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Commons Chamber

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 27 April 1950

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 27th April, 1950

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

South Staffordshire Water Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Aycliffe Development Corporation (District Heating) Bill (By Order)

Second Reading deferred till Thursday, 11th May.

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Commerce

Textile Machinery


asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the value of orders placed for the installation of textile machinery qualifying for subsidy up to the most recent available date.

I regret that the information is not available since firms are not required, under the Cotton Spinning (Re-equipment Subsidy) Scheme, to submit details of orders as they are placed but only when payment of subsidy is claimed.

Surely, my right hon. Friend must have an idea of the extent to which this scheme has been utilised in the industry. Would he say whether he regards the utilisation as satisfactory or unsatisfactory?

I am certainly not satisfied. Up to 12th April this year, modernisation plans submitted by registered groups, involving a total expenditure of about £11 million had been approved. This, of course, includes new machinery

Can my right hon. Friend say when textile machinery supplied to the home market ceases to be a matter of trade and becomes a matter of supply, because I observe that another of my Questions on this subject has become Question 146 and, knowing the Question as I do, it rather resents its inauspicious position on the Order Paper?

Anything to do with the operation of this scheme is a matter for the Board of Trade. The Ministry of Supply is the authority for the production of the equipment in question.

Development Councils


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now in a position to give details of the additional industries in respect of which it is proposed to appoint a development council; and to indicate the dates when such appointment will be made.

Proposals for development councils for the wool, pottery, hosiery and cutlery industries are under consideration, but I cannot say anything further.

While appreciating my right hon. Friend's special difficulties at the moment, would he observe—I hope, not without emotion—the air of patient resignation, mixed with tolerance, with which I listened to that answer?

I said something about the attitude of the Government to development councils a week ago, when I spoke at some length. My hon. Friend will realise that there is some legal doubt at the moment about the position of development councils. Therefore, it would be difficult for me to say more now.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make certain, when setting up development councils, that the majority of those in the industry concerned are in favour of such a step?

I think the hon. Gentleman can do more than I can to help bring the majority of the industry into that frame of mind.

If such a council was set up for the woollen industry, would there be a separate council for Scotland?

I do not think that there is any question of a separate development council in Scotland for the woollen industry, but the representation of Scotland might be a subject for Debate when the matter comes before this House.

Nylon Yarn


asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the high price now charged by British nylon spinners, he will fix maximum prices for nylon yarn.

No, Sir. The Central Price Regulation Committee are satisfied that the present prices yield only a modest profit for the spinners.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this monopoly charges 8s. a pound more for nylon yarn than does its counterpart in America and that this makes it increasingly difficult for nylon users in this country to compete in the American market? Further, is he aware that they could reduce the price by 4s. a pound and still leave themselves a handsome margin of profit?

No, Sir. I am not so aware. The Central Price Regulation Committee have been into the question of costs very carefully indeed. As production increases it should be possible to have some further reduction in price.



asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the present low stocks of newsprint, he is satisfied that supplies will be maintained; and if he will make a statement.

Stocks of newsprint for the newspapers are at present above the level which they consider it reasonable to carry, and I have no reason to anticipate that stocks will fall below the necessary working level.

American Cars (Import Licences)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what is his reason for refusing to grant import licences to American nationals who wish to buy American cars in America and bring them, or have them sent, to this country; and whether he is prepared to change his attitude to this problem and grant such licences.

While British car manufacturers are devoting such a high proportion of their production to the export drive, it would, in general, be unfair to allow imports of cars from abroad. Facilities are, however, available for American visitors to this country who wish to bring their cars with them. American nationals who change their domicile to this country are also, in certain circumstances, permitted to import their cars.

If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind and will let me have details. I will look into it.

Is the President aware that if an American national was allowed to buy a car in America and import it into this country, the profit on the deal, in the case, say, of a Packard car goes to the English Packard company in dollars? Therefore, this country is losing dollars, in addition to the loss of Purchase Tax and Import Duty.

I am quite prepared to look at individual cases, but I do not think it would be possible to lay down a general rule.

Are we to understand that an American visitor can bring his car into this country and dispose of it under the arrangement which has been referred to?

No, Sir. I referred to American visitors bringing their cars here for tourist purposes.

Potash Deposits, Whitby


asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made in the last year towards the winning of potash by mining or brine-pumping from strata near Whitby.

I understand that deep boring to prove and determine the extent of those potash deposits has been going ahead in the last 12 months at a rate which is considered satisfactory.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is any possibility of this very valuable mineral for agriculture being obtained in workable quantities?

I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman about the value of this discovery, but the firms concerned naturally want to do very much more to find out how extensive is the deposit before they can begin to make plans for working it.

Factory Estates


asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the area of land now being used in development areas and other parts of Great Britain for factory estates which have been developed during the war, and are now being developed, respectively; and what is the estimated area of proposed factory estates not yet commenced.

Approximately 5,000 acres of land in the development areas have been, or are being, developed with Government finance, as industrial estates (as distinct from individual sites and small group sites). Of this area, about 2,000 acres,were developed during the war as Royal Ordnance Factories and subsequently taken over by the Board of Trade for development as industrial estates, and another 1,600 acres have been developed wholly since the war. Further land will be acquired as needs arise, there being at present about 500 acres either acquired or under consideration for development. The further information requested by my hon. Friend is not readily available, but I will write to him as soon as it has been collected.

Industrial Estate, Kilwinning


asked the President of the Board of Trade what plans he now has for the future development of the industrial estate at Kilwinning.

As I told my hon. Friend in reply to his Question on 16th March, the available land on the Kilwinning Estate is being held in reserve for possible future development.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the past history of Kilwinning as a depressed area, and of the keen concern of the local authority there that. despite the great amount of money being spent in clearing the area as an industrial site, only one small factory has so far been placed there? Is he also aware that the local authority is most anxious that more labour should be employed through the whole estate being developed?

Yes, Sir. I have been made well aware of the past history of this area, though I think my hon. Friend will agree that the employment position there at present is much more satisfactory. We are watching the situation, particularly to see how far private development looks like succeeding in solving the problem.

Shipbuilding, Scotland (Employment)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the plans of the Government to take up the unemployment lag in Scotland caused by the falling-off in orders for shipbuilding.

I understand that the majority of the yards in Scotland have sufficient orders to keep the labour force at present employed on shipbuilding going for the next two years. But, as I explained to the House on 4th April, during the Second Reading Debate on the Distribution of Industry Bill, we are seeking to strengthen our powers for assisting industrial development in the shipyard towns and elsewhere in those parts of the development areas which may be threatened with falling off in employment, particularly on the ship repairing side, in the future.

Must we not look ahead? Would not an obvious solution be to use the industrial facilities at Prestwick Airport to create a permanent aircraft industry in Scotland, where the lag may be taken up, should it occur?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will study what I said on the Second Reading of the Distribution of Industry Bill I think he will be satisfied that we are looking ahead in this matter.

Is the President aware that there is considerable concern on this subject in Aberdeen, and could he say what plans he has in mind for helping to develop other industries in that city?

I do not know whether the noble Lady is referring to ship repairing or to other industries, but I would be glad if she would put a Question down.

Does the President appreciate the very serious problems confronting the North-East Coast ship repairing industry?

Hand-Made Pottery, Exports

14 and 15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) how much hand-made pottery, and its value in dollars, has been exported to the United States of America since the New York office of British Export Handicraft was opened;

(2) whether his Department have, through British Export Handicraft, advised British craftsmen in pottery as to the types of hand-made wares which will sell best in United States of America.

British Handcrafts Export are an independent company for which the Board of Trade have no special responsibility. I am, however, informed by them that they are in continuous touch with a number of hand-potters in this country to whom they supply information, received from their agent in New York, as to types of ware likely to sell best in the United States. Since the opening of their office in New York in January of this year, British Handcrafts Export have sent to the United States a test consignment of about 2,000 pieces of hand-thrown pottery, valued at approximately 6,000 dollars at retail prices in the United States.

Will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to encourage this particular export of British handcrafts?

Yes, Sir; I think we should all desire to encourage the linking of the British handcraft industries of all kinds with the dollar exports drive.

Will the right hon. Gentleman retain a small quantity of it for the benefit of the Festival of Britain?

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, there are many plans already in hand for examples of pottery and other commodities, showing what this country can do in design and craftsmanship, to be shown at the Festival of Britain.

Imports (Empire Countries)

16 and 17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what percentage of United Kingdom Class II imports, namely, raw materials and articles mainly unmanufactured, came from Empire countries in 1931, 1938. 1945 and 1949;

(2) what percentage of United Kingdom. Class I imports, namely, food, drink and tobacco, came from Empire countries in 1931, 1938, 1945 and 1949.

The percentages of the value of total Class 1 imports into the United Kingdom from the Commonwealth as defined for statistical purpose in the years in question were as follow:' 38 per cent., 49 per cent., 58 per cent., 50 per cent., respectively. Corresponding percentages for Class II imports were: 34, 42, 54, 51.

The figures for 1931, 1938 and 1945 include the Irish Republic, Burma and Palestine, which are excluded in 1949.

Do not these figures show that the percentage improved steadily from 1931 to 1945, after which it has decreased? How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his answer with the statement he made in the House last week, when he said that the Conservative Party had talked about developing Imperial trade, whereas this Government had developed it? Does he not consider that the figures show that the reverse is the case?

If the hon. Gentleman will study the statement I made last week, he will see the justification for that remark. The statement which he made just now represents one of the worst misuses of statistics that I have ever known, because he must surely be well aware of the fact that in 1945 we were cut off from practically all our traditional sources of supply of food and raw materials in Europe, and also in South-East Asia. It was, therefore, perfectly natural that Commonwealth supplies should show an abnormally larger proportion in 1945.

Industrial Fabrics, Argentina


asked the President of the Board of Trade what official representations have been made to the Argentine Government about its discriminating against this country in granting exchange for imports of English produced specialised industrial fabrics.

I have not received reports from traders about specialised industrial fabrics on which representations could be based, but I will look into the matter if the hon. Member will let me have detailed information. His Majesty's Government have been exerting constant pressure on the Argentine authorities to secure the issue of import licences for United Kingdom products on a satisfactory and equitable basis. This will continue to be one of our main objectives in the current trade negotiations.

Is not the President aware that the Argentine Government have granted exchange for French, German and even Austrian paper felt makers, and can he assure the House that the granting of exchange for specialised British industrial cloths will not be prejudiced by any negotiations going on now regarding exchange for meat?

I am well aware of the unsatisfactory position in granting licences for many of our exports to the Argentine, but, as I have said, the purpose of these negotiations is to improve facilities for licences for our manufacturers.



asked the President of the Board of Trade what special efforts are being made to get all the softwood essential to prevent any hold-up to this year's housing programme.

In planning the housing programme, account is taken of the softwood which will be required for this and other essential uses. In addition to our imports from Scandinavia and other normal suppliers, we are attempting to increase the rate of supplies from Russia, while imports are, of course, being made also from North America.

Could the Minister say whether we are getting as much from Sweden as we did last year?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on that, but I can assure him that we are doing everything possible to maintain and improve supplies, and he may care to know that the Timber Controller is next week going to Moscow to negotiate for supplies from Russia.

The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have heard what I said. I was not talking about Moscow, but Sweden. Have we not actually cut down the amount of softwood which we are getting from Sweden this year?

There has been no question of cutting down the amount this year, but the negotiations for buying there are not yet completed.

Can the President say whether any progress has been made in the negotiations between his Department and the merchanting firms who, in prewar days, were responsible for softwood imports, in regard to the decontrol of softwood on lines similar to the decontrol of hardwood?

Yes, Sir. I made a statement last week about the particular conditions, which I am quite sure this House would wish to insist upon before there were such reversion, and I commented that the private traders considered that my suggestions for the removal of these controls were impracticable.

The right hon. Gentleman said that a high official was going to Moscow, but could he assure the House that everything possible has been done to increase the import of softwoods from Canada rather than going to Moscow?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman should be aware by this time—because we have dealt with it many times in the past—that a simple barter of steel against timber in Canada would make very little difference indeed to the amount of timber we should get, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman can work out for himself if he looks at the price.

Utility Hosiery (Prices)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what will be the effect on hosiery utility prices of the increase of nearly 50 per cent. in the price of wool since devaluation.

The effect will vary according to the amount and type of wool in each garment. Increases already made in manufacturers' maximum prices for hosiery since devaluation amount on an average to about 12 per cent.

Would not the Minister agree that this is yet another addition to the cost of living, and disproves the Chancellor's statement that bread would be the only food to rise in price as a result of devaluation?

If the hon. Gentleman would once again study what my right hon. and learned Friend said, he would see that there was no disparity between what he said and what has happened.

Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to speed up the revision of prices in this rapidly rising market? Is he aware that the prices given by his Department today are based on the raw material prices obtaining last September?

As far as hosiery is concerned, I think we are fairly speedy. I am not prepared to agree to increases in prices at too early a stage before the goods arrive in the shops, and I would count on the support of the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite to help to fight the rising cost of living.

Steel Exports


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that we have now stopped all exports of steel, tinplate and engineering equipment to the Soviet Union and her satellites.

No, Sir. If the hon. and gallant Member is thinking of security considerations, I can assure him that there is already control over exports which we feel should be stopped on security grounds.

Is it not a fact that we badly need more steel for export to Canada, and that instead of the right hon. Gentleman blaming the steel industry for not doing enough to meet our requirements we would be better off if we stopped supplies to Russia and sent them to Canada?

As far as I know, very little steel will be going to Russia this year. We hope to be able to supply all the needs of the Canadian market for steel this year, apart from one or two specialities. Any diversion of steel to Canada from other markets would make very little difference.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that engineering exports to Russia are concerned with the exploitation of Russia's forests, and therefore assist us in the import of timber to this country?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that next year this country will supply Canada with all the steel she requires and asks for?

I am very hopeful of doing that, but it is very difficult to say how much steel Canada will want to take until there is agreement between the trade and Canadian importers on the question of price. We are certainly looking forward to a big increase in our exports to Canada this year if Canada wants to have it.

Fire Services



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the gross cost of fire services to local authorities and His Majesty's Government together, in 1938-39 and 1948-49, respectively.

The gross cost in 1948-49 of the fire services in England and Wales was approximately £12,000,000, of which approximately £3,200,000 was borne by the Exchequer. Information for the year 1938-39 is not available; there was not then any Government grant in aid of fire brigade expenditure.

As it is generally admitted that there has been a very large increase in the cost of these services, will the right hon. Gentleman consider a scheme for complete decentralisation to focal authorities?

Is the right lion. Gentleman aware that the figures for 1948-49 put the sum for a course for students at the National Fire Service College at £40 a week? Will he see that that sort of expenditure is curtailed?

Yes, Sir, I have the problem of the National Fire Service College very much in mind.

Fires (Statistics)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of fires in England during the last 12 months; the number which resulted in fatal casualties; and the chief causes of such fires.

The latest figures which are readily available are those for the year ended 31st December, 1949. During that period 92,879 fires were attended by the local authorities' fire brigades in England and Wales. The number of fatal casualties at these fires was 457. The probable causes have not yet been fully analysed. The indications are that about 20 per cent. of the total number of fires in buildings were due to sparks etc. from fires in open grates, and about 10 per cent. were due to carelessness in the use of smoking materials.

They include all fires. The number was somewhat higher during 1949 owing to the hot summer, which gave rise to an additional number of heath fires.




asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the grievance felt by men who joined the Metropolitan Police between 1919 and 1921 under a contract entitling them to full pension after 26 years' service, but are now denied full pension unless they complete 30 years' service; and, having regard to the principle that the Government should act like a good employer, if he will remedy the injustice done to these men in having their pensions rights worsened without their consent.

I have given close personal attention to the representations made from time to time on behalf of the officers who joined the Metropolitan and other police forces between 1st July, 1919, and 28th August, 1921, and who were affected by the new scales of pensions introduced by the Police Pensions Act, 1921, but I have not felt able to propose legislation altering in this respect the provisions of the Statute passed by Parliament in 1921. The Oaksey Committee, who considered similar representations made on behalf of these officers, reached the conclusion that it would not be practicable to reopen the question.

Does tile right hon. Gentleman admit that there has been a breach of contract?

I was not responsible for what happened in this House in 1921. My own view is that these men were, in fact, hardly treated, and I have spent a great deal of time, in personal consultation with the Police Federation, in trying to work out a scheme that would be just, and which I could commend to the House. But I was forced to reach the same conclusion as the Oaksey Committee that, at this stage, owing to the number of men who have retired, died, and other things, it is quite impossible to reopen the question.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the grievance arose not in 1921, but in 1946, when he was responsible?

No, Sir, it did not arise then. By that time successive Governments had, from time to time, had to face this question, and reached the same conclusion as I have reached.

Retired Men (Re-Employment)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider recruiting ex-policemen who have retired on account of age or on account of disabilities which do not preclude them from certain duties, on a tem- porary basis, to make up to some extent for the present shortage in the Force.

While the question of rebuilding the first police reserves is at present under consideration, there are few police duties on which it would be appropriate to employ men who have retired from the service on account of age or disabilities. I have, however, recently asked police authorities and chief officers of police to consider the extended use of civilian staff for office and similar work and so to release police for other duties: retired police officers with the necessary qualifications might well be considered for such employment.

Does not experience in Resistance movements and irregular forces, and even in the Home Guard, suggest that slightly older men and slightly disabled men may be extremely useful in selected jobs? Does the right hon. Gentleman not know of the prowess of Wiley Post and Bader and even of Lord Nelson?

Those men, I understand, are not available for recruiting. But I have given an indication in the reply I made to the hon. Member that I am anxious that men of experience, who can be properly employed to release younger men for more active service, should be brought in, where they are willing to come.

Will the Home Secretary, in supplementing the regular Police Force, resist the suggestion of the Attorney-General to create a Hitler Youth?

Juvenile Delinquency


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how far he attributes the figures of juvenile convictions in each of the years 1945 to 1950 to overcrowded homes.

The causes of juvenile delinquency are many and varied, and more than one factor may be operative in any particular case. Other things being equal, a child from a home that is not overcrowded has doubtless a better chance in life, but it is not, in my view, possible to attribute any precise amount of juvenile delinquency to a single cause such as overcrowding.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he looked into the reports of probation officers and of juvenile convictions he would find that a very high proportion of those convictions concerned young people coming from overcrowded homes? In view of that fact, is he prepared to recommend to the Minister of Health that an even higher figure for houses completed should be aimed at?

I think that overcrowding is one of the causes; it is not the only cause, nor do the people to whom the hon. Member referred put it as the principal cause.

Will my right hon. Friend say to what extent the legacy of overcrowding was due to the criminal neglect of the party opposite?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that magistrates, particularly in industrial areas, are very concerned about the number of juvenile crimes which arise through overcrowded houses and through parents being separated owing to overcrowding? In view of that, would he make strong representations to the Minister of Health to raise the house-building target from the very low level at which it is at present?

Coroners' Courts


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the urgent need to introduce legislation to amend the law relating to coroners' courts; what steps he has taken consequent upon his undertaking of 5th February, 1948, to look into this question; and whether it is intended to implement any of the recommendations on this subject contained in the report of the Lord Wright Committee made in 1935.

Most of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Coroners could be implemented only by legislation. Although I have not overlooked the desirability of reviewing the law relating to coroners, I cannot promise to introduce legislation on this difficult and controversial question in the near future.

Does the Minister not agree that a large measure of the reform which is required is not controversial at all, and that there is a wide measure of agreement as to what needs to be done? Does he not think that a Parliament such as this provides a good opportunity for legislation of this kind?

No, Sir. I have had negotiations with the coroners on this matter and I found no point in discussions with them which was not controversial.

Is the Home Secretary aware that again and again, so far as it is possible to do so under the Rules of the House, attention has been called to the fantastic anomaly of the present law and the extraordinary latitude allowed to these people? Why should he not bring in a Bill which provokes no party controversy, and which we could leave to the discretion of the House to pass? Is he aware that two years ago he promised to give consideration to this most urgent question?

Does not the Home Secretary agree that most of the controversy comes from the coroners themselves, and that it is in order to remove from them certain privileges, which they are trying to safeguard, that this House ought to act?



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many stowaways are known to have landed in Britain since the end of the war; and from what countries they have come.

From 7th August, 1945, to 31st March, 1950, 1,653 alien stowaways and from 1st January, 1946, to 31st March, 1950, 2,141 British stowaways arrived in the United Kingdom. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT tables showing the nationality of the alien stowaways and the territories from which the British stowaways came.

Could the Home Secretary say how many British stowaways have left Britain since 1945?

Following are the tables:


7th August, 1945, to 31st March, 1950

Other Europeans14
Central American20
Other non-European nationals42
Stateless or nationality doubtful341


1st January, 1946, to 31st March, 1950

Aden and Yemen38
British Guiana15
British Somaliland64
East Africa10
Gold Coast299
Sierra Leone263
Other territories442

Hackney Carriage Law (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to receive the report of the Working Party on Hackney Carriage Law.

I asked the Working Party at the end of 1949 to give priority to the question of limiting the number of drivers and cabs in the Metropolitan Police district. I understand that they hope to let me have this interim report shortly.

In view of the continued and growing dissatisfaction of owners and drivers of cabs in the London area, will the Home Secretary give an assurance that as soon as this report is forthcoming he will take some action on it?

The Working Party consists of representatives of the owners and drivers to whom the hon. and gallant Member has referred. I shall be only too happy to consider the report if they will get on with the job.


Building Licences


asked the Minister of Health whether he will now grant local authorities the right to issue additional building licences where they are satisfied that the licence is for an owner-occupier and that the site, materials and labour are readily available.


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that approximately 7,000 houses in Portsmouth were completely destroyed in the war, most of which were private houses, he will relax the existing one in nine rule, and allow the building of private houses to proceed in accordance with the requirements of this city.


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the increase in the housing programme, he proposes to alter the ratio between local authority and private enterprise building.

89 and 90.

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he will grant licences to people prepared to build houses for their own occupation without employing other labour and where the material used makes only a very limited demand upon resources of building material, additional to the normal allocation to local authorities;

(2) whether, in view of the increased number of houses to be built during the year 1950-51, he is prepared to restore the ratio between local authority houses and private enterprise houses to the previous figure of four to one.


asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider, where a local authority's housing programme is well advanced, relaxing the order that only one house may be built by a private person for every ten built by the councils to let.


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that the housing target has been reinstated at 200,000 houses per year, he will now reinstate the quota of houses which may be built privately under licence at one to every four houses built by the local authorities.


asked the Minister of Health if, after consideration of the representations made to him by housing authorities in rural areas, he is now prepared to modify the rule that in no district may more than one house in ten be built by private enterprise.

I have this matter under consideration and hope to make an announcement soon.

When does the Minister hope to be in a position to make an announcement?

Will the Minister bear in mind that the Government axe, which fell in September, provided that the cuts should fall entirely on private enterprise building? That being so, is it not fair that the restoration should be made to private enterprise?

Does the Minister realise that building resources are being wasted upon putting up cold frames, greenhouses and other things because we cannot afford his nine in one housing ratio?

I understand the hon. and gallant Member is now expressing a rebuff to the way in which private enterprise wastes the nation's resources.

As these eight Questions are being taken together it is only right that each hon. Member who put a Question down should have the right to ask one supplementary question before those not on the list.

Is the Minister aware that Question No. 89 is not identical with Question No. 37, and raises quite a different point? Question No. 89 is a request to the Minister to consider whether he will allow those who are able and willing to build their own houses, with their own labour, to get the licences which we believe they are entitled to have. Will the Minister not consider these as special cases, regardless of any decision on the apportionment to private enterprise?

It raises exactly the same point as to whether licences are to be given in greater proportion for the erection of houses under private ownership, and I hope to make a statement next week.

Where the completion of a local authority programme is well advanced, will not the Minister allow a little more latitude in connection with private housing than has been allowed hitherto?

The reason why I am not able to make an announcement at once is because I am not only hoping to revise the relationship between local authority housing and private licences. I am also hoping to introduce some refinements which will give greater flexibility to the licensing system, but I must find out whether, administratively, they are generally practicable.

Will the Minister allow discretion to rural authorities, to whom this problem is one of particular urgency?

I must also consider that in the rural areas there would be very often a far smaller proportion of persons able to afford to build privately.

Is it not a fact that private enterprise in many large towns has not taken up the full allocation already given to it?

That is the case. That is why it is necessary to have flexibility in the matter. It has already been realised that there are some areas where the ratio of one in ten is far too high a proportion for the area to take up.



asked the Minister of Health whether his Department has completed the sorting of live applications for houses as the result of the information he received, following his Department's Circular No. 171/48 of 10th November, 1948; and whether he will inform the local authorities of the result.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply- given to Questions on this subject on 9th March, of which I am sending him a copy.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this matter has now been occupying his Department for some 17 months? Is it not true that the whole scheme is abortive, and a very good example of what my hon. Friends on this side of the House refer to as wasteful Government expenditure?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by " scheme.' This was an attempt to find out the housing needs by reviewing the housing lists. It was, however, discovered that there was so much duplication of lists made up of varying criteria that no national figures would have any validity.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long he thinks it will be before this scheme—I again call it a scheme because, so far, it is only a scheme —will come to fruition and local authorities will be informed of the result?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by " scheme." As was explained in the answer, the only way to find out the actual housing needs of the country is a house to house survey, which would involve the use of large sums of public money and personnel.



asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that although the Housing Manual, 1949, provides for a carriageway 13 feet in width in a cul-de-sac not more than 600 feet in length, county councils are, in some areas, insisting upon such roads being of a minimum width of 15 feet or 16 feet, and that this difference of opinion between the highway authority and his Department is causing delay in the approval by his Department of housing schemes; and whether he will make arrangements for early discussions with the Minister of Transport, with a view to arriving at an agreed standard to which housing authorities can work.

I am not aware of any serious delays from this cause, but it is obviously desirable to have accepted minimum standards in this matter. My Department and the Ministries of Transport and Town and Country Planning have already held discussions with the Local Authorities' Associations on the standards provisionally recommended in the Housing Manual, and I hope that as a result an agreed schedule of road widths will be produced.

Rent Tribunals


asked the Minister of Health whether he will introduce legislation to give a right of appeal from the decisions of local rent tribunals to a Central Appellate Tribunal.

Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration, before he considers this point at all, the fact that tenants who apply to rent tribunals are not permitted any costs and that the rent tribunals themselves are not in a position to employ counsel in cases where they are in difficulty?

Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman's original answer was that the Statute prevents him from introducing further legislation?

That answer was to a supplementary question. My original answer was that this was very adequately discussed when the matter was before the House. On the whole, I think the experience of these rent tribunals has been very satisfactory. There have been 57,000 applications made to the rent tribunals since they have been established, and only 200 complaints of varying kinds have been received. I think experience has shown that it is far better to leave the tribunals to establish what they consider to be a fair rent in the light of the facts presented to them.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a case which was heard on 29th March the Lord Chief Justice himself recommended that this particular matter should be dealt with?

National Health Service



asked the Minister of Health what is the present scale of salaries applicable to chartered physiotherapists within the National Health Service.

Chemists, Salford


asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered a request from the Salford Health Executive Council for permission to establish an all-night chemist service for patients who are attended by their doctor late in the evenings when chemists are closed; and what are his intentions in regard to this matter.

Yes, Sir. I am unable to approve this as a charge on Exchequer funds. The appropriate regulations already provide for the supply of drugs in an emergency.

Ministries (Economy)


asked the Prime Minister, in view of the need to effect savings in national expenditure, what consideration he has given to the possibility of reducing the number of Ministries, especially those such as the Ministry of Supply, which were established purely or principally for the purposes of facilitating the war effort.

All aspects of the machinery of Government, including not only the division of functions between Departments but also the organisation of the Departments themselves, are constantly under review with the general object of securing the maximum of efficiency at minimum cost. While changes in the redistribution of functions between Departments will clearly be necessary from time to time, I am not satisfied that any of the Departments, created when the country was being organised for war and which are still in being, could be abolished without loss of efficiency.

When will the right hon. Gentleman and the Government awaken to the facts about the gravity of our present economic situation, and, indeed, to the facts of life generally? Do they not realise that they must and could save in a big way by getting rid of redundant Ministries and their Ministers and the hordes of highly paid staffs?

Unofficial Strikes

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. MARPLES.

46. To ask the Prime Minister whether he will set up a Royal Commission to investigate the question of unofficial stocks.

In putting this Question, Mr. Speaker, may I draw your attention to the fact that the concluding words should be " unofficial strikes "?

I gathered that that correction was necessary. The reply is, " No, Sir."

Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the present position? If he is not satisfied. what action, if any, does he propose to take?

The answer means that I do not consider the remedy, suggested by the hon. Member, that a Royal Commission would be appropriate in this case.

Air Pollution, Stoke-On-Trent


asked the Lord President of the Council what are the figures for the carbon content of the atmosphere in Stoke-on-Trent as compared with Nottingham; and what are the figures for skyshine in the two cities.

No comparative figures are available as, although the city of Stoke-on-Trent sends measurements of smoke and deposited matter, including carbonaceous matter, to D.S.I.R., no equivalent measurements are reported from Nottingham. I understand, however, that the Nottingham Corporation is shortly to commence observations. No measurements of daylight have been reported from either Stoke or Nottingham.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the number of days on which what we term haze is noted is 40 times as high in a city like Stoke-on-Trent as compared with some other cities of similar size? Has he considered whether the powers that local authorities now have invested in them are sufficient to solve this type of problem, where the atmosphere is grossly polluted?

I am very sorry to hear of this state of affairs in Stoke. I hope they will improve. There is a possible improvement in the law under consideration, but if my hon. Friend wishes to pursue that matter I think that a Question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

May I ask whether the superior clarity and brightness over Nottingham are not attributable to the illumination of a political kind which has recently dawned and is visibly increasing all round the eastern environs of the city


Timber Felling


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps the Forestry Commission are taking to encourage timber merchants to do the felling, extraction and conversion of standing timber.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 4th April to the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

Is the Minister aware that at present the merchants are under-employed, and, on the other hand, the Commission's staffs are finding it very difficult to cope with the planting, and will soon have difficulty with the thinning? Is he further aware that he will be well advised to carry out the advice of the Forestry Commission?

I think it will be of some interest to the hon. Member to learn that 2,102 acres were dealt with by private afforestration fellers last year.

Commission (Appointment)


asked the Minister of Agriculture when an experienced timber merchant will be appointed to the Forestry Commission.

I would again refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 4th April to the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

Private Woodlands


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in order to encourage the dedication of private woodlands, he will consider allowing maintenance and planting grants to be made as from the date on which the owner originally stated his readiness to dedicate.

No, Sir. The mere expression of readiness to dedicate cannot be held to entitle an owner to grants under the dedication covenant.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that very great delay is often due to clerical causes over which the owner has no control?

I am not too sure about that, but in any case it is doubtful whether we could make a grant merely because the man said he might dedicate at some future date.


Aureomycin (Supplies)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will take steps to test the claims made by leading industrial chemists that a small quantity of the new drug aureomycin, when mixed with a ton of animal feed, produces a 50 per cent. speed up in the growth of farm stock, and, so far as is warranted, make supplies available to livestock rearers throughout the country.

The hon. Member no doubt has in mind the addition of vitamin B12, in residues of aureomycin and streptomycin, to animal diets deficient in animal protein. Such deficient diets lead to a retarded growth rate in non-ruminant animals, and the addition of the vitamin in this way appears to enable the growth rate to return to that normally obtained from feedingstuffs containing animal protein. This matter is already under investigation, more particularly at the National Institute for Research in Dairying. The results will be made known as soon as they prove of value to the agricultural community.



asked the Minister of Agriculture how the profitability of the agricultural industry is arrived at; what differences there are between the figures for separate counties or groups of counties where conditions are similar; and whether these differences were taken into consideration in the February price review.

The main evidence on the profitability of agriculture comes from farm accounts collected and analysed by University Departments of Agricultural Economics, and summarised by the Agricultural Departments. These accounts, which are not classified by counties but by types of farming, are taken into consideration at the February price review.

Land Service


asked the Minister of Agriculture what changes are now contemplated in the responsibility of the Agricultural Land Service for drainage and water supplies.

As a matter of Departmental convenience, it was recently decided that work in the counties in connection with grant-aided schemes of field drainage and water supply should come under the general direction of the assistant county agricultural officer (executive). No change is contemplated in the responsibilities of the Agricultural Land Service for giving advice on field drainage and water supplies so far as these affect estate management.

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply mean that the Land Service has full responsibility for farm water supplies and field drainage, or is it only question of giving advice?

The county agricultural officer now becomes the person responsible for the kind of drainage referred to by the hon. Member and the estate agent member of the county executive committee is no longer responsible for that service.

Does that reply mean that the right hon. Gentleman has divided the responsibility and now has two people for the job instead of one?

No. We have done exactly the opposite; we have contracted it to one person.

Rabbit Keepers


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in considering the question of the removal of Defence Regulation 62B, he will have regard to the interests of the domestic rabbit-keepers who, through their rabbit clubs, are making a useful contribution to the food supplies of this country.

Is the Minister aware that many thousands of people belonging to these clubs, and mostly living in big towns, developed this business during the war as result of appeals from the Minister of Food and that if this regulation is not replaced they will run a risk of losing not only the results of many years' work but also a hobby which they value very much?

Oil (Cost)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the hardship which the rise in the cost of oil will cause farmers using oil-fired grass driers and what steps he proposes tc mitigate the position.

I am advised that the fuel consumed by oil-fired grass driers is not subject to the increase in the Customs and Excise duty on hydrocarbon oils announced in the Budget Statement.

Does the Minister realise that that reply will give great relief to a large number of farmers throughout the country?

Sheep Worrying, Lincolnshire


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the damage being done to sheep in North Lincolnshire by stray dogs; and what steps he is taking to help farmers in this matter.

I am aware that dogs are responsible for causing damage to sheep in some parts of the country. Discussions on this subject generally have been taking place with the National Farmers' Union. They have not yet been completed, but I must confess that I feel doubtful whether an effective and practicable remedy can be devised.

Is the Minister aware that because of this there are farmers who are giving up sheep breeding? Something should be done to help them.

It is discouraging to farmers when dogs ravage their sheep and land, and if any practicable solution could be found I should be very happy indeed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is strong feeling on this subject among farmers in Surrey as well as among those in Lincolnshire?

Strawberries (Import)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what arrangements have been made for the importation of strawberries this coming summer; and how far these arrangements have been made with the agreement of the strawberry growers in the south of Hampshire.

I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the Press announcement of 12th February, 1950, about imports of fresh fruits and vegetables, from which he will see that if home supplies are sufficient, it is proposed to suspend from 1st June to 31st July, inclusive, the present open general licence for the importation of strawberries, and to limit imports during this period to a total of 2,500 tons. The arrangements were discussed with the National Farmers' Union but not with growers in particular areas.

Is the Minister aware that growers have been in a state of great suspense concerning their fate? Will he indicate the results of this document to the Growers' Federation?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the housewives of this country are tired of high prices and the protection of home growers? Will my right hon. Friend in the future protect housewives and see that they get plentiful supplies of soft fruit at cheap prices?

Feedingstuffs (Subsidy)


asked the Minister of Agriculture how much of the £36,000,000 cut in feedingstuffs subsidy is being paid by the consumer in higher prices; and how much must come from farming profits.

There is no close connection between the recently announced increase in farmers' prices on the one hand and consumers' prices on the other. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food indicated on 5th April changes in consumers' prices are the outcome of many different factors, including variations in the cost of home-grown and imported food and in the volume of supplies. In answer to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) on 20th April.

Would not the Minister admit that, whatever sum has to be paid by the consumer, it falsifies the Chancellor of the Exchequer's claim that only bread would go up in price as the result of devaluation'?

I do not think my right hon. and learned Friend ever made such a statement.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman possess a wireless set?

Guaranteed Prices


asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in order to remove misconceptions recently aroused in the public mind, he will issue a White Paper setting out the factors that determine the prices guaranteed to British farmers.

The prices guaranteed to agricultural producers are determined in the light of the conclusions reached from reviews of the economic condition and prospects of the industry which are held in accordance with Section 2 of the Agriculture Act, 1947. All relevant factors are taken into account in the course of these reviews and in the subsequent determination of prices, but the importance attached to different factors may vary from one review to another and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by the issue of a White Paper.

As these misconceptions persist and as farmers have nothing to hide —nor, presumably have the Government— would it not be wise to have the facts set out plainly in black and white?

I doubt whether it would be possible to provide the clarity which the hon. Member desires.

Will the Minister think about this again? We keep having misunderstandings on this point. I would commend the Minister to read the speech which his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in the House on Monday. It completely confuses the issue on this problem.

There may have been confusion, but I am perfectly certain that it does not rest with the farming community or with those who represent the Government conduct these reviews.

I entirely agree. That is why we want a White Paper giving the facts.

Coast Erosion


asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the estimated average annual acreage lost by coast erosion throughout Great Britain; what is the total area of land at the present moment under reclamation; and what land has been reclaimed since 1945.