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Commons Chamber

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1950

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 14th June, 1950

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

South Shields Extension Bill

As amended, to be considered upon Wednesday next, at seven o'clock.

Lee Conservancy Catchment Board Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Hartlepool) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed.

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Caernarvon) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the General Pier and Harbour Act, 1861, relating to Caernarvon," presented by Mr. Barnes; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 31.]

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Cattewater) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the General Pier and Harbour Act, 1861, relating to Cattewater," presented by Mr. Barnes; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 32.]

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Great Yarmouth) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the General Pier and Harbour Act, 1861, relating to Great Yarmouth," presented by Mr. Barnes; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 33.]

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Workington) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the General Pier and Harbour Act, 1861, relating to Workington," presented by Mr. Barnes; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 34.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Eastern Europe (Imprisoned British Subjects)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British subjects have been imprisoned since 1945 in the Soviet-controlled zones of Germany and Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; whether their present whereabouts and conditions are known; and how many British subjects have disappeared in those countries during the same period and whose present whereabouts are not known.

I will, with permission, circulate the required information in the OFFICIAL REPORT. This list includes only those cases where we have conclusive evidence of imprisonment or disappearance. In most cases repeated protests to the appropriate authorities have had no effect and the present whereabouts and conditions of those imprisoned are not known.

Whether the list is long or short, can the House have an assurance that, in cases where the present whereabouts are not known, His Majesty's Government will continue to exercise every possible pressure to try to rescue these unfortunate people and see that these countries observe the decencies of international law?

The House can certainly rest assured that His Majesty's Government will do everything that is possible. What can be done has been discussed on a good many previous occasions in this House. As the House appreciates, if the Governments concerned are not prepared to observe the normal courtesies and decencies in this matter, then it is very difficult to know what can be done effectively.

Can the House have any assurance that some of those persons have not shared the fate which overtook Polish prisoners-of-war in the Katyn Woods?

I cannot give any assurance about persons whose whereabouts are completely unknown to us.

Following is the reply:

U.S.S.R.

1. Mrs. Ackman and 2, Mrs. Whitehead, who were employed as telephonists in H.M. Embassy, disappeared in October, 1948.
3. Mrs. Burke, another telephonist, was so intimidated by the police that she attempted suicide.
4. Mrs. Greenhalgh, Soviet-born wife of a British subject, was arrested in May, 1948, and imprisoned for some months without trial and later sentenced to two years' imprisonment on a technical charge of false registration.
These four women are all Soviet-born wives of British subjects.
5. Seaman John Connor was sentenced at Murmansk in February, 1945, to one year's imprisonment. As a result of representations by H.M. Ambassador the Supreme Soviet Court commuted his sentence, and he was released on 20th May.
6. Max von Trutzschler, a dual national (British and German), who fought for the Germans during the war. He was imprisoned in a P.o.W. Transit Camp near Odessa. The Soviet authorities chose to regard him as a German citizen, and he was subsequently released as a P.o.W.
7. Miss Peters, another telephonist at H.M. Embassy, who may have acquired Soviet nationality, disappeared on 17th January, 1949, after the police had tried to persuade her to leave her employment.

II. SOVIET ZONES OF GERMANY AND
AUSTRIA

A. GERMANY

8. Private F. W. J. Kelly, 133, Parachute Field Ambulance, was arrested early in 1946 and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for alleged espionage. H.M. Representatives have still been unable to visit him.
9. Private N. Moncaster, Royal Pioneer Corps. Absent May, 1947. No reason given.
10. Private A. Baker, 2nd South Staffs. Absent December, 1947. Soviet authorities acknowledge that he was detained, but no reason given.
11. Private J. Stuart, 2nd Parachute Battalion. Absent August, 1949. According to the Soviet authorities he defected to them for political reasons.
12. Private W. Crossley, 15 Base Ordnance Depot. Absent November, 1947. Soviet authorities acknowledged that he was detained, but no reason was given.
13. Private D. Eggleton, 1st Manchester Regiment. Absent October, 1947. Soviet authorities acknowledged that he was detained, but no reason was given.
14. Major R. J. Squires, R.A.E.C. Absent September, 1947. Soviet authorities state that they have no trace of him.
15. Private Tyrell, Queen's Royal Regiment. Absent November, 1948. No reason given.
16. Corporal Garrick, Absent September, 1948. No reason given.
17. Corporal A. Schultz, 14 Battalion, W.R.A.C. Arrested by the Soviet Zone German Police while going to visit her mother, although she had a Russian permit. Has since returned.

B. AUSTRIA.

18. Private Tyndall, Northants Regiment, and
19. Private Newsam, Northants Regiment. Detained 27th September, 1949, by Austrian Gendarmerie and handed over to Russian authorities. Have since returned.

III. CZECHOSLOVAKIA.

20. Group-Captain Merton, Air Attaché at H.M. Embassy, Prague, and his wife were detained on 27th March, 1948. Despite his official position, the Group-Captain and his wife were treated with scant courtesy and the former was held for a couple of hours in circumstances tantamount to arrest.
21. Mrs. Jolan Barbara Ellis, a British subject of Hungarian origin, was arrested on 26th September, 1948, for currency offences, and was released on the 1st October. H.M. Consul was not officially informed until the 29th September and then only after energetic and repeated representations.
22 and 23. J. W. Dixon and E. Dwyer, senior Chancery servants at H.M. Embassy in Prague, were arrested by the Czechoslovak Police on 19th November, 1948, on a charge of attempting to smuggle two Czech citizens out of the country. Both were released some days later.
24. Christopher Portway, married to a Czechoslovak lady, was arrested and held for about a month in prison at Cheb. He had apparently crossed the frontier illegally to contact his wife with a view to persuading her to return with him to the United Kingdom. The Czechoslovak authorities claimed to know nothing about his whereabouts and did not inform the Embassy of his arrest.
25 and 26. Ivan Svarc, with his wife, both naturalised British subjects, visited Czechoslovakia early in 1949 on a business trip. They were arrested by the Financial Police on suspicion of being involved in some black-market deals, were imprisoned for five days, and were then released as there was no evidence against them. They were refused permission to contact the British Consul at Prague.
27. Dr. Pinkas, employed for many years as a clerk at H.M. Embassy, Prague, and granted British nationality a few months ago, was arrested on the 25th May, 1950, on a charge of being implicated in anti-State activities. The British Consul in Prague at once sought permission to visit him, but the request was refused. Five days after Pinkas' arrest, a note was received at H.M. Embassy denying that Pinkas had ceased to be a Czech citizen, despite documentary evidence to the effect that he had been released from Czechoslovak nationality.

IV. POLAND.

28. Mrs. Blakely, a British subject, present in Poland at the outbreak of war, was arrested soon after the end of the war. Approaches by H M. Embassy at Warsaw have given no further information or satisfaction since 1945.
29. Mr. T. H. Ayre, Chief Engineer of the s.s. "Sheaf Field," arrested at Danzig on 6th February, 1949, and released a few days afterwards.
30. Mr. W. J. Butts, of the same ship, arrested and released at the intervention of H.M. Consul-General after a night in prison.
31. Mr. C. H. Turner (a former Air Attaché at H.M. Embassy, Warsaw).
32. 2nd Officer H. Upperton, and
33. 3rd Officer G. Elmes were all arrested on 17th May, 1950, for allegedly trying to smuggle a woman out of Poland. They are still held by the Polish authorities, who have not allowed a British Consul to visit them.
34. Mrs. Halina Firth, Polish-born British subject, arrested on 13th May, 1949, and convicted on 9th March, 1950, to three years' imprisonment for sheltering an escaped prisoner.
35. Mr. Otakar Kornhauser, a naturalised British subject, arrested on 2nd February, 1950, and released on 21st March, 1950, without any charge being made.

V. HUNGARY.

36. Mr. K. Elliott, an official of Unilever Ltd. who was arrested on 26th September, 1948. and released on 6th October, 1948.
37. Mr. Edgar Sanders, an official of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, who was arrested on 22nd November, 1949, and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment on 21st February, 1950, for "espionage." Present whereabouts and conditions unknown.
38. Mr. C. W. Lamerton, a British business man resident in Hungary who was arrested on 11th April, 1950, and expelled from Hungary on 7th May.
39. Mrs. Martin (alias Bone), a British journalist, who was last heard of in Budapest on 1st October, 1949.

VI. BULGARIA.

40. The Rev. Emmanuel Manolov (British subject by birth), a Nonconformist Protestant Minister who was arrested on 17th February, 1948, and released on 25th February. 1948. He was again arrested on or about 26th July, 1948, charged with offences against the currency regulations, and released on 26th March. 1949 after serving a term of imprisonment.

VII. ROUMAN1A.

41. Mr. Alexander Evans, former director of the Steaua Romana Oil Company, was arrested while travelling to Budapest on 8th June, 1948. He was held in prison for 5½ months and sentenced to three years' imprisonment; after repeated protests from His Majesty's Government he was finally released on bail of £25,000 and allowed to leave the country in January, 1949.
42. Mr. Boaden and Mr. Wilson, both oil company managers, were arrested on 28th July, 1948, and detained for two days. They have now both left Roumania.
43. Mr. Sarell First Secretary at His Majesty's Legation at Bucharest and at the time Chargé d'Affaires, was seized in the streets of Bucharest on the night of 25th July, 1949, and detained by the Roumanian police for two hours. His recall was subsequently demanded by the Roumanian authorities on the ground that he indulged in activities which were not in accord with his diplomatic status.

Japan (Peace Treaty)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the progress toward the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan.

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in his speech in the Debate on Foreign Affairs on 24th May.

In view of the importance of this matter, can the Minister say when it will be possible to make an affirmative statement about it?

It is a very difficult thing for us to make a unilateral affirmative statement on the subject because so many other Governments are involved. As the hon. Member knows, the United States Government have this subject under consideration and the position was explained by my right hon. Friend.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us this? We have read in the newspapers that various representatives of the United States are now on their way to Japan to look into the question of the peace treaty. Are they in consultation with us over this matter? Are we bringing back our Ambassador for consultations?.

On the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I do not think we are contemplating doing that, but we are in continuous consultation with the United States about this matter.

Can the hon. Gentleman say exactly what a "unilateral affirmative statement" means? Does it mean "Yes"?

It means saying "Yes" on our own account without consulting the numerous other bodies concerned.

Suez Canal(British Tankers)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what notification he has had from the Egyptian Government of the legal basis under which they have considered themselves entitled to close the Suez Canal to British tankers.

The Egyptian Government have never claimed that they were entitled to close the Suez Canal to British tankers. They have, however, claimed the right of a belligerent to visit and search for contraband of war destined for Israel.

Can the Minister say, in view of that answer, why we tolerate the fact that the Egyptian Government will not allow tankers to go to the oil refinery at Haifa?

It is a question of treating the oil as contraband and not, as was put in the Question, a question of closing the Canal to tankers. It is a question of what they consider to be contraband going through the Canal.

May I ask whether His Majesty's Government accept that there is still a state of war between Egypt and Israel? Is not that the only ground on which this action could be taken? Should we not invite the Egyptian Government to view the whole matter in a different light, and allow this oil to proceed?

We are making representations to the Egyptian Government precisely on that point and the question of whether present conditions justify the application of Articles IX and X of the Treaty in the way the Egyptian Government claims is one of the very difficult points of law we have been going into. The position does not necessarily remain the same as months go by. In our view the situation may be changing and we are making representations to the Egyptian Government in that regard.

Can my hon. Friend say whether there was ever a time when our Government accepted that Egypt was in a state of belligerency within the meaning of those Articles? May I further ask whether the enforcement of this boycott is undertaken with armaments supplied by this country?

I do not think that, without notice, I could undertake to answer what is a very difficult legal problem about the precise nature of belligerency. If my hon. Friend will put a precise Question down, I will endeavour to give a precise legal ansfer, but I do not think I should attempt it without notice.

Having regard to the fact that the hon. Gentleman admits that serious questions of law are involved, have His Majesty's Government considered submitting the case to the International Court at The Hague, where appropriate claims for compensation are put forward?

This is one of the numerous aspects of the case we have been considering.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this has been dragging on for months, with heavy losses to everyone concerned? Could not the Government consider whether, either through the United Nations, or the International Court, this could be settled, as far more difficult questions than this have been solved in a very much shorter time in years gone by?

Is my hon. Friend aware that under Article IV of the Suez Canal Convention, 1888, free passage through the Canal is guaranteed, even in time of war? Is there any legal question at all involved? Should he not point this out to the Egyptian Government and ask them to fulfil their obligations under that Treaty?

We have, of course, pointed out these things to the Egyptian Government, but there is certainly a legal question which does arise.

In view of the answers given by the Minister, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter again on the Adjournment.

France (Channel Trips)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what communications have taken place with the French Government with regard to the possibility of re-establishing at the earliest possible date the pre-war practice of day trips for tourists between British and French Channel resorts.

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said, about two years ago, that everything would be done to get rid of passports, and would not this be a first effort towards that? Is he aware that already channel steamers have been allowed to be rebuilt to make these tours, but now have to steam just off the coast? This is a very serious matter.

I appreciate the concern felt in many quarters that a renewal of the pre-war practice would be appreciated, but dispensing with passports is, of course, made much more difficult by the necessary existence of exchange control regulations.

Could the hon. Gentleman not do something to organise day cards, if nothing else?

I think it is the necessity of exchange control regulations that make it impossible to dispense with passports.

Tripolitania (Maltese)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to rehabilitate the 2,500 Maltese in Tripolitania who were forcibly evacuated to Italian concentration camps during the war and have now been returned; and what compensation is being awarded them for all they lost during the war in Tripoli.

The sum of £16,000 was made available for rehabilitation on 24th May, 1950. The question of war damage compensation is for the Government which succeeds the present Administration to decide.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there are some 300 Maltese still in refugee camps in Tripoli, and that something like 80 per cent of the 2,500 Maltese are in an indigent position? Does he not think it is our duty, as these are British subjects, to do something about it before we hand over to a new Government?

I think my answer indicated that we have been doing something. The Administration has been making some provision for this, and this sum of £16,000 has now been made available. The bigger question of war compensation must be a question for succeeding Governments.

The peace treaties have not, in our view, made provision of the kind which the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Germany

Ex-Control Officer (Sentence)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement as to the results of, and developments following the sentence passed in Dusseldorf on James Robertson White, a principal control officer in the Control Commission.

Following the conviction of this officer in Dusseldorf he was summarily dismissed from the Control Service.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that incidents of this kind lower the prestige of Britain abroad? Will he make it quite clear that such incidents will be dealt with very severely in the future?

I agree that any criminal case of this kind creates a very bad effect. I think it has been suitably dealt with by a court of law.

There were very large numbers of charges, including fraudulent conversion and false pretences running into many scores of counts.

British Forces Network

62.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that German control of the technical side of the British Forces Network is not leading to satisfactory service; and if he will arrange for British personnel to have the right of supervision.

British personnel already have this right of supervision. The present service has been shown, by a comprehensive listener research organisation, to be satisfactory.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the breakdowns are increasing and amount to one per day on the average? There has been a great deal of dissatisfaction on occasions, because it has been up to German technicians to say whether a breakdown was a breakdown or not?

No, Sir. The failure in transmission in April was about 0.5 per cent., and, in general, was not due to causes which would be remedied by the proposal made by the hon. Member.

Burma (British Investments)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what advice he proposes to issue to British companies proposing to invest money in Burma in view of the decision of the Burmese Industrial Court under which the Burmah Oil Company is prevented from dismissing redundant employees.

In view of the treatment British companies have had in Burma, and the fact that we are short of capital for the development of the Colonial Empire, is it not ridiculous that no advice should be given in a matter of this sort?

I think the companies concerned, if there are companies proposing to invest money in Burma—which is the situation envisaged in the Question—can draw their own conclusions about the position, but we regard it as most unsatisfactory and are trying to take appropriate action through diplomatic channels.

May I ask whether this question of the industrial court was discussed on the recent visit of the Burmese to London?

I could not say without notice. I think the decision of the industrial court came after the discussions.

The whole question of protection of British interests has been under continuous discussion with the Burma Government.

Does the British Government's guarantee to the Burmah Oil Company cover employment?

Hong Kong

Tibetan Delegation (Visa)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the delay in granting a visa to the Tibetan delegation to enter Hong Kong.

As the hon. Member will be aware, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have no representative in Tibet, and there is no direct channel of communication between the Tibetans and ourselves. In these circumstances, delay in a matter of this kind is unavoidable.

As His Majesty's Government refuse to give any sort of visa to the Tibetan delegation to go to Hong Kong, is this a question purely of delay, or is it because they are recognising the claim of the Communist Government of China to Tibet?

No, Sir. There is no question of any recognition of that sort. At the present time there is some doubt about the functions of this mission and that is why the matter is in suspense at the present moment.

Bombs

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what information he has as to the motive for the recent bomb placings in Hong Kong.

Three persons have been charged with conspiracy in connection with these incidents. Since, therefore, the matter is now sub judice it would not be appropriate for me to make a statement.

Schuman Plan

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement in the form of a White Paper or otherwise dealing with the whole course of negotiations over the Schuman plan, and showing what positive proposals His Majesty's Government would like to see included in the detailed working out of the scheme so as to make it possible for Great Britain to join in the scheme at a later date.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement concerning the response of His Majesty's Government to the invitation from the French Government to take part in the forthcoming conference about the international control of steel and coal.

I would refer both hon. Members to the statement made yesterday by the Prime Minister.

Will my hon. Friend elucidate a point made in the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, when he said that it would embarrass other Governments concerned if they knew some of the details we would like to see put into the Plan? Does he not feel that rather those other Governments are likely to be embarrassed by not having any idea of what are the positive proposals we would like to see in the Plan?

Is the Minister aware that in the White Paper published yesterday a sentence in a communication by His Majesty's Government to the French Government has been left out, and that that sentence adumbrates that His Majesty's Government would make proposals on the Schuman Plan? Can he say whether a fresh White Paper is to be published in consequence of this mistake?

I am very glad to have the opportunity to explain that matter. I much regret that in the course of collating the original documents for publication in the White Paper, that sentence was inadvertently omitted and I apologise to the House for it. An erratum slip will be contained in the reprint of the White Paper, which, I think, is available today. The sentence which was omitted should, of course, have been contained there and it does represent the existing position that we are studying the whole matter with a view to making a contribution if we can.

Would the hon. Gentleman make that interesting notice available to the Minister of Town and Country Planning?

This is a vital point. Do I understand that the Government intend to make proposals of their own towards a solution of this problem, or do they propose to remain content with what I think the hon. Gentleman would describe as a unilaterally negative position?

I do not think I ought to add to what the Prime Minister said yesterday on this point. I have already made it plain that our own examination of this problem is going on, as stated in the sentence to which the hon. and gallant Member opposite referred.

Could my hon. Friend read us this important sentence, and explain why it was left out?

I have not got the text of the sentence with me. I have already explained why it was left out. It was simply inadvertence in the collation of the material.

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why, when there is a most elaborate and careful organisation for checking all Cabinet papers, a vital sentence was completely omitted, which, so far as I know, is unprecedented?

I have already apologised for that. It was an inadvertent omission. That is the whole explanation.

If my hon. and gallant Friend had not asked his supplementary question today what would have happened? Was the hon. Gentleman proposing to make a statement to the House, and, if not, why not?

I have already explained that an erratum slip is now being put in the White Paper as it will now be available.

Is it proposed at some stage to put forward, in public, positive proposals of what His Majesty's Government want to see in the scheme?

I do not think that I can at present go beyond what the Prime Minister said yesterday.

Dominica (Electricity Supply)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the inadequacy of the electricity supply in Dominica; and what steps he is taking to improve it.

Yes, Sir. The Colonial Development Corporation has undertaken to install and operate hydro-electric plant to supply light and power. It is hoped that the plant will be working early in 1952.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great inconvenience at present being caused? No doubt he himself has had recent experience of going to bed in the dark; I hope he has. Will he realise that in the interim power is required in this Colony?

East Africa

Films

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps were taken, when arrangements were made for the Colonial Film Unit in East Africa to make a series of films, for the distribution of the films when made; how many Government projectors there are available in Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya; how many other projectors there are in these territories on which the showing of the films would be possible; and what fresh steps are being taken to make more films and increase the facilities for distribution.

Arrangements for film distribution were already in existence in East Africa before the Colonial Film Unit started operations. There are seven mobile cinema vans in Uganda, two in Tanganyika, four in Kenya and two in Zanzibar. Full information about other projectors is not available for all East African territories, but at present 76 mission, estate, school and private projectors in Kenya alone are being serviced by the Government Film Library. As regards the last part of the Question, film production under the Colonial Film Unit is being continued in Kenya and Tanganyika until the end of this year, when it is hoped that the Colonial Governments will continue this work.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that excellent films have been produced by this unit, which is not continuing its work because it is apparently not receiving the fullest possible support from the Colonial Office and Colonial Governments? Would my right hon. Friend look into this matter and that of distribution? Is he aware that of the mobile film vans to which he referred only about one or two are in commission, because they are not kept up to the state of repair required?

Editor (Sentence)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies for what offence a sentence of six months' imprisonment with hard labour was passed on Samwiri Bazira Muise, the editor of the "Uganda Star."

The editor was charged before the Kampala District Court and was convicted under Section 53 (1) (c) of the Penal Code of the offence of publishing a seditious publication.

Would ray right hon. Friend suggest to the Governor of Uganda that these arrests and imprisonments advertise these things much more than their original appearance would do?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the Governor of Uganda and the Governors of all the other Colonies that the growing irresponsibility of much of the native Press has been largely responsible for various tragedies in recent months?

Strike, Nairobi

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has considered the resolution passed by farmers and other employers at Limuru, near Nairobi, on 20th May, a copy of which has been sent to him, to the effect that all who took part in the recent strike should be summarily dismissed and should not be re-engaged by any employer, except at a wage reduced by at least one-quarter; and what steps he is taking to protect the African workers concerned from organised victimisation and to secure them better pay and conditions.

I am asking the Acting Governor for a report, and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as it is received.

British Honduras (Public Meetings)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why a ban on the holding of all public meetings was imposed in British Honduras on 15th March; and if this ban has now been lifted.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the Emergency Act introduced in British Honduras on 13th February last, which prohibits meetings of seven or more people without the special permission of the police, is still in operation.

Regulations requiring the grant of permission for the holding of public meetings were made in February because the activities of the People's Committee had resulted in acts of violence and a general state of tension in the Colony. Since there is as yet no evidence of change in the Committee's aims and methods, the Governor considers it desirable to retain the Regulations but he has informed me that public meetings are permitted subject to certain conditions.

Does my right hon. Friend or the Governor really believe that the activities of this Committee are the real cause of any unrest there may be in this Colony?

I understand that their activities were held to be responsible for acts of violence quite recently. It is my desire that there should in all Colonies be the utmost freedom of speech, but we have to give the Governor some discretion when it leads to acts of violence.

Nigeria

Disturbances, Enugu

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is yet in a position to state when the report on the disturbances at Enugu will be published.

The Report and accompanying despatches were published on 10th June. I take this opportunity of informing the House that Mr. Edward Cain, J.P., Secretary of the Wheatley Hill Branch of the National Union of Mine-workers, and Mr. P. G. Weekes, Manager of the Oakdale Colliery, South Wales, accompanied by Mr. E. Parry, my Assistant Labour Adviser, will leave for Nigeria next week, as the advance party of the group of experts mentioned in paragraph 9 of my published despatch of 22nd May to the Governor. They will proceed immediately to Enugu Colliery. They will be followed in July by two other members selected in consultation with the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation, whose names I hope to announce shortly.

Can this body of people perhaps consider also the advisability of transferring the colliery not to a public body but to private enterprise, which has a much better record in labour relations in West Africa than have Government-owned organisations?

These two gentlemen, who kindly accepted my invitation to carry out this task, have experience of both sides of industry and industrial relationships in collieries. I have asked them to go because the primary consideration must be the building up of good relations in the colliery itself.

We hope that these men will meet with success. We may want to debate the Report later. When will the Secretary of State let the House know the names of the two other Members, which he said he would announce shortly?

Will the right hon. Gentleman draw the attention of these experts on trade unionism to paragraph 21 of the Fitzgerald Report, which said that the main cause of the failure of trade unionism in West Africa—though the Secretary of State did not mention this in his despatch to the Governor—is that the trade union leaders exploit and prostitute the movement for their own ends?

Will these gentlemen issue a report and, if so, when? Subsequent to that, shall we be able to have a Debate in the House about their report and the Report which has preceded it?

I would ask my hon. Friend to put his question about a Debate to the Leader of the House. I am not asking these two experts, who are going out to Enugu colliery, to prepare a report. They are not a formal commission. Their job is not to prepare a report to me. I am asking them to go for a considerable time to assist in building up good industrial relations in the colliery.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether this Committee will include someone who, as well as being an expert in trade unionism in this country, is expert in the knowledge of conditions in West Africa?

These two men have been appointed because they have wide experience in the working of industrial relations machinery and industrial conciliation in this country, which is about the best model in the world to follow.

Diseased Cocoa Trees

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the extent of swollen shoot disease in the cocoa areas of Nigeria; the success so far achieved in persuading farmers to co-operate in the cutting-out of diseased trees; the steps taken to investigate complaints by farmers of the methods used by some inspectors; what compensation is paid to the owners of trees that have to be cut out; and if he is satisfied with the progress so far made in dealing with this problem.

I regret to say that the Nigerian Government has recently reported that swollen shoot must now be regarded as endemic in a number of areas, mostly within 30 miles radius of Ibadan, where the cutting-out campaign has been in progress. It has been decided to withdraw cutting-out gangs from these areas and to concentrate on preventing the spread of the disease to areas at present clear or only lightly infected I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the published statement issued by the Nigerian Government on 30th May explaining this change of policy.

In view of this very important change of policy, would my right hon. Friend consider circulating in HANSARD that statement which he kindly says he is going to send to me? Would he also, when he has had further time to consider the problem, perhaps make a further statement on a particular aspect, touched on in my Question—that of compensation to the farmers, many of whom suffered great hardship in a campaign which may now prove to have been totally useless?

If it is the desire of the House I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the statement I am sending to my hon. Friend. I would like further time to consider this very important change of policy, and perhaps my hon. Friend would put down another question in a week or two.

In view of the fact that persuasion does not seem to have had much effect in remedying this very serious state of affairs, does not the Minister think the time is now ripe to apply compulsion in this matter, just as an English farmer is compelled to take certain steps when there is disease among his animals? Instead of paying compensation does not he think it desirable to replace diseased trees out of the very large funds which are available?

Following is the statement:

The attention of the Government has been drawn to reports that the cutting out of cocoa trees affected with swollen shoot disease has been stopped. These reports are not correct. The facts are as follow:

There is at present no known cure for swollen shoot and cutting out is the only known means of preventing the spread of the disease. It has been found, however, that in areas where the number of infected trees is heavy the progress of the disease cannot be checked and cutting out inevitably results in the removal of all trees. Such an area is known as an endemic area. In areas where the number of infected trees is relatively small the spread of the disease can be prevented, provided that cutting out starts as soon as the disease is discovered and is carried on thoroughly and continuously in respect of all trees which develop the disease.

It had been hoped that, by pursuing a vigorous cutting out campaign, it would have been possible to eradicate swollen shoot from the Ibadan Division, but it has now become clear that in certain parts of the Division the disease is already so widespread that it has, in fact, become endemic in these areas most of which are within a 30-mile radius of Ibadan. As explained above, if cutting out is continued in this area the result will be the eventual removal of all the trees. It has, therefore, been decided that all efforts should now be concentrated on trying to prevent the spread of the disease from these heavily infected areas to areas both in the Ibadan Division and adjoining divisions which are at present "clean" or only lightly infected. This can only be done by cutting out diseased trees wherever the disease is discovered outside the heavily infected area.

It has therefore been decided to withdraw the cutting out gangs from the endemic areas only and to concentrate on protecting those areas which are not at present infected. The cutting out teams are therefore being moved to the boundaries of the endemic area. Constant inspection of farms on this boundary will be maintained so that the disease may be attacked as soon as it appears. By this means, provided there is no further interruption, it is hoped that the spread of the disease will be stopped and the number of trees which will have to be cut out will be kept to an absolute minimum.

It is realised that this change in the method of attack is a most serious step as it may mean that in time all the cocoa in the heavily infected areas will die of the disease, but after the most careful consideration the Government have reached the conclusion that it is the right policy to adopt in the interests of the cocoa industry as a whole. At the same time Government will continue to pursue a vigorous policy to encourage the growth of improved varieties of cocoa on more practical lines and the introduction of new cash crops where the continued growing of cocoa seems impracticable.

The whole question of the swollen shoot campaign and, in particular, the measures for rehabilitation, will be reviewed by the Cocoa Marketing Board at its next meeting, after which a further statement will be issued.

Gold Coast (Asylum Accommodation)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many lunatics were committed to prison last year in the Gold Coast; and what accommodation in mental hospitals was available for them.

Twenty-two criminals committed to prison in 1949 were found to be lunatic and were transferred to Accra Asylum. Special accommodation, consisting of two wards and 20 cells, is available for them. In addition, during the year beginning 1st April, 1949, 332 suspected lunatics were committed to prison for observation, and of these 140 were certified and transferred to Accra Asylum.

Is not it very undesirable that a complete lunatic should be committed to prison for examination in a comparatively prosperous and well-developed Colony like the Gold Coast? Surely adequate facilities might be made available for their examination in non-penal conditions?

I am myself concerned about the inadequacy of the facilities, and I am giving the matter my urgent attention.

Malaya And Singapore

Detention Orders

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many persons have been arrested since the commencement of the anti-bandit campaign; and how many are still in custody.

Since July, 1948,25,482 detention orders have been issued in Singapore and the Federation of Malaya. Ten thousand eight hundred and fifty seven persons were still in detention on 31st May, 1950.

Can the Minister tell us under what conditions these 10,857 people are held, and whether they are to be tried? Are they held in prisons or concentration camps?

Will the Minister tell us whether consideration is being given to deporting a considerable number of these people to make conditions easier in Malaya?

The possibility of repatriating to China those who are Chinese was given my urgent consideration while I was in Malaya.

Is not it a fact that some thousands of Chinese have been deported to China?

Minister's Visit

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what form he proposes to make a report on his visit to Malaya.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Malaya; and, in particular, if he will state what further steps His Majesty's Government proposes to take to exterminate Communist terrorists.

When the right hon. Gentleman makes that full statement, will he explain what he meant in his statement made on arrival in this country, when he said that the Government are preparing plans for the political development of Malaya? Does that mean that the Government are proposing to introduce a new constitution into Malaya?

It means that the Government are fully seized of the importance of preparing plans for the economic, social and political developments of Malaya in the future.

Broadcasting

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the heavy expense of broadcasting in Singapore and the projected enlargement of the broadcasting installation are solely due to the amenity needs of the Colony or whether wider considerations affecting the Empire as a whole are embraced; why the present average expenditure per licence in the Colony is five times greater than in the United Kingdom; and how much greater still it will be when the new studio is completed.

There are two broadcasting stations at Singapore; Radio Malaya, which broadcasts to the Federation of Malaya as well as the Colony of Singapore, and the British Far East Broadcasting Service, which is operated by the B.B.C. and relays B.B.C. transmissions to other countries in the Far East. The expansion which is being carried out in both these stations is due to wider considerations and is not designed to meet the needs of Singapore alone.

The average expenditure per licence in Singapore is greater than in the United Kingdom because the proportion of citizens holding licences is very much lower than it is here. I regret that I am unable to estimate the increase in the average expenditure due to the cost of the new studio.

With regard to the third and last part of my Question, when the right hon. Gentleman is considering this matter will he bear in mind the importance of not laying any further unnecessary financial burden on an already harassed community?

Having just returned from this part of the world, I am very conscious of the need for increasing our broadcasting service.

Is the importance of this station for broadcasting to South China being borne in mind, and is it being made in any way a substitute for the Hong Kong radio station?

The importance of broadcasting to South China is a matter we have very much in mind.

Does not the Minister consider that one of our major failures so far in Malaya has been the absence of an efficient propaganda organisation in order to put our point of view to the people of South-East Asia?

I am aware that our propaganda needs improving, and can be improved, and I am taking steps to that end.

Educational Facilities

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to assist in the provision of educational facilities in Malaya.

I have recently approved grants to the Government of the Federation of Malaya of over £223,000 from Colonial Development and Welfare Funds to provide for six new Malay schools and four new Chinese schools, for improvements and additions to 12 existing schools and for the extension of the Malay Women's Training College at Malacca. I have also approved in principle the provision of a new Malay Men's Training College on the understanding that it is impracticable to obtain the desired increase in the training of men teachers by extending the existing college.

A grant of over £565,000 from Colonial Development and Welfare Funds was made last year to provide for the construction and equipment of a new Technical Training College at Kuala Lumpur and a sum of £1 million has been earmarked from the same source for the building programme of the University of Malaya.

While I am sure that the House will appreciate the importance of the statement which the Minister has just made, may I ask if he can say how many teaching staff and additional officials will be required to carry out this scheme? Is he satisfied that the recruitment of the appropriate number of people will go forward without delay?

There is an urgent need for a large increase in the number of teachers. Every school in Malaya is at present working a double shift, with one group of children at school in the morning and another in the afternoon. The demand for education is one of the most urgent in Malaya, and I shall do my best to meet it.

Northern Rhodesia

South African Settlers

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many South African nationals have settled in Northern Rhodesia since 1945.

I am requesting the Acting Governor to supply me with this information. I will communicate with my hon. Friend when it is received.

Farm Produce (Prices)

24 and 25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) to what purposes the African Farming Improvement Fund and the Native Maize (Controlled Areas) Fund in Northern Rhodesia are devoted; and to what extent they are applied to assisting the African farmers to improve their agricultural technique;

(2) what is the reason for the present price discrimination as between cattle, eggs and maize produced by Europeans in Northern Rhodesia and the same commodities produced by African farmers.

I am making inquiries of the Acting Governor with regard to cattle and egg prices and also in regard to the Native Maize (Controlled Areas) Fund and will communicate with my hon. Friend when the reply is received. The price paid for maize by the Control Board is the same whether it is produced by European or African farmers. This year it will be 30s. 2d. per bag. African producers will be paid 21s. 3d. of this direct and the balance of 8s. 11d. per bag will be paid into the African Farming Improvement Fund. This fund is used to finance the improvement of African farming mainly by providing a good farming bonus of 15s. an acre to farmers who use improved methods based on crop rotation and soil conservation.

Is the Minister satisfied that Africans in general are fully aware of the use to which this money is put, and, if not, will he take steps to give the matter increased publicity?

I think they are fully informed, but I will look into the matter to see if we can give it still further publicity.

Royal Navy

Sea Cadets (National Service)

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what steps he is taking to ensure that Sea Cadets may do their National Service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on 22nd March. There is no present intention of extending these arrangements.

Can the Minister now answer a question which I have put to him on several other occasions? If the Navy are not to have any National Service men at all, how is he to get any men into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve?

I do not think that arises out of this Question, but I know of no statement which has been made indicating that the Navy is not to have National Service men.

Pay And Accounting

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether, in reviewing the naval system of pay and accounting, he will give favourable consideration to the possibility of making payments to naval personnel on a weekly instead of a fortnightly basis.

The system of Navy pay accountancy is now under review, and my hon. Friend's suggestion is one of those which will be considered.

Telephone Service

Cheap Night Calls

34.

asked the Postmaster-General if he can now extend the cheap night telephone calls to the hours in operation in 1939.

This is one of a number of improvements that I am considering, and I will make a statement as soon as possible.

Carlisle

35.

asked the Postmaster-General how many applicants in Carlisle are waiting for telephones, showing business and private applications separately; and if he will give the date of the earliest of these applications and how many of the applicants applied in that and succeeding years.

As the reply contains a series of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

Apart from 88 cases where the work of provision is nearing completion, there are 255 business and 342 residential applications outstanding, the earliest being made in 1941. Following are the details:

BusinessResidential
19411
1942
19432
19441
1945211
19461225
19474195
194868117
19497948
19505243
255342

Post Office

Staff Association

36.

asked the Postmaster-General what conditions he requires to be satisfied before granting recognition to the National Association of Telephone Supervising Officers.

I would refer the hon. Member to the general statement I made in the House on 17th May as to the considerations which would be taken into account in dealing with claims for recognition from new staff associations in the Post Office.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he did not say under what conditions he would recognise this or other organisations? Does not the fact that these men wish to form a separate union suggest that there must be some dissatisfaction with the existing machinery?

The House will be pleased to know that one of the unions has now issued an invitation to all the unions concerned to come to a conference to discuss these difficulties inside the Post Office. In the meantime, I would deprecate any political agitation about this matter.

Government Departments (Free Postage)

37.

asked the Postmaster-General what is the cost and extent of free postal services for Government Departments; and if he will give details of those Departments which avail themselves of free postage on the biggest scale.

The Post Office Estimates for 1950–51 Appendix F provide the full details and I am sending the hon. Member a marked copy.

When will the Government realise that the Socialist policy of centralisation involves an intolerable burden of correspondence both on Government Departments and on hon. Members, and that it is one of the main stops to our recovery?

Royal Air Force

Bombing, Heligoland

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether Heligoland is required primarily for trying out high explosive bombs or for high level bomb dropping practice for the bomber fleet.

Heligoland is required for both purposes

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman really assure the House that no other target can be found the bombing of which would not wound the deep-rooted sentiments of many thousands of people of Frisian origin in Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland and especially in the United States of America from where he has received very strong protests?

I should be very grateful to the hon. Gentleman if he would suggest an alternative place to Heligoland.

Has the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend been drawn to suggestions in the German Press that bombing practice should be transferred from Heligoland to certain Scottish islands, and will he resist any such suggestions?

Wraf (Titles)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether it is proposed to introduce Royal Air Force titles into the Women's Royal Air Force.

It has been decided not to make any change in rank titles for the Women's Royal Air Force. This decision, I am advised, meets the wishes of the majority of the women officers concerned.

Armed Forces (Deserters)

42.

asked the Minister of Defence how many soldiers sentenced by court martial for desertion last year were discharged from His Majesty's Forces.

I regret that the information for which my hon. Friend asks is not readily available. I can say, however, that during 1949, 71 deserters were sentenced by courts martial to dishonourable discharge from His Majesty's Forces.

Has the Minister considered the desirability of discharging deserters who are not likely to be of any further use to His Majesty's Forces?

43.

asked the Minister of Defence how many of the 19,500 deserters are Regular soldiers; and how many National Service men.

About 4,300 are Regulars and about 15,200 are National Service men called up under the 1939 and subsequent National Service Acts.

Can the Minister tell us whether any conclusions can be drawn from these figures?

Food Supplies

Points Rationing (Removal)

44.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he has taken to ensure that supplies of what were points goods are continued to individual retailers and shortages to certain consumers thereby avoided.

These kinds of canned fish, canned fruit and dried fruit which were on points will still be distributed to retailers in proportion to the number of their registered customers. Wholesalers and manufacturers are responsible for the fair distribution of the other foods formerly on points, but I have had satisfactory assurances from the wholesale trade on this matter, and from my inquiries I am confident that the manufacturers also are seeing to it that their goods are fairly shared among retailers. Indeed, it is obviously in their own interest to do so. All the evidence since we made the change shows that there is no need for any anxiety about this problem. I should add, however, that we are vigorously trying to make supplies equal to demand which of course is the only effective solution.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, since the abolition of the points system, he has been able to increase any raw material supplies to the manufacturers of goods formerly on points, because that would seem to be the core of the matter? Has he been able to give any increases?

50.

asked the Minister of Food what investigation he has made into the effect of the cessation of points rationing; and if he is satisfied that this change has not caused unfairness to the consumer and that supplies are still plentiful to meet the demand.

When points rationing ended I arranged for a close and comprehensive investigation of the result. I have had detailed reports from each region, all of which, I am happy to state, show beyond all doubt that the removal of points rationing has proved beneficial and agreeable to the housewife. Some of the foods, as I stated when we made the change, are still scarce, but there is ample evidence that their distribution is being arranged by the grocers on a fair basis and is giving satisfaction to the overwhelming majority of the buying public.

52.

asked the Minister of Food what guarantees he received from the grocers' associations that they would distribute goods in short supply fairly, before he decided to abolish the points system.

The points rationing system was abolished, as I have already explained, because it became impossible to ensure fair shares and balanced distribution on so limited a range of goods. Even if there had been no assurance of fair distribution by the grocers the rigidity of the reduced points scheme made the decision to end it inevitable. However, I am glad to say that the responsible spokesmen of the organised grocers gave my Ministry acceptable assurances that they would try to ensure fair and equitable distribution of any goods which remained in short supply.

In any event, as I have also announced, we shall continue our established controls over the distribution of these goods to retail distributors. For example, many kinds of canned fish, canned fruit and dried fruit will be allocated to retailers in proportion to the number of registered customers for rationed goods. I am confident that these arrangements will ensure fair distribution. Indeed, all reports show that this change is proceeding smoothly with general appreciation by the housewife.

Is my right non. Friend aware that many shops have been selling syrup, biscuits and dried fruit freely to all comers, regardless of registrations, since the points scheme ended, and is he satisfied that supplies will continue to come forward in sufficient quantities to enable this to be done without unfairness to any consumers?

When the right hon. Gentleman says "in short supply," does he mean "scarce"?

Fruit Pulp

46.

asked the Minister of Food what was the amount of fruit pulp manufactured in the United Kingdom for the years 1947, 1948 and 1949; and what percentage of this was manufactured by the growers.

About 60,000 tons in 1947, 70,000 in 1948, and 80,000 in 1949. This includes pulp made from bitter oranges and lemons. I cannot say how much of this was manufactured by growers, because they were not required to give this information until the middle of 1949.

Bread Wrapping

47.

asked the Minister of Food when, in the interest of public hygiene, he proposes to reintroduce bread wrapping.

My predecessor removed all restrictions on bread wrapping over eight months ago. It is now up to private traders, and I am glad to say that many of them are taking advantage of this freedom to sell increasing quantities in hygienic wrappers. I hope more of them will show initiative in this matter.

Ministry Staff

48.

asked the Minister of Food what reductions he has made in the staff of his Department as the result of the abolition of points rationing.

As I have already said, we shall save just over 1,000 staff. They will go when they have worked out their notices, which will not be for some weeks.

Flour Supplies

49.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has yet completed his investigations into the present necessity for the restriction on retail purchases of flour in excess of 28 lb.

Yes, Sir. As a result of my investigation I am satisfied that this restriction can now be withdrawn and the necessary Order is being made.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Compensation)

51.

asked the Minister of Food what sum is to be paid to Sir Leslie Plummer in connection with the termination of his chairmanship of the Overseas Food Corporation; and whether it is to be paid under such conditions as subject it to taxation.

The sum is £8,000. The period of contract was seven years, at a salary of £5,000 a year, of which period a little more than two years four months will have elapsed when the appointment ends on 30th June. The second part of the Question is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which he gave on the subject yesterday.

Does the latter part of that answer mean that the right hon. Gentleman does not know whether the method of payment which he has authorised subjects this payment to taxation or not, or does it mean that he does know and is not prepared to disclose the information to this House?

It means that I do not know. It is a matter for the Inland Revenue. It has nothing to do with me; I do not know.

Is the test this: if you are paid money to go you do not pay tax, and if you are paid money to stay you do?

Bananas

54.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has made a contract for the purchase of bananas from the 1950 Canary Islands crop; and what quantity he anticipates importing from the Canary Islands this year.

We have offered to make a contract, but so far our offer has not been accepted. I cannot, therefore, say how many bananas, if any, we are likely to get from the Canary Islands this year.

Ration Books (Cost)

55.

asked the Minister of Food what was the cost to the taxpayer of printing pages in ration books for points, now rendered unnecessary by the ending of points rationing; and how many books were so printed.

About £24,000 for 53 million books. As the printing of ration books has to begin about nine months before they are distributed, we clearly had to incur this expense. I am sure the bon. Member would not have wanted me to maintain points rationing merely because we had already printed the coupons.

Is this not another instance of the waste of public money due to the operation of Socialist theories, which, however necessary in war-time, are absolutely unnecessary in peace-time?

Tottenham Food Committee

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether, conforming with the Food Control Committee (Constitution) Orders, he approved the appointment of Mr. George Cross to the Tottenham Food Control Committee.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the selection of a very active member of the Communist Party to sit on this Committee has caused a great deal of public indignation in Tottenham?

This was a recommendation to me from the local borough council, and I am not prepared myself to try to introduce political discrimination in these appointments.

Officials' Accommodation, Forfar

58.

asked the Minister of Food why it was necessary to accommodate 14 of his Department's officials from Forfar, Angus, in hotels at Brechin, 12 miles away, at an approximate cost of £5 a head during the week the new ration books were issued in Brechin between the hours of 9.30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and in hotels at Montrose, 19½ miles away, from 24th to 28th April.

This arrangement was made locally by an officer who was overanxious to ensure that efforts to give the public the best possible service should not put an impossible strain on his staff. I think that more suitable and economical arrangements could have been made and I have informed my officials of this. I am grateful to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to the matter.

Is the Minister aware of the satisfaction that will be felt as the result of his statement? Further, is he aware that it would have been possible for these officials to have travelled by bus, which costs only six shillings for a weekly ticket, and still get to their offices by 9.30 a.m. to start their work there?

Meals In Establishments Order (Revocation)

59.

asked the Minister of Food how many criticisms he has received of the revocation of the Meals in Establishments Order.

Does the Minister recall that the Minister of National Insurance said, not so long ago, that the revocation of this Order would incense housewives? Have there been no demonstrations outside his office by angry housewives?

Was one of the criticisms from the Secretary of State for War?

Soap Supplies

45.

asked the Minister of Food if he will increase the supplies of soap to householders before any consideration is given to de-rationing it.

I will take a decision about the de-rationing of soap—as I have tried to do with all other rationed commodities—on the simple test of what is best in the public interest. In the case of soap, the hon. Member may be sure that I will scrupulously weigh the balance of advantage as between an interim increase and derationing. Having done that, in the light of the very full knowledge we have, both of supplies and consumer demand, I will try to decide what is best for the majority of householders.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the present ration of different forms of household soap is inadequate to meet household needs at present and, recognising that, will he take it into consideration before attempting to deration soap generally?

Employment, Southampton

60.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give any convenient figures showing the extent of unemployment amongst building operatives in the Southampton area during 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, and at the present time.

As the reply includes a table of figures, I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if any of those who are at present unemployed will be satisfactorily accommodated at the new oil refinery at Fawley?

That is altogether another question, and I would like to see it put down on the Order Paper.

Is not most of the unemployment among building trade workers in Southampton only temporary and due to turnover? Further, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a shortage of building trade labour at Southampton which is holding up development? Can he give us some assistance to obtain more?