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Written Answers

Volume 497: debated on Monday 10 March 1952

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 10th March, 1952

Ministry Of Supply

Professor Pontecorvo


asked the Minister of Supply on what branches of atomic energy research Professor Pontecorvo was employed in any establishment of his; and how far he has received indications that these branches of research have been forwarded in foreign countries owing to the knowledge carried out of this country by this man.

Professor Pontecorvo was employed at Harwell on long-term nuclear research and was not directly concerned with any specific project. I have no information about his activities since he left this country.

Ordnance Factories (Sick Leave)

asked the Minister of Supply whether he will provide the monthly figures to bring up to date the tables, published from time to time, showing the amount of sickness in Royal Ordnance factories after the introduction of the Industrial Paid Sick Leave Scheme in September, 1948.

The following table shows the monthly percentages of sick absence among industrial employees in the Royal Ordnance Factories from June to December, 1951:


Constructional Engineering (Steel Supplies)


asked the Minister of Supply the total weight of steel allocated to constructional engineers in periods 1 and 2 for 1952; and what is the estimated capacity of the rolling mills for such steel during the said periods.

It is not the practice to give information about allocations made to particular industries. Rolling mills produce steel for many purposes other than constructional engineering. I regret therefore that it is not possible to give the estimate for which my hon. Friend asks.

National Insurance

Retirement Pensions


asked the Minister of National Insurance why a person who retires at the normal age on pension and later resumes full-time employment does not receive the benefit of an increased pension upon final retirement.

A man can only earn an increased pension by paying contributions in work after age 65. Once he has formally retired and claimed pension he is no longer entitled to contribute to the scheme and cannot therefore earn any further increments by resuming work.

Staff Reductions, Longbenton


asked the Minister of National Insurance how many of the staff reductions which have occurred since October, 1951, or which have been agreed to at Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, can be accounted for by casual vacancies in posts which it is not intended to fill.

The whole of the reduction is being achieved by not replacing staff wastage. There will, of course, have to be some re-arrangement of staff as between posts which are to be abolished and those which are to be retained.

Assistance And Insurance Benefits


asked the Minister of National Insurance how many payments were being made by the Assistance Board in supplementation of insurance benefits on 31st December, 1951; and how many of these were in supplementation of retirement benefits.

In December, 1951, about 1,007,000 regular weekly assistance grants were being paid to persons receiving National Insurance benefits, of which about 767,000 were being paid to retirement pensioners.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he will give any information as to the numbers of applications to the Assistance Board, from 1st January to the latest available date, from men or women who are fully employed.

As National Assistance cannot normally be granted to persons in full-time employment, perhaps the hon. Member will let me know what sort of case he has in mind.

Coal Imports


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power from which countries we are at present importing coal.

Four cargoes are still due from India. The final cargo of American coal arrived last week.

Court Of Appeal (Damages)


asked the Attorney-General whether, in view of the Porter Committee's recommendation that the Court of Appeal should be given a wider discretion to vary the amount of damages awarded by a jury in an action for defamation, he will institute an inquiry into the whole law affecting damages with a view to its amendment.

I assume that in referring to the whole law affecting damages, my hon. Friend has in mind the law relating to the powers of the Court of Appeal in regard to damages awarded by a jury, not only in actions for defamation but in all other cases as well. This matter falls within the terms of reference of the Committee on Supreme Court Practice and Procedure, of which the Master of the Rolls is chairman, and I understand that it is being carefully considered by that Committee.

Ministry Of Food

Australian Produce (Import Reduction)


asked the Minister of Food how he intends to replace the reductions in imports for butter, cheese, lamb, mutton and beef from Australia which were officially announced by the Australian Minister of Agriculture on 26th February.

I hope greater production at home and increased supplies from other overseas sources, especially New Zealand, will go some way to make good the Australian shortfall.

Argentine Meat Shipments


asked the Minister of Food how much meat the Argentine has contracted to supply to the United Kingdom for each of the post-war years, and at what average prices; how much has been supplied each year; and what is the estimated amount receivable for the current year.

In the years 1945 and 1946, Argentina undertook to sell her exportable surplus of meat, save for small and agreed quantities which could be disposed of elsewhere, to the United Nations. This meat was allocated by the Combined Food Board and shipments to the United Kingdom amounted to 333,400 tons and 323,400 tons, respectively, or about 80 per cent. of Argentina's exportable surplus. Average prices were not specified but are estimate I to have been about £56 per ton.For 1947, Argentina undertook to sell to the United Kingdom 83 per cent. of her exportable surplus. Four hundred and ninety thousand tons were shipped during the period October, 1946, to February, 1948, at an average price of about £72 per ton.In February, 1948, an agreement was reached under which Argentina undertook to send us 400,000 tons of carcase meat and offal. Between that date and the end of June, 1949, shipments of carcase meat and offal to the United Kingdom amounted to approximately 364,000 tons at an average price of about £75 per ton.In June, 1949, a further agreement was signed which provided that Argentina should ship to the United Kingdom a minimum of 300,000 tons of carcase meat and offal during the year, June, 1949, to July, 1950, at an average price of £97.536 per ton. Shipments in this period were 389,918 tons of carcase meat and offal followed by shipments of 10,309 tons in August. 1950.

Shipments were suspended in August, 1950, until April, 1951, when Argentina agreed to ship a minimum of 200,000 tons of carcase meat and offal during the following year. An overall average price was not specified but for shipments up to February, 1952, which amounted to 124,318 tons, the actual average price has been about £130 per ton.

I cannot estimate the quantity of meat we shall eventually get from Argentina during the current agreement.

All the above figures of shipments from Argentina to the United Kingdom are taken from the records of my Department.


asked the Minister of Food whether negotiations have yet commenced in the Argentine to procure further meat supplies; and whom he has appointed to conduct the negotiations on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.

As stated by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on Friday, 7th March, Her Majesty's Ambassador in Buenos Aires is being given full authority to discuss trade matters with the assistance of the Commercial Minister and such experts as it may be necessary to send from this country.

Fruit And Vegetables (Distribution)


asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to improve the distribution of fruit and vegetables.

As the hon. Member well knows, there is no quick or easy way of improving the present system. Such steps as have hitherto been proposed involve capital outlay which could not be undertaken in present circumstances.

Fishing Industry (Restrictive Practices)

65 and 66.

asked the Minister of Food (1) whether he will institute an inquiry into the action of the British Trawlers Association in maintaining fish prices at a high level;(2) whether, in view of the recent action of the British Trawlers Association, he will introduce price control on fish.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the Trawlers Federation has an agreement with its members which limits the amount of fish for sale, establishes a minimum price, enforces conditions which all tend to limit the supply, and stipulates severe penalties upon any member who buys a new trawler outside its own combine; and if he will set up a committee of inquiry into this subject in view of the general dissatisfaction at the prices charged.

I assume that the hon. Members are referring to the scheme of the Humber distant water trawler owners to restrict catches in times of poor demand. The scheme was formulated at a time of depression in the industry, but I understand there has been no restriction on catches under it since 1st January, 1951. The scheme had therefore nothing to do with the scarcity and high price of fish this January, which were due solely to bad weather. Since then, supplies have been much better and prices lower.

asked the Minister of Agriculture in view of his decision to continue the subsidy on white fish, what action he is taking to prevent restrictive practices detrimental to the consumers.

The white fish subsidy is payable only in respect of fishing voyages made by inshore, near and middle water vessels. I am not aware of any restrictive practices on the part of their owners.


Zebra Crossings


asked the Minister of Transport what decision he has made for the suitable lighting of zebra crossings since studying the report of experiments which have been made.

Leeds And Sheffield Tramways


asked the Minister of Transport what quotas he has specified to the manufacturers of quantities of tramway rails for the cities of Leeds and Sheffield, respectively, during the last year to the most convenient date; and how far he is considering reducing such quotas in the future.

For 1951 the manufacturers were asked to supply the following quantities of tram rails: Leeds, 725 tons; Sheffield, 980 tons.It is too early yet to say whether these quantities will be reduced in 1952. They depend on the estimated output of the rolling mills in relation to the total requirements of all tramway undertakings.

Birmingham-Wolverhampton Trunk Road


asked the Minister of Transport whether he has considered the representations from the Rowley Regis Borough Council stressing the urgent need for adapting the Tividale section of the Birmingham-Wolverhampton Trunk Road as a dual carriageway, and installing a new system of street lighting on the same section; and whether he will include these safety measures within the proposed expenditure of £1 million on schemes of special benefit during the next financial year.

I regret that I cannot spare funds at present for constructing dual carriageways on this road, but I am approving a lighting scheme in a form which can subsequently be adapted for dual carriageways. I also propose as a safety measure to install pedestrian-operated signals at suitable crossing places.

North Circular Road


asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes to install traffic lights at Neasden Circus on the North Circular Road, and make other improvements to reduce accidents in the area, in accordance with undertakings given last August.

Experiments with temporary signals will be carried out this week to see whether any alteration of the road layout here will be necessary when permanent traffic signals are installed. Tenders for permanent signals have been invited. The other improvements in the area referred to by the hon. Member are still under discussion between the local authority, the Police and my Department, but I hope that they will soon be agreed upon and put in hand.

Garage, Manchester (Building Licence)


asked the Minister of Transport the date and the circumstances in which officers of his Department lent their support to the granting of a licence for the building of a substantial garage and petrol-filling station in Moston Lane, Blackley, Manchester.

On 11th September, 1951, my Regional Transport Commissioner for the North-Western Traffic Area, sponsored to the Ministry of Works an application by J. A. Ferrington (Moston) Limited for a licence to erect a garage at Moston Lane, Moston, Manchester, at an estimated cost of £1,475. He was satisfied that the company's existing premises were inadequate for carrying out their vehicle repair and maintenance work.

Transport Commission

Strategic Reserves


asked the Minister of Transport what transport facilities surplus to peace-time requirements are being maintained at Government request for strategic purposes.

The British Transport Commission are not maintaining any specific transport facilities at the request of the Government. It would not be in the national interest to disclose what, if any, transport facilities are being maintained for strategic purposes by Government Departments.

Boilers (Specifications)


asked the Minister of Transport at what steam pressure, and superheat temperature, boilers are now being supplied by him to the British Transport Commission.

I am not responsible for the supply of boilers to the British Transport Commission.

Railway (Increased Fares)


asked the Minister of Transport if he will refer to the Central Transport Consultative Committee the proposal of British Transport Commission to raise fares on British Railways on 1st May and report to him, before that date, on the effects that such increase would have on the budgets of the travelling public.

No. It would be appropriate to refer to the Committee only some particular matter which has arisen from the Commission's exercise of the discretion allowed by the passenger charges scheme. The Commission have not yet exercised their discretion in relation to railways outside London.

School Building Programme, Staffordshire

asked the Minister of Education the numbers of primary and secondary school places, shown separately, which were originally planned in the school building programme for Staffordshire for the years 1951–52 and 1952–53; and the numbers which are now proposed in the revised school building programme.

The following are the figures:

ProgrammeNumber of Places

House Of Commons Catering

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, for which rooms, in addition to the Members' Dining Room, several separate menu cards were supplied before the adoption of the present four-page card; whether one card only, requiring no change of any kind in typesetting or make up, is now used in all rooms where separate cards were previously supplied; in what rooms are cards in use varying in any manner from those in use in the Members' Dining Room; what is the estimated cost of each change made for this purpose; what was the total daily number of the several forms of cards previously issued and the total number daily of the present four-page card, and the actual weight of paper used in each case.

Separate cards were printed for the Strangers and Harcourt Restaurants, Members Dining Room and Press Gallery, twice daily. Under the present system one card only is used both for luncheon and dinner with the same menu for each restaurant, except that for the Members Dining Room and the Press Dining Room additional identical items are printed on the back of the card.Under the old system 150 cards plus 50 cards for the Press Gallery were printed twice daily. At present 160 cards of one sort are being printed once daily. Weight of paper under the old system was 10.036 lb. per day, compared with 7.89 lb. per day at present.

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether he will publish the average weekly wage bill of the Kitchen Committee for the four weeks of February in each of the following years, 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952; and the total number of staff employed in each of the same four years for the month of February.

The following are the figures:

Average wage billAverage number of staff employed
February, 1949790146
February, 1950683120
House closed—General Election
February, 1951922174
February, 1952951164

asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, if he will publish the total number of days during which the refreshment facilities of the House of Commons were open for business, distinguishing between the days on which the facilities were only partly and fully open, in each of the years 1946 to 1951, inclusive.

The following are the figures:

Number of full days tradingNumber of half days trading

Aberdeen Shipyards (Steel Supplies)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will assure steady supplies of steel to Aberdeen shipyards during the period before the arrival of American supplies.

All possible assistance is being and will continue to be given to the Aberdeen shipbuilders to acquire the amount of steel allocated to them.


Feedingstuffs Rationing Scheme (Cost)

asked the Minister of Agriculture the annual cost of administration of the animal feedingstuffs rationing scheme.

The annual cost of the animal feedingstuffs rationing scheme in Great Britain is estimated to be about £540,000.

Aged Horses (Care)

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will institute either a compulsory or voluntary pension scheme whereby horses employed by local authorities, the Railway Executive and other industrial users of horses, farmers and race-horse owners, can be assured of a reasonable period of retirement in suitable homes of rest after service to their owners and to the community.

No. I think that this should be the responsibility of owners of horses and not of the Government.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is satisfied that in the application of credit policy due weight is being given to the need for maintaining and expanding farming activities.

I have taken steps to make it clear to the banks that, in applying their advances policy, they should give full weight to the importance of agricultural production, especially where increased tillage area and increase in fat stock are concerned.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how far his revised instructions to the Capital Issues Committee intend that credit required for agriculture should be included among essential purposes.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the above reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus). The views of the Government on this matter have been brought to the attention of the Capital Issues Committee.

Trade And Commerce

New Factory, Birkenhead

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the urgent reasons why sanction should be given without further delay for the erection of the new factory at Cleveland Street, Birkenhead; and when he expects to complete his review of the case and make known his decision.

I am in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply on this case, and I hope that a decision will be reached shortly whether or not the building can be included in our present very restricted capital investment programme.

Tinned Plum Imports

asked the President of the Board of Trade the quantity of tinned plums allowed to be imported into this country during the present year; and how this compares with 1951.

It is not possible to give separate figures for imports of tinned plums in 1952, since the arrangements for licensing imports of tinned plums from most overseas countries also include a number of other kinds of tinned fruit.

Television (Car Suppressors)

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is satisfied with the response he is getting from road users to his request that suppressors shall be fitted to stop interference with television reception.

It is too early to assess the extent of the response to the Postmaster-General's appeal to motorists to fit suppressors to their cars, but there are indications of an increasing demand for suppressors and my noble Friend is gratified at the support given to his campaign by some of the large users of motor vehicles, the motoring associations, the manufacturers and others.