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Commons Chamber

Volume 477: debated on Monday 17 July 1950

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House Of Commons

Monday, 17th July, 1950

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

London County Council (General Powers) Bill

Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.

Edinburgh Corporation Order Confirmation Bill

Second Reading deferred till Thursday at Seven o'clock.

Oral Answers To Questions

Fuel And Power

Electricity Supplies (Rural Areas)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the cut in capital investment on the distribution of electricity supply has resulted in the serious curtailment of electricity schemes of development in rural areas; and whether he will consider restoring at least part of this capital investment in order to relieve hardship to farmers and others in these areas.

I am aware that the present restrictions on capital investment must prevent the area boards from extending their rural supplies as fast as both they and their prospective consumers would like. But the bringing of supplies to the more remote rural population is only one of the many forms of capital investment which will be increased as soon as the country can afford it.

Can the Minister tell us when he hopes to be able to make this increase?

Rural extensions are going on all the time, though not as fast as I should like. As the situation gets easier, we shall do more.

Is not this cut in the investment programme very disadvantageous to the development of British industry?

It is, of course, very regrettable, but I must remind the hon. Member that the Opposition demanded much greater cuts last autumn.

Is the Minister aware that there are places in rural parts of Essex, quite near London, which were told that they could get a supply before nationalisation took place, and have now been told that they cannot have it?

Coal Industry



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are being taken by his Department to increase the manpower in the pits that come within their control.

The National Coal Board have greatly improved the wages of the miners. They have contributed 4d. a ton to the Welfare Fund, and have approved expenditure of £9 million on the construction of pit-head baths and canteens. By the ladder plan, they have offered training and scholarships to thousands of men in the industry every year. In each coalfield, their divisional board, in close association with the Ministry of Labour, conducts a campaign to recruit men of the right kind. Housing remains a major difficulty, especially in the expanding coalfields, but the Board are working with the Ministry of Health to overcome it wherever they can.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the developments that are now proceeding reach the point we expect them to reach there will not be sufficient manpower to man the pits which will be opened? Further, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that all the steps that can be taken are being taken to improve the manpower situation?

As I said on Thursday last, the Coal Board are not anxious about the long-term manpower position, but do need more manpower now. I think the publicity and the recruiting campaigns have been vigorously and well conducted, but if my hon. Friend has any suggestions to offer I shall be glad to have them.

Will all the improvements put forward by the Coal Board lead to cheaper coal for the consumer?

Yes, Sir. That is already happening. There was a fall in cost last year, and I hope that will continue.

What about the case of thousands of oncost workers? Wages are at present at a maximum of £5 15s. but do not seem to be doing very much to attract labour to the pits.

Opencast Mining


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the terms upon which the National Coal Board markets opencast coal as his agents, identifying the documents in which they are set forth; what royalties are paid by him to the Board, in addition to commission, in respect of opencast coal, and why; and whether these arrangements are intended to continue so long as opencast coal is worked.

Before the nationalisation of coal in 1946, opencast coal was sold partly through normal commercial firms, and partly through joint selling organisations set up under the Coal Mines Act of 1930. A written contract was made with each of these agencies. Most of these contracts were taken over by the National Coal Board. The terms of the contracts vary a good deal, but the average selling fee is about 4id. per ton. These arrangements are being reviewed by the Ministry and the Board; it is hoped to fix a uniform fee which will broadly meet the actual costs which the Board incurs.

Royalties are paid to the Board, at the rate of 4d. a ton. The Board, of course, own all the coal; they have taken over the service of the Coal Commission Stock given to the previous owners as compensation. The hon. Member will find information about these royalties in the Sixth Report of the Select Committee on Estimates for the Session 1948-49. It is intended that these arrangements shall go on as long as opencast coal is worked.

Do not these arrangements result in the Ministry bearing all the losses and the Coal Board taking such profits as there are?

I am glad to say there are no losses at present; opencast coal is paying for itself and will continue to do so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is wrecking agriculture at the present time? Does he not want food as well as coal?

No, Sir; I am not aware of anything of the kind. If the hon. and gallant Member will be good enough to be here on Wednesday I hope we may discuss the matter.

Output (Machinery)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the estimated additional annual tonnage per man year attributable to the machinery introduced in the mines since 1947; and, in comparing the estimated output per man year for 1951 with 1938, what account is taken of the productive increase attributable to the new machinery.

Changes in the output of coal per man-year result not only from the use of more and better machines, but also from improvements in the organisation of the collieries, from the improvement or worsening of working conditions, the number of shifts worked, and other factors. I regret that, in consequence, I cannot make the estimate for which the hon. Member asks.

Arising out of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman evidently has not tried to find out the answer, could he tell us what Sir Charles Reid has estimated that the increased tonnage ought to be?

Would the right hon. Gentleman refer to what Sir Charles Reid had to say just before his resignation?

Yes, Sir. I will certainly do that. But, if I may suggest it, perhaps the hon. Lady might like to discuss this with the management and the miners at a pit in her constituency. If so, I shall be very glad to arrange it.

Food Supplies



asked the Minister of Food whether he will investigate the present system of disposal of Devon-produced beef under which the better grades are sent away to other areas and inferior grades allocated for local consumption.

No, Sir: people in Devon are receiving fair proportions of the different grades of locally produced beef.

Does the Minister appreciate that the explanation I have given is the only possible one to meet all the facts? Will he come round some of the markets with me so that I may show him what is happening, provided he does not tell anyone except myself, in advance, that he is coming?

I have examined the figures and they show that proportions are roughly the same in the case of grade A meat retained in Devon and of grade A meat sent outside the county.


asked the Minister of Food if he is now able to revoke the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Control and Maximum Prices) Order, 1948, and the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Amendment) Order, 1949, in view of the more adequate supply of manufacturing meat.

My right hon. Friend is considering this matter, but cannot make any announcement at present.

Is the Minister aware that it is the opinion of the trade that if these Orders were rescinded it would be possible for the public to obtain better products at lower prices?


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the dissatisfaction in Birmingham with the quality of meat supplied in recent weeks; and what steps he proposes to take to improve the quality.

The only complaint which has come to my notice is in respect of a quantity of manufacturing meat. While all the meat distributed has been suitable for manufacture, I am ensuring that the differing types and qualities are distributed as fairly as possible.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that over the past two months some of the meat which has been available in Birmingham has been of the very worst quality? Why should people have to pay the same price for inferior mutton as for good mutton? Would he call the trade into consultation for the purpose of avoiding having to purchase this inferior meat?

The instance which gave rise to this Question related to bull beef, and from inquiries we have made I think there was an undue proportion of bull beef in the allocation. We are taking steps to see that this does not happen again.

Canned Brisling

asked the Minister of Food the estimated cost of advertising canned brisling; the reason for the campaign; the total amount purchased; and the amount sold before the campaign started.

The estimated cost of the canned brisling advertising campaign is £10,000. This campaign is being carried out in order to help sell the Ministry's stock. I am afraid it would not be in the public interest to disclose the figures asked for in the last part of the Question.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the resentment of the home canned herring industry at the advertising campaign for largely imported canned brisling; and whether he will switch immediately to the advertising of home canned herrings in order to assist the hard-hit herring fisheries.

No representations from the canned herring industry expressing resentment at the advertising of brislings have been made to my Ministry. The advertising of home canned herrings is a matter for the Herring Industry Board.

Arising out of this byproduct of bulk buying, is the Minister not aware that the chairman of the canned herring industry has asked me to make the representations to him? Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that it is most unfair to use the British taxpayers' money to advertise foreign, imported canned brisling in competition with home caught herring, having regard to the fact that the herring industry is undergoing such a bad time at the moment? Will he please alter the arrangements?

I do not know what the hon. Lady means by "by-product of bulk buying." I think the matter had best be left to the Herring Industry Board.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, so far from there being any resentment on the part of the housewives, for whom the hon. Lady pretends to speak, they are very glad to have a greater variety of canned fish in the shops from which to choose?

If housewives are so glad to obtain these supplies, why is it necessary to spend £10,000 on advertising them?



asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a special allocation of sugar to people living in country districts to enable them to preserve their home-grown fruit.

No, Sir. We give general bonuses for jam making, but our supplies of sugar are not sufficient to allow for any special supplementary allocations of this kind.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answer will cause considerable disappointment in country districts, and will also mean a considerable waste of fruit this summer?



asked the Minister of Food what function is performed by the Eggs Division of his Department, as distinct from the function of the National Egg Distributors Association Limited; how many persons are employed in the Eggs Division; and what is the total cost per annum in salaries, expenses and general overheads of the Eggs Division.

The Eggs Division is responsible for the purchase of imported and home-produced shell eggs and imported egg products, and for arranging their equitable distribution through trade channels to consumers. A total of 166 were employed in this Division on 1st July, 1950; the annual cost of their salaries and wages is £63,000. It is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of the general overheads for each Division of the Ministry, but the share of these overheads allocated to the Eggs Division is £724,000.

Could the Minister say what is achieved by this vast abracadabra of bureaucracy? In view of the fact that the majority of home-produced eggs arrive in grocers' shops in an unsatisfactory condition, will he not reconsider allowing farmers to sell their eggs direct to grocers, which will enable the housewife to get a newly laid egg again?

I think that if the hon. Member pauses to reflect that the retail value of eggs sold in 1949-50 was well nigh £90 million. he will conclude that his statement has rather exaggerated the position.


asked the Minister of Food how often, or at what intervals of time, home-produced eggs are collected from farmers, smallholders and other licensed primary producers by the egg packing and grading stations operated by his Department.

We do all we can to see that the packers collect from producers at least weekly, but there may be producers in isolated areas who are not visited so frequently. If any such cases are brought to our notice we are always willing to see whether more frequent collections are possible and, accordingly, I should be glad if the hon. Member could let me have particulars of any cases which he may have in mind.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, over a very large number of cases in all parts of the United Kingdom, the facts have emerged that the minimum period for the collection of home-produced eggs is two weeks and that often it takes three weeks or more for the collection process to be carried out? How does he reconcile this with a recent statement that home-produced eggs travel from the hen to the grocer in seven to nine days?

I did not say "from the hen to the grocer." The figures I gave last Monday were based on an inquiry which had been held and which justified those figures.

Is the Minister taking any steps to prevent eggs being mixed with opencast coal?

What producers of eggs are not primary producers? What is a secondary producer of an egg?


asked the Minister of Food whether the home-produced eggs delivered to Mr. A. J. Lewis, grocer, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, on Monday, 3rd July, 1950, were less than nine days old.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that on 3rd July this grocer received 180 dozen home-produced eggs, only a part of which have been opened so far; that out of that 180 dozen, 30 dozen have so far had to go back to the egg packing station in view of their condition, eight dozen have had to be replaced for customers—

It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is not asking a supplementary question but is giving information, which is not the object of Questions.

Could the hon. Gentleman tell us what the period of seven to nine days refers to, if it does not refer to the interval between the time when the egg is laid and when it gets on to the breakfast table?

I said it did not refer to the time when the egg is laid because we base the time back to the date of collection. In answer to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), perhaps I might be allowed to say this: that the delay in the case to which he has drawn my attention lay with the wholesaler, and the retailer has his ordinary remedy against the wholesaler if there is deterioration.

But is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, out of this particular consignment five and a half dozen eggs were in a positively dangerous and explosive condition and had to be buried?

If the seven to nine days' period does not run from the hen but only from the packing station, can the hon. Gentleman make clear what is the average time from the hen to the breakfast table?

If the hon. Gentleman will read the replies I have given he will be able to hazard a guess for himself.

Is it not a fact that the wholesalers are all Socialists and had a store of rotten eggs because they had private news of an early General Election?

Overseas Food Corporation (Advances)


asked the Minister of Food the total advances made to the Overseas Food Corporation to date.

In view of this figure, which shows that the excess of expenditure over income is running at about £1 million a month, can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether any limit has been set to future expenditure, say, in the next six months?

Pigeons, Trafalgar Square


asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that feedingstuff in the form of grain for pigeons is being sold in Trafalgar Square at 3d. a packet of 1½ oz., which is the equivalent of a rate of £298 13s. 4d. a ton; and from what source supplies of this controlled commodity are being obtained.

The packets which are being sold in Trafalgar Square for pigeon feeding contain pea pickings, which were de-rationed and freed from price control on 1st July last.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that this first-class feedingstuff is obtainable by livestock owners only by the production of a coupon supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture?

No, Sir. Pea pickings are immature, broken and damaged or strained threshed home-grown peas.

Sugar Confectionery (Sale)


asked the Minister of Food why permission for the sale of sugar confectionery cannot now be granted where a demand can be proved.

At present we can only grant new licences for the sale of chocolate and sweets where the local people are finding it difficult to obtain their ration. This is because the number of potential new entrants to this trade is so large that I cannot afford to provide initial trading stocks for them all.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House for how long this bureaucratic barrier between the ordinary small tradesmen earning a living is to remain? Is it to be a permanent feature of his Ministry?

This is not a bureaucratic barrier. It is a matter of striking a balance between consumer demand and the amount of the ration.

Why are we allowing the Swiss to have so much more sugar of our manufacture than we are getting ourselves?

London Tea Auctions


asked the Minister of Food whether he has any further statement to make on the progress of negotiations for the re-opening of the London tea auctions; and whether he has in mind the importance of a statement being made before the House rises, if the trade is to be in a position to re-open the auctions next January.

I fully appreciate the importance of an early announcement of our intentions, and I hope that this will be possible before the House rises.


Tree Planting


asked the Minister of Transport if he will adopt the custom which is prevalent in several Continental countries of planting fruit trees along the sides of roads where this is suitable.

I am anxious that highway authorities should adopt roadside tree planting as much as possible, and have taken special steps to deal with this on trunk roads, but, with the very limited funds available for road works, it is essential to obtain the best results with the least possible expenditure. Fruit trees are very liable to damage and require a lot of attention and for the present at least we have no scheme for planting fruit trees along our highways.

May I, first of all, wish the Minister many happy returns of the day; and, secondly, ask him whether, when roads are planted with trees, fruit or otherwise, care will be taken to see that they are not planted under cables so that they have to be cut and disfigured once they begin to grow?

Lighting Schemes

asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied that road lighting schemes affecting his Department are examined with the least possible delay; and, in view of the fact that they are drawn up by technical well-qualified officers of local authorities, why he considers it necessary to examine these schemes in detail.

I am satisfied that, having regard to the large number of schemes put forward, they are dealt with reasonably quickly. Trunk road lighting schemes, to which contributions are made from the Road Fund, must be examined in some detail. In view of the discussions on the Local Government Manpower Committee on the principles to be observed in considering applications under Defence Regulation 56A, I have recently made arrangements to speed these up.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that applications from East Cheshire have been waiting in his Ministry for months? Would he consider appointing a lighting officer at his regional offices to avoid this bottle-neck in his own Ministry?

I do not agree. Generally speaking, I have to keep a fairly tight control over this expenditure, and this examination is necessary. As I have indicated, under the new procedure we hope to speed up very considerably those matters which come directly under the local authorities.

Great North Road


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that the Great North Road between Station Road, East Barnet, and the Hertfordshire county boundary has been under repair for six months and that the road is as yet only partly surfaced; what is the reason for the prolonged delay; whether any estimate has been made of the cost of the traffic congestion caused by these works; and whether the cost of such congestion is taken into account when decisions are made about the contract time for major works on trunk roads.

This length of road is not a trunk road and I am not the highway authority. I am informed that the work is now almost completed and that the time it took was mainly due to the impracticability of diverting the heavy volume of traffic. I know of no estimate of the cost of any traffic congestion. Highway authorities do all they can in their contract arrangements and otherwise to minimise congestion and delays.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this example is, unfortunately, typical of quite a number of cases throughout the country on major roads these days? Will he give the matter his attention, with a view to cutting down delay and saving public expense?

I certainly agree that it is desirable that all efforts should be made to reduce delays from road repairs and reconstruction, but, generally speaking, highway authorities are not operating under the best conditions with regard to costs, and one has to bear that in mind.

Will the Minister try to do something further to divert some of the excessive heavy lorry traffic from this particular road, because it is the major cause of the congestion and the damage to the surface?

That would probably mean far greater expenditure on diversions such as by-passes, or something of that description.

Signals, Clapham


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that there are no traffic lights in Abbeville Road, Clapham; that it is a busy traffic artery; that where Elm Road crosses it is a dangerous crossing; and whether he has any proposals for installing traffic lights in this road, with a view to its being made safer for pedestrians.

I have received no representations about putting traffic signals at this junction, but I will arrange for traffic conditions to be examined in consultation with the police and the highway authority to see whether signals are required.

Bridge, River Thames


asked the Minister of Transport why the cost of erecting the Bailey bridge for the Festival of Britain is charged on the Road Fund; and by what authority.

Its construction is authorised by the Public Works (Festival of Britain) Act, 1949, Section 8 of which provides that the Minister of Transport may, with the consent of the Treasury, make grants towards meeting the expenses incurred in the exercise of the powers conferred by the Act. Provision for grants under this Act is made in sub-head E of the Roads, etc., Vote.

Should not the cost of this footbridge be charged to the Festival expenses, and the Road Fund reserved for the roads?

It is. It is merely made a part of the Road Fund as a matter of convenience. I should like to make it clear that it in no way interferes with my general road expenses.

Speed Limit, Castle Bromwich


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is now able to announce his decision upon the proposal to reintroduce a speed limit upon the trunk road through Castle Bromwich as recommended by the county, rural district and parish councils concerned.

No, Sir. A report by my divisional road engineer on his investigation of this proposal is under consideration, and I hope to reach a decision at a very early date.

If I put a Question down early next week will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give an answer them?

I will certainly do all I can to give a reply, if I can, before the Summer Recess.


Articles (Cost)


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the nex taxation on commercial vehicles and petrol will add materially to the cost of any article so carried; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with this difficulty.

The effect of this taxation on the cost of articles depends largely upon the value of the articles in relation to their bulk. As the hon. Member is aware, Parliament has imposed these taxes after full debate.

Does that mean that the Minister is in sympathy with increasing the cost of living?

I do not think it is for me to begin to comment on, or to argue across the Table, a tax which Parliament has fully considered and imposed.

Commission (Report)


asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to receive the report of the Transport Commission for 1949.


asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes to publish the British Transport Commission's annual report for 1949.

I am informed that the preparation of the report and statement of accounts of the British Transport Commission for 1949 is now almost complete and that the printing of it is well in hand. I hope to make formal arrangements for its presentation to the House before the Summer Recess and to publish it in September.

Do I understand that it will be in the hands of Members before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Not the actual accounts. We very much regret that it has not been possible to put them through and to publish them in time for the Summer Recess.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is putting the House in a really intolerable position? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Certainly. The idea was that these accounts should be debated. If the accounts for 1949 are not available to the House until September of 1950 it puts the House into an impossible position, because we cannot discuss them. Will the right hon. Gentleman convey our displeasure to Lord Hurcomb?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is likely to be again a most voluminous report, requiring a great deal of study, and that if hon. Members are to learn about integration they will require the best part of their Summer holidays in which to make the study? Will he bear that in mind?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many private companies carrying on much smaller businesses are only now publishing their accounts for the calendar year 1947?

Did I understand the Minister to say that the printing is now well in hand, but that the documents will not be printed until September? Is that what he said?

It was desirable that, if possible, we should have had these accounts presented before the House rises for the Summer Recess. That would have been a great convenience for Members. Subsequently, that was found to be impossible. There have been special difficulties just now. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] One factor has been that the principal finance officers have been involved very considerably in the London interim charges scheme. That has altered the date. It is a very voluminous report. The Commission try to give hon. Members and the public full information, and I think they have done their best in very difficult circumstances.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now telling the House that the finance officers of the Commission are so busy asking for even higher charges for 1950 that they have not got time to produce the accounts for 1949?

This is a very awkward situation we have got into. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider if it is possible to separate the report and the accounts and publish them separately? Will that expedite things?

As to whether anything of that description is necessary in the future, at the moment, of course, I should not like to commit myself. I think that this matter has been unduly exaggerated. We could not have discussed the report probably this side of the Summer Recess, and I think it is very essential that these accounts and reports should be completed before they are finally published.

Train Accident, Wansford


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that the 8.10 p.m. train from Peterborough East, on Saturday, 1st July, 1950, crashed through the level crossing gates across the Great North Road at Wansford, when all signals were against the train; and what steps will be taken to avoid such accidents on this and similar level crossings in future.

This accident was of a very unusual type, and was due to the bursting of a gauge glass, which filled the cab of the locomotive with steam, and momentarily distracted the attention of the driver.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was only by a merciful act of Providence that a major calamity did not occur on this occasion, as there was a great deal of traffic on the road, including a number of motor coaches? Will he try his utmost to ensure that no such thing as this ever happens again?

I should have thought that the hon. Member had had sufficient experience of affairs in the world to have known that no precaution can prevent an accident of this type occurring.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when these rare accidents occur, the driver and the fireman are generally momentarily blinded because of the flying glass and steam?

Oil Pollution

asked the Minister of Transport how many prosecutions have been brought by his Department against ships, refineries or other persons for discharging oil fuel or other such substances into the sea within Southampton Harbour and within the waters enclosed by the Isle of Wight, respectively.

As I informed the hon. and gallant Member on 15th May, I have no power to take proceedings under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1922, for an offence which is committed within a harbour. My Department has investigated a number of complaints of oil pollution in Spithead and the Solent, but in no case has the evidence been sufficient to justify a prosecution.

Would the Minister not agree that, in the absence of any effective deterrent, it is not very surprising that we have had such consistent and repeated fouling of the waters in those areas?

This is a particularly difficult problem in which to fasten any evidence. We are continually warning ship owners and, under various arrangements, bring it to their attention. We cannot prosecute indiscriminately; there must be definite evidence.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether there will be any supervision over the discharging of oil from Fawley refinery and the tankers using it?

If the hon. and gallant Member will put that Question down I will endeavour to answer it, or to communicate with him.

Ministry Of Supply

Ordnance Factory, Irvine


asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the dissatisfaction among the workers at the Royal ordnance factory in Irvine, he is satisfied that the output is satisfactory in regard to the wages and salaries paid to the staff, and that the numbers employed are required for the work performed.

I am satisfied that the numbers employed at this factory are required for the work performed and that their output is satisfactory. I am not aware that they are dissatisfied.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the complaints I have received come from the workers themselves, and cover the questions of what they are asked to do, what they actually do do, and what they are allowed to get away with? There would appear to be something wrong.

I have no information about dissatisfaction. Moreover, no dissatisfaction has been expressed to the joint production committee of the factory.

That is a very much wider question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to put it down.

Ordnance Factories (Security)


asked the Minister of Supply what improvements in security measures have been effected in the last two years at Royal ordnance factories to prevent the employment of undesirable persons.

The policy, as announced by the Prime Minister in March, 1948, of excluding unreliable persons from access to defence secrets is applied to the Royal ordnance factories.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the measures he has indicated are sufficient to prevent the employment as editor of the "R.O.F. News" of a man with two convictions for assaulting the police and who has been a well known Communist since the war?

Factory, Belfast (Redundancy)


asked the Minister of Supply how many persons have been dismissed on grounds of redundancy since the beginning of this year from Messrs. Short Brothers and Harland of Belfast.

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the reason for this redundancy? Is there no similar work among the great volume of work put out by his Department that can be put to this factory that would prevent redundancy?

I can assure my hon. Friend we are doing everything we can to keep up the level of work—and, if possible, to increase it—at this very important aircraft factory.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the reason for this redundancy was that the men belonged to breakaway unions?

No, Sir. The reason was the quite simple one that there was a slackening of work.

Lord Lieutenants


asked the Prime Minister whether there are any arrangements, on the death of a Lord Lieutenant, to carry on the work of that office pending the appointment of a successor.

Yes, Sir. Under Section 31 of the Militia Act, 1882, where there is no Lieutenant of a county, His Majesty may authorise any three Deputy Lieutenants of such county to act as the Lieutenant thereof.

Festival Of Britain


asked the Lord President of the Council whether any decision has yet been reached regarding the opening of the Festival of Britain exhibition and fun fair on Sundays.

Consultation with the Churches through the Festival of Britain Advisory Council of Christian Churches is still in progress. The answer must, therefore, be "No, Sir."


asked the Lord President of the Council whether tenders are to be invited for catering at the Festival of Britain Exhibition; and whether he will now make a further statement on the arrangements to be made.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to catering at the South Bank Exhibition. The position is that tenders have been invited and have been received. They are at present under consideration.

Germany (British Subjects' Claims)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the hardship caused by delay in settling claims to compensation for loss of property made by British civilians interned in Germany during the war, which have been shelved pending the conclusion of peace; and whether, in view of the delay in making a peace treaty, he will negotiate for an international agreement to settle such claims.

The Governments of the Western occupying Powers are now considering claims arising out of the war with Germany, among which these would appear to be included.

Does that mean that it is the intention, if possible, to make an agreement in advance of the peace treaty?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can necessarily assume that. The matter is being considered by the inter-Governmental study group on Germany now meeting in London. The whole matter of claims is being considered by them.


Security Council (Appeal)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what member States of the United Nations organisation have not responded to the appeal of the Security Council for aid against North Korea; and which States have replied to the Council by supplying, or agreed to supply, military aid or finance.

As the answer is somewhat long, I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of countries which will give my hon. Friend the information which he requires.

Would the hon. Gentleman give a short list of those who have responded?

Following is the list:

We have no information whether any of the following member States of the United Nations have replied to the appeal of the Security Council for aid against North Korea: Byelorussia; Liberia; Ukraine.

According to the information at present available, the following member States have rejected the appeal: Czechoslovakia; Poland; Soviet Union.

The following member States have. however, on information available, agreed to provide military assistance or financial or other aid: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Chinese (Nationalist) Government, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom, U.S.A., Uruguay.

British Minister, Seoul


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when last the British Minister in Seoul communicated with him; and what news he has about his present safety and whereabouts.

The last communication received from Mr. Holt was a telegram dated 26th June. His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow wrote personally to Mr. Gromyko on 4th July requesting him to secure any available information about Mr. Holt and the few members of the British community in Seoul. Mr. Gromyko has now informed the Ambassador that Mr. Holt is at present in Pyongyang.

Can the Under-Secretary confirm that Captain Holt stayed at his post in Seoul in exercise of a discretion entrusted to him by the Secretary of State? Can he also say if any attempt is being made to give any help to him which he wants?

I can give the assurance which the hon. Gentleman asks for in regard to the first part of his supplementary question. With regard to the second part, we are giving urgent consideration as to what steps it may be possible to take to facilitate Mr. Holt's departure and that of his companions.

May I ask my hon. Friend if he has any information about the Bishop of Korea; and, if Mr. Holt is in the town on which 400 tons of bombs were dropped last week, what steps are being taken to secure his safety?

We have no definite statement about the Bishop of Korea, but we hope that he is one of the other persons known to be safe in Seoul.

Bombing Operations


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give instructions to our representatives on the Security Council to ensure that precautions are taken to prevent the bombing of innocent non-combatants during bombing operations undertaken by the international police force.

By resolution of the Security Council Forces provided by member States have been placed under a unified command and General MacArthur has been nominated as Commander. The conduct of the operations in Korea is, therefore, in his hands, and I am confident that he will take every possible precaution to prevent the bombing of non-combatants.

Is the Minister aware that Mr. Trygve Lie has communicated to both sides a request to stop atrocities, and is not the dropping of 500 tons of bombs an atrocity?

In modern war the bombing of strategic objectives is one of the weapons which is used. The request of Mr. Trygve Lie, applied, of course, to the application of the International Red Cross Convention to co-operate in fulfilling the terms.

If it is one of the strategic purposes of war to drop bombs on towns, why does my hon. Friend tell the House that the Commander-in-Chief has received instructions to avoid the indiscriminate bombing of civilians?

Is it not a fact that the Air Forces of democratic countries do not bomb civilian populations, but are entitled to bomb military objectives, which is what they are doing?

That, of course, was the purport of my answer to the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Obviously, the Commander-in-Chief is using his Air Force for military purposes, and military purposes only.

Are the forces in the unified command limited to the purpose of the resolution adopted by the Security Council?

Uk—Soviet Discussions


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what was the content of the recent oral communications made by the British Government to the Soviet Government through the British Ambassador in Moscow; and what communication has been received from the Soviet Government in respect thereof.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent discussions that have ensued between the British Ambassador in Moscow and the Soviet Foreign Minister, regarding Korea.

On 29th June, His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow, acting on instructions, conveyed a request that the Soviet Government should co-operate in effecting a peaceful settlement of the Korean conflict. Sir David Kelly on that occasion saw Mr. Pavlov, who undertook to see Mr. Gromyko. On 6th July, Sir David Kelly was requested to call on Mr. Gromyko, and a short discussion ensued between them, which was related to the earlier approach by His Majesty's Government. Sir David Kelly had a further talk with Mr. Gromyko on the subject of Korea on 11th July.

While entirely accepting the view that it is desirable to have the door left open, may I ask if my hon. Friend will bear in mind that there is great public anxiety about this matter, and that as soon as possible information should be given to the people of this country about the content of extremely important interviews of this character? Is he aware that we in the Labour Party, on the whole, prefer the method of open diplomacy to that of secret diplomacy?

His Majesty's Government would, of course, desire to take the House into its confidence when we consider that it is right and proper to do so, but I know that my hon. Friend will realise that it is not always possible to disclose the details of such conversations, especially when grave issues of war and peace are at stake.

Can we not be told what passed between Sir David Kelly and Mr. Gromyko as it is quite unusual to say, first, that a message was delivered to a junior Soviet official, and, then, that a conversation took place between our Ambassador and a representative of the Soviet Foreign Office—not the Foreign Secretary but a representative? Cannot we be told what it was all about?

We have considered this extremely carefully, as I know the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, and we have decided that, at this stage, it would be in the interest of resolving the present situation not to make any further statement.

I do not want to embarrass the hon. Gentleman or the Prime Minister, but is it not a little unusual, in a situation like this, that we should have no idea of what communication has passed between our Ambassador and the representative of the Soviet Foreign Office? If it is of no importance, no one wants to press or worry the hon. Gentleman, but if it has to do with higher politics should we not be told, at least perhaps tomorrow or the day after, so that the House of Commons may be kept informed? If there is no mystery let us be told so; but if there is a mystery it ought to be cleared up.

I can give this assurance to the right hon. Gentleman, that we will endeavour to make a statement as soon as possible and that I will communicate his views to my right hon. Friend.

British Minister, Paris (Speech)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the speech of the British Minister at Paris, indicating the possibility of a reduction in British social services, was made with his permission; and what steps he is taking to ensure that pronouncements concerning policy which should be made by Ministers responsible to this House are not made by his permanent civil servants.

In speaking about the international situation at an informal luncheon His Majesty's Minister referred to the defence of the West and denied that the Western Powers could not afford to defend themselves. He stated that once a decision was taken on total expenditure on items other than defence, it then had to be determined what items were essential and what were not. Personal expenditure, capital investment and even social services had to be examined in this context. Mr. Hayter did not indicate that British social services would have to be reduced. Mr. Hayter did not ask my right hon. Friend's permission to make this speech, nor was there any need for him to do so.

Will my hon. Friend make available in the Library a copy of this man's speech, according to which, as the British Press indicates, he suggested that the choice before us is "guns or butter"? Can we know what he did say?

I have made inquiries of Mr. Hayter concerning this speech. He made the speech at very short notice and had only very rough notes, and, therefore, it is not possible to obtain a verbatim report. As to the latter part of the supplementary question, we have made inquiries of Mr. Hayter, and I would much prefer to take the word of a member of His Majesty's Foreign Service to that of the Beaverbrook Press.

Are members of His Majesty's Foreign Service to be subjected to this kind of carping misrepresentation by hon. Members every time they make plain, in an international gathering, the determination of their country to defend itself and Western Europe?



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will issue instructions to British military forces in the Far East to give all possible support to the United States of America in their determination to ensure that the future of Formosa is not arbitrarily settled by force.

I have nothing to add to the replies which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) on 10th July.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that that reply caused great consternation in the United States? May I ask whether it is the view of His Majesty's Government that Formosa is, in international law, part of Japanese territory—

On a point of order. As this Question was answered last Monday, is it in order for it to appear again on the Order Paper today?

I have no idea whether it was answered on Monday, but if it had been answered it would still have been on the Order Paper today.

As I was saying, is it the Government's view that Formosa is, in international law, part of Japanese territory, and that its future must, therefore, depend on a peace treaty with Japan?

Is my hon. Friend aware that, whatever consternation may be caused anywhere else in the world, it would cause the greatest consternation in this country if His Majesty's Forces were to be used in any other way than in accordance with the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations?

That was the purport of the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Aston last Monday.

Ministry Of Works

Building Procedure


asked the Minister of Works which of the recommendations for modernising building procedure made in the four Reports published by the Government, the British Building Mission to the United States of America, 1944 Report, the Girdwood Report, 1947, the Productivity Report, 1950, and the Working Party Report, 1950, his Department have recommended to firms handling Government contracts.

The Reports cover many aspects of building procedure, and it has been the aim of my Department to bring the recommendations to the notice of all firms engaged in the industry and to apply them, where possible, to Government contracts. The Working Party Report and the Anglo-American Productivity Report are at present being considered by my National Consultative Council.

Is the Minister aware that the methods contained in these Reports enable people in the United States to build a 40-storey United Nations building in six months, whereas we are taking over six months to build a two-storey cottage?

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member will understand that the erection of a building of 40 storeys is quite different from building a house. I can assure him that the whole matter is receiving the very closest attention.

Is the Minister aware that obsolete local building Acts are responsible for holding up building contracts, and that a lot more building could be done if these Acts could be brought up to date?

If the party opposite had taken a few more active steps beforehand, we should be a little more up to date than we are now.

While this does not arise directly out of this Question, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he is also examining the possibility of improving the control procedure of his own Department and other Government Departments, which are much criticised by these Reports?

I am not responsible for other Government Departments, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am looking after my own.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a difference in the form of construction between a 40-storey building and a two-storey cottage? Is he aware that there are 15 more trades in the case of a 40-storey building, but that they can get the work done within six months while it takes us over six months to erect a two-storey cottage?

It is precisely for that reason that I prefer not to try to equate the two.

Electrical Installation Work


asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that there are now large stocks of all the material necessary for electrical installation work in houses and offices and adequate labour also available; and whether he will now abolish the restrictions on the amount of work that may be done.

The need for restriction on capital investment, as announced by the Government last October, still exists, and I am, therefore, unable to vary the Control of Building Operations (No. 15) Order, 1950, laid before the House on 19th June, 1950.

Temporary Defences, South Coast


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that the beauty of many parts of the South Coast has been ruined by the failure to clear away rusty ironwork and ruined gunposts which formed part of the coast defences in the last war; and what steps he will take to have these eyesores removed.

So far as I am aware the bulk of the temporary defences have been removed from the South Coast under a comprehensive scheme organised by the War Department in conjunction with local authorities. Otherwise, temporary defence works on private land are removed, where it is expedient in the public interest, by my Department so far as funds, labour and plant can be made available for this purpose.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although these defences have been removed from the seashore, in many cases they have merely been dumped at the back of the shore? Some of the most beautiful parts of the coast are littered with rusty ironwork and crumbling defences. Will he get in touch with the Minister of Health and plan a concerted drive with him to clear this up in time for the Festival of Britain?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I hate these things wherever I see them. If she will give me particulars, I will certainly take steps in the matter.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider asking local authorities to get this work done by voluntary labour? If he can get the countryside cleared up he will justify his appointment by that fact alone.

Traders, Trafalgar Square


asked the Minister of Works what steps he proposes to take to stop the nuisance to visitors in Trafalgar Square who are molested by photographers and grain merchants.

I am reluctant to turn genuine traders away, but if there is evidence of people being worried unduly, I shall have to consider making regulations.

Is the Minister aware that very few visitors who go to see Nelson's Monument and the fountains in the Square are able to do so on account of the activities of these people? Is he further aware that rival gangs cause trouble to break out and the police have to come in periodically to clean up?

I do not think that is a fair statement. A great number of people go to Trafalgar Square precisely for the purpose of feeding the pigeons there and having their photograph taken. If there is any real evidence of people being molested for trade purposes, I shall be glad to have the information and to take the necessary steps.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be forced into a position of being a spoil-sport, as a lot of innocent pleasure is derived by children and others at this place, which is one of the sights of London?

I am very glad of that support. I have no intention of being a spoil-sport.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the policy suggested by Members opposite is in line with their policy of setting the people free?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the activities of the pigeons do not interfere with the visitors?

Requisitioned Property, Cardiff


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that one of the 66 houses in Cardiff now occupied by Government Departments for office purposes, has been unoccupied since 1942; and whether, in view of the fact that there are at least 10,000 homeless applicants and seven mental deficients not enjoying proper institutional care in Cardiff, he will release these premises forthwith.

It is understood that the hon. Member has in mind No. 12. Cathedral Road, Cardiff. This building has not been occupied since April, 1949, owing to its bad structural condition. The lease runs until March, 1952, but attempts to arrange an earlier surrender have so far been unsuccessful.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is consistent with his two previous pledges to me in this House —that the property will be derequisitioned as soon as possible—that this property should have been unoccupied and deteriorating, even if his date of 1949 is correct and mine of 1942 is not?