House Of Commons
Wednesday, 18th April, 1951
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Northern And Southern Rhodesia
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the number of the resident European population in Northern Rhodesia on the 31st December, 1940, and the 31st December, 1950, or nearest convenient date, respectively.
The total European population in Northern Rhodesia, including visitors, was estimated to have been 14,300 at mid-year, 1940, and 36,000 at mid-year, 1950. The resident population is slightly less than the total population, but precise estimates are not available.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the discussions between officials representing Northern and Southern Rhodesia on the subject of the future relationship between those two countries have now been completed.
Yes, Sir. The conference, which concerned the question of the closer association of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, was concluded on 31st March. The members are submitting a joint report to their Governments.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the fullest possible publicity to this report in view of the extreme importance of the situation, both from the point of view of the natural apprehension of the African populations owing to events south of the Limpopo, and the demand, which has never yet been refused by this House, of Britons overseas to have a reasonable measure of self-government?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this is a report of officials to their governments, and that until it has been seen by all the governments concerned I cannot give any guarantee of publication.
While agreeing with some of what the noble Lord said in his supplementary, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he will give an assurance that there will not be any major constitutional changes until the interests and the suffrage of the African people are completely safeguarded?
Yes, Sir. I will certainly give that assurance.
Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's reply to this Question—which is causing the most intense interest and is a matter of Imperial concern which goes far beyond even the interests of this House and affects the Commonwealth—that if the Government do not like the report they will not publish it?
I want to make quite clear that this is a report of officials of a number of governments, and that I cannot say without consultation with those governments whether they, as well as we, will agree to publication. If all agree to publication, no doubt the report will be published.
Can my hon. Friend say if the report which has been submitted to these three governments was unanimous?
Can one government veto the publication of the report?
I should not think so.
Jamaica (Tobacco Industry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to further his declared policy of giving every possible encouragement to the tobacco-growing and cigar-manufacturing industry in Jamaica.
The furtherance of local industries in the Colonies is primarily a matter for the colonial governments concerned, though my Department naturally encourages colonial development in every possible way.
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that any agreement recently entered into or contemplated will in no way be likely to increase the estimate of unemployed in Jamaica? Surely my hon. Friend has heard that there are unemployed there, and that the less work there the more unemployed there will be.
That is a purely hypothetical question. I agree as to the seriousness of the unemployment situation. I cannot say whether any agreement will or will not have any particular effect on the unemployment.
Is it not a fact that there is now quite considerable unemployment in the tobacco industry in the West Indian Islands? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that while preference used to be 25 per cent. in the United Kingdom market it is now 3 per cent., and are we now free to increase that if we want to do so?
The question of preference should be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
With great respect, the Minister has a large measure of responsibility for the West Indian Colonies. Is it not a fact that however much, constitutionally, it rests with someone else to answer this detailed question, the fact that we are now precluded from giving greater preference is a matter which ought seriously to disturb the right hon. Gentleman?
We are seriously concerned about it and we do take it into consideration, but the actual answering of that particular question, and the responsibility for it, is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Does my right hon. Friend consider that the apprehensions of the Jamaican cigar manufacturers about the rivalry of the Cuban cigar manufacturers is unfounded?
Cuba (Trade Negotiations)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultations took place with colonial governments before His Majesty's Government entered into negotiations with the Cuban Government with regard to the purchase of sugar, tobacco or grapefruit.
There was no such prior consultation, because no one could foretell exactly what proposals might be brought forward in the course of trade negotiations covering a wide field. Discussions are still continuing, but His Majesty's Government have the interests of Commonwealth producers very much in mind.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the colonial Governments were not consulted because the Colonial Office did not think it necessary to consult them, or was it because the Colonial Office did not know the negotiations were going on and, therefore, could not consult?
The reason was the reason I have given in my reply.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give a definite assurance to the House that the Colonial Office were told by the President of the Board of Trade that negotiations with Cuba were imminent and would involve a new sugar contract? If so, what was the reply given by his right hon. Friend?
No, Sir. I think that all these matters will come out when my right hon. Friend makes his statement on the negotiations.
But does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that while Porto Rico, Haiti and other independent countries were represented at Torquay, the only representation of the British West Indian Colonies was through his right hon. Friend? Does this not make it all the more incumbent to protect their interests before negotiations start, and not afterwards?
I would remind the hon. Member that my right hon. Friend is a member of the Cabinet and that the Government act as one in these matters.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a large supply of sugar, and off the ration if possible, is the chief consideration?
To meet the very intense desire of the West Indies for consultation in these matters, will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of sending out a delegation from his Department, or from his Department in collaboration with the Board of Trade, to consult with the West Indies on this after before an agreement is reached with Cuba?
Consultations are continuous. I do not think there is any need for a special delegation of that character.
Has the right hon. Gentleman taken the trouble to find out what an enormous volume of criticism there is in the West Indies today against the action that the Government have taken, and the fact that this action has been taken behind their backs without consultation at all?
Since there is no action that has been taken decisively in this matter, will not ray right hon. Friend consider the suggestion which I have made, and which, I assure him, would meet with great approval in the West Indies? It would meet with great gratification if a delegation could go from here to discuss the whole matter fully before an agreement is reached.
I will lay that suggestion before my right hon. Friend.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will ask colonial governments which have not local military forces adequate for the prevention of serious local disorder where police forces are not sufficient for the purpose, to recruit, organise and equip such forces locally, thus reducing the demands on British Forces.
Most colonial governments have either police forces or military forces, or both, considered adequate to prevent serious local disorder; and the scale of local military forces existing in the Colonies is based on that factor. Where deficiencies are known to exist, His Majesty's Government are considering, in consultation with the colonial governments concerned, what means should best be adopted to repair them.
In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, will he assure the House that the Government are busily examining the question of Grenada where there was a recent rebellion which troops of this kind might well have prevented?
We are examining the whole question, including Grenada.
In connection with the safety of other West Indian Colonies, will the question of the reformation of the West Indian Regiment be seriously considered?
That is another question.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the resignations that are about to take place from the Board of the Colonial Development Corporation.
My right hon. Friend has no information about any such impending resignations from the Board, nor, I have ascertained, has the chairman.
Will the Minister be mindful of these denials when the resignations take place?
I shall be interested to know that the party opposite happened to have information which was denied not only to His Majesty's Government but to the chairman of the Corporation.
Does it not seem rather serious that this information has come to some private Member and not to the Minister? Will he not make investigations?
I cannot believe that the information is correct.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the report of the Colonial Development Corporation will be available.
I am unable to give a definite date, but my right hon. Friend hopes that the publication of the report will take place very shortly.
When the report is published, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Leader of the House to ensure that full facilities are given to debate it?
What date does this report bring us up to? Will it be to the end of the year?
The report will be to the 1st April.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what Colonies have legislation or regulations making unlawful any discrimination of colour, race or creed in respect of accommodation, entertainment, refreshment or employment; and in which colonial areas such discrimination operates.
No territory, so far as I am aware, has general legislation of the kind described. There are some examples of legislation against particular discriminatory practices. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) on 14th February.
Is the Minister aware that there are some colonial areas where race and colour discrimination are being practised at present? In the circumstances does he not think it rather advisable that legislation should be introduced, where possible, in those areas to meet that situation?
I think it is advisable that we should consider whether legislation should or should not be introduced, but in any case before considering these questions we think it better to await the Survey of Racial Discrimination now being made. In the meantime those who feel, as I think most hon. Members do, that racial discrimination is repugnant in every country should express their feelings by refraining from entering any public places where it is practised.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the strong feeling that exists in Northern Rhodesia that certain hon. Members on the opposite side of the House showed racial discrimination against Europeans in Northern Rhodesia?
Will the Minister of State and the Colonial Service generally, be warned by the aphorism of a famous Socialist, Mr. Sidney Webb, about the inevitability of gradualness?
Do I understand from my right hon. Friend that he thinks it advisable that legislation of this character should be introduced? Is so, would he consider the possibility of recommending legislation for Northern Rhodesia, where, according to the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), white settlers are badly treated?
I think it would be better to await the Survey of Racial Discrimination, which I hope will be published within a reasonable time.
Has the right hon. Gentleman had time to read the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), in which he does not prescribe any protection against racial discrimination in employment in this country?
As the question has been put to me in a rather peculiar manner, I would point out that the hon. Member is not the only person who has time to read Bills. I have, in fact, read that Bill.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the continual misunderstandings which arise in the United Nations about the responsibilities and policies of the main colonial Powers, he will consider the desirability of seeking the collaboration of France, Holland. Belgium and Portugal in developing a more adequate information and propaganda service in that connection.
I share my hon. Friend's view that information on these subjects should be as widespread as possible, but it is, I think, for each country with colonial responsibilities to interpret and to judge what it can do in this direction.
Nigeria (Co-Operative Movement)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made in the development of the Cooperative movement in Nigeria and in the issuing of explanatory literature in the vernacular.
The movement is developing steadily. I will, with permission, circulate some figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT. My right hon. Friend has asked the Governor about the issue of vernacular literature and will write to my hon. Friend.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at a recent annual Co-operative conference a unanimous decision was taken that the movement should provide teams of administrators for Nigeria and for backward countries, and that they are very anxious to help to create a higher standard of living?
I am glad to hear that; in fact, the movement's progress has been exceedingly satisfactory.
Following are the figures:
|Number of societies of all kinds.||580||1,092|
|Number of consumer societies.||7||38|
|Share capital paid up||£7,000||£45,000|
|Value of produce marketed through societies.||£361,000||£1,160,000|
|Loans granted through societies.||£25,000||£141,000|
Colonial Students (Hostels)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take in the interest of colonial students, residing at present in the hostels to be closed by the British Council at Leeds and elsewhere.
The British Council is responsible for the accommodation of colonial students, and I am informed that it will make arrangements for the accommodation of any student who may be displaced by the closing of these hostels. There were only five colonial students in residence at the Manchester hostel. Alternative accommodation arrangements for four of them has been made by the British Council. The fifth one preferred to find his own flat. The Leeds hostel will not close until July. There are eight colonial students residing at the hostel at the moment. Arrangements for their rehousing will be made by the British Council in good time.
Is it not true that my right hon. Friend's Department transferred these responsibilities only 12 months ago? If the Council are not now prepared to shoulder these responsibilities, will he again assume responsibility for these students?
That is a hypothetical question, but there is every evidence that the Council are carrying out their responsibilities in an admirable manner.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the present financial arrangements between His Majesty's Government and the British Council in respect of the provision and supervision of hostels for colonial students; for how many centres the British Council are or have been responsible to his Department; for how many students accommodation by this means has been or is now being provided; and what is the extent and nature of alternative arrangements for students made by the British Council.
A sum of £425,000 has been set aside from the funds which are, or will be, available under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts to cover the expenses of the British Council's work for accommodation and welfare of colonial students from January, 1950, to March, 1954. This includes provision for one hostel for men students and one for women students in London, and, for the present, for the maintenance of a hostel for men students at Edinburgh and another at Newcastle. These hostels house altogether about 300 students. Most colonial students live in university accommodation or in private hostels, in lodgings or with families. The Council has staff and arrangements for helping students to find such accommodation in every university centre in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
Is the Minister satisfied with the arrangements made some time ago regarding the function and power of the British Council to meet the needs of these students, and can he also say how often the British Council have reported to him on their progress in this respect?
I have every confidence in the British Council's ability to provide this accommodation, and I have no reason to suppose that they are not provided at present.
Is not accommodation for only 300 students grossly inadequate in view of the number of students visiting this country? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that this is one of the most serious social problems of the City of London?
I do not consider that accommodation for students in special hostels is necessarily the ideal solution of the problem. It is much better for them to be housed in universities or found accommodation with families, and the British Council make every effort to do that.
Does my right hon. Friend realise the difficulties of colonial students in London and other places, and will he institute an inquiry to see if something more cannot be done for them?
Would the Minister kindly reply to the second part of my supplementary question, in which I asked him how often the British Council reported to him on the progress they make in this direction?
We are continually in touch with the British Council, who keep us informed from time to time as cases arise.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the majority of the armoured cars being used by the security forces in Malaya were made during the last war and are short of spare parts, and that an undue percentage of them is always under repair; and how many new vehicles have been sent to Malaya during the past six months.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." The armoured vehicles are, however, all completely reconditioned; there is no scarcity of spare parts; and less than 10 per cent. are under repair. Sixty-one armoured vehicles have been sent out during the past six months for use by the police. The Malay Regiment obtains its vehicles and stores through military channels. There is some difficulty over spare parts for these vehicles, and repairs to them are subject to delay.
How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile this statement with the assurance that the Prime Minister gave the House, about 18 months ago, that Malaya was getting first priority in the provision of new equipment?
I explained that the position is very much better than might have been supposed by the hon. Member's Question.
As these vehicles are presumably supplied by the Secretary of State for War, was it not inevitable that they would be short of nuts?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great shortage of armoured vehicles on rubber estates, and will he see that the men who are earning the dollars for us get some protection by having these vehicles?
I will look into that.
Leprosy Treatment (Sulphurtone)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what supplies of sulphurtone were sent to the two leper colonies in Malaya in 1950; if the amount sent was sufficient to meet the requirements; and what improvements in the treatment of leprosy have been recently introduced.
My right hon. Friend is consulting the High Commissioner and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as a reply is received.
Will my right hon. Friend see that periodical supplies of sulphurtone are sent to Malaya? Will he also see that every improvement in the treatment of this disease is introduced in Malaya and the other Colonies as quickly as possible?
We fully realise the importance of seeing to these matters, but I must await the report before I can give a definite answer.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what acreage was replanted in Malaya with budded rubber in 1949 and 1950; and what acreage is contemplated in 1951 and 1952.
Figures for 1949 and 1950 for the Federation of Malaya are 33,569 acres and 31,297 acres respectively. It is not known what acreage is contemplated in 1951 and 1952.
In view of the fact that this is the most productive method of producing rubber, will my right hon. Friend give instructions that it will be used throughout the Federation?
That is a matter of opinion, but my right hon. Friend is only too anxious that every possible method shall be used, this one among them.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how this acreage was divided as between estates and other producers?
Not without notice.
What proportion of the replanting was carried out by native growers?
I could not say without notice.
Gold Coast (Diseased Cocoa Trees)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the recent decision of the Government of the Gold Coast to abandon the practice of cutting out diseased cocoa trees.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about the Gold Coast Government's suspension of compulsory cutting down of cocoa trees infected with swollen shoot.
It was announced in the Legislative Assembly on 3rd April that the Executive Council had decided that there should be a suspension of compulsory cutting-out for one month while an inquiry into the organisation and methods of the cutting-out campaign was held; but that cutting-out should continue in those farms where the owners agreed to it. A committee has been set up by the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources to undertake the inquiry and to report within one month. In subsequent statements by Ministers it was emphasised that scientists had so far produced no effective treatment for swollen shoot other than cutting out and that the Government must accept this.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House what is the constitutional position in connection with the cutting out of diseased cocoa trees? Has the Minister any power whatsoever now to enforce cutting out if he is convinced it is absolutely necessary to save the cocoa industry?
I think I made it clear that there is no question of the cutting out being stopped. The Secretary of State has every confidence that the Government of the Gold Coast are taking this step only as a temporary measure and intend to see that a proper review is made of the subject within this month and that if there is any necessity for cutting out continuing it shall continue.
As not only the experts but also Mr. Nkrumah himself have said that cutting out is the only known treatment, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the suspension will not be extended beyond one month?
It is for the Government of the Gold Coast to give that assurance, but in view of the statement by Mr. Nkrumah I have every confidence that it will be done.
Singapore Riots (Report)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the report on the riots in Singapore will be published.
The report, which will be addressed to the Governor, has not yet been presented, and I cannot at present give a date for its publication. My right hon. Friend is, however, fully aware of the desirability of publishing the report as soon as possible.
Can the House have an assurance that it will be published and made available to Members at the earliest possible moment?
Can my right hon. Friend say, whether, when this report is published, it will include reports made in the two years before the riots on the subject of the police, and whether these reports reached the High Commissioner in their complete form or not?
That is quite a different question.
Tea Prices, Tanganyika And Kenya
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action is being taken to equate the controlled price of tea in Tanganyika and Kenya so as to prevent existing anomalies; and what steps are being taken to unify fiscal and commercial regulations between the two territories.
An inter-territorial committee of producers is at present working out proposals for a uniform range of prices for tea consumed in East Africa. With regard to the second part of the Question, the Government of each East African territory makes its own fiscal and commercial regulations. There is constant consultation between the governments in order to ensure that degree of uniformity which is to their common advantage.
Has the right hon. Gentleman realised that existing circumstances are an invitation to continual smuggling between the two Colonies and the frustration of the existing Customs and Excise regulations? Will he do his best to secure that the regulations are unified to the greatest possible extent?
I hope that there is no more smuggling between these two Colonies than between any other countries which have different Customs and Excise regulations.
Construction Company, Tanganyika (Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what dates the redundancy terms were fully discussed with representatives of the staff of the Earthmoving and Construction Company, Ltd., in Tanganyika; and on what date his Department was assured that the terms were generally acceptable.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what redundancy terms were offered to employees of the Earthmoving Construction Company, Ltd., in Tanganyika who are serving on a 12-month contract and to those serving on a three-year contract, respectively; and to what extent these terms differed from those offered to the Overseas Food Corporation.
The question of redundancy terms does not arise in the case of the staff of Earthmoving and Construction, Ltd. All except 17 of that staff are, or were, on short-term contracts, and their employment has been, or will be, dealt with in accordance with the provisions of those contracts. The 17 who are on three-year contracts have been offered the alternative of completing their contracts or of terminating them and receiving the cash equivalent of one third of the unexpired portion. This option remains open.I regret that my statement on 5th March on the terms of compensation for European staff in East Africa was inaccurate. For the reasons given, redundancy terms have not been discussed with staff representatives of Earthmoving and Construction, Ltd.
Will the Minister make certain that when he makes a future statement on a subject of importance of this sort to employees of a corporation the statement will be accurate?
I cannot do more than say to the House that the statement was inaccurate. I hope that that information is sufficient.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a matter of the very greatest importance? In the debate on 5th March he said that a satisfactory agreement had been reached with the employees, but in fact no talks started until 16th March, when the chairman of the corporation went to East Africa. All the three-year-contract men have repudiated the agreement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] This is a matter of great importance to a number of people. Did not the right hon. Gentleman get out of a difficult Parliamentary situation by saying something which was wholly untrue?
The hon. Gentleman is making rather heavy weather about this. I have admitted perfectly openly that the statement was inaccurate and I cannot do more than that. The number of people referred to is 17. They are on a three-year contract, as I have stated. They were offered alternatives, to accept either the one or the other. There was consultation, because they were offered either one alternative or the other.
The right hon. Gentleman has not yet realised what the Question is about. It is not a question of consultation only with the three-year men. There was no consultation with anybody. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Is it not a fact—
This should be a question and not a debate.
Is it not a fact that there was no consultation with anybody, three-year men or otherwise? The chairman of the corporation did not get to East Africa until 11 days after the right hon. Gentleman said that consultation had taken place.
May I make this point? I have said, and I repeat, that all except 17 of that staff are or were on short-term contracts, that their employment will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of those contracts and that that is the method employed by private enterprise. It is, in fact, the method which has been employed by this particular company, whose servants are not Government servants.
Rubber Conference, Rome
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the official rubber conference being held in Rome; and state to what extent there is direct representation of the rubber industry both Asian and European.
The official Rubber Conference now being held in Rome is a continuation of the conference held in London during February, on which the President of the Board of Trade made a statement to the House on 15th February. The British Colonial and Dependent Territories delegation includes advisers from the European and Asian rubber industry, selected after consultation with the governments concerned.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what this conference is supposed to be discussing? Is it the price of rubber, or the denial of strategic materials to the Communist Powers? What is the main object?
The conference is discussing quite a number of things, but certainly not the latter of those which the hon. Gentleman has suggested.
Falkland Islands Dependencies
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies who is now in occupation of Paradise Island.
I assume that the reference is to Paradise Harbour in the Falkland Islands Dependencies. There are an Argentine and a Chilean post on two islands in this harbour. Protests at these actions of trespass on British territory have been delivered locally to the leaders of both parties.
In view of the complete futility of these repeated protests will the Government take steps to expel these undesirable elements?
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means. Does he mean engaging in warlike operations?
Can the Minister tell us how long this fatuous state of affairs has existed? How long have these people been there?
The protests were delivered by the "John Briscoe," when it was relieving British posts in the Dependencies. The Chileans have been there rather longer than the Argentinians. The Chileans set up their post during the Antarctic season, which is just ending.
Have no protests been delivered through the ordinary diplomatic channels to the Governments concerned?
That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what time has elapsed between the issue of first staff requirements and the equip ping of the first Fleet Air Arm Squadron with the last three new types of aircraft accepted by his Department.
Five, 4½ and 5 years approximately.
Is the hon. Gentleman's mind not disturbed by the length of time it is taking these aircraft to get into service from the drawing board?
To the layman it seems long, but I am told that our aircraft are not out of line with any others in this matter of production.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty when it is anticipated that the GR 17/44 aircraft for which the staff requirement was issued in December 1945 will come into service.
I regret it would not be in the public interest to disclose this information, but the House can rest assured that all practicable steps will be taken to ensure that the G.R. 17 will come into service at the earliest possible date.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that an aircraft which was conceived in 1944 and came into service this year was out of line with the answer which he has given to the previous Question? Will he not seriously consider holding an inquiry, with the Ministry of Supply, into the whole question of aircraft production?
I am quite ready to look into those matters, but I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the weight of aircraft production is on the R.A.F.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the naval dockyard in Bermuda is now finally closed.
Is the Minister aware that this small dockyard community has done very good work for over 100 years, and that the closing of the dockyard has severed an important link in the Colony with the Royal Navy? Would he consider sending a special message to the Government of Bermuda?
I am quite prepared to reiterate the expressed opinion of the Board of Admiralty as to the great services which have been rendered by the Bermuda Government and people living in Bermuda. I will look at the other point made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
Does the Minister's answer mean that the considerable number of Barbadians employed in this dockyard have been discharged, and if so can he give an assurance that they have been found employment?
If we have no work we have to discharge them, and if there is no employment for them out there I can give no assurance that they will be employed.
Defence Programme (Priority)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty which type of vessels rank as first priority in the defence programme.
The emphasis, at present, is on ships and aircraft for antisubmarine and mine warfare.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the shortage of steel arising from the shortage of transport wagons which, if not tackled very soon, will result in an automatic priority system which may not be as comfortable as the one which the hon. Gentleman wants?
Yes, Sir, but I should have thought that that question would have been better addressed to the Minister of Supply.
Has the hon. Member consulted his right hon. Friend?
I am always consulting him.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what steps have been taken to assist those ratings who are being retained beyond their Regular long service engagements by reducing the additional time for which they are being retained, and by assisting them to obtain civilian or Government employment.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many men due for release after long service in the Royal Navy have now been retained for a further 18 months; to what extent he anticipates that it will be necessary for all these men to serve the full extra time; whether he has now investigated the possibility of safeguarding the position of such of these men as had already secured offers of employment in civilian life; and what provisions exist for appeals against retention on grounds of hardship.
Approximately 6,000 men have now been retained. I am unable to say that any reduction in the period of retention will be possible. Appeals for release are considered on their merits, but release can only be permitted in cases where there are exceptional compassionate circumstances. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT information about the measures to assist the resettlement of retained men.
As this comparatively small section of the community is particularly hard hit, is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the measures he is taking to ensure their employment when they return to civilian life will be effective?
I do not think that we can guarantee that for everybody. I should have thought that the chief advantage lies in the fact that we are likely to be in a period of full employment.
Can my hon. Friend say whether it would be possible to reduce the extra time by calling up more Royal Fleet reservists, who have, after all, always been aware of their obligation, whereas these men do feel that, although what the Government are doing is quite legal, it is a breach of contract?
It would be possible to shorten the period of service by doing that, but I am not at all sure that we should do justice to the Royal Fleet reservists if we did so.
Following is the information:
The facilities for finding employment for ex-Regulars are constantly being extended, and will be available to these men. For example, in Civil Service examinations, and certain London County Council examinations, ex-Regulars are allowed to deduct the actual period of Regular service in order to bring them within the age limits. Men who had already competed successfully in the special Civil Service examinations for the executive and clerical classes will have appointments held for them. In the police my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary has informed the appointing authorities that, in suitable cases, he is prepared to approve the appointment of Regular Service men who would have been within the age limit but for their retention.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will give an undertaking that those men retained in the Royal Navy for 18 months after the expiry of their normal period of service will not have their period of service further extended.
I can give a firm assurance that no increase in the period of retention beyond 18 months is contemplated.
In view of that welcome assurance, can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the Admiralty is taking action to raise the regular size of the Navy sufficiently in order to make sure that he will be able to fulfil the assurance?
My hon. Friend need be in no doubt that we shall increase the size of Vote A this year.
Greenwich Hospital (Water Supply Scheme)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is now in a position to report on the progress of the negotiations between Greenwich Hospital and the Alston-with-Garrigill Rural District Council with regard to a lease of land owned by the former and required by the latter in connection with a water supply scheme.
Negotiations are now at an advanced stage and I hope that a satisfactory settlement will be reached shortly.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these negotiations have been going on for a very long time and that the dog-in-the-manger attitude of Greenwich Hospital has already caused grave hardship to the people of Alston-with-Garrigill? Can he promise us today that the negotiation will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion within, say, four weeks?
I know that the negotiations have been going on for a long time, but I do not blame Greenwich Hospital altogether for that. I have been into the facts of the case. A more prompt reply to letters would speed up negotiations a little.
Destroyer (Sale To Egypt)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why H.M.S. "Cottesmore" has been sold to the Egyptian Government; and whether His Majesty's Government intend to sell to foreign Powers other destroyers of this class.
This ship was sold in June, 1950, as surplus to our requirements. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) on 4th April.
In view of the hon. Gentleman's reply to Question No. 36 about priority being given to antisubmarine vessels in the defence programme, how can he say that this vessel was surplus to requirements? If the Government wish to sell anti-submarine vessels, would it not be wiser to sell them to nations subscribing to the Atlantic Pact?
As to the first part of the supplementary question, I believe we have none of this class of ships now serving with the Navy. At any rate, we have only one or two. As to the second part of the supplementary, it is our policy to sell these ships, or to loan them or give them, to countries in danger as a first priority.
Will the hon. Gentleman state in what respects the negotiations over H.M.S. "Cottesmore" differ from those over the Centurion tanks, which, we were assured in the House, were not to be sent to Egypt?
This ship was offered to the Egyptians as long ago as the autumn of 1949. She is not now H.M.S. "Cottesmore," and has not been for a very long time. She is an Egyptian ship, manned by an Egyptian crew.
Were not old battleships and new battleships sold to friendly Powers and potential enemy Powers when the Tory Party was in power?
Would it not have been rather useful if H.M.S. "Cottesmore" had been retained in the Navy to escort British tankers through the Suez Canal?
Naval Constructors (Pay)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will now make a statement on the pay and conditions of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.
The scale of pay of the constructor grade of the Royal Corps has, as already announced by my noble Friend in another place on 11th April, been increased from £900–£950 at the minimum, and from £1,250–£1,375 at the maximum, with effect from 1st August, 1950.
Is the Civil Lord aware that the changes which the First Lord announced are in the higher grades? Can he say when he will announce the changes for those under training?
I cannot give any definite date with regard to the probationers, but we are doing all we possibly can to reach an early settlement.
Motor Torpedo Boats
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many new motor torpedo boats have been built and commissioned since the end of the war.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those responsible for constructing these vessels state that between 1945 and now nothing like that number-have been made, and that they have had to pay off men and close their yards through lack of orders? Is he aware that his answer is misleading to the House?
If it is not misleading, may I ask him whether, in referring to 24 vessels, he is referring to vessels started during the war but not completed then and re-started recently?
I am answering the Question, which asked how many M.T.B.s. have been built and commissioned since the end of the war.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what progress he has made towards the granting to extended service officers now compulsorily retained in the Service an option to take up permanent engagements.
This matter is under review. I realise that the officers concerned would like to have a decision quickly, but it will be some time yet before an announcement can be made.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, as these officers were so welcome to the Admiralty not only during but since the war, they are now likely to be equally welcome to the Admiralty in the longer term, and, therefore, should be entitled to expect consideration?
I fully accept what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says.
Aircraft Spares (Supplies To Egypt)
asked the Minister of Defence what quantity and value of jet and airframe spares have been sold to the Egyptian Government since 1st November, 1950, or are under contract to be delivered.
The quantities of jet engine and jet airframe spares supplied to the Egyptian Government since 1st November, 1950 have been strictly limited to those required for the essential maintenance of aircraft previously acquired by that country. It would be contrary to practice to disclose figures of cost or other-details of contracts with foreign governments.
But does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that whatever quantity has been supplied to the Egyptian Government would have been of great use to our own units, particularly the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which is short of jet spares? Does he not think this is an extraordinary thing to do to a country which has behaved in such a shabby manner to Britain?
That has nothing to do with the Question on the Order Paper.
Does the Minister think it a wise policy, or a policy which makes any kind of sense at all, to sell armaments of any kind to Egypt at the same time as Egypt is proclaiming that she will never sign a Peace Treaty in the Middle East?
This Question does not relate to the sale of armaments but to the provision of spares.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the difference between the provision of spares for armaments and the provision of new armaments? Does not this constitute a breach of the undertaking which was given to the House earlier?
Certainly not, Sir.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that during the recent discussion on financial facilities the case was repeatedly made that until Egypt honoured her international obligations we should not grant her any special favours? In the light of that, will he look at these deliveries, which are a special favour to the Egyptians?
They cannot be considered as special favours in any sense of the term. The aircraft were provided some considerable time ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—that is not the question that I am answering now—and the only question that arises is whether we should provide spare parts; and that is what we are doing.
Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give us this decision, that no further supplies of aircraft will be forwarded until our Treaty rights are observed?
The statement that was made in the House quite recently gives, I think, a complete answer to the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but there are certain aspects of the matter which might properly be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
asked the Minister of Defence why there is a difference between the policy of the Army and the policy of the Royal Air Force in deciding whether it is possible to change the dates of Class Z and Class G reservists called up for training in cases of personal hardship arising from the particular period for which the reservist is called up; and if he is aware of the dissatisfaction this difference is causing among Class Z reservists who feel that their Class G counterparts are receiving more sympathetic treatment.
The difficulties of offering alternative dates to Z reservists have already been explained to my hon. Friend in the reply given to him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. Class G reservists, on the other hand, will be trained as individuals and not as members of a team. Consequently, there is more scope for adjusting their dates of call up. Every consideration will, however, be given to cases in which Army reservists would suffer real personal hardship.
In view of the great dissatisfaction among members of the Class Z and Class G Reserves because of this difference of policy, will my right hon. Friend take urgent action to see that the public is informed of the reasons for the different treatment in respect of the War Office and the Air Ministry?
I am not aware that the treatment differs but, if it does, I would suggest that my hon. Friend puts Questions to the respective Ministers.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with his right hon. Friends in order to try to adjust these dates, particularly to meet the needs of the agricultural industry, which will have great difficulty over the harvest this year?
If there is any question of serious inconvenience my right hon. Friends will consider it.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be equal care and consideration in cases of personal hardship among the 6,000 long-service men retained in the Royal Navy?
I would like to see that question on the Paper.
asked the Minister of Defence whether he is aware of the hardship suffered by Service widows, especially those getting on in years, under the present high cost of living; and whether he has any scheme to help these people.
Service widows are in the same position as regards pensions as the dependants of Crown servants generally for whom additional provision was made by the Pensions (Increase) Act of 1947.
In view of the statement made by the Minister of Pensions yesterday about the immediate problem does not the Minister think that he might be able to help some of the more desperate cases? With regard to the long-term problem, is he expecting to make a statement on pensions like he did on pay a few months ago?
As regards the latter part of the supplementary question, there is a Question on the Order Paper. As regards the first part, this is not a matter which comes within my responsibility. It has to be considered in the context of the Pensions (Increase) Act.
Will not further hardship be imposed on these widows by the proposed charge for dentures and spectacles, and will my right hon. Friend make that representation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
That remains to be seen.
Is not the Minister aware that since the last adjustment in 1947 the cost of living has increased by about 25 per cent., and ought not the pension to be looked at again because of that fact?
The hon. Member has a remarkable grasp of the obvious.
asked the Minister of Defence if he is now in a position to make a statement in regard to an upward revision of Service pensions to bring them into line with recent increases in pay.
I hope to make an announcement on this subject at an early date.
Railway Travel Warrants (Cost)
asked the Minister of Defence what was the total amount paid to the Transport Commission for free railway travel warrants issued to Service personnel on leave in 1950; and whether the Service Departments pay full fare rates for these vouchers.
It is estimated that the cost of Service leave travel at public expense during 1950–51 amounted to approximately £2,400,000. The exact amount could not be ascertained without a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour since payment is made to the railway regions for leave and duty travel together. In common with all other Service traffic this is paid for at special rates agreed between the railways and Service Departments.
Canned Meat Imports
asked the Minister of Food why canned beef is not imported from Eire; and whether he contemplates opening negotiations with regard to price in the near future.
Canned meats, including canned beef, are, in fact, being imported by private traders from the Irish Republic.
Can the Minister say whether he has negotiated on a Government basis with Eire for the import of canned beef?
Not on a Government basis.
asked the Minister of Food to what extent canned horse is now being imported from Eire.
Would it not be an advantage, at any rate to the horses, if they were killed and canned before export for human consumption in this country?
Associated Tripe Dressers, Ltd
asked the Minister of Food who are the present directors of Associated Tripe Dressers, Ltd.; for how long this firm has been the Government agency for the distribution of tripe; and what profit or loss has been incurred to date.
The present directors are Messrs. W. H. Hobbs (Chairman), W. S. Gibson, B. Emms, J. Almond, A. Hill, H. Longworth, R. Sanderson, H. E. Hearne and A. J. Ford. The company was set up in 1940. It is a non-profit earning company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital.
In the interests of the nation as a whole, and of His Majesty's Government in particular, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there is the closest possible co-operation and liaison at all levels between representatives of these tripe merchants and the publications and publicity department of Transport House? Further, can we look forward to greatly increased production of this commodity just before the next General Election?
This firm of tripe merchants was founded by a gentleman for whom I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman has great respect—my predecessor, who was Minister of Food at that time. I do not feel called upon to interfere with his wise choice in this matter.
asked the Minister of Food why he was able to give only one week's notice that the meat ration for the week beginning 15th April would be solely fresh meat.
We cannot know for certain how much home-killed meat we shall have until nine days before the week in which it will be issued; and nine days' notice was given. I always try to give the maximum notice of any ration changes resulting from the inevitable fluctuations in our supplies.