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Written Answers

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 9th April, 1951

Nigerian Coal (Imports)

10.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps were taken to ensure that Nigerian coal being imported into this country is suitable for use by a British industry.

Before they purchased any coal from Nigeria, the National Coal Board examined the available analyses and came to the conclusion that, although the coal was rather lower in calorific value than the average British steam raising coal of corresponding size, it was suitable for general industrial purposes.

Food Supplies

Agenised Flour

37.

asked the Minister of Food in what degree agene-nitrogen trichloride gas is still being used as an improver of flour.

77.

Exact information is not available, but it is probable that about 90 per cent. of flour used for human consumption is at present treated with nitrogen trichloride.

85.

asked the Minister of Food what steps have been taken by his Department to give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee of the Ministries of Health and Food to the effect that agenised bread should be discontinued; and how many cases of poisoning of human beings through this process has been reported during the last 12 months.

Agreement has been reached with the milling industry to stop the use of agene and the choice of an alternative improver is under consideration with them. No case of poisoning of human beings through this process has been reported to the Registrar-General during the past 12 months.

asked the Minister of Food if he has considered details, which have been sent to him, about the harmful results of the use of agenised flour; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given today to the hon. Member for Dorking (Mr. Touche).

Farm Workers

39.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make seasonal rations for farm workers available for the period of ploughing and sowing.

As an exceptional measure this year, in view of the arrears to be made good on ploughing and sowing, my right hon. Friend has authorised seasonal allowances of food until the middle of May for all farm activities demanding intensive work.

83.

asked the Minister of Food if he will allow farmworkers a weekly ration of corned beef equivalent to the extra meat ration provided in canteens for other heavy workers.

No. Agricultural workers receive the special cheese ration of 12 oz. per week to compensate them for lack of canteen facilities.

Horseflesh

68.

asked the Minister of Food how much horseflesh was sold for human consumption last year, compared with 1938.

I cannot say. My Department exercises no control over the sale or distribution of horseflesh.

Fishermen (Tea)

70.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will increase the tea ration of fishermen.

No. Fishermen who spend the greater part of their time afloat are already allowed 4 oz. of tea per week.

French Frozen Pork

71.

asked the Minister of Food how many tons of frozen pork were imported from France in 1950; what was the price paid per ton; and what is the price at which this pork is on sale to the British public.

According to the records of my Department we purchased 558 tons of frozen pork at a price of about £222 per ton c.i.f. which was sold at the various controlled prices for pork and bacon.

Slimming Diets (Television Programme)

73.

asked the Minister of Food what advice was given by the scientific officers of his Department to the British Broadcasting Corporation on the slimming diets being recommended to the public over the television service at the present time; and whether he will make known their views on this matter.

None. The B.B.C. did not ask my scientific officers for any such advice.

Slaughterhouse, Macclesfield

75.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he intends to take to improve the conditions of the slaughterhouse on the south side of Chestergate, Macclesfield, details of which have been sent him by letter.

A thorough investigation is being made of the conditions at this slaughterhouse and the hon. Member can be assured that any practicable remedial measures that may be necessary will be taken. I will write to him as soon as possible.

Meat Ration

78.

asked the Minister of Food, having regard to the inclusion in the weekly ration of a greater proportion of higher-priced home-produced meat, what is the average weight per head of the present weekly ration as compared with the two weeks beginning 4th February, when the ration was reduced to 8d.

During the two weeks beginning 4th February the domestic ration of carcase meat in Great Britain averaged approximately 7.73 oz. as compared with an average of about 7.56 oz. at present.

Self-Suppliers' Pigs (Inspection)

79 and 80.

asked the Minister of Food (1) whether he will instruct local food offices to supply the public health departments in their areas with details of applications to slaughter pigs which have been reared under the self-suppliers of pigs scheme;(2) whether he is aware that under the self-suppliers of pigs scheme pigs are slaughtered at irregular times and on private premises, and that the carcases cannot be inspected and examined for possible disease by the local authorities; and whether he will consider amending the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, so as to allow for such inspection.

I think we should reserve the question of amendments to the Act for consideration in the light of the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Meat Inspection, which will be published shortly.The present position is that authorised officers of local authorities have power to examine the carcase of any pig which is to be sold in whole or in part for human consumption. They have no power, except at the request of the owner, to examine a pig which is not intended for sale. We would not be justified therefore in requiring food offices to notify public health departments of applications made solely for food control purposes. Self-suppliers would be wise, in their own interests, to arrange for inspection at the time of slaughter whether by a private veterinary surgeon or by an official where the local authority is able to provide the necessary service.

Cargoes, Newport

81.

asked the Minister of Food how many ships containing rationed food supplies were unloaded in Newport in 1950; and what was the tonnage of these supplies.

Three. The cargoes consisted of 5,943 tons of sugar and 775 tons of cheese.

Fish Prices

82.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the widespread dissatisfaction amongst housewives regarding the still increasing prices of all qualities of fish; and if he will make a statement on the outlook.

Following the heavy landings of cod and haddock in the last fortnight in February and early March prices fell. Reduced landings and an exceptionally strong demand at Easter caused some return to higher prices. Heavy landings of distant water fish have been reported this morning and there has been a substantial fall in prices at the ports as compared with prices ruling since Easter.

Egg Allocations

84.

asked the Minister of Food what is the current ration of eggs per person per week; and how far an increased ration will be possible in the near future.

Allocations of eggs at any particular time vary as between one district and another, but the average allocation per ration book for the week ending 7th April was three eggs. Supplies should continue to increase, but the level of egg production depends very much on the weather.

Cheese

86.

asked the Minister of Food what annual quantities of cheese he estimates would be required to sustain a 3-oz. weekly ration and a 2-oz. weekly ration, respectively.

To meet various priority requirements and to maintain a 2-oz. ration for non-priority consumers about 210,000 tons a year are needed. For a 3-oz. ration about 78,000 tons a year more would be needed, making a total of 288,000 tons.

Imported Apples

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of apples were imported during 1950 from each of the two countries, United States of America and Canada.

Sixteen thousand five hundred tons of fresh apples were imported in 1950 from the U.S.A. and 45,000 tons from Canada.

Russian Tinned Salmon

asked the Minister of Food when the Russian tinned salmon at present being sold by retailers was bought; what was the total quantity of tinned salmon purchased from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and what was the total cost of this transaction.

In 1948 and 1949. The total quantity was about 9,500 tons, but it would not be in the public interest to disclose the price paid.

Irish Eggs

asked the Minister of Food what proportion of Eire's exportable surplus of eggs was purchased by the United Kingdom in 1950.

We bought the whole of the Republic of Ireland's exportable surplus of eggs in 1950.

Imported Sugar Confectionery

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that sugar confectionery in the form of Easter chicks imported from Holland and weighing 1½ oz. each are on sale at 6d. each, and that for two pieces a 4-oz. sweet coupon is demanded: and whether he will discourage the import of foreign confectionery that does not offer value comparable with British manufacturers.

These imports have to compete with the very much larger volume of home-produced lines and I think the public may be left to exercise their choice.

Festival Of Britain

47.

asked the Prime Minister if the speech of the Minister of Works on 3rd April, setting out the aims and objects of the Festival of Britain, represents the policy of His Majesty's Government.

I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend assumes that the hon. Member is referring to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works in Battersea Park on 3rd April. The answer is in the affirmative.

Wales (Capital City)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the recommendations of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire that Cardiff should be recognised as the capital city of Wales; and whether he will make a statement.

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of its historical significance and importance to the Welsh people, he will publish, as a White Paper, the document in which the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire recommend Cardiff to be the capital city of Wales, with the reply of His Majesty's Government to it; and whether he is aware of the pleasure which official recognition in the near future would give to the citizens of Cardiff and of Wales.

The Council for Wales and Monmouthshire have informed the Government of their decision at their meeting on 3rd April, recommending that Cardiff be recognised as the capital of Wales, but I am not yet in a position to make any statement on the subject.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consult with the Welsh Parliamentary Party before coming to a decision on the recommendation of the Welsh Advisory Council regarding the recognition of a capital city for Wales.

Philippines (War Damage Compensation)

51

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement as to when he anticipates that compensation for war damage sustained in the Philippines by British concerns will be paid.

British Broadcasting Corporation (Overseas Service)

52.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why, at a moment when it is particularly important that the views of people in this country should be clearly and widely known abroad, his Department's grant for overseas broadcasting services is being reduced; and what consideration has been given to the difficulty of re-assembling expert staffs, once a reduction of this kind has necessitated their dismissal.

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) on 4th April, the reduction in the B.B.C.'s Estimates for their Overseas Service is due to the pressing need for economy in public expenditure. The point that staff may, in the future, have to be re-assembled has not been overlooked and was taken into consideration in deciding this reduction.

Overseas Information

53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that, in spite of the economies to be imposed on the British Council and the foreign services of the British Broadcasting Corporation, adequate sums will be available so that the truth about this country may still be sufficiently published abroad.

Anglo-Polish Trade Agreement

56.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement upon the default by the Polish Government in payment of the first instalment due under the Anglo-Polish Trade Agreement of January, 1949; and what action he proposes to take.

I understand that the sum of £400,000 due under the Anglo-Polish Trade Agreement of January, 1949, has not yet been received. His Majesty's Ambassador in Warsaw has been instructed to inquire whether early payment may be expected.

Japan (Peace Treaty)

58.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been received about a Peace Treaty with Japan; what action is proposed; and when he expects to be in a position to make a statement.

His Majesty's Government have received communications concerning the Japanese Peace Treaty from the United States Government and all Commonwealth Governments, and have been in touch with the French, Netherlands and other interested Governments.As regards the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Government have for some time past been urging on other Governments the need for a very early Peace Treaty, and they are pressing ahead with preparations for this, consulting Commonwealth and other Governments as necessary through the diplomatic channel.As regards the last part of the Question, I am not yet in a position to say when it will be possible to make a statement about the current diplomatic exchanges.

Shipping, Far East (Protection)

64.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the British steamer "Hunan" was attacked recently by armed junks off Chekiang, and that the British motor vessel "Edith Moller" was shelled by an unidentified warship off Fukien on 23rd March; and what steps His Majesty's Government is taking to prevent such incidents.

Yes. His Majesty's ships in these waters have instructions to do everything possible to protect British shipping and are acting on these instructions.

Transport

Congestion, Enfield

88.

asked the Minister of Transport when he will be in a position to announce a decision on the proposals put forward to him by north London local authorities, with a view to reducing congestion in Enfield and the neighbouring districts.

I am not yet in a position to express any opinion on these proposals. I am awaiting the views of the British Transport Commission in the matter, and expect to hear from them shortly.

Traffic Sign, Ballater

89.

asked the Minister of Transport why his Department has with held permission from the Ballater Town Council to erect a children traffic sign on Deebank Road, Ballater; and whether he is aware that application for this per mission was originally made on 4th September, 1950.

I have approved the erection of a "Children" sign at this site. The delay arose out of doubts whether a sign of this kind was in fact desirable.

Transferred Undertakings (Compensation)

91.

asked the Minister of Transport the reasons for the long delay in paying the amounts of compensation due to small road haulage companies taken over by the Transport Commission; and if he will take all possible steps to expedite a settlement of the outstanding claims.

The speed with which compensation can be assessed depends to a large extent on the co-operation of the transferor who must furnish accounts and other necessary information concerning his past results up to the date of transfer. Final settlement of compensation due to small undertakings also depends on agreement being reached between the two parties; in the absence of agreement reference to the Transport Arbitration Tribunal is necessary. The British Transport Commission assure me that they have taken all possible steps within their control to expedite the settlement of compensation in respect of all road haulage concerns which they have taken over. If the hon. Member has any specific case in mind, I should be glad to bring it to the attention of the Commission.

Coastguard (Reorganisation)

92.

asked the Minister of Transport what yachting organisations were consulted before the recent reductions in the coastguard service were approved.

As I have already informed the hon. Member, those consulted were the interested Government Departments and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. No yachting organisations were consulted. The Working Party, when making their proposals for the reorganisation of the Coastguard, had prominently in mind the safety of the yachtsmen and other users of small craft.

Defence Shipping Authority

94.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement in regard to the negotiations carried out in Washington in November, 1950, and in February and March, 1951, by representatives of his Department and representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in regard to plans for pooling British and foreign merchant ships in time of war.

At their Washington meeting in November, 1950, the North Atlantic Planning Board for Ocean Shipping discussed the principles which should govern the control over the employment of merchant shipping in time of war and prepared a plan of the Allied shipping organisation to be named the Defence Shipping Authority, which should be set up in war to implement these principles. This plan is based largely on the arrangements in force at the end of the last war. In March, 1951, a small Working Group of the Planning Board, which included British representatives, drafted a report on the subordinate machinery of the proposed Authority. This report is to be considered at the next meeting of the Planning Board in London later this month. I should add that both sides of the British shipping industry are being fully consulted at all stages of this planning and are in full agreement with the arrangements made.

Traffic Signals, Harlow

95.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has considered correspondence from the hon. Member for Epping, pointing out the constant danger of serious accident at Harlow cross roads owing to the frequent failure of the traffic lights to function; and when remedial steps will be taken.

Yes. Apparatus has been devised in co-operation between the signal manufacturers and my technical officers to assist traffic signals such as those at Harlow to continue working during large reductions in voltage. This apparatus will be made available as soon as possible.

Coach Service, Chorley And Adlington

96.

asked the Minister of Transport on whose authority the private coach which carried workers from Chorley and Adlington to the de Havilland Works, Lostock, has been stopped, although the Bolton Corporation and the Ribble Motor Services have refused to run an adequate service for the work people.

I am informed that the coach in question was taken out of service by the operator on receipt of an inquiry from the Bolton Corporation Transport Department as to the statutory authority under which it was run. As my hon. Friend knows, the statement made in the latter part of the Question is not confirmed by the licensing authority for public service vehicles.

Pedestrian Crossings

97.

asked the Minster of Transport when the proposed new pedestrian crossing regulations will be tabled.

I have now received comments on my proposals from all the associations of local authorities consulted and from most of the associations representing road users. Their comments are in general favourable and I therefore intend to invite local authorities to review their schemes and bring them into line with my proposed new policy. When this has been done, I shall make the regulations and lay them before Parliament.

Consultative Committees (Cost)

asked the Minister of Transport what is the annual cost in staff, office accommodation, travelling and other expenses of the Central Transport Consultative Committee for Great Britain, and particularly the number of staff employed and the total of their salaries.

Separate figures for the Central Transport Consultative Committee for Great Britain are not available. The cost to the British Transport Commission in staff, office accommodation, travelling and other expenses of the Central Transport Consultative Committee and the Transport Users Consultative Committee for London together was, for the year 1950, £6,228, of which £4,413 was for salaries of the secretary and staff of three who act for both Committees. Their remuneration covers also certain accountancy work for the other Consultative Committees.

Ministry Of Supply

Non-Ferrous Metals (Home Production)

100.

asked the Minister of Supply what steps are being taken, in view of the growing scarcity of many non-ferrous metals, to secure greater production of these materials in Great Britain.

Some small lead and zinc mines are operating and others will be in the near future. The mining of wolfram will be resumed in Devonshire and the production of magnesium in Government-owned plants is being restarted. Non-ferrous metals produced from indigenous material can, however, meet only a very small part of the country's total requirements.

Brabazon Aircraft

98.

asked the Minister of Supply what he proposes to do with the two Brabazon aircraft, after all information has been acquired from their design, construction and operational experience.

It is much too early to say; the future of the aircraft will depend on the outcome of the experimental work and on the requirements at the time.

Iron And Steel Consumers' Council

99.

asked the Minister of Supply when he proposes to set up the Iron and Steel Consumers' Council, as called for in Section 6 of the Iron and Steel Act, 1949.

I propose to establish the Council as soon as possible. Organisations representing consumers and workers have been invited to nominate representatives.

Lubricants (Type Tests)

101.

asked the Minister of Supply in view of the close collaboration between the authorities concerned in this country and the United States for the production of standard methods of type testing of lubricating oils and hydraulic system fluids for vehicles and aircraft, he will give an assurance that no British oils for Government tenders will require to have been previously approved by an analyst of the United States Government.

No. Until adequate facilities for certain type tests are available in this country, some lubricants have to be tested in the United States.

Sheet Steel Supplies, Luton

102.

asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the present under-employment and the prospect of unemployment at the Vauxhall Motor factories in Luton as a result of the shortage of sheet steel, he will take urgent steps to ensure an adequate supply of this essential material for these factories at the earliest possible date.

I regret that there is not likely to be an improvement in the supply of sheet steel until later in the year.

Lead (Price)

103.

asked the Minister of Supply why he has authorised a further increase in the price of lead.

National Insurance

Retirement Pensions

104.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will consider helping to overcome the man power shortage by the payment of full old age pension to insured women over the age of 60 and insured men over the age of 65 without regard to the wages they earn by continuing in productive employment.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Members for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) and Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) on Monday, 12th March, a copy of which I am sending him.

110.

asked the Minister of National Insurance what steps are taken to bring to the attention of those who are invited to resume their employment after having retired their rights to make National Insurance contributions at the full rate and so qualify on retirement for an extra 1s. a week on every 25 contributions.

Persons approaching pensionable age are given full information about the higher rates of pension for which they can qualify by continuing in the employment field and deferring their claims for retirement pension. Where, however, a person has qualified for retirement pension after giving notice of retirement there is no present statutory power under which the notice can be revoked.

Local Offices (Opening Hours)

105.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will adjust the present opening hours of insurance offices, which are now 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and 9 till 11.30 a.m. Saturdays, so as to make it possible for workers, on at least one day a week, to visit them outside normal working hours, thus obviating the necessity for their taking time off from work.

The present hours of opening of local offices vary according to local conditions and are the result of experiments throughout the country to meet local needs. Experience has shown in general that the very small use made of offices held open outside normal working hours does not justify the additional cost involved, but local arrangements are under constant review.

Unemployment Benefit (Strikes)

107.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she is aware that, in consequence of the provisions of Section 13 (1, a) and (1, b) of the National Insurance Act, 1946, workers who become unemployed as the result of a strike in which they themselves are not participating are refused unemployment benefit; and whether, in view of the hardship caused in such cases, she will promote amending legislation.

The workers in question are disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit only if they belong to the same grade or class as the workers participating in or financing or directly interested in the dispute and are employed at the same premises. The present provisions have been in operation for many years and my right hon. Friend is not aware of any general desire for amending legislation on this point.

Seasonal Workers

108.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will consider amending the National Insurance (Seasonal Workers) Regulations, 1950, to permit those genuinely seeking work, but unable to find it, to receive benefit.

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 13 of the Report of the National Insurance Advisory Committee on Seasonal Workers (House of Commons Paper 262, 1949) in which this matter is considered. My right hon. Friend accepted the Committee's advice and sees no reason for departing from it now.

Sickness Benefit (Night Workers)

109.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she is aware that Mr. J. E. Naish, Newport, was refused a day's sickness benefit because in working a night-shift from 25th to 26th January, 1951, he is debarred from claiming an allowance on two days; and whether she will take steps to amend Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Regulation, 1948, No. 1277, so that those working night-shifts shall not suffer such hardship as compared with those working only during day time.

Claims for sickness benefit and unemployment benefit made by night workers are governed by regulations which apply the broad principle that the night shift is allocated to the day on which most work was done. When Mr. Naish claimed sickness benefit from 25th January last, the statutory authorities disallowed benefit for 25th January because he worked six hours of his eight hour shift on that day. I cannot agree that the regulations have the effect that night workers are, on balance, worse off than day workers.

Contributions (Annual Statements)

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in view of the urgent need for economy in administration, she will reconsider the existing arrangements under which a statement of account is sent yearly to every contributor; and how many statements it is estimated would be saved every year if they were only sent to those who appeared to be arrears.

Yes. I propose in future to send a statement only to contributors who have not got a full record of contributions for the year in question. This will enable my Department to give up printing and issuing approximately 16 million statements a year now sent as a matter of routine and to achieve a material economy in manpower. I hope that those contributors who do not get annual statements in future will recognise the importance of the saving and accept the new arrangements accordingly.

Doctors

asked the Minister of National Insurance if a doctor who works for the National Health Service is, under her regulations, for the purposes of National Insurance contributions, classed as self-employed or employed by the State.

The conditions under which doctors work for the National Health Service vary but a general practitioner on the list of an executive council will normally be regarded as self-employed for the purposes of the National Insurance Act.

Family Allowances

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will give consideration to the possibility of amending the provision of the Children's Act, 1948, to enable the State children's allowance in respect of a child maintained in and by a children's home to be paid direct to that home; and whether she will also amend that regulation which enables the State to suspend payment of the weekly allowance if the parent or guardian fails to maintain contributions of 5s. weekly or more to such a home, and thus deprives the charity of this support.

No. The object of providing weekly cash allowances under the Family Allowances Act, 1945, is to help the family with young children. I cannot agree that parents should continue to receive a family allowance for a child living in an institution towards whose support they are not paying at least 5s. a week.

Trade And Commerce

Coal Deliveries (Short Weight)

111.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to protect domestic consumers from short weight in the supply of coal.

Short weight in the sale of coal is an offence under the Weights and Measures Act, 1889, and, in the case of sales of quantities not exceeding two hundredweights, also under local by-laws. Annual reports submitted to the Board of Trade by the inspectors of weights and measures of local authorities show that numerous checks are made on deliveries of coal.

Raw Cotton Stocks

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the Raw Cotton Commission's stocks of raw cotton in the main classes of staple lengths.

It is not the normal practice to disclose details of the stocks of cotton in the United Kingdom. I assume, however, that the hon. Member is primarily interested in United States and similar cottons and in view of the general concern with this question, I am prepared to say that stocks of cotton in the United Kingdom of a staple length of less than 1⅛ in., aggregated 24 weeks' consumption at the beginning of March. This total includes many different growths and conceals serious shortages of some important individual growths, notably of U.S. cotton itself.

Mining Timber Imports

asked the President of the Board of Trade what proportion of the total amount of mining timber imported into this country in 1950 had been purchased by his Department, by the National Coal Board, and by the private trade, respectively.

Approximately 90 per cent. of 1950 imports of mining timber was purchased direct by the Board of Trade Timber Control, none by the National Coal Board and approximately 10 per cent. by private trade.

Out-Patients, Birmingham (Expenses)

112.

asked the Minister of Health why pit-workers in the Tamworth, Staffordshire, district, attending as outpatients at Birmingham hospitals, are subjected to a means test before travelling expenses are paid.

Travelling expenses of patients are paid by hospitals only where hardship would otherwise be caused. The need is determined in each case by the National Assistance Board on my right hon. Friend's behalf.