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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1952

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Gold Coast (Ophthalmological Survey)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made with the ophthalmological survey of the Gold Coast, Nigeria and the Cameroons; when it is anticipated that preliminary information will be available; and by what date he hopes to report on the steps to be taken.

A preliminary investigation of the incidence of onchocerchiasis in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast has just been completed. It confirms the need for the main survey which will start later this year in the Gold Coast and will take three years. The British Empire Society for the Blind will be responsible for this survey and the hon. Member may like to seek further information from them or to put down another Question at a later date.

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Is he not of opinion that, on the whole, there has been a fair amount of delay in the initiation and sending of this vital inquiry, which we certainly understood in this House was to be sent a few months ago?

Preliminary action had to be taken well before the final survey arrangements, but we are getting on with it now.

Colonial Empire

Owen Falls (Hydro-Electric Scheme)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made with the construction scheme at the Owen Falls; and what is the intention of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the initiation and continuation of the schemes of land reclamation in the Blue Nile Valley.

Work is nearly up to schedule. The foundations for the first two generating sites are almost completed and the walls of the power station are under construction. 15,000 k.w. from the hydro-electric station should be available by September, 1953, and a further 45,000 k.w. by the middle of 1954. The second half of this Question is within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, to whom I suggest that the hon. Member should address it.

While appreciating the information given in the first part of the answer, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of two considerations? First, is he aware that far too little publicity has been given in this country to this extremely important project and to its great value to Africa, and will he consider that? Secondly, is he aware that it is a little undesirable that the very important ancillary schemes of flood reclamation, and so on, which have never been discussed in this House at all, should be subject to another Department, and would it not be a very good thing, at least, if the whole of the original work were controlled and planned by one Department?

In answer to the first part of the question, I should be very glad to see if publicity could be given to the nature of this scheme. On the second part of the question, I would say that we are dealing with geographical facts. No part of the Blue Nile flows through colonial territory, and it is unfortunate that inter - Departmental boundaries are governed by geographical and not by economic facts.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider arranging a small exhibition in the Palace of Westminster, perhaps accompanied by photographs of this bold, imaginative scheme, so that Members can see what is being done, and convey the information to their constituents?

May I ask whether, in view of the tremendous importance of the "Century plan," which hinges on the Owen Falls scheme, the right hon. Gentleman can use his influence with the Foreign Office to try to secure that the present differences between Egypt and this country shall not hold up the completion of this scheme?

Banishment Without Trial

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will abolish banishment without trial in those Colonies where this power still exists.

The hon. Member will be aware that consultations on this subject have been going on with the Colonial Governments concerned. I am now considering their views and certain questions of policy which arise. I hope to be in a position to make a statement to the House within the next few weeks.

Can we take it that these consultations are now entirely complete, and that the Secretary of State is favourably disposed towards the abolition of banishment without trial?

In principle, I am in favour of getting rid of banishment without trial, but there are one or two important matters which arise in special circumstances, such as in Malaya and Hong Kong, to which I am now giving attention, and I hope to make a statement soon.

Development Corporation (Treasury Advances)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies upon what terms and at what rate of interest the Colonial Development Corporation borrows money.

Long-term Exchequer advances are made for periods of 40 years, repayment being by means of 33 annuities comprising interest and capital beginning in the eighth year. Interest is in accordance with the rate current for Government credit in redeemable securities at the time the advances are made (at present 4¼ per cent.) so calculated to take into account the fact that no interest will have been paid during the first seven years.

Short-term advances, which are given for periods of six months, similarly carry the current rate for such loans, which is at present 2½ per cent. Borrowing from other than Government sources is by private arrangement in accordance with usual commercial practice.

Rail Communications, Cyprus

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when it was decided to stop the operation of the railway linking Nicosia with the port of Famagusta in Cyprus; and what other rail communications on the island it is proposed to develop.

The railway was closed on 31st December, 1951. There are no proposals to develop other rail communications in Cyprus.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied, in view of the strategic importance of Cyprus—an importance which may grow—that road communications in the island will prove adequate to the island's needs in the future?

Before this railway was closed, the Chiefs of Staff were consulted, and they confirmed that it had no strategic value.

West Indies

Federation

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made up to date towards West Indian Federation.

The subject has now been discussed by all the Legislatures concerned except British Honduras and Barbados. The Legislatures, apart from British Guiana and the Virgin Islands, have accepted federation in principle.

The next step should be a conference in London. A copy of my despatch setting out detailed plans for this conference was placed in the Library on 27th February.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the West Indies are going on with the plans for a Customs union, or whether these plans for a Customs union have to wait on the larger question of federation?

I think the Customs union will have to await the matter of federation. I do not know whether those discussions can take place simultaneously, but this is a germane subject, and the various Governments are now studying the matter with a view to this conference.

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to speed up this federation, and will he do me the honour of reading a paper which I wrote last year after visiting the West Indies?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread satisfaction caused by the recent announcement of further steps to enable the West Indian territories concerned to discuss federation, and of the hope of this side of the House that these discussions will have a successful outcome?

Queen Elizabeth's Nursing Service

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been called to the distress suffered by members of the Queen Elizabeth's Colonial Nursing Service recruited by his Department for service in the West Indies as a result of the inadequacy of their salaries in face of rapidly rising costs of necessities; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy the position.

I am afraid that it is true that in some cases the salaries of members of the Queen Elizabeth's Colonial Nursing Service in the West Indies are inadequate and that they have difficulty in making ends meet. The Governments concerned know this and, where possible, are taking steps to improve matters either by means of cost of living allowances or general salary regradings. The amount that can be done, however, must of course depend upon the resources of the territory.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will look again at the conditions under which these girls are living, in view of the fact that many of them are in an extremely unfortunate situation at the present time? Will he use what powers he has to persuade the Governments concerned to do more to make the living conditions of these girls tolerable?

I am much exercised about this question, and will do what I can to help.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, to judge from correspondence which I have had on this subject with the Minister of State, the dissatisfaction is such as to make it difficult to fill future vacancies?

Sugar Industry, Trinidad (Cost Of Living)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the price paid per ton of sugar in 1949, as compared with the present price to the producers in Trinidad; and what increase has taken place in the cost of living in Trinidad during the same period.

The price per ton of cane paid to sugar-cane producers in Trinidad in 1949 was 7 dollars 71 cents. The present price is 7 dollars 99 cents.

During the period January, 1949, to December, 1951, the cost of living index in the Colony based on 1935 as 100, rose from 227 to 251. This index has now been replaced by an index of retail prices with January, 1952, as 100. It at present stands at 104.2.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is a proper relationship between the price of sugar, the cost of living and wages in this case?

It is asking a good deal to ask if I am satisfied. What I am satisfied about is that very careful studies are made of the question, and I think the result is broadly correct.

Sugar Industry, St Lucia (Strike)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement upon the strike among workers in the sugar industry in the island of St. Lucia.

A strike of sugar workers on the Roseau Estate began on 11th March and spread to two other estates, affecting factories also. By 19th March the factories were again in partial operation and a number of estate employees were at work. A general resumption of factory work took place on 24th March. Except for two minor cane tires, there has been no disorder. The Governor has appointed a commission of inquiry to examine the circumstances of the strike and to make recommendations.

Rice Industry, British Guiana

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to develop the rice industry of British Guiana.

Work has continued on plans referred to in the reply to my hon. Friend on 14th November last, and I hope to be able to report progress soon.

Is it true to say that the original plan as sponsored by the Government of British Guiana was turned down by the Colonial Development Corporation because they felt it earned an inadequate rate of interest?

I cannot say for what reasons the Colonial Development Corporation—

That is rather a flight of imagination in the case of the Colonial Development Corporation.

Kenya

Inter-Racial Trade Unions

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent under his Regulations inter-racial trade unions are permitted in Kenya.

As far as I am aware, there is no provision in Kenya's legislation prohibiting such unions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, last November, the secretary of the dock workers' union in Kenya wrote to the Government on this matter, and that he has not, up to this day, received any reply, although he has sent three further letters, and will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the matter?

The hon. Member wrote to me on 17th March, and on receipt of his letter I took up the matter, but I have not yet had an answer.

Evictions

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the eviction from Ndabani, Kenya Colony, of 500 Wakambas; if he is aware that Ndabani had been earmarked for the future needs of the Wakamba people; that the land has now been sold to the Harris Estates Limited; that the evicted persons have now been transferred to places like Mukueni, where a man is not allowed to have more than five cattle owing to the aridity of the land, or to the Wakamba reserve, which is one of the most congested areas in the country; and what action he proposes to take.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to the recent prosecution of 63 Akamba families for illegal residence on the farm of Captain Harries, which resulted in a magistrate's order for their removal. This area was never earmarked for the Akamba. These families had for eight months repeatedly been warned to leave. After the prosecutions, they were given time to reap their standing crops and provided with free transport to the areas in which they have been re-settled. I see no reason to intervene.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the land hunger of many of the Africans in Kenya, he will now stop the further extension of the allocating of land to European settlers?

That is a different question, to which I am not prepared to give an answer in general terms.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why members of the Kipsigi tribe were evicted from their land in Kenya; and if he will now take steps to return them to their land.

No members of the Kipsigi tribe have been evicted from their land in Kenya. I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the eviction of certain illegal occupants of Crown land at Kimulot which was aliented after certain exchanges of land between the Highlands and the Lumbwa native land unit. All concerned, including the local native council gave their consent to this exchange, as a result of which the Kipsigis acquired about 17,650 acres in exchange for reversionary rights to 6,500 acres.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the information I have is that, despite the court order in their favour, hundreds of these natives were forcibly evicted, that armoured cars and policemen were used to burn down their huts, and that their land was transferred to the African Highlands Produce Company? Will the Minister look into this matter again to see whether restitution can be made to them?

I have already made full inquiries and the facts are as I have stated. I am satisfied that the natives have greatly benefited from the arrangement.

In the course of his inquiries, has not the right hon. Gentleman come to the conclusion that there is tremendous and widespread dissatisfaction in Kenya on the land problem so far as the Africans are concerned?

I am answering a specific Question and am not engaged in general remarks. The local native council, the Governor, the Legislative Council, the Native Lands Trust Board and the local land board all gave their consent to the exchange which is the subject of this Question.

Tanganyika (Corporal Punishment)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies by whose authority and by what officers corporal punishment is inflicted in Tanganyika; for what specific offences; by what instrument and by how many strokes this punishment is normally imposed; to what extent he has evidence of corporal punishment illegally employed; and what records there are of the legal infliction of this punishment on non-Africans including British during the past 30 years.

As the answer is very long, I am, with permission, circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a Colony in which there is an excessive number of instances of corporal punishment, and, in view of the recommendation of the United Nations that in all Trust territories corporal punishment should be completely abolished, cannot we follow that example by implementing the principle in this Colony?

I have also to take account of public opinion in the Colony concerned. If the hon. Gentleman will read my answer, he will see that a very large number of serious offences are at present covered by corporal punishment. I should have to be satisfied that it would be an advantage to have other and more severe penalties for some of these offences before I acted.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to suggest that Tanganyika is a more wicked Colony than any other Colony? If not, why is it that corporal punishment is being progressively abolished in other Colonies, but not in this one?

I cannot go beyond what I have already said, and I ask the hon. Member to take a slightly more robust view of this matter.

Owing to the most unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Following is the answer:

Corporal punishment may be inflicted in Tanganyika on the authority of courts of competent jurisdiction, including native courts, or in the case of prison offences, on the authority of the Commissioner of Prisons. The relevant Ordinance does not specify who is to carry it out and I am asking the Governor what the practice is.

2. The offences for which it may be awarded to adults are as follows:

Rape.
Attempted rape.
Defilement of a girl under 12.
Attempted defilement of a girl under 12.
Defilement or attempted defilement of an idiot or an imbecile.
Robbery, or attempted robbery, with violence.
Any assault included in Chapter XXIV of the Penal Code of an aggravated nature by reason of the age, condition or sex of the person upon whom, or by reason of the nature of the weapon or violence with which, such assault shall have been committed.
Cattle stealing.
Indecently assaulting or annoying a female.
Acts done with the intention of maiming, disfiguring causing grievous harm.
Injuring animals.
Cruelty to animals.
Any offence in Chapter XXIX of the Penal Code which deals with burglary, housebreaking and similar offences, after a previous conviction of any such offence.
Defilement by husband of wife under 12.
Parent or guardian parting with possession of girl under 12 in order that she may be carnally known by her husband.
Procuring girl under 12 in order that she may be carnally known by her husband.
Procuration.
Conspiracy to defile.
Unnatural offences.
Attempt to commit unnatural offence.
Indecent assault of boy under 14.
Indecent practices between males.
Attempted murder by convict.
Disabling in order to commit felony or misdemeanour.
Intentionally endangering safety of travelling by railway.
Casting away, or attempting to cast vessel.
Destroying or damaging an inhabited house or a vessel with explosives.

Juveniles may be awarded corporal punishment for any non-capital offence under the Penal Code or any other offence ordinarily punishable by imprisonment.

Sentences of corporal punishment awarded by a native court are subject to confirmation by provincial commissioners who have instructions to confirm only sentences in respect of indecent assaults, assaults aggravated by the age, sex or condition of the victim or of the particular savagery on the offender's part and cattle theft.

3. For prison offences corporal punishment may be awarded for mutiny or incitement to mutiny or personal violence to a prison officer.

4. The instrument used is a rattan cane. No sentence of corporal punishment may exceed 24 strokes for adults, or 12 strokes for juveniles. I am not sure that these rules apply to sentences by native courts but I am asking the Governor.

5. There is, as far as I am aware, no evidence that corporal punishment is illegally employed. I have no information regarding infliction of corporal punishment on non-Africans during the past 30 years.

Central Africa

African Congress, Nyasaland (Fund Collection Prohibition)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the action of three provincial commissioners in Nyasaland in prohibiting the Nyasaland African Congress from collecting funds to enable that organisation to send a deputation to this country; and whether he will take steps to lift this prohibition.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take to remove the restrictions which are being placed by the Government of Nyasaland on the activities of the African Congress in their collection of funds for the purpose of sending representatives to this country.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the raising of funds to enable Nyasaland representatives to travel to this country is being restricted or prevented by official action.

Several years ago some, but not all, native authorities in Nyasaland made orders prohibiting the collection of subscriptions from Africans in their areas without a permit signed by the provincial commissioner. Having regard to the numerous complaints and allegations which followed the collection of funds to pay for an African deputation to London in 1948, the Governor decided that provincial commissioners should not grant permits in the present instance. I see no reason to question the Governor's decision, especially since two of the three persons chosen by the Nyasaland African Protectorate Council to visit this country next month at my invitation in order to discuss the federation proposals are members of the African Congress.

I have in my hand the minutes of meetings between the Chief Secretary and the Nyasaland African Congress, and, arising from that, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to fulfil the pledge which was given by the late Chief Secretary that unofficial as well as official African organisations should be consulted; and whether, therefore, he will not place any obstacle in the way of a deputation coming to this country?

I am afraid I have nothing to add to the answer I have given. These are matters of administration, on which some care must be taken.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider what steps could be taken in order to make it possible for the African congresses to send their own representatives to this country to put their own case in their own way, apart from the official delegates?

I think the attitude of Her Majesty's Government is that the Nyasaland African Protectorate Council is the right and constitutional body to consult on these matters, and this was also the attitude of our predecessors. It so happens that, as I have said, two of the deputation are also members of the Congress.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a most unimaginative and stupid action, which will have a very bad psychological effect? In view of that fact, and of the right hon. Gentleman's sincere desire to remove, if possible, any impediments towards the presentation of the case of Africans, would he not consider the matter more sympathetically?

I must make it quite clear that the Government are of the opinion that the spokesmen of African opinion in this case must be the Protectorate Council.

While agreeing with the Colonial Secretary that, on the scale of official consultations such as attendance at conferences, the right body is the African Protectorate Council in each of the two Territories, may I ask him whether he is aware that the African Congress in both Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia is a very influential political body, and that, when I was in the Territories last summer, I had meetings with the Congress, both in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia?

May I ask him whether he does not realise that this ban on collections, which is virtually a ban upon the ability of the Congress to send delegates to this country, will have a very bad effect? May I ask him seriously to reconsider the matter, and since the congresses want to send delegates here, as they are entitled to do, whether we ought not to put any difficulties in their way?

I have said that this is a matter of administration into which I am willing to look. [Interruption.] Of course, it is a matter of administration, because very large malpractices arose over previous collections, and, naturally, care has to be taken to see that subscriptions are not made and afterwards used for purposes for which they were not intended. I am quite willing to look into the matter of administration again, provided it is quite clear that Her Majesty's Government think that these are the bodies with whom they ought to have official contact.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this collection was in fact abandoned a week after it started, because of the lack of response among Africans in Nyasaland?

Radio-Malaya (Mr Alex Josey)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what were the reasons for not renewing the appointment of Mr. Alex Josey, of Radio-Malaya.

Mr. Josey's contract was not renewed because the Malayan Governments decided that it was desirable to have someone fresh in the post. The Malayan Governments have made it clear that the decision in this case does not imply any reflection on Mr. Josey's personal integrity or professional ability.

Can we take it from the concluding words of that answer that the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that there was no foundation whatever for the allegations made in this House a fortnight ago that Mr. Josey was a man of known Communist sympathies and that the T.U.C. had protested against his appointment?

I should not have paid a tribute to his integrity if I had thought he was working for the other side as well as for us.

Does the right hon. Gentleman share my view that during his period of office Mr. Josey contributed material which was a very important part of our work in Malaya?

Royal Navy

Piracy, Far East (Suppression)

23.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to suppress piracy in the Far East.

Her Majesty's ships in the area concerned have instructions to protect merchant ships, and all practical steps to this end are taken in respect of piracy in accordance with Q.R. & A.I. Article 957.

Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether there has been any increase in piracy in recent months?

Yes, there has been some increase in piracy in the last few months, but although the war in Korea has strained our naval Forces in the Far East to the limit, we are doing everything we can to protect shipping.

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman do anything to prevent piracy at home, namely, in respect of the food subsidies?

Food Bill Increase (Subsidy Reductions)

27.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what increase he anticipates in the food bill for the Royal Navy, following upon the reductions in food subsidies.

The actual price increases and effective dates have not been announced and, at present, I cannot give an estimate of the full increase in the food bill, except for bread and flour, the additional cost of which will be approximately £120,000 a year.

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman assure the House that there will be no reduction in sailors' rations consequent upon this increase in prices?

Shipbuilding (Steel Allocation)

28.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to increase the steel allocation to the shipbuilding industry, and to ensure a balanced production of dry cargo vessels and tankers.

It is not possible to increase steel allocations to shipbuilders until improved steel supplies become available. My right hon. Friend has no power to influence the proportion of tankers and dry cargo vessels ordered by shipowners.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing under-employment in the shipbuilding industry due to the inadequacy of the steel allocation and that there is great danger of future unemployment? Will he take steps immediately to remedy the situation because, with rising costs, something will have to be done in respect of the proportion of dry cargo vessels to tankers? Will he take powers to allocate extra steel for that purpose, because, in view of the policy of Her Majesty's Government of reducing stocks in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Will the hon. Gentleman increase the allocation of steel for merchant vessels because of the fact that while there is a policy of reducing stocks the merchant vessels which would be essential in an emergency are not being built?

My information is that under-employment due to steel allocations is negligible. If steel becomes available we shall, of course, take the earliest opportunity to look again at the allocation to the shipbuilding industry and give it as generous treatment as possible.

Thermionic Valves (Supply)

29.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what arrangements he has made for an increased supply of thermionic valves, in view of their increasing use in modern naval gunnery and radar equipment.

The production of thermionic valves is planned by an inter-Departmental Committee, and I am satisfied that all practicable steps are being taken to meet the requirements of the naval programme.

Will my hon. and gallant Friend keep this matter under review to make sure that an adequate reserve is built up, and perhaps to overtake am, deficiency in supply which may have arisen under the previous Government?

Gunnery And Radar Equipment (Maintenance)

30.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will give an assurance that the present numbers of trained ratings are sufficient to secure efficient maintenance of modern gunnery and radar equipment under sea-going conditions.

In view of the greatly increased demands on the Navy as a result of the Korean emergency and the international situation generally, there has been an increase in the number of units in commission. In consequence it has not been possible to provide full complements for all ships of the active Fleet. Nevertheless, I am satisfied that the maintenance of these types of equipment is generally satisfactory and that all possible steps are being taken to provide sufficient skilled ratings.

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that if one has a pushbutton Navy it is not much good if nothing happens when the button is pushed? Will he keep this matter under constant review, because under active service conditions there might be a grave deficiency in maintenance arrangements?

I agree with what my hon. Friend has said, but again I repeat that, in spite of the dilution we have to accept at the moment, the standard of maintenance is generally satisfactory.

Painted Hall, Greenwich (Sunday Opening)

25.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what are the dates during which the Painted Hall, Greenwich, will be open on Sundays this summer.

The Painted Hall will be open to the public between the hours of 2.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, 1st June, 1952, and thereafter each Sunday until, at least, the end of August.

Wireless And Television

North-East Scotland

31.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what television reception tests for North-East Scotland have been made recently by his Department: and with what results.

No such tests have been made by my Department. The B.B.C. has carried out tests from sites in North-East Scotland to see whether they are suitable for a television station. The results are being studied by the Corporation but for the present no work will be done on setting up a station.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the tests made recently in Aberdeen, when the television station at Shotts was opened, during which test photographs of screen pictures were actually taken in Aberdeen, though they were blurred? Does not that indicate that, if strengthened, Shotts station might be used for sending television pictures to Aberdeen?

That is not the Question the hon. and learned Member asked. If he cares to put that down, I will give him an answer.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the test to which I have referred? Is it not his business to know of that test?

It has nothing whatever to do with the Question which the hon. and learned Member has on the Order Paper.

32.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that there is a demand for television facilities in the North-East of Scotland; and if he will reconsider his decision to postpone the proposed television station for Aberdeen.

My noble Friend realises that there is a demand for television in this, as well as in other parts of the United Kingdom. Provision of a station at Aberdeen was postponed by the last Government owing to defence and economic reasons and for the present he regrets that he cannot alter that decision.

Is the Minister aware that this should not be made a party question and a party answer of that kind given? Does the test to which I have just referred on the previous Question not indicate that the Shotts station could possibly be used, if strengthened, for television in North-East Scotland?

It was not in the least a party answer. I have merely stated what is a fact.

Station, Alexandra Palace (Alternative Site Tests)

35.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when a decision will be made that television broadcasting be transferred from Alexandra Palace to Crystal Palace; and when the date of such transfer may be.

The B.B.C. is carrying out tests to try and find a suitable site for a new television transmitting station if they have to move from Alexandra Palace when the current lease expires in 1956. Several alternatives are being examined and it is too early to say when a decision will be made.

Does that mean that when the move does take place, studios will be entirely rebuilt on this new site?

Small Electric Motors (Interference Suppression)

36.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when a committee will be appointed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949, to study the suppression of interference with wireless telegraphy caused by small electric motors.

My noble Friend has recently appointed an advisory committee from a panel nominated by the President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers with the approval of the Council, to consider the requirements which might be prescribed in Regulations dealing with interference with wireless telegraphy caused by small electric motors. As the list of members is rather long, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The list is as follows:

The Chairman of the Committee is Mr. J. R. Beard, C.B.E., M.Sc., M.I.C.E., M.I.E.E., Fel. A.I.E.E., and the members are:

  • Mr. L. Austin, M.I.P.E.
  • Mr. A. H. Ball, A.M.I.E.E.
  • Mr. J. I. Bernard, B.Sc., Tech. M.I.E.E.
  • Mr. N. R. Bligh, B.Sc. (Eng.), A.M.I.E.E.
  • Mr. J. S. Boyd.
  • Mr. A. H. Cooper, B.Sc.
  • Mrs. M. Courtney, J.P.
  • Mr. W. J. Edwards, B.Sc.
  • Mr. J. Flood, Associate I.E.E.
  • M. F. Gratwick, A.C.I.S.
  • Dame Caroline Haslett, D.B.E., Companion I.E.E.
  • Mr. H. J. B. Manzoni, C.B.E., M.I.C.E.
  • Major C. A. J. Martin, G.C., M.C., B.A., R.E., A.M.I.E.E.
  • Mr. W. A. H. Parker, M.I.E.E., Mem.
  • A.I.E.E.
  • Mr. E. L. E. Pawley. M.Sc. (Eng.), M.I.E.E.
  • Mr. G. F. Peirson, M.I.E.E.
  • Mrs. C. Renton Taylor.
  • Mr. V. A. M. Robertson, C.B.E., M.C., M.I.C.E., M.I.Mech.E., M.I.E.E.
  • Mr. W. A. Scarr, M.A.
  • Dr. S. Whitehead, Ph.D., M.A., M.I.E.E.

Station, Wenvoe

40.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what radius will the Wenvoe low-power television transmitter cover.

The B.B.C. expects that the low-powered television transmitter at Wenvoe will provide a satisfactory service to Glamorgan, Monmouth, part of Brecknock, the greater part of Somerset and parts of the adjoining counties. But reception will be more liable to interference, particularly in the fringe areas, than it will when the high-powered transmitter comes into service.

41.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what studio facilities there will be for Wales when the Wenvoe television transmitter will be in full service.

Television studios are not being provided outside London at present, but outside broadcasts from Wales will be included in the television programmes.

May I ask my hon. Friend whether he considers that this radius will include the county of Cornwall?

Post Office

Staff Dismissals

37.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the number of staff of his Department who, during the last three months, have become redundant and been dismissed; the number of those so dismissed who were within six months of completing seven years' service; and the amount of gratuity they would have received if they had been allowed to complete seven years' service.

As a result of the policy of regionalisation pursued by successive Postmasters-General, the statistics asked for by the hon. Member are maintained locally and not at headquarters. To obtain them specially would entail disproportionate work and expense. The gratuity payable to temporary staff who have served for seven years or more is based on one week's pay for each completed year of service.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of these people suffer from a sense of real grievance, that a number of them are widows who are in their 50th year and that the Postmaster-General has decided to dismiss them within weeks of their completing their seventh year of service? Would the hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter to alleviate the grievance which these people feel, and will he consider granting them a gratuity proportionate to their service?

I can assure the hon. Member that no one has been dismissed within a matter of weeks of completing seven years' service, but if the hon. Member cares to send in particulars of any case, I shall be glad to look into it.

Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say he cannot supply information because it involves sending about eight or nine letters to eight or nine regional controllers? Is that an adequate reason for not disclosing the facts?

It is not a question of eight or nine letters to controllers—or rather to regional directors, if I may correct the right hon. Gentleman—it is a question of applying to head postmasters, and that would require a large number of letters.

Terrington Committee's Report

38.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he has yet received the written observations upon the Terrington Committee Report; and if he can now make a statement as to his intentions.

My noble Friend has received the written comments of some, but by no means all, of the interested staff organisations. He is obviously, therefore, not yet in a position to make any statement.

When considering this matter, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the proper test of a free association of people who choose to join together in a union should be their own wishes and not the administrative convenience of the employers?

That is a fact which will be considered when a decision is finally made.

Airmail, Cyprus

39.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will apply the same postal regulations to Cyprus as to Malta, to enable letters to be carried by air for 2½d.

I wish that this could be done but it would involve the Post Office in an estimated loss of £65,000 a year. I would, however, point out that the lightweight Forces letter can be sent to Cyprus for 2½d.

Will my hon. Friend bear this in mind as conditions improve, with a hope that we might get back to the Empire airmail scheme of flat rate which operated before the war?

Certainly, but I can hold out no hope that anything will be done in the immediate future.

Letter Post

42.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will accept letters, carrying a 1½d. stamp and posted before 1 p.m., for second delivery next day.

No, Sir. Apart from the practical difficulties involved, the resultant loss of revenue would be prohibitive.

Is the Minister aware that his noble Friend came to Glasgow three weeks ago and asked us to post our letters early in order to ease the peak problem? In view of the fact that he rejects my incentive, what other alternative has he to propose?

The excellent advice given by my noble Friend has nothing whatever to do with the point which the hon. Member raised.

43.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will, in order to economise in paper, consider issuing for inland post a form of letter without envelope as is used for airmail.

Letter cards which do not require envelopes, as well as stamped postcards, are already available for use in the inland post.

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that the airmail form has much more writing space than the existing letter card?

Armed Forces (Free Services)

52.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the estimated value of free services given to the Army, Navy and Air Forces for 1951–52.

The estimated value of services rendered without payment to the Army, Navy and Air Force during 1951–52 is £9,216,000, made up as follows:

£
Army2,901,000
Navy1,650,000
Air Force4,665,000

In view of the repeated protestations of hon. Members opposite with regard to this practice, does not the hon. Member's noble Friend propose to alter the present procedure?

Second-Class Airmail

53.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what are the estimated financial results for 1951–52 for the printed paper airmail group; and what additional income is expected from the proposed increases.

It is estimated that second-class airmail services (i.e., printed papers, etc.) will show a deficit for the year 1951–52 of £215,000. The estimated additional revenue for 1952–53 from the proposed increase in charges is £220,000.

Staff

57.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what limit has been placed on manpower in his Department for the following grades, namely, junior postmen, postmen and postmen, higher grade.

No separate grade limits have been fixed, but present policy is to keep the total number of postal staff as close as possible to the level of those in post on 1st October last.

In view of the availability of manpower in many areas where the postal services are not as efficient as they should be because of the shortage of labour in the service, cannot the hon. Gentleman approach his noble Friend with a view to altering the reply which he has given?

I think my reply covers the point which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. While it is hoped to keep the total number the same as at 1st October, that does not prevent an increase in those areas where there has been a particular shortage of staff during the past few years.

Capital Investment Allocation

58.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the amount of capital investment for the year 1952–53 allocated to his Department.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) which applies equally to the Post Office.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that his reply means that there will be a growing list of people waiting for telephones?

Building Programme

59.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what curtailment has been made, or is planned, in the building programme of his Department.

We shall not be able to start in 1952–53 any of the new buildings originally programmed for that year—except defence works.

Can the hon. Gentleman give any idea of the number of people who will now have to wait longer for telephones as a result of the reply which he has given?

If the hon. Gentleman puts down that Question, I will endeavour to give him an answer, but it is not covered by the original Question.

Telephone Service

Shared Line Obligation

44 and 51.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) what classes of telephone subscribers are exempt from the shared service obligation;

(2) on what basis decisions are made to compel residential telephone subscribers to accept shared service.

The only subscribers who are under obligation to share are new and removing residential subscribers since 1st January, 1948. This policy was announced in the House by the then Postmaster-General on 18th December. 1947, and 30th January, 1948, and is being continued by my noble Friend.

Rentals (Differential Increases)

55.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General why the proposed increased residence telephone rental goes up by £2 0s. 5d. in the London area, and by £1 8s. only in the rest of the country.

Telephone rentals in the London area have always been higher than in other parts of the country. The differential increases to which the hon. Member refers are only reflecting that fact.

56.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General why the proposed increase for shared exchange resident telephone service rental shows an increase for the London area of £1 1s. 11d. compared with 9s. 6d. for the rest of the country.

Shared service is at present provided at a uniform rebate of 11s. 6d. on the annual rental for exclusive service. It is proposed to increase this rebate to £1 10s. 0d. from 1st July, 1952. The differences between the proposed shared service rental in London and those elsewhere will therefore be the same as for exclusive service.

Industrial Applications (Priority)

61.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what priority is given to applications for telephones put in by branch offices of nationalised industries, and if he will give an assurance that the available lines are shared fairly as between these applications and those of private businesses.

No priority is given to a nationalised industry simply because it is nationalised. The criterion for granting priority is that the industry concerned whether nationalised or not, is providing essential services to the community or engaged in re-armament or the export trade. Even so, only the essential needs of these industries are given priority.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is widely believed in provincial towns that these lines are not being distributed fairly? Whereas many businesses which are carrying on important work have to wait a long time, a branch office of one of the nationalised industries has only to be opened in a town for a telephone to be put into every room forthwith. Will my hon. Friend look into this again and see what is the position?

I shall be pleased to look into any specific complaints, but I hope the answer I have given will give sufficient publicity to the fact that the nationalised industries are getting no priority.

May we take it that the term "nationalised industries" covers the Armed Services, too?

May I ask my hon. Friend whether, in his answer, he left out agriculture deliberately? Agriculture used to have priority and it seems from his answer that that is no longer so.

I do not think the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend comes within the ambit of the original Question. I was asked whether nationalised industries had any priority or not, and the answer is, "No."

Lord President Of The Council

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the decision to reduce the food subsidies, he will ask the Lord President of the Council to resign.

In view of the almost monosyllabic reply, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that by concealing and rejecting the very noble and very proper effort made by the Lord President to resign, he is flouting, if not tarnishing, the accepted decencies of British life?

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be well advised to spare his breath to cool his own broth.

In view of the publication last autumn of a document called "Britain Strong and Free," will not the Prime Minister himself resign?

I think that question is also covered by my answer to the first supplementary question.

In view of that very unsatisfactory answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter at an early date, and I hope that the Prime Minister will be here to deal with it.

Ministry Of Defence

Ex-Miners (Release From Forces)

46.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether, in view of the increasing need for more miners, he will consider releasing from Her Majesty's Forces all miners with not less than six months' experience underground.

For the reasons I gave on 5th March in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), I regret it is not possible to accept the hon. Member's proposal.

That reply was not very helpful either. Would the Minister not agree that a willing miner who is prepared to dig 300 tons of coal in a year is more valuable to the national economy than an unwilling soldier? Is he aware, further, that almost every week hon. Members on this side of the House are getting letters from men in the Forces who are able and willing to come back into the pits and dig that coal?

As the hon. Member is aware, there has been no change of policy under the present Government. He will appreciate that most of the men in question have had considerable service. Many are non-commissioned officers and they are very fine soldiers. We have to balance these two things against each other, and it is not our view that it would be to the national advantage to carry out the hon. Member's suggestion.

Would the Minister agree that where a man is a private and has been a private for some years and is obviously an unwilling soldier—and I have sent a letter to the Secretary of State for War which bears that out—if those facts are obvious will not the Government provide facilities whereby such a man would be able to come out and serve in the mines?

I do not think it is possible to make separate arrangements for noncommissioned officers and privates. Many have volunteered for certain engagements. One cannot say that because a man has been promoted he may not break his engagement, and because he has not been promoted he may.

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the scheme which was in operation last summer for a short time did not apply to men then serving in Korea or the Far East, and will he consider re-opening the scheme, if only on this limited basis, for men who were serving in the Far East and were not allowed to apply but who are now repatriated?

That is another Question. Perhaps the hon. Member would put it down on the Order Paper.

Widows' Pensions Scheme (Review)

47.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he will take the opportunity given by the recent review of State pensions to reconsider the ban at present imposed on the award of widows' pensions to the widows of officers of the three services who were 25 years or more younger than their husbands, and will relax this rule in favour of widows whose marriages have lasted for 10 years or more.

This rule, together with other features of the Forces' widows' pensions scheme, is under review.

Ministry Of Food

Wheat

48.

asked the Minister of Food what is the tonnage of wheat necessary to provide flour for the present annual bread consumption; and how much of this wheat is home-produced.

The present consumption of flour in all its forms requires at the current extraction rate the equivalent of six million tons of wheat yearly. About 62 per cent. of flour consumption is for making bread and the remainder for biscuits, flour confectionery and other farinaceous foods. Approximately 24 per cent. of the total wheat requirement is home grown.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not think that his attention should be confined to the purchasing of bread grain and that he should hand over the purchasing of coarse grain to the trade and thus save the enormous losses in bulk buying and bad storage which go on at the present time?

49.

asked the Minister of Food to what extent the present importation of wheat and flour is sufficient for the annual bread consumption; and whether he will now permit home-growers to consume their own wheat for the production pf bacon, poultry and eggs.

About 76 per cent. of our present total requirements for bread and all other forms of flour usage is met by imported wheat and flour, and the balance by home grown. It is not possible in present circumstances to permit farmers to retain larger quantities of home-grown wheat for feeding livestock.

In view of the penalty which is imposed on wheat growers, who have now to provide a certain amount of wheat for the coarse grain ration, does my right hon. and gallant Friend not think it is time that rationing was done away with, and that there should be a free trade in grain?

There is at present an obligation to hand over a certain percentage of feeding-stuffs; but if what my hon. Friend suggested came about it would simply mean that we should have to purchase more wheat, involving a very high dollar expenditure.

Might I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman if he realises that a much more intelligent way of freeing trade would be to encourage as far as possible the further importation of coarse grain from Eastern Europe, whereby Western Europe could be helped? Will he suggest that the Government might consider sending a delegate to the Moscow economic conference on this issue?

We are getting a large proportion of coarse grain from Eastern Europe now.

Bobby Calves

50.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the price paid for what are known as bobby calves is hardly sufficient to encourage the producer to send them to market; and how much profit is made by his Department on the re-sale of these calves to butchers and meat-pie manufacturers in addition to the hide.

There is no evidence that farmers are not sending to market all the calves which they are unable to retain for further feeding. I estimate that the sale at present prices of meat and by-products from bobby calves shows a trading surplus of about 1¾d. a pound dressed carcase weight.

Could the right hon. and gallant Gentleman inform us what is a bobby calf?

Royal Air Force

Aircrew (Commissioned Rank)

62.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will alter the present system which requires that all those in combat planes shall hold commissioned rank.

It is not our policy that all aircrew should hold commissioned rank. Pilots and navigators normally hold commissions, but air signallers, engineers and gunners are normally non-commissioned officers.

Could my hon. Friend say whether that answer means that there has been no appreciable change in the system from that prevailing during the last war?

Yes, Sir. There was a scheme introduced at the end of 1950 known as the probationary officer scheme, under which all candidates accepted as pilots and navigators became pilot officers on probation and were confirmed in their commissions on getting their wings.

Officers' Uniform (Issue)

63.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if, in order to prevent waste, he will defer the issue of officers' uniforms until those for whom they are intended are actually commissioned.

No, Sir. Flight Cadets at Cranwell are the only members of the Royal Air Force who are provided with officers' uniforms before they are commissioned. If for any reason a cadet is not granted a commission, he has to return his uniform.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are an appreciable number of cases in which, owing to the shape of the candidate in question, the return of the uniform in the state in which it was issued to him does not meet the case because it may be quite unsuitable to the shape of the next candidate? Will my hon. Friend, therefore, take steps to try to eliminate this waste?

The number of cadets failing to be commissioned each year is very small. It is only about 25. When returned, their uniforms are not reissued to another officer but are offered for sale at a reduced price.

Candidates, Cardington (Regular Engagements)

64.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many Royal Air Force recruits were sent home from Cardington during the week ended 15th March because they refused to sign on for a longer period than three years.

Out of 803 candidates interviewed at Cardington during the week ended 15th March, 124 decided not to enlist on Regular engagements. The trades for which they were suitable, or which they wanted, were open only to men prepared to enlist for longer periods than three years.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, during the debate on the Air Estimates, he said there was no substance at all in the charge which I made? Will he now withdraw the accusation which he made against me and apologise for the language which he used?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we shall know, in future, how much importance to attach to any statement that he makes?

65.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many recruits called to Cardington during the week commencing 10th March were persuaded to increase their period of enlistment beyond the three years for which they originally signed.

Altogether, 120 candidates for the Royal Air Force called to Cardington during the week beginning 10th March decided to enlist for periods longer than the three years for which they had provisionally volunteered.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is grave disquiet in the country about the treatment which these boys receive when they go to Cardington? Is he aware that some hon. Members on his side of the House, as well as hon. Members on this side of the House, have received letters complaining about this treatment, and will he now agree to carry out the investigation which I asked him to carry out when I spoke during the Air Estimates debate?

When these boys leave Cardington, each one is issued with a pro forma asking for his suggestions or complaints, if any. They are perfectly at liberty to put down on the form any complaints they wish.

Is the Minister aware that it is wasteful to take these lads to Cardington and then send them back home because they will not sign on for more than two years?

When they get to Carding-ton they have to do certain trade tests, and they cannot be accepted if they do not pass those tests.

In view of the unsatisfactory reply and the attitude of the hon. Member—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Following a Ruling of my predecessor, I should remind the House that in giving notice to raise a matter on the Adjournment, the only proper formula is, "Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply."

With great respect to you and your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, was not that Ruling in itself an innovation, since previously we were all allowed quite freely to introduce all sorts of pejorative matter into such intimations?

I think that the Ruling was made because it was found that the introduction of what I called, the other day, objurgatory phrases led to a waste of time.