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Written Answers

Volume 465: debated on Monday 30 May 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 30th May, 1949

Transport

Cattle Grids

4.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he intends to introduce legislation to legalise the construction of cattle grids on roads.

Navigable Waters (Oil Discharge)

5.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the damage being done to the beaches of our seaside resorts by the washing up of oil and oily substances by the tides; and if he will take steps to make it an offence for vessels to eject oil into the waver or to throw oily substances overboard within 10 miles of the coast.

Yes. The discharge of oil within British territorial waters is an offence under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1922. Outside territorial waters the problem requires the co-operation of the principal maritime nations, but shipowners of this country and of a number of other countries have agreed not to discharge oil into navigable waters within 50 miles of any coast.

Level Crossings

9.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has yet received from the British Transport Commission the report which he asked the Commission to submit on the question of occupation level crossings; and what steps he proposes to take.

No, but I am informed by the British Transport Commission that considerable progress has been made with the investigation of the general aspects of this problem and particularly the principles which should be followed in the case of occupational level crossings which have acquired a public or semi-public status.

Railway Freight Rebates Fund

asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes winding up the Railway Freight Rebates Fund; and what is the present balance in the fund and the approximate annual revenue.

I am not yet in a position to indicate when the Railway Freight Rebates Fund will be wound up. At the end of the last financial year of the fund, viz., 30th September, 1948, there was a credit balance of £1,513,487, of which £418,719 is being distributed in the current financial year. The present annual revenue of the fund is approximately £3,480,000.

Ministry Of Supply

Motor Car Exports

15.

asked the Minister of Supply what percentage of Austin, Ford, Morris, Vauxhall, Standard and Hillman motor cars, respectively, which were manufactured in 1948, were exported.

It would be contrary to established practice for Government Departments to give information of this kind relating to individual contractors.

Barbed Wire

16.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he intends to decontrol the supply of barbed wire in the near future.

Restrictions on the acquisition of barbed wire were removed on 13th May, 1946.

Fuel And Power

Gas Council And Boards (Remuneration)

23.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why copies of the statement laid by him on 6th May, 1949, under Section 57 (1) of the Gas Act, 1948, disclosing the remuneration paid to members of the Gas Council and Area Boards were not available at the Vote Office on 16th May, 1949.

The statement in question, which was laid under Section 5 (7) of the Gas Act, 1948, was immediately available for inspection in the Library of the House. Neither the Act nor precedent requires such a document to be printed and copies made available in the Vote Office.

Domestic Coal Supplies

24.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power by what date he anticipates it will be possible to abolish the present system of domestic coal rationing; and to what extent this decision depends on the increasing of the total production of coal in this country.

I cannot at present forecast when it may be practicable to discontinue restrictions on coal supplies to domestic premises. Since there is a potential domestic demand considerably higher than the supply at present available and since all increase in exports is also of vital importance if our standard of living is to be maintained, a substantial increase in production, particularly of large coal, is obviously a prerequisite to the relaxation of control over domestic supplies.

Palace Of Westminster (Taxicab Shelter)

19.

asked the Minister of Works if he will provide a room adjacent to Westminster Hall where hon. Members can shelter from inclement weather when waiting for taxicabs.

I have consulted the authorities of the House and I understand that there is no general demand for such a room which could only be provided by taking over space at present used for other purposes.

Food Supplies

Sugar (Pharmaceutical Preparations)

34.

asked the Minister of Food what is the present quantity of sugar made available for allocation on the advice of the Ministry of Health to firms in the phramaceutical trade who commenced business after 1939 or who desire to do so now; and how this quantity is divided between preparations made according to the British Pharmacopoeia or British Pharmacopoeia Codex; non-British Pharmacopoeia preparations and medicinal tablets and lozenges.

The quantity is 500 tons of sugar this year. So far, 157 tons have been released for preparations made according to the British Pharmacopoeia or British Pharmacopoeia Codex; 13 tons for non-British Pharmacopoeia preparations, and none for pastilles and lozenges. Each case is considered on its merits.

Sago Flour

37.

asked the Minister of Food what stocks of sago flour are held in this country; and at what price they were purchased.

As the hon. Member knows, we do not consider it to be in the public interest to disclose our stocks. The weighted average C and F price of our stocks of sago flour is £36 7s. 3d. per ton.

38.

asked the Minister of Food what increase there is in the stocks of sago flour held in this country over the stocks of that commodity held on 1st April, 1948.

Our stocks of sago flour now are less and not more than at 1st April, 1948.

Germany

Dismantled Plant (Bids)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any bid has yet been made by any Inter-Allied Reparations Agency country for the dismantled portion of the Salzgitter iron and steel works.

Greek Rebels (Alleged Aid)

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans has recently found that the Eastern zone of Germany has sent money and supplies to the Greek rebels; that the sending of these supplies with the knowledge of the authorities in the Eastern zone of Germany constitutes a violation of paragraph 9 of the United Nations General Assembly's Resolution of 27th November, 1948; if he has any statement to make on this matter; and what action he proposes to take through the United Nations organisation.

I am informed that the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans have received a memorandum from the Greek Government alleging that money and supplies have been sent to the Greek rebels from the Eastern zone of Germany; but that the Committee have not yet reached any findings on the subject. Until they do so, no question arises of His Majesty's Government taking any action.

Transit Permits

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the Military Permit Office charges a fee of 5s. for each visa issued to a person for direct transit to Germany by train or car to Switzerland; and why it is necessary for this charge to be made.

The fees charged by Military Permit Offices for the issue of military permits for entry to or transit through Germany are fixed by tripartite agreement at a level destined to cover the expenditure of maintaining Military Permit Offices in the various capitals.

Leasehold Reform (Committee's Report)

28.

asked the Attorney-General whether he will now make a statement on the interim report of the Committee considering Leasehold Reform.

No. I expect to be able to do so shortly after the Whitsun Recess by which time the report will have been published.

asked the Attorney-General whether, having regard to the large numbers of leasehold properties, owned by workers, due to lapse in the immediate future, he is prepared to state the Government's policy so as to prevent undue exploitation of this situation by landowners.

No; not until the Leasehold Committee have reported on this question.

Us Official (Visit)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the purpose of the official visit to Great Britain of Mr. Ben G. Habberton of the United States Department of Justice; and what is the exact nature of his conferences with Government officials while in this country.

I am informed that Mr. Habberton came to this country to assist the United States Embassy with the case of Mr. Gerhardt Eisler. He has had no conferences with Government officials. He visited Scotland Yard where he was informed that the police were unable to advise him on this subject.

Schleswig-Holstein (Agricultural Land)

48.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how the Einheitswert of agricultural land as at present assessed in Schleswig-Holstein compares with today's estimated fair market value.

Very few estates have come on to the market in Schleswig-Holstein in recent years. Such transactions as there have been tend to show that in the case of small estates the Einheitswert is at present equal to approximately half the market value. In the case of large estates the Einheitswert is equal to approximately three-quarters of the market value.

Cardinal Mindszenty

52.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has received about the physical and mental health of Cardinal Mindszenty.

I regret that my right hon. Friend has received no reports on the subject.

Eritrea (Youth Movement)

55.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the British Military Administration in Eritrea has outlawed the Eritrean Youth Movement for reunion with Ethiopia and seized the property of the organisation; and whether he will give instructions for such property to be restored and for rights of propaganda and organisation to be extended to the Eritrean Youth Movement.

The Chief Administrator of Eritrea issued an order on 6th April declaring illegal the Youth Movement of the Unionist Party of Eritrea on the grounds that it had been carrying out subversive activities likely to endanger public security in the territory. My right hon. Friend has since received a report from the Chief Administrator setting out the reasons which rendered such action necessary on his part. Study of the report is not yet completed, but on the evidence available it would seem that the action taken by the Chief Administrator was fully justified.

Czechoslovakia (Visas)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many people in the service of His Majesty's Government are awaiting entry visas to enable them to take their appointments in Czechoslovakia; and how many people in Czechoslovak Government service are awaiting entry visas to enable them to take up appointments in this country.

The answer to both parts of the Question is that no applications were outsanding on 25th May. In this connection, I regret that the information contained in my answer on 6th December to the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) was inaccurate in so far as it related to Czechoslovakia. There were in fact no British officials awaiting entry visas to Czechoslovakia on that date. Two of the passports in respect of which applications had been made were received back with visas that day, and the other three applications, which referred to transit visas to Roumania, had not then reached the Czechoslovak Embassy as the Roumanian visas were still awaited.

Denmark (Parliamentary Delegation)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what answer he has given to the invitation from the Danish Parliament for an all-party Parliamentary delegation to visit Denmark; and if he will make arrangements for this visit.

The invitation has been accepted and I am making the necessary arrangements for the visit to take place from 3rd June to 11th June.

Agriculture

Fowl Pest

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture to what extent the recent outbreaks of fowl pest in Cheshire can be traced to waste containing imported carcases.

No definite connection between these outbreaks and imported poultry carcases has been established, though in three of the five primary outbreaks, the birds had access to waste foodstuffs some of which may have either contained or been contaminated with imported material.

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what precautions he proposes to take to guard against fowl pest through the importation of carcases in the future.

Fowl pest may be spread from infected carcases either by the feeding of raw scraps to poultry (which is illegal) or by physically transferring the virus to poultry food by the hands or otherwise. All poultry carcases from the Continent of Europe are eviscerated and have their heads and feet removed before importation. If, therefore, reasonable care is taken to prevent the contamination of poultry food, the risk of the disease being spread through imported carcases is small. Most of the recent outbreaks have been on the premises of domestic poultry keepers, and my right hon. Friend is arranging to give publicity to the need for them to exercise care when handling the carcases of purchased poultry. My right hon. Friend does not consider that any other special steps are possible at the present time.

Polled Cattle (Import)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of increasing meat production in this country, he will recommend that permission be granted for the importation from Canada of a certain number of polled Herefords to form the nucleus of a polled herd.

I am prepared to consider proposals for the importation of polled cattle from Canada, subject to certain conditions designed to minimise the risk of introducing animal diseases, and to ensure that the cattle are of a good standard of quality and likely to be used to the best advantage. These conditions are that the proposals shall be sponsored by a breed society or other similar organisation, and that the cattle shall be selected by representatives of that society in association with officers of my Department.

Retail Shops

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Retail Trade Committee set up by his Department in 1941 issued a report; and whether he has any record of the number of retail shops in 1939 used for trading by chemists, confectioners, stationers, tobacconists, newsagents or any other retail trade and the number of such shops per head of population.

The Retail Trade Committee produced three reports, in October, 1941, January, 1942, and June, 1942, and these were published by His Majesty's Stationery Office. The information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available. Such information for retail trades generally can only be obtained by means of a Census of Distribution; provision for the first census covering trade in 1950 has been made in the Census of Distribution (1951) Order.

National Insurance (Foreign Workers)

asked the Minister of National Insurance by what means foreign workers, temporarily employed in this country, can obtain reimbursement of payments made by them for retirement and old age pensions.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) on 21st September, 1948, a copy of which I am sending him.

Industrial Plants, Usa (Delegation)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the names of the delegates recently sent to visit industrial plants in the United States, under the auspices of the Anglo-American Council on Productivity.

I have forwarded my hon. Friend's Question to the Joint Secretaries of the Council, and they will no doubt be communicating with him.