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Commons Chamber

Volume 477: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1950

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 4th July, 1950

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Message From The King

House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act, 1801 (Clarification of Law)

The Vice-Chamberlain of the House-Hold (Mr. Popplewell) reported His Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:

I have received your Address praying that I will refer to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for hearing and consideration the question of law, whether the provisions of the House of Commons (Clergy Disqualification) Act, 1801, so far as they apply to persons ordained to the office of priest or deacon disable from sitting and voting in the House of Commons only persons ordained to the office of priest or deacon in the Church of England as by law established, or whether they also disable from so sitting and voting other, and, if so, what persons ordained to those offices and, in particular, whether James Godfrey MacManaway who has been ordained as a priest according to the use of the Church of Ireland, is disabled from sitting and voting in the House of Commons, and further praying that I may be pleased to communicate to the House such advice as I may receive from the said Judicial Committee.

I shall give directions accordingly.

Private Business

Forth Road Bridge Order Confirmation Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, relating to the Forth Road Bridge," presented toy Mr. McNeil; and ordered (under Section 7 of the Act) to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 42.]

Oral Answers To Questions


Statistics (Committee)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now announce the membership of the Committee of inquiry into Anglo-Scottish Statistics.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now give the names of the Committee which he is appointing to examine the financial relationship between England and Scotland; and when it will start work.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he can now give the names of the members of the Committee to be set up to inquire into economic and financial relations between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

I am glad to say that Lord Catto has agreed to act as Chairman of the Committee. The other members will be:—Mr. James T. Byrne, Secretary, Clyde District Committee of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, and Secretary for the Glasgow and the south-west of Scotland area of the Electrical Trades Union; Mr. W. F. Crick, General Manager for Research and Statistics to the Midland Bank; Sir John M. Erskine, General Manager of the Commercial Bank of Scotland; Sir Horace P. Hamilton, lately Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Scotland; Colonel S. J. L. Hardie, Chairman of British Oxygen Company Limited; Sir Hubert D. Henderson, Professor of Political Economy, Oxford University; and Sir John D. Imrie, City Chamberlain, Edinburgh.

If, as no doubt the Minister hopes, this Committee reports favourably on the problem presented to it, should the House then assume that it is the Government's intention, having got an assurance about statistics, to proceed with a full inquiry into Scottish administration and government?

I do not think that I should in any way attempt to prejudge the work of the Committee.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea when this Committee will start work?

My prediction relating to this matter on a previous occasion was most unfortunate, but I have had a conversation with the Chairman, and I should say that it will start very quickly indeed.

Which of these gentlemen has experience of statistics from the trade union and Co-operative angle.

Mr. J. T. Byrne has had a great deal of experience of this subject, and I should be very surprised if the bankers have not also some experience of trade union banking activities.

Is it possible for the Secretary of State to appoint some member of the agricultural community of Scotland to this Committee?

Again, I should think that the financial and commercial activities of the agricultural world will be quite well handled by the present members of the Committee.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication as to when this Committee is likely to report?

I do not want to be at all evasive about this subject, but I have gone into it as thoroughly as I can and I cannot truthfully give any reliable indication of the scope of the Committee's work and, therefore, when they are likely to report.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman quite understood the purport of my supplementary question. Since the purpose of this Committee is to ascertain whether statistics are available, it is surely reasonable to ask the Government, if the Committee report that statistics are available, what the Government intend to do about it, and whether they will proceed with a full investigation into Scottish administration.

The hon. Member is making an assumption which would prejudice the work of the Committee, and I will not associate myself with that assumption.

Scottish Covenant (Deputation)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on his meeting with the Scottish Covenant Commissioners.

I met on 17th June a deputation which submitted to me their case for the setting up of a Scottish Parliament for domestic affairs. I undertook to bring their submissions to the attention of my colleagues. This I have done.

Can the Secretary of State give the House any indication now as to the views of himself and his colleagues on those submissions?

School Dining Halls


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of school dining halls in course of erection; the number which have been authorised and on which building operations have not yet commenced; and the number asked by local education authorities which have not yet been authorised by his Department.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many children have been dining at their desks in the classrooms for a very long period, and that there is perturbation among many school teachers who feel that the midday meal has not the value it should have when children are dining in the classrooms and doing school work immediately after?

I appreciate the worries of my hon. Friend, but there are so many urgent claims upon the limited building; resources of this country that I would be dishonest, and even disingenuous, if I added anything to my answer at this time.

School Children (Transport)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of schools whose pupils qualify for transport by reason of the distance of their homes from schools in which there is no provision for mid-day meals.

The number of schools in Scotland which normally include pupils for whom travelling facilities have to be provided and in which school meals are not served is 211.

As this is a rather large proportion of schools and I am quite certain the Secretary of State would agree that it is the category in which school food is most needed, will he do something to jog the local authorities to make this provision as early as possible?

There are 3,000 schools and the figure is 211. I do not think that by any stretch of imagination this could be considered a large proportion, but I shall be glad to consider any detailed proposal which my hon. Friend might care to make.

Can the Secretary of State tell us the number of pupils involved in these 211 schools?

District Nurses (Motor Cars)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what information he has as to the progress made by the local authorities since they became responsible for the nursing service in the provision of motor cars for district nurses.

During 1949, 100 additional cars were provided for nurses engaged in home nursing services. Of the 908 nurses so engaged in county areas at the end of 1949, 586 had cars at their disposal.

Even with that very good report, I am sure my right hon. Friend would agree that there is a great need for district nurses in rural areas to be provided with cars; and I hope he will do something to ensure that they shall have this facility.

Fluorine Fumes (Factories)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has now reached any conclusions in regard to further legislation upon the subject of the harmful discharge of fluorine fumes from factories in Scotland.

I have nothing meantime to add to the reply I gave to the noble Lord on 27th June.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it is an anomaly that Scotland is not treated on the same basis as England and afforded the same protection as England?

The noble Lord must appreciate that there are many respects in which legislation differs as between Scotland and England, and not always, I would suggest, to the detriment of Scotland.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider persuading his colleagues to introduce quickly legislation dealing with this very serious menace, because that is what it certainly is, as I am sure he will appreciate?

I am considering whether further legislation is needed upon that subject.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that fluorine fumes are almost the same in England as they are in Scotland.

They do not seem to have quite so many effects upon hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Marginal Land (Cultivation)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has in mind to assist the cultivation of marginal land in the Highlands, with a view especially to the provision of winter feed.

A summary of the Fertiliser Subsidy Scheme to provide assistance for the application of fertilisers to grassland and marginal land was published in the Official Report on 13th June. A Bill to make the necessary statutory provision for this is now before the House. I hope next week to lay before Parliament an Order providing for extension of the existing Marginal Agricultural Production Scheme. Both these Measures will assist land cultivation and the provision of winter feed on holdings classified as marginal.

The right hon. Gentleman will, of course, bear in mind—I am sure he does—the vital importance of the cultivation of marginal land for increasing the number of stock. particularly in the Highlands.

Cattle, Kirkcudbright


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the figures of the cattle population of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright for June, 1939, and June, 1949, respectively.

The total numbers of cattle returned in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright as at 4th June, 1939, and 4th June, 1949, were 65,335 and 73,438 respectively.

Cruden Houses


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now consider holding an inquiry into the proposed alterations passed by the Department of Health for the houses on the Cruden housing site at Stranraer, Wigtownshire.

All the measures which I have asked local authorities to take for reducing fire risk in Cruden houses were adopted after a thorough investigation of the problem by technical experts.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of the considerable feeling among the tenants of these houses on this matter? They feel that something should be done in this direction, especially as public money is involved.

I issued a circular after the experiment had taken place giving further precise details. If I understand the hon. Member, his worry is not that public money is involved; he is asking that more public money should be involved.

Ministry Of Pensions

Surgical Boots


asked the Minister of Pensions why he has refused the application for surgical boots of ex-Sergeant John Lewis of Saltfleet, near Louth, who, at the age of 84, has no other means of paying for them except his pension; and, in view of the correspondence sent to him, if he will have the case reconsidered.

No application for surgical boots for Mr. Lewis has been refused by the Ministry. Following the hon. Member's recent representations, my right hon. Friend has arranged for Mr. Lewis to be provided with a pair of boots, the cost of which has been met from the King's Fund. The boots are being adapted to meet his requirements.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he can assure the House that there are no more cases like this?

No, Sir. Our Welfare Department looks after cases which are strictly outside the responsibility of the Minister, and this is one such case.

Totally Disabled Pensioners


asked the Minister of Pensions to state the rates of disability pensions payable in 1920 and in 1950 to totally disabled single ex-privates; the rates now paid to warrant officers, class 1, and captains for total disablement; and whether he will give special and immediate consideration to the needs and claims of the ex-private for better compensation.

The basic rates of disability pensions payable in 1920 and 1950 to totally disabled single ex-privates are 40s. and 45s. a week respectively; the basic rates now paid to warrant officers, class 1, and captains for total disablement are 61s. 8d. a week and £240 a year respectively. The Government policy is to assist generously by way of supplementary allowances those who, because of war disablement, are unable to take their normal place in the employment field; and I would refer the hon. Member to Table D2 in the 24th Report of my Department, which illustrates the substantial improvements which have been made in the compensation of individuals.

Can the Minister say whether there has been any advance towards the principle, irrespective of rank, of equal pension for equal disability?

No, Sir, the supplementations are the main improvements which have been made for the totally disabled, as I have already pointed out. This meets the need of the pensioners, and I am sure this policy is one with which the House would agree—that cases of the greatest need should come first.

When the Minister says that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to be generous, how does he justify the fact that a private gets only 5s. more than in 1920?


asked the Minister of Pensions to state the numbers of deaths amongst totally disabled war pensioners who were in receipt of constant attention allowances during the past three years; the number of pensions awarded to the widows of those men; and whether he will take steps to award a pension in every case to widows who have devoted their lives to the constant care of their husbands who have been rendered helpless by war disablement.

Two hundred and thirty, 391 and 668, respectively. Information as to the number of pensions awarded to the widows of these pensioners is not readily available, but my right hon. Friend is having the records examined and will write to the hon. Member. A pension can be awarded to a widow only when her husband's death was related to war service. As the hon. Member is aware the question of the position of widows of seriously disabled war pensioners who do not die of their pensioned disabilities is one on which representations were recently made to my right hon. Friend by a deputation from an ex-Service organisation. My right hon. Friend has undertaken to consider a detailed proposal which the organisation has promised to send to him with further evidence.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when we may expect his right hon. Friend's decision on that matter?

The deputation was seen only about a fortnight ago, and the Minister is now looking into the proposals which it put forward.

British Army

Malayan Operations


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in the light of his experience in Malaya, he will consider the award of war gratuities to the troops engaged in operations in that theatre.

No, Sir. The primary purpose of war gratuities was to ease the transition from Service to civilian life for men who had been called up in war for undetermined and often long periods of service.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department regards this stab-in-the-back campaign in Malaya as police activity or as war? Surely, Malaya is one place where the cold war has become pretty hot.

That is so, but it does not really bear on the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The men serving in Malaya are serving for determined periods.

Regulars (Recruitment)


asked the Secretary of State for War what is the establishment of Regular soldiers which he hopes will eventually be attained; by how many Regulars is the Army at present short of that establishment; and what is the estimated number of Regular recruits that will in future be required annually in order to maintain that establishment after it has been reached.

The Army is not divided into separate establishments for Regulars and National Service men. It is the aim of my right hon. Friend to raise the present strength of Regulars as high as is practicable.

Does that mean that the War Office have no policy as regards an establishment of Regulars—that they have so far departed from previous policy that there is no establishment—and that they can only hope to get as many as possible?

No, Sir. It means that it is not practicable, or indeed sensible, to try to give figures for an establishment of Regulars with the Army, as it is at present composed both of Regulars and National Service men. What the position would be if the Army were composed entirely of Regulars, is a different and hypothetical question.

Is not there any kind of target for Regular recruiting at which the Government are aiming?

The target for Regular recruiting is a different matter from an establishment of Regular soldiers. On the question of a target for Regular recruiting, I do not think it would be sensible to say more than that we are anxious to increase Regular recruiting as rapidly as we can.

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that if he has an establishment towards which he is working, that is the same as the target he wants to reach?

The words "target" and "establishment" are really not interchangeable in this context. We were asked in this Question for an establishment of Regulars. I pointed out that, as matters stand now, a figure of that kind does not exist. On the question which the right hon. Gentleman asked about the target for recruiting, I do not think that it would be sensible to announce a specific target figure at present. The position is that we want to increase Regular recruiting by every means.

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that if the country knew the figure that the Government wish to reach, it would be something to work to, instead of saying indefinitely that the Government just want a few more Regulars?

In view of the Minister's really astonishing reply, is not it a fact that the Treasury insist on establishments, particularly when the Regulars are on a slightly different footing from National Service men in the matter of pay?

No. There is not a separate establishment of Regular and of National Service soldiers, as I have already pointed out.

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that the Secretary of State, when speaking on the Army Estimates, deplored the shortage of Regulars and said that it was impossible to get on with training or to organise the Army as it should be organised as long as there was this shortage? Does his reply today mean that he is simply chancing it—if we get more Regulars so much the better, but if we do not, it cannot be helped?

No. My reply neither was, nor meant, that. It conforms entirely with what my right hon. Friend said on the occasion referred to. I have emphasised that we are anxious to increase the number of Regulars, and are taking, as the House knows, a good many steps to that end.


asked the Secretary of State for War what was the number of men enlisted for Regular Service during the first six months of this year; what was the number so enlisted during the corresponding period of 1949; and whether he will state the total number of Regulars enlisted in 1949 and the total number which he hopes to enlist this year.

From 1st January to 31st May, 8,468 men enlisted for Regular service in the Army. The corresponding figure for 1949 was 12,260 and the total for 1949 was 23,769. On 20th March, my right hon. Friend expressed the hope that 20,000 men would enlist annually.

Does the hon. Gentleman consider, in view of the figures which he has just given, that there is any reasonable chance of attaining that number this year?

It is clear that it will be difficult to reach that number this year, but I do not think that it would be wise to put forward a revised estimate at the moment.

Will not it be quite impossible to reach that number this year unless the Government hurry up and announce the steps they are taking, which they have not yet announced at all?

Is my hon. Friend aware that all these Questions would have been quite unnecessary, and that he would have no difficulty in getting all the Regulars necessary, if only there were two million unemployed?

Yes, Sir. On that question, I have examined the figures of the number of persons endeavouring to enlist in past years, and there is a striking correlation between them and the number of persons unemployed.

If there is no establishment for Regulars, why is the number 20,000 chosen?

That is not a figure of establishment. It is the figure we hope to enlist this year.

Does the Minister realise that this Question has nothing to do with unemployment, and that until he pays the soldier more, he will not get anyone to enlist in the Army?

Ammunition Shelters, Nottinghamshire


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of ammunition shelters now remaining in the Sherwood Forest area of Nottinghamshire; how many of these are empty; and for what purpose, when empty, they are retained.

There are 15,000 ammunition shelters remaining in the Sherwood Forest area of Nottinghamshire, of which 2,000 are empty. Empty shelters which are surplus to the depot's requirements are being dismantled and removed as fast as available manpower will permit.

Linsell Trial (Press)


asked the Secretary of State for War which British newspapers and Press agencies were represented at the Linsell trial.

Only one correspondent of British nationality was present throughout the trial. He represented the British United Press. In addition Reuters were represented by a correspondent of British nationality from the second day until the end of the trial. As the court was, as customary, open to the public and the Press, there were numerous correspondents of German nationality present throughout the trial but it is not known what British newspapers or agencies, if any, they represented.

Can the Under-Secretary say whether it is the intention of the War Office to draw the attention of the agencies he has named, and also of the newspapers which published misleading accounts of the evidence, to the fact that these reports gave the British public and the British Army a false impression about British military justice?

Without any special measures, I do not think that they can fail to be aware of that.

Sentries' Duties


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the personal responsibility of sentries is clearly understood by all ranks.

Yes, Sir. The duty of a sentry is to carry out his orders. It is important to ensure that the orders are clear, appropriate and lawful, and, as my right hon. Friend said in his statement on Wednesday last, the attention of all commanders-in-chief is being called to this.

In view of the wide publicity given to a mistaken account of the proceedings in connection with the court-martial of Private Linsell, is the hon. Gentleman not satisfied that something special ought to be done now to bring the attention of officers and other ranks to the exact position?

I think it was made clear in my right hon. Friend's statement on Wednesday last that he was taking steps to that end. Commanders-in-chief will be aware of the terms of my right hon. Friend's statement. Perhaps I ought to add that, in the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the contention of the prosecution was that the orders had not been complied with rather than that there was any question of the legality of the orders.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that soldiers also realise that it is their duty not to obey any order which is manifestly unlawful?

It is possible to imagine cases—it has been done in textbooks—where orders are given which are manifestly unlawful. There, the position is as described by my hon. Friend; but I do not think that any very useful purpose is served by pursuing these rather hypothetical questions.

Town And Country Planning

Bombed Cities (Reconstruction Programmes)


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what steps his Department are taking to ensure that the approved plans for the development of many of the larger cities in this country can be more expeditiously carried out.

The rate of redevelopment is determined by the labour and materials available. I would refer the hon. Member to my answer on 20th June to my hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton), in which I announced the 1951 programme for reconstruction of the business centres of the provincial blitzed cities.

Is the Minister aware of the great worry that is caused in many of these towns which have been badly blitzed, due to the lack of progress made, and will he see whether the methods cannot be speeded up?

As I said in answer to the Question referred to, we have already communicated with all the cities which have blitzed business centres, and we are collecting information from them as to how fast they can get on with reconstruction.

Will the Minister bear in mind that in a city like Hull, the plans adopted are quite impracticable and far too extravagant, and that in point of fact nothing whatever has been done?

I must naturally be in touch with the Hull City Council on this subject, and they are in communication with me.


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what are his latest plans for the rebuilding of bomb-damaged cities; and, in particular, Portsmouth.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) on 20th June.

Will the Minister recommend to the other Ministries, with which he must be connected very closely, that a bigger allocation of licences should be given to bomb-damaged cities, so that they can restore the houses and factories that have been blitzed?

The houses and factories are not affected; they are proceeding. The reconstruction and building of houses and industrial buildings are not affected by the particular allocation for the provincial blitzed city centres. This £4 million which as I was able to announce, can be spent next year, is quite additional to anything spent upon housing or industrial buildings. It is intended for the reconstruction of shops, offices, banks and so forth in the centres of these cities.

Bombed Sites, Bristol


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he is aware of the hardships caused to landowners of the bombed sites of Bristol who have been unable either to recover compensation for their ground or to develop it; and if he will speed up the question of compensation for those sites which are being compulsorily acquired in the Castle Street and Wine Street areas of the city.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is now nine years since the damage was done at Bristol, and that this position is creating great difficulties for landowners, leaseholders and others; and will the Minister speed up the compulsory purchase orders, so that people may know exactly where they are, and also remove one of the biggest problems in the city?

I shall not hold up the compulsory purchase orders now that it is known what the desire of the City Council is, but I might say that the Bristol City Council themselves have not been quick in making up their minds where they want the city centre.

Iron Ore Workings (Land Restoration)


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what new factors his inquiries into the effects of ironstone workings have disclosed to warrant the delay in issuing the White Paper left in draft by his predecessor.


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will make a statement on the restoration of land affected by iron ore workings in the Midlands.

Soon after being appointed to my present office, I visited the East Midlands, and spent several days inspecting the workings and discussing the problem of restoration with producers, local authorities and others concerned with this problem. I was greatly shocked by much of what I saw. His Majesty's Government have now decided on the policy to be followed in future as regards restoration. Our aim is to ensure that, while full production of iron ore is maintained, the land worked is restored, as completely and as speedily as possible, to agriculture. I will, with permission, circulate a detailed statement in the Official Report.

Can the Minister assure the House that the detailed statement which he is to circulate will really get to the root of this problem, as we have already had the Reports of the Kennet and Scott Committees, the Waters Report and two standing committees, in addition to the draft White Paper left by his predecessor, but we have not yet had any concrete proposals?

Perhaps the hon. Member will read the statement that I am circulating, which I hope is both clear and definite. It is not the report of a committee; it is the decision of the Government.

Following is the statement:

Present and Future Workings.

There will be:

  • (i) complete restoration, with replacement of topsoil, in all cases except—
  • (a) where the length of face being worked is so great that the cost of replacement of topsoil would be very high;
  • (b) where the content of the overburden makes impracticable the restoration of the land to agricultural use;
  • (c) where, in the interests of agriculture, replanting or establishment of woodland is advisable, for example, to provide windbreaks and maintain supplies of estate timber.
  • (ii) where complete restoration, for the above reasons, is not practicable, levelling without replacement of top-soil, followed by careful cultivation and special use of fertilisers;
  • (iii) where restoration to agriculture is impracticable, afforestation, either on levelled land or on land left as "hill and dale."
  • There is nothing inherently difficult in this policy. Complete restoration, with replacement of topsoil, is already being carried out by most companies where conditions of overburden are easy, and by one company on a short face with deep overburden containing limestone. Effective levelling in difficult circumstances is being carried out by several companies.

    I shall shortly lay an Order requiring immediate compliance with certain minimum standards.

    The financial details of this policy are now being worked out, but, in general terms, the Government intend that, in the future, 75 per cent. of the cost of restoration should be borne by the producers and royalty owners, and 25 per cent. by the Exchequer. To achieve this division of cost after July, 1951, legislation will be needed.

    Past Workings

    There are about 3,400 acres of land worked out and not levelled. About 900 acres of this have been planted with trees. The appearance of the rest, about 2,500 acres, left as derelict "hill and dale," is very shocking; it is particularly bad in Northamptonshire. Over and above its terrible appearance and its depressing effect on the morale of the people, the present state of this land represents a permanent loss to agriculture. Most of it should, even now, be levelled and brought back to agriculture, though some of it can only be afforested.

    It is hoped to make voluntary arrangements with some of the owners to restore the land. In other cases, local authorities will be authorised to acquire the land and carry out the work of restoration with the aid of Exchequer grants.

    It will be some time before the arrears of past neglect can all be dealt with, as this work will make demands on plant and labour. But we shall make a start as soon as possible.

    National Insurance

    Pensioners (Permitted Earnings)


    asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, during the harvest, she will consider making provision by which the permitted earnings of men of 65 and 69 years of age can be raised from £1 to £3 a week without incurring any deduction in existing pensions.

    Legislation would be necessary if 'the hon. Member's proposal were to be adopted, but it would be very difficult to have a special rule for agriculture.

    Is the Minister aware that there are many efficient and able people who are being penalised for doing useful work as a result of these deductions? Why should they not be encouraged to do work which is urgently needed by the country? Does the Minister realise that this matter cannot be lightly dismissed; indeed, it cannot be dismissed at all; and that this is thoroughly unsatisfactory?

    Will my right hon. Friend consider the suggestion made in the Question, without limiting it to agricultural workers?

    My hon. Friend must realise that that would undermine the basic principle of the scheme, which was intended to provide compensation for those who are unable to work, and was not intended as a subsidy to wages.

    Death Benefit


    asked the Minister of National Insurance if, in view of the very large number of people affected in Swindon and elsewhere, she will take steps to extend the death benefit in the case of those born prior to July, 1883.

    No, Sir. The taxpayer would have to bear the whole cost of such a provision, since the persons in question are not and have never been insured contributors under the National Insurance Act, 1946.

    Electricity Load Spreading


    asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement about arrangements for spreading the industrial electricity load next winter.

    As the reply is rather long, I will, if I may, circulate it in the Official Report.

    Following is the reply:

    This matter has been under consideration by the Electricity Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council and the recommendations in its report have been accepted by the Government.

    Despite great efforts to expand electricity generating capacity, the increase in demand during recent years has generally been such as to offset the increased supply of current. The expansion in generating capacity is now beginning to overtake the increase in demand, but it is estimated that there will still be a substantial deficit during the peak periods next winter unless the different classes of consumers take special steps to reduce the load. In these circumstances, if the risk of extensive dislocation of industry is to be minimised, load spreading arrangements will be necessary next winter. The arrangements recommended should, however, prove less onerous than those in force last winter.

    During next winter, the position as regards the mid-day peak will be so improved as to warrant confining the peak hours for industry during the morning to the period 8 to 9.30 a.m., although care in the use of electricity will still be necessary up to noon. During the hours, 8 to 9.30 a.m. for the months of December, January and February, it is recommended that a reduction in load of at least 10 per cent. should be required of industry. The afternoon peak hours will remain unchanged at 4 to 5.30 p.m. when a similar reduction of at least 10 per cent. will be required during the period December to mid-January.

    Regional Boards for Industry, which will again have general charge of the administrative arrangements, will have discretion to require a reduction in load of more than 10 per cent. at these times where local circumstances make this necessary, and in many cases the load spreading requirements during December January and February will have to be substantially the same as they were last winter. For the remainder of the period October to March inclusive, Regional Boards will have complete discretion to determine the percentage reductions necessary.

    In view of the inconvenience and difficulties caused to employers and workpeople last winter by the staggering of hours of work, Regional Boards are to be asked to pay special regard to the need to avoid this method of load spreading as far as possible.

    The task of reducing the load cannot be borne by industry alone, and Regional Boards are being asked to arrange for commercial consumers to contribute equally with industry by effecting the same percentage reduction in demand during peak periods. It is also essential that the domestic consumer should make a contribution, and the British Electricity Authority and the Area Electricity Boards will be asked to do everything possible to encourage the fullest economy in the home during the peak periods.

    I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's appreciation of the ready and willing cooperation given in previous years by all sections of the community. The Government are confident that the arrangements for next winter, which, though on a reduced scale, will be no less necessary than in the past, will command the same support as in previous years.

    Planning Authorities' Proposals


    asked the Prime Minister if he requires all Government Departments to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning before they ignore or over-ride the desires or decisions of local town planning authorities.

    It is accepted that Government Departments should take into consideration the point of view of local planning authorities on all important proposals for development which are not secret. If the authority has a substantial objection to the proposal which the Department feels unable to meet, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning is informed, and the proposal is discussed to see whether anything can be done to meet the authority's point of view. Secret proposals are notified direct to the Ministry which consults the local planning authority so far as possible.

    Does that mean that they do not have to ask the Ministry of Town and Country Planning for approval when they are going away from the requirements of the local people?

    I understand that this is a matter on which there is close contact between the local planning authorities and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, but perhaps, if there is any detailed point, the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question to the Minister of Town and Country Planning.

    Will the Prime Minister say who has the last word when the planning interests of various Government Departments conflict?

    I have not quite grasped to which particular Department the hon. Member refers.

    White Fish Industry (Governments Proposals)


    asked the Prime Minister whether he now has any statement to make on the white fish industry.


    asked the Prime Minister whether he has now any statement to make on the white fish industry.


    asked the Prime Minister if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the problems confronting the Scottish fishing industry.


    asked the Prime Minister if he is now able to make his promised statement on the white fish industry.


    asked the Prime Minister if he will now make a statement on policy with regard to the white fish industry.

    41 and 42.

    asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, in view of the urgency of the matter, he is now able to make a full statement on the measures the Government propose to take to assist the inshore fishing industry; and

    (2) whether, in view of the grave developments in the Far East, he can say what steps are being taken to keep the fishing fleet at sea, in view of its importance as a producer of essential food and of its record of service in times of national emergency.

    Yes, Sir; with permission, I propose to make a Statement at the end of Questions.


    With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement in answer to questions on the white fish industry.

    The difficulties of the white fish industry are basic, complex, and of long standing. There is, therefore, no simple solution to them. The view has often been expressed in this House that their difficulties are not likely to be overcome by the industry itself. The Government agree with this view and have decided to promote legislation to set up an Authority with adequate powers to regulate, re-organise and develop the white fish industry. It will be composed of independent members and will have statutory powers, but it will naturally work in consultation with the industry. Consideration is being given to the detailed powers which the Authority will need if effective measures are to be taken to make the industry pay its way. Meantime, as there will be much preliminary work to be done involving consultation with all sections of the industry, steps will be taken to appoint the members of the Authority in advance of legislation, so that they may quickly begin this preparatory work. I am sure that the House would not expect me to go into details at this stage.

    The difficulties of the industry have been aggravated by a fall in demand, and the Government will continue to do all they can to encourage the greater consumption of fish.

    The Government have also decided to initiate discussions in O.E.E.C. with a view to evolving a common policy regarding the excessive landings of cod and other coarse fish from the distant waters, and the prevention of overfishing in the North Sea and other areas.

    As an immediate measure, the Government have decided to use part of the food subsidies to assist catchers of white fish in the near and middle waters, including inshore fishermen, for a period of six months. In the case of catchers using vessels not exceeding 70 feet in length, the subsidy will be lOd. per stone on white fish landed, payable under conditions broadly similar to those in force before the 15th April last. Catchers using vessels over 70 feet but under 140 feet in length will not be paid according to the weight of fish landed, but will receive payment on scales rising to a maximum of £12 per day and varying according to the gross earnings of each voyage and the number of days taken.

    It is estimated that the cost of this scheme should not exceed £1.7 million on the basis of present prices, and may well be less if fish prices should recover. This subsidy is designed not only to secure improvement in the fishing ports meantime and until the White Fish Authority is able to apply long term remedies, but also to encourage the catchers of prime fish to maintain supplies of the better kinds of fish and, because it will profit them, to shorten their voyages to make that fish available to the public in even fresher condition. The underlying objective is to ensure the continued supply at reasonable prices of fish which is a vital element in the nation's diet; that is why the subsidy will be treated as a food subsidy and will come within the food subsidy ceiling.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that statement will revive in the fishing industry hopes that were well-nigh dead? Is he also aware that much regret will be expressed in the industry because there is no mention in the statement of fishing gear costs? Is the House to understand from the statement that the control of imported boxed fish will be in the hands of the statutory body which is to be set up? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that gear costs and imported fish are two of the basic causes of the unrest in the fishing industry today.

    That detailed question had better be put to my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

    The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that my hon. Friends have not had an opportunity to consider his comprehensive statement, but may I put three points to him? First, is it contemplated that the board, like the Herring Industry Board which was set up before the war, will be on a United Kingdom basis? Secondly, what terms of reference does the Prime Minister propose to give to the members of the board whom he proposes to nominate, and when may the House have details of those terms of reference? Thirdly, we understand that it is not proposed to introduce any legislation before the autumn at the earliest. Is that so?

    The answer to the first question is: Yes, it will be a United Kingdom board. The terms of reference are now being worked out. In reply to the third point, it will not be possible to introduce legislation before the Recess.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement announcing the setting up of an over-riding authority will give great satisfaction to those of us on this side of the House who have •consistently pressed for this measure? Will he indicate whether this board will have adequate powers to control both the production and distribution sides of the industry? Also, with regard to the grant of subsidies to the industry, will my right hon. Friend ensure that there will be very strict governmental control of the spending of the money?

    Yes, clearly, on that point there will have to be very close control to see that the subsidies do not go into the wrong hands. On the other point, I cannot go into details at present as to the exact limits of the authority of the board.

    Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that the condition of the herring fishing industry is just as grave as that of the white fish industry, mainly owing to the lack of markets? Will he give the House an assurance that this matter is also being considered by the Government as a matter of urgency?

    I understand that this matter was considered by the Government with the Herring Industry Board and that agreement was reached.

    In joining my colleagues in expressing satisfaction at the acceptance of proposals for the setting up of a white fish industry board which we have consistently urged for many years, may I ask whether it is possible to take any action to protect the fishermen and others engaged in the catching side of the industry from what ¦amounts now to sheer exploitation by several private interests in respect of fishing gear? Is any action possible to bring down the cost of gear, which is a vital part of the whole problem?

    In view of the Prime Minister's statement that this financial assistance will be limited to a period of six months, may I ask whether the Government are satisfied that the legislation and other necessary measures can be in operation by 1st January, 1951?

    We shall have to do our best. At the end of the six months the matter will have to be reviewed.

    Pending the coming into full operation of the board, which I am glad the Prime Minister is setting up, will he consider protecting the producer and the consumer—the producer by fixing a minimum price for fish landed in the market, and the consumer by fixing a maximum price for the fish sold? Does the Prime Minister realise that the only real long-term solution of these problems is the nationalisation of the fishing industry?

    Will the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects to announce the names of the board?

    Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the necessity for giving this board adequate powers to ensure that any agreement signed between the trade unions and the trawler owners is carried out? I ask this because of the strike which is at present paralysing Mil-ford Haven.

    Within the six months period until the board is set up, is there any possibility of assistance being given in relation to freight charges?

    Will the subsidy extend to Northern Ireland? Further, when the board is set up, will Northern Ireland be represented upon it, and will due consultation take place with the appropriate Minister in Northern Ireland before legislation is introduced?

    This will not apply to Northern Ireland. No representation has been received from that Government on this matter.

    May we have an assurance that this subsidisation of private enterprise will not draw from the Opposition the criticism of "jobs for the boys"?

    Are we to understand that this new body will have the same authority over inshore fishing operations as it is intended to have over other white fish operations?

    Did not the Prime Minister say that this would be a United Kingdom board? Does not that include Northern Ireland?

    The right hon. Gentleman said that it was to be on a United Kingdom basis, but in his answer just now he seemed to imply that it would not be. If representations are received from Northern Ireland, will he consider them, or, in the alternative, will it be open to Northern Ireland to pass appropriate legislation? They pay the same taxes and presumably ought to enjoy the same benefits.

    Consideration is always given to representations from the Northern Ireland Government.

    Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the needs of those smaller fishing villages in which, even if they cannot make such a substantial contribution in food as the great fishing fleets, fishing is none the less a way of life and an alternative means of employment, though it has been declining for many generations?

    Does the Prime Minister mean that the deep sea trawlers over 140 feet in length will get no help at all?

    There will be no-financial help for the bigger trawlers and long-distance trawlers.

    When may the fishermen expect to benefit from this subsidy? Can the right hon. Gentleman give the approximate date when it will come into operation?

    Can my right hon. Friend say whether the amount of the subsidy was decided on the basis of the losses-incurred by the fishing industry prior to the lifting of price control?

    I understood the Prime Minister to say that the subsidy would be based on 10d. a stone on the catch for those vessels under 70 feet and for those over 70 feet it would in some way be based on the vessels. Could the Prime Minister state what proportion of that subsidy flows to those vessels under 70 feet?

    Government Departments (Laying Of Papers)


    asked the Prime-Minister what arrangements are in force in Government Departments to ensure that all Papers ordered to be laid before the House periodically are, in fact, so laid.

    Departments make their own arrangements for laying before the House the Papers for which they are responsible. If the hon. Member has in mind any particular Paper, perhaps he will address a Question to the appropriate Minister.

    National Finance

    Works Of Art (Export Control)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the continuing dispersal and sale of private art collections, resulting from the weight of taxation on great houses, he will review the administration of the export regulations and, in particular, take measures to ensure that the nation does not refuse to buy an object of art of national importance for which an export licence has been refused on account of that importance.

    I agree that the export control over works of art and similar objects should be reviewed, and I am taking steps to that end. The point made in the second part of the Question is only one of a number of factors to be taken into account in such a review.

    National Insurance (Reserve) Fund


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Treasury will, under Section 36 (2) of the National Insurance Act, 1946, direct a revised form of account for the National Insurance (Reserve) Fund so as to show, until written off by authority, the loss amounting to £12,867,972 on revaluation at 5th July, 1948, of the securities.

    Mellor: Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer read the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General stating that the loss on revaluation has not been recorded, either in the accounts of the absorbed funds or in this account, and is the Chancellor prepared to acquiesce in this shabby concealment?

    I am prepared to state that I believe the accounts are in the best form.

    House Of Commons (Paper Consumption)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that the House of Commons consumed 770 tons of paper and stationery during the year 1949, an amount equivalent to over one ton for each Member, he will indicate what particular items are included and how such consumption compares with that in 1929 and 1939 respectively.

    The 770 tons of paper and stationery consisted mainly of paper used for printed copies of Hansard, Votes and Proceedings, Bills and Acts, including copies sold to the public; it included 25 tons for envelopes and writing, typewriting and wrapping papers. Details of the consumption of paper in 1929 and 1939 are not now available.

    Was not this Parliamentary usage of all this paper largely the result of too fast and too furious legislation, and, now that the Government are rather more restrained in this respect, is not the burden likely to be lightened?

    Currency Offences (Information)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the small number of cases that have been reported, he will now discontinue his practice of paying to informers of currency offences sums of money free of Income Tax and without disclosure of name.

    No rewards have yet been paid. I propose to reconsider the matter at the end of the year.

    Could the Chancellor not reconsider this matter before then? It is quite obvious that this practice is not only repulsive to the British public, but unsuccessful.

    It does not necessarily mean that it may not be successful in the future.

    Post-War Credits


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the value of post-war credits, the ownership of which passed in the last financial year owing to the death of the holder; whether he has considered accepting the surrender of such credits against the Estate Duty payable on the estate; and if he will make a statement.

    The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. I have considered the suggestion put forward in the second part, but I regret that I am not able to adopt it.

    Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman taken into consideration the very serious inconvenience which is often caused to small estates through having to maintain these postwar credits, and, in addition, the inconvenience to his own Department which could well be disposed of for a very small sum?

    I considered all these matters in connection with the Amendment put down by the hon. Member on the Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

    War Damage Claims


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many persons have had their war damage claims refused on the ground that they notified the local council instead of the War Damage Commission.

    Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer not aware that when these provisions were made it was the desire of the House that these people should receive fair compensation; and will he consider whether some alleviation cannot now be given in these cases, which are reported to be very numerous?

    Does that answer mean that the Government's refusal to introduce amending legislation to deal with this very real evil is based on no information whatever?

    Ryder: In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I wish to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

    Emigration Allowances (Oeec Countries)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now allow invalids living in France, who left this country before 1950, to take the same annual sums of money with them as they would have been allowed to take if they had left after 1st January, 1950.

    Yes, Sir. I am now prepared to extend the concession made on 1st January, 1950, when the emigration allowance to O.E.E.C. member countries (except Belgium and Switzerland) was raised from £1,000 to £5,000, to those who emigrated to those countries before that date. This will apply to all who emigrated whether on account of ill-health or for other reasons.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that that reply will give very great satisfaction?

    Capital Assets (Inquiries)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why taxpayers are being asked by inspectors of taxes to what use they are putting the proceeds of the sale of capital assets; and under what Act or regulation such inquiries are being addressed to them.

    Inspectors of taxes have to make such inquiries as are necessary to ensure that liability to tax is correctly determined. If the hon. Member has cases in mind where he considers that improper questions have been asked, and will give me particulars of them, I shall be glad to look into them.

    Income Tax Arrears (Ex-Service Men)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many claims for Income Tax arrears, arising from Service pay during the period of the war. are still outstanding.

    Could not some steps be taken to try to speed up matters with regard to what I believe to be a very large volume of outstanding arrears, as many of these cases are now causing considerable hardship to people faced with large arrears, especially when the cost of living is so high?

    Coal Industry (Compensation Stock)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the interest on the first stock issued for the purpose of paying compensation under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act was fixed at 31 per cent.

    Because under Section 21 (3) of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1946, stock must be equal in value to the compensation at the date of issue.

    Is the Chancellor aware that we are paying £13 million in interest and sinking fund to the coalowners this year, which is a heavy burden on the industry and on the consumer? Is there no prospect of it being reduced?

    This was laid down by Parliament in the Act I mentioned, and I have to administer it.

    Is it not a fact that this stock has to pay 3½ per cent. interest as against the 2½ per cent. issued by the Treasury, which shows that Government credit has gone down by 1 per cent.?


    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much of the £20,000,000 of 3½ per cent. Treasury Stock, recently issued as a first instalment of the compensation to be paid under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, has been paid to coalowners in Scotland.

    The amount of Treasury Stock issued as a first instalment of compensation to be paid under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act to coalowners in Scotland was £220,500.

    Is this small proportion due to the fact that some of these Scottish owners have declined their compensation?

    Acceptance Credits (Europe)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of acceptance credits by British merchant bankers to countries in Europe which have been sanctioned by the Bank of England and the Treasury since 1st August, 1945.

    I regret the information is not available without a great deal of labour, which would not be justified.

    Will the right bon. and learned Gentleman say whether, so far as these loans are concerned, any case has come to the notice of the Government where the credit has been suddenly withdrawn, and therefore, under the terms sanctioned by the Bank of England, defeated the purposes for which such a loan was made?

    That is another question. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put it on the Order Paper, I will try to answer it.

    Northern Rhodesia (Loan)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reasons he was satisfied that the loan required by the Northern Rhodesian Government, on a six months' basis, and negotiated on that basis, might be suddenly withdrawn with ill effects to the Northern Rhodesian Government.

    I understand that the facilities which were under discussion in this instance took the form of an acceptance credit under which short-term bills with definite dates of maturity would have been drawn. As my right hon. Friend stated in his answer to the hon. and gallant Member on Thursday, 29th June, we advised the Northern Rhodesian Government, who consulted us, that short-term finance of the type proposed was not appropriate in this case.

    As the Northern Rhodesian Government were perfectly satisfied that none of these notes would mature until they had completed the purposes for which the loan was required, can the Chancellor say why His Majesty's Government said that the loan might be suddenly withdrawn? What was the basis of that?

    Will the Chancellor say for what reason they took that view, particularly as he has no evidence that in the past such a loan has been suddenly withdrawn?

    When we are asked for advice by other Governments, we look at all the circumstances and give the best advice we can in the circumstances.


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give an assurance that it is still open to the Northern Rhodesian Government to disregard the advice of His Majesty's Government and proceed with the negotiation of the loan they desire with British merchant bankers, if they so choose.

    Sir S. Cripps