House Of Commons
Wednesday, 13th July, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
British Honduras (Hospital)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when it is proposed to start work on the building of the new hospital in Belize, British Honduras, for which layout plans have been prepared.
Construction has been postponed owing to the need to devote available funds to urgent economic development. Extensive repairs, alterations and additions have, however, been made to the existing hospital.
Can the Under-Secretary say when it is proposed to carry out the new building, and replace the present unsatisfactory wooden building with a permanent structure?
There is no immediate possibility of any new construction, because all the available resources of the territory are already committed.
British Guiana (Hospital)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when it is proposed to start work on the building of the new hospital in George Town British Guiana, for which layout plans have been prepared.
British Guiana's ten-year development plan does not provide for a new hospital, but for substantial additions and improvements to the present hospital. These are being carried out and a new X-ray building has already been completed and equipped.
When will this plan be completed?
The X-ray department is provided for in the ten-year plan. I do not know exactly when it will be completed during the progress of that plan. There are also two cottage hospitals to be completed during the progress of the plan. It will be some time before 1956.
Is it not possible to expedite this work, in view of the urgent necessity for improvements to be made as soon as possible?
All steps that can be taken are being taken to deal with this and many other matters.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what colonies or dependencies State lotteries are run; and what revenue has resulted.
State lotteries are run in Malta and Gibraltar. In 1948, the revenue was £267,706 and £56,000 respectively.
Is it the view of the Colonial Office that this type of lottery is desirable and morally defensible?
My right hon. Friend does not as a general rule favour lotteries, but there are in certain cases, local conditions which make them perhaps desirable.
How long have they been carried on?
The one at Malta has been in operation for many years.
Has there been any opposition to these lotteries from the churches in those two colonies?
They have not been very vociferous in Malta at all events, where, as I say, it is a very old-established lottery.
Is not the Under-Secretary aware that the lottery in Gibraltar is very helpful in providing housing accommodation which is very urgently needed?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is consulted before action is taken by colonial Governors to suppress newspapers; and whether he will undertake periodical review of each case.
I know of no instance of a colonial Governor suppressing a newspaper. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the President of the Empire Press Union, Colonel J. J. Astor, in criticising this power, stated that it was liable to abuse? Will he, therefore, look into the question to see if there is any real necessity for this power to be retained?
There is only one colony where I know that the Governor has the power. He is not exercising it, so far as I am aware, in that colony.
Can my hon. Friend say if that colony is Malta, and, if so, can he inform the House of any progress which has been made in the consideration of the possibility of revising the somewhat obsolete and oppressive Press Ordinance in Malta?
Yes, the colony is Malta. As my hon. Friend knows, Malta has responsible self-government. It is for Maltese Ministers to decide whether or not they will reorganise their Press laws.
On a point of Order. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has already given information to the House on this point. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to expect that my hon. Friend would be able to inform the House further? That is why I asked my question in that form—simply for information.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will put a Question down?
My hon. Friend knows that I cannot get one past the Table. That is why he says that.
Do my hon. Friend's observations about the suppression of newspapers also apply to the banning of newspapers imported from this country?
No; that is another matter.
Is the Minister aware that the "Labour Monthly" is banned in Kenya, and can he tell us why?
I gave a reply about that three weeks or a month ago.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he will make available the proceedings of the recent Colonial Conference on Supplies.
The Conference was not a public one. A Press communiqué was issued at the end of the Conference and it is not my right hon. Friend's intention to publish the proceedings.
In view of the Colonial Office claim that this was a very satisfactory Conference, and of the importance of these supplies to this country, particularly at this juncture, would the hon. Gentleman at least consider putting a copy of the proceedings in the Library of the House of Commons, so that it can be available to all Members?
The Conference really took the form of an interchange of views, expressions of opinion, and so on, between the supplying officers in the various colonies and the officials of the Colonial Office. In those circumstances, it would be difficult to put anything of concrete value in the Library. It was, so to speak, a two-way traffic of opinions and views. As no major policy changes were made, I do not think there would be any advantage in trying to do what the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Technical And Specialist Staffs
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress is being made in overcoming the shortage of technicians, engineers, educationalists and other specialists who are wanted for development work in the Colonies; how far facilities are being provided for secondment of suitable personnel from this and other countries.
Difficulties continue in most technical fields but recruitment of forestry, geological and civil engineering staff is now a little easier than it was. Secondment is difficult in many fields because the staff in question is short in this country also, but secondment arrangements are in operation for postal and educational staff, and I hope that they can be devised for medical and civil engineering staff also. A review of progress in the past year is contained in paragraphs 70–81 of Cmd. Paper 7715 "The Colonial Territories (1948–1949)" to which I would invite my hon. Friend's attention.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the Report of the Colonial Development Corporation on the Industrialisation of the Colonial Empire will be published.
News Services, Caribbean
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has investigated the position in a number of the Caribbean colonies where no English newspapers are on the news-stands and the sole means of obtaining news is from the radio and American Press; and what does he intend to do in order to keep the British Colonies better informed of news and developments in this country.
Yes, Sir. Newspaper sales are restricted by the high cost of despatch by air and the infrequency of the British air service to that area. A scheme to increase the sale of the principal economic and political weekly periodicals by air on a subscription basis is, however, being developed by the trade. As to the second part of the Question, one of the main tasks of the Information Department in the Colonial Office is to assist colonial territories to receive a service of news and information about this country.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that in view of the Government's concern with colonial development, it is of the utmost importance that adequate news services should be developed for the Caribbean area? Could he not have the whole matter reviewed, to see if it cannot be taken up as being one of local urgency?
I agree about the desirability, but it is a matter for the trade.
When my hon. Friend says "Yes, Sir," will he take note that the first part of the Question on the Order Paper is not accurate, since Jamaica at least is served by the redoubtable "Kingston Daily Gleaner," which is a genuine local newspaper, and by one or two smaller ones as well; but, in view of the fact that the radio services in these islands are increasingly going commercial, will he also bear in mind the necessity of supplying a much better service of objective and official information?
Grenada (Nutmeg Association)
4, 5 and 6.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) if he is aware that the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association had, on or about 12th June, 1949, stocks of 50,000 bags of 200 lb. each of nutmegs on hand, which they were unable to sell; and if he will take the necessary steps to bring to an end the totalitarian and monopolistic policy of the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association and allow a voluntary association to deal with nutmeg production and distribution;(2) if he is aware that the delay in coming to a decision as to whether there should be a voluntary or compulsory nutmeg association in Grenada is causing great dissatisfaction and that estate labourers can only get two days' work a week; and if he will take immediate steps for a voluntary nutmeg association to operate and be free to sell their produce in the open market, particulars of which have been sent him; (3) if he is aware that the Nutmeg Association of Grenada is running on borrowed money and has already spent over £200,000 in two years saved by the growers; and to what extent the British taxpayer is involved and is liable.
I do not agree with the hon. Member's description of the Association, and I fear that he has been misinformed as to the facts. The Association does not run on borrowed money, but has a credit balance, while its stocks are only a fraction of the figure he mentioned. There is no evidence that its formation has caused under-employment. Its future is being considered by the local Legislature. The United Kingdom taxpayer has no liability for its affairs.
As the Under-Secretary has answered my three Questions together, may I be permitted to ask three supplementary questions? In view of the information contained in his answer to Question No. 4, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the recent journey of the Minister of Food to Kongwa was really necessary? Second, would he explain why the British Government interfere in the affairs of the British West Indies, especially in an industry which can only run successfully if it is free; and, third, on Question No. 6, is not this further evidence of the dead hand of State control?
The future of this Association is in the hands of the local Legislature.
Then why do the Government interfere?
School Meals Scheme
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a school meals scheme has been introduced in Singapore under the auspices of the Social Welfare Department; and how many children benefit from it.
The Social Welfare Department in Singapore distributes soup to some 3,400 children daily in certain of the poorer schools. In addition, full meals are supplied daily to 3,000 children of whom about 2,000 are of school age but not attending school.
Can my hon. Friend say what are the plans for extending this service?
There was a school meals service in existence in 1946 and 1947, but it had to be discontinued because there was a lack of demand.
Before the Minister extends these schemes which, no doubt, are desirable, will he make sure that the finances of the Colony warrant it?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many beds are available for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in the Tan Tock Seng hospital of Singapore; how many were available in 1938; and whether he is aware that the hospital does not yet possess a thoracoscope.
Four hundred as compared with 72 before the war. A thoracoscope is available in the General Hospital and cases are referred there when it is necessary to use this instrument.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the further plans for tuberculosis in this hospital and in this area include another 500 beds, in addition to the 400 he has already mentioned? Does he not think it desirable that another thoracoscope should be supplied to the hospital itself?
I am told that this is a delicate and expensive instrument which is used for cases other than tuberculosis. It is best located centrally.
Can my hon. Friend say what steps are being taken as a result of the recent inspection of tuberculosis services in the Colony by Dr. Andrew Morland?
I have not yet seen the report.
Special Language Schools
10 and 11.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) in view of the undesirability of Kenya and Northern Rhodesia becoming Afrikaans-speaking colonies, whether he will discourage the official provision of special language schools for the children of South African settlers of Dutch descent;(2) in how many cases special provision is being made from public funds for the maintenance of Afrikaans-language private schools in Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Tanganyika and Kenya.
Grants-in-aid are provided for one Afrikaans-language private school in Tanganyika and one in Nyasaland. The official provision of special language schools is where possible avoided and my right hon. Friend sees no necessity for the action suggested by my hon. Friend.
Will the Minister take active steps to discourage any departure from the position of English being the normal channel of language communication in British colonies?
I do not think that there is any need for discouragement. This is the accepted standard.
Gold Coast Disturbances (Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the changes in the 1946 Constitution and the pattern of local government recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances in the Gold Coast during February and March, 1948, have been implemented; and what is the present position.
No, Sir. The representative Committee of Africans, which was appointed by the Governor to examine the proposals made by the Commission of Inquiry, is still in session.
Can my hon. Friend say when he hopes to make a further report on the progress made?
I am told that the Commission is nearing the end of its inquiries. I could not give any specific date for the end of them.
Alake Of Abeokuta
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what decisions have been taken in regard to the future of the Alake of Abeokuta.
The Alake, who abdicated on 31st December, 1948, is now living as a private person in Oshogbo.
Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Alake will be allowed to spend his declining years in peace and free from molestation?
So far as I am concerned yes.
Apart from the problems which may be associated with the individual in this case, does my hon. Friend realise that there is a problem associated with the office itself? Will he tell us whether or not, instead of restoring the autocratic powers of the paramount chief, he will consider some form of democratic control?
The present position is that the Egba Central Government have been appointed as native authority in place of the Alake. How far it can be considered a fully democratic authority, I do not know, but there is a move in that direction.
Niger River Traffic
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if there are still outstanding orders for tugs, barges, etc., to operate on the Niger River and its tributaries; what steps have been taken to place orders in British shipyards; and whether he is satisfied that the vessels now employed are capable of handling the traffic now operating.
Ten quarter-wheelers, two tugs, 24 barges and 11 small boats are still on order. All these, with the exception of one small quarter-wheeler, two barges and the small boats are being constructed in the United Kingdom. The private companies who own and operate the river craft on the Niger River and its tributaries are satisfied that they are able to handle all available British traffic, but not all upward cargo on offer for French territories.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is, in West Africa, now the total tonnage of groundnuts that have been loaded for transport to the United Kingdom; what is the tonnage left in store; and how much of this has been destroyed or damaged by insect pests.
As the answer is long, and includes a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Has there been an increase or a decrease since the last figures were given?
I do not recall, off-hand, when the last figures were given. There has been a considerable increase in the tonnage moved in the last eight months compared with that moved in the same period last year. In the first eight months of the present season, 236,000 tons were moved from Kano and in a similar period last year 162,000 tons were moved. It will be seen that there is a big change.
As the hon. Gentleman has taken quite a long time in answering the supplementary—longer than he would have taken to give the main answer—would he not now read that answer?
Is it not a fact that 10,000 acres of sunflower seeds have been ploughed back into the land? Would the hon. Gentleman consider giving fuller information to the House at the earliest possible opportunity?
I have no knowledge of any sunflower seeds being ploughed back in Nigeria. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me the information.
On a point of Order. The Under-Secretary asked leave to give these figures, and has not been refused leave. Ought he not, therefore, to give the figures?
Occasionally I am asked that an answer should be read after Questions; twice in the last week that has been done. As a matter of fact, I agree. I think it is a very good thing, when we have a long answer, to save it until after Questions, because it may give rise to a great many supplementaries. It would be rather unfair to those hon. Members who have Questions later in the list if a long answer is given, which might mean several minutes being taken away from them. I am rather between two stools. I do not propose to go back on it.
Will the Under-Secretary give us the figures at the end of Questions?
I am quite prepared to give them at the end of Questions.
Has not great progress been made in moving the groundnuts from the Kano area, and is not the problem largely caused by a legacy of neglect of transport facilities in the past?
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and if it is the wish of the House, could the information be given at the end of Questions?
That is a matter for the Minister, not for me.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present position in respect of groundnut production in Nigeria; how many tons are now stacked; what percentage of this is the present crop; and whether clearance has now been substantially accelerated.
As the answer includes a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would not my hon. Friend give the answer later, as he has agreed to do on the previous Question. Would not my hon. Friend agree that the same concession which he has granted to the Opposition should be granted to his hon. Friends?
I will now, with permission, give the answers to Questions Nos. 21 and 24. The 1948–49 groundnut crops in the Gambia and Sierra Leone amounting to 62,000 tons and 2,500 tons, respectively, have been shipped and there are no stocks remaining. Of the current crop in the Upper Benue region of Nigeria totalling 13,000 tons only 650 tons have been transported, but stocks consist entirely of the current crop, and will be moved when the Benue river is open for traffic in the autumn. In Northern Nigeria, 213,000 tons have been railed to the coast since the opening of the 1948–49 buying season on 1st November, 1948. This leaves total stocks at Kano on 2nd July, 1949, at 264,000 tons of which all but 7,000 tons were current crop.Damage by insect pests is confined to Northern Nigeria. The position at Kano on 2nd July was as follows: 1947 to 1948 crop, total infested, 21,771 tons; total of infested stock railed, 21,083 tons; total destroyed, 264 tons; balance of infested stock, 424 tons. The 1948 to 1949 crop, total infested, 63,369 tons; total of infested stock railed, 14,172 tons; total destroyed, 9 tons; balance of infested stock, 49,188 tons. Purchase of the 1948 to 1949 groundnut crop for export is now complete and totals 315,000 tons in the northern Territory, and 13,000 tons in the Upper Benue. 257,000 tons were stacked at Kano on 30th June, and the bulk of the 13,000 tons Benue crop has not yet been moved. All but a very small quantity is the current crop. Clearance from Kano for the eight months from the beginning of the present season on 1st November totals 236,000 tons as compared with 162,000 tons in the same period last year.
In view of the fact that the shortage of railway transport has been under active consideration for some years, would the Under-Secretary consult with the Minister of Food to see that the railway transport that is used in East Africa is used where the nuts are waiting to be transported?
If the hon. Member had heard my reply he would have understood that the railways stocks position is in hand.
In view of the fact that there are only four months before the new buying season starts, and as I understand that 264,000 tons are lying at Kano, is it not a certainty that there will be a very big overlap, and that by November it will be impossible to move the new crop and the old crop at the same time?
That is normally so, but it is anticipated that by the end of March or April the whole of the old crop will have been moved. However, in these circumstances it is likely that the whole of the new stock will have been cleared by 1st November. There is always an overlap.
Can we take it, therefore, that there will be a considerable acceleration of clearance now, due to new locomotives or some such reason?
Yes. I gave the figures of a very great increase over those for the same period last year.
Is not infestation of 20 per cent. of the current crop a very high proportion? What steps are being taken to get it down?
That is infestation from all causes. It is higher than we should like, but we have taken very considerable measures to deal with the position and have flown out insecticides for that purpose.
Is it not a fact that on 30th April of 180 wagons promised for delivery, only 76 had been delivered, and that of those only 10 were fit for use? Is that not the real cause of the delay in moving stocks?
There was some difficulty over wagons, recently, but much of that difficulty has been overcome. It is one of the reasons for the delay, but by no means the only one.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept the statement and the figures of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. S. Lloyd)? If so, are they not rather serious?
I cannot accept those figures without looking into them, but a number of wagons which were railed were incomplete, and it caused some dislocation.
Nigerian Railway (Rolling Stock)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far have the requirements of the Nigerian Railway been met for locomotives and rolling stock; and if the capacity of the system is now adequate to handle the traffic by the anticipated dates.
Sixty out of 96 main line locomotives ordered for the Nigerian Railway since the war have arrived in Nigeria; 432 wagons have also been delivered and the delivery of a further 637 wagons and wagon bodies is due to be made during the year. This large quantity of new equipment should enable the railways to meet their increasing commitments.
Have any steps been taken to double the track?
What is the source of most of the rolling stock which has been supplied? Has it come from this country?
Almost entirely from this country. There were a few engines from Canada, but it was mainly supplied from this country.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the cutting down of cocoa trees in West African colonies in order to deal effectively with disease is now proving more acceptable; approximately what proportion of the diseased or threatened trees have now been destroyed; and to what extent it is estimated the production of cocoa during the next 10 years will be affected.
Yes, Sir. Roughly six million and one million trees had been cut out in the Gold Coast and Nigeria respectively by the end of May. It is not yet possible either to determine accurately the total number of diseased trees or to forecast the effect of the disease on production over the next 10 years.
Can we take it that the resistance, which was possibly due to a misunderstanding, has now considerably declined, if not vanished?
Yes, Sir, that is so.
As the progress of the disease is much more rapid than the progress of cutting out, has the question of reviving compulsory cutting out been considered?
The position now is that there are more applicants for cutting out than there is force available to do the cutting out.
Constitutional Proposals, Nigeria
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress is being made respecting discussions on new constitutional proposals for Nigeria and procedure in respect of these; how many representatives have resigned; and for what reasons.
Discussions at district level have been almost completed. The Lagos and colony conferences have ended, but their reports are still awaited. Provincial conferences are being or will shortly be held. The procedure being followed is that laid down in the report of the Nigerian Select Committee. The only withdrawals known to the Nigerian Government occurred in Lagos, where 11 representatives from a conference of 54 have withdrawn following a decision by the full conference that its decisions should be recorded by resolutions taken on a majority vote.
Do I understand that these persons have resigned in Lagos merely because the decision was made that majority decisions should operate in future? If so, has anything been done to acquaint those who have resigned with the serious significance of this?
The facts are as I have stated. I hope the people of Lagos will draw their own conclusions from them.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he now has any communication to make concerning the proposed constitutional changes in the Hong Kong Legislative Council.
No, Sir. There has not yet been time for the Governor's considered recommendations on these important issues to reach me.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many political arrests have been made under the emergency regulations in Hong Kong; how many persons are being detained; and how many homes and offices have been searched by the police up to the latest convenient date.
No such emergency regulations have been made.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the Ordinance by which the oath of allegiance sworn by recruits to the Hong Kong Police was changed was seen and approved by him.
The change referred to was made incidentally in a general consolidating Ordinance. The Ordinance was not submitted to my right hon. Friend in draft and his approval was not necessary. After enactment the Ordinance was sent to my right hon. Friend in the ordinary way for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure, and the Governor was informed that His Majesty would not be advised to disallow it.
In view of the fact that part of the effect of this Ordinance was to leave out of the oath the words "well and faithfully to serve His Majesty The King, his Heirs and Successors," does the hon. Gentleman consider that it is of sufficient constitutional importance to have a separate Ordinance and not to include it in the genera] list? Further, does he not consider that the Secretary of State should take that into consideration?
I agree that a matter of this kind should not have been put in a consolidated Ordinance, and that it should have been brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend. I am glad to announce that the Governor has agreed that an amending Ordinance shall be introduced to restore the previous form.
Will the hon. Gentleman say what factor made the Governor now decide to go back to the original form?
The submission to him of the advice given by my right hon. Friend.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what is the difference in daily flying pay paid to officers and petty officers; why this difference exists; and whether he considers that flying pay for both ranks is adequate after deduction of income tax.
There is no difference in the daily rate of flying pay of 3s. payable to qualified officers and qualified air crew ratings. Flying pay at its present rate is part of the new pay code, but in common with all other items of naval pay it is constantly under review.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this differentiation has nothing whatever to do with the pay code, because it applies to all the services of the Navy; and is he further aware that there is serious dissatisfaction with the 1s. 6d. per day, which is not considered adequate for this type of duty?
I have said that there is no differentiation. The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension.
I mean the differentiation between the ordinary general rates and flying pay; 1s. 6d. per day is quite inadequate?
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will now make a statement on the pay and conditions of the Naval Recruiting Service.
This matter is still under consideration.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is exactly the same answer as that given to me about six months ago? Can he say when we might expect more details?
I cannot say when we expect to complete the results of the consideration, but I hope it will be before very long. There are a number of matters involved in this; it does not concern only my Department.
Hms "Theseus" (Accident Inquiry)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the report of the Board of Inquiry as to the loss of one midshipman, three ratings and the cutter of H.M.S. "Theseus" on 6th June has now been received and considered; and if he will make a statement with regard thereto.
The report of the Board of Inquiry has been received and is now being studied in the Admiralty. Until this study is complete, I shall not be in a position to make a statement, but I hope to make one before the Recess.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether all the bodies were recovered from the sea and, if they were, whether they were buried with full naval honours and whether the parents were given facilities to be present?
That is another question.
The right hon. Gentleman ought to know.
British Railways (Steamer)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty when the "Hibernia" was launched; and when she was delivered to British Railways.
The "Hibernia" was launched on 22nd July, 1948. She was completed and delivered to British Railways on 5th April, 1949.
Could my hon. Friend say by what firm this vessel was built, and for how long and for what reason she has been out of commission since she was delivered?
She was built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff. As to the latter part of my hon. Friend's supplementary, that is a matter for the Transport Commission.
asked the Postmaster-General how many people are employed by his Department on detailed calculations as to the amount of payment to be made to the nationalised air corporations for the carrying of airmail.
Thirteen officers are employed wholly or partly on this work.
Does not the Postmaster-General consider that this work is unnecessary, in view of the fact that if there were some simple basis of calculation no officers would be required at all. These officers could be used on more useful work, which would be one way in which unnecessary expenditure could be avoided?
I do not think the matter is quite as simple as that.
Does not my right hon. Friend know that the Opposition were demanding separate trading accounts for each division of the Overseas Airways Corporation, and can he tell the hon. Member opposite and the rest of us how they could possibly get that if the suggestion of the hon. Member were adopted?
Sub-Post Offices, Somerset
asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that sub-post offices at Bradford on Tone and Langford Budville, Somerset, have been closed owning to staffing difficulties; and what steps he proposes to take to provide postal facilities in these villages.
Yes, Sir. Every effort has been and will continue to be made to reopen these offices at the earliest possible moment. Unfortunately, candidates for the vacant sub-postmasterships are not immediately forthcoming. For the time being, a postal clerk is attending in each village for two hours on Friday afternoons to pay pensions and transact other Post Office business.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the fundamental cause of difficulties of this kind is the great improvement in the wages and living conditions of other rural workers which has been recently brought about, and that this condition may therefore be permanent? Cannot he consider some other means of supplying these small villages with postal facilities by other means, such as travelling post offices?
These people have had a rise within the last two years. I should say that the biggest difficulty is the question of getting suitable places.
On a point of Order. May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that my borough has an excellent motto—"More light"?
Pensions Payments, East Bridgford
asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that on several occasions old age pensioners have been unable to draw their weekly money at the Post Office, East Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, owing to the postmaster having insufficient funds; and if he will take steps to remedy this state of affairs.
I am informed that there is no recollection of any occasion when the funds available at the office named have been insufficient to meet the requirements of all old age pensioners; but there was a recent occasion, when the funds in hand consisted only of silver, when an agent of an old age pensioner refused to accept silver and demanded bank notes. The applicant was informed that bank notes would undoubtedly be available later in the day if she was not prepared to accept silver. Steps have been taken in an endeavour to ensure that bank notes as well as silver will form part of the funds in hand at this Post Office on all future occasions.
I am sure there is some substance in this complaint, and I think it applies to many sub-post offices, but will the right hon. Gentleman look at it and see that postmasters, on whom he has placed so many responsibilities, are in a position to carry them out?
I am always willing to look at any problem brought to my notice.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that the Opposition ought to join with us in welcoming this confidence in the £1 note?
Will my right hon. Friend consider, once again, the possibility of providing villages with mobile post offices?
That is one of the questions which is being considered, but I do not know whether it will provide a solution.
Telephone Exchange, Chiswick
asked the Postmaster-General what progress has been made during the past six months with plans to provide Chiswick with an automatic telephone exchange; and when he expects that exchange to be in operation.
Installation of the automatic equipment for the new Chiswick Exchange is to start early next month, and the Exchange should be ready for service towards the end of 1950.
Can my right hon. Friend say why a whole lot of additional floors are being added to this building? Is it because the present plan is bigger than was originally envisaged?
I should want notice of that question.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the insistence of his hon. Friend will not procure for Brentford and Chiswick priority over much more important places which still lack an automatic exchange?
On a point of Order. Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) to suggest that any borough is more important than Brentford and Chiswick?
asked the Postmaster-General when he will provide additional post offices or sub-offices in Timperley, Cheshire.
I am not aware that the facilities available in Timperley for the transaction of Post Office counter business are insufficient, but I shall be happy to review the position if the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any deficiency.
asked the Postmaster-General whether he is now in a position to announce an improvement in the postal services between Manchester and London.
Yes, Sir. I am pleased to be able to announce that, with the co-operation of British Railways, arrangements have been made whereby normally, the proceeds of the final collection from the street posting boxes in Manchester—6–6.30 p.m.—should secure first delivery throughout London on the following weekday and vice versa. The corresponding posting times at Manchester head post office and at London head district post offices are 8.15 p.m. and 8.0 p.m. respectively.
Does the Minister realise that this small improvement, belated though it is, will cause much satisfaction in Manchester?
Us Air Force Personnel, United Kingdom
asked the Secretary of State for Air what is now the number of United States Army Air Force personnel stationed in this country; and when they may be expected to leave.
The number of United States Air Force personnel stationed in this country is about 7,800. I am unable to say when they will leave.
Does not the Minister think that, although we all have the greatest respect for the individual members of the force, their stay has already been long enough to enable him to see that people do not really want them here in their present capacity?
That is a matter of opinion. All I can say is that I entirely disagree with the hon. Member's opinion.
Is the Minister aware that the presence of these fine men in this country is welcomed by all patriotic Englishmen?
Raf (Low Flying)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that there is inconvenience being caused to the inhabitants of Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, by low flying and noisy aircraft; and what action he proposes for abating the nuisance.
Sharnbrook lies on a route used by aircraft carrying out cross-country training flights at low level. I am considering whether the route could be altered so as to avoid the village.
Will the Secretary of State for Air make quite sure that the noise does not go from this part of the country to some other part, because there are many people in other areas who are already complaining?
If we are to have an Air Force at all we must have a certain amount of noise.
Will the Minister tell us what is the height below which aircraft must not fly, either on exercises or training, and will he take into consideration the fact that when jet fighters fly below a certain height, it is very frightening to children and to people on holiday?
We have rules governing the height below which aircraft cannot normally fly, but for the purposes of operational training at low levels it is obvious that they must fly at those low levels.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that my constituents will be delighted with his helpful reply?
Pay And Allowances
asked the Minister of Defence how much money it is estimated will be spent in the current financial year on pay and allowances of Regular officers and other ranks in the three Fighting Services; and how much on the pay and allowances of National Service men, respectively.
It is estimated that the cost of the pay and allowances for the Regular Forces and National Service men during the current financial year will be about £165 million and £43 million, respectively.
asked the Minister of Defence in view of the dollar shortage, what steps he is taking to reduce the importation of armaments from the United States of America.
Very few armaments or other defence stores are purchased by us from the United States. The purchases consist almost entirely of essential spares for American type aircraft and other equipment already in service. Because of the dollar shortage these imports are being kept down to the lowest possible level, and are declining.
Will the Minister assure us that we are not importing armaments when we need all our dollars for raw materials and food supplies?
I think that can be deduced from my answer.
asked the Minister of Food whether he will introduce a priority sweet ration for small children and old age pensioners, many of whom at present are unable to obtain any supply of sweets at all.
I think it would be a difficult administrative task to issue a special ration for children and old people only.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the statement which was made before de-rationing took place, that special consideration would be given if children were unable to obtain sweets? What steps are being taken to implement that promise?
I think my hon. Friend will remember that we asked retailers to give special consideration to children. Many have done so; if my hon. Friend will look at my answer last week on this matter I think he will derive some comfort.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that there are many retailers who have not got the supplies to provide for these people? Can she inform the House on what date the re-introduction of sweet rationing will be announced?
I must ask my hon. Friend to exercise a little more patience.
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that farmers in Berkshire and Wiltshire, seeking to draw extra seasonal rations in bulk for their workers, can only buy tinned beans on the points allocated as the local grocers' shops have no tinned meat to spare after meeting the needs of their regular customers who are registered with them, and, in view of the fact that the same difficulty arose last year, if he will now allow farm-workers individually to obtain the extra rations to which they are entitled from the shops with which they deal regularly.
I am not aware that there is any difficulty in obtaining points foods for farmworkers' seasonal allowances. The shortage of canned meat and fish is, however, general. My right hon. Friend cannot agree to allow individual farmworkers to purchase the seasonal allowances.
Does not the Minister recognise that the farmworker has just as heavy a job and is as much entitled to sustaining food as the miner? Will she not see that he gets a square deal in this matter?
I am sure the hon. Member will remember that this matter has been raised before. I must give the same answer. The food which the farmer wants for his farmworkers consists chiefly of canned meat and canned fish, which are generally in short supply. Canned fish costs dollars.
Is not the right hon. Lady fully conversant with the complaints which were made last year, and is she now prepared to support her hon. Friends who suggest that we should harvest our crops on spaghetti?
We are trying to meet farmers' needs. In the past we have distributed canned meat and canned fish on alternate months. In August and September this year we shall distribute them both together.
But is the right bon. Lady aware that even if there is an extra allocation, farm workers cannot obtain these points goods because they are taken up by other customers at shops?
Could not the right hon. Lady undertake to release some of the canned fish which we bought from Russia some months ago, and allocate it to the farmworkers?
In view of these many years in which we have battled for better rations for the farmworker, will the right hon. Lady not reconsider the matter? Is she aware that I have in my hand particulars of an industrial canteen where the people get an 11d. dinner consisting of meat, two veg. and "afters"? Farmworkers cannot get that, and it is about time that the Ministry of Food recognised that they are not being treated fairly.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that harvests in England, Scotland and Ireland have been taken in for hundreds of years by farmworkers who were fed on nothing but potatoes and oatmeal, because they could not get anything more?
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I wish to give notice that I shall raise the matter again at the earliest opportunity.
asked the Minister of Food when he anticipates his Department will have reached finality on the question of future meat-slaughtering policy.
This subject is so bound up with the wider question of the marketing of livestock for human consumption that I do not anticipate that a decision will be reached during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Will my right hon. Friend say what can be done in Scotland, with which I am particularly concerned, to improve the shocking conditions in the abattoirs, many of which are old and quite unfit for present use?
The condition of abattoirs is infinitely better than it was before this Government came into office, but if my hon. Friend cares to draw my attention to any particular case I will try to do what I can to remedy the situation.
Does not my right hon. Friend realise that one of the reasons why local authorities particularly are unwilling to go ahead and spend money to bring the abattoirs up to date is because they do not know what the future policy is to be?
I can only ask my hon. Friend to read "Labour Believes in Britain."
Sugar (Jam Making)
asked the Minister of Food whether he will reconsider his decision and grant a further allocation of sugar to housewives for jam making in view of the size of the fruit crop.
No, Sir. I cannot add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend, to my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) on 16th May.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that her answer will be received with a good deal of disappointment by housewives, especially in country districts?
I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that housewives are being given 7 lbs. of sugar this year as compared with 5 lbs. last year.
I cannot allow any more.
Will the right hon. Lady not realise that women in country districts who have their own fruit, of whom there are a great number, and who could contribute very largely to our food supplies, are drawing less sugar than they did before the increase mentioned by the right hon. Lady was given to them, because they are not allowed to exchange jam for sugar?
As long as the housewives' domestic need for sugar cannot be met fully, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that she will not divert supplies to sweet manufacturers to prop up the derationing experiment?
My hon. Friend knows that we are trying to allocate sugar as fairly as possible between manufacturers and the home consumer.
asked the Minister of Food if he can give the date of the Government agreement to buy Cornish new potatoes, and the price per ton.
The agreement was released for publication on 27th August, 1948. Prices were fixed daily under the New Potatoes (1949 Crop) Order, 1949. Prices began at £34 per ton on 1st June and decreased gradually to £28 5s. per ton on 11th June.
Whilst thanking the right hon. Lady for her reply, may I ask if she is aware that this is most unfortunate because it involved the country in very serious financial loss, and also disturbed very seriously the early potato marketing in Scotland this year? These Cornish potatoes were luxury potatoes; Scottish crops could have been grown for a great number of years.
I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. It did not disturb marketing arrangements in Scotland.
London Airport (Buildings, Demolition)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the notice of his intention to issue an order taking power to demolish any building within five miles from the centre of London Airport, namely, in almost the whole of South-west Middlesex, and to prohibit and remove cables, pipes and other apparatus in that area, has caused disquiet and uncertainty, which have not been allayed by the announcement that no houses will be demolished before 1953; and whether he will issue a further statement without delay explaining what is the limit of his intentions so that the development of this area may be resumed in the light of that explanation.
Yes, Sir. My noble Friend issued a further statement on 7th July. I am sending the hon. Member a copy.
Has not the hon. Member seen that I referred to that statement in my Question?
No, Sir. The Question, as I read it, referred to the order and not to the further statement of the Minister.
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Question again he will see that I did refer to the further statement. Is it really necessary for the hon. Gentleman's noble Friend to constitute himself, as he does, virtually the dictator of this area? Would it not be better if he defined his intentions much more precisely than he has done?
My noble Friend does not take dictatorial powers. If required, there can be a public inquiry, and the order, if made, is laid on the Table of this House.
Does the hon. Gentleman's answer mean that his Department have finally decided to persevere with Heathrow as the official London airport?
Yes, Sir, that has always been the official policy.
United States Naval Headquarters, London
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now invite the United States Government to remove from British soil the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Naval Forces in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, established in London after the end of the Second World War.