that the British Transport Commission hope to bring this electrification scheme into service by the end of the year.

In view of the continued unsatisfactory state of the service, will my right hon. Friend promise to do something to accelerate the completion of this work? It is most desirable that the work should be completed and the service in operation before the winter.

I cannot indicate that I can use any special measures to accelerate the work, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the British Transport Commission are fully alive to the travelling difficulties in this area and that they will certainly press on as urgently as possible.

When this work is completed, will my right hon. Friend prevent the dispersal of the labour force engaged on such valuable work, and transfer it to the electrification of the Liverpool Street to Enfield line?

Buses (Boarding)

21.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his regulations permit a passenger to board a bus which is not full and is stationary at traffic lights.

The operator of the vehicle may be debarred by the conditions attached to his road service licence from picking up passengers at the place concerned. Subject to this, the regulations neither permit nor prohibit the action referred to in the Question.

Does that mean that the decision in a matter of this kind is left to the conductor of the vehicle, and is that not leaving it to rather a capricious judge?

As I have indicated, the law is silent on this matter at the moment and it certainly will have my examination.

Can the Minister say why it is any more dangerous to get on to a bus at traffic lights than to get off it, which is allowed? Is he also aware that the conductor sometimes refuses to allow people on at lights on the plea that there may be a crowd at the stopping place, even when he is out of sight of the stopping place and when in fact there is nobody there?

Level Crossings (Accidents)

23.

asked the Minister of Transport how many accidents occurred to vehicles at level crossings during each of the last three years; and whether action has been taken at such level crossings to reduce the danger of accidents.

The numbers of collisions with road vehicles or gates at railway level crossings in 1946, 1947 and 1948 were 157, 215 and 212, respectively. Preventive action is taken wherever practicable to reduce the likelihood of such accidents.

Will my right hon. Friend give his attention to the possibility of providing some system of lights on the lines of those we have on our roads, so that some of these accidents can be avoided?

The problem of these crossings is being examined continually, but it is a difficult issue.

Ministry Of Supply

Motorcars (Priority Delivery)

24.

asked the Minister of Supply what classes of user now rank for priority for the delivery of motorcars; and in what order of priority is delivery to be made among these various classes.

The motor industry is giving priority to orders from doctors, district nurses and midwives. They have also undertaken to give special consideration to orders from veterinary surgeons sponsored by the National Veterinary Medical Association and to distribute the remainder of their supplies to the home market in accordance with the importance and urgency of the user's need.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say where the claims of local authorities and Government Departments come in the question of these priorities?

As I have indicated, the motor manufacturers have undertaken to give some priority to special cases where the public interest is involved, but there is no special priority for these vehicles.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some retailers, at any rate, are under the impression that Government Departments and local authorities have claims prior to those of doctors and midwives, and will he disabuse them of this idea?

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether a doctor's priority still has to be certified by the B.M.A.?

Does the reply of the Minister mean that the local dealer has full authority to decide who shall have the priority? If that is the case, what steps have been taken by his Department or responsible people to make the dealer fully aware of what he has to do?

The industry itself has undertaken to see that its priority scheme shall be administered properly. My Department has no authority in the matter, and has deliberately given full responsibility to the motor industry.

Can the Minister tell the House if visiting dentists to rural schools are allowed priority?

I think that is the kind of case where the applicant would have to get the authority of the British Medical Association or some similar body.

Imported Metals (Contracts)

26.

asked the Minister of Supply to state, in relation to each base metal bought in bulk by his Department, the length of contracts entered into and the countries with which such contracts have been made.

As the answer is rather long, I will, with the hon. and gallant Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

My Department has the following contracts for imported metal:

Aluminium: The current contract covers deliveries from Canada up to March, 1950.

Copper: Contracts cover deliveries up to the end of this year from Canada, Rhodesia, the Belgian Congo and Chile.

Lead and Zinc: Contracts cover deliveries up to the end of June, 1949, for both metals from Canada and Australia and for lead from Northern Rhodesia.

Tin Ore: from Nigeria and East Africa. No period is fixed for these contracts, which are subject to termination by three months' notice.

Tin Metal: from Malaya. My Department has agreed to buy the total output until further notice.

Chrome Ore: Current contracts cover deliveries up to the end of October from Rhodesia and Baluchistan; up to September, 1949, from the Philippines; and April, 1950, from Turkey.

Imported steel is purchased in bulk by the British Iron and Steel Corporation under the supervision of the Ministry of Supply.

German Timber (Shipment)

27.

asked the Minister of Supply what were the freight and handling costs of importing 625 tons of timber from Blohm and Voss shipyard, Hamburg, in the s.s. "Stream Fisher," discharged at Leith on or about 10th May; and what steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence of the waste of public funds resulting from the import of poor quality, second-hand German timber of this nature.

The cost to the Ministry of Supply of shipping this timber was £1,640. My information is that the timber was shipped as a result of a misunderstanding. The Disposals Group in Hamburg have, however, already been asked for a full report and I will write to the hon. Member when the matter has been investigated.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Scotland we look very closely upon the activities of his Department, that it causes us a great deal of disappointment that this import has taken place under a misunderstanding, and that we hope the right hon. Gentleman will do better in future?

My Department came into this transaction as a sort of shipping agency; we are not responsible. It does not follow that there will be any loss as a result of this transaction.

Is the Minister aware that in Scotland we are glad to get timber from anywhere?

Novel "The Naked And The Dead"

32.

asked the Attorney-General what action he proposes to take in regard to the novel, "The Naked and the Dead," copies of which have been obtained by the police on account of its alleged obscenity.

Yes, Sir. After consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions I have decided not to initiate proceedings in this case, a prosecution in which does not require my fiat. As, however, the matter is of some public importance, perhaps I may indicate the reasons which have led me to this conclusion.

The matter is a difficult one upon which different views may well be held. I am not prepared to say that no court would treat this regrettable publication as obscene. The matter is one of fact and degree and it may be that some courts would consider that the publication did offend the law. I have, however, never regarded it as my duty to institute proceedings in every case in which it can be argued, possibly successfully, that the criminal law has been infringed. I do so only where I consider that the protection of the public interest in a broad sense requires the criminal law to be set in motion, whether in order to punish offenders or to deter others from the commission of offences.

In cases of the kind involved here, there are two public interests to which I must have regard. It is important that no publication should be permitted to deprave or corrupt morals, to exalt vice or to encourage its commission. It is also important that there should be the least possible interference with the freedom of publication and that the Attorney-General should not seek to make the criminal law a vehicle for imposing a censorship on the frank discussion or portrayal of sordid and unedifying aspects of life simply on the grounds of offence against taste or manners. Whilst there is much in this most tedious and lengthy book which is foul, lewd and revolting, looking at it as a whole I do not think that its intent is to corrupt or deprave or that it is likely to lead to any result other than disgust at its contents.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his decision on a book which, whatever its defects, is a serious attempt at a work of art will be widely welcomed among sensible people; and is he aware that it is desirable that there should be the widest possible distribution among the Atlantic Treaty nations of this gruesome description of war and the psychological chaos in American society?

Agricultural Land

33.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the serious inroads which have been, and are being, made by Government Departments into agricultural land; that, on average since 1945, 50,000 acres are being lost annually to food production; and whether he will consider appointing a Cabinet committee to review land use and censor departmental demands.

The needs of Government Departments necessarily involve taking land, of which some must be agricultural. It is, however, misleading to ascribe to the demands of Departments or other causes a net loss to food production amounting to 50,000 acres annually since 1945. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the answer given to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) on 12th April, which gave the latest information available on this subject.

I see no need for the appointment of a special committee to control land use, which can be adequately done under existing departmental machinery.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the loss of food production in this country has been very grave and amounts, probably, to something like a quarter of a million acres since the war, which is the equivalent, I think, of something like 28 million dollars a year in food production; and is he further aware that the Ministerial machinery which was set up—on the one side, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and, on the other side, the Ministry of Agriculture's Central Land Advisory Planning Branch—seems to have broken down completely and to have had no effect whatever?

The hon. Member is mistaken in both regards. If he will look at the reply which was given to the hon. Member for Eddisbury, he will find that his figures are quite mistaken. On his other point, there is, as a matter of fact, the fullest co-operation between the Departments concerned.

Is it not a fact that by far the greatest of these demands by Government Departments is for Service training, the need for which the Opposition are continually pressing?

If there has to be this inroad into agricultural land, will the Prime Minister consider whether use could be made of the 16 million acres of marginal land still undeveloped in this country?

Of course, every effort is made to see that the best agricultural land is not taken. It is not always possible to avoid taking some, however, and I am afraid that very often the land that is suggested as being suitable is in remote areas and cannot be useful.

Would the Prime Minister circulate this information in the OFFICIAL REPORT, so that it may be available to all hon. Members rather than to one hon. Member alone?

The information was contained in the answer to a question. If the hon. Member will refer to the answer which was given to the hon. Member for Eddisbury on 12th April, he will see the information.

Central Office Of Information

34.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will give an assurance that the appointment of the Central Office of Information as an advertising agency of the various Government Departments will not be allowed to dominate the actions of the public relations departments of the Ministries throughout Whitehall; and that there will be a genuine endeavour to make greater use of commercial firms to advise and assist in connection with all matters of advertising and propaganda.

As I told the hon. Member on 12th February, 1948, the Central Office of Information is the central Government agency for the commissioning, management and presentation of display and Press advertising and poster advertising, but the Government Departments on whose behalf it acts are responsible for the content and policy of the advertisements. As regards the second part of the Question, the Central Office employs commercial advertising agencies for all its Press and poster advertising, and thus already makes full use of their advice and assistance.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that ever since that date the Central Office of Information have never ceased to offend by wasting and squandering public money, and is it not high time that the use of this service for Government propaganda should cease in an endeavour to get rid of this tied house? Let us be quite frank about it.

It would be a welcome change if a supplementary question from the hon. Member was related to his original Question on the Order Paper.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that not only have many hon. Gentlemen opposite been a failure but that the Central Office of Information is the greatest failure his party have ever had?

35.

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement of the Government's policy as regards the Central Office of Information and their activities connected with Press propaganda, television and broadcasting.

I have nothing to add to the Prime Minister's reply to the similar question by the hon. Member on 27th January, 1948. The hon. Member will find a full description of the activities of the Central Office of Information in its Annual Report for 1947–48 (Cmd. 7567), from which he will see that these do not include television or broadcasting—or Press propaganda, unless by that he means the conduct of Press advertising for Government Departments.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer, too, was a long time ago, and that since then there has been no improvement? Let us stop all this nonsense and waste of money.

Festival Of Britain

36.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is aware of the danger that the present restrictions on materials available for the construction of buildings connected with the Festival of Britain may result in this exhibition being unworthy of the country with little benefit to its trade and prosperity; and whether, in view of the new economic circumstances, consideration can be given to the whole matter with a view to ensuring that the exhibition will provide a worthy successor to the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The Government have given the fullest consideration to the importance of making the Festival of Britain a worthy successor of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and are satisfied that notwithstanding current restrictions this will be achieved.

In view of the fact that this is an extremely important exhibition, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is dissatisfaction at the restrictions that are being imposed regarding materials, and will he reconsider the matter in order to meet these criticisms?

I was not aware of that. I thought that on the whole we were not being treated too badly by the authorities in these matters. As I informed the House on an earlier occasion, we are preparing plans for the South Bank. I have promised the House an opportunity of seeing those plans, in which case my hon. Friend will no doubt be interested to look at them; and I hope he will find that the situation is somewhat better than he apprehends.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the ways of making this exhibition a worthy repeat of the one last century is to arrange for an extension of the exhibition in the grounds of Chiswick House, and that this would not involve a very great expenditure of material?

Can the right hon. Gentleman recall whether 1851 was in a period of Tory or Liberal misrule?

Spain (Diplomatic Relations)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action His Majesty's Government propose to take following the recent decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations with regard to the full resumption of diplomatic relations with the Spanish Government.

While congratulating my hon. Friend on the very successful outcome of his personal negotiations in Geneva, may I ask whether he is aware that, while the result of the vote in New York has caused some satisfaction to Spanish democrats and to democrats in other parts of Europe, the attitude of the British Government in abstaining has not caused them any satisfaction?

While thanking my hon. Friend for the first part of his supplementary question, may I say that I do not think there is anything I can add, regarding our abstention, to the very full statement made by my right hon. Friend on 11th May.

Is there any prospect of the Government toppling off the fence on either one side or the other?

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can make a statement as to why the representatives of Great Britain remained neutral on the question of the recognition of the Spanish Government when the matter recently came before the General Assembly of the United Nations organisation.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to a similar Question asked on 11th May by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin).

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Question asked by the hon. Member for Mile End related to the action of our representatives on the Political Committee of U.N.O. and that my Question relates to the action of our representatives at the General Assembly of U.N.O.? Is he aware that a de jure recognition of the present Government of Spain would be very repugnant to most of those who support His Majesty's Government in this country? Does he really think that it is consistent with the dignity of a great nation like ourselves that our representatives should remain neutral on so important a matter and—

I am, of course, aware of the feeling of my hon. Friends on the subject of returning the Ambassador to Spain contrary to the United Nations resolution. They are feelings entirely shared by my right hon. Friend.

Has the hon. Gentleman observed that prominent Liberals have rebuked the Government for abstaining from voting, and is not this a case of Satan rebuking sin?

Can my hon. Friend say whether the moral leadership of this country in Europe can best be secured by an attitude of dashing neutrality?

Would it not be better even if the Government allowed themselves to be advised by prominent Liberals rather than by the Philippines and Chile, for example?

Czechoslovakia

Arms Supplies, Israel

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Czechoslovak Government, in contravention of the United Nations resolution placing an embargo on the sending of arms to Israel or the Arab countries, has permitted regular supplies of arms to be sent to Israel: and if he will have this matter raised in the United Nations with the object of instituting a full international investigation.

My right hon. Friend is aware that during the latter part of the year 1948 the Czechoslovak Government permitted considerable quantities of arms to be sent to Israel in contravention of the United Nations resolutions of 29th May and 15th July. Matters of dispute between the parties, such as this, are, however, probably best left at this stage to the United Nations Conciliation Commission, who have all the facts at their disposal.

What, if anything, are the United Nations Conciliation Commission doing about this matter? Is it not a shocking state of affairs when a member of the United Nations can flout a resolution of the United Nations in this way without being arraigned for it and without there being any investigation?

I do not think it would be helpful to go into all that now. The war has ceased and the Conciliation Commission should not be obstructed in their work of trying to bring the parties together.

Commercial Debts

45.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made by His Majesty's Government to ensure the fulfilment by the Czechoslovak Government of Article 5 (b) of the Anglo- Czechoslovakian Agreement dated 1st November, 1945, Command Paper No. 6695.

Representations have been made to the Czechoslovak Government in this matter, both on behalf of individual British claimants and as regards the application of Czech property taxes to commercial debts. In this latter sphere the representations have had some success.

As this agreement is concluded and the article to which I have referred the hon. Gentleman is one which guarantees that all our debts shall be honoured in full, can the Minister say what action he has taken to prevent subsequent Czech nationalisation laws interfering with the agreement concluded by His Majesty's Government?

We are continuing representations on this point, but on the last subject I should need notice.

Gerhardt Eisler (Arrest)

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what protest he has received from the Polish Government concerning the boarding of the Polish vessel s.s. "Batory" by British police officers accompanied by American officials in order to arrest Mr. Gerhardt Eisler, and carrying out the arrest against the wish of the captain of the vessel, and under protest by the Polish Consulate representative; and what reply he has made to the Polish Government's protest.

The Polish Ambassador called on my right hon. Friend on 16th May and made an oral protest stating that, in the view of the Polish Government, the action taken was contrary to international law and practice. On the same day His Majesty's Ambassador at Warsaw was handed a Note making a very similar protest. A summary of this Note was published the next day. These representations are being examined by His Majesty's Government and a reply is under consideration.

Can the Minister give an indication whether the reply is likely to be a confirmation of the Polish Government's attitude in the matter, and whether the Government think it was a breach of international law which was committed last week?

No; I can say at once that the action of the British authorities in arresting Mr. Eisler was not contrary to international law.

At the end of Questions

I should like to correct a misunderstanding that has arisen from the words which I used in replying to a supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on 19th May. The hon. Member then asked me whether the arrangements under which two representatives from the Polish Embassy were present at Southampton at the time when Gerhardt Eisler was arrested had been made before or after the application for the warrant and his arrest; and in reply I stated that the Polish Embassy were informed so that if they wished to be represented they could be there.

The facts are that the police attempted to establish contact with the Polish Consul in Southampton on the morning of 14th May, but it was found that there is no consul in Southampton. My reply to the supplementary question was based on my knowledge that the Polish authorities in London were not ignorant of the situation, since the Vice-Consul in London and the head of the Polish Shipping Mission both appeared in Southampton on Saturday morning, boarded the ship together with the police and informed the police repeatedly that they had instructions from the Polish Embassy not to allow Mr. Eisler to leave the ship. I wish, however, to express my regret if I have unintentionally misled the House.

Can the Home Secretary say, in the first place, when he had the information on the matter, and what time, therefore, there was for the information to be conveyed to the Polish Embassy; and in the second place, in view of the fact that there was no consul in Southampton—and therefore the police had no one to contact—can he say why they did not get in touch with the Embassy in London?

I could not say, without notice, when my attention was first drawn to this. It was some time before the day on which the arrest took place. My instructions to the police were that they were to contact the Polish Consul in Southampton. When they arrived there they found there was no Polish Consul in Southampton; but by that time two representatives of the Polish Embassy in London were in fact in Southampton, and in consultation with the police.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not unusual for a personal explanation to be followed by supplementary questions, as if it were an ordinary Question?

It was not exactly a personal explanation. I thought it was an explanation of facts which had been wrongly put before the House.

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House who intimated to the Polish Embassy that an arrest was pending, and whether that intimation was given before or after the magistrate had issued his warrant?

I do not know who told the Polish Embassy that an arrest was pending, but in fact when the Metropolitan Police officers arrived in Southampton they found these Polish representatives there, and, as I have said, they entered into conversation with them.

Further to my point of Order. Surely, Mr. Speaker, this is really a dangerous precedent. The Home Secretary has made a personal explanation, or explanations, on certain detailed points, and these supplementary questions are straying from them.

These are rather important details of the facts. They are not personal matters at all.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why his friends did not take the same interest in the 10 British sailors arrested by the Polish authorities in similar circumstances?

May I thank my right hon. Friend for the correction he has made, and ask him whether it is not perfectly clear that in the arrangements which were made for the taking of this foreigner off a Polish ship, no communication was officially made to the Polish Embassy at all, either by him or on behalf of the Government?

No, Sir. I do not think it would be fair to go as far as that, because the Polish Vice-Consul in London was in Southampton in communication with the police. In fact, during the conversation that took place he was in wireless communication with the Polish Embassy in London.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that I was not asking him about any information which the Polish Embassy might have got elsewhere, but whether it is not perfectly clear that His Majesty's Government, in taking this action, did not themselves draw the attention of the Polish Embassy at all to what they proposed to do, or communicate with them in any way?

I think that is true. As I said last Thursday, I accept responsibility for this matter. I had hoped that there was a Polish Consul in Southampton with whom contact could be made.

Anglo-Burmans (British Citizenship)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the dissatisfaction among Burma-born British subjects who are unable to obtain British passports because of the lack of documentary proof of their status; and if, in view of the fact that many official documents were lost during the Japanese occupation and of the inadequacy of the system of registration of births in Burma in the past, he will modify the present regulations.

So far as the difficulties to which the hon. Member alludes arise from the destruction of records in Burma, I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Godfrey Nicholson) on 8th November last. My right hon. Friend is, however, looking into the whole matter.

Can the hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that a very much more sensible and lenient interpretation will be given to the status of British subjects than has been given in the past? Is it not ridiculous that we should be allowing foreigners to obtain British nationality in this country and at the same time preventing or hindering British nationals from retaining their nationality when they come from Burma?

No, I cannot indicate a change of policy, but I am looking into the matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the answer he gave me was some months ago and that this matter should not be allowed to drift on? Can he give some urgent consideration to it?

Germany (Factories Dismantling)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take steps to cause the dismantling of the six Fischer-Tropsch synthetic oil plants in Western Germany to be discontinued.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the dismantling of factories like this, which do not directly produce arms, has been condemned by all sides of the House and has never found a single supporter in any quarter of the House? Does he not think it time that it came to an end?

Before my hon. Friend replies to that question, will he give an assurance that he will not approve of this constant attempt to nibble away necessary security measures in Germany?

I will only say that we have at last reached final agreement on an inter-governmental basis five weeks ago. We want to clear up the whole situation on that basis and not to re-open all these questions.

Is not the security interest served by a more or less permanent occupation of Germany and, if that is so, surely it is to all our interests to see that normal German industry is put on its feet at the earliest possible moment?

We have always had this problem of security on the one hand and normal industrial development on the other. We have reached finality and it is too late to re-open all this big question.

48.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is intended, despite the recommendations of the Humphrey Committee, to dismantle the wire plant of the Klõckner Werke A. G. Dusseldorf; and whether he can give an assurance that full consideration has been given to the social and economic consequences this would entail.

This plant is to be dismantled in accordance with the recent agreement with the United States and French Governments. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir."

Is not my hon. Friend aware that the plant that has already been dismantled in this particular works is apparently not of interest to any particular claimant country, and is likely to be entirely wasted; and how does this assist in the reconstruction of Europe?

Is this action being taken on grounds of demilitarisation or reparations, and will the hon. Gentleman agree that further demilitarisation is unnecessary and that further exaction of reparations is inexpedient?

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any bid has been made by any Inter-Allied Reparations Agency country for the plant of Klöckner Werke A. G. Dusseldorf already dismantled; and if he will prevent the dismantling of the remaining portion pending some assurance that this plant will be usefully employed elsewhere in the interests of the European economy.

No bids for this plant have yet been made because the date for submission of bids has not yet been reached. There is, however, no reason to believe that bids will not be made in due course. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative, since to delay dismantling further would not be in the interests of the European economy.

Is not the Under-Secretary aware that, like many other plants which have been dismantled over the past five years, this plant is lying about unclaimed, is not likely to be claimed and will therefore be completely wasted? How can he say that that is a contribution to the European economy?

I am aware that plants have been dismantled without bids being made for them. That is, as the answer to a later Question will show, because allocation was held up while a review was being made of plants to be retained in Germany.

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that large quantities of non-warlike plant dismantled in Germany for reparations purposes remains unclaimed by any of the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency Powers; and whether he will prevent further dismantling of such plants until it is clear that they will be utilised productively elsewhere in the interests of the European economy.

Substantial quantities of reparations equipment have not yet been bid for; the allocation of reparations was long delayed while a review was conducted to ensure the deletion from the reparations lists of all plants which might better serve the purposes of European recovery if left in Germany than if removed and re-erected elsewhere. This has now been completed and allocations are proceeding in accordance with the recent agreement with the United States and French Governments. It would not be in the interests of the European economy to delay until the process of allocation is complete the dismantling of those plants which remain on the list. My right hon. Friend could therefore not agree to hold up dismantling even if he were free to do so.

As some four years have gone by since the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency was established in Brussels, is it not clear that if no bids have yet been made for these plants which are still undismantled there is unlikely to be any bid? Is there any purpose whatever in dismantling them unless it is a method of demilitarisation?

I do not agree. I think that the absence of bids does not mean that bids will not be forthcoming now that, as I have shown, allocations have begun again.

Interned British Subjects, Egypt

46.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has made to the Egyptian Government in respect of British nationals who are being held in prisons and internment camps without charge or trial.

The position is as stated in the reply which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State made to my hon. Friend the Member for East Willesden (Mr. Orbach) on 31st January, except that one further internee has since been released.

Tripolitania

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps were taken to ascertain the wishes of the local population before the agreement was reached with the Italian Government on the proposal to restore Italian rule in Tripolitania in two years' time.

The proposal which was submitted to the General Assembly by the Political Committee was for the independence of Libya in ten years' time unless the Assembly decided otherwise, and for an Italian trusteeship of Tripolitania from the end of 1951 to 1959. Both the Political Committee and the General Assembly had before them the evidence of the Four Power Commission which visited the territory in 1948, and every facility was given by the British Administration to Tripolitanians who wished to state their views before the United Nations. In this connection my hon. Friend will no doubt recall that the Delegation of the so-called National Council for the Liberation of Libya was heard by the Political Committee on 12th May.

May we take it that now that the people of this area have shown in an unmistakable manner what they think of this proposal, His Majesty's Government will not support it in future?

Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Government will not in future put forward any proposals which conflict fundamentally with the wishes of the indigenous people of Tripolitania?

52.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to Tripolitania.

The decision of the United Nations General Assembly to postpone discussion of the disposal of the former Italian Colonies until September leaves His Majesty's Government charged with the continued administration of Tripolitania under the terms of Article 23 of the Italian Peace Treaty. His Majesty's Government are considering what action they can take to promote the interests and welfare of the inhabitants, but I have nothing to add at this stage.

In view of that decision, will His Majesty's Government, while awaiting the autumn, be reconsidering a policy which must look to the Arabs as if we were letting them down?

We are certainly considering anew, in the new situation, what we should attempt in Tripolitania.

While doing that, will the hon. Gentleman again consider the proposal which I made some months ago, which might have avoided some of this trouble—that is, to give a trusteeship to the Western Union collectively?

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Tripolitania has been administered merely on a care-and-maintenance basis for over six years, and that economic stagnation will be very prolonged indeed unless something is done fairly soon to re-equip the territory from a capital point of view? Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that all these delays are having very serious results, and that something should be done to overcome these economic difficulties?

We are most certainly aware of that, and indeed that explains our great efforts to reach some sort of practical arrangement at the United Nations.

Albania (Corfu Case)

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he expects the International Court of Justice to announce the assessment of the amount of compensation due from Albania to the United Kingdom.

Under the order of the Court issued at the same time as its judgment in the Corfu case, the Court ordered the delivery of three further written pleadings on the question of the amount of damages, the last pleading to be delivered by Albania on 25th August. While my right hon. Friend can naturally not predict the exact moment at which the Court will deliver its decision on the amount of damages, he is advised that this decision will probably be given, even allowing for the Court's summer vacation, soon after the close of the written pleadings.

How much does my hon. Friend expect to realise of any amount which is assessed?

Royal Navy

Hms "Amethyst"

53.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will now make a further report on the condition and whereabouts of the crew of H.M.S. "Amethyst."

The officers and men on board H.M.S. "Amethyst" are still safe and have been able to communicate with their relatives. The ship remains at her anchorage above Rose Island.

What steps have been taken to recover this crew? Are they being molested in any way?

No, they are not being molested. As for any steps being taken for their recovery, I should prefer not to make any statement at present.

Is not the crew referred to only pant of the crew? What has happened to the remainder of the crew who were landed or got ashore earlier?

A large number of them, as the hon. and gallant Member knows, have gone to Hong Kong; they are wounded.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when the last physical contact was made with the "Amethyst"?

When was the "Amethyst" last in contact with His Majesty's representative?

Naval Constructors (Salaries)

54.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will publish the Report of the Eastham Committee on the conditions and terms of remuneration for the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors; and if he will make a statement giving the proposed new conditions and terms of remuneration which are to be offered to the Corps.

The report of the Eastham Committee is a confidential document intended only for the advice of the Board of Admiralty. As my noble Friend has indicated in another place, it is hoped to make an announcement in the near future on the revised salaries of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.

Is the Civil Lord aware that the findings in the Eastham Committee's Report are now nearly three years' old, and that this delay on the part of the Government in forming a judgment on those findings is not only delaying recruiting but resulting in highly qualified men now actually leaving the Corp?

I cannot quite accept the suggestion that this matter is delaying recruiting. On the last occasion I made a statement, I was able to show that there were more people in the Corps than there were three years ago. At the same time, we are getting on with our consideration of this very difficult problem as quickly as we can.

War Medals And Stars

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what complaints he has received of the poor quality of the medals issued in respect of the last war, and particularly the Burma Star and the 1939–45 Star; and what metal is used for these stars.

Some 13 million medals and stars have been delivered and the great bulk of these issued; so far, complaints have been received from two individuals. The answer to the second part of the Question is an alloy of copper (92 per cent.) and zinc (8 per cent.).

Can the Economic Secretary say how the Burma Star compares in quality with the Mons Star of 1914? Is he aware that the British Legion have made several complaints about the poor quality of these stars and that some are sent out in such a jagged and unfinished state that recipients have cut their fingers when opening the box on receiving their medal?