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Written Answers

Volume 499: debated on Thursday 24 April 1952

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Written Answers To Questions

Thursday, 24th April, 1952

Australian Import Restrictions


asked the President of the Board of Trade what proportion of the contracts affected by Australian action is covered by the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

The Export Credits Guarantee Department estimates that its own liabilities arising from the frustration of contracts by the recent Australian import regulations is approximately £5 million.The Department cannot relate the proportion of its own liabilities to the total value of contracts frustrated as the latter figure is not known. But it might help if I compare the figure of £5 million with a figure for exports from the United Kingdom to Australia of £324 million in 1951 and £256 million in 1950.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will initiate action to provide through banks, the Export Credits Guarantee Department and in other ways, financial support to exporters who are in difficulties because of import restrictions applied by Australia.

No. My right hon. Friend has no reason to believe that existing arrangements, including those which have just been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, will not, in general, work satisfactorily.

National Finance

Capital Issues Committee (Instructions)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what instructions he has issued to the Capital Issues Committee since 1st November, 1951.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 7th December, 1951, to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) in respect of credit policy generally, and on 10th March, 1952, to my hon. Friends the Members for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) and for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) in respect of agricultural credits.

Tate Gallery Rooms, (Closing)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated saving from the closing of the water-colour room at the Tate Gallery.

The authorities of the national museums and galleries were asked to make their contribution to the recent campaign for Civil Service manpower economies, and the authorities of the Tate Gallery decided to make their reduction by closing the lower ground floor rooms, which contain the gallery's water-colour collections. The estimated saving from the staff reductions involved is approximately £1,100 a year.

Sterling (Convertibility)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the free convertibility of sterling; and when they expect to achieve this.

Her Majesty's Government subscribe to the policy contained in the statement issued after the Conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in January last. In the terms of that statement

"it is our definite objective to make sterling convertible and to keep it so. We intend to work towards that goal by progressive steps aimed at creating the conditions under which convertibility can be reached and maintained."
I cannot, however, name a date when such conditions are likely to be achieved.

Burma (Debts)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why Her Majesty's Government have refused to agree to the request of the Burma Government for a postponement of the debt payment due on 1st April under the 1947 Treaty.

On the information available I see no reason why Burma should be unable to make the payment due on 1st April under the 1947 Treaty.

Transport Fares


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consult the Minister of Transport to devise a way, fiscal or otherwise, of mitigating the hardship imposed on workers who now have to pay higher fares for transport to and from work and whose net incomes are thereby reduced accordingly.

As regards Government action to limit increases in the fares charged by the British Transport Commission, I cannot add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21st April. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not prepared to initiate fiscal measures to offset reductions in individual net incomes due to higher fares for transport.


asked the Prime Minister what steps Her Majesty's Government will take under the Transport Act, 1947, to remedy the present injustice to the travelling public of London who are called upon to pay substantially higher fares than the rest of the country.


asked the Prime Minister if he will give an assurance that such sub-standard fares as are to be retained by the British Transport Commission outside London will be made applicable equally to all the Commission's services including those within the London Transport area.

A statement on these matters will be made at the opening of the debate on Monday. But, meanwhile, I can assure hon. Members that we are doing our best to protect the travelling public.

State Security (Screening)


asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the fact that the 200 British scientists who are being chosen to go to Australia for the atomic weapon experiments are being screened, he will extend the process of screening to other persons in the employ of Her Majesty's Government who are engaged on work, details of which could be of value to a potential enemy.

I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that inquiries are made to ensure that no person should be employed in connection with any work the nature of which is vital to the security of the State who is either a member of the Communist Party or of a Fascist organisation or is associated with either in such a way as to raise legitimate doubts about his loyalty.


Eggs (Balancer Meal Ration)


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many shell egg rations are now returned in exchange for the balancer meal ration; and how many he estimates could be returned if the balancer meal ration was increased by 50 per cent.

3¼ million shell egg registrations were returned by domestic poultry keepers in April, 1951, which is the last date for which figures are available. I cannot estimate the consequences of any change in the amount of the balancer meal ration.

Imported Tomatoes


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that large numbers of retailers are failing to observe the regulations laid down under the Merchandise Marks Act, and are offering for sale imported tomatoes without any indication that they are foreign produce, to the detriment of home growers; and whether he will circularise local authorities drawing their attention to their powers to take proceedings under the Act against retailers who continue to ignore its regulations.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier F. Medlicott), on 21st April.

Poultry (Destruction By Foxes)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give an estimate of the number of chickens destroyed by foxes annually; and what steps he is taking to exterminate or control such vermin.

It is not possible to give an estimate of the number of chickens destroyed by foxes. County pests officers organise drives against foxes where necessary. Where hunts operate, they co-operate with the county committees in keeping foxes down.

Land Commission And Executive Committees (Activities)

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many acres were being managed or farmed by the Agricultural Land Commission and the county agricultural executive committees in the years 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 and at the latest available date; and what was the profit or loss on their farming activities.

The acreage of land managed or farmed by the Agricultural Land Commission on 31st March in each year since 1948 was:

YearFarmed directLetTotal
The loss on the Commission's farming activities, as shown in the published accounts, was:

1951–52Not yet available.
The acreage of land managed or farmed by County Agricultural Executive Committees in England and Wales on 31st March in each year since 1948 was:

YearFarmed directLet on licenceTotal*
* These totals cover land held by Committees under requisition, land requisitioned or owned by Service Departments but farmed under arrangements made by the Committees, and (since 1950) a small acreage taken into possession under Section 18 of the Agriculture Act, 1947.
The loss on county agricultural executive Committees' farming activities, as shown in the published accounts was:

1951–52Not yet available.

Kitchen Waste (Fat)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what use is made of the fat extracted when kitchen waste is processed into pig food at plants licensed by his Department.

I am not aware that any of the approved central plants extract fat while processing kitchen waste into pig food. If the hon. Member has any evidence to the contrary I should be glad if he will let me have it.

Taxi Drivers, London (Restriction)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will accede to the request of London taximen made to him to restrict entry into this occupation, in view of the dangers of under-employment and unemployment among taximen.

My right hon. and learned Friend has recently received a deputation from the Transport and General Workers' Union on this matter and he is considering their representations.

Coronation (Municipal Elections)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the desire of Brighton and other county boroughs to take the maximum part possible in suitable celebrations when the Coronation is held, he will exercise his powers under the Representation of the People Act to ensure that the dates for municipal elections and for the changing of mayors shall not take place at or near the date of the Coronation.

In pursuance of Section 57 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1948, municipal elections in England and Wales next year must be held in the week beginning 3rd May. My right hon. and learned Friend's discretion is limited to fixing the day for the election within that week.

Pakistani (Deportation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds Mubarek Ali Ahmed, a Pakistani, was recently deported to India from Britain.

Mr. Mubarak Ali Ahmed was returned to India under the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881: he was not "deported" under the Aliens Order. The Indian Government applied under the Act of 1881 for his return to India on charges of creating and fraudulently using forged documents. He had absconded during his trial in India on these criminal charges. The magistrate at Bow Street was satisfied that the evidence submitted raised, in the words of the Act, "a strong or probable presumption" that the fugitive had committed the offences in question, and ordered his committal to prison to await his return to India.Mr. Mubarak Ali Ahmed made an application to the High Court, but the High Court found no reasons for issuing a writ of

habeas corpus or for ordering his release under Section 10 of the Fugitive Offenders Act on the grounds that his return would be "unjust or oppressive." When a fugitive has been committed by a magistrate and the High Court has declined to intervene, some quite extraordinary circumstances would be required to justify my refusing to issue a warrant under Section 6 of the Act of 1881 for his return to that part of the Commonwealth from which he is a fugitive; and I could find no such circumstances in the present case.

Employment (Statistics)


asked the Minister of Labour the ratio between the number of unfilled vacancies and the number of persons unemployed in the United Kingdom on a given date in March in each of the years from 1946 to 1952, inclusive.

I should emphasise that comparability between the figures for different years is materially affected by such circumstances as changes in legislation and administrative practice.For every 100 persons registered as unemployed in Great Britain there were the following number of vacancies notified to employment exchanges and remaining unfilled:

March, 1946173
March, 1947*69
March, 1948167
March, 1949117
March, 1950107
March, 1951154
March, 195273
* Fuel crisis

National Health Service

Prescribing, North Middlesex


asked the Minister of Health the result of his investigations into the prescribing in North Middlesex under the National Health Service of a nasal douche about 20 times more expensive but of no greater therapeutic value than that given in the National Formulary.

My right hon. Friend's investigations into the past prescribing of this preparation are not yet completed, but I am informed that it is not now being manufactured.

Elastic Stockings


asked the Minister of Health how many elastic stockings of above-the-knee and below-the-knee types, respectively, were supplied under the National Health Service during each of the years 1949, 1950 and 1951.

I regret that separate figures for these types are not available, but about 35,000 pairs of all types of elastic hosiery are supplied annually through the hospital service in England and Wales.

asked the Minister of Health the highest, lowest and average prices of elastic stockings of each of the two main types supplied under the National Health Service during the latest year for which costings are available.

One-way stretch knee and thigh stockings provided through the hospital service average 56s. 6d. and 81s. 0d. a pair respectively, and two-way stretch 39s. 0d. and 45s. 6d. a pair. The highest and lowest prices for any type of knee stocking are 75s. 0d. and 30s. 6d. a pair, and of thigh stockings 106s. 6d. and 38s. 0d. a pair.

Mental Patients, Sheffield (Accommodation)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the shortage of institutional accommodation available for mental defectives in the Sheffield Regional Hospital area; what improvement in the position has taken place during the last 12 months; and what are the prospects of this shortage being substantially improved in the near future.

Yes. During the last 12 months the position has been improved by the provision of accommodation for 65 more patients, and the plans of the Regional Board include provision for approximately 500 additional beds during the next three years.

Sw Metropolitan Hospital Board


asked the Minister of Health what progress he has made towards the subdivision of the South-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.

My right hon. Friend has consulted all the parties concerned in this matter, and is now considering their views.

Out-Patients (Surgical Appliance Charges)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that hospital out-patients who are awaiting the delivery of surgical appliances have been asked to sign a declaration that if the National Health Bill, 1952, becomes law before delivery they will agree to pay whatever charges become payable; and if, in view of the fact that when the National Health Services Act, 1946, came into operation hospitals honoured arrangements previously made with patients, he will take steps to see that patients are similarly treated in this case.

As my right hon. Friend stated on the Second Reading of the Bill, it is proposed that under the Regulations under Clause 1 charges will be payable for appliances supplied after the operative date of the Regulations, and my right hon. Friend has suggested to hospitals that, in fairness to those concerned, they should warn patients of the position which may arise.

Teething Powders (Kidney Disease)


asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to an article in the "British Medical Journal" of 16th February, 1952, in which it is stated that serious kidney disease may be caused by teething powders; and whether he will initiate inquiries with a view to banning the sale of these dangerous medicines.

My right hon. Friend is advised that the evidence in this report is inconclusive, but various other inquiries are already in progress.

Hospital Diet (Apple Juice)

asked the Minister of Health whether, in the light of wide Continental experience, he has instituted tests to ascertain whether apple juice can form a valuable part of the hospital diet in suitable cases.

No; I am advised that the evidence available from Continental and other sources is not such as to warrant a special large-scale investigation in this country.


Conditions (1951 Census)

asked the Minister of Health when he expects that the first information on housing conditions derived from the Census of 1951 will be available.

It is hoped that Part I of the Report on the 1 per cent. sample of the Census, of which Section IV will contain tables in respect of the housing of private households, will be published in about a month, and that Part II, of which Section VI will contain tables in respect of the composition of private households, will be published in July.

Self-Help Groups


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he proposes to issue the promised circular to local authorities on the encouragement of self-help housing groups.

The circular, a copy of which my right hon. Friend is sending to his hon. Friend, was issued on 18th April last.

Ministry Of Food

Foreign Barley


asked the Minister of Food how much barley he proposes to purchase from Iraq, around £40 per ton, and from Syria and the Lebanon, around £35 10s. per ton; and why he is prepared to pay so much more for foreign than for home-grown barley.

As my hon. Friend will realise it would be imprudent to anticipate terms and sources of future purchases from overseas.

As to the second part of the Question, the prices paid overseas are fluctuating market prices which may include cost of insurance and freight. These purchases have been necessary to secure the supplies necessary to maintain the feedingstuffs ration pool. The various prices are not comparable with the Ministry's current buying price. This price though still remunerative is a fall-back guaranteed price of which farmers have rarely to avail themselves.

Transferred Offices, Scotland


asked the Minister of Food to what extent the experiment of transferring local food offices to the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of National Insurance, so that the work may be carried out under one roof in the interest of convenience and economy, is to be carried out in Scotland as well as in England, and where.

Of the 46 offices in Great Britain selected for the experiment, seven are in Scotland. The work of the four food offices at Clydebank, Irvine, Largs, and Peterhead will be carried out by the local offices of the Ministry of National Insurance and that of the three food offices, Motherwell, Alexandria and Alloa, by the local employment exchanges.

Old Age Pensioners


asked the Minister of National Insurance how many people are today in receipt of old age pensions; and what was the corresponding figure in 1938.

At 31st December, 1951, nearly 4,700,000 persons were receiving retirement, contributory or non-contributory old age pensions. The corresponding figure for 31st December, 1938, was about 2,900,000.


Old People's Dwellings

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will consider issuing a circular to local authorities and new town development corporations recommending them to include for elderly single folk some single apartment dwellings with separate sanitation in all new housing schemes.

On 9th April I sent to all local authorities and to the two development corporations in Scotland a copy of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee's report on "The Housing of Special Groups" and asked them to bear its recommendations in mind when planning their future housing programme. The report contains detailed guidance about housing for elderly people and a set of specimen plans.

Completed Houses

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what causes he attributes a decline of 674 in Scottish housing completions in February as against January, 1952, from 2,232 to 1,558 as shown by official returns, and a decline of 256 in the monthly completions figure in February, 1952, as compared with 1,814 in February, 1951; and for an increase of 865 in the total of 2,232 for January, 1952, over the corresponding figure of 1,367 for January, 1951.

The differences referred to are partly explained by the fact that, for statistical purposes, January, 1952, was treated as having five weeks and the other months only four. Apart from this, fluctuations from month to month are normal. Taking a longer period of comparison, it is already known that the figure for the first quarter of 1952 will exceed that for the corresponding period last year because mainly of the improved supply of materials.

Teachers' Superannuation Scheme

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total amounts paid in from 1934 to 1951, inclusive, by Scottish teachers and education authorities to the teachers' superannuation scheme; and what is the total amount paid out in pensions in the same time.

The total amounts of contributions paid in to the Scottish Teachers' Superannuation Scheme during the financial years from 1st April, 1934, to 31st March, 1952, were £10,608,000 by education authorities and other employers and £10,691,000 by teachers. The total amount paid out during the same period in retiring and other allowances, including increases under the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1944 and 1947, but excluding the return of contributions, was £25,421,000. This amount may be subject to slight adjustment on settlement of the last quarter's accounts,