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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1950

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West Indies

Trinidad (Hookworm)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has studied the report of the Trinidad Commissioner for Labour, 1947–48, which draws attention to the serious effects of hookworm and which reveals that 90 per cent. of the inhabitants of sugar cane areas in the Colony suffer from this disease; and what action he is taking to improve this situation.

Yes, Sir. Official surveys in those areas of Trinidad where sugar cane is principally grown did not confirm the figure of 90 per cent.; the incidence of the disease as thus ascertained varied between 75 per cent. and 30 per cent. The Trinidad Government established hookworm control units in three counties which include the sugar cane areas, in 1947, and in the two following years 21,711 and 21,668 persons were treated for hookworm. Propaganda against the disease includes the publication of pamphlets dealing with it and health talks to schools and communities. Clinic facilities for its treatment have been increased on some estates, and on the larger ones both housing facilities and latrine sanitation are continually being improved.

In view of the debilitating nature of this disease and the alarming figures which the hon. Gentleman's reply discloses, will he give an undertaking that this matter will enjoy the highest priority as an objective for the Government?

We are very much concerned about the figures, and they are constantly being watched.

Does vaccine treatment still exist, and is it extensively applied?

We are prepared to follow any method which will give results. This is a question of sanitation mainly.

Dominica (Food Shortage)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the shortage of foodstuffs in Dominica; whether he has studied the petition recently presented to the Administrator by housewives which deals with this matter; and what steps are being taken to ensure an adequate diet for the people of the island.

I am aware of the shortage and the petition. The first attempts to obtain additional foodstuffs from neighbouring islands were unsuccessful, but extra flour is now being imported and more rice is being sought from British Guiana. As regards the future, a landowner has agreed to plant ground provisions on a large scale, and it is intended to start a prison farm near the capital.

Does the Under-Secretary recall that in reply to a question of mine recently in this House the Secretary of State gave a reassuring answer about the supply of flour, and is he aware that I have in my hand a letter stating that the supply was most unsatisfactory two days after that occasion? Can the hon. Gentleman give us some real assurance that we may have confidence in his answer today?

St Lucia

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the original estimate of the cost of the new bonding warehouse at Castries, St. Lucia; and what the actual cost is likely to be.

The original estimate for the bonded warehouse at Castries was £21,500. This included two storage sheds at an estimated cost of £9,500. Only the two sheds have been built so far. They have cost about £13,000. This is due to a 12½ per cent. increase in their size and a 10 per cent. increase in building costs.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell me where the extra money is to come from to pay for this additional cost?

Revised estimates for the remainder of the scheme, including passenger and baggage accommodation and work on the wharf, will be prepared shortly in connection with the second phase.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the original estimate of the cost of the sewerage scheme being carried out at Castries, St. Lucia; and what the actual cost is likely to be.

The original estimate by the consulting engineers in 1949 was £110,000. About one-tenth of the work has been done and unexpected difficulty has been experienced with waterlogged ground. Revised estimates are under discussion. If the remainder of the ground is equally difficult the cost of the whole scheme, taking into account increases in the cost of materials since the original estimate was prepared, may possibly reach £190,000. If the ground is no more difficult than was thought when the first estimate was prepared the cost may be considerably less.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell me again who will pay for the extra cost of this scheme?

I think the answer to that is obvious. It is under the control of the Colonial Development Corporation.

Antigua (Labour Relations)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the American company, Mill Reef Properties, Limited, operating in Antigua, has refused to recognise established trade union representatives speaking for its employees; and whether the Government of Antigua will take steps to inform all foreign companies that they are expected to conform to the normal standard of labour relations established in the island.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that Americans who have bought plantations in the island of Antigua are declining to recognise the unions to which their workers belong, or to sign any agreement with them, on the ground that these workers are coloured, although British employers, including those engaged in the sugar, cotton and rum industries and in commerce, recognise the unions and many of them have established works committees with union representation; and whether he will take steps to ensure that the American owners respect the local labour relations and customs and refrain from introducing racial segregation into the island.

Fewer than half the men employed by Mill Reef Properties are union members. The company is prepared to discuss complaints with representatives of the workers whether unionists or non-unionists in meetings arranged by the Leeward Island Labour Department and in arbitration proceedings. This is in accordance with normal labour relations procedure in Antigua. General allegations of racial prejudice and discriminatory practices have been made since the dispute began but have not been substantiated.

In view of that answer and of the fact that President Truman has declared emphatically in favour of no racial discrimination in this matter, will the Government indicate that so far as labour relations in these islands are concerned it is their desire that there shall be no racial discrimination?

Constitution

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the fact that the legislative councils of the Leeward and Windward Islands have asked repeatedly since 1948 that a majority of their members shall be elected, and that a similar request has been accepted in the case of Jamaica, the Barbados and Trinidad, he is prepared to recommend the necessary amendment of the Constitutions and so enable these islands to participate in the proposed federation of the West Indies on an equal footing.

I am in communication with the Governors of the Windward and Leeward Islands, and hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

Sugar Negotiations

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the growing concern in the West Indies at the delay in concluding the sugar negotiations with the West Indian delegation in London; and if he will make a statement on the subject.

I am not aware of any undue delay. Until the discussions are ended, both my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food would prefer not to make any statement.

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to study the West Indian newspapers, which will give him some idea of the strength of feeling on the matter? Does he realise the serious political repercussions that might arise out of the failure of the Government to meet these demands?

That is another question. The original Question dealt with the delay, but we think it is more important that there should be a satisfactory conclusion to the negotiations than that they should perhaps take a little longer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the delays and reserves with which this matter has been treated will more than outweigh any benefits that might be gained by the adverse political and economic consequences in the Colonies? Does he realise that the Government are playing straight into the hands of hostile elements in the West Indies?

No, Sir. I realise that the conditions in the West Indies are considerably better than they ever were under the Opposition before the war.

Will my right hon. Friend take all necessary steps to resist this pressure on the authorities in this country to accept inferior trading conditions for the future supply of sugar?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his Ministry has seen this delegation when the Ministry of Food were unrepresented?

No, Sir. The negotiations are not completed, so it is impossible to give a definite date.

Aden (Tuberculosis)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what number of beds are now available for the treatment of tuberculosis in Aden; and how many cases have been treated by streptomycin and with what result.

The number of beds now available for the treatment of tuberculosis in Aden is 110. Ninety-eight cases have completed treatment by streptomycin. The results obtained are that 40 of the cases are back at work, 26 are quiescent, 23 have improved, six are worse and three have died.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, on the whole, the results of treatment of tuberculosis in both Aden and in Singapore have shown remarkable progress, and that the mortality rate is falling in those places? What steps is his Department taking to see that these facts are more widely known than they are now?

We are aware that improvements are taking place, and we hope that people are watching the progress as shown in the Colonial reports.

Colonial Empire

Social Welfare

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to encourage voluntary organisations to undertake social welfare work in the Colonies.

My right hon. Friend is conscious of the importance of encouraging voluntary organisations to undertake social welfare work in the Colonies and the attention of Colonial Governments has been called to the important role which they can play. Apart from missionary enterprise there is considerable other voluntary activity in the West Indies, particularly Jamaica, in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Federation of Malaya, in Kenya and Sierra Leone and in Mauritius. Of course, throughout Africa the activities of the great missionary societies is well known, but here, as elsewhere, Governments are conscious of the value of voluntary effort and are doing what they can to foster it.

Cost Of Living Indices

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Colonies possess and publish index numbers in respect of cost of living; why such an index number is not published in Nigeria; and on what bases wage and salary increases have been granted in Nigeria and other Colonies where index-numbers are not published.

Twenty-seven Colonial Governments publish index numbers relating to cost of living. The preparation of a reliable index in a Colony like Nigeria presents many difficult problems, particularly the wide variations in prices and expenditure patterns between one area and another. The war-time index was discontinued in 1946 as it was found to be unsatisfactory. Preliminary work on a new index is now in hand.

Cost of living indices are not, of course, the sole basis on which wage and salary increases are decided. The material put forward by trade unions and staff associations in support of their claims, together with the general economic conditions of a territory are the usual basis on which decisions are made.

Is the Minister aware that in other comparable areas these indices had been established, and does he not realise that at some time this method of computing the value of wages and the standard by which wages will be judged will certainly be reached, so why cannot it be done now?

I only said that it was rather difficult to establish one in Nigeria. We certainly have that in mind.

In the case of Colonies where indices of that kind are not available will the Minister tell us if proper statistics are kept and, if not, will he take steps to see that proper statistics are kept which can be made the basis for such index figures? In colonies where such index figures are kept, would he tell us if the indices are computed on the same basis as that which we have in this country?

Will the Minister say whether the basis for the compilation of the indices of cost of living is to be broadened, as in some Colonies rent, for example, is not taken into account?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether steps are now being taken to try to secure this very necessary basis, and if not will this be done in the near future?

May I have an answer to my question which was relative to the main question and was, I submit, a proper question to be answered.

Labour Advisers

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of his decision to send special trade union and labour advisers to Nigeria, whether these will be concerned with giving advice and assistance to all wage earners in Nigeria as well as miners; and whether he is considering the need of surveying conditions of labour in all the Colonies, in order where necessary to send out similar special advisers.

The answer to the first part of by hon. Friend's Question is "Yes." As regards the second part, labour conditions in all the Colonies are kept constantly under review with the assistance of the Colonial Labour Advisory Committee.

Do I understand that these trade union officers are to visit all the various trade unions and take steps to try to form trade unions in other areas and among other sections of the workers where possible?

They are going to examine the whole trade union position throughout Nigeria.

Would the Minister say whether the Government recognise trade unions and whether they negotiate with the representatives of the employees out there?

In order to make this more clear, are we not right in thinking that the purpose of this special mission was not to set up trade unions while they are there, but, on their return, to report to the Government how best to get the Nigerian trade union movement properly established and under the right leadership?

Malaya

Trade Unions

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the total membership of the trade unions in Malaya; and what percentage of the workers eligible for membership this represents.

The present membership of employees' trade unions in the Federation of Malaya is 42,695, representing 5 per cent. of workers eligible for membership. The corresponding figures for Singapore are 49,266 and 18.3 per cent.

In view of the minute percentage in the Federation, in spite of very strenuous efforts on the part of the labour officers, does not this suggest that trade unionism in its present form in Malaya makes very little appeal to the workers?

On the contrary, it does appeal. The hon. Gentleman should realise that there are, to put it mildly, certain difficulties existing in Malaya, and unfortunate experiences which rather tended to drive people away from the trade unions as a result of the action of the Communist-dominated federation of trade unions which appropriated the funds for jungle warfare.

Is my hon. Friend aware that although a large number of employers in Malaya encourage trade unionism, there is quite a large number who discourage it, and who will do all they possibly can to prevent their employees from joining a trade union?

His Majesty's Government are quite satisfied that the best way of building up good and solid relations in the Colonies is by the establishment of sound trade unions.

Would the Under-Secretary deny or demand proof of the statement just made by his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery), which casts a bad reflection on people who are not able to answer personally.

To which unions do the labourers getting 4s. 9½d. a day belong; and do not these figures show a great need for increasing trade union membership in Singapore?

Mr Nehru's Speech

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what arrangements he made for broadcasting the speech of Mr. Nehru, made at Singapore, advocating a policy of non-violence in Malaya.

Only one speech made by Mr. Nehru in Singapore was broadcast—that given at the dinner arranged in his honour by the Legislative Council. This speech in no way advocates a policy of non-violence.

Is the Minister aware that the appeal made by Mr. Nehru in favour of non-violence was made to the bandits, and does he not think that this speech should be given the greatest possible publicity both to the bandits and to those fighting the bandits?

Does the Minister not think that in view of Pandit Nehru's deliberate cold-blooded attack on Hyderabad, that talk of non-violence is sheer humbug?

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the utmost possible use should be made of Mr. Nehru's very helpful speech as he said that we were roughly following the right sort of policy in Malaya?

On a point of order. May I ask to what extent Members of this House are able to attack the Prime Minister of one of the Dominions and to make a very serious allegation against him?

The question only refers to broadcasting. As to criticism of the head of a foreign State, of course one has to be very careful about that, and one should not do it.

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the supplementary question of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) which was rather out of taste, if not out of order?

I think that Mr. Nehru is not the head of the State. He is the Prime Minister and, therefore, rather different from the head.

Is it not out of taste to refer to the Prime Minister of a most important Dominion in that way?

Prison Camps

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the estimated weekly cost of maintaining the prison camps in Malaya.

The estimated average weekly cost of maintaining the detention camps in the Federation of Malaya is £12,519.

Consultations

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultations he has had with the Sultans of Perak and Pahang during their visit to this country.

My right hon. Friend discussed the Malayan situation with the Sultans of Perak and Pahang before leaving on his recent visit, and he hopes to meet them again very shortly.

Is the Minister of State aware of the unfortunate impression made by his own speech at the recent Malayan dinner in London when he made no comment on the presence of these Sultans and failed to pay adequate tribute to the bravery and loyalty of the Malays during the disturbances?

No, Sir. At that dinner I did not make any particular comment about the Malay people as such because the Malay people are defending their own country, as we know, and there was no reason to single out the Malay people especially. I did, in fact, make a particular comment about the Chinese and about the British, and naturally I would pay as high a tribute as anyone else to the Malays. So far as the Sultans of Perak and Pahang were concerned, they were present at the dinner and I had very cordial relations with them there.

Is the Minister aware that whatever may have been his intentions, he did, in fact, create a most unfortunate impression?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he wishes to earn the applause of the Opposition he should spend his time at these dinners attacking Mr. Nehru?

Status

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on his interview with those residents of Penang who wish that the island and province of Wellesley should revert to pre-war colonial status.

When my right hon. Friend visited Penang, he had an interview with the Secession Committee whom he was anxious to meet personally before replying to the petition they had submitted to his predecessor. My right hon. Friend is now considering the matter further.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an early reply, as it has been hanging about for far too long?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the majority of the people in Malaya, including the Europeans, are in favour of federation and not separation, as suggested by the Question?

African Territories (Women Teachers)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many qualified African women teachers are employed in schools of all types in each of the East and Central African territories; and what is the ratio between girl and boy students at the schools in question.

My right hon. Friend is asking the Governor concerned to supply the required information, and will write to the hon. Member as soon as it is available.

When he has these figures, will the Under-Secretary satisfy himself that a proper balance is being maintained in the education of boys and girls in East and Central Africa, and that energetic steps are taken to advance the education of girls in particular?

Could the figures be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT, instead of being given to only one hon. Member? I think this is of interest to most of us.

Uganda (Cotton And Coffee Funds)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what sums stand to the credit of the Uganda Cotton Price Assistance Fund and the Uganda Coffee Fund, respectively; and how it is proposed that these sums should be spent.

On 31st March, 1950, the Cotton Price Assistance Fund stood at £7,351,206, and the Coffee Fund at £2,037,106. The object of these funds is to protect growers as far as possible from fluctuations in world prices.

Is it not a fact that these funds had a dual purpose, first the stabilisation of prices, and secondly that part of them be devoted to the welfare of the Africans themselves; and why is that not being done?

Payments have been made in the re-organisation of the industry, and we prefer that this re-organisation within the industry itself should be done by voluntary effort. The funds are being used for the benefit of the Africans themselves.

In view of an earlier answer, that the Government would encourage the cotton growers themselves to establish co-operative organisations for ginning and exporting their cotton, will a portion of these funds be used for that purpose?

One ginnery has been established in Uganda for working under African management.

The Under-Secretary did say at first that this fund was being used for price stabilisation, but in answer to my supplementary question he said that it was also being used for welfare. If that is so, how much of this fund of £7.3 million is being used for African welfare?

That is quite another question. I was dealing with the point that this preserved continuity of employment and guaranteed crops.

Gold Coast (Constitution)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Convention Peoples' Party has for the third time in succession won all seats in the municipal and legislature elections in Accra and the Gold Coast; whether, in view of this indication of the support of people, he is now prepared to urge the Governor to release the leaders of this party from imprisonment or to extend to them treatment as political prisoners; and whether he is now prepared to accept in principle the right of the Gold Coast to democratic government on the basis of Dominion status, which is now claimed not only by the Convention People's Party but all representative sections of the people.

My right hon. Friend is aware that the Convention Peoples' Party won all the contested seats in the Accra Town Council elections, the two town council by-elections at Cape Coast and the by-election at Cape Coast for a seat in the Legislative Council. As to the treatment of prisoners, I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's reply of 5th April.

A very full statement of His Majesty's Government's policy in regard to constitutional development in the Gold Coast was contained in my right hon. Friend's predecessor's despatch of 14th October, 1949, which was published in Colonial Paper No. 250. My right hon. Friend is in full agreement with this and has nothing to add to it.

Has the Under-Secretary received a document from the prisoners describing the appalling conditions under which they are suffering in the gaols there; and in regard to the second part of my Question, will he take some warning from what happened in India previous to the granting of independence there, and speed the efforts to secure self-government for the Gold Coast?

In the reply to which I have referred, the Secretary of State told my hon. Friend that he would bring to the Governor's notice any representation received. So far, none has been received, but a copy of the Question and answer has been sent to the Governor. The question of the conditions in the prisons is at present being considered.

Can my hon. Friend say under what powers these people are imprisoned; whether they have been charged with any offence, and whether they have been brought to trial?

Yes, all the prisoners referred to were convicted of breaches of various laws, and the convictions and sentences were upheld on appeal.

Town Council, Limassol

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the elected mayor and councillors of Limassol, Cyprus, are still in prison; how soon they are to be released; and if he will consider amending the provisions of the law regarding the naming of streets which the town council did not comply with.

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. Since, as I informed my hon. Friend last week, the persons concerned have been committed for contempt. Their release is a matter for the Supreme Court of Cyprus and I can make no statement on it. The possibility raised in the last part of the Question is already being examined and I have sought the Governor's views, but it will be recognised that consideration of such a matter must be related to the general situation in Cyprus.

Can my right hon. Friend say if it is not the case that the street name to which objection is now taken was actually in force for four years from the end of the war, from 1945 to 1949; and why has it suddenly become so desperately important to change the name that the mayor and councillors can actually be sent to prison for not wanting to do so?

There was a considerable period during which the streets had no names at all which caused a great deal of inconvenience to everyone, including the postmen.

Can my right hon. Friend answer my question? Is it not a fact that the street was named "28th October Street" for four years after the end of the war?

Does not my right hon. Friend think that to keep elected representatives of the people in prison on the grandiose charge of contempt of court and to base all that on so trivial a question as is involved here is against the whole spirit of our Colonial policy?

That is a criticism of the courts, and I am not prepared to comment on it.

West Africa (Cocoa Marketing Boards)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present total of accumulated funds with the West African cocoa marketing boards.

For the latest available figures I would refer the hon. Member to the annual reports of the Gold Coast and Nigeria Cocoa Marketing Boards for the year 1948–49.

Assuming that these figures are extremely large, would the Minister tell the House what it is proposed to do with this enormous surplus?

That is a matter for the Board, but I would point out that had the Board made a loss, we would, no doubt, have been criticised, and therefore the fact that there is this surplus cannot be open equally to criticism?

Would the Minister say what the figure is today? The figure to which he referred did not take into account the very large quantities of cocoa sold since at steeply rising prices. Is it not a fact that the total available is nearly £70 million, and is not being used for the essential work of replacing the cocoa which has been very heavily attacked by disease?

It is used both for the development of the industry and also for the stabilisation of prices.

On a point of order. Would you, Mr. Speaker, explain whether we can ask questions regarding detailed administration of these boards? I was given to understand that we could not ask more than a very general question about any of these boards. If that is so, how can the Minister be asked a series of questions about these boards?

I did not quite gather what was the point of order which the hon. Member was asking.

I want to know to what extent we can ask detailed questions regarding these various boards. This is one, and the Overseas Marketing Board is another. To what extent can we ask a series of questions about these boards?

As I do not quite understand the point of the question, I should like to have notice of it.

Deception Island

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Deception Island is at present under British or Argentine occupation.

There are at present both British and Argentine parties established on Deception Island. The British post, which operates a meteorological station, has been continuously occupied since 1943. The Argentine post was set up in 1947 and has remained there despite protests delivered both through diplomatic channels and locally.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to secure the immediate withdrawal of the Argentinians from British territory?

The Government have made it clear that they will accept the judgment of the International Court of Justice on the question of the title to Deception Island.

Does that mean there is doubt in the mind of the Government as to whether the Falkland Island Dependancies are a British possession or not?

No, Sir. The point is that we, in company with many other nations, agree to abide by the decisions of the International Court of Justice, and we are willing that it should be submitted to the court. I would add that these questions are rapidly getting into Foreign Office territory and generally speaking, are matters for the Foreign Office.

Is it not a fact that the Argentine Government are not bound to accept litigation in the International Court of Justice? Therefore, does not the whole thing fall to the ground?

Royal Navy

Hms Breda (Wreck)

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what arrangements have been made to remove the wreck of the yacht H.M.S. Breda which was in collision during the war outside Campbeltown, and was beached on the south shore of Campbeltown Loch.

So far as I am aware, none, Sir. The wreck lies in waters under the jurisdiction of the Campbeltown Corporation. It is not a danger to navigation, and the expenditure of public funds on its removal would not be justified.

Is the Minister aware that the collision took place as a result of naval operations and that the wreck is lying there? Have not the Navy got some responsibility to remove it?

There is a well established practice under which both private individuals and the Crown can abandon wrecks, and I understand that the normal practice has been followed in this case.

Ships' Libraries

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why "Winter Song," by James Hanley, has been ban- ned from ships' recreational libraries in the Royal Navy.

This book has not been banned. It was not bought because of its price.

In view of the fact that the present selector of books for ships' libraries is the Director of Victualling, would it not be better to get some other officer to buy books for their quality rather than for their weight?

Literature is food for thought, and the Director of Victualling is perhaps not altogether inappropriate. I am not sure, in view of the state of the modern novel, that it is not a bad idea to buy books by the ounce.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether this book, "Winter Song," was written by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?

Is it not true that the Director of Education has something to say in these matters?

Instructor lieutenants run the libraries in ships, but the purchase is carried out by the Director of Victualling for convenience.

Could not a copy of this book be put in the Library so that Members can draw their own conclusions as to its suitability for the Navy?

If the hon. and gallant Member will accept my judgment, I do not think he will find it as interesting as all that.

Ship Repairing

34.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he can now say when he expects to receive the report of the committee investigating ship-repairing facilities on Mersey-side; and whether this report when available will be published.

In reply to the first part of his question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) on 22nd May; the answer to the second part of the Question is that it is the intention to publish the report.

Is the Civil Lord aware that although the present level of employment is healthy and high, there is uneasiness as to the future position, which has not been dispelled by a recent hint about rising unemployment by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport?

I do not think that has much to do with the publication of this report. We have just set up a working party to go into the situation of the Merseyside, and when their report is presented it will be considered in the light of the other responsibilities in the country.

Pending receipt of the Committee's report, will the Parliamentary Secretary do everything in his power to see that the ship-repairing facilities at Birkenhead are fully utilised?

We have no power to see that they are fully utilised, as they come under the control of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board.

35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether any ship repair work on commercially owned vessels, similar to that referred to in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Report of the Controller and Auditor-General on Naval Dockyard Accounts, is still being undertaken in naval dockyards.

Fishery Control, Northern Ireland

36.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is satisfied that fishing grounds off the coast of Northern Ireland are adequately patrolled by suitable naval fishery protection craft.

In view of the importance of this control service in advising trawlers of the rules regarding fishing and protecting them from attack, can the Parliamentary Secretary say how many visits there have been to Northern Ireland waters in the last few months?

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise the grave anxiety and concern caused by the attack on the "Loch Esk" by Eire fishermen; that the skipper was very seriously wounded, and that no less than three bullets were found in the boat, while these Eire fishermen have complete freedom of access to Northern Ireland waters?

That is a question for the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.

Hospital Accommodation, Londonderry

37.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will give an assurance that satisfactory hospital accommodation exists for ranks and ratings serving in ships and naval establishments in the neighbourhood of Londonderry.

Yes, Sir. Two new wards were recently opened and the accommodation should be adequate for all normal needs.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that although quite adequate for one establishment, it is not worthy of the very large number of establishments and ships which are in the neighbourhood?

There will be overcrowding from time to time when the Fleet is in, but I am told that the average number of patients is approximately 30 and that there is accommodation for 60.

Dismissed Worker, Rosyth

38.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the man dismissed some months ago from the Rosyth dockyard for his political views has yet been found alternative employment; and, if so, what is the nature of such employment.

This man was recently offered alternative employment outside the yard. It has, however, proved unsuitable and endeavours are now being made to find him work with another Government Department.

Is the Minister aware that this case has been pending since about the middle of March, and since that time he has been for the bulk of the period on paid leave? Can the Minister tell us how long this paid leave is going to be given to these displaced Communists?

I am quite aware that the gentleman concerned has been on paid leave for some time. By that we are carrying out the procedure which has been laid down in cases such as this, which is to endeavour to obtain alternative employment for such people. If we cannot find it for this man, he will have to be discharged.

What sense does it make to dismiss a man because he is a Communist and find him employment in another Government office? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of what is going on in the world at the present time?

There is nothing new in this. It was stated quite clearly to the House last year that if we found persons who held Communist views employed in positions which gave them access to work of a secret nature, we were going to try to find them work elsewhere.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of this answer, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Recruiting Service

39.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether any decision has yet been reached on the pay and conditions of the Royal Navy Recruiting Service.

I regret that I am not in a position to add anything to the reply which my predecessor gave the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) on 14th December last.

Is the Minister aware that this sort of answer was given by his predecessor to me on 19th January last year, and that the men in this Service have no confidence that any changes which will be made will be retrospective?

I cannot say when the decision will be reached, because the whole question has to be considered in regard to the Government's policy on the level of incomes generally.

Long Service Gratuity

41.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will increase the gratuity of £20 payable on the award of the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal having regard to the decrease in purchasing power since the amount of the gratuity was fixed at this sum.

No, Sir. The gratuity for long service and good conduct is a traditional payment not related in any way to the cost of living.

Does the Minister not think that if £20 was considered a reasonable award for long service and good conduct many years ago, such service and good conduct is at least equally valuable today, and, therefore, worthy of at least equal purchasing power?

I tried to make it clear in my answer that this is not to be regarded as a payment which is related to the cost of living, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to base himself on that, it was so fixed in 1920 during that short lived boom after the last war, when costs and prices were very high indeed.

Housing Allowance, Singapore

42.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty when the application for housing allowance was received by his Department in Singapore from the civil staff; what negotiations have taken place on the subject between the local staff unions and his Department; and what was the outcome.

A claim for the payment of housing allowance was received and considered in 1948. It was rejected, because the Admiralty does not accept any obligation to house its employees, and there was no evidence that similar allowances were paid by local employers in general. The union has continued since then to press the claim locally; but no reason has been seen to alter the view formed in 1948. The question is now being reconsidered in the light of a recently published report of the Singapore Government's Cost of Living Allowance Committee.

Is the Minister aware that there has been over 12 months delay in dealing with these claims by three Gov- ernment Departments; that the Secretary of State, in a reply to me yesterday, said that he has now decided that he would make these negotiations a matter of urgency; and will the Admiralty adopt the same policy as the Secretary of State for War?

These negotiations very often do take some time, but I would ask the hon. Member to understand that very often when a reply is given to them it is a negative one and most unsatisfactory.

Could the hon. Gentleman say if the allowance is subject to Income Tax, and if it is a compensatory allowance granted on similar lines to those of the Fire Service?

I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman will have to put that question on the Order Paper.

Is the Minister aware that a protest demonstration went to the three Ministers concerned while the Ministers were in Singapore?

Dockyard Orders (Quotations)

43.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why the Director of Dockyards, in order to secure orders, was authorised to quote fixed prices at 15 per cent. below estimated costs; and whether he is aware that this practice has involved the taxpayer in heavy financial loss, and competes unfairly with private ship repairers.

The Director of Dockyards was authorised to quote fixed prices for commercial work at not more than 15 per cent. below estimated cost when in his opinion the estimate was so high that it would result in the loss of an order which it was specially desired to secure for the purpose of contributing to the maintenance in full employment of the skilled tradesmen who were essential to the Naval Service.

The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir." The reduction not exceeding 15 per cent. which was applied only in a few cases, has not of itself involved heavy financial loss, and at the time the dockyards were seeking commercial repayment work, all private ship repair yards were exceedingly busy, so that no question of unfair competition arose.

While accepting the Minister's explanation of the motive lying behind this action, may I ask is it not a fact that representations were made to the Treasury two years ago that very heavy financial loss would be incurred to the taxpayer, and in the light of that experience, can the Minister give the House an assurance that a practice of this kind is not likely to be repeated?

While the practice was accepted by the Treasury, at the time we introduced it, the main reason for it, was in order that we could continue the employment of as many dockyard workers as possible soon after the war, because of the valuable services they gave us during the war.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether any such contracts are in operation at the moment?

I hope the Minister appreciates that full employment may well pay dividends in the long run.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the work that has been done under ship repairing schemes in the dockyard has been of a great social service; and that work has been done which could not have been done by outside commercial firms at the time that these schemes were undertaken?

Telephone Service (Scotland)

44.

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that the hours from 9.30 p.m. and 9 a.m. are slack hours in the long distance telephone calls to Scotland; and if he will extend the cheap rate for long distance calls to Scotland, from 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. as at present to 6.30 p.m. to 9 a.m.

At the moment I cannot add to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) on the 14th June.

Can the Minister give any hope that such a progressive move will be made in the near future?

I hope the announcement that I shall make before the Recess will go some way to meet the point of the Question of my hon. and learned Friend.

Armed Forces (Gratuity)

46.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will amend the existing regulations governing extended service schemes so as to provide that in the case of the death of an airman, sailor or soldier, whilst serving on the Regular portion of an extended service engagement, a proportionate part of the gratuity which would have been due to him on the normal expiration of his service may be paid to his heirs.

No, Sir. The regulation to which the hon. Member refers derives from the fact that the gratuities which are payable at the end of extended or short service engagements are intended primarily for resettlement. It is of long standing and is well understood by the men concerned.

Is the Minister aware that there is some feeling over this matter, and will he not give further consideration to it?

National Service Scheme (Review)

47.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he has now completed his review of the National Service Scheme; and if he will make a statement.

The practical working of the National Service Act is constantly under review to ensure that it meets the needs of the Services as efficiently as possible.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he is considering a system whereby men with National Service liability are allowed to volunteer for a period other than 18 months, with altered obligations, very much in the way which already applies to the Royal Air Force?

The idea has been projected, but there is no settlement on these matters as yet.

Food Supplies

Parcels

48.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now remove all restrictions on the receipt of food parcels from any country in the sterling area.

I am keeping these arrangements under review to ensure that restrictions remain in force only as long as they are necessary, but I cannot lift them at present.

Will the Minister say what reasons exist for these restrictions other than the theory that because everybody cannot have something, nobody should have it?

That is not quite the theory. We have got a balance of payments even in the sterling area, but the real reason at the moment is to prevent a few individuals with plenty of money and good contacts overseas, getting food that the ordinary people in this country cannot get.

Butter

49.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the large increases in supplies of butter now available, he will consider de-rationing it forthwith.

Is the Minister aware that I am not accustomed to taking "No" for an answer? Is he further aware that there is now enough butter for everybody and that there is no longer any justification for rationing? Is it not a fact also that the Minister knows it to be the case, although he does not like it, and that he cannot find a suitable answer?

I can think of many suitable answers but I cannot give any of them at the present time.

Flour Imports

52.

asked the Minister of Food if he will state the quantities of flour which the United Kingdom has contracted for and purchased from Canada and Australia this year with the comparable quantities purchased in 1938; and if he will give an estimate of the amount of animal feedingstuffs lost by importing flour rather than wheat.

The best comparison is between imports of Canadian and Australian flour into the United Kingdom in 1938, which amounted to 329,000 tons, and imports in the latest period of 12 months for which official figures are available—June, 1949, to May, 1950—which amounted to 442,000 tons. If these quantities of flour had been milled in the United Kingdom at the extraction rates prevailing in the two periods, the amount of wheat offals which would have been produced in the process would have been about 128,000 tons in 1938 and about 78,000 tons in the later period.

In future negotiations with Canada and Australia will the Minister always remember the desirability of buying wheat rather than flour so that our pig and poultry keepers may have some decent quality rations?

We have to bear that in mind, but at the same time we have to take into account other people's desires in the way of milling flour.

Apples (British Columbian Gift)

53.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is now in a position to state what was the total outlay by his Department for transport and distribution charges on the gift of apples from British Columbia; what this represented per pound of those sold; what prices were charged to wholesalers and retailers; what price was paid by the public; and how much profit was made on the transaction by his Department.

56.

asked the Minister of Food how he disposed of 1,000,000 bushels of British Columbian apples which were recently given to this country by Canada.

It proved possible to arrange to distribute 50,000 boxes free to school children, and the rest had necessarily to be disposed of to the public through normal trade channels at prevailing prices. The British Columbia growers who made this generous gift to us knew that we were doing this and understood that no other course was possible. So far as can at present be ascertained, transport and distribution charges, including Ministry overheads, amounted to about £700,000, or approximately 3¾d. per lb. of apples sold. The average price realised on sales to wholesalers was 6½d. per lb. Sales by wholesalers to retailers and by retailers to the public were subject to price control, with maximum retail prices varying from 8½d. to 10½d. per lb., but some sales may have been made at prices below these. The profit on the transaction is expected to be about £500,000.

In view of that information, for which I thank the Minister, may I ask whether it is not a great pity that those most generous donors from Canada were not aware when they gave these apples that this was the kind of thing which would result from their gift?

I think they were aware. I discussed the matter with the Prime Minister of British Columbia and he fully agreed with the course that we were taking. It has resulted in a profit and we are now considering what is the best way of dealing with that profit.

Will the Minister write frankly and fully to the Minister of Agriculture of Canada who lately, in the Canadian House of Commons, expressed the misgivings of Canada as to how we are dealing with this gift?

Sugar

54.

asked the Minister of Food what is the estimated normal requirement of sugar for Great Britain; what proportion of this can be obtained at home; and to what extent the balance could be obtained from non-dollar Empire sources.

We estimate that about 2,550,000 tons of sugar a year would be needed to meet the normal demand, and that of this quantity an average of about 500,000 tons should be available from home sources. We hope eventually to be able to get nearly 90 per cent. of the balance from the Commonwealth under long-term agreements, but it will be several years before Commonwealth producers can achieve the considerable expansion needed to reach this figure.

Were the Commonwealth prepared to meet some of the balance from Commonwealth sources after 1952? If so, why has the right hon. Gentleman turned down the offer on the part of the West Indies.

There is not actually any offer. An arrangement was negotiated last year between the Dominions and the Colonies to reach this sort of target. We are now engaged in negotiations with the West Indies as to their share of the target, but I would rather not make any statement.

May we get the facts aright? Were the West Indies prepared to offer His Majesty's Government 85,000 tons of additional sugar, which His Majesty's Government have hitherto refused to accept?

I wish I had time to give the whole of the figures, but really that is quite wrong. The facts are these. We have undertaken to guarantee prices for 640,000 tons from 1953 for eight years onwards, and the rest up to 900,000 tons, at world prices plus preference. We feel that that is a reasonable arrangement.

As this is all very confusing, may I ask whether the Minister can make it clear that he will take all Empire sugar—that is, everything—until 1952, from whatever source?

Yes, Sir. At the moment we are taking all, and we could take more. I would make it clear to the House that at this moment the West Indies are not providing the sugar that they had contracted to deliver. That is