Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 476: debated on Monday 26 June 1950

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 26th June, 1950

Roads

Neath River Scheme

3.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is satisfied that construction of the Neath River crossing scheme is up to schedule and that it will be completed in 1952 as originally announced.

The scheme which was originally scheduled for completion in 1951 has been delayed owing to difficulties with the foundations. It is now anticipated that the work will be completed by the end of 1952 or early in 1953.

Trunk Road, Wales

4.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress is being made in the north-south trunk road for Wales.

The whole of the route agreed with the county council has now been made a trunk road except the section between Trawsfynydd and Pentre Foelas for which an order will be made as soon as the most suitable line has been settled. I am unable to say when it will be possible to construct the short length of new road included in this section.

Dangerous Loads

6.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the number of large and awkward loads, which contribute a danger to other traffic, now being transported on main roads, often without police or other escort; and whether he will amend the regulations in order to limit such traffic to that which cannot be transported by-rail or coastal shipping.

I have no evidence that the transport of these loads is an appreciable source of accidents. The relevant regulations require prior notice of their movement to be given to police and highway authorities in appropriate cases, and other safeguards are provided. It would be administratively impracticable to determine in individual cases whether it would be possible or reasonable for such loads to be conveyed by alternative means of transport.

Speed Limit, Peterborough

9.

asked the Minister of Transport in view of the opposition expressed by police authorities and local residents to the removal of the speed limit from a portion of the Birmingham—Great Yarmouth trunk road at Longthorpe, Peterborough, if he will have the position again reviewed.

No. The decision to remove the speed limit on this stretch of road was arrived at only recently and after careful consideration of the representations made by the police, the local authorities and local residents.

London Railways (Report)

17.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he intends making a statement on the 1949 Working Party's Report for London Railways; whether he is prepared to accept the recommendations of the Report in general; and whether he is prepared to accept the proposal for the electrification of the Chingford and Enfield Town lines from Liverpool Street station.

The recommendations of the Report mainly relate to long-term improvements which could only be carried out gradually within the framework of capital investment policy. They must all be carefully considered with the planning authorities concerned and properly related to other aspects of planning. It is, therefore, impracticable to say at this stage to what extent the proposals will be adopted, and I am not in a position to make any general statement.In regard to the proposal to electrify the Chingford and Enfield Town lines, I am in consultation with the British Transport Commission and hope to discuss with the representatives of the areas concerned.

Ministry Of Supply

Aluminium Exports

19.

asked the Minister of Supply what steps were taken to verify that the 620 tons of aluminium, for which an export licence was granted in 1949, were unsuitable for sale in Britain.

The 620 tons referred to consisted of four separate parcels. They were all of low-grade secondary aluminium, and before agreeing to their export advice was obtained either from the Aluminium Industry Advisory Committee or the Federation of Secondary Light Smelters.

Scrap Imports

asked the Minister of Supply what are the present quantities of scrap now being imported into this country; from what sources does it come; and how much war scrap is estimated as still to be obtained from Germany.

The average monthly import of scrap is about 195,000 tons. The sources of supply vary from time to time, but scrap has been obtained this year from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Egypt, Irish Republic, Malta, Malaya, New Zealand, Singapore and Iraq. It is not possible to estimate the quantity of war scrap still to be obtained from Germany.

Aircraft Tests (Fatalities)

asked the Minister of Supply how many test pilots and crews employed by his Department have been killed during tests in each of the years since the finish of the war.

The following numbers of staff employed by my Department were killed in accidents to aircraft during tests of all kinds in the years shown:

1945 (from 1st July)12
19463
19472
19488
19495

Ministry Of Works

Vermin (Government Departments)

27.

asked the Minister of Works to what extent adhesive varnish traps are used for catching rats and mice in Government offices; and whether this method is advised by the Infestation Control Division of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Rats and mice on Government property are destroyed by whatever method my experts consider best suited to the conditions, and in some instances adhesive varnish is used. I understand that this method is one of those recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Cement Supplies

33.

asked the Minister of Works what steps he is taking to ensure that building projects in Berwickshire will, in future, not be held up by a shortage of cement.

The shortage appears to have been aggravated by difficulties of distribution, which I have brought to the notice of the manufacturers. I understand that they have decided that they will in future despatch cement direct to Berwick.

41.

asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware of the acute shortage of cement in South Shropshire; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy the situation.

I have not heard of any cases in this area where necessary work is actually held up for lack of cement, but I am aware that supplies are not sufficient to meet all demands. I have discussed with the cement industry various measures for increasing overall supplies, and considerable improvement has already been achieved.

Bricks, Liverpool

30.

asked the Minister of Works what extra production of bricks over the May figure is required to satisfy the requirements of the Liverpool house building programme; and if he is satisfied that this extra amount will be forthcoming, and, that the August and subsequent house building programmes of Liverpool will be able to proceed without delays due to shortage of bricks.

I have no detailed information of the contracts placed with brick-makers by those responsible for Liverpool housing. The supply of bricks in Lancashire is increasing, and, if orders are placed in good time and there is reasonable flexibility in the acceptance of what is available, I see no reason to expect any serious difficulty.

Requisitioned Property, Holborn

40.

asked the Minister of Works when requisitioned office accommodation in the Borough of Holborn will be released on the occupation of the building in course of erection at 77–91, New Oxford Street which is to leased to his Department.

None of the requisitioned office accommodation which will be released as a result of the occupation of this building, is within the Borough of Holborn. As soon as the new building in Eagle Street is finished it is hoped to release all property in Holborn now requisitioned for office purposes.

Raf Buildings, Tiree (Demolition)

64.

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware of the dangerous condition in which the wartime Royal Air Force buildings on the island of Tiree have been left as a result of partial demolition work; that owing to the collapse of a wall of a partly demolished building four cattle were recently killed; and what decision has been reached by the Temporary Defence Works Committee of his Department regarding the further clearance and reinstatement of these sites on the island.

I am not aware of the facts mentioned in the first two parts of the Question. Demolition and clearance of the Air Force buildings on Tiree are still in progress. I will arrange for one of my officers to visit Tiree as soon as possible, and I will communicate with the hon. and gallant Member when I have had a report.

Training Centre, Portsmouth

68.

asked the Minister of Works how long it took to build the Government training centre at Pauls-grove, Portsmouth; and what was the number of man-hours that were expended on this building.

Japan (British Civilians)

48.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the powers of the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, Japan, with reference to British civilians resident in Japan; and what right of appeal such civilians have against any decision of the Supreme Commander.

The Supreme Commander's powers are derived from the Basic Post-Surrender Policy for Japan. This accords him, within the limits of the policy decisions of the Far Eastern Commission, powers usually wielded by a sovereign Government. The same policy statement provides that in a case in which the Supreme Commander's duties towards the fulfilment of the objectives of the Occupation are in conflict with his duties towards United Nations nationals, he is, obliged to consult the representative of that national's Government "on the question of proper adjustment."

Brussels Treaty Powers

Social And Medical Assistance

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he proposes to take to give effect to the Convention on social and medical assistance between the Brussels Treaty Powers.

As our present practice already satisfies the requirements of this Convention, no special steps will be necessary to give effect to it.

Cultural Identity Cards

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take steps to make the Brussels Treaty Cultural Identity Cards, under which additional facilities such as foreign currency and cheap transport will be available to British subjects travelling in the countries covered by the Brussels Treaty, available to engineers, doctors, barristers, solicitors, veterinary surgeons, certain grades of civil servants, local government officers, Members of Parliament, factory managers and trade union officials in addition to teachers, scientists, painters, sculptors, musicians and actors in order to encourage them to travel and reside abroad to improve their professional knowledge and do research work.

The scope of the Brussels Treaty Cultural Identity Card scheme was defined by the five Brussels Treaty Powers and any proposal to include new categories of recipients would have to be approved by them. The scheme will be reviewed on the international level in about four months' time and I shall arrange for the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion to be discussed. Incidentally, I should like to point out that the facilities available to card holders vary from country to country, that they do not always represent concessions exclusively available to card holders, and that the card does not entitle British subjects to any specific allowances of foreign currency.

"New Central European Observer"

57.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a publication entitled "The New Central European Observer," published by the Czechoslovakian Government, is being distributed to schools in this country from London; and whether he will withdraw the diplomatic privilege at present enjoyed by the distributors of this publication.

"The New Central European Observer" is ostensibly a British publication under the editorship of two British subjects and it cannot, therefore, be said that it is published by the Czechoslovak Government. I am looking into the circumstances in which its editorial offices are situated at an address which also houses the offices of the Czechoslovak Commercial Counsellor. I have no official knowledge of the distribution of the publication in the manner referred to by the hon. Member.

"British Ally"

59.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any statement to make on the newspaper "British Ally" which is published by the British Embassy in Moscow and whose sales have dropped recently from 50,000 to 15,000.

The question of the future of "British Ally" is under consideration, but no decision has yet been reached in the matter.

Coal Industry

Production

71.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power on the basis of what statistical data he reaches the opinion that fears of a coal glut and resultant unemployment are groundless.

I presume the hon. Member is referring to the statement which, after consultation with the National Coal Board and the National Executive of the National Union of Mine-workers, and with their full agreement, I made in the Press on 9th June. That statement was based on the following facts. We need several million tons more coal for the domestic user; with full employment and rising productivity, the demand for industry, power stations and gas works is increasing by about four million tons a year; we are getting 13 million tons a year by opencast working, which we shall end when we can get deep-mined coal instead; we could export many millions of tons more coal to our customers abroad.

Domestic Supplies

78.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether the Easter cut in domestic coal deliveries to North Staffordshire merchants has now been made good; and whether he has any general statement to make on future levels of domestic coal deliveries.

I am informed that the coal merchants in North Staffordshire received 100.3 per cent. of their allocation for the six winter months which ended on 30th April. The corresponding figure in the town of Stafford was 87 per cent. As I am saying in answer to other Questions this afternoon, more coal will be allocated for domestic use during the present year. The merchants in Staffordshire will get their fair share of the increased supplies.

80.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when he expects to make a statement about the additional coal for British housewives next winter; and whether this increase will be possible because of increased production or a reduction in our coal exports.

I am glad to tell the hon. Member and the House that the increasing output of coal will justify some increase in the supplies available for household use in the present year. The amount available up to 1st April, 1951, will be at least one million tons more than in the coal year 1949–50, and I hope it may be more. There will be no change in the export target given in the Economic Survey for 1950, which, as the hon. Member knows, is from 19 to 22 million tons.

Opencast Mining

79.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the proposed dollar expenditure on opencast coal mining for 1950–51; and whether he has any further statement to make on the ending of opencast operations.

The only dollar expenditure for the opencast working of coal in the year 1950–51 will be for spare parts for American machines. The sum will be relatively small, but I regret that I can give no precise estimate. The policy of the Government was explained to the House by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Economic Affairs on 9th May, 1949.

83.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether the boring operations in the Ightenhill area between Padiham and Burnley have revealed coal deposits which his Department intends to mine by opencast methods.

Prospecting in the Ightenhill area will not be completed until the end of the year. The results so far obtained indicate that enough coal of suitable quality will probably be found to make opencast working worth while.

North Wales Hydroelectric Scheme

84.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when the model of the North Wales Hydro-Electric Scheme will be available in the Library.

To my regret, I find that the model, and the photographs and diagrams of the North Wales Hydro-Electric Scheme take up more space than is available in the Library of the House. I am, therefore, arranging for them to be shown in some other convenient place. If the hon. Member will put down a Question next week, I hope I shall be able to tell him what I have done.

Silicosis, Cornwall

81.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many fresh cases of silicosis were reported amongst miners employed in Cornish tin mines during each of the last five years.

The figures are as follows: 1945–12; 1946–23; 1947–13; 1948 and 1949 taken together—22.

Petrol Supplies

Caltex Refinery

82.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what are the alternative sites being considered by His Majesty's Government for a new Caltex refinery between Portsmouth and Southampton; and to what extent he has consulted the local farmers and inhabitants and the Defence Ministries respectively about these sites.

Several alternative sites on, and to the west of, Brownwich Farm, Titchfield, are under consideration. All the Departments concerned in the matter, including the Service Departments and the Ministry of Defence, are, of course, being consulted; and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning have consulted the local planning authority.

American Companies (Negotiations)

85.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when the consultations and negotiations with the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey about their offer which led to the de-rationing of petrol began; and can he make a report on this.

Negotiations with the American Government and oil companies over methods of reducing the dollar drain due to oil started in September, 1949. The plan for substituting surplus sterling oil for part of the oil imported into the sterling area by American companies from dollar sources was put into effect at the beginning of this year, and in February, 1950, the Government put forward an incentive plan, the main principle of which was that, if the American companies would increase their expenditure in the sterling area, we would thereby earn dollars to pay for more of their oil. Negotiations on this incentive plan are still proceeding.Meanwhile, on 8th May, the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) made an offer to bring in more petrol for sterling if petrol rationing were removed; and they agreed to spend the sterling in the sterling area on the purchase of additional goods and services including tankers. Agreement on this offer was reached with the Jersey company and the California Texas Company on the morning of 26th May; I informed the House of the derationing of petrol on that day.

Leaseholds (Report)

86.

asked the Attorney-General whether the final report of the Leasehold Committee has now been presented; and when it will be published.

87.

asked the Attorney-General whether he has yet received the report of the Committee on Leasehold Reform; and whether he will make a statement on this matter.

88.

asked the Attorney-General if he is now in a position to make a statement regarding the report of the Committee inquiring into leaseholds.

89.

asked the Attorney-General whether he has yet received the final report of the Committee on Leaseholds; and what steps he proposes to take arising out of it.

91.

asked the Attorney-General when he will be able to make a statement on the report of the Committee considering Leasehold Reform.

92.

asked the Attorney-General what was the date on which the Committee considering reform of leasehold law sent their report to the Lord Chancellor; and when the Government's observations on the report will be made to the House of Commons.

93.

asked the Attorney-General if he can now make a statement on the final report of the Committee on Leaseholds.

The final report of the Committee on Leaseholds was sent to my noble Friend on 12th June, and it will be made public in the course of the next few days. The whole matter is, as will appear from the report, one of great complexity, but the Government are giving it urgent consideration.

Sodium Cyanide (Dumping, Bilston)

90.

asked the Attorney-General if he has examined the circumstances in which large quantities of highly dangerous substances such as sodium cyanide were found upon rubbish tips in the Bilston area; and if he has brought the matter to the notice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to proceedings being taken against firms or individuals whose actions and lack of proper precautions endangered the life of children in the area.

Yes. Immediately the facts were reported the Chief Constable took every possible step to warn the public by notices, handbills, slides on cinema screens and a message broadcast by the B.B.C. Inquiries to discover who was responsible for dumping the sodium cyanide are still proceeding.

Food Supplies

Seasonal Allowances

98.

asked the Minister of Food if he will now allow extra food allowances for agricultural workers when employed in silage making.

I am afraid my answer must inevitably be "No." Seasonal allowances are given for a number of farming tasks which usually have to be completed under pressure of time and weather. I cannot add to the fist—which is already a wide one—without at once arousing further demands from other sections of the industry who feel their claim to extra allowances of food to be as strong as those employed in silage making.

Fruit And Vegetables

99.

asked the Minister of Food what action he is taking to prevent a repetition of the delay in the handling of Cornish and Devon potato and soft fruit produce which occurred last year.

Private traders and the transport organisations concerned are making the arrangements for handling these crops, and there is, I think, no reason for me to interfere.

Condemned Food

100.

asked the Minister of Food what is the approximate value of foodstuffs of all kinds condemned and destroyed in Government stores, warehouses or wharves during 1949 and from January to May, 1950.

Following is the reply:

APPROXIMATE VALUE OF FOODSTUFFS CONDEMNED AND DESTROYED IN GOVERNMENT STORES, WAREHOUSES OR WHARVES DURING 1949 AND FROM JANUARY TO MAY, 1950.
Approximate value
Calendar Year 1949January to May, 1950
££
Bacon184122
Canned fish2,2121,136
Canned fruit and vegetables7,093577
Canned Tomato puree13,500937
Dried fruit1,093477
Edible nuts1,077688
Fresh fruit, fruit pulp and fruit juices22,30014,100
Imported meats, rabbits and poultry66,80015,000
Cheese1,32864
Condensed milk2,236655
Milk powder51
Groundnut oil226
Tea2514
Coffee235
Welfare foods2,000200
Potatoes4,300
£124,614£33,971

Butter Supplies, Ilford

101.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that butter is arriving at certain retailers in Ilford in a poor condition, rapidly turns rancid, and is unfit for human consumption; and what steps does he propose to take to rectify this situation.

I have made immediate inquiries into this alleged situation, but in none of the responsible trading quarters in Ilford have my officers been able to find any confirmation of the hon. and gallant Member's statement. I can only say, therefore, that I will be glad to investigate any more detailed information he can give.

Sugar Supplies

102.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the grave difficulties being experienced by blackcurrant growers all over the country in disposing of their crops to the manufacturers owing to lack of sugar supplies for jam making; and whether he will take steps to increase the sugar supplies to the manufacturers and to improve the fruit content of home-produced black-currant jam.

I know that growers are worried about the marketing of blackcurrants this season, but I do not think that production of blackcurrant jam will be restricted by lack of sugar; if the public wants more of this kind of jam the manufacturers will supply it out of their current sugar allocations. I intend shortly to make an Order raising the minimum fruit content of blackcurrant jam from 20 per cent. to 22 per cent.

106.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement regarding future sugar supplies.

I can see no prospect of any improvement in the situation this year except at the cost of dollars. Indeed, as I have stated before, it is proving an extremely difficult task to maintain existing rations to housewives and manufacturers on present supplies from non-dollar sources. One can only speculate as to supplies beyond this year, but sterling supplies from the Commonwealth are steadily improving under the stimulus of our undertaking to buy all the sugar available up to 1952.

asked the Minister of Food why the British Government undertakes to buy 250,000 tons of sugar on the free market under United Nations agreements, whereas the United States of America reserves only 45,000 tons under the same obligations; and whether, in any new agreement, a greater amount will be purchased from the West Indies.

There are no such obligations in existence under United Nations agreements. I think my hon. Friend has in mind the recent agreement made this year, that in 1953 and for a further four years a small share of the United Kingdom market should be left outside the guaranteed purchase arrangements with Dominion and Colonial producers to help towards an International Sugar Agreement and to leave some free play in the market in the interests of the consumer. We are satisfied that the arrangements contemplated for the period after 1952 are fair and reasonable. Discussions are still going on with representatives of the West Indies about their share of this agreed scheme, and I cannot make any statement on this at present.

asked the Minister of Food if he will increase the amount of sugar allotted to jam manufacturers so that they will be able to use a larger proportion of the season's crop of blackcurrants for jam-making.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron-Leader Cooper) today.

Pig Insurance Scheme

103.

asked the Minister of Food how much annually is collected under insurance at 1s. per pig slaughtered; what are the claims against this insurance fund; what annual surplus emerges; and how it is disposed.

This scheme is not administered centrally. Each bacon curer retains the payments for the pigs he kills, and in return, has to pay producers in full for all insured pigs, without deducting the value of condemned offals or parts of carcases and pigs lost in transit. A large scale investigation of condemnations and losses for the month of January, 1950, showed that, on average, the sum of 1s. per pig was just enough to meet the charges borne by curers and that there is no surplus.

104.

asked the Minister of Food when insurance on pigs delivered to his Department for bacon production was raised from 6d. to 1s. per pig; and why was this increase necessary.

The increase took place on 27th March, 1950, after it had been established that the rate of 6d. was no longer covering the losses incurred.

Curer's Signatures

105.

asked the Minister of Food if it is order to accept a rubber stamp impression in lieu of curer's signature in Ministry of Food Form B.H. 1008.

Eggs

107.

asked the Minister of Food how many dozen eggs have arrived from Gambia to date; and what is the anticipated supply during the coming 12 months from Gambia.

We have had only one small experimental shipment of eggs from Gambia, and I do not know how many we are likely to get from there in the next 12 months.

Grain Stores, Norfolk (Damage)

108.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that grain stored in hangars on disused airfields in Norfolk is being destroyed by rats; and if he will take all available action to lessen the losses caused in this way.

All grain in store attracts rats and mice and my Department, in co-operation with the Infestation Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, takes every precaution against them as a matter of routine. I have not heard of any exceptional damage to the stocks held by my Department in stores in Norfolk, but if the hon. and gallant Member can give me details I will look into the matter. But I am glad to state that, despite having to use temporary stores, our overall losses from all causes, including infestation were less than a quarter of one per cent. of the entire turnover of grain.

Pilchards

109.

asked the Minister of Food whether he could offer a long-term contract to encourage those concerned to provide special facilities for the production of a canned medium-sized pilchard to compete with best quality Portuguese sardines in dollar markets.

My Department does not purchase home-canned fish, the sale and distribution of which is not controlled. While it does not seem to me that canned medium-sized pilchards would be an acceptable substitute for sardines, I will try to encourage their export in any way I can.

Bulk Purchase (Accounts)

110.

asked the Minister of Food what profits his Department and trading Departments under his control made in the bulk purchase of foodstuffs during the years 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949.

As it will take some time to look up the information for the earlier years I will, with permission, arrange for the reply to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible, but I may also add that I gave some of the most recent figures in reply to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) on 19th June last.

National Loaf (Subsidy)

asked the Minister of Food the amount of subsidy on a national loaf; and to what extent wholemeal and wholewheat bread is subsidised.

This year the average subsidy on both national bread and ordinary wholemeal bread will be about 5¼d. per 3½ lb. loaf. It is made up of a flour subsidy averaging 4¾d. a loaf and a baking subsidy averaging ½d. a loaf. Proprietary brands of bread sold free of price control do not qualify for the baking subsidy, but the bulk selling prices of the various speciality brands of flour used (including proprietary brands of wholemeal and wholewheat flour) are controlled, and are subsidised to the extent necessary to enable each brand to be sold at the National flour price plus the difference betwen its price and that of ordinary flour in 1939.

National Finance

Petrol De-Rationing

111.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date was the Economic Planning Board consulted on the proposed abolition of petrol rationing; and what were their views.

The subjects considered by the Economic Planning Board and the advice tendered by the Board to His Majesty's Government are necessarily confidential.

Bank Of England (Activities)

112.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what modifications have been made through decisions of the Bank of England in the accepted rules for the discounting and rediscounting of bills for prime bank bills and six months bills respectively by the Bank of England since the transfer of that Bank to public ownership.

The Question refers to matters which lie within the sphere of the day-to-day activities of the Bank of England, and is not therefore one which I am prepared to answer.

Tobacco Licences

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he will issue licences for the sale of tobacco from mobile shops.

No. I am advised that licences can be granted only in respect of "premises" and that mobile shops are not premises.

Government Departments (Redundancy)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why service in the 1914–18 war, which counts for seniority in clerical Government employment, does not count for seniority in industrial Government employment.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the reckoning of seniority for the purpose of settling the order of discharge of employees who become redundant. Service in the 1914–18 war has not been regarded either by trade unions or by successive Governments, by whom agreements have been negotiated, as the proper basis of determining order of discharge on redundancy for industrial employees. On the other hand, a pledge was given in 1920, when the non-industrial Civil Service was being reconstructed after the war, that in certain non-industrial grades ex-Service employees should have preference over those who had not given service in the Armed Forces, and this pledge has been duly fulfilled.

Telephone Service, Blackburn

113.

asked the Postmaster-General how many applications for telephones were outstanding in the Blackburn area on 1st January, 1949, and 1st January, 1950; how many installations were made during 1949; and how many applications still outstanding were first made more than 12 months ago.

Nine hundred and thirty-one applications were outstanding in the Blackburn Exchange area in January, 1949. In January, 1950, there were 1,113, including 917 on hand for more than a year; 271 installations were made during 1949.

Broadcasting ("The Listener")

asked the Postmaster-General whether the foreign broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation, or a selection of them, are printed in the same manner as broadcasts in the Home or Third programmes in "The Listener."

I understand that "The Listener" does not normally publish talks given in foreign languages. Talks broadcast in English in the various services addressed to overseas listeners are selected from time to time for publication.

Trade And Commerce

Timber Imports

114.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what quantity of sawn softwood it was hoped to obtain from Finland this year; for what quantity contracts have so far been placed; what is the maximum quantity for which contracts are likely to be placed this year; and if he will publish a table showing the prices of the different qualities of sawn softwood for which contracts have been placed in Finland this year.

The Finnish Trade Agreement mentioned 225,000 standards which the Finnish Sawmillers' Association have agreed to supply. It is not the practice to state the contract position with suppliers with whom negotiations are in progress, to anticipate future contracts or to state prices paid to any supplier. We cannot therefore publish the table requested.

115.

asked the president of the Board of Trade what proportion of the current shipments of timber from Scandinavian and Russian ports will be carried in British ships.

I regret that the information asked for is not available. In accordance with its normal procedure, chartering will be effected by the Timber Control in the open market. The proportion of British ships employed will depend upon the offers received from British shipowners, and I can assure the hon. Member that preference will be given wherever possible to such offers.

asked the President of the Board of Trade for how many standards of sawn soft wood contracts have so far been placed abroad this year; for how many standards he hopes to place contracts this year; and how these two figures compare with figures on similar dates during each of the last four years.

It is not the practice to state the contract position with suppliers with whom negotiations are still in progress or to anticipate future contracts. I cannot, therefore, publish the comparison for which the hon. and gallant Member asks.

Typewriters (Imports)

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many typewriters have been imported into this country during the past 12 months from the Russian zone of Germany; how many from Sweden; how many in all have been so imported; and what currency has been used for payment of the imports.

In the 12 months May, 1949 to April 1950, imports of typewriters from Germany as a whole were 11,647, from Sweden 14 and from all other countries 31,671. The trade returns do not distinguish between the different zones of Germany, but I have reason to think that most of the imports from Germany came from the Eastern Zone. Imports from Germany were paid for in sterling and from Sweden either in sterling or in Swedish kroner.

Utility Clothing

asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received from the appropriate trade organisations on the bad quality of utility clothing, stockings and household furnishings and equipment; and what action he has taken.

No such representations have been received, and I cannot accept the implication concerning the quality of utility goods.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that in and near Oldham a number of normal sizes of women's utility underwear are unobtainable; and whether all normal sizes are in fact manufactured in the utility range.

Full ranges of stock sizes of women's utility underwear are being produced. If my hon. Friend would let me have details of the particular sizes and descriptions of garments he has in mind, I would have enquiries made into the supply position in Oldham and district.

Utility Cloths

asked the President of the Board of Trade what regulations are imposed by him with regard to the quantity of wool, cotton and rayon, to be used in the weaving of cloth and cotton piece goods; and what is the variation in percentages compared with pre-war.

The only Board of Trade regulations in this matter are the Orders we now have which define the specifications of utility cloths. There are, a large number of these specifications, covering many types of cloth, all cotton, all wool, all rayon and mixtures. Detailed statistics of the composition of mixture fabrics, either now or pre-war, are not available, but the quantities of rayon and cotton used in woollen spinning and felting, for example, in April, 1950, were 500,000 lb. and 740,000 lb. respectively out of a total raw material consumption of 27,160,000 lb.

Decorated China

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the reason for the continuance of the restrictions on the sale of decorated china.

The reason is our need to earn dollars. There is still a big unsatisfied demand in dollar markets for the right types of domestic pottery and we cannot yet afford to allow production to be diverted to the home market.

Utility Footwear

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a detailed statement of the retail price of a normal pair of utility men's and ladies' boots and shoes, showing the amount of the price which goes respectively to manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer.

The information for which my hon. Friend asks is not available. Under the simplified arrangements announced on 16th May, in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), prices of utility footwear are now controlled only by reference to maximum prices on sale to the public. Intermediate marginal controls have been eliminated and the proportion of the final selling price (which is often less than the maximum price) going to the manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer respectively depends entirely on the terms of the transactions at each stage.

Glass Manufacture

asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that at the present time only three firms are concerned in the manufacture of sheet and plate glass, two of these being subsidiaries of the first; and what steps he intends to take to have this matter referred to the Monopolies Commission.

I have been asked to reply. This matter, together with many others, will be considered when the time comes for the Board of Trade to make further references to the Monopolies Commission.

Shipbuilding

116.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many vessels are under construction in Great Britain and what is the registered tonnage; and how many and what tonnage are oil and how many coal burning.

Three hundred and nine vessels are at present under construction in the United Kingdom, with an estimated gross tonnage of 1,830,619 tons; 14 of these are coal burning with a gross tonnage of 25,080; 290 vessels will be oil burning, with a gross tonnage of 1,784,449. Coal or oil will be used in 5 vessels with a gross tonnage of 21,090 tons.

Agriculture

Wool Prices

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will list the prices received by growers of different classes of wool from the current clip and show how they compare with the approximate prices received by growers of the same classes of wool in 1938.

The schedule of prices for the 1950 wool clip was published on 16th May last, and I am sending a copy to the hon. Member. Comparable figures for the same classes of wool in 1938 are not available, but such information as I have indicates that in general the current prices to growers are some 350 to 400 per cent. above the 1938 level.

Hostels

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the loss on maintaining a European volunteer worker in an agricultural hostel at a charge of 35s. a week.

The loss on hostels for male agricultural workers, British or foreign, is about 19 shillings per worker per week, when account is taken of all costs, including provision and upkeep of buildings and administration.

Food Warehouses (Infestation)

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the increase in infestation of warehouses storing food; and what action his Department is taking.

I am not aware of any general increase in the infestation of these warehouses, although in certain instances—depending mainly upon the type of food stored—there may be slight seasonal increases.

Housing (Derequisitioning)

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that requisition of houses falls now only on a relatively small number of landlords, he will take steps to see that those who have been carrying this burden for over five years will now be relieved, and if necessary others be asked to take their share of this burden.

No, it would be impracticable in existing circumstances to adopt a derequisitioning scheme of this scope and character.

Day Nursery, Hersham (Closing)

asked the Minister of Health if he is now in a position to give his decision regarding the closing down of the Manse Day Nursery at Hersham in the county of Surrey, which will cause inconvenience to many working mothers in this district.

I have agreed to the closing of this nursery as part of a general reorganisation of the day nursery provision made by the Surrey County Council. I am informed that all children of the priority classes accommodated in the nursery have been offered alternative accommodation in other nurseries.

Smallpox

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the serious consequences which attend the accidental introduction of wrongly-diagnosed cases of smallpox into general hospitals, he will consider issuing a text-book on the diagnosis of smallpox for the use of hospital doctors and also for medical students who are studying for the diploma of public health.

I do not think it is within my functions to publish medical textbooks, but I will have the objective underlying my hon. Friend's suggestion considered.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a statement on the wrong diagnosis of cases at Halifax and Sowerby Bridge which were sent to the Cottingham Hospital, Hull, as smallpox cases, and were subsequently found not to be that disease.

I am advised that the doctors who reported a diagnosis of suspected smallpox acted rightly and prudently: and there is no reason to be critical of their judgment in the fact that subsequent hospital tests did not confirm the diagnosis.

Water Supplies, Scotland

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland with regard to rural water schemes in Scotland, the respective value, to the latest available date, of schemes submitted to him for approval, of schemes approved in principle but not yet authorised to go to tender, of schemes authorised for commencement but not yet completed, of schemes completed, of grants paid in respect of these schemes, and of grants promised but not yet paid in respect of schemes.

Following is the information:

£
1. Value of schemes submitted since end of war to 31st May, 195046,075,000
2. Schemes approved in principle but not yet authorised to go to tender14,134,000
3. Schemes authorised for commencement but not yet completed6,385,000
4. Schemes completed414,000
5. Grants paid:£
(a) for completed schemes83,550
(b) for schemes still in progress247,350
330,900
6. Grants promised but not yet paid on schemes5,836,000

National Insurance (Casual Employment)

asked the Minister of National Insurance why, prior to 6th February, full insurance contributions were not payable by registration officers in respect of persons employed on a casual basis and an industrial injuries contribution of 8d. only was demanded; why, later, this contribution was declared insufficient and the full normal contribution demanded; and whether she will give instructions in such cases to the local authority to refund the difference between the employers normal contribution and the proportion paid under the Industrial Injuries Scheme.

Under the National Insurance (Classification) Regulations, 1948, casual employment for the preparation of electoral lists was treated as self-employment, since my Department were advised that registration officers cannot be said to carry on a trade or business. Representations were made to my predecessor that this kind of employment, which often lasts for several weeks at a time, should be insurable in the same way as ordinary employment. The National Insurance Advisory Committee agreed with this view and amending regulations have been in operation since 6th February last. I have no power to refund any contributions legally due under them.

Teachers (Employment)

asked the Minister of Education what plans he is making to employ teachers in London and Middlesex who have been trained under the emergency scheme and who cannot be found appointments until July, 1951.

Following discussion with the National Advisory Council for the Training and Supply of Teachers, I am about to give to local education authorities generally information concerning the probable supply of teachers up to October, 1951, and advice that consideration should be given now to the early appointment of teachers against requirements for the school year 1950–51 as a whole.

Anti-Semitic Offences

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many convictions have been recorded for offences of an anti-Semitic character in the Metropolitan area in the years 1938, 1939, 1948 and 1949.

Convictions in the Metropolitan police district are not recorded and classified on the basis of motive and it would not be practicable to extract from the criminal statistics information of the kind asked for.

Nuns (Voting)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that nuns in enclosed Orders are not able to vote by post; and whether he will amend the regulations so that such people are not disfranchised.

The question whether or not nuns in enclosed Orders are entitled to vote by post under Section 12 of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, falls to be determined by the registration officer to whom an application is made, or by a court on appeal under Section 45 against his decision. Any amendment of Section 12 would require legislation.

Free Pardons

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many free pardons have been granted by his Department since 1920.

Since 1st January, 1920, 258 free pardons have been granted by the King on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for the Home Department.