House Of Commons
Wednesday, 22nd November, 1950
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Royal Air Force
asked the Secretary of State for Air for what purpose the Sunningdale Camp, Ballysillan Road. Belfast, is at present being used; and whether he proposes to close it.
This camp is used as the headquarters of the Air Ministry works area in Northern Ireland. It will be vacated as soon as suitable alternative accommodation can be found.
Can the Minister say whether alternative accommodation is to be found in Northern Ireland?
If possible, yes.
Operations, Korea (Overseas Allowances)
asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will make a statement on the suspension of the Singapore local overseas allowance payable to officers and airmen serving in the Far East Flying Boat Wing and now engaged operationally jai the Korean war.
Local overseas allowances are payable in certain areas abroad to enable Service men to meet the necessary extra cost, as compared with the United Kingdom, of maintaining a reasonable standard of living. The allowances for a particular area are assessed on the basis of prices and conditions in that area and cease to be payable, or are reduced, when an officer or airman leaves the area. Single men of the Flying Boat Wing ceased to be entitled to the Singapore rates of local overseas allowance on leaving the Singapore area, while married men who left their families behind in Singapore became entitled to a reduced married rate of allowance. For example, a corporal whose wife and family are not living in quarters in Singapore would suffer a reduction from 26s. 3d. to 22s. 6d. per day. The Flying Boat Wing operates from Japan and the cost of living there does not at present justify single rates of local overseas allowance.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the reduction in the case of married men does not cause considerable hardship to their families, who still have to live in Singapore?
No, I do not think so, because the husband or father is no longer living with his family and that must make a difference to the cost of living.
Overseas Stations (Civilian Employees)
asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent it is possible for local civilian employees of his Department in overseas stations to become established civil servants.
Schemes exist for the establishment of non-industrial civilians of British nationality serving in Gibraltar, Malta and the Middle East, subject to their having completed a minimum period of 10 years aggregate service. The question of introducing similar schemes in other areas is being examined.
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what he means by "the Middle East"?
I think the hon. Member knows that quite well.
asked the Secretary of State for Air what proportion of Fighter Command it is his intention to equip with two-seater all-weather fighters.
It would not be in the public interest to give the precise figures, but I can say that the proportion will be substantial.
While appreciating the reluctance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make these figures public, may I ask if he will give an assurance that both he and the Air Staff are seized of their importance?
Yes, Sir. I happen to know what the figures are and that was why I was able to say that the proportion will be substantial.
Advanced Training Aircraft
asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps are being taken to provide advanced types of training aircraft for the reserve flying schools.
The supply of advanced training aircraft is at present fully absorbed by the requirements of the regular flying training schools, the number of which is being increased. When their requirements have been met the question of allotting more advanced aircraft to reserve flying schools will be reconsidered. Opportunities are, however, given to members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve to carry out their annual training in operational commands, where they are given experience on operational aircraft.
Do I understand from that reply that the position is actually no better than it was when I first raised this point in March last? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that before the last war we had at least three front line types of aeroplane in reserve schools, and could he take steps to get even Harvard trainers over here in reserve schools?
Yes, I will certainly consider the question of Harvards, but I would also remind the noble Lord that the question was raised in July this year when I pointed out that the Balliol was just beginning to come off the production lines. It will not, however, come off in any quantity until next year and, in consequence, we must give priority in these circumstances to the regular flying schools.
Russian Jet Aircraft (Performance)
asked the Secretary of State for Air what information he has on the relative performance figures of the operational jet aircraft of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United States of America and this country.
I am assuming that the hon. and gallant Member's Question refers to the latest types of operational jet aircraft. So far as the R.A.F. and the U.S.A.F. are concerned the performance figures of these types are secret. I have no official performance figures for the latest types of Russian jet fighters. We have, however, an R.A.F. officer as a special observer in Korea and we hope to get more definite information about the performance of Russian jet aircraft from this source.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman has the information, which I hope will be soon, will he tell the House, in a suitable debate, how the Russians are progressing with jet aircraft in design and performance?
I will certainly give sympathetic consideration as to whether I can tell the House the contents of these reports.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Russian twin jet bombers and four jet bombers were photographed while flying in 1948? Is it not, therefore, extremely important that we should press on with the matter, and will the Minister now dedigitate?
I am not prepared to accept the premises of that question. I have not received any information that operational twin and four jet engine bombers are in service with the Russian Air Force.
Air Accidents (Investigation)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what progress has been made regarding a new procedure for investigating civil air accidents.
This problem is still being considered in the light of the experience gained from two inquiries held recently and of certain proposals which the right hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) was good enough to submit recently. I hope to be able to discuss the matter with hon. Members opposite in the near future.
In considering this matter will the hon. Gentleman ask his noble Friend to consider using powers under Section 10 of the 1949 Civil Aviation Act whereby, after his noble Friend disagrees with a finding, there is a rehearing of the case in order that all parties may be satisfied?
That and a much wider field is being considered we hope to be able to discuss that and other matters with the hon. and gallant Member and his friends.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will take steps to reduce the period which elapses between the commencement of the inquiry into an aircraft accident and its occurrence.
The lapse of time between the date of an aircraft accident and the commencement of a public inquiry is kept to the minimum consistent with the collection and adequate preparation-of the evidence and the briefing of counsel. It is also dependent on certain other factors, such as the convenience of the president appointed to conduct the inquiry and the giving of adequate notice to representatives of deceased passengers domiciled abroad.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a feeling that this time lag is somewhat excessive in regard to these inquiries? Will he assure us that there is no hold up of information which may be of importance to operators?
I believe that what the public is to be assured upon is that we have tried to get at the truth, even though it takes a little longer to prepare the evidence.
Can the hon. Gentleman say why the investigation into the recent crash at Heathrow has not yet begun? There is no reason why all the evidence should not be available as there were no survivors recovering in hospital or things of that kind, which generally hold up inquiries.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware of the amount of laboratory work, testing of metals, and so on, which goes on before an inquiry is started. If any hon. Member would like to see the sort of work involved, I would be glad to make arrangements for him to do so.
What research on metals was necessary in the case of the second crash, which appears to have been due to a navigational misjudgment while the aircraft was under G.C.A. control? Recordings of the G.C.A. control are made, we are told, and it does not seem necessary to have weeks and weeks of delay.
There may have been technical difficulties. It is very unwise to jump to the conclusions to which the hon. Member has jumped.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he has yet decided to set up a Civil Aeronautics Board to control standards of safety, the issue of licences and the allocation of routes for civil aircraft.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this system is in force in the United States with complete success? Is his opposition to it due to the fact that if adopted here it would probably mean the end of the Ministry, as being redundant?
If it were adopted here, as far as I follow the idea of the hon. and gallant Member, the only difference would be that the authority responsible for this work would not be subject to Questions from the hon. and gallant Member.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation how many people in the two recent civil aviation crashes in the United Kingdom died as a result of the pressure of safety belts.
The responsibility for ascertaining the cause of death rests with the coroner and I should not wish to anticipate his findings.
As it is clear that in one of these crashes 18 out of 28 were killed by pressure of safety belts and that belts have not improved in design over many years is it not time that something were done especially as jet aircraft are likely to reduce the fire hazard?
It is quite wrong for the hon. Member to make statements like that when there is no evidence to support them.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what was the number of licensed commercial pilots on 1st October, 1950; and what was the number on 1st October, 1947, respectively.
On 1st October, 1950, there were 1,616 holders of commercial, senior commercial or airline transport licences. On 1st October, 1947, there were 2,493 holders of "B" licences.
Austria (Soviet Action)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has given diplomatic support to the protest of the United States Government against the interference of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with Austrian police officials, in view of the fact that this interference is a violation of the Four-Power Occupation Agreement.
Yes, Sir. On 10th November, His Majesty's Government, in co-operation with the French and United States Governments, addressed a Note to the Soviet Government protesting against Soviet intervention to prevent the police from maintaining order during the recent Communist-inspired disturbances in Austria.
Does not the Occupation Agreement specifically place the responsibility on the Austrian Government for the maintenance of order?
We have called the attention of the Soviet Government to that fact.
Has there been any answer to the protest?
No, we are waiting.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has given support to the demand of the Austrian Government that the five Austrian Communist police chiefs supported by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Vienna, be dismissed; and what further action he has taken to uphold the authority of the Austrian Government.
Yes, Sir. The United Kingdom representative in the Allied Council at Vienna has, in co-operation with his French and United States colleagues, strongly supported the Austrian protest. His Majesty's Government has concerted action with the French and United States Governments and details will be published in the near future.
Did the Soviet authorities actually force the Austrians to hand over one of their public buildings to the Communists, as the Americans state in their protest?
If that were stated in their protest it would be a correct statement, but I have not the actual facts with me at the moment.
Antarctic Territory (Foreign Bases)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many bases have been established by the Argentine and Chile in British antarctic territory; on what dates each of these was established; and what action he is taking to secure their removal.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 6th November to similar Questions on the same subject.
But did not that reply merely amount to a statement that these trespassers were to be left in possession until their Governments would condescend to litigate the matter at The Hague Court and is not that, in the present state of the world, a very dangerous precedent to establish?
Does the hon. Member want me to send warships there to drive them out immediately?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the wreck of a Swedish ship, s.s. "Ormen Friske," on a reef in the immediate vicinity of Heligoland, where the ship was sunk with all her crew; and whether he is prepared to meet the demand that a lighthouse should be built upon the island and that a lifeboat should be stationed there.
I have no clear evidence that the "Ormen Friske" was, in fact, wrecked in the immediate vicinity of Heligoland. The remains of the ship and the bodies of some of the crew were found on the Islands of Amrum and Pell-worm, some 30 miles away. The use of Heligoland as a bombing target precludes the installation of a lighthouse and lifeboat at present. I am advised that these are not essential for the safety of navigation.
Has the right hon. Gentleman received the petition of 31 shippers' associations, fishermen's unions and pilots' clubs asking that a lighthouse should be put upon the Island of Heligoland, as was always the case?
Yes, but it is being used for bombing purposes at the moment. The regular shipping routes are well marked with buoys.
Russian Type Jet Fighters
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has from the United Nations as to the extent to which the latest Soviet jet fighters are now being encountered by our Forces in Korea; and how their performances compares with those of United Nations aircraft.
The hon. and gallant Member will have seen references to Russian type jet fighters in the communiques issued by the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command in Korea. The communiques have only referred to small numbers of these aircraft. The Commander-in-Chief's communiques do not provide any comparative information on performance.
Is it not a fact that American combat pilots have reported encountering fast jet aircraft in Korea which have been faster than the machines they were flying? Is it not, therefore, a matter for great concern, and the Government's responsibility, that the Government should have supplied Russia with engines with which to equip such aircraft?
Will the right hon. Gentleman press our United States allies to pass on any relevant information available about Russian jet aircraft to this country?
North Korean Prisoners
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will ask the United Nations for information as to the total number of North Korean prisoners now in the hands of United Nations forces; and as to any evidence of strong Communist affiliation among such prisoners.
On a point of order. This Question was originally put down to the Minister of Defence, Sir. I have not received word that it was to be transferred to the Foreign Office. Moreover, the form which the Question on the Order Paper takes is not the form in which I originally put it down. Could we have some guidance on this matter, Mr. Speaker, because, obviously, the answer which the Foreign Minister has given is not the answer which I would have got if the Question had been presented in its original form?
It has nothing to do with me. The Table puts a Question down to the right Minister, if it is not addressed to the right Minister in the first place. This is done at the Table by the Clerks, and I cannot say anything about it.
May I draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the text of the Question is not as it was put down in its original form, but that it is somewhat different from the form in which I put it down?
I do not know the answer to that. I have had no notice, and cannot know the answer in advance, but I understand that, if a Question is not in order, the Clerks have instructions to word it so that it is in order. I assume that the hon. Member's Question was not in order.
Further to that point of order. There is one part of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which, I think, is a little difficult to understand. Did I understand you to say that, if a Question in the form in which it is submitted is out of order, the Clerks have authority to alter it so as to put it in order without referring it to the hon. Member concerned?
That is a previous Speaker's Ruling, for the convenience of hon. Members concerned.
is it not a little unfortunate for the hon. Member who put down the Question that it has been altered to include the expression "strong affiliation," which is, of course, quite meaningless?
Further to that point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that the Clerks at the Table render very great assistance to hon. Members in the extremely difficult matter of making any minor adjustments to their Questions, thereby saving delay which would otherwise be incurred by our receiving a white card, and, further, that the Clerks perform this difficult task extremely well?
May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that I made no reflection whatever on the Clerks at the Table? I simply said that the Question was originally put down to the Minister of Defence, that I was not informed that it was to be transferred, and, further, that the form of the Question was altered without notifying me.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has received from the United Nations about measures taken for the redistribution of land in North Korea; and if he will make a statement.
I have received no recent information on this subject from the United Nations. As hon. Members are aware, the new United Nations Commission is due to arrive in Korea very shortly, and may presently supply information about this. I do not, therefore, propose to make a statement now.
Has the attention or the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to the article in "The Times" in which it is pointed out that the Government of Syngman Rhee is engaged in handing back land from the peasants to the landlords? In view of the importance of this question to the people of Korea, will he give an assurance that he will oppose any such action?
The Question asks me for information, and I propose to give the hon. Member information as soon as I have received it from the United Nations Commission.
Is it not a well-known trick that Communists and fellow-travellers promise to distribute property when trying to seize it, and then to collectivise or nationalise it as soon as it has been seized?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will obtain information from the United Nations as to how many incendiary bombs were dropped on the town of Hoeryong, North Korea, on 16th November; what is the estimated population of the town: what were the purposes of this raid; and what results were reported.
Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the communiqué in which it was stated that this town was bombed for several hours by incendiary bombs—it has a population of 40,000—and can we assume that we are implicated in a massacre of the civil population?
I do not think the hon. Gentleman can assume that.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a widespread feeling in the House and throughout the country that our original objectives in Korea have now been achieved, and can he—
That is a wider question it has nothing to do with bombs.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has yet received from the United Nations an estimate of the number of casualties suffered by Korean nationals as a result of the operations in Korea up to 1st November, 1950; the loss of civilian life; and the number of schools, hospitals, churches and houses destroyed.
When the Minister receives this information, will he consider publishing it in a White Paper so that we can have a full picture of what a country undergoes when it is liberated by modern war?
Is not my right hon. Friend of the opinion that strategic bombing on the scale carried out in Korea is liable to make the process of liberation a little unpopular among the liberated?
Does not my right hon. Friend think it worth while, in view of the widespread anxiety on this subject, to obtain information from the United Nations so that we shall have the facts before us, which will make it unnecessary and unjustifiable to draw any wrong inferences or make any wrong assumptions? Until we have that information people will do both.
And they may do it after they have got the information.
Is my right hon. Friend afraid of it?
Not a bit.
Military Transport Aircraft
asked the Secretary for Foreign Affairs if he will seek information from the United Nations as to how many military transport aircraft the United Nations' forces in Korea have employed since fighting began.
Is the Minister aware that there is some concern in the House because we keep asking Questions about our Forces in North Korea and how they are prospering under United Nations leadership, but are unable to get any information at all about the opposition they are meeting from Russian forces in the air?
This is a Question on military transport, not on opposition.
Is the Minister aware that we learned in the House yesterday that these military transports had to be used even to supply our troops with warm clothing, and would he draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Air to the lack of British transport aircraft for any future operations?
It is not a Foreign Secretary's job to conduct the war. I merely have to get the information asked for.
On a point of order. I wonder whether, Mr. Speaker, you could give Members any advice on the situation which is causing us a great deal of anxiety? We have placed our Forces at the disposal of the United Nations and they are serving under a Commander-in-Chief responsible not to us but to the United Nations. The result is, according to your Ruling of, I think, the day before yesterday, that we can get no information, can ask no Questions and can make no criticism. Surely that is a situation which ought to be remedied. Is there any way in which it can be remedied?
I did not realise that I said that Members could ask no Questions. After all, I am not concerned with the answer which a Minister gives. All I can say is that although we are not quite in a state of war, we are, naturally, anxious about the Questions asked concerning our Armed Forces in Korea.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Armed Forces Special Vouchers
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Colonel John Stevenson, 37, Esplanade, Hamburg, has been refused a British Armed Forces Service Volunteer Allowance.
I assume the hon. Member refers to British Armed Forces Special Vouchers. These vouchers are provided in Germany primarily for members of the British Armed Forces and other Occupation Services, and are not available for other British residents who were not in Germany in a private capacity before 1st July, 1950. It is not possible to make an exception in favour of Lieut.-Colonel Stevenson, who ceased to be a member of the Control Commission on 30th September last.
If that is the case, will the Foreign Secretary say why these vouchers are issued to German and other nationals, and, in particular, to Mr. Constantinopoulos, a German-Greek lawyer, who is in private practice in Hamburg?
I would like to have notice of that; I will certainly look into it.
Is it not a fact that the vendetta being pursued by the Foreign Office against Colonel Stevenson is because he complained, when a member of the Control Commission, that high officials of the Commission were not being prosecuted for very serious offences? Is not that the reason for this vendetta?
I do not know anything about the statements which the hon. Member is making, but in view of what he has just said I will look into it.
Soviet Zone (British Officer's Detention)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the detention of Flight Lieutenant Driver by the Russian authorities in Germany.
On 5th September, Flight Lieutenant Driver force-landed in the Soviet zone of Germany. When our authorities asked for his release, the Soviet authorities intimated that they would exchange him for Lieutenant Bystrov, a Soviet officer who had sought political asylum in the British zone a few days previously. His Majesty's Ambassador at Moscow has pointed out to M. Gromyko that the Soviet authorities may verify for themselves that Lieutenant Bystrov is a political refugee, and that to surrender him against his will would be contrary to the generally accepted practice in regard to the right of asylum. There is no parallel between the cases of Lieutenant Bystrov and Flight Lieutenant Driver and the detention of the latter is quite unjustified. His Majesty's Government are aware of the anxiety caused Flight Lieutenant Driver's relatives and will continue to make every effort to secure his release.
Can the Foreign Secretary say whether this officer has been well treated?
I have not yet had a report from those who got in contact with him, but I will let the hon. Member know.
Can the Foreign Secretary say whether this officer was visited by a British officer or other British representative?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Somali Youth League, which represents Somalis in the British Somaliland Protectorate, Somaliland under Italian trusteeship, and Somalis living in Britain and other countries abroad, has appealed to the United Nations asking that Italian trusteeship in Somaliland be terminated forthwith, and Ethiopian trusteeship substituted and that, if this should prove impossible, they would prefer joint Ethiopian and British trusteeship; and whether it is his intention to support such application.
An appeal of this nature was contained in a letter of 3rd October, 1950, from the President of the Somali Youth League in Great Britain to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. However, the representative in New York of the Somali Youth League whose credentials were accepted by the United Nations Secretariat, and who has been allowed to participate in discussion of the Somaliland question in the Trusteeship Committee of the United Nations, did not request the replacement of Italian by Ethiopian or any other trusteeship nor even refer to this possibility. On the contrary, he and a representative of a similar Somali organisation formally dissociated themselves from the letter of the President of the Somali Youth League in Great Britain. His Majesty's Government have no intention of supporting any such application.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what suggestion he proposes to submit to the Security Council of the United Nations to deal with the invasion of Tibet by Chinese Communist forces.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given on 16th November, to which I have at present nothing to add.
I heard that reply, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the opinion of this country, there is very little difference, either morally or legally, between the wanton invasion of Korea and the cynical invasion of Tibet? Should not the United Nations be called upon to take similar action in both cases?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British troops now remain in Ethiopian territory, either the Ogaden or the reserved area; for what purpose, and under what agreement.
There are no British troops either in the Ogaden or the reserved area. A detachment of the Somaliland Scouts is, however, stationed in the Haud to assist in the maintenance of law and order. The territory is provisionally under British administration under the Agreement of 19th December, 1944, and the Ogaden Protocol of 24th July, 1948, between His Majesty's Government and the Ethiopian Government.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance in view of the repeated declarations of His Majesty's Government affirming support for Ethiopia's claims to the reunion of Eritrea, that His Majesty's Government will continue to support this solution in the present Assembly of the United Nations.
His Majesty's Government have repeatedly stated that in their opinion the proper solution for the future of Eritrea would be the reunion of the Eastern Province of Eritrea with Ethiopia and the working out of a separate solution for the Western Province, and they remain convinced that this solution most nearly conforms to the wishes of the people. It does not appear, however, that this solution is likely to secure general support in the General Assembly. His Majesty's Government have already indicated their willingness to do their best to implement alternative proposals on a federal solution, provided that such proposals appear workable.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will give a list of the precedents upon which he relied in making Statutory Instrument, 1950, No. 1184, with retrospective purport without express statutory authority.
Provision having retrospective effect was made by the following Orders-in-Council: the Southern Nigeria Protectorate Order-in-Council, 1909, the Southern Nigeria Protectorate Order-in-Council, 1910, and Order of 28th March, 1930, amending the Somaliland Order-in-Council, 1929, the Grenada (Legislative Council) (Amendment) Order-in-Council, 1944, the St. Vincent (Legislative Council) (Amendment) Order-in-Council, 1947. I do not say that this is a complete list; there are probably others.
As the constitution of the Falkland Islands' Legislature is involved, would not the Minister do better to introduce a Bill to put the legality of his order beyond doubt rather than rely upon these precedents?
I was asked about the precedents, and I have given them.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the purpose of Statutory Instrument No. 1649 of 1950, which extends the boundary of British Honduras so as to include the area of the continental shelf under the sea off the coast; how far beyond the coast does the continental shelf go; on what authority he bases this claim; and whether it has received international recognition.
The purpose of the Order-in-Council is to give the local government control over natural resources which may be found in the sea-bed off the coast of British Honduras. The continental shelf is generally considered to extend to the 100-fathom line. This claim follows international practice under which a number of countries have annexed the continental shelves off their coasts.
Was it not a rather strange application of the 1895 Act to use it to extend the boundary of the Colony beyond the territorial limits, or is the 100-fathom line in this case within the territorial limits?
I would like to have notice of that question. What has happened is that we have only followed the practice adopted by other countries in recent years.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say to whom the shelf belonged before he annexed it?
I understand that it be-longed to nobody.
Nigeria (Social Services)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent expenditure on health and social services in Nigeria is now to be reduced; and for what reason.
No reduction in the budget expenditure on existing health and social services is at present contemplated. The Nigerian Development Plan is, however, now under review locally; and I cannot say at present what modification of schemes originally projected for the next five years may be recommended to me, in order to maintain the necessary balance, within the funds likely to be available, between welfare schemes and economic development.
Could my right hon. Friend say whether this modification is likely to take place? In view of the very urgent needs still most inadequately met, does not he agree that it is undesirable to contemplate any modification to the detriment of the social services of that Colony?
I am not sure yet whether any modification will be proposed, and, if so, what it will be. I am very conscious of the very urgent need to which my hon. Friend has called attention.
It there is a modification it means that some other existing social service will have to be cut. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that that is very serious indeed?
We are now considering whether any, and if so, what, modification will be made. It will be a recommendation, and I shall have to consider it.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultation took place with bodies representing rubber growers, packers and shippers, and estate workers before the new rubber tax, due to come into operation on 1st January, 1951, was announced in Malaya.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultations took place between representatives of the rubber industry, Asian and European, either in Malaya or London, as to the practicability and effect of the new rubber duties before they were fixed.
Before the announcement of the new duty on 4th November, a tentative scale was put forward at an informal meeting with representatives of the rubber industry on 9th September. A letter was sent on 12th September to the United Planting Association of Malaya, the Malayan Estate Owners Association, the Malayan Planting Industrial Employment Association, and the Chambers of Commerce. This letter was published in the local Press on 23rd September. An open invitation to submit views was given in the Legislative Council (in which small-holders' interests are represented) on 25th September. As a result, local representations from all sections of the industry were received and considered. Further consultation with the industry is now proceeding locally, and a communiqué was issued on 18th November, the text of which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what was the effect of these representations on the proposals?
The representations are now being considered.
What, then, is the justification for the statements made at Kuala Lumpur by the rubber associations that no real consultation took place before the price was fixed?
I hope I have proved to the House that there was ample consultation.
Because of those arrangements does my right hon. Friend accept the view that the imposition of the tax was not wrong and improper, in the circumstances?
I think that the Government and people of Malaya are entitled to increase their revenue from this increased prosperity. They need the money badly to meet the cost of the present emergency, and to finance re-development.
Following is the communiqé:
His Excellency the officer administering the Government received a delegation from the rubber producing industry this morning to discuss rates of export duty to be imposed as from 1st January next year. After the meeting, it was announced that the Government will consider carefully and sympathetically representations made by the delegation, and that further meetings will be held in the near future with a view to reaching agreement.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what opportunities were given to the Malayan Federal Legislative Council to discuss the new rubber duty, due to come into operation on 1st January, 1951, before it was imposed by notification in the official Gazette.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why no opportunity was given to the members of the Legislative Council of the Federation of Malaya to discuss the effects of the new rubber duty before they were introduced.
The procedure established by law is for rates of export duty to be fixed by promulgation by the Executive, under powers conferred by the Customs Proclamation of 15th September, 1945, which were ratified by the Legislative Council on 24th February, 1948. In this instance, in view of the importance of the new duty, the Government has Given advance notice of its intention to raise the duty, but has not yet formally promulgated the new rates in the Gazette. I have indicated, in reply to the last Question, that full opportunity for local discussion is being given, and it is possible that the question may be raised by members in the Legislative Council which is now in session.
When the right hon. Gentleman says that it is possible this matter may be raised, is he thereby giving an assurance that, if it is raised, it will be allowed to be fully discussed and fully answered by the Government in the Legislature?
This is a Legislative Council. It is not for me to give an undertaking as to what they should do. If members desire to raise it they will have to raise it in accordance with the local practice and the Standing Orders of their own Legislative Council.
Does the Minister realise that what matters is not the letter of the law but the spirit, and that it is no good talking about granting a Colony self-government if, in a matter of this kind, they have not been adequately consulted?
I am sure that there have been very adequate consultations with those concerned.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the grave risks of smuggling of rubber to Siam and Indonesia as a result of the wide differential between the internal and the external value of rubber which will arise from the imposition of the new rubber duty; and if he is satisfied that an adequate service is available to prevent it.
There is some risk of smuggling of rubber to Thailand, but owing to the limited means of communication it is not considered that this could reach any considerable proportions. On present information, there is no immediate likelihood of differentials in duty providing much inducement for smuggling to Indonesia.
Does not the Minister realise that if the duty is fixed at anything like the rate now suggested the difference between the price in Malaya, Indonesia and Thailand will be enormous and smuggling will spring up on a very large scale?
The fact that there is a risk of smuggling is no conclusive reason against the new duty.
Whatever the risk may be, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the people of this country will continue to expect a large proportion of the price of rubber to be available for social purposes in Malaya?
Factory, Hong Kong (Closing)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the hardship caused to some thousand employees of the Fung-keong rubber factory, Hong Kong, by the recent stoppage of work at this factory; whether work has now been resumed; and what steps have been taken to secure employment for these workers either in this factory or elsewhere.
Yes, Sir. The high cost of rubber and failure to maintain their position in the United Kingdom markets forced the factory to close. Discussions about re-opening have been held continuously between the management and the trade unions concerned, but, until the competitive position of this factory is restored, re-opening is unlikely. Some of the workers, I am glad to say, have found other employment.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the trade unions concerned have had great difficulty in getting any satisfactory consultation at all, and can he say what help was given by the Labour Office?
I understand that the matter has been continuously discussed. If my hon. Friend has any information as to the difficulties that unions have met in regard to consultation, I shall be glad to receive that information and to make inquiries into it.
asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the urgent need to render the road system of England fit for modern traffic conditions and defence needs, he will call a conference of Departmental Ministers and outside advisers to decide upon the minimum programme of road works which must be carried out forthwith in the national interest.
I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. Existing arrangements provide full opportunities for consultation on these matters and the roads programme falls to be determined under the normal Government machinery for apportioning shares in the national investment programme among the many competing claims on it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister regrets that, in present circumstances, it is not possible to allocate to the roads as large a share as we all should wish.
Is the Lord President aware that, thanks to Government neglect, the road system in this country is very rapidly becoming a very poor bag of physical assets?
I appreciate the point, though I think the hon. Member puts it in a rather partisan manner. It is, of course, typical of the Opposition that they are urging the Government to increase public expenditure and, at the same time, in the country, are denouncing the Government for spending money.
Is it not a fact that in a few years' time it will cost many millions of pounds to repair our roads? Is not this a most foolish economy?
I am an ex-Minister of Transport. I appreciate the point, but capital expenditure, at this time, must be undertaken with a sense of relativity. A few days ago, the Opposition were demanding that all the national capital resources should be spent on housing. Today, they are demanding that now the national resources should be spent on the roads.
Within the total amount of Government expenditure, which should not be exceeded, is there not room for some re-allocation of expenditure as between one Department and another?
I should be charmed if I were allowed to be a privileged spectator of the noble Lord, in a Government economic committee, allocating these various claims on the national resources. I should have a most amusing time.
Services And Industry (Malicious Damage)
asked the Prime Minister how many cases of sabotage have taken place during the last 18 months in respect of the armed Services or of essential national production where there are good reasons for the view that the damage has been caused by enemies of the State; what evidence there is that this work is being carried out by an organisation; and what steps are being taken to deal with the situation.
I have been asked to reply. During the last 18 months there have been several cases of malicious damage to property in Service establishments and in industry, but there is no evidence that these were the work of an organisation directed or controlled by enemies of the State.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the succession of incidents, to which he refers as "several," is causing a great deal of public concern, and that the public do not accept the view, which he apparently accepts, that they are no co-ordinated?
I quite agree with the hon. Member that they are causing some public concern, as they are, indeed, in Government circles. But we had better be careful about coming to a hasty conclusion. The hon. Member may be sure the matter is being kept under close observation.
Festival Of Britain (Housing Accommodation)
asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is intended that any of the flats and houses within the area of the Architectural Exhibition of the Festival of Britain shall be occupied by residents during the period of the Festival.
Yes, Sir. While it was agreed as a matter of policy between the Government and the L.C.C. that this should be so, all the details are a matter entirely for the L.C.C. who will be building and managing these flats and houses in the normal course of their housing responsibility.
National Service Men
asked the Minister of Defence what is the scholastic and general ability standard required of National Servicemen; and how many men have been rejected as being below that standard.
No standard of scholastic or general ability other than that measured by medical category is required of men called up for National Service; the second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.
Usa Welfare Facilities
asked the Minister of Defence if he will approach the United States authorities with a view to making arrangements for British troops serving on home stations with United States troops to be granted the facilities of the United States forces canteens.
Arrangements have been made with the United States Service authorities for the reciprocal use of United States and United Kingdom welfare facilities, but complete reciprocity is not possible since many of the goods sold in the American post exchanges are free of duty and Purchase Tax and cannot be bought by British Forces.
Is the Minister aware that the American authorities are very willing that our troops should have these services and that there is no trouble from their side at all? They are prepared to do it. Would he look into it again and give our Forces the opportunity of having these very good services?
I will take note of what the hon. Member has said.
In the meantime, are our own voluntary organisations being given the opportunity to increase canteen facilities?
That does not seem to be included in this Question.
In what currency are purchases made in American canteens and have our troops that currency?
I cannot say without notice.
Egypt (Arms Supplies)
asked the Minister of Defence what modern defence equipment has been sold or allocated to the Egyptian Government in recent months.
Arms have been supplied or allocated to Egypt in accordance with our obligations under the Anglo-Egyptian alliance and in conformity with the Tripartite Declaration of May this year and in accordance with the country's defensive requirements. These have included limited quantities of ammunition, guns, various armoured vehicles and spares, aircraft and naval supplies. The release of such material is, of course, authorised with due regard for the needs of our Forces.
Is it not a fact that we are very short of all forms of modern defence equipment and that the Egyptian Government pay for these things out of sterling balances? Is it not also a fact that we might well assist the Government in trying to save some of this country's money if we did not go on with these sales at this time?
I do not agree that we are short of all forms of equipment.
Could I ask what exactly the position is now? I do not say that the Egyptian Government have denounced the Treaty, but, as I understand it, they have at any rate taken up an attitude which shows they have no great desire to fulfil its terms. In view of that, should we not, at least, suspend delivery of any further war materials to Egypt until Egypt makes plain her own attitude to the Treaty?
There is a Question on this subject later.
Was not the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement violated from the other side by the action of the Egyptians in stopping the passage of peaceful British ships going through the Suez Canal, and is it sensible that we should continue to supply the Egyptians with arms in order to give them the power to stop our ships from sailing on their lawful trading occasions?
Short-Term Engagements (Gratuity)
asked the Minister of Defence if he will arrange that personnel serving on short-term engagements, and now held to continue in the Service because of the emergency, have their gratuities proportionately increased for the additional service.
The normal rule for personnel serving on engagements of this type is that no additional gratuity is payable in respect of continued service, but as some doubt has arisen as to the application of this rule to other ranks serving under the special post-war bounty schemes the matter is now under consideration.
Does the Minister appreciate that there is considerable concern about these gratuities in all three Services? Will he use his good offices with the Treasury to try to see that these men receive justice, because they deserve gratuities?
As I have said, the matter is under consideration.
Military Equipment (Export)
asked the Minister of Defence whether he will give an assurance that no jet aircraft, Centurion tanks or any recently-produced military equipment has been this year, or will be, exported to any country outside the Atlantic Treaty until this country's rearmament needs are fully provided.
asked the Minister of Defence whether he will give an assurance that no Centurion tank is sold to another country before all armoured units in the active army and the Territorial Army have been equipped with them and adequate reserves have been built up.
The policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter was recently reviewed and no future sales of equipment of the kind referred to will be allowed unless they are in our strategic interest.
Why have the Government continued to export from our very limited production of Centurion tanks until this moment?
I have already explained. Exports have been made to certain countries in relation to certain agreements.
I do not know whether this is the Question on which the right hon. Gentleman wants to reply to my earlier supplementary, but I should like very much to know why, in view of Egypt's attitude to the Treaty, all further supplies of war materials should not be suspended meanwhile?
I think the Foreign Secretary gave a reply to that in answer to a Question on Monday.
Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it would be a reasonable precaution not to deliver more of our much-needed defence equipment to a country until it is quite clear that it will not be used to drive our Forces out of the Canal zone some day?
That is a very hypothetical question.
Can we have an answer? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Do we take it that the right hon. Gentleman has refused to answer the hon. Member's direct and pointed question?
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I have not refused to answer the question at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer it, then."] It referred to the future and, therefore, I said it was hypothetical.
With all respect, the supplementary question did not refer to the future, nor did the Question on the Order Paper refer to the future. It referred to the present delivery of arms to Egypt. All we are asking of the Government is that these arms should not be delivered until Egypt's treaty position towards us is clarified.
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. If he would look at the two questions he would see that they are framed in a general form and that no reference is make to Egypt.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, but I would point out that I asked a supplementary to Question No. 51 and the right hon. Gentleman put me off to a later Question. Question No. 51 asks, quite clearly,
"What modern defence equipment has been sold or allocated to the Egyptian Government in recent months?"
I am now replying to Questions Nos. 53 and 61.
I have no desire to chide the right hon. Gentleman. I asked him a supplementary question on Question No. 51, but he put me off, saying that he would reply later. Now he is trying to wriggle out of the whole thing altogether.
I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's judgment of what is wriggling. I have given a straightforward answer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and I do not propose, in spite of the observations, audible and inaudible, from the other side, to add anything to what I said.
Would the right hon. Gentleman have the courtesy to tell me to which Question he was referring me when he said he would answer my supplementary during a Question later on the Order Paper?
The Question was the one I have just answered.
Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that we are continuing to supply tanks and other weapons to Egypt in present circumstances?
That question was answered by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Monday. My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear to the House—I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member was present—that we were under contract to supply some Centurion tanks, that these Centurion tanks had been paid for, and that it was the intention of the Government to comply with the terms of the contract.
Will my right hon. Friend now take note of the feelings of both sides of the House, and see what he can do to change the decision?
All Members of the Government take note of what is said on both sides of the House, but I have given the House a perfectly fair reply.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Foreign Secretary. Does he not also remember that the Foreign Secretary, in replying to a question about arms for Egypt, said that the Minister of Defence would give a reply to that exact question? Will he not also bear in mind that these tanks, to which my Question at any rate refers, are our very latest equipment and that we do not want our very latest equipment to get into the hands of countries whose friendship to us is, for the time being, doubtful?
I have already replied. The Foreign Secretary dealt with that aspect of the matter. A contract was entered into and we are complying with the terms of the contract. As regards the future, we do not intend to export arms unless it is in our strategic interest.
In view of the seriousness of this matter and the difficulty of getting a satisfactory reply, I ask that this matter shall be debated by the House today as a matter of immediate public importance.
if the right hon. Gentleman means to move a Motion under Standing Order No. 9—
—then I must point out that the Foreign Secretary answered this Question, and that this matter should have been raised earlier. Under Standing Order No. 9 it should have been raised sooner, but I have had notice, as a matter of fact, that an hon. Member intends to raise this matter on the ordinary Adjournment. Under Standing Order No. 9, however, the time for raising the matter should have been yesterday, when the Foreign Secretary answered this Question, and not now. An hon. Member has given notice that he intends to raise this matter on the Adjournment tonight.
Perhaps my hon. Friend would permit me first to represent this to you, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, yesterday the Foreign Secretary told us that the answer on this topic would be given by the Minister of Defence today. Since we have not had an answer and the matter is urgent, I do not know what course is open to us but this, except per- haps to put down yet another Question to the Foreign Secretary next week and to be told that the Minister of Defence will give us the answer afterwards.
Further to that point. May I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that a Question was asked of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the subject of the export of tanks to Egypt and he replied on the specific point which emerged? As supplementary questions were asked about the general position of the export of arms, he referred to an answer I should give on a subsequent occasion.
My recollection is quite clear about the Foreign Secretary's answer. He said that what had been paid for would be delivered. I think that covers the point raised now. The answer was quite clear on that point. The Minister is quite correct when he says that, in supplementary answers, the Foreign Secretary said that the question would be asked of the Minister of Defence the next day.
Is not the question of the immediate stoppage of the delivery of Centurion tanks and other modern war materials to Egypt a definite matter of urgent public importance? Might I, as a matter of order, ask you, Sir, whether any reference to moving the Adjournment made by one of my hon. Friends below the Gangway does not refer to the Adjournment of the House? It is quite a different thing from the special procedure, so long cherished by the House, of moving the Adjournment of the Debate on a definite matter of urgent public importance.
The Adjournment which the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) has requested is not, of course, an Adjournment under Standing Order No. 9; it is quite a different proposition. Of course, there can be no Division. I should state that I have no Motion before me so I do not know what is in order and what is not. In any case, in my opinion the Foreign Secretary answered this point and it does not, therefore, come under Standing Order No. 9.