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Commons Chamber

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1952

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 19th March, 1952

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions


Youth Conference, Berlin


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the terms of reference of the delegation representing the London Standing Conferences of Voluntary Youth Organisations, in association with the London Council of Social Service, for whom he provided the necessary allowances, and who are leaving on 19th March for a conference on unemployed youth in Berlin.

At the request of the Foreign Office certain persons drawn from British bodies interested in youth welfare will take part with their German counterparts in discussions to be held in Berlin from 18th to 28th March on the various vocational and educational problems confronting the unemployed youth of Berlin. The British participants were recommended by the London Standing Conference of Voluntary Youth Organisations on the basis of their personal qualifications and ability to take part in such discussions. As is usual in these cases, they will attend in their private capacity and have, therefore, been given no terms of reference.

In view of the fact that the object of this exercise is to co-operate in forming a link between the young people of London and those of Berlin, is the Minister aware that it seems strange to many people that the list includes no representatives of any such youth organisations as the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides or Boys' Brigade, or of any of these well-known youth organisations in this country?

In this matter the Foreign Office acted on the advice of the London Standing Conference of Voluntary Youth Organisations, which is understood to be a body representative of all the organisations to which my hon. Friend referred.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend also aware that, as a member of that body, I can say that there are on it representatives of these youth movements; but that I have here a list of the people who are attending the conference and, although their qualifications are very high, would it not have been useful to have included in the list members of these youth organisations who are also members of that body?

War Criminals


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many war criminals, S.S. men, former Gestapo and concentration camps' staffs have worked, or are working, without guard outside Werl Prison.

During the period October, 1950, to February, 1952, six persons of the types enumerated, comprising four men and two women, have been so employed without guard. They have worked as gardeners and domestic help in the Governor's house and warders' mess close to the prison. No such person is now working outside the main part of the prison without guard.

In view of the dreadful nature of the offences for which these people were convicted, is it desirable that they should have been accorded these privileges?

I am not sure that, in fact, they were accorded any privileges. One of the reasons these persons were used in this work was that they were the most suitable persons for it.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that any leniency shown to these brutes, who were convicted for the most vicious crimes, may be regarded by the followers of neo-Nazism as something in their favour? Will he please take every possible precaution not to encourage the rise of that nefarious movement by any action of this sort?

On a point of order. I should like an answer to my supplementary question, if possible. It is a very important question.

I also had some difficulty in understanding what was the precise point of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. There is no intention by this practice to give any special benefits to this class of prisoner. In these matters, the prison authorities are governed by the German penal regulations, under which there is no discrimination between particular types of prisoner.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that even if it is not a privilege to the individual himself, the fact that he is allowed to go outside the prison gates when other prisoners could be used for that purpose will, in itself, indicate to the neo-Nazis that we do not regard the crimes which they have committed with the same fierceness as we did before?

I do not agree that that inference arises. In fact, no such person will be permitted to work, or is now permitted to work, outside the main part of the prison without a guard.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why labour to help in the house of the commandant of Werl War Criminals Prison is not recruited from among the 1,100 Allied and German common criminals also housed in the same prison instead of from among the 139 war criminals convicted of crimes against the Allies.

Female prisoners are employed as domestic help in the official houses attached to Werl Prison in accordance with the normal German penal practice. There has been no question of war criminals only being employed in the Governor's house to the exclusion of other criminals: no distinction is made between different classes of prisoners where work is concerned. At the present moment, however, there are eight women held in Werl Prison as war criminals and only two other women criminals. As one of those was convicted on a charge of murder and the other of espionage it was not thought suitable that they should be employed on work of this nature.

In this case, as there were already eight female prisoners in this prison, would it not have been much better to have accorded equality of treatment to them, and not appear, however unintentionally, to seem to give preferential treatment to female war criminals?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds 11 German war criminals were released from Werl Prison in Western Germany on 26th February, 1952.

But is the Minister of State aware that one of them is a Nazi general—Kurt Gallenkamp—who was convicted of having been responsible for the execution of several British prisoners and one American prisoner? Does he think, in view of the reply he gave me a fortnight ago today that none of the people released had committed war crimes of the first order, that his answer today corresponds with the facts of the situation?

This group of 11 men has been released in pursuance of a practice, which will cover all such prisoners, of allowing a third remission of sentence for good conduct, and of allowing for the time spent in pre-trial custody to be counted towards the sentence.

Frisian Population, Heligoland


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking in the discussion of the contractual arrangements now being negotiated with the Federal Government of Western Germany for the protection of the rights and privileges of the native Frisian population of Heligoland, in accordance with the petition dated February, 1952, which the hon. Member for Antrim, South, has sent to him.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that in the Anglo-German Treaty of 1890 rights— most definite rights—were laid down? We are asking that these rights should be confirmed. What they want is that their own language—the Frisian language—should be taught in the schools. In view of the fact that that Treaty was so shamefully violated, we must ask for some guarantee.

My hon. Friend refers in his Question specifically to a petition dated February, 1952. That was a petition making an appeal for money and gifts in kind. It does not seem really appropriate as a subject for discussion.

Will not my right hon. and learned Friend read the petition again, and the numerous other petitions which I have sent in to the Foreign Office?

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman what arrangements he has made for the protection of the peaceful inhabitants of a place for which we have some responsibility, and who were attacked by the local police at a meeting on St. Patrick's Day in Derry? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Has the Minister no reply as to the protection of the peaceful citizens of Derry, who are in a majority?

Danish Population, South Schleswig


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking in the contractual arrangements now being negotiated with the Federal Government of Western Germany to obtain a guarantee in the Kiel Agreement for the protection of Danish schools and equality of rights between the native Danish population and the Germans in South Slesvig.

None, Sir. The Kiel Declaration will remain unaffected by the conclusion of the contractual agreements, and is not a subject which could be included in them.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware the whole Danish population demands that the Kiel Agreement should be guaranteed? They demand that 80 Danish schools should be upheld, and they fear that they will not be maintained unless we protect them.

The Kiel Declaration is a unilateral declaration by the Provincial Government of Schleswig-Holstein supplementing the guarantee of minority rights given in the basic law of the Federal Republic, and referring to the rights of Danish sympathisers in Schleswig-Holstein. Neither the Government nor any of the other Occupying Powers are parties to it.

Did not the British Commissioner preside over the deliberations? Is it not a contractual obligation between the Germans and Danes in Schleswig-Holstein which must be incorporated in the Treaty?

Arising out of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer, may I ask if the majority of the inhabitants of Derry are guaranteed their rights, and protection against attacks by the Northern Ireland police?

Illegitimate Children


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what official representations have been received from the West German Parliament by the Western Allied High Commission in respect of financial and other considerations for more than 94,000 illegitimate children in West Germany who were fathered by Allied occupation soldiers.

No specific representations have been received from the Federal Government or Parliament on this subject, although the question of future arrangements is the subject of negotiation with the German authorities in connection with the contractual settlement. As explained in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) on 12th March, publication of the Convention is not possible at the moment.

Do I understand that, although negotiations are being carried on, representations in those negotiations have come only from one side? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman not seen reports of definite proposals made by the West German Government regarding this very serious matter?

This is an extremely complicated matter, and my information is that there have been no specific representations upon the subject, but I am making further investigations with regard to it in order to ascertain what the position is.

Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman would permit me to inform him, he might consider whether he would like to put down another Question.

Ex-Prisoners Of War, Japan (Compensation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what sum of money the United Kingdom will receive as her share of the sum of £1,250,000 recently obtained from the sale of loot seized by Japanese forces in the war; and whether the amount obtained will be added to the funds from which those who suffered in Japanese prison camps are to be assisted.

As regards the first part of the Question, the United Kingdom will receive 12 per cent. of these funds. The answer to the second part of the Question is that when the money has been received consideration will be given to the various claims which may be made upon it.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that British Far Eastern prisoners of war feel that they have been far from generously treated in comparison with American and Australian Far Eastern prisoners? Although I appreciate that there may be a good many interests who would like part of this money which will be available, will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind the claims of the British Far Eastern prisoners?

I can certainly say that the claims of ex-prisoners of war in the Far East will be given very sympathetic consideration.

Arab Refugees (Un Plan)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what contribution Her Majesty's Government have decided to make to finance the plan prepared by the United Nations whereby the Relief and Works Agency shall re-settle in various parts of the Middle East the 800,000 Arab refugees from Palestine.

Her Majesty's Government are contributing £4,452,440 to the first year of the Agency's three-year relief and re-settlement programme. The interest-free development loan of £1.5 million which Her Majesty's Government have recently offered to the Jordan Government will also contribute indirectly to the carrying out of this programme.

While appreciating very much what is being done, may I ask whether the Government fully appreciate how important a solution of this Arab refugee question is for good relations between this country and many of the Arab countries?

My right hon. Friend is very well aware of that point. That is one of the reasons we did everything we could to facilitate the passing of the Resolution at the United Nations, as a result of which we hope that this programme will be speedily implemented.

As sufficient funds are now available for the beginnings of resettlement on a large scale, does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, to a large extent, the success of this scheme will depend on the good will and co-operation of the Arab Governments themselves?

Diplomats (Travel Restrictions)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how far the diplomatic missions of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other countries in the Russian sphere of influence accredited to the Court of St. James now enjoy facilities or privileges that are not similarly accorded to Her Majesty's diplomatic missions in those countries concerned.

I will, with permission, circulate a summary of the principal differences, which are very numerous, in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, within the limits of what is practicable, it would be far better that we should proceed, on this question, upon the basis of full reciprocity?

Well, we are seeking to achieve something near reciprocity. Even so, the position of the representatives of those countries in Great Britain will be substantially better than that of our representatives over there.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that it is not the intention of the Government to commit in our name and on our behalf every one of the follies committed on the other side of the Iron Curtain?

We have stopped considerably short of certain of the steps that are taken in most Iron Curtain countries towards our representatives. If any relaxation of the sort of conditions imposed upon our diplomats is shown by any of the Governments concerned, we shall be only too happy speedily to reciprocate.

Who has the responsibility for enforcing these restrictions in this country—the Foreign Office or the Home Office?

Following is the summary:

The following are the main respects in which the treatment accorded to Her Majesty's representatives in the countries of the Soviet orbit compares unfavourably with that granted to the Missions of the same countries in the United Kingdom.
As the Report of the Committee of which Lord Justice Somervell was Chairman shows, immunity from civil jurisdiction is accorded in the United Kingdom not only to diplomatic officers of Embassies and Legations, but to the entire staff, including clerks and typists (unless they are British subjects and personal servants of whatsoever nationality). Likewise immunity from criminal jurisdiction is accorded not only to the diplomatic staffs, properly so-called, but also to subordinate officials and servants of a foreign Mission who would not be prosecuted except after consultation with the head of the Mission concerned and with his consent. The Soviet Union accords immunity from civil and criminal jurisdiction only to the diplomatic staffs, properly so-called, of a foreign Mission. Recent incidents have shown that the Governments of Roumania and Bulgaria interpret jurisdictional immunity in the same restricted sense.
Large areas of the Soviet Union, Roumania and Bulgaria are closed to travel by members of Her Majesty's Missions in those countries. Soviet and Bulgarian representatives here are not prevented from travelling to any destination, although, under arrangements recently announced, they are required to give advance notice of journeys outside a radius of 25 miles from Hyde Park Corner.
In the United Kingdom all foreign Missions arrange their accommodation and settle other domestic problems by dealing directly with the private persons, agencies, firms or institutions concerned with these matters. In the Soviet Union the Diplomatic Corps must conduct all their domestic business such as renting accommodation, engaging local staff or consulting a doctor through a special bureau. This bureau makes exorbitant charges for many of its essential services. Somewhat similar monopoly organisations exist in Sofia, Prague and Bucharest.
The Customs privileges and facilities which are ordinarily accorded to diplomats appointed to the United Kingdom are, in general, considerably wider than those granted to members of Her Majesty's Foreign Service in the Soviet orbit. The discrepancy is greatest in the case of Roumania.
Her Majesty's Government do not require any foreigner to obtain an exit visa to leave the United Kingdom. Members of Her Majesty's Foreign Service, on the other hand, are required to obtain a special permit for every journey out of the Soviet Union, Roumania, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Moreover, under a recent decision the Czechoslovak Government now provide members of Her Majesty's Foreign Service proceeding to Czechoslovakia with visas for single journeys only, whereas Czechoslovak diplomats coming to this country are at present granted a permanent return visa which is valid for as long as the appointment in London is held.

European Extradition Convention


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will do his best to ensure that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, at their meeting on 19th March, take a decision on the Consultative Assembly's Recommendation 16, which deals with the working out of a European Extradition Convention.

British Protestant Church, Seville (Attack)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that, on 4th March, an attack was made on the British-owned Protestant church in Seville, when the minister was knocked down and the furniture and hymn books were set on fire; and if he will make a protest to the Spanish Government and demand compensation for the minister and for the damage done to the furniture.

Yes, Sir. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid has reported this most regrettable act of hooliganism and has delivered a Note to the Spanish Government reserving the right to present a claim for compensation to cover damage to British property. As soon as fuller details of the incident and an exact assessment of the damage are available, I will consider what form our representations to the Spanish Government should take.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this is simply the culmination of a whole series of attacks on Protestant churches, and that I have in my hand a list of nine, the last being an attack at Oreuse, where the Protestant chapel was blown up by a bomb?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also bear in mind that previous attacks have been made against Protestant churches in Spain; and will he take every opportunity of emphasising to the world that we in this country are irrevocably opposed to religious persecution, whether it is against Catholics in Hungary or Protestants in Spain?

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman also aware that that is the normal condition in another country? Is he aware that a Catholic church in Willowfield, Belfast, was bombed, and that the friends of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory), were not prosecuted?

West Indies

Infantry Battalion, Eastern Caribbean


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consideration has been given to the possibility of raising an infantry battalion in the Eastern Caribbean territories; and whether he is aware that a decision to raise such a battalion would find a ready response from voluntary recruits.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to re-form the West Indies Regiment.

There is at present one local infantry battalion in Jamaica. In August, 1951, my predecessor put to Colonial Governments in the Caribbean area proposals for the establishment in its place of a force of two local Regular infantry battalions, to be liable for service throughout the area. Conditions of service and the division of costs between Her Majesty's Government and Colonial Governments are still being worked out. Recruits for the force will be drawn from all the Colonies concerned, and I have no doubt that the response will be satisfactory.

Is this a revival of the old West Indies Regiment, which had such high traditions, or is it some other force?

I find that one rather difficult to answer. I think I must look into that.

Having regard to the fact that this matter was mooted in August of last year, can my right hon. Friend say whether an early decision can be expected?

Yes. The plans have been put back by the destruction of the barracks by a hurricane, and that has caused some delay.

Drug Traffic, Jamaica


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken by the Jamaican Government to suppress traffic in drugs.

The Jamaican police, with the help of other Departments and of the Press, are waging a vigorous and effective campaign against ganja, the only drug in common use in Jamaica. Cultivations are raided and destroyed. Growers of ganja and people found in possession of it are prosecuted. The Governor of Jamaica informs me that a propaganda campaign against the drug, will shortly be launched.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that efforts to stamp out this dreadful traffic have failed; that the drug is even peddled inside Jamaican prisons; that there is some evidence to suggest that the practice is spreading to this country through the medium of Jamaican immigrants; and will he, as a matter of the greatest urgency, consult again with the Jamaican Government to see whether the efforts to stamp out this dreadful traffic can be intensified?

I think that police action is effective. I have already told my hon. Friend that a propaganda campaign is being launched. In 1951, for example, there were 600 prosecutions, and about 60 per cent. convictions were obtained. I am fully alive to the danger of this traffic.

Jamaican Hurricane Relief Fund


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he has taken to ensure that the Jamaican Hurricane Relief Fund has been wisely distributed.

The Fund is administered by a Committee of which the Governor of Jamaica is Chairman, and the fifteen members are leading figures in the public life of the Colony.

In view of the fact that the British Government gave a very large sum to this Fund and that there have been widespread allegations in Jamaica that much of the relief has been badly distributed, and that, in some cases, goods have been resold, should the Secretary of State not impress upon the Government that an inquiry should be made into this distribution, and the accounts published?

The hon. Lady should know that the Government of Jamaica are now investigating these allegations, and when I hear the results of the investigations, I will take the appropriate action.

British Honduras (Banana Exports)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to increase the export of bananas from British Honduras to Canada.

I am consulting the Governor and will write to my hon. Friend when I have had his reply.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a very ready market in Canada for greatly increased imports of bananas, and would he not agree that it would be much wiser to spend the British taxpayers' money in developing this market than on abortive attempts to raise beef cattle in an unsuitable country?

There are serious marketing and shipping difficulties relating to the Canadian market which are now being investigated. I am not entirely hopeful about the result.

When the right hon. Gentleman is consulting the Governor on the export of this particular commodity to Canada, will he also inquire whether British vessels can be employed in this trade, and look into the whole question of the employment of British tonnage to and from the West Indies?

I can certainly give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. At the present moment we are examining the whole marketing and shipping question relating to this export trade, and the question which the right hon. Gentleman raises about the use of British bottoms in this trade will, of course, form part of that investigation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a very important matter affecting British shipping and the commercial development of that particular area, and that one of the reasons that is given for the failure to develop that area is the lack of British shipping facilities?

I have already given the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that the matter is being looked into, and I think that he has performed a public service in raising the matter again.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the late Government were repeatedly pressed about this matter and did nothing about it?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no British shipping firm would put forward any proposal for developing this shipping trade without a very heavy subsidy?

Seychelles (Food Subsidies)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what were the wages paid to labourers on Government and private coconut plantations in the Seychelles; what was the price of copra in 1947 and 1951, respectively; and, in view of the increased cost of living, whether the food subsidies will be restored.

The proclaimed monthly minimum wage for labourers on coconut plantations, based on a 33½ hours' week, was Rs. 16 in 1947 and Rs. 18.50 cents in 1951. It was increased to Rs. 22.20 cents for Government labour in August, 1951. Most labourers can, and many do, earn two or three times the minimum wage. It is believed that the wages paid on private plantations are approximately the same. The price for copra in 1947 was £40 10s. per ton; the average price for 1951 was £84 16s. Expenditure on food subsidies in 1947 was nil and in 1951 Rs. 432,000 (£32,400). A similar amount has been provided for food subsidies in the current year's Estimates. It will again be devoted to maize and coconut oil. There is no intention of restoring the subsidies on rice and sugar.

In view of the fact that, not only has the price of copra risen steeply but the cost of living has gone up even more steeply, will not the right hon. Gentleman take steps in order to avoid what undoubtedly is, and is likely to be increasing, hardship among the people of that island?

The price of copra has now fallen, and I should be very careful about interfering in the negotiations.

Does that mean the right hon. Gentleman favours a policy of laissez-faire in this respect?

No, it does not. I am watching the position now and if intervention is necessary, I shall, of course, take it, but I want to be careful.

West Africa

Yellow Fever, Enugu


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action has been taken to combat the outbreak of yellow fever in villages near Enugu, Nigeria, where over 200 Africans have died of this disease; and whether there has been regular routine inspection of mosquito breeding grounds and educational propaganda aimed at removing the source of disease.

A well-organised and comparatively large staff has done everything possible to prevent the disease from spreading and about half a million people have already been vaccinated. No cases have been discovered during the last month and there is every sign that the epidemic is now under control. All appropriate measures of the kind indicated in the second part of the Question have been, and continue to be, taken.

Does it not seem likely that the deaths of these 200 Africans were due to some negligence in what are called the regular routine inspections of mosquito breeding grounds; and is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that everything was done before the unfortunate deaths of these 200 Africans?

The first report of the epidemic was received at the regional medical headquarters on 19th November, and from the information that I have I am satisfied that as soon as that was known every step was taken as speedily as possible.

Intoxicating Beverages (Imports)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what amounts of beer, spirits or other intoxicating beverages were imported into each of the West African Colonies, Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia, for 1950 and 1951, respectively.

As the answer contains many figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my right hon. Friend indicate whether the figures of these imports that he will circulate show an increase or a decrease on previous years?

I have the table here. I think that I must ask my right hon. Friend to study it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, as it is rather long.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether these figures are more or less than those that were arranged for at the time that Lord Passfield held the position that the right hon. Gentleman now holds?

If the hon. Gentleman will put a Question on the Order Paper, I shall be glad to conduct the necessary research.

Following are the figures:

'000 galls.


'000 galls.£


Beer, Ale, Stout and Porter2,580904,9214,2891,767,764
Cider and Perry(a)(a)42,403

Gold Coast:

Beer, Ale, Stout and Porter2,9961,057,0034,0001,589,2591(c)
Cider and Perry84,43463,478

Sierra Leone:

Beer, Ale, Stout and Porter325131,449322129,905
Cider and Perry1606(a)(a)


(a) Full details not yet available in London.
(b) Liquid gallons.
(c) Gold Coast 1951 figures are estimates based on 10 months' imports.

Central African Federation


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what circumstances the Attorney-General of Northern Rhodesia has threatened the use of force against the African Congress, and against Central African Federation, and if this threat was made after consultation with him and with his consent or approval.

At recent Congress meetings in Northern Rhodesia suggestions have been made that federation should be opposed by such means as a general strike, weekly paralysis strikes, mass exodus from towns and non-payment of taxes. The Attorney-General therefore judged it expedient to draw the attention of the Africans, through the two African Members of Legislative Council, to the legal position and to warn them of the limits beyond which they could not lawfully go, particularly as regards political strikes. He did not threaten the use of force and made it clear that Government wished Africans to have the fullest freedom of speech. This action, though taken without consultation with me, has my approval, as it also had that of the Governor.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to all concerned that persuasion and not force is the only way to facilitate constitutional development in Africa, towards which the former Colonial Secretary took such sympathetic and energetic steps?

That has nothing to do with the Question which the hon. and learned Gentleman has put down.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the leaders of the Northern Rhodesian African Congress that the threats of violence which they have made recently will do nothing to advance their case in this matter?

Does the Colonial Secretary decline to say that he will make clear to all concerned that persuasion and not force is the proper method to adopt in these circumstances?

The Attorney-General made it quite clear where the law runs, and that has been his action in the matter.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will report fully and in detail to the House the communications which he has had with the Supreme Action Council of the African Congress relating to Central African Federation.

I have had no communication with the Supreme Action Council of the African Congress on federation or any other matter.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will report fully and in detail to the House the communications he has had with the Nyasaland Protectorate Council on the subject of Central African Federation.

I have not so far had any communication from the African Protectorate Council on this subject but I understand that in February, when the Council agreed to accept my invitation to send a deputation to see me in London during April, they approved the text of a letter which will be handed to me by the deputation when it arrives.

Has the Minister had communication or correspondence with any of these representative bodies relative to federation, and, if so, does he realise that this is a matter that should be dealt with openly in this House and not by methods of secret diplomacy?

I must keep myself perfectly free to see what negotiations it would be appropriate to carry on, either in public or private.

Sealing Industry, Falkland Islands


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent the Governor of the Falkland Islands has granted licences for sealing in Falkland Island waters; and what is the state of this industry.

A licence to take seals has been granted in the Falkland Islands to the South Atlantic Sealing Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of the Colonial Development Corporation, and in South Georgia to the Compania Argentina de Pesca. Operations by the former company have been temporarily suspended owing to a dispute about the validity of the licence granted to them, but I understand that a settlement of the dispute is now in sight. In South Georgia results have been satisfactory.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the need for building up a wide range of industries in the Falkland Islands, and is he satisfied with the progress that has been made?

No, I am not at all satisfied with the progress that has been made. It has been interrupted by a dispute which, I hope, is going to be settled.


School Population And Accommodation


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the school population of Singapore; how many of the children attend school; and when he anticipates that school accommodation will be provided for all children.

There are about 153,000 children of six to 12 and 69,000 of 12 to 16, of whom some 151,000 attend school. When schools now under construction are complete there will be places for all between six and 12. Despite the sharp rise in the birth-rate since the liberation, it is hoped that universal primary education can be provided by 1960.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the people of Malaya are more keenly interested in education for their children than in almost anything else, and will he speed up the school accommodation so that every child will have an opportunity of getting at least an elementary education?

I agree with the hon. Member. This is one of the primary tasks to be undertaken in Malaya and Singapore.

City Council (Recommendation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many members of the Singapore City Council are elected and how many appointed; and what are the recommendations of Dr. L. G. Hill, who recently held an official inquiry into the local government, regarding the composition of this Council.

Eighteen members of the Singapore City Council are elected and nine are nominated by the Governor. Dr. Hill recommends that all 27 members should be elected.

Is the Minister aware that the Governor recently stated that if we are to win the war in Malaya we must win the minds and hearts of the people there, and that the best way of doing that is to give them self-government, locally and nationally, as quickly as possible?

The Question on the Order Paper relates to Singapore, and the matter has not yet been discussed by the Legislative Council.

Timber Felling, Sarawak


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to ensure that the operations of private concerns felling timber in Sarawak shall conform with approved working plans which ensure the maintenance of a sustained yield.

In all "demarcated forests," which form the permanent forest estate of the Colony, timber fellings are under the law controlled by licence which stipulates amongst other things that operations must conform to a working plan for sustained yield approved by the Conservator of Forests.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some misgivings have been expressed in professional circles as to the effect of the present Regulations, and will he look at this matter again?

Colonial Empire

Economic And Development Council


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why he has abolished the Colona] Economic Advisory Committee.

The main function of the Colonial Economic and Development Council (to which I assume that the right hon. Member is referring) was to advise upon new colonial development plans. Such plans having now been adopted by almost every Colonial Government, I have not felt justified in keeping the Council in being.

Is not the real reason that the right hon. Gentleman is afraid of exposing his economic nakedness to these eminent gentlemen, who really do know something about economics?

Development Corporation (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he anticipates that the report of the Colonial Development Corporation will be available.

I am unable to give a definite date but I hope that the report will be published by the end of next month.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern which recent reports of the failure of C.D.C. schemes have caused, and when the report is available will he ensure that this House has an opportunity of debating it?

Royal Navy

Dockyards (Select Committee's Reports)

34, 35 and 36.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty (1) what action he has taken or proposes to take on the 8th and 9th Reports from the Select Committee on Estimates;

(2) what action he proposes to take on paragraphs 21 and 75 (6) of the 8th and 9th Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates which deals with Her Majesty's Dockyards;

(3) what action he proposes to take on paragraphs 12 to 23 of the 8th and 9th Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates.

As my hon. and gallant Friend said in winding-up the debate on the Navy Estimates, a number of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates in their report on the dockyards are still under consideration, and I must ask the hon. Member to await the reply which the Admiralty will shortly be sending to the Select Committee.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is some time ago since this Select Committee's Report was published, and I should have thought that ample time had been given to enable its recommendations to be considered; and in view of the uneasiness that exists because of so much rate-cutting in the past and the favouritism that exists with regard to the merit scheme, is it not time in the national interest that action should be taken?

Some of the recommendations were very complicated and some very good. The Admiralty have been going very thoroughly into the whole Report, and it will not be long before we write to the Estimates Committee. I understand that it would be improper for me to give orally to the House information which has first to be sent in writing by the Admiralty to the Select Committee on Estimates.

In view of the fact that many of the recommendations contained in this Select Committee's Report merely repeat recommendations made by the Committee as long ago as 1927 to the Admiralty, and pigeon-holed by the Admiralty, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that there should be the most earnest consideration given to these recommendations; and can he give an assurance that there will be a full discussion and statement in the reply which is made by his Department?

The fact remains that these recommendations came from the present Select Committee on Estimates, and it would be very discourteous of me not to reply first to the Committee in writing. I can assure the hon. Member that if he wishes to discuss our reply to the Report in full I will, when the time comes, certainly make recommendations to the proper quarter.

May I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to maintain the attitude that it is against the whole procedure of the House of Commons for any statement to be made in the House before a reply is made to the Select Committee on Estimates by the Department concerned?

Colleges (Staff—Student Ratio)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state the ratio of staff to students, respectively, at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, the Naval Staff College, the Naval War College, the Royal Naval Engineering College and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will my right hon. Friend examine the staffing of these educational institutions in comparison with that of residential universities with a view to effecting economies?

Yes, Sir. It is my object, as I said in my speech on the Estimates, to effect certain economies, and I am sure that the subject which my hon. Friend mentions will be one for me to consider.

Following is the answer:

The present ratio of supervising and teaching staff, both naval and civilian, to students at these establishments is as follows:

(i) Royal Naval College, Greenwich1:4.4
(ii) Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich1:4.6
(iii) Royal Naval War College, Greenwich1:12
(iv) Royal Naval Engineering College, Devonport1:4.4
(v) Royal Naval College, Dartmouth1:5.6

Shipbuilding (Steel Allocation)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what grounds the allocation of steel for shipbuilding has been reduced.

At the present time steel is scarcer than it was in the first quarter of 1950, the last full quarter for which allocations were previously made, but it is hoped that this shortage will be only temporary.

While I am very much enheartened to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has said, does he realise that the shipbuilders are facing a very serious problem in trying to complete a four-year programme of orders in three years in order to enable them to hold their own in world markets, and that this is a very serious matter which merits his very careful consideration?

I can assure the hon. Member that the Admiralty, and, indeed, the Government as a whole, know how serious the matter is. I have seen a deputation from the shipbuilders and all branches of the shipbuilding industry, and I am fully aware what their difficulties are. I hope we shall be able to give them a more encouraging answer very soon.

Retired List (Removed Officer)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why Commander Edgar P. Young has been removed from the Navy List.

The name of Mr. Edgar P. Young has been removed from the list of retired officers of the Royal Navy because the Admiralty have, and will have, no further use for his services. His activities on behalf of the Communist Party are proving a source of such embarrassment and distress to the Royal Navy at home and abroad that it has been found necessary to make it clear that the Admiralty do not hold themselves responsible in any way for his conduct, and that he is not entitled to call himself Commander R.N. (retired) nor to wear naval uniform.

I am sure there is no need to tell the House that very great consideration was given to the case of Mr. Young before this decision was taken but, acting as I am on behalf of all those who are serving their country loyally in the Royal Navy, I am convinced that this decision was the right one.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two Questions? First, are their Lordships now introducing, by a side-wind, an entirely new principle, that because of his political opinions, however repugnant, and in a situation in which there are no considerations of security, a man may be disadvantaged purely on political grounds? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There cannot be any security considerations in the case of a retired officer.

Secondly, how does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his answer with the fact that Admiral Sir Barry Domville, who has urged Fascist opinions, and who was interned during the war as a potential enemy of this country, remains on the same list from which Commander Young has been removed?

I can assure the House that there is no intention of curtailing Mr. Young's political activities or his freedom of speech. What we are anxious to achieve is that he should not do and say these things in the guise of a naval officer.

As to the second part of the supplementary question, I can only speak from my own period of administration at the Admiralty, and, to the best of my knowledge, Admiral Domville is in retirement and is not engaged in any political activities at the present time.

As it is quite clear that Commander Young is being accused of misconduct, under what Section of Queen's Regulations is the First Lord acting, and what opportunity has been given to Commander Young—[HON. MEMBERS: "Mr. Young."]—to the commander—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—to state his case? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me of any other precedent for an officer being removed from the Navy List with this lack of formality?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman—he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and probably knows this—that the Board of Admiralty have complete discretion by their Patent to dispense with the services of any officer found to be unsatisfactory, without necessarily giving the reasons. I have today given the reason to the House. Mr. Young was informed of the decision of the Board of Admiralty, and he has replied in full and the Admiralty have in turn replied to his answer.

Post Office

Trade Union Membership


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General for what purposes and under what authority his officers propose to inspect trade union membership cards; and why they should satisfy themselves about the authenticity and validity of these private and unofficial documents.

I am not sure to what my hon. and gallant Friend refers. No authority is given to Post Office staff to demand the production of trade union membership cards. The only case in which I can imagine the staff inspecting such a card is where a counter clerk feels it necessary, as a safeguard against fraud or misrepresentation, to seek some evidence of identity in connection with certain transactions, such as a withdrawal from the savings bank, handing over of poste restante correspondence, and the payment of money orders and postal drafts. In such circumstances, the production of a trade union membership card is one of the methods by which a person may choose to establish his identity. Otherwise no Post Office staff should have any reason to inspect such a card.

Will my hon. Friend give instructions to some of his officials not to issue statements to the Press to the effect that they would have the right to call upon all kinds of evidence, including trade union lodge membership cards, as proof of identity? Not only are such statements misleading but they are also entirely contrary to the principles of British freedom.

If I find that there is any general ambiguity on the subject, I shall be only too pleased to issue an instruction.

Will my hon. Friend also make it clear that trade union membership is not required as a condition of employment in the Post Office?

Telegram (Delayed Delivery)

41 and 42.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) if he will consider an ex gratia payment of £20 being made to the Metropolitan Police Rugby Club in part payment of expenses incurred through the delay in London of delivery of telegram No. 000093 on 26th January, 1952;

(2) why a telegram, No. 000093, sent from Bleasby NG on 26th January, 1952, at 8.37 a.m., and recorded in London at 8.46 a.m., was not delivered to Great Scotland Yard until 11.20 a.m.

With the hon. Member's permission, I will answer Questions 41 and 42 together.

I desire my Questions to be answered separately, because they deal with two different issues.

The hon. Member withholds his permission for the two Questions to be answered together.

I shall be pleased to read the same answer twice, if the hon. Gentleman prefers that.

My noble Friend much regrets the inconvenience caused to the club by the delay in delivery of their telegram: this arose because the telegram was accidentally sent to the wrong delivery office. The Postmaster-General is not liable for loss sustained in connection with telegrams, and, moreover, when the margin of time is very short, as it was in this case, it is desirable to use the priority service or the telephone. Nevertheless, my noble Friend is arranging in the exceptional circumstances to make an ex gratia payment to the club of £20.

Television (Interference Suppressors)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when it is proposed to issue an order requiring new motorcars to be fitted with interference suppressors.

Can my hon. Friend say when the Regulation which is in preparation will be issued? This matter has been hanging fire for two or three years. I prompted his predecessor on two or three occasions and hoped for some action rather more quickly than this.

As this is a very technical question, my noble Friend proposes to refer it to the Advisory Committee before laying it before the House. However, I can assure my hon. Friend that most large manufacturers of cars are already fitting suppressors to new cars without waiting for any Regulations.

If I remember aright, was not the matter referred to the Advisory Committee over a year ago? Has my hon. Friend not yet had the report?

It has been referred to the Advisory Committee, but the Advisory Committee have asked my noble Friend if they could see the Regulation before it is laid before the House, and, in view of the technical nature of the subject, my noble Friend felt that that was a very wise precaution to take.

Is it not a fact that all the technical data required for the fitting of the suppressors was already known, and many public undertakings, including the whole of the London Transport Board, have had their vehicles fitted already? Why does the hon. Gentleman not take the necessary action and put the Regulations before the House?

As new cars coming on to the home market are so fitted, could the Regulations have any effect in their present form, and would it not be better to extend the new Order to cover any such cars not already fitted?

My noble Friend is trying to see to what extent this can be done as the result of propaganda. We have no reason to be dissatisfied with the results made public.

Regency Acts


asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce an amending Bill to the Regency Acts, 1937 and 1943, at an early date.

These important matters are under consideration but I have no statement to make at present.

Can my right hon. Friend say when it will be convenient to ask a Question at a later date when an answer can be given, in view of the public anxiety on this matter?

I was not aware there is public anxiety, and I am not in a position to name a date when my hon. Friend could renew his Question.

Ministries Of Agriculture And Food


asked the Prime Minister what steps he is taking to amalgamate the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food.

None, Sir. As the hon. and gallant Member knows, the Lord President of the Council maintains the general concert of food and agriculture policy and ensures their full coordination.

Is this proposal being abandoned, because if it goes Lord Woolton will have nothing to co-ordinate except his own denials at the Election, as in the case of the food subsidies?

That is rather an elaborate rigmarole to express a discourteous sentiment.

Is the Lord President of the Council too busily engaged eating his own words uttered at the Election to have any time to spare for this matter?

It is not for me to raise the question of discourtesy to a member of another place.

Victoria Cross (Honorarium)


asked the Prime Minister whether, while acknowledging that the honorarium paid to holders of the Victoria Cross bears no relation to the fame of that decoration, he will consider an increase in that honorarium.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it would be no more than justice to raise this particular honorarium at least to allow for the depreciation of its value, and that the cost involved to the country would be very small in comparison with an act of justice and generosity?

It is quite true that the pecuniary award attached to the grant of the Victoria Cross has no relation whatever to the fame of the deed for which it is awarded, and the actual assessment would be very difficult to make. Certainly for many years this discrepancy has existed, and I am not sure that this is the moment for us to make a change.

Ministry Of Defence

Ex-Regulars (Government Employment)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he appreciates the stimulus to recruiting which would result from the reserving of suitable Government employment, for example, in the Post Office and in the nationalised industries, for Service men on completion of their term of Regular engagement; and whether he will consult with the Minister of Labour as to its practicability.

The Advisory Council on the relation between employment in the Services and civilian life has given much thought to this question, and substantial progress has been made on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.

Is my hon. Friend aware that that information is very gratifying indeed?

Nato (Turkish And Greek Forces)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence what arrangements he has agreed to for the command of the Turkish and Greek land, sea and air forces in connection with the entry of those two countries into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the defence of the Western Mediterranean.

The ground and air forces of Turkey and Greece assigned to N.A.T.O. will operate under the overall command of the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, through Admiral Carney, the Commander - in - Chief, Southern Europe. The details of the command arrangements are now under consideration in S.H.A.P.E.

Turkish and Greek naval forces will remain for the present under their national Chiefs of Staff, pending a solution of the Mediterranean Command problem, which is still under discussion by the Standing Group of N.A.T.O. Meanwhile Turkish and Greek naval Forces are working in close co-operation with the naval Forces of other N.A.T.O. Powers in the Mediterranean.

Is there not a possibility that the Turkish and Greek Forces may come under the command of an Italian Admiral and would not that be a rather unwise procedure?

I do not think that will happen. I would rather not comment further because the matter is under international negotiation.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary apprecate that some hon. Members will take offence if the whole of the Mediterranean naval command is transferred to naval officers other than those who represent the United Kingdom? Could I have an answer to that?

Does the Parliamentary Secretary appreciate that I put a perfectly reasonable question, which emerged out of the debates we have had in this House? Moreover, does he understand that the question of transferring the whole of the Mediterranean naval command, including Turkish and Greek naval Forces, to the United States naval chiefs has been canvassed, and that that is precisely what I am anxious to avoid?

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the matter is under negotiation.

Is it appropriate, Mr. Speaker, for the Parliamentary Secretary, when a Member puts a Question, to cast a slur on the Member by speaking of him as being offensive?

Is it not perfectly clear that my hon. Friend said "defence" and not "offence"?

Is it not the case that the Parliamentary Secretary got up to withdraw and was told by his boss to sit down again?

For my part, I did not hear the word "offensive" used. I thought some reference was made to defence, but I could not hear it properly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask the hon. Member what he said."] In the circumstances I think I had better ask the hon. Member what he did say.

Tinned Steak (Export)


asked the Minister of Food whether he will reconsider the permission given to export tinned steak from Manchester to Canada and other countries in view of the shortage of meat in this country.

No, Sir. Relatively little meat is used in these exports, and it would be wrong to stop a trade which is contributing to our dollar earnings.

In view of the shortage of meat in this country, does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not regard it as a mad course that meat should be tinned in Manchester and sent to Canada, where there is meat in abundance?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a great many things which are in short supply are exported for the sake of our trade balance, and in this instance the amount involved is infinitesimal. The reason for exporting it is that it gets us in dollars very much more than its value as a raw material. To give the hon. Gentleman an idea of what it involves, the amount of meat issued per week in this country is about 21,500 tons, and the amount involved in this particular trade is 70.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this is what his noble superior meant when he made his red meat promise?

Ballot For Notices Of Motion

Agriculture (Productivity)

I beg to give notice that, on Friday, 4th April, I shall call attention to the need to encourage even higher productivity in the British farming industry by giving to all concerned in it real confidence in an expanding long-term policy, and move a Resolution.

Disabled Workmen (Benefit Rates)

I beg to give notice that, on Friday, 4th April, I shall call attention to the inadequacy of the weekly rates of workmen's compensation and pension payable to workmen disabled as a result of accident or disease arising out of or in the course of their employment, and move a Resolution.

Women (Equal Pay)

I beg to give notice that, on Friday, 4th April, I shall call attention to the case for equal pay for women in the public service, and move a Resolution.

Business Of The House


That this day Business other than the Business of Supply may be taken before Ten o'clock.—[The Prime Minister.]
Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[The Prime Minister.]

Nationalised Industries (Membership Of Trade Unions)

3.33 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to introduce a Bill entitled the Nationalised Industries (Membership of Trade Unions) Bill, to prohibit the payment of money by the boards of nationalised industries to certain organisations which prohibit their members from being members of trade unions.
I have every hope that the objectives of the Bill will prove to be non-controversial since my action in proposing this Motion is supported by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and the Bill, if leave be given to present it, will be sponsored by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. On this side of the House it is supported by hon. Friends of mine who have given many long years of most distinguished service to the trade union movement, the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Viant) and the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Wallace). On the other side of the House it is supported by the hon. Members for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris), and Somerset, North (Mr. Leather). I desire to express my grati- tude to all those hon. Gentlemen for their encouragement and support.

I have no doubt that there will be hon. Members who will be surprised to discover that in this enlightened age there exists an organisation which debars from membership and from receiving the benefits of membership persons on no ground other than that those persons are trade unionists. In view of the fact that on many occasions in this House universal tributes are paid from all sides to the trade union movement, to its stability, to its high morale and to its great value to our national economy, it will be surprising no doubt to some hon. Members to discover that there is an organisation which considers membership of a trade union to be incompatible with membership of itself. Those members—and there are some on both sides of the House—who have been vocal in condemning what is called the principle of the closed shop, will, in particular, I am sure, condemn the operation of what is, in fact, a closed shop in reverse, a shop which is closed to members of the trade union movement.

I can describe the point of the Bill quite briefly. In the engineering industry there is an organisation called the Foremen and Staffs Mutual Benefit Society, which gives considerable sickness and other benefits to those employees of certain federated firms who are foremen, or of comparable grade, or above it. Their funds are financed partly by payments from the members and partly by a substantial subsidy from the employers.

Any employee of appropriate rank can become a member of the organisation and receive its benefits on two provisos, first, that he is nominated for membership, not by another member of the organisation, but by his employer, and, second, that he is not and will undertake not to become a member of a trade union. Indeed, in the constitution of this society, Clause 7 reads as follows:
"Members of a trade union either registered or unregistered shall not be proposed as ordinary members of the society, and if any ordinary member becomes a member of a trade union either registered or unregistered he shall thereupon cease to be a member of this society."
This is a sort of closed shop. It is a piece of sheer discrimination against trade unionists. No trade unionist can join the fund, and anybody who is a member of the fund and thereafter joins a union loses his membership, and loses, at the same time, all his accumulated benefits as a member. I would add—and I am sorry to have to add this—that there are cases on record of firms in which men are not promoted to foreman rank unless they are members of this fund, that is to say, unless they are not trade unionists; in other words, trade unionists are ipso facto debarred from promotion.

The Trades Union Congress has concerned itself with the injustices of this arrangement for many years. As long ago as the annual congress of 1923, a resolution against the discrimination enforced in this body's constitution was moved by the Amalgamated Engineering Union and seconded by the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. It was supported by members of other unions, such as draughtsmen, distributive workers, railwaymen and marine workers, and it was carried by a large majority.

I will not weary the House by going through the whole of this history, but will come to recent times. A similar resolution was carried in 1942. The General Council has further reported on the matter at the annual congresses of 1943, 1944, 1946, and 1947. In 1944 also, the Non-Manual Workers Advisory Council of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, at its annual meeting, passed a similar resolution, and in 1946 the 53 trades councils all over the country went on record in the same way.

Finally, the General Council of the trade union movement as a whole has not found it easy to deal with this highly complex problem. It is obvious that there are many difficulties in the way of legislating on a subject covering the whole field of British industry, but, following the nationalisation of a number of industries since the war, a quite new situation has arisen. A number of firms which incorporate the membership of this society have been taken over by nationalised industries, notably electricity and steel. We have now reached the situation in which public bodies are paying from public funds money to subsidise an avowedly anti-trade union organisation.

It may be argued with respect to private employers that they can do what they like with their own money, but everybody will find it repugnant that public bodies should subsidise an organisation out of public funds which discriminates against trade unionists in this way. This Bill aims at preventing the corporations of the nationalised industries from financing or assisting to finance an anti-trade union body. I hope that this worthy objective will have the unanimous support of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. I. Mikardo, Mr. S. P. Viant, Mr. Harry Wallace, Mr. Reader Harris, Mr. Geoffrey Bing, and Mr. Edwin Leather.

Nationalised Industries (Membership Of Trade Unions) Bill

"to prohibit the payment of money by the boards of nationalised industries to certain organisations which prohibit their members from being members of trade unions," presented accordingly, and read the First time to be read a Second time upon Friday, 4th April, and to be printed. [Bill 66.]

Orders Of The Day



Considered in Committee.

[Colonel Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Civil Estimates And Estimates For Revenue Departments, Supple- Mentary Estimate, 1951–52

Class Ix

Vote 17 Tin

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a sum, not exceeding £4,092,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1952, for expenditure of the Ministry of Materials for the purchase, storage and handling of tin for sale to the Government of the United States of America.

Tin Supplies

3.42 p.m.

On a point of order. Was I not on my feet first, Sir Charles?

Perhaps, but the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) caught my eye.

I welcome the opportunity of continuing the debate on this Estimate because it gives the Committee an opportunity of considering in some detail this first major essay in bulk trading by the Government, and I hope to show that not only has it been completely unsuccessful but, if it is an example of the manner in which the Government are to carry on with policies of bulk trade, I suggest that the sooner the Government desist the better.

A short time ago I asked the Secretary for Overseas Trade what profit or loss he expected as a result of this transaction in tin which forms part of the more general transactions by which we bought steel from the United States and allowed them in exchange quantities of aluminium, lead and tin. In this transaction we undertook to sell to the United States 20,000 tons of tin at the fixed price of £944 a long ton, and we undertook to make these quantities available irrespective of the future course of the tin market. That is the point I want to emphasise.

As was to be expected, no sooner had we entered into this undertaking than the price of tin on the world markets immediately rose, so that today the price of tin is in the region of £975 a ton and it seems likely that this figure will continue to rise, despite fluctuations, until, in due course, it reaches a figure higher than £1,000 a ton. When I asked the Secretary for Overseas Trade what the cash result of the transaction was likely to be, he said that he was unable to give any figure because he was unable to say what would be the specification of tin which he expected to sell, nor could he say in which market he expected to find the tin which he intended to deliver to America.

It seems to me that this was an utterly irresponsible transaction which did not do justice to the British taxpayer, who will be expected to foot the difference between the price at which we sold the tin to the Americans and the price at which we shall be able to acquire the tin on world markets. Although the hon. Gentleman was unable to give any estimate of the probable loss which this transaction will entail, I will venture to submit to him an estimate of what that loss will be. I estimate that before the complete delivery of those 20,000 tons to the United States, the burden the British taxpayer will have to pay will be in the region of £1 million. That £1 million will not be a subsidy to any domestic consumer; it will be a parallel subsidy to the American consumer on the one hand and to the Malayan supplier on the other.

If it were just a question of price, if the British taxpayer were merely to be penalised by a subsidy which he will have to give to those overseas interests, it might he tolerable because of certain other invisible benefits which, according to the Secretary for Overseas Trade, are likely to accrue from the general deal which we have concluded with the Americans. However, there is something much more serious than that. It is that to make delivery of this total of 20,000 tons of tin to the United States, we are to deliver a substantial quantity of tin from stock. In fact, I understand that during February and during the current month our total deliveries from stock to the United States will be of the order of 6,000 tons.

Now 6,000 tons may seem a relatively small quantity but it is a substantial quantity of vital interest to British industry because the total stocks which we normally carry are about 12,000 tons, which represents an industrial consumption of approximately six months. If we are running down our strategic stocks, if we have to denude our own domestic supplies by 50 per cent. of what we normally hold, I submit that our own industry will be placed in extreme jeopardy by this transaction.

If, for example, the situation in Malaya took a sudden turn for the worse, which we trust will never happen; if we found ourselves involved in difficulties in obtaining tin from those sources, we should find that because our own strategic stocks of tin had run down we had deliberately deprived ourselves of vital resources in order to complete the transaction referred to in this Estimate.

I do not suggest for a moment that there is no intended merit in this transaction. Indeed, I recognise that there is substantial advantage to be obtained from the sale of tin which will bring us much needed dollars. But if that argument is advanced—and it was advanced by the Secretary for Overseas Trade—it is no use maintaining the further argument that this transaction for tin is part of an overall transaction in which we exchange our tin for steel. The fact is that we have not exchanged the tin for steel. We are to pay for that steel in dollars. We are to pay for the million tons of steel, which the Prime Minister bought when he was in America, with dollars, of which our earnings in the sale of tin will be an element.

I submit, therefore, that we have to consider this sale of tin entirely on its merits. It seems to me that from every point of view we shall be losing as a result of the undertaking which has been given to sell the tin at a loss. There can be no doubt about it—in fact, the Secretary for Overseas Trade admitted it—and there can be no merit whatever in selling this tin at a loss to the United States. It will threaten and endanger our industry at home.

The amount of dollars which it is likely to yield will be relatively small, compared with what we are to pay to the Americans for the steel which we buy from them. Consequently, it seems quite clear that there is little to be gained, and very much to lose, from this transaction.

I have spoken already of the difficulties which have existed in the past few months in connection with the sale of tin because of the buyers' strike in which the United States has engaged through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. As is well known, not very long ago a Senate sub-committee suggested that the tin suppliers of Malaya were gouging the United States—that is the picturesque word which they used—and exacting exorbitant prices for a commodity which was necessary for the United States defence programme.

They advanced their argument when the price of tin had risen to something like £1,600 per ton, and there is no doubt that at the time there had been considerable profiteering in the sale of tin on the free market. For those reasons, it was quite legitimate for the Americans to complain of the extravagant prices which they were being obliged to pay. As a result of their holding off, as a result of their restraint from buying, the price of tin came down and consequently, in due course, it reached a relatively normal price; and from the point of view of the actual cost of production, and the selling price which was being charged, the Americans could make little just complaint.

Despite that fact, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation persisted with its refusal, on the one side, to buy tin directly from Malaya, and the Malayan tin producers, on the other side, showed extreme and, in my view, quite unjustified reluctance to associate their tin production with the work of the International Materials Conference. The direct result of their refusal, on the one hand, and the buyers' strike of the Americans, on the other, was that a complete and artificial disorder was introduced into the tin market, with which the Estimate now before the Committee directly deals.

We have reached a position, as far as tin is concerned, in which the Americans, to save face—that can be the only reason for their request to the British Government as such to intervene as brokers in this transaction—have come to the British Government who have, quite unjustifiably, agreed to act as brokers in this transaction, with the result that the only people who will suffer will be the British taxpayer and the British industrialist.

This question of tin illustrates a much wider question to which the Estimate has reference; that is, that the semi-barter arrangement into which the Prime Minister entered when he was in America, by which this transfer of steel from the one side, and tin, aluminium and lead from the other side, should point the way to something considerably more important: that is, that what we require as between ourselves and the United States during our present difficulties is a common pool of resources. As things stand, whereas the Americans have had the acumen to sell their steel at a fixed price, which will bring them a guaranteed profit, we have been jockeyed into the very unfavourable position in which we have had to engage in these transactions at a certain and inevitable loss.

If the Secretary for Overseas Trade is going to say that it would be impossible for him to gauge the future trends of the market, I would invite him merely to look at the graph of prices of the past year. There, he would see that for the last six months or so the price of tin has rarely, if ever, fallen below the price at which the Government have sold the 20,000 tons of tin to the United States. Consequently, little economic perspicacity is needed to recognise that the price of £944 a ton was seriously disadvantageous to this country.

Therefore, I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, even at this late stage, it is not possible for him to address himself to the United States and to invite them to introduce into this transaction a rise and fall clause which would save the British taxpayer from what is likely to be the very unpleasant necessity of subsidising foreign trade in the way I have outlined.

I have spoken about a common pool of resources. I hope that a serious lesson will be learnt from the demerits of this transaction. That lesson should be that the International Materials Conference is an organisation full of promise and one which has already brought order into various commodities in which we have to deal; and if the tin producers of Malaya and Her Majesty's Government will try to arrange, together with the United States, to bring the tin producers into the International Materials Conference, we can hope that there will be a stable market from which both we, the Americans and the Malayan tin producers will all benefit.

3.58 p.m.

These debates always seem to introduce a good deal of criticism of the policy of the United States Government and, generally, very little understanding of it. It seems to me that the real benefit of the tin agreement is that it broke a deadlock which had existed for two years and which had prevented the United States from acquiring tin which we have and which we were anxious to sell because of our stock position.

There is no need for the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), to bolster up his case by failing to compare like with like. He says that today's price of tin is £975 a ton, but he is, of course, giving a price for tin delivered in this country, whereas the price quoted in the agreement is loaded on to the ship at Singapore if we wish it to be there. Therefore, the disparity in price is not between £944 and £975 a ton, a difference of £31; the difference today is much nearer £7 or £8 a ton. Consequently, the amount of money at present at risk, which was quite freely admitted by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade, is very much less than the hon. Member for Coventry, North, would have us believe.

I believe that even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) joined in the chorus which criticised the commercial policies of the United States when he said that the United States were stockpiling on much too heavy a scale, but he will know perfectly well that the United States stockpile has been built up to a very large degree by obtaining supplies which would not otherwise have been obtainable. In zinc, for example, he must know that they built up their stockpile from about 1946 onwards.

It seems to me that we have a greater interest than anyone else that the deadlock to which I have referred should have been broken. We are interested not so much in the profit on one transaction, but in the continuing trade and steady flow of business and currency to this country.

The hon. Gentleman says that this stock is not located in this country. Did not my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) make the point that some was in this country and that it had been taken out of stock? Will not shipping charges therefore have something to do with the price?