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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 7 July 1949

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High Commission Territories (Appeal Court)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will consider the setting up of a Court of Appeal for the three High Commission Territories on the lines of the West African Court.

Yes, Sir. As I have informed the House in answer to an earlier question, I am now considering the question of providing a Court of Appeal in criminal cases for the High Commission Territories in South Africa. I will certainly take my hon. Friend's proposal into account, but, as I know he understands, the matter is very complex, and I am afraid that I cannot promise him a very early decision.

Trade And Commerce

Resale Price Maintenance (Committee)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the qualifications of the members of the committee appointed to consider resale price maintenance.

The members of the committee were chosen for the individual contributions they could make in the inquiry into resale price maintenance, and not in any representative capacity. With the hon. Member's permission I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of their qualifications.

When the right hon. Gentleman is considering the proposals of this committee, will he bear in mind the strong Left-wing bias of some of the principal members of this committee and the fact that one of its members was so biased that he felt himself free to comment on the subject of this report to the Fabian Society while he was still sitting as a member of the committee?

I am not aware of any Left-wing bias in the membership of this committee. I should be very surprised and interested to hear that the Opposition were opposed to the recommendations of this committee, which are designed to stop restrictive practices on the part of private traders.

Is it not most unfortunate, if it be the case, that while this matter was still being considered a member of the committee should publish something for the Fabian Society, because the whole matter is of the utmost importance and it is most desirable to have a strong report on this subject by a plainly unbiased committee?

Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, for the House to be advised how the question of a statement by an undisclosed member of this committee to a body outside arises out of a Question on the Order Paper which is directed only to the qualifications of members?

It is not for me to say how it arises. There are insinuations and implications in these supplementary questions which I do not like very much.

Further to the point of Order. May I, with permission, say that it was only when the suggestion of lack of bias was made that I had to draw attention to the example of very clear bias?

Further to that point of Order, surely it is perfectly in Order, when a question of qualifications and bias is raised by the Minister himself, to point out that a member of the committee is writing to a Left-wing publication while the committee are considering the subject matter?

Further to that point of Order, if an hon. Member of this House wishes to get information about that sort of thing, would it not be playing more fairly with the gentleman concerned and with the House if he put that Question instead of some other Question on the Order Paper?

Is it now an understood thing that a member of an official committee is precluded from expressing his views, on a subject on which he is expert, in the public Press during the whole period in which that committee is sitting, or is it alleged that use has been made of private information in this regard? So far that has not been alleged and is not the case.

That is a little complicated. In these Questions one has to use a little moderation.

Following is the statement:

Mr. G. H. Lloyd Jacob, K.C. (Chairman): A leading counsel at the Patent Bar.

Managing Director of Stuart Advertising Agency; Founder-member of Advertising Service Guild; founder of Design Research Unit.

Alderman Mrs. L'Estrange Malone, J.P., M.A.: Member of the London County Council; former Vice-Chairman of the L.C.C. Social Welfare Public Assistance Committee.

Mr. John Ryan, C.B.E., M.C., M.A., B.Sc.: Vice-Chairman of Metal Box Co. Ltd.; Vice-Chairman of British Export Trade Research Organisation and of International Distribution Commission. Member of the Central Price Regulation Committee, of the Prices of Building Materials Committee (Ministry of Works) and of the Agricultural Marketing Committee.

Mr. H. G. Sharp, F.I.A., F.F.A.: Formerly Manager and Actuary of the Scottish Widows' Fund and Life Assurance Society.

Mr. Henry Smith, M.A.: Vice-Principal of Ruskin College, Oxford. Chairman of a Commission of Inquiry into the cost of living in Newfoundland. Author of "Retail Distribution" published in 1937; served with the Ministry of Food during the war as an economist with special knowledge of distribution.

Mr. R. E. Yeabsley, C.B.E., F.C.A., F.S.A.A.: Partner, Hill Vellacott & Co., Chartered Accountants; Accountant Advisor to the Board of Trade and to the Central Price Regulation Committee. Member of Hosiery Working Party 1945; of the Committee of Inquiry into Distribution of Building Materials and Components, 1946–48; of the Committee of Inquiry into the mineral resources of the United Kingdom, 1946; and of the Committee on High Court Procedure 1947.

Development Areas (Surveyors)

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he proposes to set up his own architectural and quantity surveying staff for carrying out architectural and quantity surveying work required for the trading estates in the Development Areas.

No, Sir. Arrangements for such work will continue to be a matter for the individual estate companies who employ outside consultants and, in some cases, have their own small architectural and quantity surveyor's department.

Newsprint (Weekly Newspapers)

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why it is permissible for a weekly newspaper to print nine pages of 405 square inches, whereas it is not permissible to print the equivalent area in pages of 305 square inches; and if he will take action to end this anomaly.

The detailed administration of the rationing of newsprint for newspapers is in the hands of the Newsprint Rationing Committee, which is composed of representatives of the newspaper publishers themselves. The committee have, with the approval of the Board of Trade, established the maximum number of pages for all types of newspaper. The maximum number of pages for a weekly newspaper of page size exceeding 250 square inches and selling at 2d. is nine, and this is not affected by any variation in the page size above 250 square inches.

Would my right hon. Friend consider giving a direction to this committee about the special case that has been put to him? Is he aware that when a newspaper cannot use the concession to revert to its pre-war page size, it has no means of taking advantage of the additional supply of paper that is being granted? Will my right hon. Friend consider making a concession on this point?

I am sure my hon. Friend will realise that the difficulty about this is that some size has to be fixed to differentiate one group from another and, whatever size is fixed, it will cause hardship. I will look into the question of reversion to an earlier size.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the point in this case is, that where a newspaper has changed its plant and cannot revert to its pre-war page size, it cannot get any advantage from the paper supply? Will he consider this as an exceptional case?

Footwear (Sweden)

5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has now reached agreement with the Swedish authorities about imports and exports of footwear in 1949.

It has not been possible to reach agreement with the Swedish authorities about imports and exports of footwear in 1949.

Leather Imports

6.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the amount and quality of upper leather available for boot and shoe manufacturers in Kettering are low; and what steps he is taking to improve the position.

I understand that there is sufficient leather to meet the general demand for footwear, but that some manufacturers may not be able to get all they would like of special types. In this respect, I do not think that the position in Kettering differs appreciably from that elsewhere. Heavy purchases of hides for upper leather have recently been made in the Argentine, and a substantial quantity of hides and skins has been provided for in the new Argentine agreement. I anticipate, therefore, that there will be a considerable improvement in the quantity of upper leather during the next few months.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of the manufacturers in Kettering have now stocks for little more than a week and that they believe that a better quality of upper leather in larger quantities is available, either as skins or tanned, from France and that it has been offered to this country quite recently?

I am aware of the position in France. We are in discussion with the French authorities on this point and I hope to make an announcement in the very near future, but I am sure my hon. and learned Friend would not wish to suggest that we should take all the French supplies of leather without having a reasonable proportion of French supplies of skins for our own tanning industry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider dispensing with some of the Government's system of bulk purchases of skins and leather and reverting to private purchase, which would result in a better supply?

That is an entirely separate question. If it were not, the answer would be, "No, Sir."

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the importance of getting upper leather from France is perhaps greater than the importance of getting wines from France?

Yes, Sir, but it is very much easier to get wines from France. While the discussions are still going on—and I hope to make an announcement shortly—I hope my hon. and learned Friend will not press for more information.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there are adequate supplies of leather at least to provide shoes for children, in view of the fact that if they run about barefoot there is grave danger of their becoming Presidents of the Board of Trade?

7 and 8.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what information he has about quantity, quality and price of upper leather, skins or tanned, available in France for export to this country; what are the figures of imports of upper leather from France recently, last year, and before the war; and what are the present restrictions on such imports;

(2) what are the figures of imports of upper leather from dollar countries, and from other countries excluding France, recently, last year, and before the war.

The information asked for by my hon. Friend on imports of upper leather is largely statistical, and I am sending him a statement on this matter. I understand that substantial quantities of certain types of leather may be available in France, but I have no precise information as to the quantity, quality or price. Under arrangements recently made, however, imports of leather from France are likely to be greater this year than last. A proportion of the leather to be imported from France will be subject to the condition that the goods made from it must be exported. The level of imports from all sources has to be determined with due regard to our international obligations in the field of commercial policy.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is possible to import upper leather tanned, as well as in skin?

European Trade

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement on the policy of His Majesty's Government in the matter of relaxing restrictions on intra-European trade.

Yes, Sir. I apologise for the length of this answer, but in view of the importance of the subject, I am sure the House would wish me to deal with it fairly fully.

I apologise for interrupting, but there are 80 Questions on the Paper. As it is clear that this answer is a very long one, could not the right hon. Gentleman read it at the end of Questions instead of now, in order to safeguard the position of other hon. Members?

If it were for the convenience of the House, and if you, Mr. Speaker, were so to authorise it, I should be prepared to read this answer at the end of Questions. I am sure, however, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not in any sense wish to suggest that the statement which I am making is not a very important one with which the House would wish me to deal as fully as possible, but I will leave the matter in your hands, Mr. Speaker.

It is just because it is so important that I thought it ought to be a special pronouncement.

Was not a protest made from the benches opposite yesterday because a Minister asked permission to read a statement at the end of Questions?

Is it not a fact that in that case permission was asked to circulate the reply?

At the end of Questions

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now answer Question No. 9.

As the House will have realised from the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday last, His Majesty's Government have, during recent months, been considering the possibility of a substantial step forward towards closer and more efficient economic integration in Western Europe and towards a removal of obstacles to European trade, through a concerted effort by O.E.E.C. countries to remove or relax import licensing restrictions on each others' goods. These restrictions were originally imposed by individual countries to safeguard their balance of payments, but in the new European trading situation many of them have begun to outlive their purpose and are tending to hinder the recovery of trade. Their progressive removal, by giving an added incentive to producers and traders to improve their efficiency and to lower their costs and prices, would be of direct benefit to consumers as well as to exporting industries in the United Kingdom and other countries.

His Majesty's Government believe that the time has come when it should be possible for both the United Kingdom and other countries to take steps to relax progressively their restrictions on imports from sources outside the hard currency area to the fullest extent consistent with safeguarding their balance of payments. Indeed, they consider that in present circumstances a progressive freeing of European trade on a competitive and multilateral basis is desirable. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer therefore submitted proposals for action by O.E.E.C. countries on these lines to the O.E.E.C., which has now recommended such action to all its members.

I should make it clear that such a policy of removal of trade restrictions would have to be considered in relation to the settlement of certain other matters: First, the relaxations cannot be applied to countries with which they would cause balance of payments difficulties; in particular, our payments arrangements with countries to which they apply must be such as to avoid any spending of gold and dollars by the United Kingdom. Second, while in present circumstances we clearly cannot contemplate extending these relaxations to countries with whom our balance of payments is such that gold or dollar payments would be involved, we should need to be in a position to apply the relaxations wherever and whenever this could be done without creating new balance of payments difficulties. This raises certain questions in respect of our obligations to countries outside O.E.E.C. Third, while we should be prepared to take a lead in removing restrictions, how far we can go must depend on the extent to which other countries feel able to follow our lead and relax restrictions on their imports from us within such limits as their balance of payments may set.

Further, in deciding upon the list of goods to be freed from import restrictions, we shall have to bear in mind the legitimate interests of our own industries. What I have in mind is the existence in certain cases of severe restrictions on the quantities of goods which certain of our industries are free to put on the home market. It would obviously be unfair to permit producers in other countries to sell without restriction in the United Kingdom market so long as United Kingdom producers are subject to severe limitations of this kind; in such cases we could relax import controls only as and when the restrictions on our own producers could be relaxed.

It is not possible at this stage to say precisely what action may result from our initiative or how far we may be able to go, but I thought the House would wish to be informed at this stage of the steps that we have already taken.

As I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that, as a result of this move on the part of the Government, other countries had been recommended by the O.E.E.C. to try and take similar action, can he say whether anybody, except ourselves, has yet agreed to do so?

Yes, Sir. The discussion at O.E.E.C. was participated in by all the member countries, and all undertook to take this action.

As the Question on the Order Paper specifically relates to intra-European trade, but as the Minister appears to be talking merely about intra-Western European trade, is he bearing in mind the very important distinction, and is he doing something in regard to Eastern Europe as well?

I think the House is fully informed of what is being done by Western European countries to increase the volume of intra-European trade as well, but such action requires corresponding action by other countries.

Would it be true to say that the practical meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's statement is that we do not intend to make any relaxations at all upon imports, or, if we do, what relaxations does he intend?

We hope to have a very wide system of relaxations of quota restrictions on our imports, but I have made it clear that that cannot extend to cases which involve the loss of gold or dollars by this country.

In view of the qualification in my right hon. Friend's statement about our own industry, which must, of course, include our relationship with the industry of the Commonwealth and Empire, may we take it that these proposals will be discussed with the Commonwealth Finance Ministers next week?

Yes, Sir. Our friends in the Commonwealth and Empire have been kept fully informed, and I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Finance Ministers will wish to consider what we are doing in this matter.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us the names of one or two commodities which he thinks he might allow into this country in greater quantities? If he cannot even do that, perhaps he can give us the names of one or two countries with whom we have no difficulties?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to put down that question. I should have thought he would have known at least one or two countries with whom we are not in balance-of-payment difficulties at this time. As far as individual commodities are concerned, so much depends, as I have already said, on the question of how far international obligations would stand in the way of a wide extension, that I should prefer not to make a statement about the commodities to be covered at this stage.

Apart from our new efforts in O.E.E.C., can my right hon. Friend say whether this country is continuing to be an active and effective member of the Economic Commission for Europe?

Yes, Sir, a fully active member, but if my hon. Friend wants to pursue the matter, I would point out that it is a separate question from the one we are now discussing.

If greater freedom is now to apply to trade, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is going to apply to travel also, and will he make a statement about what countries it will be easier to visit?

Publications (Paper Allocation)

10.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what paper quota is available to the "National News Letter" edited by Mr. Kenneth de Courcy; and how does this compare with the allocations made to similar publications.

I cannot give details of the paper allocation for any individual publication, but as far as I am aware Mr. de Courcy does not edit the "National News Letter."

"Aquitania" (Vacant Berths)

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the interest of the tourist industry, he will request the Tourist Board to investigate why the "Aquitania" which arrived from the United States of America on 25th May had a large number of vacant berths, and to report to him.

No, Sir. I do not think it necessary to have such an investigation. I have, however, myself had inquiries made of the shipping company, and understand that the "Aquitania" is at present primarily used to carry emigrants to Canada. Its accommodation is of a more austere type than in other ships and it is less popular with passengers.

Yes, but is not the existence of these vacant berths quite inconsistent with the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade on 21st June, when, claiming that the Government's policy of encouraging American tourists had been completely successful, he said that all accommodation on eastbound ships had been fully booked for many weeks past?

Yes, but I am sure that the hon. Member would not suggest that this ship should not be used for the emigrant traffic to Canada, and I am also sure that he would not suggest that we should use force to compel tourists to travel in the ship if they do not wish to do so.

Cotton Cover Scheme

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when the new cotton cover scheme, drafted by the Raw Cotton Commission, can be expected to come into operation.

I understand that the Raw Cotton Commission is considering the question in the light of the circumstances to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred in his statement yesterday.

Could the right hon. Gentleman ask the Raw Cotton Commission to hurry up and provide an adequate cotton cover scheme, at the same time bearing in mind that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange provided very adequate facilities before the war?

I am well aware of the facts to which the hon. Member refers, but of course, whether this commodity was under private or public purchase, consideration would have to be given to the shortage of dollars for the purchase of cotton.

Wood Pulp Imports

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why wood pulp is still being imported from abroad at a time when there is a glut of waste paper in the hands of local authorities and the compulsory collection of paper salvage has had to be discontinued.

Pulp is being imported where our financial position permits in order to provide suitable qualities of paper and board.

In view of what the Chancellor said yesterday, is it not essential that we should avoid importing any material which can be procured from waste stocks in this country?

Yes, but the hon. and gallant Member will realise that practically the whole of this pulp comes from soft currency sources, and it is a fact that, although supplies of waste paper of certain mixed grades are now adequate, the supply of special grades is very far from being adequate.

The Argentine (Scheduled Goods)

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he intends to take to implement his undertaking to the Argentine Government to facilitate the supply of scheduled goods.

The attention of production departments and trade associations is being specially drawn to the schedules and I am confident that exporters will be eager to supply the Argentine market. Action will also be taken whenever it is necessary in accordance with Articles 14 and 15 of the agreement.

Can the President of the Board of Trade say whether similar guarantees could have been effected with the Soviet Union when we reached certain difficulties last year?

Stowaways (Statistics)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many stowaways have arrived in the United Kingdom since the end of the war; from what countries they have come; how many were British subjects; and how the figures compare with prewar average figures.

From 7th August, 1945, to 13th June, 1949, 1,397 alien stowaways arrived in the United Kingdom; and 1,514 British stowaways arrived in the United Kingdom in the three years, 1946, 1947 and 1948. I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT tables showing the nationality of the alien stowaways and the territories from which the British stowaways came. I regret that figures for the pre-war period are not available.

I have legal power to deport alien stowaways, and that is generally done, except when they can prove that they are refugees from political persecution. I have no power to deport stowaways who are British subjects.

Following are the tables:

ALIEN STOWAWAYS
7th August, 1945, to 13th June, 1949
Austrian1
Belgian10
Czech7
Danish5
Dutch52
Finnish99
French49
German69
Greek23
Hungarian10
Italian6
Norwegian19
Polish107
Portuguese229
Roumanian28
Russian3
Spanish222
Swedish18
Swiss4
Other European Nationals14
U.S.A.24
Central American20
Chinese2
Egyptian9
Other non-European Nationals42
Stateless or Nationality Doubtful325
Total of Alien Stowaways1,397

BRITISH STOWAWAYS
1st January, 1946, to 31st December, 1948
From:
Aden and Yemen30
Barbados14
British Guiana15
British Somaliland45
East Africa6
Gambia109
Gold Coast213
Jamaica281
Kenya7
Nigeria267
Sierra Leone211
Trinidad20
Other Territories296
Total of British Stowaways1,514

Police

Ex-Palestine Police Officers

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of the ex-Palestine Police Force have been recruited into the Metropolitan Police; and how many of these have been allocated to divisions covering the boroughs of Stepney, Hackney, Stoke Newington and Bethnal Green.

One hundred and sixty-eight ex-Palestine Police officers are serving in the Metropolitan Police: of these, 27 are attached to stations covering the boroughs of Stepney, Hackney, Stoke Newington and Bethnal Green.

Does the Home Secretary recall that the police constable who a little while ago was convicted of incendiarism was one of the ex-Palestine Police? The Home Secretary will remember that constable's attitude towards certain inhabitants of East London. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore look into this matter?

No, Sir. The police constable in question was not an ex-member of the Palestine Police Force, but had served in the Regular Army in Palestine.

Procession (Route)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds, at whose request and by what power did the Commissioner of Police change the route of the demonstration from Hyde Park to Grosvenor Square on Sunday, 3rd July.

I am informed that the Commissioner of Police received no request from anyone to change the route in question. He decided to exercise his powers under subsection (1) of Section 3 of the Public Order Act, 1936, to impose conditions as to the route because he had reasonable grounds for apprehending serious public disorder if the route proposed were followed.

Why is it that in this particular case the Commissioner of Police used these powers; and why is it that when the Fascists intended to demonstrate in East London, and the local citizens protested through their mayors, the Commissioner of Police could not use the same powers?

On the last occasion when there was some trouble during a march of Fascists, it may be recalled that the police in fact did vary the route, and it excited some anger on the part of friends of the hon. Member and they stoned the police as a consequence. On this occasion it was felt, in view of what happened on 1st May, that it would be unwise for this procession to follow the route originally planned. Serious difficulties and disorders did occur in that neighbourhood in connection with people associated with this procession, and it was felt unwise to give them an opportunity of repeating that.

Will the Home Secretary allow at least as much freedom to Communists to demonstrate in London against the British or American Government as would be allowed in any demonstration which might take place in Moscow against the Moscow Government?

Electoral Register

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of Forms A, issued in connection with the autumn electoral register, have been returned to the registration officers; and what steps are being taken to ensure that the registers are made as complete as possible.

The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. I have no doubt that electoral registration officers have taken all practicable steps, as is their duty, to obtain the information necessary to ensure that the register is as complete as possible.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether financial provision is made to assist these officers in carrying out the necessary canvass?

Can the Home Secretary say whether the canvassers have instructions that at a house which contains a number of tenants they must not deliver all the forms on the ground floor? In one case within my knowledge the ground-floor tenant was a Communist who, having no faith in democracy, withheld forms from the people upstairs.

I think that the canvasser in that case could not have been fully instructed. I live in circumstances somewhat similar to those described by the hon. Member except with regard to the political affiliations of my neighbours, and in my case the forms were certainly delivered at each separate flat.

Sunday Observance Act

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will repeal, or modify, the Sunday Observance Act, 1780.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave on 17th February last to my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker).

In view of growing public uncertainty as to what Sunday entertainment is permitted, will not my right hon. Friend bring this somewhat obsolete Act up-to-date and take its application out of the hands of cranks, busybodies and cheap informers?

No, Sir. This matter would only create controversy, and at the present time there is no prospect of any legislation.

In any event, is not the repeal or modification of an Act of Parliament a matter for Parliament and not the Home Secretary?

While this Statute may be outmoded in certain respects, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no support in any responsible quarter in this country for anything approaching the Continental Sunday?

Aliens (Visas)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he has refused to extend beyond 8th July the visa of V. Plawinski, a political refugee of whom particulars have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Stafford; and if he will reconsider his decision.

I have carefully and sympathetically considered this case, but I regret that I am not prepared to extend the visa of Mr. Plawinski and his wife, who were allowed to come here on a short visit for private purposes.

Is it a fact that this man was invited to come here from Germany by a high-ranking British officer, and was given to understand that he could stay here? Will my right hon. Friend consider extending this man's visa so that the matter can be more fully investigated?

No. This gentleman applied for a visa for a visit of one month to allow him to come here to visit his mother. He brought his fiancee with him, and since they have been here they have married, but I know of no reason for extending the period for which this man can stay here once he has had his honeymoon here.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Mr. Averame, who arrived at Dover from Italy on 14th June with a return ticket, was repatriated by his officers without being allowed to land, although only intending to make a temporary visit for which all the necessary guarantees had been obtained; and what compensation he proposes to make to Mr. Averame.

This alien was refused leave to land because the immigration officer, after questioning him and his host, Mr. Beales, reached the conclusion that his object was not to make a temporary visit but to establish himself in this country. In view of Mr. Beales' protests to the immigration officer it was arranged that the alien should not be sent back until the following day in order to give Mr. Beales an opportunity of communicating with the Home Office. A firm of London solicitors who telephoned to the Home Office on behalf of Mr. Beales early on the following day were informed that the decision of the immigration officer must stand; and the alien was sent back on the boat which left at 12.15 p.m. I can find no grounds for the payment of compensation.

Is it not a fact that he was given permission to stay, after having been refused permission?

No, Sir. He was refused permission to land. It was then suggested that if higher authorities were consulted, permission might be granted. The immigration officer said that he would give the man permission to land while application was made, but he would have to leave the next day, and that procedure was followed. I think that the immigration officer was exceedingly helpful in this case.

Can my right hon. Friend say what information the immigration officer had at his disposal which was not at the disposal of my right hon. Friend or the Foreign Secretary, whichever it is, when the visa was granted; and if objection was to be taken would not it have been better to take it before the man went to the expense of making his visit here, and not give the visa at all?

No, Sir. Unfortunately, my experience is that a number of these people, when they apply for a visa, tell a story about the length of time which they wish to spend in this country, but when the person is questioned here by the immigration officer it is disproved. In this case the man obtained a visa on the ground that he wanted to come here for a short stay; but it was revealed at Dover that he was, in fact, coming here for a permanent stay.

Is not it a fact that Mr. Beales, a prominent resident of Swindon, had given a guarantee that the man would return to Italy?

No, Sir. When asked by the immigration officer if he would give such a guarantee, he pointedly declined.

Is it due to the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) that Mr. Averame's name is pronounced "Beales"?

I think that the hon. and gallant Member is confusing the alien with the person he was coming to visit in this country.

Approved School, Carlton

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that there is still much local concern resulting from house-breaking, theft and disorderly conduct indulged in by the boys at the approved school at Carlton, Bedfordshire; and what action he proposes.

No recent complaints have been made to me on this subject; but I am informed that four exceptionally difficult boys have absconded on five occasions in the past month, taking others with them, and, I regret to add, have stolen property and vehicles to aid in their escape. I understand that charges are likely to be brought against the ringleaders.

While I did not hear all of the reply from the Home Secretary, may I ask him whether he is aware that there is a feeling of considerable insecurity in this part of my constituency so far as the behaviour of these boys is concerned? Will he look into the whole matter and take some further action beyond that already taken on a previous occasion when there was trouble?

No, Sir. The number of abscondings from this school is not unduly high, and compensation has been paid in those cases where it is applicable.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that almost every night one of these boys breaks out, does damage, goes back, it is discovered later and it is impossible to trace him?

National Health Service

Doctors' Prescriptions

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that much larger quantities of medicines are frequently supplied on National Health Service prescriptions than are necessary; and what steps are being taken to prevent such waste of public money.

A doctor whose prescriptions suggest extravagance may have his prescribing investigated by a local professional committee. Before this he would be given the opportunity of explaining his reasons to, and being advised by, one of my Department's medical officers.

Appliances (Supply)

24.

asked the Minister of Health how many deaf aids and surgical appliances, dental treatment and pairs of spectacles and any other specialised service of which he has a record have been supplied since the National Health Service came into operation.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, give the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any comparative figures of previous periods dealing with this same subject, and if so, will be publish them at the same time?

Following is the information:

Number of items provided in England and Wales since 5th July, 1948.

Hearing aids (electrical and non-electrical)—27,000.

Surgical and medical appliances (hospital service)—164,000 (see note ( a)).

Dental treatments (in general service)—6,800,000 (see note ( b)).

Glasses (supplementary ophthalmic service)—4,500,000 (see note ( c)).

  • (a) Figures for appliances supplied through the general medical service are not available.
  • (b) This includes all forms of treatment, and is not limited to dentures. Figures for dental treatment at hospital are not available.
  • (c) Figures for glasses supplied through the hospital eye service are not available.
  • Hospitals (Baby Cots)

    29.

    asked the Minister of Health what instructions he has given to hospitals regarding the maximum space between the bars of baby cots.

    I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the circular issued to hospitals on this subject.

    I have seen it, and I was wondering whether it had occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that the hospital authorities, regional and local boards, to say nothing of the matrons and others, are quite capable of ordering baby cots without being instructed by the Minister's circular.

    The hon. and gallant Member is quite wrong in his supplementary question. It was found that a baby had died as a consequence of the distance between the bars of the cot being too wide. As soon as we heard of that we immediately made a recommendation as to the kind of cots which should be used in order to prevent a recurrence of that tragedy, and I am really astonished that an attempt should be made to cover with ridicule a piece of proper administration.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the circular suggested that where the space between the bars was wider than the measurements mentioned, netting should be used, and does he realise the danger to the baby which might be caused by its sucking the netting?

    All these matters were taken into account. My technical advisers at the Ministry are probably more competent than the hon. and gallant Member to determine such questions.

    Can we take it that my right hon. Friend has also circulated this most helpful advice and guidance to the private manufacturers of these cots?

    It obviously follows that as soon as we decided to standardise the kind of cot we are to use in hospitals and maternity homes, the manufacturers of the cots will be notified immediately.

    Hearing Aids

    31.

    asked the Minister of Health why Mr. L. T. A. Randall, of 41, Grange Road, Orpington, who was examined at Farnborough Hospital last February for deafness, and on the advice of the surgeon wrote to King's College Hospital on 7th, 21st and 30th May, which letters have not been acknowledged, has not received a hearing aid, particulars of which have been sent him; and if he will take immediate steps to see that Mr. Randall's hearing aid is supplied.

    This patient appears to have no claim for preferential treatment, but he will receive an aid as soon as one is available.

    Is not this another example of the incapability of the Government to implement their promise of a Socialist Utopia which they made in 1945?

    Aural aids are being distributed at present as fast as the professional services required for their administration can handle them. Indeed we have had very many letters from all over the country expressing high praise for the aural aid.

    Doctors' Motor Cars

    32.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the efficiency of the National Health Service is being gravely impaired by the inability of doctors to obtain new cars; and whether he will consult with the manufacturers and with the other Departments concerned, with a view to arranging for an effective priority for the supply of new cars to be given to doctors whose existing cars require replacement.

    I am aware of the difficulties which are not, of course, peculiar to doctors. Motor car distributors and dealers have already been asked to give preference to doctors whose need is urgent, and these arrangements were made after considering representations from the profession's representatives.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman examine the evidence which I have sent him and which clearly shows that, in the East Riding of Yorkshire at any rate, there is no adequate supply of new cars for doctors, and does it not seem pointless to spend these vast sums on the National Health Service if the right hon. Gentleman will not take elementary steps to see that doctors can get to their jobs?

    The figures, which I think were given by the East Yorkshire branch of the British Medical Association, show that out of 114 of the doctors who had applied, 76 had post-war cars and only 38 had what were described as unsuitable pre-war cars.

    Health Centres

    33.

    asked the Minister of Health how many health centres have been set up throughout the country; how many are in the process of being set up and if he will make a statement on the general progress of health centres.

    Twenty-six existing clinics are being run as health centres, medical or dental. One important new scheme is under way, and three other proposals are being considered. Meanwhile a special committee of the Central Health Services Council has the whole subject of future development in view.

    In view of the very great importance of health centres, will not the Minister follow the example of his late and great compatriot, Mr. Lloyd George, who studied the labour exchanges in Germany, and himself make a study of the highly efficient and modern health centres in Czechoslovakia?

    I should not like to model our social services on those of Czechoslovakia.

    Spectacles (Butchers)

    34.

    asked the Minister of Health what special arrangements are made under the National Health Service for the issue of additional spectacles to butchers.

    On a point of Order. Before this Question is answered, might I ask for your guidance? I have always understood that the Clerks at the Table would refuse to accept any Question which was ironical. Surely, Sir, this Question can only refer to the efforts of the butchers to see the present meat ration.

    That is entirely a matter of opinion. I am no judge of that. Mr. Bevan.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread Conservative propaganda to the effect that butchers are abusing the scheme? Is there any evidence of that?

    There is no evidence as far as I know. In certain circumstances—and this can arise in some professions—a person requires spectacles for near sight, middle sight and far sight. Where a third sight is involved, special application must be made to the ophthalmic committee of the executive council, who will then examine all the facts.

    Is it not a fact that what the butchers need is not so much spectacles as microscopes?

    Capital Expenditure

    37.

    asked the Minister of Health what is the total amount of capital expenditure on the National Health Service since its inception; and if he will give an estimate of the proposed capital expenditure in the next three years.

    The total amount of capital expenditure on the National Health Service from its inception to 31st March, 1949, is estimated at £7,321,000. No estimate of the proposed capital expenditure in the next three years can be made at present as this is dependent on the Government's programme of capital investments, which is under consideration.

    Is the Minister aware that mad expenditure by his Department is one of the main reasons for the economic crisis?

    The supplementary question is as irrelevant as such questions usually are when they come from the hon. Member.

    London Lock Hospital

    42.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the proposal of the regional hospital board that the London Lock Hospital should cease to be used as a hospital for the treatment of venereal diseases; and whether such action has received his approval or sanction.

    This proposal has not been before me officially, because the regional hospital board's delegated powers for the planning and development of hospital services in their area do not require them to obtain my approval before they make changes in the use of particular hospitals.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman take special action to see that this proposal is not carried through, in view of the opposition of consultants and specialists and venereologists?

    If representations are made to me that a particular hospital ought not to be diverted from or to a particular purpose, I will take such representations into account.

    Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the regional hospital board gave the most careful and sympathetic consideration to the case of the Lock Hospital, and that it was only after this matter had been discussed very carefully for a very long time that they reached this decision?

    I think it is obviously desirable that the regional boards should not be interfered with too much in their detailed plans by the central authority.

    Housing

    Unoccupied Premises (Requisitioning)

    25.

    asked the Minister of Health if he will take the power to prevent the requisition of property which is unoccupied pending the determination of development charge under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, in cases where the absence of beneficial occupation is due solely to delay on the part of the Central Land Board.

    In cases where I authorise the requisition of unoccupied dwellings the owners have the right to make representations, which the local authority must take into account before deciding whether to retain the premises. An owner could in such representations adduce considerations of the kind referred to in the Question.

    Has the Minister power to intervene, and would he intervene in a case of which I would be happy to give him notice, where an owner had agreed to sell his house to a doctor and it became necessary to supply him with the assessment of development charge; it took over three months for the Central Land Board to assess the charge, in course of which time the local authority posted a notice on the door stating that it was requisitioned?

    If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of the incident, I will have it investigated.

    District Nurses

    27.

    asked the Minister of Health if he will give an estimate of the number of houses required throughout England and Wales to provide all district nurses with houses of their own.

    I cannot readily estimate the number, but I have impressed upon local authorities the importance of their help in this important matter.

    Arising out of that reply and the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me on Thursday of last week, does not he realise that local authorities are finding it extremely difficult to comply with the request of the Minister so long as the total allocation of houses is limited to what it is; and in view of the very real need will he reconsider granting an increased allocation to local authorities ready to build houses for district nurses?

    I cannot increase the size of the housing programme because that is limited by various considerations mentioned last Monday in the course of the Debate on housing, but that does not mean that local authorities cannot within their allocation give priority to certain classes, such as this.

    Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider releasing a certain amount of building materials, used for other purposes than housing, for the express purpose of housing district nurses.

    No, Sir, because that would assume that there is something wrong at the moment with the balance between the amount of materials provided for housing and other services; and we consider that we have struck the right balance.

    Does this mean that the district nurse must live in her own house, and will not be allowed to live with her own husband?

    Oh no, Sir. It merely refers to cases where nurses wish to have accommodation.

    Building Licences

    36.

    asked the Minister of Health if it is his practice to grant a building licence to an applicant willing to build a house for his own occupation by his own labour provided that it is recommended by the local housing authority and the plans approved.

    I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the circular issued to local authorities setting out the present arrangements for granting licences for private house building. No general exception is made in favour of the class of applicant mentioned.

    Is the Minister prepared to give sympathetic consideration to applicants who satisfy these conditons, outside the numbers allowed to local authorities?

    I did make some concessions a little while ago which were widely abused. Of course, at the moment, the limitation upon house building is softwood timber. Even if the house were built by the person himself, it would still require the same amount of timber.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are some very genuine cases where the applicant is prepared to make any concession in the matter of materials necessary to satisfy the requirements, and if I bring to his attention a case of a constituent of mine who has had great difficulty in an area where the local authority has been granting licences for the building of garages, will he give it sympathetic consideration?

    I certainly will investigate the merits of a particular case. This is not only a labour question. There is the consideration of the softwood timber contained in the house. Unless a person has supplies of softwood timber, which he ought not to have, he would not be able to build a house.

    Local Government Boundary Commission

    38.

    asked the Minister of Health when he proposes to introduce the legislation recently announced to repeal the Local Government Boundary Commission Act.

    Would the Minister assure us that the Boundary Commission will not be disbanded until the House has had an opportunity of considering the matter?

    The Boundary Commission cannot be disbanded until the House of Commons has given me the statutory right to disband it. It is, of course, at the moment in suspense

    What is to happen to some of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission? Is the Minister still prepared to give favourable consideration to them?

    The very valuable report of the Boundary Commission will, of course, be put before the Government in their review of the reform of local government.

    Will my right hon. Friend impress upon his right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council the desirability of our having a general Debate on this subject before the House rises for the Recess?

    Will the Minister tell the House what he proposes to do about the urgent priority recommendations of the Boundary Commission which in several cases have been curtailed considerably.

    When I made the original statement on this matter, I said that the statutory position would revert to what it was before the Act setting up the Commission was passed by the House. I also explained that in my view the procedure for obtaining relief by local authorities would be more expeditious under Private Bill legislation than under the Boundary Commission.

    44.

    asked the Minister of Health what has been the approximate cost to date of the Local Government Boundary Commission set up in 1945; what value has been derived from this expenditure and that of the local authorities which have given evidence to the Commission; whether recommendations made to date will be made public; and, when amalgamation recommendations are approved by the local authorities concerned, what steps he proposes to take to enable the cost and delay of Private Bill procedure to be avoided.

    The approximate cost of the Local Government Boundary Commission up to 30th June last was £140,000. The value of this expenditure is reflected in the annual reports of the Commissioners and in the information which they and the local authorities have gathered. As regards the third part of the Question, the recommendations made by the Commission have been published in their reports and in their statements of proposals, and, as regards the fourth part, Private Bill procedure is governed by the Standing Orders of the Houses of Parliament, but certain alterations of area may under the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1933, which it is proposed to restore, be made by Ministerial order, subject in some cases to confirmation by Parliament.

    Does the reply mean that the recommendations which they have already decided upon, and which have not yet been published, will be published?

    Water Supplies (Enborne Valley Scheme)

    41.

    asked the Minister of Health what request he has now received from the Metropolitan Water Board for further authority to make borings and other investigations in connection with the Board's revised proposals for flooding the Enborne Valley; and if he has set a time limit to these investigations, having regard to the anxiety of the local people who are threatened with the loss of their homes.

    None, Sir. As regards the second part of the Question, I understand that the Board expect to be in a position to announce their decision in the early autumn.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the agents of the Metropolitan Water Board are going round saying that it is now their intention to flood the Enborne Valley up to the 350 feet contour, and will he tell the Board plainly that Parliament will not agree in any circumstances to such a wasteful use of 20,000 acres of agricultural land?

    I do not know whether officers of the Metropolitan Water Board have said that, but they will not be able to flood it with a quart of water until this House agrees to the scheme. I understand that the explorations which are taking place are causing anxiety to a very large number of people in the area, and I hope that this matter will come to an issue as early as possible.

    is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter is still under very careful consideration, and that, but for a conflict of the expert advice which has been tendered on it, a decision might have been reached by now? Is he also aware that no officer of the Board has any authority to make such a statement as has been alleged by the hon. Member opposite?

    May I ask the Minister whether it is absolutely certain that, before the scheme can be put into operation, it will have to be passed by Parliament, and that it cannot be approved under an order or under regulations?

    As the House knows, I have a quasi-judicial function to perform. What is happening at the moment is that explorations are taking place in order to decide whether a reservoir is technically feasible. If it proves not to be technically feasible, obviously the whole scheme falls. If it is proved feasible on technical grounds, social considerations will have to be taken into account at the inquiry.

    Would the Minister agree that the Metropolitan Water Board would have to put forward an exceptionally strong case before any scheme so ruthlessly destructive of agricultural production could be approved?

    Festival Of Britain

    45.

    asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is aware of the public disquiet concerned with the proposal to take over a large part of Battersea Park for use in connection with the 1951 Festival of Britain; and for what period does he anticipate the free use of this open space will be denied to Londoners.

    I have seen some critical comment in a limited section of the Press of the proposal to create Festive Gardens in 1951 occupying one-fifth of Battersea Park. While sympathising with the general standpoint behind it, I would point out that the gardens will not interfere with the trees and other features of natural beauty in the park—they will, in fact, take full advantage of them—and it is possible that the London County Council may wish to retain certain landscape features after 1951 which would agreeably add to the park's attractions without destroying its character. In answer to the last part of the Question, the proposal is that about one-fifth of the park will be enclosed for about 12 months altogether, including the six months during which the gardens will be open on payment of an admission fee.

    Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether the 37 acres which are to be enclosed cover the whole of the waterfront between the two bridges at this point on the river?

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say how, when public money is being used for this purpose, the public can be expected to take seriously the warning which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave yesterday?

    I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman has joined the misery section of the public Press. The Festival of Britain will be a great occasion, and it is desirable that there should be some lighter part to it, as well as a more serious part. Moreover, there will be revenues from it, not only in direct receipts, but from visits by people from abroad.

    Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will not be unduly influenced by the dreary reception given to this bright and cheerful scheme by a very limited section of the people? Is he not aware that any similar proposal extending to the borough of Brentford and Chiswick will meet with a very different reception locally?

    I am much obliged to my hon. Friend, and I fully agree with what he said in the first part of his supplementary question. I hope that, if his Chiswick venture comes off, it may similarly add to the happiness of the human race.

    Did I correctly understand the right hon. Gentleman's original answer and his reply to the first supplementary question, to the effect that no felling or destruction of trees will be involved by the proposed scheme; and, secondly, that the simplicity of the uninterrupted beauty of the grass acres adjoining the river will not be interfered with?

    I am sure that every care will be taken not to injure the amenities of the park, but, on the last point, there are two possible views about a park. It may be a place solely of quietness, or a place of peace and happiness also, and there is something to be said for both points of view.

    Insecticides And Fungicides

    46.

    asked the Lord President of the Council if he is aware of the large number of commercial insecticides and fungicides, containing dangerous poisons, now offered for sale to fruit-growers and smallholders; and what steps are taken by his Department, in conjunction with the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, to test fully and over a considerable period of time the effects of these products on plants and on human beings.

    The Agricultural Research Council and the Medical Research Council are aware of the potential dangers of the indiscriminate use of some of the new insecticides and fungicides, and there is a special Toxicity Sub-Committee of the Research Co-ordinating Committee on Insecticides, a body appointed jointly by the Medical Research Council, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Agricultural Research Council, which arranges for the examination of new materials. As to the effect of insecticides and fungicides on plants, active and continuing research is in progress at several Agricultural Research Institutes. In regard to the effect on human beings, the Agricultural Research Council works in close collaboration with the Toxicology Committee of the Medical Research Council. The inquiries of that Committee include long term studies.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that in at least one recent case a woman died through eating strawberries which had been picked too soon after spraying with one of these poisonous preparations, and, apart from this immediate danger, is he satisfied that there is really sufficient research going on into the long-term effects on the soil and on life generally?

    I can assure my hon. Friend that this is a matter which is being dealt with pretty thoroughly. I do not know how recent is the case to which he refers, but if he will let me have particulars I will see that it is considered.

    Agriculture

    Milk Output

    47.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the output of milk in Britain before the war, in 1945, and what it is now.

    55.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the output of milk in Great Britain in 1945 and 1948, respectively.

    The average output of milk for human consumption in Great Britain for the three pre-war years is estimated as about 1,480 million gallons. The corresponding output for 1945 is estimated at 1,525 million gallons, for 1948 at 1,707 million gallons and for the year ending May, 1949, at 1,794 million gallons.

    Would not the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of congratulating the Milk Marketing Board and the dairy farmers?

    Yes, Sir, except that there are many more Questions on the Order Paper.

    Economic Survey (Statistics)

    (by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the Debate on Thursday next, he will publish, for the information of the House, figures for the first half of 1949 showing the estimated extent to which the forecasts contained in Tables 9 to 17 inclusive of the Economic Survey for 1949 have been realised.

    My right hon. and learned Friend will provide the House, before the Debate, with as much information as he can; but he will be unable, only a few days after the end of the half year, to give the House the comprehensive information for which the right hon. Member asks.

    The hon. Gentleman will understand what it is we are looking for. Estimates are given on all these tables, but what we would like to know, if not in detail, is, as far as possible, the extent to which those estimates have been realised, because it is only in that way that we can judge the position. If he cannot give detailed figures, can we be sure that approximations will be given as far as possible?

    We are very anxious to give all the information we can on the subject, and it is only statistical difficulties which stand in our way.

    Will the hon. Gentleman say in what form the information will be made available to the House?

    As far as possible, we will make it available in the same form as it was given in the Economic Survey. [HON. MEMBERS: "A White Paper?"] We have not made up our minds about it, but it will be given to the House in the most convenient form.

    Strike, London Docks

    (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the present situation in the Port of London and what steps the Government are now taking to bring the dispute to an end.

    There has been no improvement at the docks this morning. Ninety-six ships are idle and seven are undermanned. Certain food supplies are now being unloaded by Service personnel, but I regret to say that I have just learned that some 2,000 meat porters and drivers have stopped work at Smithfield. The National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers Union has arranged to take a secret ballot to-morrow morning among its members for or against a resumption of normal working. In view of this ballot I would ask to be excused from making any further statement, but I am sure it will be the hope of everyone who has the interests of the country at heart that this ballot will mark the end of this unfortunate business.

    May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it will be possible for him to give some statement before the weekend because, as the House will agree, the situation is a very disturbing one, especially in view of some of the reports from the other side of the Atlantic, which also are disturbing. Can we be assured that we shall have a statement before the weekend? We all hope the result of the ballot will be what the right hon. Gentleman hopes it will be. Can we also be assured that the Government are considering the other steps they may have to take if these hopes are not fulfilled?

    Yes, Sir, certainly. Tomorrow I shall give the House whatever information is available. I very sincerely hope that it will be more cheerful information. With reference to the position overseas, steps have been taken, through the kind offices of the Canadian Government, to see that the action which was contemplated is not carried out and, in fact, it has been pushed into the background for the time being. With reference to action to be taken by the Government, that matter is under consideration, but I am sure hon. Members will see the difficulty at the moment. I am most anxious not to say anything that could be said to bring duress upon the ballot or, having said it, to give an excuse as to why the ballot went the wrong way. May I finish by saying that I hope our friends in the docks will realise more than ever after yesterday's statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer how vital is their contribution to the welfare of the country?

    On a point of Order. In view of the statement made by the Chancellor yesterday and the very serious situation at the London Docks, I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would accept from me a Motion for the adjournment of the House in order that we can discuss this deliberate lock-out of the London dockers?

    That would not come under the Rules. This strike has been going on for some days and to come under the Rules it must be something suddenly breaking out.

    The Minister has informed us that troops are being used to unload the ships but that the transport men—the meat carriers, I think he said—have now refused to work. The situation becomes more serious every day; it becomes appallingly serious and it is a deliberate lock-out. If the men are allowed to work they will go to work. Could we not have an opportunity to discuss this situation in the House?