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Commons Chamber

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 1 June 1949

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 1st June, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Urmston Urban District Council Bill (By Order)

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

No Motion being made thereon, further Proceeding stood adjourned, pursuant to Standing Order 190, until Tomorrow.

Marriages Provisional Orders Bill

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Crarae) Bill

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Southwold) Bill

TEESSIDE RAILLESS TRACTION BOARD (ADDITIONAL ROUTES) PROVISIONAL ORDER BILL

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Broadcasts To Russia

1.

asked the Postmaster-General how many wavebands normally allotted to amateur broadcasting stations have been transferred by him to the British Broadcasting Corporation for the purpose of supplementing Russian language and "Voice of America" transmissions.

In view of the widespread assertions that a great number of these wavelengths have been taken, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, if it is necessary to take amateur wavelengths for this political warfare, the amateur users should be consulted before they are taken?

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date he first became aware that the "Voice of America" and the British Broadcasting Corporation programmes to the Soviet Union were subjected to deliberate jamming.

Sporadic attempts have been made for many months past to jam the "Voice of America" programmes. Large scale jamming of both the "Voice of America" and the British Broadcasting Corporation programmes began on 25th April of this year, and was immediately reported by His Majesty's Ambassador at Moscow.

Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will not relax his attempts to put the British view across to the Russian people?

We shall, of course, do everything we can in that direction. At the same time, we are meeting with great difficulties at the present moment in connection with the question of broadcasting to Russia.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the date he mentioned preceded or followed the recent instruction under which our broadcasters were told that they must no longer be objective, but must remember that they were pursuing a "cold war"?

Has the Minister noted with satisfaction the extent to which the truth hurts the Communists?

Will my hon. Friend say how he knows that no such instructions were given? Is he now accepting responsibility for the direction of policy in connection with broadcasts to Central Europe and the Soviet Union? May I have an answer to that question?

My hon. Friend is well aware of the constitutional relationship that exists between the Foreign Office, on the one hand, and the B.B.C., on the other. No person in his senses supposes that the B.B.C. has issued any such instructions.

On a point of Order. I have made that statement, Mr. Speaker, and may I ask you whether my hon. Friend is entitled——

The hon. Member started by saying that he had made a statement. To obtain information, one asks questions and does not make statements.

I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, as a matter of Order, whether my hon. Friend is entitled to suggest to the House that I am out of my senses? It seems to me to be a very rude thing to say.

Post Office

Stamp Machines

2.

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the congestion in many post offices, he will arrange to increase the number of automatic machines from which postage stamps can be obtained.

It is Post Office policy to provide automatic stamp selling machines to the fullest practicable extent as a means of diverting small sales of stamps from post office counters. If the hon. Member will let me know of any particular case in which he thinks the number of such machines might with advantage be increased I will gladly consider the matter.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there are a great many instances throughout the country of the need for these machines which avoid an enormous amount of trouble and inconvenience on the part of the public and the employees of the Post Office.

That is not our view. Our trouble is in having to educate the public to use the machines which are in the post offices.

Foreign Postal Packets (Opening)

4.

asked the Postmaster General what instructions he has issued to Post Office officials regarding the opening and perusal of private correspondence between this country and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth.

In implementation of the provisions of the Foreign Postal Packets (Customs) Warrant, 1948, Statutory Instrument 1948, No. 562, Post Office staff are instructed to open postal packets sent to or from the United Kingdom only if required to do so by the proper officer of Customs and Excise for Customs purposes or for the purpose of the provisions of Part IV of the Exchange Control Act, 1947, and to reseal promptly and put in course of transmission all packets when released by the Customs. It is no part of the duty of Post Office staff to examine correspondence contained in such packets.

But this is a matter of great importance. How can the hon. Gentleman justify interference with the private correspondence of a constituent of mine with a relative—a sister who has been in Canada for the last 30 years? Is this a corollary to the invasion of the home and the examination of private shopping baskets? Is that what the Government are after?

But did the hon. Gentleman understand what the answer was, for I did not?

Manpower

5.

asked the Postmaster-General what is the relative manpower now compared to pre-war concerned with deliveries of letters.

I regret that figures relating solely to the delivery of letters are not available, but for postal deliveries, collections and allied operations, the comparable numbers of postmen employed (each part-timer counted as one-half) were: 1st April, 1939, 78,899; 1st April, 1949, 76,176.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that the figures he has just given justify the statement of his right hon. Friend the other day in which he said that the pre-war facilities of early delivery and late collection of letters were not possible because of the manpower shortage? The figures he has given are very nearly comparable.

Yes, Sir. Of course, the position is that there are now practically no split tours of duty for post office workers such as those which operated before the war and, therefore, more manpower is required for the same services.

Telephones (West Riding)

3.

asked the Postmaster-General how many telephones have been installed at farms in the West Riding during the past six months; and how many of these are being shared by more than one farmer.

In the six months preceding 1st May, 1949, 168 farmers in the West Riding were supplied with telephones. Thirty of them were connected by means of shared service.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the number still in need of telephones, and can he give any assurance that telephones will be installed at a greater rate in these rural areas?

I cannot give that assurance. This is entirely a question of the supply and availability of labour and of telephone equipment in the exchanges.

Royal Air Force

Overseas Postings

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why British subjects of non-European descent, serving in the Royal Air Force, are not granted overseas postings; and if he will remove this discrimination.

Every man serving in the Royal Air Force, whether he be of European or non-European descent, is eligible for posting to any part of the world in which there are R.A.F. units.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether that very welcome announcement indicates a change of policy on the part of his Department and the other Service Departments as well?

No, Sir. I am not able to speak for other Departments, and, so far as my own Department is concerned, I do not think there has ever been any question of racial discrimination in its policy.

With all respect, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that is not the case? I can submit evidence of it; but I am very glad that he has made this new announcement.

Training Machines, Southern Rhodesia

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Air when older training machines now in use by the Royal Air Force at Heany, Southern Rhodesia, are to be replaced by the more modern types available for pilot training in this country: and whether jet-propelled aircraft will be sent out.

At present the School at Heany for ab initio flying training is equipped with Harvards and Tiger Moths. The Harvards will be replaced by the Balliol or the Athena next year. I am reconsidering the question of the aircraft to replace the Tiger Moths. It had been intended to use the Prentice for this purpose, but certain technical difficulties have now arisen in connection with the use of this aircraft at high altitudes. It is not proposed to use jet aircraft for ab initio training either in this country or in Southern Rhodesia.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the Harvard advanced trainers now available at Heany are indeed serviceable machines?

Yes, Sir. I am quite sure that no machine would be used if it were not serviceable.

Civil Aviation

Cardiff Airport

10.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation when he proposes to derequisition the Cardiff airport.

There is no intention of derequisitioning Pengam Moors Aerodrome.

Can my hon. Friend say why there is no promise at all to derequisition this airport? Can he give some reason for that?

If Cardiff wants it derequisitioned and does not want an aerodrome and will let us know, we shall be prepared to consider it. Our information is that Cardiff not only desires an aerodrome, but air services as well.

Accident, Prestwick (Inquiry)

11.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he has now received the report of the inquiry into the crash of the Dutch airliner near Prestwick.

Can the hon. Gentleman give any indication why this report has been so long delayed?

The law is not a very speedy instrument in England; it appears to be even less speedy in Scotland.

Can my hon. Friend say whether he has yet received any report on the collision of the Anson and the Dakota at Coventry, and whether it is being published?

Foreign Service Staffs (Medical Facilities)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is satisfied that adequate medical and hospital facilities are available for foreign service personnel serving in Bulgaria, Roumania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

In Poland, the British and United States Embassies in Warsaw have combined in providing a small but well equipped hospital to which a British doctor is being appointed. In the four other countries panels of local doctors have been appointed for the provision of treatment for Foreign Service staffs, free of cost to themselves, and as far as possible on the same lines as those of the National Health scheme in the United Kingdom. These arrangements are working well generally and providing reasonably adequate medical facilities. Hospital facilities in these four countries vary. In Bulgaria, arrangements exist whereby emergency cases can be evacuated by air to British Military Hospitals at Trieste, and whereby drugs and medical supplies which are not available locally can be sent from the United Kingdom or from Trieste.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in many of these countries local doctors are very unwilling to attend a case of sickness in a foreigner's house, particularly when that foreigner is a British official?

I am not aware that these arrangements are not working well, but if there are any particular instances where they are not, I will look into them.

Italian Colonies (Future)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he proposes to take in view of the rejection by the United Nations Assembly of proposals in connection with former Italian colonies in North and East Africa.

There is still nothing to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 23rd May, which applies equally to all the former Italian colonies.

Can my hon. Friend say whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to maintain their policy as stated on 4th October, 1944, that these Italian colonies should not be returned to Italy?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether there is any likelihood that the United Nations Assembly will ever agree with a sufficient majority to any proposals put forward with regard to the future of the Italian colonies?

I should hesitate to forecast the attitude of the United Nations Assembly towards this problem in the future.

When considering their policy in regard to this matter, will the Government bear in mind a Western Union trusteeship?

Yes, Sir. We have all those ideas under consideration at the present time.

Greece

Children (Removal)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has had from the British representative at the General Assembly of the United Nations as to whether officials of the International Red Cross have been granted visas by the governments of the countries concerned, to enable them to visit kidnapped Greek children and arrange for their repatriation, in order to ensure that the resolution of the United Nations Assembly is carried out; and if he will cause inquiries to be made into this matter.

A preliminary report has been submitted to the United Nations by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies on the question of the Greek children removed to other countries. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. The report shows that while delegates of the International Red Cross had at that date already visited Greece, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria and had carried out investigations in these three countries, facilities for the entry of delegates had not been furnished by the Governments of other countries sheltering Greek children. It has, however, been subsequently learned that the Yugoslav Government has granted these facilities.

On a point of Order. This matter has been brought up on many occasions in connection with Questions, and I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is permissible to ask a Question which makes an allegation against other nations and uses a phrase which the Minister, quoting from the official document of U.N.O., carefully avoided? There is no official accusation anywhere of kidnapping.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the position is that, so long as two of the Governments refuse to co-operate with the International Red Cross and to allow their officials to have visas, these children will be permanently removed from their parents, year in and year out? Is this not a gross crime against humanity?

May I ask the Minister why he used the word "sheltering" in his answer which suggested that they are being protected whereas, in fact, they have been kidnapped?

As progress is now being made on the subject by the Red Cross Societies, I think we should go ahead with it and try to keep out the political side.

Will the hon. Gentleman draw the attention of hon. Members opposite to the film showing the life of these children in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, which is available in London and which is being shown by the Council of Greek Democracy at the Crown Cinema on a date which the Under-Secretary could no doubt give?

Would the hon. Gentleman assure the House that in the view of His Majesty's Government at least, the right place for these children is with their parents?

Can my hon. Friend say whether the report of the International Red Cross Committee actually furnished the evidence that the children had been kidnapped?

It is only a preliminary report dealing principally with the question of access to the countries concerned.

Is it not the case that none of the countries referred to has such an industry as kidnapping, and that kidnapping is peculiar to America, from which Eisler succeeded in escaping?

British Aircraft (Deliveries)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what requests he has received from the Greek Government during the last 12 months for fighter aircraft, fighter or light bombers and training planes, respectively; when these requests were received; and whether they have now been fully met.

During the past 12 months, 74 fighter bombers have been delivered to Greece on request and against payment. Of these 20 were ordered in January, 1948, and delivered in July, 1948; delivery of 54 ordered in August, 1948, is just being completed. No aircraft in other categories mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member have so far been delivered, but by August we expect to meet outstanding requests for 24 training and 12 transport aircraft, ordered in March and April of this year.

Why was the Greek Air Force kept short of Spitfires during the whole of the winter campaign when Spitfires are obsolescent craft in this country? Is the Minister aware of the very urgent need in Greece for fighter bombers and light bombers of a slightly large type than Spitfires?

I think the nature of the aircraft is a different question. I think my answer explained the reply to the first part of that question.

Could the Under-Secretary state what types of aircraft were sent to Greece?

Can my hon. Friend say whether these aircraft are paid for by, the Greek Government or whether we give the aircraft to them?

Is the hon. Member aware that nothing would serve better to raise the morale of the Greek National forces at this critical stage——

—of the summer campaign than an announcement by His Majesty's Government that they would welcome any further orders for aircraft of this description now that the programme is being completed?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the better the aircraft to go to the Greek Fascist forces, the better the aircraft that are captured or taken from them by the Greek popular forces?

On a point of Order. May I ask you, Sir, whether it is in Order for the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) to refer to the legally-elected Government of Greece as being "Greek Fascist forces?" Is that in Order and, if not, should it be allowed? This is a friendly Government.

I did not hear the word "Fascist." It is, of course, the Greek Government.

Are you prepared, Sir, to allow another hon. Member to rise and put a question before one question has been completed and the Minister has been enabled to reply?

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I hope you will take note of the fact that attention has been drawn to this question by the other side, because on very many occasions I have drawn attention to the use of language by the other side in connection with the democratic Governments of Eastern Europe.

Is the Under-Secretary prepared to give an answer to my question?

I will complete my question, which was interrupted, I thought rather unexpectedly, by points of Order from the other side. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that hon. Members on the other side at least are perfectly well aware that the Fascist group in Greece are what they call the official Government group?

On a point of Order. On a previous point of Order, Mr. Speaker, you said you did not hear the legal Greek Government described as a Fascist Government. That statement has just been repeated by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills). Now that it must have been heard by you, I repeat the point of Order—whether a legal Government with whom we have diplomatic relations should be so described?

I heard the hon. Member for Finsbury and he was in error, because he made an imputation. He did not call the Government a Fascist Government; he said there were groups behind the Government which are well-known as Fascists. That is exactly what I heard and I listened very carefully. That, of course, was an imputation and an inference which should not be made.

Further to that point of Order. Are we to understand from that Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the question of whether a Government is a Fascist Government or not is now a question of Order in this House and not a question of fact?

Further to that point of Order. Have we not adopted an attitude in the past three years that there are certain Fascist Governments in the world—the Governments of Spain, of Portugal, of Greece, and of near-Fascist Turkey?

I think the word "Fascist" is always taken in an unfavourable sense, and, therefore, to use it against one of those Governments is an imputation against that Government. The hon. Gentleman has just said, I think, that three or four Governments are Fascist. Since this word is an imputation, it is better not said.

On the last point of Order that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) made, he specifically described the Greek Government as being a Fascist Government. I listened most carefully to what he said. He said the Governments of Spain and Portugal and Greece were Fascist. I am sure he would not deny it. In view of the fact that all the members of the Greek Government participated in the fight against Fascism in 1940 while the hon. Member was supporting it, is it not particularly unfortunate that he should say such a thing?

Further to that point of Order. Is it necessarily out of Order to refer to a Government, even mistakenly, as a Fascist Government unless it is to be assumed, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has assumed, that no legally appointed Government would be Fascist?

This is getting rather complicated. I have not found the word "Fascist" in Erskine May as being out of Order. Neither is the word "Communist" out of Order. The one is an imputation on the one side, and the other an imputation on the other side. I think it unfortunate that these reflections should be made against any Government, be they Fascist or Communist Governments.

The question I was putting was this. Does not my hon. Friend realise that those Governments whose civil wars are supported by dollar grants from America, invariably find themselves giving or selling or losing their equipment to the popular forces?

That is another imputation, because the hon. Gentleman said the Government were supported by dollars, and I have had complaints about that before.

On a point of Order. Is it to be tolerated, and is it in accordance with the proceedings of this House at Question Time, that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) should be allowed repeatedly to rise to his feet and obliterate the subject matter of a Question by booming out his supplementary questions that cast imputations? I submit that that is not in Order.

Usa Bases (Employees)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the discussions with the United States Government as to the application of the ruling by the United States Supreme Court that the American Fair Labour Standards Act is applicable to all persons employed in any military base that has been leased to the United States of America.

The discussions with the United States Government to which the hon. Member refers are still in progress, and I am therefore not in a position to make a further statement for the present.

As the discussions have been going on since 9th March, according to the last answer we had on this matter, could we have some assurance that they will be speeded up; and when they are completed, could the hon. Gentleman see that a list is published of all the British possessions or Colonies to which this American decision applies—all those which have got bases, whether secret or otherwise—and made available in the Library?

I think that when the conversations are ended we shall see whether such a list will be necessary.

Yugoslavs (Trial)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he now has any news regarding the trial of the six Yugoslavs who were handed over by the British authorities in Germany to the Yugoslav Government on 2nd August, 1948.

I have at present nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend on 3rd November last. His Majesty's Embassy at Belgrade are making further inquiries of the Yugoslav authorities.

Does my hon. Friend remember that these people were handed over on 3rd August last year and that they had then been three years in our hands? Do not the Government accept any responsibility at all for what happened to them? Is it true or not that they were put to death on the day they arrived?

We certainly have no confirmation of my hon. Friend's suggestion, but I am now making inquiries in Belgrade.

German Prisoners Of War

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether arrangements have now been made with all Governments to return all German prisoners of war, wherever they may be, to Germany.

According to the information at present available, the only countries in which undischarged German prisoners of war remain in great numbers are the Soviet Union and Poland. His Majesty's Government together with the Governments of France and the United States delivered Notes to the Soviet Government on this subject on 3rd January and 15th March, 1949. Representations have also been made by the British authorities in Berlin to the Polish Military Mission in Germany about the slow rate of repatriation from Poland to the British Zone. German prisoners of war are still being repatriated from both the Soviet Union and Poland, but I am sorry to say that at the present rate it will be a long time before the operation is completed.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are some 200 German prisoners of war still in Albania, from which country no prisoners have been returned since 1946? If that fact is not included in the review, will he take steps through the Albanian Government to get them sent home again?

When the hon. Gentleman looks into the question of Albania will he try to find out also whether there is any considerable number of formed troops of ex-German prisoners in Albania?

Can my hon. Friend give the House some idea as to the number of prisoners still held in the Soviet Union and in Poland? Has my hon. Friend got those figures?

Our latest estimate is that the number runs at least well into six figures.

Was it not factually rather misleading of my hon. Friend, in reply to this very unqualified Question, to make no reference at all to the large number of German ex-prisoners of war who happily remain in this country on a voluntary basis?

Norway (British Trawler, Arrest)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will inquire into the incident which occurred on 5th May when the Hull steam trawler "Lord Nuffield," while fishing outside Norwegian territorial waters, was arrested by the Norwegian gunboat "Soroy" and forced to proceed to Vardo; if he will cause a protest to be made to the Norwegian Government; and what steps he proposes to take to provide adequate protection for British trawlers in future, so that there is no repetition of such incidents.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the recent encounter between the British deep-sea trawler "Lord Nuffield," and a Norwegian gunboat.

The "Lord Nuffield was arrested by a Norwegian fishery protection vessel for trawling in waters reserved by Norway to Norwegian fishermen. She was taken into Vardö and there released on payment of a deposit pending proceedings in a Norwegian court. His Majesty's Ambassador at Oslo has been instructed to lodge a protest with the Norwegian Government and to reserve the full rights of His Majesty's Government including the right to claim financial compensation for the losses which have been incurred.

This and a few similar incidents which have taken place in recent months are the outcome of Norwegian claims to exercise exclusive fishing rights in certain areas off the Norwegian Coast which His Majesty's Government regard as high seas. Negotiations held in London last January led to a modus vivendi being provisionally recommended to both Governments. His Majesty's Government have expressed willingness to accept this, but the Norwegian Government have not yet done so.

Meanwhile incidents are clearly liable to occur in the areas under dispute. My right hon. Friend discussed the situation fully with the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs when he was in London and His Majesty's Government earnestly hope that an early decision will be reached.

Will the hon. Gentleman bring to the attention of his right hon. Friend the fact that it would appear to be the intention of the Norwegian Government to prevent our trawlers from fishing anywhere in the vicinity of Norway? Will he see that proper protection is given to our trawlers when they are fishing outside Norwegian territorial waters?

I can only say, as my reply shows, that we are concerned about this problem and we are doing our best in a neighbourly spirit to get it settled.

Is the hon. Gentleman going to answer the question as to adequate protection being afforded while these negotiations are pending?

I think in times like these our attitude should be one of forebearance and a friendly spirit.

In view of the fact that the forebearance of His Majesty's Government has produced no result except these very unfortunate incidents with a friendly nation, will he now say that he intends to bring this whole series of incidents to an end by giving protection and pursuing with much more vigour his attempts to end the impasse?

The hon. Member must distinguish between being friendly and firm, on the one hand, and being rather provocative on the other.

Why is it provocative for a vessel of ours to be on the high seas, and not provocative for a Norwegian vessel on the high seas to arrest it?

I think it is understandable that in the circumstances of these fishery disputes there is a special sensibility on the Norwegians' side which we should take into account.

As the basis of this whole matter is a dispute as to what are high seas and what are territorial waters, will my hon. Friend resist provocative suggestions from the other side of the House and continue his efforts to achieve an amicable settlement?

Is it not our right to protect our fishing fleet operating outside territorial waters? There is no question of provocation attached to that. It is our right to protect them and we should do so.

I am not sure that this matter has yet reached a stage where it is a question for admirals.

On a point of Order. Surely it is understood in this House that the position of a Member of Parliament overrides whatever private position he may hold.

May I ask whether, as a Member of Parliament, quite apart from whether I may be an admiral or a gentleman or anything else, I am permitted to ask the question which I asked?

Mr. Speaker, I recognise that I have made a slip in this matter. I was unaware of the point of Order, and I unreservedly withdraw what I said.

Nigeria (Cocoa Marketing Board)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the constitution of the Marketing Board which controls the West African cocoa industry in Northern Nigeria; how many official and unofficial members are appointed by His Majesty's Government; how many are local residents; how they are appointed; and what is a quorum for a meeting.

I have been asked to reply. Cocoa is not grown in Northern Nigeria but in the South and West. The Nigeria Cocoa Marketing Board was established under Nigerian legislation and the Governor appoints the members. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the legislation and of the Board's first annual report which contain the detailed information for which he asks.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether all the representatives are nominated by the Governor and, if so, will he consider arranging for direct representation by local interests?

They are nominated by the Governor and three of them are Nigerians.

On a point of Order. May I ask what is now the international status of Northern Nigeria, as this Question appears on the Order Paper to be answered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs?

As it is a comparable case with the position of Western Germany, could Questions on Western Germany now be addressed to the Colonial Secretary?

The right hon. Gentleman said he had been asked to reply and I presume that is good enough.

Further to that point of Order. Although it is quite proper that the Colonial Secretary should have replied, in fact the Question has been passed by the Table to be asked of the Foreign Secretary.

I have no power to say who shall answer and who shall not. That is quite beyond the powers of the Table. It is not a matter for me; it is entirely a matter for the Government Front Bench.

Do we understand that Questions regarding the cocoa industry or the Cocoa Marketing Board must in future be put to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs?

Further to that point of Order. Do we understand that on a day when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is down for the first Questions and when the Secretary of State for the Colonies is last for Questions, it will be in Order to put Colonial Questions on the Order Paper to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in order that they may be reached?

Eritrea And Ethiopia

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that His Majesty's Government favour the reunion of Eritrea to Ethiopia, he will instruct the British Military Administration to extend full rights of organisation and propaganda to the Eritrean popular movement for reunion with Ethiopia.

My right hon. Friend deprecates the implication, contained in my hon. Friend's Question, that the degree of political liberty in Eritrea is governed by His Majesty's Government's policy for the future of the territory. The Unionist Party of Eritrea is in possession of full political rights. As regards the Youth Movement of that Party, I have nothing to add to the reply given to my hon. Friend on this subject on 30th May.

Germany

Refugees

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent refugees are still coming into the British zone of Germany; and how many camps are established there which can provide suitable facilities for caring for families accompanied by children.

German refugees are still arriving in the British zone from the East at the rate of about 30,000 per month. The German authorities who are responsible for the reception and welfare of the refugees estimate that 40 of the camps established in the British zone are suitable for resident children.

Is not my hon. Friend aware that the position in Schleswig-Holstein in particular is reaching unmanageable proportions and, in view of that, will he get into touch with the French authorities, who have no refugees in their zone, to see whether they can take some so as to relieve the position for us?

My hon. Friend will be aware that we have, in fact, taken that action and that discussions have taken place. Some redistribution of refugees has taken place to the advantage of Schleswig-Holstein.

Can my hon. Friend give any estimate of the comparable number of refugees crossing from the Western zones into the Eastern zone of Germany?

Housing

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, with the object of reducing unemployment in Western Germany and helping to re-establish family life, he will investigate the possibility of negotiating foreign credits for a large-scale housing programme.

The Military Governors have had occasion recently to emphasise to the Germans the need for utilising their available resources to the full where housing is concerned. Much can, in fact, be done in this direction before the question of foreign credits need arise.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is widespread unemployment in the building industry in Western Germany and could not some of these men be directed to collecting materials from the war-shattered areas, so as to use them for re-building purposes?

This is a matter for the German authorities. As I have stated, the military governors have drawn their attention to this question already.

Will the hon. Member refrain from creating unemployment by dismantling plants engaged in productive industries?

Does not my hon. Friend consider that the cause of this unemployment, as well as the lack of housing, is due to the removal of controls by the laissez-faire German administration at Frankfurt?

Traffic, Berlin

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many goods trains have reached the Western sectors of Berlin from Western Germany since the ending of the blockade; and what steps are being taken to increase the flow of rail traffic.

As regards traffic for which the Western Allies are responsible, 140 trains had reached Berlin from the Western Zones between the lifting of the blockade on 12th May and 31st May. Of those only 20 arrived since the Berlin railway strike began on the night of 20th May. Negotiations are in progress with the Soviet authorities in Berlin to increase the rate of flow, which, even before the strike began, was subject to restrictions to which I referred in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) on 25th May. Discussions are still proceeding on a quadripartite basis, particularly with a view to making other routes available in addition to the Helmstedt-Magdeburg-Berlin line.

Is it not the fact that the Soviet Union agreed, before these conversations about Germany started, that they would put an end to the blockade, and is it not quite obvious from my hon. Friend's answer that the Soviet Union have broken their word again as usual?

On a point of Order. After the protests we have just had, is it in Order for an hon. Member to refer to a friendly Government——

I understand that there is a Treaty of friendship between this country and the Soviet Union. Is it in Order to refer to a friendly Government as having "broken their word as usual"? That is a deliberate imputation. If we are to have imputations on one side, hon. Members will get them on the other.

Is it not a fact that on many occasions the Soviet Government have broken their word?

Further to the point of Order. I ask for my own guidance. I should like to know what is in Order and what is not. What I should like you to say, Mr. Speaker, is whether it can ever be in Order with regard to a friendly Government, to say they have "as usual broken their word."

Would it be in Order to say that the Soviet Government had attached the usual importance to their pledges?

Would it not be in the interests of Members that what is and what is not in Order should not be too clearly defined?

Can the Under-Secretary of State tell us whether since the railway strike began, the airborne and waterborne traffic through Western Germany to Eastern Germany has continued quite unrestricted?

Can my hon. Friend tell us what is the number of trains that normally would run through compared with the number of trains now allowed through?

I have tried to make an estimate of the percentage that has been stopped. I think it is true to say that, if there had been no strike, then the lifting of the blockade as carried out by the Soviet authorities would have led to a volume of traffic of 70 per cent. compared with that of a year ago. The strike, however, has cut that 70 per cent. to 20 per cent.

In view of the fact that the Soviet Government have undoubtedly broken their word, on this occasion particularly about the lifting of the blockade, is it not time for us to stop trading with the Soviet Government until they allow trains through?

There are quadripartite discussions in Berlin on this whole subject. There is nothing I can usefully add to what I have said already.

Gerhard Eisler (Polish Note)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has now made to the Polish Note of protest with regard to the arrest of Herr Gerhard Eisler.

A reply will be delivered to the Polish Government very shortly and will then be published.

In view of the fact that the international practice up till now has been that no country exercises jurisdiction over the civil vessel of a foreign Power within its territorial waters unless there is an issue of piracy or murder, or unless something is happening on the vessel that threatens the peace of the neighbourhood, will my hon. Friend see that we recognise that "strong-arm" methods have been used in this case which have never been adopted by us before, and which ought not to be adopted?

Colonial Empire

Food And Raw Materials

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement regarding any outstanding successes achieved in the Colonies in State pilot schemes for growing food and raw materials.

It is too early yet to discuss outstanding successes in State pilot schemes in development policy in recent years. The success of such schemes must be judged largely by their economic results. Which in many cases cannot be determined for several years. A number of schemes are now in various stages of development or planning in different parts of the Colonial Empire.

Tuberculosis Officers (Africans)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many tuberculosis officers, who are graduates in medicine, are employed in the African Colonial Service; how many of them are Africans; and, of these, how many have received their training in tuberculosis work in Africa.

A great deal of work on tuberculosis is being done in the Gold Coast and Nigeria, in all the East African territories, and in the Silicosis Bureau in Northern Rhodesia. Some of this work is done by specialist officers, but much by both European and African medical officers who combine it with other public health work. I could not give the figures asked for in the Question without reference to the Governments concerned, and I doubt whether, if the figures were obtained, they would by themselves give a clear picture of all that is going on.

Would my right hon. Friend accept the principle that if this problem is to be solved in the reasonably near future, the best men for the work would be Africans whose post-graduate training in this special field can be in Africa, where they must meet in their work the same problems as they have to face throughout the whole of the time they are there?

Tuberculosis Statistics

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many cases of pulmonary tuberculosis were notified and how many deaths were certified during 1948, in Northern Rhodesia, Kenya, Tanganyika and Aden.

I have asked the Governors of the four territories to supply this information. I will communicate with my hon. Friend when it arrives.

41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the average cost per bed, in his recent provision of 102 beds for the treatment of tuberculosis in Aden.

The average cost of the provision of tubercular patients in the Civil Hospital at Aden was £90 per bed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware, and will he agree, that this figure is a remarkably low one, which suggests that there has not only been initiative shown there, but a real capacity for improvisation; and will he bear in mind, in advising other territories, that a chromium-plated sanatorium is not necessary, and the problem can be solved without it?

Hong Kong

Aircraft Accidents (Inquiries)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, what arrangements exist in Hong Kong for inquiring into aircraft accidents.

Accidents to civil aircraft in Hong Kong are investigated on behalf of the Governor by the Director of Civil Aviation. The investigation of accidents to Service aircraft in Hong Kong is of course a matter for the Service authorities concerned.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an accident took place a year ago—in June last year—to a Catalina aircraft, and that still there has been no report issued of the findings about the accident. Will he look into the matter, because many local claims depend on the findings?

Volunteer Forces (Recruitment)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether he is satisfied that the recruitment of volunteer forces in Hong Kong is now meeting with an adequate response.

Recruitment is proceeding steadily but not as rapidly as was hoped. I am assured by the Governor that everything possible is being done to stimulate recruitment for the Defence Force and in particular for those components which are principally concerned with internal security duties and with the maintenance of essential services.

Can the Minister say whether there is any question of applying conscription to British nationals already in Hong Kong?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether adequate equipment and training areas are provided for the volunteers?

Trinidad (Appointments)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many natives of Trinidad who have been given scholarships and training in this country are still awaiting posts.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have in my possession a letter from a student who is in exactly this position, and who states that there are many in the same position; and will he look into the matter if I let him have that information?

All our information shows that there are no students waiting now for appointments.

Kenya And Uganda (Fertiliser Imports)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what quantity of fertilisers was imported into Kenya in 1928, 1938 and 1948, respectively; and if he is satisfied that this is now sufficient to meet all the local requirements.

The figures give the combined imports of Kenya and Uganda. The imports, in the three years mentioned, are 2,230, 2,580 and 8,250 tons. I have no reason to think that requirements are not being met, although there is still some difficulty over the supply of some kinds of fertiliser.

Tanganyika

Railway Survey

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been achieved with the survey to be made from the East side of Lake Nyasa to Mikindani in Tanganyika.

Arrangements are in train for the survey of a railway route between M'twara (formerly Mikindani) in Tanganyika and the Northern Rhodesian Railways system in the near future. This survey has not yet started, but 20,000 square miles in this area have been aerially photographed and provisional maps for 8,000 square miles have been drawn. The ground survey of the section connecting Lindi and M'twara with the groundnut area has been completed.

In view of the urgency of the question, will the right hon. Gentleman see that increased air survey facilities are provided?

Labour Ordinance

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will advise the withdrawal of the Labour Supply and Utilisation Ordinance, 1948, by the Government of Tanganyika in view of the objections of the African population.

No, Sir, I am unaware of any widespread African objection to this Ordinance. I should add that the Ordinance has not been brought into operation.

As the Ordinance has not been brought into operation, would it not be wise to consider its abrogation?

Mauritius (Discharged Workers)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to employ the several hundred unemployed men in Mauritius who have lost their jobs owing to the cuts in the roads estimates.

I am informed that 500 men were discharged in August, 1948, in consequence of a reduction in the financial provision. All those who applied were offered, and some of them accepted, alternative employment on Government works or on private estates. A number, however, refused to accept anything but Government employment, despite the fact that other employment was available.

Gold Coast (Senior Officials)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies which senior Colonial Office officials have recently been absent from the Gold Coast at the same time; for how long; and how many are still absent.

The Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy, left the Gold Coast on medical advice on 2nd March, a month before the time at which he would normally have come on leave and is still here. The Chief Commissioner, Ashanti, came on leave at the same time and is due to return in July. No other senior administrative officers are now, or have recently been, absent from the Gold Coast.

Does that not mean that while they are away, other senior officials have to take their posts temporarily, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable worry which is being caused under the present conditions in the Gold Coast when so many senior officials are away?

It necessarily follows that if a senior administrative officer is away someone must deputise for him.

Togoland (Consultative Commission)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent there has been Anglo-French consultation in respect of British and French Togoland with a view to joint action to assist the Togoland peoples; and whether further consideration will be given to the need of securing co-operation and closer unity between these peoples and their tribes now subject to two separate European Powers.

There is continuous consultation both in West Africa and at the metropolitan level. A Standing Consultative Commission for Togoland set up in 1948 contains elected African members from both the Trust territories and has a permanent joint secretariat. All these arrangements are intended to improve local co-operation and, in particular, to minimise practical difficulties due to the frontier between the two territories.

Can my right hon. Friend say what tangible result has accrued to the peoples of Togoland, both in the French and British parts, during the last two or three years? Has there ever been any sign of definite improvement through these consultations.

The Powers have collaborated together and certain advantages have come to the African people; but I would also point out that the situation is under constant review by the United Nations.

Is the Minister aware of the continuous dissatisfaction and growing discontent among members of the Ene tribe in both parts of Togoland, and of their desire to emigrate into the adjacent British Colony of the Gold Coast?

There was dissatisfaction, and because of that, the United Nations welcomed the appointment of this particular Commission by the French Government and ourselves.

Armed Forces

Communists

45.

asked the Minister of Defence how many officers, noncommissioned officers and men have been discharged from His Majesty's Forces because they were Communists or of Communist sympathies.