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Written Answers

Volume 478: debated on Monday 18 September 1950

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 18th September, 1950

Food Supplies

Welfare Foods (Stocks)

asked the Minister of Food what are the present stocks of orange juice, cod liver oil tablets and other vitamin foods available to the public through his Department as compared with a year and two years ago and the end of the war.

The following is the answer:

STOCKS OF WELFARE FOODS IN DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM AT THE END OF THE JULY ACCOUNTING PERIODS.
(1)(2)(3)(4)
JulyNational Dried MilkCod Liver OilVitamin A and D TabletsOrange Juice
'000'000'000'000
tinsbottlespacketsbottles
19452,9591,9554054,184
19487,1572,5891,0019,232
19495,2492,4046677,663
19503,9872,4855856,830

Imported Poultry

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that dressed poultry are being exported to Portugal while other poultry are being imported from Hungary and Poland with serious risk of fowl pest infection; and if he will state Government policy in this matter.

I am not aware of any United Kingdom exports of dressed poultry to Portugal or elsewhere. No poultry has been imported from Hungary since the end of 1949, and poultry imported from Poland is subject to arrangements made with the Polish authorities to reduce to a minimum the risk of carcases infected by fowl pest being sent to this country.

Grain (Drying And Storage)

asked the Minister of Food what steps his Department are now taking to increase the cleaning, drying and holding of bread grains now coming forward from this year's difficult harvest which is beyond the capacity of grain merchants normal storage.

Sixteen national silos, each with a drying capacity of about 10 tons per hour and storage capacity of 5,000 tons, have been in operation for a number of years. In order to meet the need for extra drying and storage facilities for home-grown wheat created by the increasing use of combined harvesters, my Department is erecting six new silos and extending two existing national silos, with a total storage capacity of 21,500 tons and corresponding drying facilities. Some 7,000 tons of this additional storage will be available during September and I hope the balance will be ready for the 1951 harvest. A large tonnage of wheat is moved from the silos for storage at buffer depôts immediately after it has been dried.We are also operating 12 large grain-drying plants in the cereal-growing areas and making extensive use of private drying facilities. Merchants and users are being encouraged to increase their storage and drying capacity, and building licences for these projects are being readily sponsored.

Wheat Purchases

asked the Minister of Food if he can give the figures of wheat that his Department has taken from this year's harvest; and the average price paid per quarter.

The quantity of homegrown wheat purchased for flour milling from 24th July to 2nd September this year was 279,000 tons, of which 214,000 tons were bought by flour millers and 65,000 tons by Recommissioned Mills, Ltd., the Government-controlled company which operates the national silos.A fixed price of 119s. 3d. per quarter is paid to growers for millable wheat delivered in July, August and September, but a deduction rising to a maximum of 18s. per quarter, representing the cost of conditioning, is made for potentially millable wheat.

Member For Belfast, West (Election)

50.

asked the Lord President of the Council when the Report of the Privy Council on matters arising out of the election of the hon. Member for Belfast, West, is likely to be laid before the House.

I expect that the Report to which my hon. Friend refers will be communicated to the House when it reassembles in October.

United Kingdom And Albania (Conversations)

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the conversations between His Majesty's Government and the representatives of the Government of Albania as to the means of payment of the damages awarded to this country by The Hague Court by reason of the mining by Albania of His Majesty's ships in the Corfu Channel have been concluded; and whether payment has yet been made.

56.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what he can now report about the negotiations for the payment to His Majesty's Government of the Albanian indemnity.

The conversations have not been concluded. They will, I hope, be resumed later this week.

Yugoslavia (Minister's Visit)

53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for what reasons the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the British Ambassador in Yugoslavia visited Marshal Tito at Bled recently and met the Yugoslav Minister for Foreign Affairs on the same day; what subjects were discussed; and what conclusions were reached.

Marshal Tito invited His Majesty's Ambassador and me to lunch while I was at Bled. We discussed matters of mutual interest but no specific conclusions were reached.

Suez Canal (Tankers)

55.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been received to His Majesty's Government's protest to the Egyptian Government on 12th August about restrictions on oil tankers using the Suez Canal.

The Egyptian Government have replied to His Majesty's Government's protest of 12th August claiming that the new regulations are designed to facilitate the passage of tankers and their cargo through the Suez Canal to destinations other than Israel. They are willing to modify the regulations if they prove impracticable. The Egyptian reply is unsatisfactory and we consider the regulations unreasonable.

Austria (Newspaper, Sale)

57.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements have been made for the sale of the Vienna Weltpresse; what chance of participating in the negotiations was given to the editorial staff; and what action was taken to influence the political tone of the paper.

It was decided this summer, for reasons of economy, that British control of Weltpresse should cease. In 1946, when publication commenced, an agreement was made with the Austrian Socialist Party whereby the latter undertook printing and distribution in exchange for an option to buy the newspaper if British control were withdrawn. According last month negotiations were concluded with the Austrian Socialist Publishing Company who have now bought the newspaper from us. The editorial staff were represented during these negotiations by a member of the British Allied Commission. No action was taken to influence the political tone of the paper and we understand that the purchasers intend to continue to run it on non-party lines.

Greece (Abducted Children)

58.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what instructions have been given to His Majesty's Government's representatives at the coming Assembly of United Nations with regard to the report of the International Red Cross on the kidnapped Greek children.

As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, the International Red Cross have recently reaffirmed their intention to do what they can to restore these children to their parents. His Majesty's Government fully support their efforts.

Germany (British Children, Soviet Zone)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why passport facilities were granted in the case of the children of Mr. Geoffrey Hains, on the strength of a forged application, as a result of which these British-born children are now in the Eastern zone of Germany; and what action he proposes to take.

The passport application was made out by the mother of the children and was not a forgery. The letter accompanying it, purporting to convey the father's consent to the inclusion of the children's names on the mother's passport, was a forgery. It would be impracticable to check the authenticity of every letter of parental consent and such letters are accepted as genuine if there is no reason to suspect fraud. There was no reason to suspect it in this case. I regret that there is no action I can take in this matter while the mother and the children are in the Soviet zone of Germany.

Russian Nationals, United Kingdom

61.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the total number of Russian nationals at present resident in this country in the Embassy, consulates and trade missions.

Trade And Commerce

Machine Tools (Export, Ussr)

64.

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent under the Russian trade agreement this country is committed to the export of machine tools to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Board Of Trade Journal

65.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will arrange to resume the publication of the Board of Trade Journal of Statistics, showing the imports of British goods into other countries per head of the' population of those countries.

It is not possible to say now precisely what form the articles in the Board of Trade Journal on United Kingdom trade during the current year will take, but if the hon. Member requires figures on these lines for 1949, I will consider whether it is possible to make arrangements for them to be prepared. But the hon. Member will be aware that population figures for different countries are given in the United Nations Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, and that the Trade Accounts contain detailed figures of United Kingdom exports to other countries.

Foreign Trade Statistics

66.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when it is proposed to resume the publication of the foreign trade statistics.

Statistics relating to the trade of all countries in so far as these are available are now given in the regular publications of the Statistical Office of the United Nations and other international agencies, and it is not therefore proposed to resume the presentation of "Foreign Trade and Commerce Accounts" which was issued quarterly before the war.

Strategic Materials (Transhipment, Ussr)

67.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how 50 tons of molybdenum exported to this country by the United States was transhipped to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and whether he will make a statement.

With a very few exceptions goods may be transhipped in the United Kingdom (as in a number of other countries) without requirement of formal import or export licences and no question of infringing these regulations arose in this instance.The control of transhipments without prejudicing a large and legitimate transit trade with many countries throughout the world is a difficult problem, but we have had under consideration with the United States and other Governments concerned the question of imposing an effective control on the transhipment of strategic items. It has been agreed that the first responsibility must lie with the country of source which issues the original licence and a number of measures have been devised to make control at source as effective as possible. The whole question is, however, being reviewed, in order to ascertain whether further measures are practicable.

European Oak (Stocks)

68.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the present stocks of unedged European oak held by his Department; what is the condition of these stocks; and what steps are being taken to prevent it deteriorating.

The present national stock of unedged European oak is about 2½ million cubic feet. The material as a whole is in reasonable condition and is stored on behalf of the Board of Trade by reputable timber traders, who are under bond to exercise reasonable care.

69.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how he is proposing to dispose of his stocks of unedged European oak originally acquired by him at prices considerably higher than those now prevailing.

The c.i.f. prices now being asked by suppliers of unedged European oak are not, to the best of my information, lower than those paid by the Board of Trade. The first part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

British Army

Courts Martial

71.

asked the Secretary of State for War why it was necessary in the recent courts martial at Colchester for the charges to be kept secret, thus causing public speculation about their nature which was unfair to the accused particularly in view of the fact that nationals of another country were brought in to give evidence; and if he will ensure that on all future occasions the charges are made public.

In this case the specific charges and the evidence adduced to prove them contained information which could not, and still cannot, be made public for reasons of security. Accordingly the specific charges and evidence could not be given in open court and the court was satisfied that, in the interests of justice, the trial, including the arraignment, must therefore be held in camera. The military authorities cannot, of course, themselves decide that a court martial is to be held in camera. This can only be decided by the court itself on a submission to them that certain information essential for the proper trial of the case cannot be made public. I have no doubt that courts martial will continue to decide to sit in camera only with reluctance and if they are convinced that they must do so in the interests of the administration of justice.

asked the Secretary of State for War what were the charges against 22192278 Gunner L. Budgen, X Troop, 210 Battery, 94 Observation Regiment, Royal Artillery, who was court-martialled on 1st September in Germany; and if he will make available a summary of the evidence and the findings of the court.

asked the Secretary of State for War to state the charges on which Riflemen Eric Smith and James John Connolley were sentenced at a court martial at Colchester on 20th August.

The specific charges cannot be made public for reasons of security, but as the Press have been informed the charges relate to malicious damage to property.

Recalled Reservists (Family Grants)

74.

asked the Secretary of State for War the allowances payable to the wives and other dependants of Regular Reservists recalled to the Colours.

As already announced in the Press, recalled Reservists, married and single, are eligible to be considered for National Service grants for their families and dependants when hardship arises from the Reservist's inability to contribute to their support to the extent of his contribution before recall. These grants, up to a maximum of £3 a week, will be paid under the conditions of the current National Service grant scheme and administered on behalf of the Service Departments by the Ministry of Pensions, and will be in addition to the usual marriage allowance.

Malayan Operations (Publicity)

76.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will arrange for the Services Press and Propaganda Department to give full and graphic accounts of the work of the British Army in Malaya to the Press of this country in view of the fact that many pictures have already appeared in the United States Press and in news-reels in the United States of America and in this country which show the United States Army and the United States Air Force in action in Korea.

Press correspondents in Malaya are given every facility and encouragement by the local authorities to obtain information about the progress of military and police operations and it is not considered that the institution of any special machinery is necessary.

asked the Secretary of State for War for what reasons British units which have taken part in successful actions in Malaya are not allowed to be referred to by name in the newspapers or in other ways; why this policy is different to that which applies to the fighting in Korea; and whether he is aware that British and other troops fighting in Malaya, knowing that everybody in the area in which they operate is aware of their identity, would welcome a change of policy.

Permission to publish particulars of the units engaged is given as soon as it is certain that the information will not assist the bandits or compromise the operations.

Special Volunteer Forces, Korea And Malaya

asked the Secretary of State for War what special volunteer forces are being raised both for Korea and Malaya.

The hon. Member will appreciate that the success of the employment of special volunteer forces in any theatre often depends upon the degree of secrecy that is preserved as to their existence. It is not therefore in the public interest to give this information.

Chemists, Scotland (Remuneration)

79.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any statement to make on his dispute with the Scottish chemists.

On examining the payment which had been made to chemists during the recent period, I formed the opinion that their rates of remuneration were too high and should be reduced. Negotiations were accordingly begun on the Whitley Committee and these are continuing.In the meantime, and as a purely temporary and provisional arrangement to protect the taxpayer, I have made a reduction of 8 per cent. in the payments otherwise due, since should negotiations or arbitration eventually lead to a reduction in the rates of remuneration I must have a legally competent method of implementing such a reduction retrospectively.I regret that a considerable number of chemists have given notice of withdrawal from the National Health Service to take effect at the end of November. I cannot agree that this extreme action is warranted. I understand that the chemists' representatives do not object to the principle of retrospective application of any reduction in remuneration that may follow Whitley Council discussions, but that they do object to the method by which the provisional cut has been made. I have been advised, however, by my legal advisers that the only course open to me to achieve the end in view effectively and equitably was the one I have followed. I would emphasise that the cut is meantime a purely temporary arrangement which will in due course be superseded by such permanent amendment, if any, as may be required to give effect to the result of negotiations or arbitration.I would appeal to all chemists to weigh carefully this explanation again given and consider whether the very small difference of opinion between us on method justifies their withdrawing their services before the result of negotiations or arbitration is known. I should greatly regret, as I am sure the chemists would, any inconvenience caused to the public by any hasty action on the part of the members of a profession who have hitherto given the community loyal and efficient service.I propose to invite the representatives of the chemists to meet me in the near future.

National Service

Students And Apprentices

81.

asked the Minister of Labour what action has been taken to mitigate the hardship suffered by National Service men who had arranged to begin university studies in October but will now be prohibited from doing so by the extended period of National Service.

Arrangements have been made for the early release of the men in question. Applications should be made through the usual Service channels.

83.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will take steps to reduce the number of National Service men now granted deferment or exemption on various grounds so that as large a number as possible shall commence their period of service before their nineteenth birthday.

No. It is in the national interest, as well as in the interest of the young men themselves, that those who wish to defer their National Service until they have completed a recognised apprenticeship or an approved course of study should be enabled to do so.

Reservists

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether he has the necessary information to enable him to decide whether a man who has served with the Armed Forces and is now on a Reserve is now in a reserved occupation, and as to whether a man who was in a reserved occupation in the 1939–45 war is now eligible for military service; and what action he is taking on the matter;(2) how far any restriction is now placed on the recall of Reservists by the Services on the grounds of the nature of the Reservists' civilian occupation;(3) what action he takes in the case of men whom by reason of age, health, or occupation he does not intend to call-up or recall to the Forces in an emergency to inform such men of this intention, with a view to enabling them to enrol in Civil Defence.

There is no restriction, on occupational grounds, on the recall of members of the Regular Reserves. With regard to members of the Army "Z" Reserve and the equivalent Reserves of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, the present occupations of those who might be recalled in the early stages of an emergency are, as has already been announced, being checked. This is designed to bring Service Records up-to-date and will simplify the arrangements which already exist, and could be operated immediately, for their recall or reservation in the event of an emergency. But it is not possible to inform men now whether they would be reserved at some unknown date in the future. It has already been announced that "Z" and equivalent Reservists aged 40 and over may enrol for Civil Defence and that those between 30 and 40 may, with some exceptions, enrol for the more active branches of Civil Defence. Men who were reserved in the 1939–45 war are, in general, not in any Reserve and not liable under existing law to be called-up in an emergency, and it is not possible to tell them what their position might be under any new law that might be passed on the occurrence of an emergency.

British Commonwealth Force, Japan

85.

asked the Minister of Defence when it was decided to hand over the control of all British Commonwealth Force in Japan to an Australian General; what areas are included under the control of this General; what is the procedure by which his Department informs him of decisions taken in London; and why another officer has been appointed as United Kingdom liaison officer with the Supreme Commander, General Mac-Arthur.

The United Kingdom contingent of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force was withdrawn from Japan in November, 1948. The Force, under its Australian Commander, General Robertson, is now composed of Australian troops only. As I explained during the Debate on 26th July, Air Vice Marshal Bouchier has been appointed as Senior United Kingdom military liaison officer to General MacArthur. His duties are concerned only with operations in Korea.

Postage Stamps (Colour Changes)

88.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he intends to alter the colours of postage stamps to conform with the provisions of the Universal Postal Union Convention.

Yes. As already announced, the fourpenny stamp is being changed from olive green to light blue as from 2nd October next, and as soon as practicable my right hon. Friend proposes to alter the 2½d. and l½d. stamps to red and green respectively. The colour of the ½d., 1d. and 2d. stamps will have to be altered in consequence and will become orange, blue and brown respectively. No change will be made in the design of any of the stamps concerned. My right hon. Friend hopes that it will be possible to effect these colour changes about the middle of next year.

Telephone Service

Applications

asked the Postmaster-General how many applicants have been refused telephone service notwithstanding the fact that exchange, line plant, and telephones are available to provide it.

On 30th June, there were about 41,000 applications held up solely owing to pressure of more urgent work.

Spare Plant And Equipment

asked the Postmaster-General how many spare pairs of wires, exchange calling equipments, and telephones respectively, exist under his control; and in view of the restriction on further capital expenditure, what special steps are being taken to make use of this spare plant for the early satisfaction of waiting applicants.

There were about 900,000 telephones in stock on 30th June, 1950, and 1,125,000 spare pairs of wires and 435,000 exchange calling equipments were available for service. This spare plant is not distributed evenly—the margin is necessarily greater in areas where schemes for new cables or exchange extensions mature, as these are always designed to meet local applications for some considerable time ahead. In areas where there is a shortage of plant, the deficiency is being made good as rapidly as Post Office capital resources permit. These have also to cover the continuous expansion of the inland trunk and junction cable system, as well as of the overseas services.

Royal Air Force (Merit Pay)

89.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the urgent need for increased production, he will revise the Relaxation of Customs Agreement (1939) so as to offer to tradesmen of trainee origin in the Royal Air Force Maintenance Units the incentive that, if properly qualified, they can earn full merit pay.

The scale of merit pay applicable to dilutees is not governed by the Relaxation of Customs Agreement but by an agreement reached on the Engineering Trades Joint Council for Government Establishments. It can only be varied by agreement with the union concerned and preliminary talks with them on the subject are taking place.

Agriculture

Cider Apples

90.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many tons of cider apples were left unsold in Devon last season; and whether he anticipates that the whole crop will be sold this season.

Some 8,000 tons of the 1949 crop in Devon were unsold. It is too early to forecast whether or not the whole of this year's crop will be sold.

Allotments

91.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the international situation, he will extend the operation of Defence Regulation62A for a further period so as to give local authorities the option of continuing wartime allotments on land intended as open space.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement made on 27th July by the Lord President of the Council that after the Summer Recess a Motion would be proposed praying that an Order in Council be made to continue in force for one year the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers), Act, 1945. Which Defence Regulations should be continued by extension of the Act is still being considered. Defence Regulation 62A is one of the Regulations operating under the Act.

Expansion Programme

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has given any guidance to the county agricultural executive committees on the contribution which British agriculture is expected to make to strengthening the nation's defences.

Yes. As recently as 7th September I addressed a personal letter on this subject to all chairmen of county agricultural executive committees, in which I stressed the greater need, in the present situation, to attain in full our programme of expansion, including the development of grassland, the achievement of a higher level of self-sufficiency and the maintenance of fertility in the soil.

Malaya And Hong Kong (Communist Propaganda)

92.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what plans he has for countering the pro-Communist propaganda now being broadcast to Malaya and Hong Kong by China and by Far Eastern stations of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The influence of Communist propaganda to Malaya and Hong Kong is countered by the dissemination of the true facts through the official Information Services in those territories, employing such means as broadcasts, pamphlets, periodicals, leaflets and Press articles.

Storm Damage, Antigua (Relief)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement as to the recent storm damage in Antigua and the relief measures which have been adopted.

I regret that three sailors are reported to have been drowned. About 1,500 houses were destroyed, and 250 badly damaged. Some livestock was lost; shipping, churches and public buildings, electricity and telephone services, goods in warehouses and the growing sugar crop were damaged. A detailed assessment is being made. Unofficial estimates put the cost at not less than £250,000.With the generous help of organisations, individuals and other Caribbean Governments the homeless are being fed and clothed. His Majesty's Government have agreed to make a grant of £50,000 towards the cost of immediate relief and rehousing. Part of this is being used to buy food and clothing which is being flown to Antigua. I propose at a later date to ask Parliament to vote the necessary funds.

Tanganyika (European Community)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement of the reasons for which the Minister of State for the Colonies abandoned his engagement for a conference with the Executive Committee of the Tanganyika European Council.

Yes. My right hon. Friend attended a reception to meet members of the Tanganyika European Council at which a number of incidents occurred which have since been reported in the Press. He had previously intended to meet the Executive Committee of the Tanganyika European Council the following day, but on ascertaining that they were the same gentlemen who were present at the reception he decided that no useful purpose would be served by meeting them again the next day. I may add that a few days afterwards my right hon. Friend met the chairman, Mr. Hitchcock, and other representatives of the Tanga Regional Committee of the Tanganyika European Council officially in Dar-es-Salaam and had a most useful discussion on a number of points connected with the European community in the Territory.

Equipment Inspection (Soviet Officials)

93.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the official standing of Russians in this country employed in inspecting equipment being manufactured for the Russian Government; and what steps are taken to confirm the bona fides of such persons before they are admitted to this country.

They are officials of the Soviet Government appointed as members of the Soviet Trade Delegation. The Trade representative and his deputies rank as members of the staff of the Soviet Embassy. Appropriate measures are taken in the interests of security but it would not be in the public interests to disclose details of these measures.

Cope Committee (Report)

asked the Minister of Health when he expects to make known the findings of the Cope Committee.

Housing (Rate Of Interest) Regulations

94.

asked the Minister of Health why the Housing (Rate of Interest) Regulations, 1950, S.I., 1950, No. 1008, have not yet been annulled in pursuance of the Resolution of the House of Commons on 25th July; and why the Housing (Rate of Interest) Regulations, 1950, S.I., 1950, 1318, have not been styled (No. 2) Regulations in accordance with the usual practice.

These Regulations will be annulled at the first convenient meeting of the Privy Council since the House considered the matter. I am advised that the style suggested by the hon. Member is not appropriate when only one set of Regulations is in force.

Royal Ordnance Factories (Staff)

asked the Minister of Supply what are the numbers of industrial staff and the numbers of non-industrial staff at each Royal Ordnance Factory.

Twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and fifteen industrials and 5,937 non-industrials are employed in the Royal Ordnance factories. It would not be in the public interest to disclose details for each factory.

Royal Navy

Ordnance Inspection Department (Pay)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to what extent the salaries and conditions of service of officers in the Department of the Inspector of Naval Ordnance are affected by the recent pay increases outlined in Command Paper No. 8027.

Officers of the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department are employed on civilian rates of pay and conditions of service, which are not affected by the Service pay increases announced in Command Paper No. 8027.

Naval Constructors (Pay)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to what extent the salaries and conditions of service in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors are affected by the recent pay increases outlined in Command Paper No. 8027.

Pay and conditions of service for the various branches of the Civil Service, of which the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors is one, are not affected by the pay increases for Service personnel announced in Command Paper No. 8027.