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Commons Chamber

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1950

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 29th November, 1950

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Bill Presented

Dundee Harbour And Tay Ferries Order Confirmation Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, relating to Dundee Harbour and Tay Ferries," presented by Mr. McNeil; read the First time, and ordered (under Section 9 of the Act) to be read a Second time upon Thursday, 7th December, and to be printed. [Bill 44.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Civil Aviation

Passengers (Insurance)

1.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will permit the erection of automatic slot machines in the passenger buildings of aerodromes in the United Kingdom so that passengers can conveniently insure themselves against accident and death on any particular flight.

Yes, Sir; a scheme on these lines is at present being worked out.

Does the Government refuse to pay any compensation whatever to the next-of-kin of those who are killed in accidents?

Auxiliary Transport Squadrons

2.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what steps he is taking to ensure that charter companies forming auxiliary transport squadrons will be given the opportunity of tendering for the transport of Government and public corporation servants and their families.

No special steps should be necessary as the charter companies in question would be among those normally invited to tender for charter contracts for the transport of Government servants and their families. Contractual arrangements made by the public corporations for transport are a matter of management for those corporations.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that unless these charter companies have fair opportunities of obtaining business in peace-time they will not be there to form auxiliary transport squadrons in an emergency?

Can the Parliamentary Secretary assure us that the charter companies have absolutely equal terms on which to compete with the corporations in this kind of business?

Fog Dispersal System

4.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to what extent fog investigation dispersal operation is available at Manston for civilian aircraft including those owned by chartered companies; and to whom the cost of operating it is charged.

The fog dispersal system at Manston is available 24 hours a day to all civil aircraft. The cost of operating it is charged to public funds unless a subsequent investigation of a particular incident shows that use of the system could have been avoided by sound planning or airmanship, when the aircraft operator is liable to bear the full cost.

Can the Minister give an assurance that under no conditions whatever will the pilot be charged with the cost, in view of the fact that it would take three-quarters of his annual salary?

There is no question of the pilot being charged as far as we are concerned.

Is the hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that even though the pilot himself is not likely to have to bear the cost nevertheless the fact that the costs might, in certain circumstances, fall upon his company may act unduly as a deterrent to him in using the system?

Are these facts well known to the charter companies and other independent operators?

Even though there may not be any evidence, will the hon. Gentleman take action to ensure that this situation does not arise, because it would be very dangerous?

In ordinary circumstances it is our policy to make available alternate landing grounds or airfields. As far as I know there has been no occasion at all when all airfields have been out of operation.

5.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will give an estimate of what savings in the installation of a fog investigation dispersal operations equipment at London Airport could be made by utilising work already done, but never completed, on the earlier installation there.

No, Sir. The possibility was investigated in 1947, but it was decided that no part of the work done under the war-time contract could be used in view of subsequent F.I.D.O. developments and the almost complete change of layout necessary to convert the R.A.F. aerodrome, Heathrow, to the civil aerodrome now known as London Airport.

How much money has been wasted on the earlier work on this installation, which will never be used?

I should not like to say that any money has been wasted, but there is a Question about cost later on the Order Paper.

8.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if, in view, of the confidence it gives to passengers, he will immediately order the installation of a fog investigation dispersal operations system at London Airport to be in operation by the winter of 1951.

Would not the Parliamentary Secretary reconsider this matter? There is great anxiety in the country that we should be able to carry on our normal operations at normal aerodromes under the special conditions which occur in the winter. The Minister himself said, in answer to a previous Question, that there have been developments in the F.I.D.O system since the original type was installed.

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman wants me immediately to order the operation of a technically obsolete and financially expensive system, or whether he wants me to put into immediate operation a system which is not yet fully developed. In either case I should not have thought the suggestion was backed entirely by a sense of responsibility.

While entirely repudiating, from our side, the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman in his answer, may I ask him whether he will at least bring to the attention of his noble Friend the desirability of so planning the experiment and his consideration of whether finally to install the new system so that it may be properly planned and a decision taken to bring it into operation before we are again overtaken by the fog season of next year?

The right hon. Gentleman can take it that whatever we do will be properly planned.

Are we to assume from the previous answer that the Minister considers the whole of the F.I.D.O. installation as being technically obsolete?

I am saying that the system which is now in operation is technically obsolete. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it would be wrong immediately to order the installation of a system which we think we can improve upon.

9.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on how many days in any convenient recent year the weather at London Airport was such that fog investigation disposal operations, if installed, would have been useful; and what was the aggregate number of aircraft scheduled to land there on those days which were in fact prevented from doing so.

For reasons which I am explaining to the hon. and gallant Member by letter it is not practicable to give a realistic answer to this Question.

While I appreciate the letter which I have received from the Parliamentary Secretary, might I ask if an assessment of the weather conditions during a certain year could be made, even if only a brief summary, in order that an indication might be given to the House of the need for this F.I.D.O. installation?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate the difficulties of making an assessment. However, I have the total number of diversions for all reasons in a recent period of 12 months. Out of a total of 107, 91 were due to different types of bad weather.

Can my hon. Friend say what will become of all this planning and equipment for the national benefit if ever, unfortunately, the Opposition have their way and abolish the Ministry of Civil Aviation?

10.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what have been the costs of operation of the fog investigation dispersal operation installations at Blackbushe and Manston, respectively.

The cost of war-time capital works services and of post-war reconditioning of the F.I.D.O. installation at Blackbushe amounted, in all, to approximately £170,000. In addition, over the period of about one year, during which the installation was available for use, expenditure of about £3,500 was incurred on maintenance labour and supervision and £1,750 on petrol used for the one take-off during the period. Manston aerodrome is a responsibility of the Secretary of State for Air.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary made himself conversant with the respective costs of operation per hour of these two systems? If the Blackbushe apparatus was cheaper than the Manston, why was it not retained, and if the Manston was cheaper, why was it not installed at Blackbushe?

Both systems are the same. It was felt that one installation was sufficient.

But is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the Manston equipment is on one of the big war-time rescue aerodromes, where the aerodrome and also the F.I.D.O. installation were on a much larger scale than at Blackbushe, and, therefore, were much more expensive to operate?

If it is more expensive to operate the installation at Manston than it was at Blackbushe, on the basis of a figure of £1,750 for one operation it is a fairly expensive installation, and I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman pressing the idea.

11.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what instructions are available to airline captains, giving the procedure for requesting fog investigation dispersal operations aid for landing in fog.

Instructions are available in Chapter 8 of the air traffic control section of the "United Kingdom Air Pilot."

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether this is available to all airline captains, including foreigners, and would he give an assurance that if an airline captain makes a request for the use of F.I.D.O., this will not be queried by the ground control?

In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, the answer is, yes. As far as the first part is concerned, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, it is generally the responsibility of the operator to have the information placed at the disposal of each of his pilots.

13.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what replies he has received from the airline operators in reply to his questions on whether or not they would like fog investigation dispersal operations to be available at London Airport.

It is too early to expect considered replies from all the operators whose views were asked on this difficult question.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary say from how many operators he has received a request so far?

14.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if, in view of the fact that the possibility of having to pay approximately £500 for the use of the fog investigation dispersal operations aid may influence the pilot in emergency to take unwarranted risks, he will suspend this charge pending the publication of the results of a recent accident investigation.

Does not the Minister agree that it seems a very wrong attitude to take up when it is only a question of a few weeks or a month before the situation will be clear? Will he look into this again?

A pilot who has planned his flight soundly, and exercises good airmanship, can rest assured that no charge will be incurred.

Bad Weather Landings

6.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will give an assurance that the terms of reference of the recently appointed Brabazon Committee include the consideration of whether flying control officers should be given the power to close an aerodrome when, in their view, the weather has detriorated below the minimum safe conditions.

Yes, Sir. The terms of reference of the Lord Brabazon inquiry are:

"To conduct an investigation into the relative responsibilities of the pilots of aircraft and the aerodrome authorities in relation to landings in bad weather."

Will the Minister bring to the notice of the Brabazon Committee the fact that Great Britain is at the moment the only country which does not lay down a minimum visibility limit below which an airfield is closed except in emergency?

Helicopter Service, Wales

7.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether British European Airways Corporation will maintain the present Welsh helicopter service and extend it to Bangor amongst other places.

The helicopter cannot yet be regarded as a fully developed medium of commercial air transport. The Welsh service was an experiment, to obtain, under particular conditions of operation, information essential to further development. By next spring the helicopter development programme will probably require that routes with different characteristics should be explored. The possibility of retaining the Welsh service with fixed wing aircraft will be further considered when it is known whether the application now before the Air Transport Advisory Council, of a charter company to operate the route under associate agreement with British European Airways Corporation, has been successful.

Can the hon. Gentleman give the House a guarantee that the existing service will not be abandoned until a commercial rather than an experimental helicopter has been put into service?

It is not within my power to give the hon. Gentleman a guarantee. If I may, I would suggest, in return, that the hon. Gentleman guarantees that whatever service is instituted there, will be patronised.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether British European Airways have considered the possibility of extending this service between Wales and London as a further experiment?

That service has been considered, but it is not a feasible proposition at the moment.

Four-Engined Aircraft

12.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation how many civil four-engined transport aircraft he could call upon for an emergency airlift without interrupting the scheduled air services operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation; and how many of these could be provided by private charter operators.

There are 62 four-engined aircraft owned by Ministry of Civil Aviation or British Overseas Airways Corporation awaiting disposal which could be used for the purpose referred to without interrupting scheduled services. In addition, it is understood that 11 four-engined aircraft are in current operation with charter companies, apart from a number which do not have current certificates of airworthiness.

Is the Minister satisfied that this number is adequate for the national safety and that the private charter operators are being given sufficient opportunity to enable them to contribute to this service in an emergency?

The private charter operators, we would naturally expect, to be only too ready to co-operate in an emergency. As regards the total number available, quite clearly, in an emergency, a number of those aircraft now used on scheduled services would be employed for other purposes.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary assure us that he will not dispose of the four-engined aircraft—he used the word "dispose"—to overseas companies? Otherwise, they will not be available for an emergency. Can we have an answer?

Airports, Wales

15.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what aerodromes are maintained at national expense in Wales.

There is one civil aerodrome maintained at State expense in Wales—namely, Cardiff Airport.

16.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what facilities are there for overseas services in Wales.

There are designated Customs airports in Wales at Cardiff and Valley (Anglesey).

Princess Flying-Boat

17.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation when he expects the Princess flying-boat to be coming into service; and what arrangements he has made to keep the bases and expert men that this aircraft will require.

Present indications are that the Princess flying-boat should be ready for service in 1953. Southampton Marine Airport (Berth 50) is being kept by my Department on a care and maintenance basis, whilst such existing marine equipment and facilities as are considered suitable for the Princess are being preserved. The British Overseas Airways Corporation are similarly maintaining their Hythe base, and are retaining a nucleus of staff with experience of flying-boat operations.

Is the base for this flying-boat likely to be moved from Hythe to Calshot?

Will not these flying-boats be flying long before 1953—next year, in fact, if their engines are ready?

In that case, of course, they would not necessarily be wanting an international airport. Other water is available for them.

United States (Airworthiness Certificates)

18.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will make a statement regarding negotiations with the United States Government in connection with the recognition of British airworthiness certificates, particularly on aircraft fitted with gas turbine engines.

Under the agreement made in 1934, to which I referred the hon. and gallant Gentleman on 10th May, the United States authorities prescribed a large number of additional requirements in relation to the British civil airworthiness requirements of 1948, but, as a result of recent discussions, most of these additional requirements were withdrawn and those that remained were acceptable to the United Kingdom authorities. The United States authorities have now notified us, however, that they do not regard the agreement in relation to the withdrawal of the United States additional requirements as extending to turbine-engined aircraft. The measures necessary to secure the removal of this reservation are being pursued with the United States authorities.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary take up with the United States authorities the question of why, if they are prepared to accept British military jet turbines, for which they have not paid anything, they will not recognise British civil jet machines, for which we are likely to get some foreign trade? Will the hon. Gentleman press this matter very hard?

London Airport (Staff Employment)

19.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether, in view of the unofficial strike at London Airport, he will give an assurance that His Majesty's Government will abide by the pledge which he gave regarding the employment of ex-British South American Airways personnel at the time of the merger with the British Overseas Airways Corporation.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary assure the House that the Government will continue to give their fullest support in this first case of a nationalised industry's stand against the principle of the closed shop for a trade union?

In view of the serious nature of the dispute and its consequences if it develops—the Press states that medical supplies to Korea are already being held up—is the Parliamentary Secretary in the closest contact with the Ministry of Labour to try to settle this matter and maintain our air services?

The negotiations on the one hand have been conducted by the British Overseas Airways Corporation. It is their responsibility, and in this matter they have our fullest support.

Surely responsibility also rests on the Ministry of Labour. Is not the Minister in contact with the Ministry of Labour in this matter?

We are in contact with them, naturally, but if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to put down a Question about the activities of the Ministry of Labour he should address it to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

In view of the monosyllabic brevity of his answers, will the Parliamentary Secretary take all possible steps to call to the attention of those concerned in the present strike the intentions of the Government to try to get it settled as soon as possible?

Yugoslavia

Credit Offer (Terms)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the terms and conditions attached to the proposed loan to Yugoslavia; and whether he will make a statement.

As has been officially announced, His Majesty's Government have offered the Yugoslav Government a credit of £3 million for the purchase of foodstuffs, consumer goods, and any consequential requirements. Discussions on the terms of the credit are in progress. No political conditions are attached.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman two questions: are there any concurrent negotiations for American credit of a similar type, and will he bear in mind the position in which Archbishop Stepinac, about whom so many protests were made earlier, is held? Can the hon. Gentleman do anything to alleviate his conditions?

As regards the first part of that supplementary question, it is known that discussions are going on with the United States and Yugoslavia concerning credits. I do not think that the second part arises out of this Question, which asked for the terms and conditions. I have stated that there are no conditions or stipulations attached to the loan.

Can the Yugoslav Government be asked to guarantee that all the kidnapped Greek children will be returned by a certain date?

This credit has already been entered into and has been done without conditions. As regards the question of Greek children, I am sure the House will be glad to know that a number of children are already being returned.

Has there been complete agreement between His Majesty's Government and the United States Government upon the political conditions, or the absence of political conditions, of any loans or other financial assistance to Yugoslavia?

There has been complete consultation with the United States over the credit, which is under discussion or has been completed, for Yugoslavia.

Timber

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take steps to negotiate an agreement with the Yugoslav Government whereby this country can contribute to the improvement of the output of their forests and the quality of their timber for export.

I am, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and the Yugoslav Government, arranging for a Timber Mission to visit Yugoslavia in the spring to consider measures to improve the quality of Yugoslav timber and increase shipments to this country.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that considerable developments are possible in Yugoslavia which may help to meet our great timber requirements in this country?

Spain

Ambassador (Appointment)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when an ambassador to Spain will be appointed.

I have nothing to add to my reply to similar Questions on 13th November.

Cannot the Under-Secretary say when the date when this appointment will be made, after all these years?

There are some administrative considerations and it is necessary to seek the agreement of the Spanish Government. This takes a certain amount of time, but there is no undue delay.

Will the Government demand that before sending an ambassador to Spain, the rights of the Protestant minority should be restored—

—as this was one of the reasons why our ambassador was originally withdrawn?

Travel Permits

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now arrange with the Spanish Government for the abolition of visas for travellers between the two countries.

I can give no such undertaking, but it is a matter which His Majesty's ambassador could discuss when appointed.

Korea (Prisoners)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has now ascertained how many North Korean prisoners are in the hands of the United Nations Forces, up to the latest convenient date; and how many of these prisoners have been proved to have direct Communist affiliations.

I understand that up to the 11th November some 140,000 prisoners had been taken by United Nations Forces in Korea.

I did not hear the most important part of the answer, concerning the number who have been proved to have direct Communist affiliations.

The reason why my hon. Friend did not hear it was because I did not give it. That information is not yet known, because the prisoners are being screened and this will take a considerable time. We have no information as yet of how many of them have Communist affiliations.

Are all these people strictly prisoners of war, or are civilian Communist suspects included also, and are they to any extent within the responsibility of the International Red Cross?

May I have an answer to the second part of my Question, regarding the International Red Cross?

Israel (British Subject's Death, Compensation)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that John Nixon, British Broadcasting Corporation's correspondent, was shot down and killed more than two years ago by an Israeli fighter while flying as a passenger in a Transjordan civil aircraft; that no compensation for his widow and two children has yet been received from either Government though a United Nations judicial inquiry found them both responsible; what steps have been taken to recover compensation; and what sanctions he now proposes in order to enforce payment of proper compensation.

Yes, Sir. As the aircraft in which Mr. Nixon was travelling was shot down by an Israel fighter, a claim for compensation was first lodged with the Israel Government, who eventually replied that they disclaimed legal liability but were prepared to make an unspecified ex gratia payment, provided that the Jordan Government made a like offer. This proposal was then put to the Jordan Government, who have not yet reached a decision on the matter. The question of sanctions does not arise so long as the matter is still sub judice.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that this delay in dealing with a grave injustice to a British subject is intolerable? Is he aware that in Hungary, when there was a great injustice to a British subject, a trade embargo was imposed? Why is not a similar course taken in this case?

The two cases are not at all comparable. We have made approaches to the Israel Government and, now, to the Jordan Government. We cannot force a country to act in this respect, but we are giving them time and hoping that as a result of our patience a better settlement will be made than if we took hasty action.

Does not the Under-Secretary think that two years is long enough and that it is time to bring great pressure to bear on people when injustice is done to British subjects?

That may be so, but our view is that in this case a better compensation would be received if we did not use the pressure to which the hon. and learned Member refers.

How do the Jordan Government come into the matter if this was a legal flight at the time?

That is where the difficulty has arisen, because the Israel Government claim that they had not been given notification of the flight of this aircraft.

In view of the reply which has been given, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Colonial Empire

Statutory Instrument, 1184

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has now reconsidered the retrospective operation of Statutory Instrument, 1950, No. 1184 in view of the uncertainty as to whether the Act under which it is made gives authority for it to be made with retrospective effect.

My right hon. Friend has fully considered this question and is advised that the provision giving the Order in Council retrospective effect is valid. Orders in Council made under the British Settlements Acts are not subordinate legislation of the kind referred to in the Treasury Circular of 21st June, 1946, to which the hon. Member drew attention in his Question of 25th October, but constitute the exercise of what, within the limits laid down in the Acts, are plenary powers of legislation in regard to such Colonies.

Notwithstanding that answer, will the Minister agree that there has been considerable doubt about the validity of this Order and, as the constitution of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands is dependent upon it, will he introduce a Bill to put validity beyond doubt?

No, Sir. Validity has, in fact, been put beyond doubt, it is a very useful thing, if I may say so, that the hon. Baronet should have raised the question because, as a result of his original Question, put down recently, he received an answer and validity has been put beyond doubt.

Sugar Supplies

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what tonnage of sugar is expected this year from the West Indies, Mauritius and Fiji; and how it compares with average output.

As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is it not a fact that these countries are expecting record crops of sugar and would not my right hon. Friend recommend the Minister of Food to make arrangements to increase the sugar ration next year?

Following is the reply:

Shipments of sugar during the current calendar year are expected to amount to 1,210,000 tons, as follow: the British West Indies (including British Guiana), 723,000 tons; Mauritius, 376,000 tons; Fiji, 111,000 tons. In the case of Mauritius and Fiji these quantities represent actual shipments over the year, part of which is accounted for by carry-over from the 1949 crops. The average annual shipments for the three preceding years were 1,047,000 tons, as follow: West Indies, 567,000 tons; Mauritius, 359,000 tons; Fiji, 121,000 tons.

Malaya And Singapore

Rubber Export Duties

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the new Malayan quarterly export duties on rubber to be fixed on a sliding scale according to prices realised by exporters, will at any range of prices result in the Malayan Government deriving rubber export revenue indirectly from British purchasers of rubber, not from Malayan exporters.

It is always difficult to prophesy exactly what will happen in a matter which depends entirely on the free-play of economic forces, but I do not think that there is any chance of this happening.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in effect, this export tax will fall on the producer, both great and small, and no one else?

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the small native producer of rubber in Malaya is not unduly penalised by the new proposed export tax.

Discussions with representatives of the industry, including small- holders, have been held in Malaya regarding the proposal to raise the rate of export duty on rubber. Representations made during the course of these discussions have received most careful consideration by the Government of the Federation with the object of ensuring that no section of the industry is unduly penalised.

In view of the fact that the original proposals were put forward without consultation, without being submitted to the Legislative Council and have had to be revised at least twice, will the right hon. Gentleman make quite certain that no final decision is taken until all these interests, including the smallholding producer, have been carefully consulted?

The duties have not been finally introduced, and until the rates have been promulgated in Malaya it would be improper for me to make a statement anticipating any announcement.

In view of the present state of the rubber market, how is it possible for the increased tax to be borne by the small or large producer?

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that a great deal of the trouble and uncertainty about this duty has arisen from the statement that only the mechanism of the duty, and not its rate, could be discussed with the interested parties? In view of the general uncertainty, will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement soon about the position which negotiations have reached?

Migration Statistics

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the amount of Chinese, Malayan and Indian immigration into Malaya since the end of the war.

With my hon. Friend's permission, I shall arrange for a table of migration statistics for the period January, 1947, to June, 1950, to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Statistics for the post-war period before 1947 are not available.

Following is the table:

MMIGRATION

MalaysChineseIndians
194711,540126,20343,614
194811,809121,11537,319
194929,12696,44931,770
1950 (January—June)34,64240,42116,634
87,117384,188129,337

EMIGRATION
MalaysChineseIndians
194710,914130,24254,856
194813,098144,44045,039
194928,399128,88438,033
1950 (January—June)36,76736,73021,506
89,178440,296159,434
87,117384,188129,337
Excess of Emigrants over Immigrants, January, 1947, to June. 19502,06156,1030,097

War Damage Claims

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to expedite the settlement of outstanding claims lodged by persons in this country against the Government of Singapore in respect of losses to property caused by the Japanese occupation of Malaya.

My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the Government of Singapore is pressing forward as quickly as possible with the settlement of claims. No specific priority has been granted to consideration of outstanding claims lodged by persons in the United Kingdom with the Malayan War Damage Commission. Such claims are being examined in their turn, together with the claims of persons locally domiciled.

Civil Service Personnel

44. and 69.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) how many officers in Class Ia of the Malayan Civil Service are British; how many are Chinese; how many are Malays; and how many are Indians; (2) how many non-Europeans have been promoted to Class Ia of the Malayan Civil Service since 1945 and since May, 1949, respectively.

One Malay officer, now retired, has been promoted to Class Ia of the Malayan Civil Service since 1940. No non-Europeans have been promoted to that class since May, 1949. The seven Class Ia appointments are all held by European officers at the present time.

If we are to accelerate the self-government of Malaya is it not of the utmost importance that as many as possible of the senior posts should be held by people of the country concerned?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but the most important consideration of all is that we should get the people best qualified for the job without regard to race.

British Guiana

Bauxite

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the large production of bauxite in British Guiana and the abundance of water power in that Colony, what financial and other steps have been taken to secure a hydroelectricity survey, with a view to ensuring the supply of electricity to British Guiana and enabling that Colony to manufacture aluminium.

Preliminary investigations such as measuring the flow of water at individual falls and serial photography, are now being carried out. Some time must elapse before it will be possible to determine the prospects of developing hydro-electric power in British Guiana at the cost and on the scale required for the manufacture of aluminium in competition with existing manufacturers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this development is highly desirable? Cannot steps be taken to expedite the development, so that hydro-electricity may be available to enable manufacturing to be carried on?

I can assure my hon. Friend that investigations are taking place and that we are seized of the importance of having an adequate supply of bauxite.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what "serial photography" means.

It means photography with the object of investigating whether it is possible to exploit the bauxite.

Is this enterprise included in the schemes financed by Colonial development funds and, if so, will the right hon. Gentleman be able to report to the House on the results?

British Honduras

Employment

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many unemployed are now registered in British Honduras; what relief is given and to how many; and what further steps are being taken to deal with this problem.

The number of unemployed on 1st October was 1,600. Relief work is provided on public works (mainly roads) for 100 of these. As regards the last part of the Question, a survey is being carried out to ascertain which of the unemployed can be absorbed in agriculture and the Governor is now examining a proposal for setting up a corporation to promote the extensive production of local foodstuffs.

Do those figures indicate a substantial rise in the number and percentage of unemployed?

Is it not a fact that many of these young fellows could be put to work in extracting hard and soft woods from British Colonies?

Dock Workers' Strike

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that war-time legislation has been used to coerce dock workers, loading mahogany in the s.s. "Husvik" at Belize, British Honduras, who went on strike for higher wages and whether he will inquire into the matter.

The Governor informs me that this strike was a breach of the British Honduras Essential Works (Trade Disputes) Order, 1944. This Order makes provision for compulsory arbitration in disputes involving essential services, which includes loading and unloading of ocean-going ships. The Governor has referred the dispute to a tribunal set up under the Order.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only the workers but people generally fail to understand why the loading of merchandise in peace-time should be regarded as an essential service?

In a country like British Honduras, where there is already unemployment, difficulty in getting an adequate amount of work and getting the economy of the Colony to work as satisfactorily as it might, an item of such importance as the export trade is bound to be something which is considered by the Government to be essential.

Hong Kong (Social Services)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what further progress has been made in Hong Kong in respect of an adjustment of the cost of living index and the development of social services; and whether difficulties in respect of the repatriation of Chinese students from this country have now been removed.

As the reply is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

How can the reply of the Minister apply to the last part of my Question? Can my right hon. Friend reply to that part?

Following is the reply:

The Hong Kong retail price index is considered to be quite satisfactory and was compiled on a new basis from September, 1948, as a result of a full budget inquiry carried out in June, 1948, which covered expenditure on food, rent, clothing, fuel and light and other miscellaneous items. An inquiry in July. 1949. indicated that there was no need for further revision. There is in Hong Kong a strong tradition of voluntary social work which is encouraged and assisted where possible by the Government. The field in which Government activity is most widespread is education, and in this field the Colony has a high standard.

Health services, too, are good. I understand from the Governor that considerable progress has been made in the last year in such a wide variety of matters as child welfare (for normal, abnormal and orphan children), old persons' welfare, delinquency, community development, training of social workers, case work, youth services, housing, recreation, moral rehabilitation, etc., in all of which the Government plays a considerable part.

The answer to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative. Chinese students wishing to return to China via Hong Kong have, since June, been granted transit visas without difficulties provided that some responsible organisation in Hong Kong will guarantee:

  • (a) their housing and maintenance whilst in Hong Kong;
  • (b) funds for their onward transport from Hong Kong;
  • (c) that they will, in fact, continue their journey at the first opportunity.
  • Nigeria (Official's Compensation)

    38.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider the payment of some form of compensation to Mr. R. Alton who is suffering severe disability as a result of filaria contracted while in the Colonial Service, and the facts of whose case have been communicated to him.

    Mr. Alton received the full awards for which he was eligible on his retirement from the Colonial Service on account of ill-health. There is no provision in the Nigerian pensions law under which any further award could be made.

    Is there nothing that can be done for this man in his present condition? Is the Minister aware that it has taken nearly six years for this disease to be diagnosed, during which time has been put to considerable expense, to the extent of £250? Is there nothing which can be done to reimburse him for that expense?

    He has been granted the pension to which he is entitled, of £500 a year, and a gratuity of £1,368 over and above that.

    Uganda (Electricity Supplies)

    42.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a date and charges for the purchase of electricity from the Owen Falls power station have yet been scheduled.

    It is hoped that the dam will be completed and the first four generator sets installed by 1953. The charges for the supply of electricity have not yet been scheduled.

    Does the Minister appreciate that until rates and charges are fixed there will be no encouragement for industry to go there? Is he further aware of fears that industry will have to meet over-high charges to pay for rural electrification?

    That is rather like the question about the chicken and egg: Which comes first? Until we know how many industries there are to be, and how much demand there is likely to be for electricity, it is difficult to tell what the economic charges will be.

    43.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action is being taken to attract industry to utilise the electricity supply to be obtained from the Owen Falls dam.

    Discussions have been held, and are continuing, between representatives of the Uganda Government and firms likely to be interested in establishing themselves in Uganda.

    Will the Minister say whether any consideration is being given to the electrification of the Kenya-Uganda railway, utilising power from the Owen Falls?

    Anti-Aircraft And Balloon Commands

    45.

    asked the Prime Minister if he has given further consideration to the granting of a medal, clasp or other award to men and women who served in Anti-Aircraft Command and Balloon Command from 1939 to 1945.

    These men and women could qualify for the Defence Medal and the War Medal, and it is not proposed to recommend the grant of any further general award.

    Armed Forces

    Auxiliary Transport (Civil Aircraft)

    46.

    asked the Minister of Defence if he will direct that all trooping movements by civil aircraft will be made by companies operating the auxiliary transport scheme.

    No, Sir. The Service Departments must be free to call upon all forms of civil aviation.

    Does the Minister agree that the voluntary action of charter companies in providing auxiliary transport squadrons makes it incumbent upon him to give them a fair chance of participating in transport for defence purposes in peace-time?

    That was not exactly the Question asked, but we shall be glad to avail ourselves of their services.

    Regular Reservists (Recall)

    47.

    asked the Minister of Defence how many men have been recalled or retained in the Services after completion of their period of Regular service; and whether this practice is likely to be continued.

    51.

    asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on the period during which Reservists recently called back will be required to serve with the Colours, and on the period during which men whose engagements have expired will be compulsorily retained with the Colours.

    Three hundred and fifty-six officers and 7,018 ratings and other ranks have been recalled to the Royal Navy and Army. No Reservists have been recalled to the Royal Air Force and it is not the present intention to recall any more to the Royal Navy or the Army. Up to the end of October, about 200 officers and 7,000 men had been retained in the Services who would otherwise have been discharged or placed on the Reserve. I am not yet ready to announce how long individual Reservists or men compulsorily retained will be required to serve or for how long the policy of retention will continue, but I hope to do so at an early date.

    Would the Minister bear in mind that the uncertainty which faces these men imposes a great handicap on them in their attempts to enter for the first time, or to re-enter. civil employment?

    Yes, Sir. We are fully aware of the difficulty, and I hope to make a statement shortly which will reassure the men.

    Could the right hon. Gentle-may say how soon he will be able to make a statement? He must be conscious of the importance to these men and their families of this measure of uncertainty, and of the relationship of his proposed statement to the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Bill which we are discussing.

    I am aware of all these matters, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no unavoidable delay.

    Does the Minister realise that the National Service man who voluntarily extended his service for three years is now indefinitely and involuntarily held, while other National Service men who did not so volunteer will be released at the end of their six months' service? That does not seem very fair.

    Korea (Casualties)

    48.

    asked the Minister of Defence what information he has regarding British and United Nations prisoners-of-war and their treatment by the enemy.

    I regret that I have no information to give the House. Five members of the British Forces—two officers and three other ranks—have been reported missing, but no confirmation has been received that they are in enemy hands. I understand that the International Red Cross Committee have made every effort to get a representative into North Korea, but permission has been consistently refused by the North Korean authorities.

    Will the Minister do all in his power to improve this situation? While realising and appreciating the difficulties, may I ask him whether, when any information becomes available, he will ensure that relatives are informed without delay?

    We are doing all we possibly can through the Foreign Office and the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva. Efforts have been made to make contact with Moscow, but there have been difficulties. In reply to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, we will certainly do the best we can.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the North Korean or the Chinese Governments subscribe to the Geneva Convention dealing with prisoners of war?

    I understand that in July the North Korean Government promised to carry out the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1927.

    49.

    asked the Minister of Defence how many members of the British Regular Forces, and how many National Service men have been killed and wounded, respectively, and how many are missing as a result of the fighting in Korea.

    I will, with permission, circulate a detailed statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The total casualties sustained in the Korean operations up to midnight 25th November were 51 killed or died of wounds, 175 wounded and five missing.

    Following are the details:

    NAVYARMY
    RegularsNational ServiceRegularsNational Service
    OfficersRatings and Other RanksOfficersRatings and Other RanksOfficersOther RanksOfficersOther Ranks
    Killed442213
    Died of Wound116
    Wounded147123337
    Missing23

    ROYAL AIR FORCE: Nil.

    Has the right hon. Gentleman any figures of the United States casualties?

    I have no doubt that I could procure them; if notice is given I will furnish the information.

    I am sure that we should be very glad to know what are the facts, provided that they give no valuable information to the enemy.

    War Material (Export)

    50.

    asked the Minister of Defence to which countries, whether inside or outside the British Commonwealth, he has authorised the sale of Centurion tanks.

    No sales of Centurion tanks have so far been authorised except to Egypt and certain Commonwealth countries. It would be against well established practice to disclose details of sales to Commonwealth countries but, as I informed the House last week, no future sales of defence equipment will be allowed unless they are in our strategic interest.

    The right hon. Gentlemen has omitted to reply to that part of the Question which refers to the sale of Centurion tanks to countries "outside the British Commonwealth."

    On that aspect, I have said that we do not propose to permit any sales in future unless they are in our strategic interest.

    Surely what is asked in the Question is what has been the export of them in the past. That is the point.

    As I have said, it is not customary as the right hon. Gentlemen is well aware, to give details of sales to Commonwealth countries or, indeed, to other countries with whom we are with friendly relations. It is not desirable that the world should be informed of the matériel at the disposal of other countries, but in a later Question I propose to make an exception in the case of Egypt and give the information.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this Question referred specifically to the past? Is he telling the House that no Centurion tank has been sold under his authority to any country other than a Commonwealth country or Egypt? Is that what he is saying?

    53.

    asked the Minister of Defence how many Meteor jet aircraft are at present on order in this country for delivery to the Egyptian Government; whether these have yet been paid for; and when it is intended to dispatch them to Egypt.

    55.

    asked the Minister of Defence what quantities and kinds of military equipment to be supplied to the Government of Egypt under existing contracts were still in this country on 20th November; and which of them have since been shipped.

    Various orders from Egypt for military equipment, including jet aircraft, are outstanding. It would be contrary to normal practice to give details. With the exception of one aircraft which was in transit on 20th November no deliveries have been made since that date. Certain advance payments have been made against these orders, in accordance with normal procedure.

    Is not it a fact that 12 Meteor or jet fighters were, in fact, crated and ready for dispatch to Egypt last week and that but for the matter having been raised in the House they would now be on their way?

    Does the Minister's answer about no deliveries apply to all sea, land and air armaments?