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Written Answers

Volume 495: debated on Monday 11 February 1952

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Written Answers To Question

Monday,11th February, 1952

National Finance

Unrequited Exports

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total amount of unrequited exports made since the end of hostilities up to the latest convenient date.

I am not sure what definition the hon. Member has in mind for "unrequited exports." If he means the excess of current exports over current imports, the answer is certainly negative. If he has some other definition in mind, I invite him to draw his own conclusions from the Balance of Payments White Papers, Cmd. 8201 and 8379.

Pre-War Japanese Debt

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made in the negotiations regarding the pre-war Japanese debt; how the negotiations are being conducted; whether the settlement has to await ratification by all the nations concerned or whether the ratification by the United Kingdom is sufficient for a settlement between Japan and the United Kingdom; and when he expects the negotiations to be concluded.

I presume that my hon. Friend is referring to the negotiations provided for in Article 18 (b) of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, under which Japan expresses its intention to enter into negotiations at any early date with its creditors. H.M. Government, by virtue of their general responsibility toward United Kingdom creditors, have recently made the Japanese Government aware of their interest in as early a start to these negotiations as may be practicable. I am not, however, in a position to go further into the points raised by my hon. Friend.

Public Boards (Expense Allowances)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why, in Command Paper No. 8433, the only reference to the use of a car and chauffeur for official duties as part of the allowance to a member of a public board is confined to the post of chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation; and how many members of such boards do possess this facility.

I regret that I am not yet in a position to reply fully to the hon. Member. I will, with permission, circulate an answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible.

asked the Minister of Transport on what grounds it was decided that the expenses allowance for the British Transport Commission should be granted for the Commission as a whole and not individually to the members.

I assume my hon. Friend refers to the global sum of£4,000 a year authorised for the entertainment expenses of the members of the British Transport Commission and executives. This allocation is available to individual members for entertainment purposes, but in order to control apportionment it was decided that the distribution among the members should be at the discretion of the Chairman of the Commission.

asked the Minister of Civil Aviation on what basis the expenses allowance for the chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and for the chairman of British European Airways was calculated.

As indicated in the footnote on page 3 of Command Paper No. 8433, the allowances to the two chairmen are intended to cover normal entertaining, travelling, subsistence and other expenses in the United Kingdom, incurred by them in their capacity as chairmen.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland on what grounds it was decided that the expenses allowance for the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board should be granted for the Board as a whole and not individually to the members.

The existing arrangement under which a maximum figure in respect of expenses allowance has been fixed for the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board as a whole was made as a matter of administrative convenience and is in line with the arrangements made for the other electricity boards.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power on what grounds it was decided that the expenses allowance for the British Electrical Authority and for the area boards should be granted for the Authority and for each board as a whole, and not individually to the members.

I understand that when the British Electricity Authority and area boards were set up it was considered a matter of administrative convenience for the Minister, with the approval of the Treasury, to fix for the Authority and each board as a whole the maximum amounts within which members' claims for expenses, apart from travelling, could be met.

Commonwealth Timber Resources

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what steps he is taking to secure a long-term policy agreement for the conservation of the timber resources of the Commonwealth as a whole, and for their most efficient utilisation.

As far as I am aware the countries of the Commonwealth are taking such steps as are practicable to conserve timber resources and to promote their efficient utilisation.The appropriate measures have been fully discussed at successive meetings of the British Commonwealth Forestry Conference. The first of these conferences was called in 1920 on the invitation of H.M. Government in the United Kingdom and there have been further meetings at intervals of about five years in different countries of the Commonwealth. The next conference is due to be held in Canada in August of this year when problems relating to conservation of resources and utilisation will be further considered.

National Health Service

Diphtheria Immunisation

asked the Minister of Health to what extent the decline in diphtheria immunization, recorded in 1950, continued during 1951.

Vaccination (Personal Case)

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the death of three-months' old Elizabeth Howe, 66, Laurel Road, Liverpool, following vaccination; what conclusion the pathologist who conducted the postmortem examination came to as regards the cause of death; and whether, in view of this and of other deaths of infants from vaccination recorded in the Registrar-General's reports, he will reconsider his policy on the vaccination of infants.

I am aware of this case. My information is that the postmortem showed that death was due to bloodpoisoning associated with generalised vaccinia. I am advised that the clinical circumstances of the case were very rare, and afford no reason for not continuing to advocate infant vaccination.

Ministry Of Food

Retail Prices (Subsidies)

asked the Minister of Food the amount of subsidy now applied to the retail prices of each of the main foods.

The following are the estimated average unit subsidies for the financial year 1951–52:

CommodityUnitAverage Unit Subsidy
s.d.
Bacon1 lb.11
Bread3½ lb. loaf
Flour7 1b.1
Shell Eggs1 dozen11½
Meat (carcase)1 lb.
Milk1 quart
Butter1 lb.
Cheese1 lb.11
Margarine (domestic)1 lb.
Cooking Fat1 lb.
Lardl lb.
Sugar (domestic)1 lb.1
Tea1 lb.

Slaughterhouses (Condemned Meat)

asked the Minister of Food the amount of condemned meat from his Department's slaughterhouses which has been sold to processing factories over any convenient period; and at what price.

In the six months ending 30th September, 1951, 5,544 tons of condemned meat from Government slaughterhouses were sold to processing factories at an average price of£19 per ton delivered.

Roads

Leet Bridge, Coldstream

asked the Minister of Transport if he can give an assurance that the Leet Bridge at Coldstream will be repaired in time to carry the heavy volume of road traffic expected for the Royal Highland Show in June.

I understand that the Berwickshire County Council, who are the highway authority responsible for this bridge, expect it to be open for traffic before the Royal Highland Show.

Public Service Vehicles (Lights)

asked the Minister of Transport what lights omnibuses and similar service vehicles are, by his present Regulations, compelled to use.

Public service vehicles are required to carry, during the hours of darkness, two lamps each showing to the front a white light, and one lamp showing to the rear a red light. They must be kept in an efficient condition, and be visible from a reasonable distance. Headlights are not obligatory, but if fitted must be adjusted or be capable of being dipped so that a person standing more than 25 feet away is not dazzled.

Continental Trade Arrangements

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to commence negotiations for a new trade agreement with Denmark.

Discussions are taking place in London now with a Danish delegation about trade arrangements between the United Kingdom and Denmark in 1952.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the bilateral trade agreements or arrangements with Sweden, France and French North Africa, Spain, the Federal Republic of Western Germany and Denmark which expired on 31st December, 1951, and with Portugal which was due to expire on 31st January, 1952, permitting the import of fresh or preserved fruit or vegetables to the United Kingdom are being renewed; and what imports of fresh or preserved fruit or vegetables will be permitted, and during which periods, in the next 12 months.

Trade arrangements which have now been completed with France and French North Africa and with Spain for the calendar year 1952 include the following provisions for the import of fresh or preserved fruit or vegetables:

France and French North Africa
Stuffed dates£5,000 (against applications for import licences).
Spain
Raisins, 1.000 ton; Bananas up to 30,000 tons (Ministry of Food purchases).
The arrangements with Sweden for 1952 include no provision for fruit or vegetables. Discussions with the Federal Republic of Western Germany, Denmark and Portugal are still in progress.

Colonial Empire

Finance Ministers Conference, London

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps were taken to ensure that the views of Colonial Governments were expressed at the recent meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers.

It was my responsibility as a member of the United Kingdom delegation to represent the interests of the territories with which I am concerned. The Governments of these territories were invited beforehand to inform me of their views upon the subject of the meeting and, if they wished, to appoint representatives to advise me during the discussions. The 11 advisers so appointed covered almost every major territory. Several of them took a direct part in the discussions and all of them gave me their views either at the Plenary meetings or at separate meetings which I held with them each day. I was most grateful for their assistance.

Students, Uk (Forestry)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many colonial students in the United Kingdom are engaged in studying forestry.

Seventeen, of whom 10 hold Colonial Development and Welfare Scholarships, and four are assisted from Colonial Government or local administration funds.

Trinidad-Tobago Shipping Services

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to ensure that the shipping services between Trinidad and Tobago are improved.

I understand that a committee was appointed last year by the Trinidad Government to investigate the working of these services, but I do not yet know the results of its deliberations. I am asking the Governor for a report and will communicate with my hon. Friend when I receive his reply.

Civil Defence (Recruitment)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has been made aware that recruitment for Civil Defence is hampered by the belief that persons who now volunteer and sacrifice their leisure time for the purpose of training may be liable if the emergency arises, to be directed to leave their normal employment and be compelled to give full time service in Civil Defence; and if he will now provide that encouragement to persons to volunteer that will arise from an assurance that by so doing they are not making themselves liable to a form of compulsory service.

I had not previously been made aware of the point raised in the first part of the Question. Recruitment to the Civil Defence Service is at present restricted to part-time training in peace for part-time service in war. I am very ready to give the assurance that there is no intention, in the event of any compulsory powers being needed for the provision of whole-time Civil Defence personnel in war, to discriminate against existing volunteers.

Fuel And Power

Capital Investment

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what sums were expended for capital development in 1951, respectively, by the National Coal Board, the British Electricity Authority and the Gas Council; and what sums for capital development have been authorised, respectively, to these three bodies during 1952.

In regard to the first part of the Question, accurate figures cannot yet be given for expenditure on capital development in 1951, but it is estimated that expenditure by the National Coal Board was approximately£30 million, by the area gas boards£40 million and by the British Electricity Authority and area boards£140 million.In regard to the second part of the Question, it is difficult in present circumstances to forecast accurately future expenditure on capital development. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated, however, in his recent statement on the financial and economic situation that the fuel and power industries are so far as possible to be protected this year from any cuts in capital investment, and I expect therefore that expenditure during 1952 will not vary very much from that in 1951.

Anthracite Supplies, Caernarvon

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of the short deliveries of anthracite coal in Caernarvon and the surrounding district; and if he will take steps to remedy the position.

Electricity Supplies (Generating Costs)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will state the capital cost of providing one megawatt of new electricity generating capacity in each of the following hydro-electric alternatives, to the capital cost of£60,000, fair average figure, per megawatt at January 1952 for steam power-house construction, namely, the Scottish Hydro-Electric Scheme, completed to date, and the North Wales Hydro-Electric Power Schemes, projected.

I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland that the Loch Sloy hydro-electric scheme, designed to operate as a peak load station at a load factor of 10 per cent., cost£81,000 per megawatt: and that the Tummel-Garry (Clunie and Pitlochry sections), the Fannich and the Affric schemes, working at an average load factor of 35 per cent., were constructed at an average cost of£136,000 per megawatt. These costs were incurred over a period of years and it would not be possible to relate them to present prices.I am informed by the British Electricity Authority that the designed load factor of the proposed North Wales schemes is about 18 per cent. and the average estimated cost is£100,000 per megawatt.

Opencast Mining, Midlothian

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of men and women employed on opencast sites in Midlothian; what rate of wages are paid; and what machinery exists for regulating wages and conditions.

The answer to the first part of the Question is 323 men. With regard to the second and third parts of the Question, these men are employed by civil engineering contractors and their wages and conditions are governed by arrangements in that industry.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal was produced by opencast mining in Midlothian during 1951; what was the market price of this coal, per ton at railhead; and how this compares with the market price of deep-mined coal at local collieries in the same area.

329,129 tons. The average market price at washery was 48s.1½d per ton. Opencast coal is sold by the National Coal Board, as agents for my Ministry, and I understand the price is the same as for deep-mined coal of similar quality.

Private Premises (Powers Of Entry)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what action he proposes to take on the recommendation of the North Thames Gas Consultative Council that the 1948 Gas Act should be amended to provide that a police officer must accompany any official sent to force entry into private premises.

Although the provisions relating to forcible entry by officers of gas undertakings have remained virtually unchanged since 1871, I think there may be grounds for their modification. I am examining the possibility of bringing these powers into line with more recent legislation.

Departmental Responsibilities

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what matters in relation to the production and distribution of coal, electricity and gas, respectively, are now dealt with primarily by his Department and not by the boards of nationalised industry.

The primary responsibility for the production and distribution of coal, electricity and gas rests on the boards of the industries concerned. But I am responsible, in pursuance of various Orders made under Defence Regulations, for allocating supplies of coal in the national interest. For the time being I am also responsible for the production of coal from opencast sites, but as recently announced, this responsibility is shortly to be transferred to the National Coal Board. My functions in relation to the boards of the nationalised industries are set out in the various nationalisation statutes.

Scotland

Law Of Succession

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether Her Majesty's Government will introduce legislation to amend the law of succession in Scotland.

This matter is at present being considered, and it is hoped to make a statement about it at an early date.

Limitation Of Actions Law

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether Her Majesty's Government will introduce legislation to amend the law relating to limitation of actions in Scotland.

I regret that I cannot indicate a prospect of early legislation of this subject.

Civil Service (Reductions)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many civil

DepartmentReductionsAdministrative ClassExecutive ClassClerical and Sub-Clerical ClassesProfessional and Technical ClassesMinor and Manipulative Classes
Department of Agriculture for Scotland.81 (4·7)63 (7·5)18 (3·3)
Scottish Education Department10 (2·2)7 (4·7)3 (8·8)
Department of Health for Scotland.40 (4·3)8 (3·2)22 (5)10 (6·7)
Scottish Home Department47 (2·5)2 (3·6)1 (0·6)17 (8)13 (5·6)14 (1·5)

Midlands Brickworks Survey

asked the Minister of Works the date of the survey on which his figures for brickworks in the Midland region are based; how many of the brickworks have since ceased to manufacture bricks; and what is his present estimate of the latent capacity which could actually be called into production in brickworks in the region.

A survey of brickworks in the Midland region was started in the autumn of 1950 and completed early in 1951. No brickworks have been closed down in the region since the survey. At the time of the survey the brickmakers estimated their maximum output under the most favourable circumstances at about 600 million bricks a year. These servants it is proposed to dismiss in the next six months; what are the respective numbers for each Department; what proportion these numbers bear to the present total staffs of the respective Departments; what are the respective numbers for each class; and what proportion these numbers bear to the present total staffs in each class.

The following table gives the numbers in various classes by which it is proposed to reduce the non-industrial staffs of my four Departments within the period ending on 30th June, 1952. Percentages of present numbers are given in brackets. The numbers to be discharged will be considerably smaller as normal wastage will create vacancies that will not be filled. The total number of the reductions over all Departments and all classes is 178 or 3.5 per cent.estimates may have been optimistic. I am informed that 520 million is a more realistic figure. To reach this figure current output would have to increase by about 90 million a year.

Palace Of Westminster

asked the Minister of Works what is the estimated cost of each section of the oak hat and coat racks provided in the Members' cloakroom.

The cost of the hat and coat racks in the Members' cloakroom was£262 per bay.

asked the Minister of Works the cost of repairs and alterations to the Palace of Westminster in 1951.

In the Calendar year 1951,£193,218 were spent on surveyors' and engineers' maintenance and repairs to the Palace of Westminster, in addition to£246,437 which were spent on the rebuilding of the new House of Commons and the provision of the new boiler house.

Housing

Bombed Cities (Steel Allocation)

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that the shortage of steel places a heavy burden upon bombed cities; that the greater the damage done the greater is this burden; and if he will take steps to remove this by allocating steel in proportion to the damage suffered and the consequent reconstruction necessary.

I am fully aware of the effect of the shortage of steel upon the programmes of reconstruction of the bombed cities. The principle which I have adopted in allocating steel among the cities is to provide for those projects which can make the best use of the limited amount of steel available. This appears to me to be the most satisfactory basis upon which to work.

Development Scheme, Crosby

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what decision he has reached on the scheme put forward by the Crosby Borough Council for the development of the St. Michael's Road Estate, Crosby, which has been before his officials since 8th May, 1951.

As my hon. and gallant Friend has been informed, the scheme is acceptable in principle. I have under consideration the conditions which should be attached to the sale of council houses and will make an announcement on the subject at an early date. In the meantime, the Crosby Borough Council can proceed with the building of the houses under their scheme, if they wish to do so, and a decision on the details of the scheme will be notified to them as soon as possible.

Spare-Time Building

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will cause to be published a document showing the extent to which self-help home builders are operating; and, particularly, giving information on the cost per house and the time taken to complete a house.

I regret that the information specified is not available or readily obtainable.