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Written Answers

Volume 486: debated on Monday 16 April 1951

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 16th April, 1951

Food Supplies

Horses And Ponies

7.

asked the Minister of Food how many horses and ponies were slaughtered for food in the United Kingdom in 1949 and 1950, respectively.

My Department does not control the slaughter of horses or ponies and I cannot therefore answer the Question.

Scottish-Produced Meat

27.

asked the Minister of Food what percentage of the total lamb and beef produced in Scotland in 1950 was represented by the amount, live and dead weight, sent from Scotland to England in that year.

About 34 per cent. for sheep and Iambs and 38 per cent. for cattle, but these figures include a proportion of Irish meat and livestock imported into Scotland.

Ethiopian Meat

35.

asked the Minister of Food if he has explored the possibilities of obtaining meat supplies from Ethiopia where there is a large surplus of cattle and where the demand for manufactured goods is substantial.

Yes, but I am afraid that lack of effective disease control rules out this source at present.

Agricultural Workers, Fenland Area

62.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he has taken or is taking to ensure an adequate increment to the rations of those agricultural workers and others patrolling the river banks during the threat of floods in the Fenland area.

Catchment board, land drainage and agricultural workers qualify for the special cheese allowance of 12 oz. per week and can get tea and sugar for hot drinks through their employers. I have recently, as a result of information provided by the catchment board, been able to increase the amount of tea and sugar supplied.

Cheese Ration

63.

asked the Minister of Food whether he has taken any action to prevent the sale of a ration of three ounces of cheese weekly since the House resolved to pray for the revocation of Statutory Instrument No. 470.

Yes. In accordance with my statement to the House on 11th April, I have made a new Order which came into force on 13th April and fixed the ration at two ounces.

65.

asked the Minister of Food when he proposes to lay the new cheese rationing Order.

66.

asked the Minister of Food what is the total cost involved in the drafting and presentation of a new Order relating to the cheese ration, resulting from the annulment of a similar Order on 9th April.

67.

asked the Minister of Food on what statutory or other authority he has given guidance to the responsible trade organisations that they are not entitled to sell a three-ounce ration of cheese.

The hon. Member has perhaps misunderstood my reply to a supplementary question by the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), on Wednesday. The guidance I gave the trade and the public the previous day was on the constitutional position with regard to the annulment of the Order; no trader was informed that he was not entitled to sell a three ounce ration. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the notice issued to this effect.

Edible Oils And Fats

asked the Minister of Food if he will give the total amount of edible oils and fats that have been consumed in Great Britain in the years 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950, respectively.

Separate figures for Great Britain are not available, but the following table shows the total consumption in

Thousand tons
19461947194819491950
Butter227236275301370
Margarine334346404410381
Lard and Cooking Fat174168182250243
Other edible oils and fats109103124149137

Potatoes And Bread

asked the Minister of Food whether a greater calorific value is obtained by the personal consumption of potatoes or white bread.

White bread easily comes out on top in the test raised by the hon. Member's Question.

Sugar Ration

asked the Minister of Food what provisions he is making for the safeguarding of the sugar ration in the light of the reduced acreage at present sown in East Anglia.

Forward estimates of the sugar available to meet the ration are always based upon the assumption that some of our supplies will be below average because of adverse weather conditions and my arrangements for 1951 ration and bonuses, are based on a cautious estimate of the next home crop.

Greece

Cypriot (Sentence)

46.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the case of Ioannis A. Droussiotis, who was born in Cyprus in 1919, fought in the last war against the German and Italian invaders of Greece, and is now in jail in Athens under sentence of imprisonment for life, what assistance the British Embassy in Athens provided for this man in the preparation and presentation of his defence; what advice he was given in regard to an appeal; and if he will make a statement.

Yes. This man was sentenced to death in Salonica on 28th September, 1948, on four separate counts as the leader of a terrorist organisation by the unanimous decision of a court-martial. A member of the staff of His

the United Kingdom of edible oils and fats in the years mentioned:

Majesty's Consulate-General visited him in prison immediately after his arrest to make sure that he had proper legal aid, and was present at the trial. Droussiotis appealed and on 30th March, 1949, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Under leniency measures introduced last October by the Greek Government it was open to Droussiotis to make a fresh appeal for review of his sentence, and he can at any time submit a petition for a further reduction of his sentence as an act of grace.

His Majesty's Ambassador has followed the case closely from the start, and His Majesty's Consul at Athens has visited Droussiotis in prison.

Mr Goossens (Cancelled Tour)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that in August, 1950, the British Council invited Mr. Léon Goossens, the oboeist, to tour Greece during the end of March and the first half of April, 1951, on their behalf; that on 23rd February, 1951, this tour was cancelled on the telephone without any proper explanation, written confirmation being given on 5th March; what is the explanation for this breach of contract on the part of the British Council; what compensation will be paid to Mr. Goossens; who else has been so treated; and whether he is aware of the disappointment and resentment in Greece that this tour should have been cancelled at short notice.

The cuts in expenditure for this financial year which are considered necessary compelled the British Council in February to make all possible economies in their future commitments until plans could be made to meet the new situation.Mr. Goossens' tour was one of the items which the Council, with great regret, felt obliged to cancel. Mr. Goossens was informed by telephone in order to give him the earliest possible notice. On 26th February Mr. Goossens interviewed one of the Council's officers at their headquarters and the reasons for the cancellation of the tour were fully explained to him. It is regretted that he received no written confirmation of the cancellation until 5th March. Mr. Goossens has not formulated any claim for compensation.No other individual tour of this nature has yet had to be cancelled. I much regret any disappointment which the cancellation of this tour may have caused in Greece.

Japan

British Representation

57.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the changes in control in Japan, he will now send out a British representative of the equivalent rank of Sir Alvary Gascoigne to represent us during the crucial days between now and the signing of the Peace Treaty.

The question of the representation of His Majesty's Government in Tokyo will be decided in due course in the light of circumstances. Meanwhile His Majesty's Government are represented by a Liaison Mission under a senior officer of experience, in whom His Majesty's Government have full confidence.

Civil Control

58.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make representations through the British Commonwealth representative on the Far Eastern Commission as to the suitability now, in view of the coming Peace Treaty, of appointing a civilian to control Japan and separating the command in Korea from the civil control of Japan.

Far East (British Vessel)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the British m.v. "Edith Moller," was intercepted by a Nationalist gunboat on 10th April on passage Hong Kong to Shanghai and all her charts confiscated necessitating return to Hong Kong; and what action has been taken by His Majesty's Government.

Yes. His Majesty's Consul at Tamsui has been instructed to make representations to the Provincial authorities in Formosa.

House Of Commons Catering

61.

asked the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, why certain tablecloths in the House of Commons Dining Rooms bear the legend Milwaukee University Club.

The tablecloths referred to in the Question are manufacturers' rejects, and have slight imperfections. They were purchased in 1947, when other tablecloths were difficult to obtain.

Transport

Tribunal's Recommendations

69.

asked the Minister of Transport why more than three months elapsed between the presentation of the recommendation of the Transport Tribunal and the announcement of his decision, as referred to in paragraph 12 of their Annual Report.

I presume that the hon. Member refers to paragraph 12 of the Annual Report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee for 1950. The period of just under three months which elapsed between the receipt by me of the recommendations of the members of the Transport Tribunal and the announcement of my decision was due to the careful consideration which was given to all aspects of the case, as the Committee themselves say they appreciate.

Road Haulage Undertakings (Acquisition)

70.

asked the Minister of Transport how many road haulage undertakings have been acquired compulsorily by the Transport Commission; what was the earliest date of transfer relating to any such acquisition; and in how many cases final compensation has been paid to the owners.

The number of road haulage undertakings acquired compulsorily by the Commission to 31st March, 1951, was 2,451. The earliest date of transfer relating to any such acquisition was 1st January, 1949. Final compensation has been agreed (subject in some cases to confirmation by the Transport Arbitration Tribunal) in 343 cases. Payment has been completed in 225 of these cases. Payments on account, being 90 per cent. of provisional ascertainments of compensation, or final payments have been made in 2,252 cases. In a large proportion of the cases in which provisional ascertainments have not yet been made, progress has been held up because accounts and other information required from the transferors have not been supplied.

London Traffic (Committee's Recommendations)

72.

asked the Minister of Transport what proposals he has, in default of financial assistance, to enable or require London boroughs to carry out street repairs in important thoroughfares by double shift or week-end working as recommended in the Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee.

I have no power to require double-shift or week-end working. It is for the Metropolitan Borough Councils to consider how far they may appropriately adopt these methods.

73.

asked the Minister of Transport which recommendations in the Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee were rejected on financial grounds; and whether the benefit of these recommendations to production and re-armament was first considered.

The only recommendations rejected mainly on financial grounds, were those numbered 4 and 52. The former suggested that grants from central funds should be made towards the extra cost of double-shift and week-end working on street repairs; the latter recommendtion was that the possibility of installing subway escalators for pedestrians at suitable points should be considered. Neither of them would in my view have any appreciable beneficial effect on production or re-armament.

British Railways (Wages)

74.

asked the Minister of Transport what are the wages of the lowest paid male and female employees of British Railways.

Rates of pay of employees of British Railways are a matter for the British Transport Commission. I will arrange with the British Transport Commission to forward the information to the hon. Member.

Railway Charges

76.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will take steps to relieve the railway industry of the many legislative anomalies in matters of charges and services which handicap it in competition with other forms of transport and prevent its earning a proper revenue and which for other reasons are out of date.

The charges schemes to be settled under Part V of the Transport Act will govern generally the charges and other terms and conditions applicable to the Commission's railway services and facilities, notwithstanding any previous statutory provisions of the kind my hon. Friend has in mind. Accordingly until the schemes have been settled it is not possible to consider whether any legislative action is desirable.

Traffic Signals, Tottenham

78.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will consider installing traffic lights at the junction of Great Cambridge Road and White Hart Lane, Tottenham.

I am investigating traffic conditions at this junction to see whether traffic signals are justified.

Commission (Membership)

79.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has considered the fact that the experience of three of the four permanent members of the British Transport Commission has been primarily related to railways and that the Commission lacks persons with wide experience in road transport; and what steps he pro poses to take to remedy this matter.

I had regard to the previous experience of the members of the Commission when I appointed them and I am satisfied that, taking the Commission as a whole, the members make up, in their qualifications and previous experience, a balanced body well able to undertake all its responsibilities.

Railway Accidents (Drugs)

80.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will introduce legislation to enable a supply of morphia to be included among the drugs and appliances which are kept in railway trains for service in case of accident.

I could not recommend such a step. If supplies of this dangerous drug were kept in railway trains, the risks

GENERAL FREIGHT RATES—ABADAN-UNITED KINGDOM—COST PER TON (2,240 lbs.)
PeriodOutward and homeward via MediterraneanOutward via Lands End and Mediterranean: homeward via Cape and Lands EndOutward and homeward via Cape and Lands EndOutward via Lands End and Mediterranean: homeward via Cape and Northern IrelandOutward and homeward via Cape and Northern IrelandOutward via Lands End and Cape: homeward via Cape and Northern Ireland
s.d.s.d.s.d.s.d.s.d.s.d.
September-October, 1939426
November, 1939453
December, 1939466
January-February, 1940469
March-April, 1940473
May, 1940473613723656
June, 1940510663783709
July-August, 1940760946896
September-December, 19401090
From 1st January, 19411303
No oil moved from Abadan to United Kingdom after early 1941 until early 1945
31st October, 1945 to 31st December, 1945620
1st January, 1946 to 1st December, 1948576

Finnish Ships (Disposal)

77.

asked the Minister of Transport why he recently gave permission for two sailing vessels, which have been lying in a South Wales port for more than 12 months, to be towed to the Continent to be broken up, in view of the fact that this work could have been done in this country and the scrap steel and iron saved for British use.

I understand that my hon. Friend refers to the "Pamir" and the of its misuse would in my view outweigh any possible advantages. Experience has shown that qualified medical staff, with supplies of the necessary drugs, are almost invariably on the scene of an accident quickly.

Shipping

Persian Oil (Freight Rates)

75.

asked the Minister of Transport the cost per barrel of the transport of oil from the Persian Gulf to England in the years 1939 to 1948 inclusive.

I am not able to give the rates per barrel, but the following statement gives the rates per ton."Passat." These were Finnish ships and naturally my consent to their disposal was not required.

Defence Shipping Authority

81.

asked the Minister of Transport what has now been agreed as to the nature and composition of the authority which will issue orders to the Defence Shipping Pool; and whether details of the proposed arrangement will be contained in the White Paper dealing with the organisation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

As indicated in my reply to the hon. Member on 9th April, control over the employment of merchant shipping in time of war will be undertaken by a Defence Shipping Authority. This Authority will include representatives of all countries contributing shipping to the Pool and will be civilian in character. The organisation of the Authority is still under consideration by the North Atlantic Planning Board for Ocean Shipping. I understand that the White Paper to which the hon. Member refers will deal only with the military command system to be established within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Ministry Of Supply

Imber Training Area

82.

asked the Minister of Supply on how many days during the last 12 months the Imber training area has been used by his Department for experimental bomb dropping.

Overtime, Fort Halstead

83.

asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement on the ban on overtime work at the Royal Ordnance factory at Fort Halstead.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to the Ministry of Supply Research Establishments at Fort Halstead, where a group of workpeople recently decided to ban overtime work until all Government industrial employees are granted two weeks' annual leave. I hope that the ban, which is unofficial, will shortly be lifted.

Raw Material Supplies

85.

asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware that, as a result of shortages of steel, non-ferrous metals and industrial acids in Birmingham and district, thousands of workers are on short-time working; that redundancies are occurring in several factories; and what action he proposes to take to remedy these deficiencies.

It is inevitable that shortages of raw materials should lead to some short time working and redundancy. The Government is taking active steps to secure increased supplies of the materials in question, for most of which we are dependent on imports. It has constantly under review the arrangements for distributing the limited supplies available to us.

Agricultural Tractors And Implements

86.

asked the Minister of Supply if he is aware of the delay in delivery of agricultural tractors and implements in Scotland due to the cut in the allocation of steel and other causes; and whether he will take urgent action in this matter particularly bearing in mind the added difficulty facing the farming industry by reason of continued bad weather.

The allocation of sheet steel for tractors and implements is higher than last year, but it is possible that the heavy seasonal demand is causing some delay in delivery. If the hon. and gallant Member will let me have details of the cases he has in mind, I will look into them.

Scrap

92.

asked the Minister of Supply what amount of scrap his Department has made available to the steel industry from Service Department disposals during each of the last three years.

Separate figures are not available of the tonnage of scrap from Service Departments' disposals. I give below a statement of the tonnage arising from all Government sources, including surplus Government ships, for each of the last three financial years. The quantity from Civil Departments is relatively small.

Following is the statement:

Year ending

Tons

31st March, 19491,130,000
31st March, 1950750,000
31st March, 1951370,000

Atomic Research (Security)

asked the Minister of Supply if his attention has been called to the Report of a Congressional Committee of the United States of America entitled "Soviet Atomic Espionage," particulars of which have been sent to him; and, in view of the fact that some of the persons involved are employed by His Majesty's Government, what steps he is taking to collaborate with the Government of the United States of America in tightening up the control of persons engaged in this secret work.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes." There is already collaboration in this matter with the Government of the United States.

Sheet Steel (Motor Industry)

asked the Minister of Supply if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Messrs. Rootes have had to curtail production due to the shortages of raw materials; and what steps he is taking in this matter.

Yes; the shortage of sheet steel is curtailing production throughout the motor industry. I regret that there is not likely to be an improvement in the supply before the last quarter of the year.

National Insurance

Assistance Rates

93.

asked the Minister of National Insurance on what date she last received representations from the National Assistance Board that their scale rates should be raised; and whether she is satisfied that the present scale rates are adequate, in view of the increased cost of living.

The answer to the first part of the Question is 17th April, 1950, when the Board submitted to my right hon. Friend the draft of the Regulations which came into force on 12th June. Any question of the adequacy of the rates prescribed in those Regulations is a matter in the first instance for the Board, and I do not think it would be proper for me to express any opinion on it.

97.

asked the Minister of National Insurance what representations have been made to her by the National Assistance Board for an increase in the scale rates for national assistance to bring them into line with the new rates of retiral pensions.

My right hon. Friend has not received any representations from the National Assistance Board on this subject.

Retirement Pensions

98.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will give the numbers in receipt of retirement pension in the following categories: men over 70 years of age, men between 65 and 70 years of age, women over 65 years of age and women between 60 and 65 years of age; and how many men over 70 years of age and women over 65 years of age are in receipt of supplementary pensions from the National Assistance Board.

The numbers are estimated as follows:

(1) Retirement Pensioners
(a) Men
Over 70970,000
65–70420,000
(b)Women
Over 652,100,000
60–65500,000
(2)Pensioners receiving supplementary allowances from the National Assistance Board
(a)Men
Over 70200,000
(b)Women
Over 65500,000

Approved Society (Transferred Funds)

94.

asked the Minister of National Insurance what were the surplus funds of the Scottish Rural Workers Approved Society at the date when the Society was incorporated in the National Health Scheme in 1948; and to what account these funds were transferred.

The funds of the Scottish Rural Workers Approved Society amounting to approximately £538,000 were transferred at 5th July, 1948, to the National Insurance (Reserve) Fund set up under Section 36 of the National Insurance Act. 1946.

Seasonal Workers

95.

asked the Minister of National Insurance at what date this year seasonal farm workers who have been denied unemployment benefit will again qualify for benefit; and what steps have been taken to inform each person so affected.

The period of a Seasonal Worker's off-season is decided by the Statutory authorities on the facts of each case, and stated on the notice of disallowance. Following the end of the off-season, payment of benefit will be made without special application to those still unemployed.

96.

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many women farm workers registered at the Downham Market employment exchange during the past winter have been classified as seasonal workers and have been refused benefit; and how many have been allowed benefit.

I regret that this information is not available, but figures relating to women agricultural workers now on the unemployed register are being obtained and I will write to my hon. Friend.

Expectation Of Life (Statistics)

99.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will give her calculation of the expectation of life of a man at 60, 65 and 70 and a woman at 60 and 65.

I have been asked to reply. The approximate expectations of life in England and Wales, as calculated by the Registrar-General on the basis of mortality in 1949, are: 15 years for men aged 60; 12 years for men aged 65; 9 years for men aged 70; 18 years for women aged 60; 14 years for women aged 65.

Census

121.

asked the Minister of Health why enumerators have not been provided with official warrants of authority to produce to householders when collecting census forms and making confidential inquiries.

The hon. Member is in error. Each enumerator is supplied with an enumeration book bearing the Royal Arms on the front cover and a certificate of appointment signed by the registrar or other census officer on behalf of the Registrar-General.

Aluminium Houses

asked the Minister of Local Government and Planning whether he has completed his examination of the Dorran aluminium house; and what report he has made on it for the guidance of local housing authorities.

Electricity Supplies

Ripple Control Systems

100.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power in view of the probability of indefinite electricity power cuts, if he will state what experience has been gained or is available to his Department of injected ripple control or similar systems for improving load factors and for reducing peak loads in British supply systems.

Ripple control systems have been used for a number of years for reducing load at peak hours and for other purposes. Since the apparatus required is very costly, however, further trials are needed to ascertain whether this system of peak-load control is economically justified. These trials have been put in hand by the British Electricity Authority.

Bea Constructional Programme

103.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that the British Electricity Authority, due to delays in implementing its construction programme, is at present unable to spend all the money which has been allocated to it for capital development purposes; and if he will therefore review its construction programme.

No. Owing mainly to better progress on site work and improved deliveries the expenditure incurred by the British Electricity Authority and the area boards on capital construction in 1950 was considerably in excess of the amount originally allocated. It appears probable that in 1951 also the estimates made in 1950 will be exceeded, but the full effect of raw material and other shortages cannot yet be gauged. For this and other reasons the constructional programme is at present being reviewed.

Power Cuts (Production Loss)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power upon what facts he bases his estimate that power cuts during the winter cost between £8 million and £10 million worth of industrial production.

As I made clear in the speech to which I assume the hon. Member refers, the figure of £8–£ 10 million is no more than a guess as to the minimum loss suffered by industry. It is based on sample inquiries made of individual firms by regional boards for industry.

Coal Industry

Railways (Coal Saving)

101.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the estimated saving of coal made as a result of the cuts in the railway service in the first quarter of this year.

It is not possible to give a quantitative estimate of the savings secured during the period in which the coal allocation to the railways was cut by 9,500 tons a week. That saving was, however, considerable, and I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and to the Railway Executive for the help which they gave by agreeing to this temporary reduction in coal supplies to the railways. It was of great value, for it made it possible to increase by the above amount the supplies sent to the house coal market, where it was urgently needed to meet the needs of domestic consumers.

Opencast Mining (Agricultural Land)

102.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what representations he has received from the sponsors of the national campaign to end opencast mining on agricultural land; and what reply he has made.

I have received no representations from the organisation to which the hon. Member refers.

Landsale Merchants, Coventry

107.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the dissatisfaction expressed by landsale merchants in Coventry, of which he is aware, arrangements will be made for future coal allocations to be the same for both landsale and railborne merchants.

The responsibility for house coal allocations to individual depots and merchants rests with the House Coal Distribution (Emergency) Scheme, the distributive trade's own organisation. I am aware that there was some dissatisfaction some months ago amongst landsale merchants in Coventry but I understand that, after the hon. Member raised the matter at that time, the merchants concerned met the regional officer of the House Coal Scheme in October last. I am advised that after a full discussion of the matter the merchants said they were fully satisfied that their allocations were equitably made, and they have not since raised the question with the officers of the scheme.

Supplies, Caernarvonshire

109.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of the widespread complaints in the Gwyrfai Rural District of Caernarvonshire, and particularly in Llanberis, about the short supplies of coal in the area; and if he will take steps to improve the position.

I am making inquiries and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as I can.

Supplies, Cornwall

112.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what percentage of the coal supplies for Cornwall was sea borne in 1948, 1949 and 1950, respectively.

The only available information relates to the house coal sent to the South Western region as a whole. In the two years ended April, 1949 and 1950, and the 11 months ended March, 1951, 20, 24 and 22 per cent. respectively of this coal was sea-borne.

113.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what percentage of the coal supplies for Cornwall came from Wales in 1948, 1949 and 1950, respectively.

Except possibly for a very small tonnage despatched during emergencies, no house coal was supplied from Wales to Cornwall during the years mentioned. Information about the movement of coal for other consumers is not available.

Domestic Allocations, Yarmouth

116.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that many people, especially among the elderly, in Great Yarmouth and district have already used up their entitlement of coal for the winter period owing to the abnormally severe weather of the last few months in this exposed part of the East Coast; and if he will grant an additional allowance to them.

The abnormal weather of the past few months has affected the whole country, but I regret that the coal situation does not permit any general increase in the maximum permitted quantities. If there are elderly or other persons who are suffering hardship from lack of coal, application should be made to the local fuel overseer who is empowered to authorise extra coal to meet special needs.

Fuel And Power

Local Overseers' Duties

106.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what the duties of fuel overseers are; and how far these officers are responsible for dealing with complaints from consumers.

The local fuel overseer is responsible, subject to my directions, for the administration in his own district of the Coal Distribution Order, 1943, which provides for the regulation of supplies to domestic, non-industrial and small industrial premises. The main provisions are those relating to the licensing of coal merchants, the registration of consumers with specified merchants, and the restriction of coal supplies.For the administration of these provisions, the object of which is to secure a fair and equitable distribution of the limited supplies available, the local fuel overseer is required by the Order to keep a register of merchants and of their customers. He is empowered to issue to consumers licences for additional supplies where warranted by the circumstances, for example, to meet the needs of large families and of families dependent on coal for cooking; to meet hardship arising from illness or other causes; and to provide for the special needs of non-industrial and small industrial premises. He also issues certificates for priority deliveries in necessitous cases under a scheme arranged with the merchants. If a merchant fails to honour such a certificate, the local fuel overseer can use his powers under the Order to direct him or some other merchant to make immediate delivery.In his relations with consumers and merchants, the local fuel overseer deals with complaints on any matters arising from his statutory duties, including the inadequacy of the supplies received by a consumer from his merchant or general complaints of unsatisfactory service. The local fuel overseer has no duties or powers enabling him to investigate or arbitrate on complaints of quality, which must be settled in the normal way between buyer and seller. Where the differences between the parties cannot be resolved he may authorise the transfer of the consumer's registration to another merchant at any time during the year.Finally, the local fuel overseer has additional work in connection with the preparation and circulation of price schedules to merchants.

Solid Fuel (Women's Advisory Council)

110.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the useful work being performed by the Women's Advisory Council on Solid Fuel in the encouragement of the intelligent domestic use of solid fuel; and what practical assistance is given by his Department to the work of this organisation.

Yes. I am aware of the excellent work done by the Women's Advisory Council on Solid Fuel to further the intelligent use of solid fuel in the domestic field. This comprises education, information, and service to the general public by means of training courses, conferences, exhibitions, demonstrations and publications on the efficient use of solid fuel. The technical advice of my regional fuel engineers is always available to the Council's regional organisers and every encouragement is given by my Ministry to their work.

Economy Advertisement

111.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that in the trade paper, "Machinery," dated 29th March, the National Coal Board, the British Electricity Authority and the British Gas Council took a full-page advertisement in which they requested consumers to be careful with coal, electricity and gas until April; and, in view of the fact that there were only two days from the time of publication until the end of March, whether he will ask his Fuel and Power Publicity Coordination Committee to inquire why this was done.

The Committee to which the hon. Member refers was charged with the responsibility of securing that the policy followed by the Department and the fuel and power industries was properly co-ordinated, and the advertisement in question follows the general lines laid down by the Committee. The Committee had no responsibility for the insertion of advertisements in particular papers at particular times. This is a matter for the industry concerned to arrange with the paper through the normal channels.I agree that the advertisement might have had more effect if it had been published earlier but I cannot agree with the suggestion that the words "until April" necessarily mean until the beginning of April; nor do I think that the general public would read it in this sense.

Smokeless Fuel

114.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will take immediate steps to ensure adequate supplies of smokeless fuel to coal merchants in the area of Hastings and Rye as many householders have, as sole means of cooking, the type of stove which functions properly only on this kind of fuel.

I am making inquiries and will write to the hon. Member as soon as I can.

115.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that during the Festival of Britain steam tugs in the Thames are to be sup plied with smokeless fuel; and whether he will ensure adequate supplies to domestic consumers before granting this allocation.

Yes, but the large Welsh coal which will be supplied for the tugs would not be acceptable to domestic consumers generally. Supplies for domestic purposes, therefore, should not be prejudiced by this special arrangement.

Gas Council (Research)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement on the programme of research which it is his duty to settle with the Gas Council as indicated in paragraph 21 of its first Annual Report.

I hope shortly to receive the Gas Council's programme of research, and I will then consult them about it as soon as I can.

Domestic Appliances (Advertising)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of recent advertising of electricity and gas authorities inviting the public to increase the number of electrical and gas appliances, thus increasing the consumers of fuel; and whether he will refer this matter to his Fuel and Power Publicity Co-ordination Committee.

As I explained to the hon. Member on 9th April, the promotional campaigns (both of the electricity and gas boards) have stopped. If the hon. Member will send me particulars of the cases which he has in mind, I will make inquiries.

Potash Deposits, Yorkshire

117.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what encouragement the Government are giving to the development and production of potash discovered at Eskdale, Yorkshire; and for how long this discovery of sylvanite would be enough to supply United Kingdom needs of potash.

His Majesty's Government are giving every possible encouragement to the companies engaged in exploratory work on these deposits. A good deal more work must, however, be done before it will be possible to say when exploitation on an economic scale can begin. It has been estimated that if it were found possible to extract a reasonable proportion of the deposits hitherto proved, the needs of the United Kingdom would be assured for about 140 years.

Employment

York

asked the Minister of Labour how many persons in the City of York at the last convenient date were registered as unemployed; how many such persons were of 60 years of age or more; and how many such persons were registered as handicapped by disablement.

The total number of unemployed persons on the registers of the York employment exchange and youth employment office at 12th March, 1951, was 396. An age-analysis of the numbers unemployed is obtained only at six-monthly intervals and the latest date for which figures are available is 11th December, 1950. The following table gives the figures for York for that date (persons aged 60 and over are not separately distinguished in the returns, but figures are given in the Table for the age-group 56 and over):

UNEMPLOYED PERSONS ON THE REGISTERS OF THE YORK EMPLOYMENT EXCHANGE AND YOUTH EMPLOYMENT OFFICE AT 11TH DECEMBER, 1950
Total NumberRegistered Disabled Persons (Included in. Col. (2))
(1)(2)(3)
1. Total, aged 15 and over39184
2. Persons aged 56 and over (included in line 1)10126
The figures exclude registered severely disabled persons who are unlikely to obtain work other than under special conditions. The total number in that category in December was 14.

Coal Industry (Italian And Irish Workers)

118.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a further statement on the progress of recruitment of Italian and Irish labour for the coalmines.

Following the conclusion of arrangements with the Italian Government, the selection of Italian workers has begun and the first party should soon be on its way. One hundred and seventy-six inexperienced men recently came from Northern Ireland to enter the mines but a considerable number of them have not remained in the industry.

Wheat Commission (Functions)

119.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what duties are now per formed by the Wheat Committee established under Section 7 (1) of the Wheat Act, 1932.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the Wheat Commission, which administers the Wheat Fund established under Section 7 (1) of the Wheat Act, 1932. In view of the arrangements at present in force under Part I of the Agriculture Act, 1947, for the purchase of home-grown millable wheat, most of the functions of the Wheat Commission as set out in the Wheat Acts, 1932 to 1939, are at present in abeyance, but the nucleus of an organisation is being kept in being pending decisions on arrangements for the marketing of homegrown wheat when the present control system comes to an end, and the Commission are also still performing various incidental functions such as filling vacancies on local wheat committees.

British Army

Korea (Lieut-General Gale's Statement)

120.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the official statement in the United States of America by Lieut.-General Sir Richard Gale, British Director-General of Training, with regard to the war in Korea; and whether this statement represents the policy of His Majesty's Government.

I would ask my hon. Friend to await the reply which I am making to similar Questions tomorrow.

Personal Case

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he is taking in respect of the case of Private Breakspear, of 62, Newhall Street, Swindon, who was arrested as an absentee when in fact he was on sanctioned leave.

Private Breakspear is a recalled reservist who was sentenced to 91 days' detention by court-martial on 5th December, 1950, for absence when under orders for overseas. He has since had various grants of compassionate leave and his case was submitted to the War Office for decision in March, 1951. Private Breakspear was due back from compassionate leave on 13th March but received permission from his Company Commander to remain at home until the War Office decision was known. The Company Commander did not notify the appropriate authorities that he had given this permission and when Private Breakspear had not returned by 30th March instructions were given for him to be apprehended. I very much regret that his arrest was carried out. The matter has been taken up with the unit concerned with a view to ensuring that such mistakes do not occur again.

Stone Building Industry, Scotland

122.

asked the Under secretary of State for the Home Department when the report on the survey of the Scottish stone building industry carried out in 1949–50 is likely to be published.

The survey of the Scottish stone building industry was carried out in 1949–50 by the Building Operations Research Unit of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The full report is still in course of preparation. The question of publication will be considered in conjunction with the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) in due course.

Commercial Vehicles (Speeds)

123.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department what investigations have been carried out by the Road Research Laboratory as to the average speeds at which goods vehicles of an unladen weight of over three tons are travelling on typical stretches of open road in Great Britain at the present time; and whether he can make such information available.

The Road Research Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, as part of its programme of research on the prevention of accidents, has made some measurements of the average speeds of commercial vehicles on comparatively open roads. This was found to be about 27 m.p.h. although the vehicles were subject to a 20 m.p.h. limit. Well over 90 per cent. of them were found to be travelling faster than 20 m.p.h.

Drunkenness Convictions, Wales

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many convictions for drunkenness there were in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea during 1950; and how these figures compare with those for 1938 and 1949, respectively.

The following table gives the information asked for:

193819491950
Cardiff359185277
Newport182111176
Swansea304184246

Central And Southern Africa (Transport)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress is being made with the international plan to co-ordinate African transport south of the Sahara.

I take it that the Question refers to the recommendations on transport in Central and Southern Africa made at the Conference held at Johannesburg in November last. Since my reply of 6th December to a Question asked by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), further international discussions have shown that it is not possible at the present time to secure agreement to the establishment of a Standing Transport Organisation for Central and Southern Africa. It has been proposed, however, to maintain a small secretariat to prepare the way for a further conference to be held in about two years' time.

Southampton Airport (Employees)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation the number of men employed in the Southampton Marine Airport at the end of March, 1950, with the comparative figure for the end of March, 1948.

I understand that British Overseas Airways Corporation employees at Southampton Marine Airport numbered about 160 on 1st April, 1948, and about 100 on 1st April, 1950. In addition, Ministry of Civil Aviation employees at the airport numbered one on 1st April, 1948, and 14 on 1st April, 1950. These last figures are not, however, comparable since in 1948, the Ministry of Civil Aviation services at the airport were provided from staff stationed elsewhere.

Unemployment Benefit

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the purchasing power of the present rate of unemployment benefit for a single man compares with that of the current rate in April, 1939, in view

2-lb.3-lb.7-lb.11-lb.22-lb.
s.d.s.d.s.d.s.d.s.d.
United Kingdom to France36466396
France to United Kingdom4864841310
United Kingdom to U.S.A.336099170
U.S.A. to United Kingdom3070110220
United Kingdom to Brazil6083120183
Brazil to United Kingdom77102130206
United Kingdom to India396699150
India to United Kingdom265078126

of the fall in the internal value of the pound.

The unemployment benefit paid to a single man under the general scheme in April, 1939, was 17s. per week. The corresponding amount now is 26s. The 26s. would be worth about 17s. 1d. in 1939, on the basis of the official index on retail prices introduced in June, 1947, and the previous cost-of-living index. I would however, draw the hon. Member's attention to the precarious nature of comparisons in particular contexts made on the basis of general indices of this kind.

Postage Rates

asked the Postmaster-General how the estimated postage rates of the United Kingdom compare with those of the main countries in the Universal Postal Union.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to overseas surface parcel rates. According to the latest information available to me, the proposed United Kingdom rates compare with those of the four under-mentioned countries as follows (the rates are expressed in sterling throughout):—