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Commons Chamber

Volume 499: debated on Thursday 24 April 1952

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 24th April, 1952

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Tyne Improvement Bill Lords

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Education

Gipsy Children, Dudley

1.

asked the Minister of Education how many children were attending local schools from the gipsy encampment at Dudley, Worcestershire, before the families and their caravan homes were evicted on 27th March; and how many have since found places in schools within the boundaries of the Brierley Hill local authority.

I am informed that no children from this gipsy encampment attended schools in Dudley, or Brierley Hill.

Is the right hon. Lady not aware that, at the annual conference of the National Union of Women Teachers last week at Harrogate, a resolution was passed saying that something should be done about having these children registered and sent to school? Is she not further aware that there are many districts where they were going to school but where they have now been driven out of built-up areas into the woods and are to get no education at all?

The fact that they have moved on is nothing to do with me or with the local authority. The encampment at Dudley was visited regularly by school attendance officers in order to try to induce parents to send the children to school, but, by the time it had been arranged that they should be obliged to send them to school, they had moved on.

Is not that dreadful information when it is a fact that it was the police who drove them out? Where they had no horses to pull the caravans, the police got between the shafts and pulled them away from one site into another area. The Minister is incorrect.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am not responsible for how they moved or whether they were moved by the police or anybody else. I was looking to the fact of whether the children were there and whether we could get them into school.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that these people were treated with the utmost consideration by the authorities of Dudley, but that they constituted an intolerable public nuisance? As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) is so solicitous for their welfare, would he kindly issue an invitation and arrange for their transport to Dartford?

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is not my work as Minister of Education to deal with difficulties between two hon. Gentlemen opposite.

In view of the incorrect information given on this subject, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

General Certificate Examination

2.

asked the Minister of Education whether she has yet received a report from the Secondary School Examinations Council on the new examination system; and whether she will make a statement on the age limit for the general certificate of education.

Yes, Sir. I have decided that, with effect from next year, a pupil shall not be debarred from taking the examination for the general certificate of education before the age of 16 if the head of his school is satisfied that it is educationally right for him to do so and that he is fully up to the required standard. Normally the examination will not be taken before the age of 16.

I have always felt that age alone should not debar a pupil from taking this examination. On taking office I deferred any decision to make a change, because I knew that the Secondary School Examinations Council had of their own initiative undertaken to review the existing arrangements in the light of experience gained since the new system was introduced.

I have now received their Report, which I am glad to say is unanimous. Their main recommendation is that, while the existing age limit should be retained, heads of schools should have full discretion to enter pupils at an earlier age under certain specified conditions. This, and their proposal that a distinction mark should be available for candidates at the advanced level, seem to me eminently sensible, and I am, therefore, informing the Council that I shall give effect to both their recommendations. I shall publish their Report in the next few days.

Is the Minister aware that this further step to freedom for the able will be greeted with great satisfaction? Can she say whether the same or similar facilities will be extended to the boys and girls in secondary modern schools?

Yes. This will, of course, affect girls or boys in any schools, because the head of the school will be able to say that he considers that a particular pupil is able to take the examination at an earlier age than 16 and that it will be educationally good for him to do so. It affects all the schools equally.

The Minister mentioned specified conditions. Will she elaborate on that?

Ely School, Cardiff (Repairs)

3.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware of the dangerous condition of the school yard and approaches of the Howell Dda School, Ely, Cardiff; and whether she has given the local education authority permission for the necessary expenditure to improve these conditions.

I know that the yard and approaches to this school are not in a wholly satisfactory condition, but I am not aware that they are dangerous. Expenditure by the local education authority on the proper maintenance of them does not require my approval.

Is the Minister aware that this yard is definitely dangerous and that there are considerable complaints from the parents in the area? Will she satisfy herself that there is no danger to the well-being of the children attending the school due to the lack of finance to get on with those repairs?

No, there is no point in suggesting that it is lack of finance which prevents getting on with the repairs. The local authority can have the finance and knows that it has the finance. The point should be brought to the notice of the local authority. It is their responsibility to see that the yard is kept in a proper condition.

Intelligence Tests (Coaching)

4.

asked the Minister of Education what advice her expert advisers have given to local educational authorities on intelligence tests for grammar school entrants and methods of guarding against the falsification of those tests by coaching.

As I indicated in the reply I gave on 6th March to the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), I should prefer to leave local education authorities to work out methods for determining the most suitable secondary education for each child. It has been suggested to some authorities who have informally sought advice that a limited amount of practice and coaching for intelligence tests might be allowed in schools.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while nobody wishes to interfere with the freedom of the local authorities in this matter, it is simply a question, as indeed my right hon. Friend indicated, that certain local authorities would welcome advice because they were first told that coaching was not possible and it now turns out that in some cases it is possible; and they themselves are very anxious for some guidance as to how they can get round that difficulty?

As I have said, if local authorities have asked for suggestions, we have suggested that a limited amount of practice and coaching for the intelligence tests might be allowed in schools, but the responsibility for the decision rests with the local authorities.

Can the Minister say what are the qualifications of her expert advisers on this matter, and can they pass intelligence tests?

I think that the guidance I have had has been from Her Majesty's Inspectors.

Secondary School Places

5.

asked the Minister of Education her present estimates of the numbers of children reaching secondary school age in 1953 and 1954 for whom there will be no places in secondary schools, in England and Wales and in Staffordshire, respectively.

I have no reason to suppose that there will be any reduction in Staffordshire or elsewhere in the proportion of the children reaching secondary school age who will be admitted to secondary schools in 1953 and 1954.

Has not the Minister warned local authorities that some children will have to stay on for a certain period at primary schools owing to the lack of places due to the cut in the building programme, and what is the meaning of that warning if in fact there are to be no children for whom places cannot be found in secondary schools?

Yes, but the hon. Member asked me about the years 1953 and 1954. The arrangements made for the change in certain areas so that they can continue education in the primary school buildings will come into force after 1956.

Proposed Secondary School, Maryport

6.

asked the Minister of Education if she will reconsider her decision to defer the building of the proposed new secondary school at Maryport, Cumberland, in view of the special need to extend educational facilities in the area of West Cumberland.

No, Sir. Though desirable, this project is in my opinion less urgent than those included in the revised 1952–53 building programme.

In view of the difficulties of this area, of which I am sure the right hon. Lady is aware in view of the representations made, will she look at this matter again and reconsider it if the local authority makes further approaches?

Yes, but this building would be to relieve overcrowding and to permit re-organisation. It would not be for the first priority purpose, which is to provide places for the extra school population, and I am following the policy of my predecessor, laid down five years ago, that building should not be to relieve overcrowding and to permit re-organisation. I might think it was a pity that that decision was taken but now I feel, as I said in the circular on building, that I cannot now make the change, and I must continue the policy which was decided by the previous Government.

The right hon. Lady will recollect that if my right hon. Friend had been Minister this project would have gone ahead because, in a letter to the local authority, the right hon. Lady herself declares that she is unable to authorise the carrying on of this project.

I am unable to authorise it because I am carrying on the policy laid down by my predecessor that building should not at present be for the relief of overcrowding and to permit re-organisation. I should like not to carry on that policy for any length of time; I should like to be able to allow building to deal with overcrowding and to permit re-organisation, but at present I cannot. I shall do it as soon as I possibly can.

In view of the fact that this is the result of Circular 245, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Kingsway School, Goole

11.

asked the Minister of Education when the new Kingsway School at Goole is to be opened.

Does the Minister agree that it will greatly assist the effective working of this school if the children for whom it is intended were allowed access to the school? If so, will she make representations to whoever is running the Ministry of Transport at the moment to get sanction for a footbridge to be built across the railway which at present separates this school from the housing estate it is intended to serve?

The subject of a bridge is a different matter, but if the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question I will answer it. His Question asks when the school will be opened, and I have given him an answer.

Swimming Instruction, Warwickshire

7.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware that the Warwickshire Education Committee has decided to cut out completely swimming instruction in schools in response to her Circular 242; and if, as swimming instruction is essential for both health and safety reasons, she will inform the Committee that this part of the essential fabric of the education service must be retained.

I am aware of the action proposed by Warwickshire. While I agree that instruction in swimming is very desirable, I should not regard myself as justified in interfering with the authorities' discretion in this matter.

I do not know if this supplementary question is addressed to one swimmer from another, but might I ask the right hon. Lady if she realises that swimming is the one sport which does develop every part of the body, and for safety reasons would she not agree that every child should be taught to swim, unless he or she is medically unfit?

I should like to remind the hon. Lady that in a great many areas there are opportunities for children to learn to swim outside school hours and outside school arrangements, and I think that we should encourage that as much as possible.

Voluntary Schools

8.

asked the Minister of Education if she is now in a position to make a statement about the proposals for financial assistance to the voluntary schools.

I would refer to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. K. Thompson), on 31st March.

While appreciating the fact that the Minister is anxious to assist voluntary schools as much as possible, can I ask her to realise that this is a very urgent matter now, and will she take steps to expedite the proposals in view of the grave financial circumstances of the voluntary schools?

Yes, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am entirely in favour of that. I have now completed discussions with all those who are interested. As I said in the answer, I hope to bring forward legislative proposals, but I think that the hon. Gentleman will realise that there is not much possibility at present of getting a Bill through the House of Commons in addition to what we are dealing with.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the delay in dealing with this matter is causing grave difficulties, as many of the voluntary schools are in quite an unfit condition for children to be taught in them, and in view of the fact that agreement had been reached with the late Government, why the delay now?

Perhaps the hon. Lady is unaware that no agreement had been reached with all the denominational bodies, the local authorities and the teachers. I have had discussions with many authorities who had had no previous knowledge of what was arranged or that discussions had taken place. As I say, those discussions are now completed but, as she will realise, time must be found for legislative proposals to go through this House, and I think she will agree with me that at the present time the prospect is not very cheerful.

Will the right hon. Lady consider asking through the usual channels whether legislation in this matter might be facilitated, in view of the great need for such legislation?

I will certainly press that these matters may be discussed. But I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there is other legislation which it is desperately necessary to get through, and the quicker that goes through the quicker we can deal with the other.

New Housing Estates, Leicester

9.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware that, owing to the shortage of school accommodation on the New Parks Estate and on other new housing estates in the city of Leicester, there will have to be classes of some 50 children each; and if she will give permission for hutted accommodation to be used as a temporary measure pending the sanctioning of the original building programme.

I am at present considering with the local education authority their allocation for minor capital works in the current financial year. I expect that the authority will be providing some temporary classrooms at schools in the New Parks area and elsewhere.

Has the right hon. Lady appreciated the fact that these schools are being asked for in districts where young married people have been housed and where there are young children who have to receive education; and that unless something is done immediately quite a large number of these children will not be able to have school accommodation at all? There will be very large classes and a great social problem is being created owing to the action of the Government in cutting down further accommodation.

No, Sir, I do not think it is that. The local education authorities have discretion in the use of their allocation for minor works, which have been increased. I shall encourage them to use up the greater part of the allocation to provide additional classrooms.

Cornwall

10.

asked the Minister of Education whether she has considered the protest of the Parents' Association of Landewedneck County Primary School, Cornwall, a copy of which has been sent to her, against the proposed reduction of staff; and what action she proposes to take in this matter.

Yes, Sir, but I do not think that the circumstances of the case justify my intervention in a matter which is within the discretion of the local education authority.

Is the Minister aware that the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) and the local county council have made representations to the local education authority on this matter and that the school is 10 miles from the nearest secondary modern school at Helston? Does not she think these senior children need some special consideration? Will she reconsider the matter?

I agree that the hon. Member for St. Ives, in whose constituency the school is situated, has been in touch with the local authority since the middle of March. The decision was that of the local authority, but I can assure the hon. Member, from what I have heard from the local authority and from the hon. Member for St. Ives, that they are looking after the matter, and I think we shall get a satisfactory result.

On a point of order. As this last Question concerns the division which I have the honour to represent, perhaps I may put a supplementary question.

16.

asked the Minister of Education how many all-age primary schools in Cornwall have between 100 and 109 scholars on roll; how many of these have three teachers; and how many four.

Eleven, of which five have three, and six have four teachers. These figures relate to January, 1952.

It is difficult for a Minister to answer when there is a great deal of noise, however much he or she speaks out. The answer is 11, of which five have three and six have four teachers. These figures relate to January, 1952.

Is the Minister aware that the local education authorities have now laid down that these six schools with four teachers shall have their staffs reduced to three—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—and does she consider that a class of 36 children with an age range of three or four years and of both sexes is a satisfactory class unit for a teacher, and will she request all local authorities to see that such classes of over 90 children should have four teachers?

Yes, Sir, and I have already asked local authorities to staff up to their full requirements under their quota scheme. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the revised staffing scale of the authorities allows for four teachers to be employed when the roll reaches 105.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the case of one of these schools the matter has been sub judice? She has no doubt seen the resolution I forwarded to her. Is she aware that that is the reason why I have not approached her so far? I thought it only fair to give the county education authority a chance to think again with the man on the spot.

I should like to thank my hon. Friend for what he has done. Having been told of the difficulty, I explained that the decision as to the number of teachers was that of the local authority, and I suggested the course, which he has followed, of taking up the matter with the local authority. That he has now done, I believe most successfully.

Engineering Courses

13, 14 and 15.

asked the Minister of Education (1) what steps are being taken to provide a modern training for the needs required by the highly skilled engineering craftsmen; and how far provision is being made for a course that will equip men of the future with what they will require at pattern-making, skilled moulding, toolmaker, skilled moulding, toolmark, skilled electrician, or other highly skilled work;

(2) what changes and modification she is considering in the educational courses that are provided for engineering students; what changes are being made to convert the City and Guilds certificates courses into a full technological educational course; and what action is being taken to cater for modern requirements;

(3) what action she is taking now or has in prospect to link up the educational facilities provided in the industrial localities, schools, works and technical colleges, to provide a National Certificate for the highly skilled engineering craftsmen, and also to provide facilities for a proper technological education.

The engineering courses provided in technical colleges are being continuously reviewed and developed, but in general I consider that the present system of craft courses leading to the examinations of the City and Guilds of London Institute and the courses leading to national certificates is meeting the requirements of the engineering industry.

A proposal for a national craft apprenticeship certificate for the engineering trades was considered by the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce in consultation with the industry, but was rejected by both sides of the industry.

Having had three Questions answered at once, and having noted the complacent attitude of the Minister as revealed in her answer, I propose to leave it there for the time being.

Transport Services

17.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware that cuts in the transport services for schoolchildren have resulted in children being denied schooling; and if she will give an assurance that she will refuse her sanction to such proposals.

No, Sir. My advice to local education authorities in Circular 242 was designed to eliminate unnecessary expenditure on school transport, in particular where free transport was being provided without special justification for children living nearer to school than the distances prescribed in the Education Act, 1944. If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind, I shall be glad to look into it.

18.

asked the Minister of Education the estimated cost in the year 1951 of transport facilities provided for schoolchildren in England and Wales.

Would the Minister agree that this service was first instituted mainly in order to avoid road accidents to children on their way to and from school, and that now the service has been considerably curtailed by many local authorities many parents are increasingly anxious about the possibility of danger to life and limb for their children on their way to and from school? Would it be practicable or possible to make a grant from the Road Fund to this service in order that local authorities may be more generous in the provision of school buses?

As I have already said, the transport regulations for such purposes are laid down in the Act of 1944. At the present moment, the estimate is £4,750,000, and, in 1949, when my predecessor thought the amount was too high and sent a circular to local authorities asking them to cut it down, it was then £2,250,000.

Secondary Technical Schools, Middlesex

19.

asked the Minister of Education how many secondary technical schools have been declared redundant under the latest plan of the Middlesex County Council; and what action she intends to take in this matter in view of the urgent need for technicians in industry.

The proposal of the Middlesex local education authority is to replace ultimately 21 secondary technical schools by the provision of alternative technical courses in other secondary schools. In considering the revised development plan, I will take into account all the relevant factors, including that mentioned by the hon. Member.

Is it not a fact that this will mean a diminution of secondary school places, particularly in technical education, and that this is a scandalous decision, in line with that of the Middlesex County Council? Will the Minister please ask this Tory council to think again about this particular decision they have taken?

I am surprised that it should be regarded as such, because, in a great many cases, it is the arrangement for the building of all new schools that have been multilateral or bi-lateral, and I know that many hon. Members opposite would like these comprehensive schools.

Secondly, it is aimed at providing that these schools do not take up places in the technical colleges, where too much space has been taken up and where other students are not getting all the opportunities they should have; it is not a cutting down of the number of places, but the authority suggesting a reorganisation of the new type of bilateral or multilateral school.

Unesco Expenses (Uk Contribution)

12.

asked the Minister of Education how much Her Majesty's Government are now contributing to the expenses of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation; and if, having in mind the financial stringency affecting many members of the United Nations, a review is being undertaken of the value of the various activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The contribution of Her Majesty's Government to the expenses of Unesco for 1952 will be £347,041. The programme and budget of the Organisation is regularly reviewed by its General Conference and by its Executive Board. In this country the activities and expenditure of the Organisation are subjected also to close scrutiny by Government Departments and by the National Commission of Unesco, which advises me upon the work and policy of the Organisation.

Would it not be well to have a special review, in view of the special financial difficulties of many of the contributing nations?

There will be a general conference in November, 1952, to determine the budget for the years 1953–54, and we shall certainly take into account the financial difficulty of this country and others.

Bechuanaland (Bamangwato Tribe Chieftainship)

20.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations on what date, and in what form, the news that Seretse Khama had been deposed permanently from the chieftainship designate of the Bamangwato was conveyed to the tribe; whether he is satisfied that the members of the tribe generally are aware of the British constitutional doctrine that the decisions of Governments are not binding on their successors; and what the reaction of the tribe to this decision has been.

A statement identical with that made by myself in this House on Thursday, 27th March, was read out on the same day by the Resident Commissioner at a kgotla in Serowe and by District Commissioners in other places in the Reserve. In addition, copies of the statement have been distributed.

I understand that some hostility was shown at three places in the Reserve, but that elsewhere the news was received without incident, and that the Reserve remains quiet.

I think it unlikely that members of the tribe generally are at all familiar with the more intricate points of United Kingdom constitutional procedure; but I have no doubt that tribal leaders are aware that Governments in the United Kingdom are free to modify decisions taken by their predecessors. The change in policy regarding the return of Tshekedi to the Reserve will, of course, already be common knowledge.

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether he and his noble Friend have been enabled to modify their views at all as a result of their discussions with the delegation from the tribe, and particularly with regard to the point made by the delegation that there has been a complete misunderstanding here of tribal custom and tradition about consultation by the Chief with the tribe before marriage?

No, Sir, I am not able to say that, but my noble Friend has seen the delegation, he is considering what they have said, and proposes to see them again at an early date.

Cannot the Under-Secretary at least say that he is prepared to keep his mind open on this matter in view of the representations made; and that if he finds it impossible at this time to allow Seretse Khama to return as Chief, that he will at least reconsider this matter, possibly at some suitable time in the future, so that, perhaps, some honourable post in his native land might be found for this man, who after all, as we all agree, has perpetrated no crime and many people think has a right to return?

The observations of the hon. Gentleman will be brought to the attention of my noble Friend.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that, according to newspaper reports, the Primate of all England will be visiting his noble Friend on this matter, that very few hon. Members of this House indeed have a very good conscience about this sad story; and that an opportunity may arise, following the visit of the Primate, for both major parties in this House to arrive at an honourable settlement in this sad matter?

I was not aware of the newspaper report to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and I cannot speak about the consciences of hon. Members.

Trade And Commerce

Lobsters (Exports To France)

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the value of lobsters exported to France during 1951; and whether he can make a statement regarding the future prospects of this trade.

I regret that the information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available, since lobsters are not separately distinguished in the trade returns. As regards future prospects, my hon. and gallant Friend will now know that, on 12th April, the French authorities invited applications for licences to import crustaceans from other Western European countries, including the United Kingdom.

Could my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that the total volume of this trade will not shrink below the figure of last year?

We are still trying to ascertain the level at which these imports will be allowed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he told me in this House a few weeks ago that polyps were not separately distinguished in the trade returns, but that he was able subsequently to give me figures—for which I thank him—showing the substantial amount of dollars earned by their export? Perhaps he could do the same for his hon. and gallant Friend?

Australian Import Restrictions

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now make a statement on the progress of discussions with Her Majesty's Government in Australia on proposals for modifying the cut in Australian imports of United Kingdom manufactures, particularly textiles, during the present year.

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what results he has achieved from consultation with the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia about the cancellation or refusal of licences for the import of British textiles in general, and Scottish chenille in particular.

The attention of the Australian Government has been drawn to the serious effects of their recently imposed import restrictions for many United Kingdom industries. The difficulties of our textile industries have been particularly stressed. The Australian authorities have not so far found it possible, within the ceiling which they have had to impose on their total imports in order to correct their balance of payments, to do anything to alleviate these difficulties. But I look forward to the opportunity of discussing the whole position with Mr. Menzies when he visits the United Kingdom next month.

May the House take it that Her Majesty's Government will have proposals for arrangements mutually advantageous to Australia and ourselves by the time that Mr. Menzies arrives in this country?

I will certainly raise all the major issues of principle with Mr. Menzies when he comes here.

As the Government have now admitted that they failed to safeguard the interests of the United Kingdom in this matter at the conference, will the right hon. Gentleman now review the whole matter with all the Commonwealth countries concerned at an early date?

I think the right hon. Gentleman is well aware that Her Majesty's Government have admitted nothing of the kind.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to take particular care of the rather small, but none the less important, industry of chenille making in Scotland?

This is a very serious matter, as I am sure the President of the Board of Trade realises. May I ask him whether Her Majesty's Government will now call a new Commonwealth economic conference to discuss the whole situation arising as a result of these cuts?

That is quite a different question, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put it down on the Order Paper.

In regard to those portions of imports into Australia which are the subject of existing contracts, has my right hon. Friend taken legal advice whether the action of the Australian Government is legal or not? Will he note that the highest legal opinion taken in Australia is that it was an illegal act by the Australian Government to cancel the existing contracts unilaterally?

My attention has been called to the report to which my hon. Friend refers. Naturally, the question of these contracts is one which is uppermost in our minds, and will be dealt with in the discussions with Mr. Menzies when he comes to this country.

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, is he aware that his hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade told me in answer to a Question that Her Majesty's Government had made no representations to the Australian Government on this point at all?

If the right hon. Gentleman will look at that matter, he will find that my hon. Friend did not refer to the period of the Finance Ministers' Conference. It was a different occasion in respect of a different point.

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade which industries are affected by the recent Australian import restrictions; and to what extent by volume and value in each case.

A wide range of industries are affected by the import restrictions. Full details of the restrictions were given in the Board of Trade Journal of 22nd March, and from that list it will be clear which are the industries affected. As the Australian import quotas in the 20 per cent. category are available for any goods within that quota category, and as licences may be used for imports from any source other than the dollar area and

UNITED KINGDOM EXPORTS IN 1951 TO AUSTRALIA
MAIN GROUPS AFFECTED BY IMPORT RESTRICTIONS
To all AreasTo AustraliaExports to Australia as percentage of Total Exports
£m.£m.Per cent.
United Kingdom total exports2,580·0323·913
Cotton yarns and manufactures209·239·419
Woollen and worsted yarns and manufactures176·815·79
Apparel46·16·514
Motor cars108·223·026
Motor car vehicle chassis11·08·4
Motor cycles9·32·527
Tobacco24·54·920
Rubber manufactures (excluding tyres and tubes)12·72·117
Earthenware11·22·317
China5·40·5
Toys6·62·132
Footwear13·51·813
Cutlery2·20·732
Rayon and silk yarns and manufactures64·319·330
Linen Piece Goods14·31·510
Carpets, woollen22·510·748
Lino and felt base8·83·135
Hard Haberdashery4·81·123

Note.—The Australian quotas are based on Australian imports during the period July, 1950-June, 1951.

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will call a conference of the Export Credits Guarantee Department and representatives of all industries affected by Australian action in order to formulate joint proposals for presentation to Mr. Menzies when he visits this country.

Japan, it is impossible to forecast precisely the effect of the restrictions on particular industries. I will, however, as a general guide and indication of the industries most seriously affected, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table of selected United Kingdom exports in 1951, showing the proportion which went to Australia.

Is the Minister aware of the special difficulties that have been created in these industries which have made goods specially for the Australian market and which bear, for example, the imprint of an Australian firm and cannot therefore be re-sold elsewhere? Will he give special consideration to that aspect of the matter?

I am aware of this difficulty, which is one of those which we have impressed upon the Australian Government.

Following is the table:

Since the proportion of our exports to Australia insured with the Export Credits Guarantee Department was very small, I doubt whether a conference between the industries affected and that Department would be very useful. But the purpose which the hon. Member has in mind is, I think, already being served by the frequent discussions which my Department and the Ministry of Supply have had, and are having, with representatives of the interests most seriously affected by the Australian import restrictions. And I can assure him that I am quite clear about the main issues and am looking forward to this opportunity of discussing them with Mr. Menzies.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widespread desire among exporters to have such a conference and to receive clear guidance as to what their attitude should be?

If there is any body of manufacturers who are affected by this and who would like to consult with me and my Department, I am always available and at their disposal.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to give us a report as a result of the discussions that are going on between the industry and his Department and the Ministry of Supply?

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the real solution for this problem is to have Customs and currency so close that individual balance of payments problems never arise? Will he keep that solution clearly in mind in any discussions he may have?

The point raised by the hon. Member is really very much wider than the Question on the Order Paper.

Anglo-American Council On Productivity

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the future of the Anglo-American Council on Productivity.

I cannot at present add to the statement made by my hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the Easter Adjournment debate on production efficiency in industry.

Will the Minister, nevertheless, ensure that the valuable work done by this Council is not lost in any future arrangement which may be made?

Certainly, Sir. I have that point very much in mind, and I feel that, whatever the future of this Council, it is important that this type of work should be carried on.

Is the Minister aware that the Council is now issuing reports claiming the credit for all the improvements made in many industries over many years without adducing any evidence to show in any case that the improvement was due to the work of the Council? Does he not think it would be a good idea, before considering this matter further, to have some independent investigation made of the extent to which the reports of the Council have had any practical issue in the day-to-day work of the Ministry?

I do not think this Council is making claims of that character, and I think we should pay a tribute to the work that has been done by it, which has been of general use to the industries concerned.

American Import Duties

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the recent communication from Her Majesty's Government to the Government of the United States of America in regard to increases in American import duties on British manufactured goods; and how far such increases are in consonance with the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of which the United Kingdom is one of the signatory countries.

The Memorandum in question, the text of which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, related to applications of particular concern to the United Kingdom under the so-called "Escape Clause" procedure. The applications referred to in the memorandum are still being investigated by the United States Tariff Commission who have not yet made any recommendations on any of them. Accordingly, the second part of the Question does not at present arise.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the very substantial volume of opinion in this House that the United Kingdom should consider its position urgently in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Would he consider making a statement of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this matter—such statement to be made in this House as opposed to the other place—as to what that policy will be?

This Question refers to a somewhat narrower point, namely, the action proposed in the United States under the so-called "Escape Clause." Her Majesty's Government thought it proper to make representations on that matter in connection with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask the other question, perhaps he will put it down.

Following is the text of the Memorandum dated April 9, 1952:

Applications Under Article 7 Of The Trade Agreements Extension Act

In recent months there has been a most disturbing increase in the number of applications for relief under Section 6 of the Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1951. Among those which directly affect important United Kingdom export trade are those relating to motor bicycles and parts, bicycles and parts, certain chinaware, tobacco pipes and wood screws.

2. These cases, and others which affect the United Kingdom less, are still at the stage of investigation or hearing. Recommendations have not yet been made by the Tariff Commission. It is obviously premature to assume that relief will be granted in the cases now under review but, in the light of the decisions reached in respect of fur felt hats and hatters' fur, there are obviously grounds for anxiety, and it may, therefore, not be too early to bring the following considerations to the attention of the State Department.

3. The United States market has never been an easy one for the goods of other countries. Large as it is, it is extremely well supplied in most cases by domestic producers who pride themselves on being among the most efficient in the world. Since the last war a great deal of effort has been expended, both by the Government of the United Kingdom and indeed by the United States Administration, to persuade exporters in the United Kingdom to cultivate the United States market. It has appeared, both to the United Kingdom and to the United States Governments, that it was essential, for both economic and political reasons, that the dependence of the United Kingdom on external aid should be ended as rapidly as possible. It has long been clear that deplorable restrictions on international trade could be avoided only if the United Kingdom were able greatly to increase its dollar earnings. It has been clear, also, that the power of the United Kingdom to be an effective ally, strong both militarily and economically, was threatened by the difficulty in balancing its external, and particularly its dollar, account.

4. In earning dollars the United Kingdom, more perhaps than any other country, must rely on increasing sales in the United States of manufactured goods in direct competition with United States industry. British manufacturers and exporters, in spite of the temptation of higher profits in easier markets, have responded to the challenge. They have neither sought nor been given assistance which would render "unfair" the competition they offer the United States producers and such success as they have had has been hard won. They are perturbed by the mounting evidence that any marked success in selling their goods in the United States will be countered by applications from United States industry for further protection and the fear that some at least of these applications may be granted. This feeling is not confined to the trades in which applications have already been made, but is very widespread so that it becomes a question whether, should the fears prove to be justified, the United Kingdom effort to pay its way by earning dollars on a fair competitive basis can be maintained. Should it fail, the economic policies of the United States as well as of the United Kingdom would be frustrated, and the ability of the United Kingdom to play its necessary part in the Western alliance would be weakened.

5. These considerations, although they apply with particular force to the United Kingdom, apply also to other European countries. In their memorandum of January, 1952, the Italian Embassy argued this matter among others with great force and conviction, and the United Kingdom would endorse what was said on it there.

6. It is not disputed that the withdrawal of tariff concessions under an "escape clause" procedure may very occasionally and in certain special circumstance he justified; and it is, in fact, recognised in Article XIX of the G.A.T.T. that participating countries are free to withdraw tariff concessions included in the schedules to the G.A.T.T. if, as a result of unforeseen developments and of the effect of obligations under the G.A.T.T., products are imported in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to domestic producers.

7. If, however, the purpose of the tariff negotiations conducted under the G.A.T.T. is not to be defeated, it is of the greatest importance that the provisions of Article XIX should be invoked only in cases where increased imports are causing or threatening undoubtedly serious injury to domestic producers and where the other conditions laid down in the G.A.T.T. are also satisfied. Moreover, while this applies to action taken by any contracting party, it applies with special force to any suggestion that the U.S. Government should have resort to Article XIX. This is so far two reasons. First, if the contracting party which is the major creditor country in the world were to set an example of withdrawing tariff concessions whenever they revealed their effectiveness through more vigorous competition between the imported and the domestically produced product, it would be politically impossible for the governments of debtor countries—which have their own internal vested interests to contend with—to withstand pres- sure to have recourse to Article XIX in order to free themselves from tariff commitments which were proving embarrassing. Secondly, if any suggestion were to get about that the U.S. Government were prepared to apply any but the most rigorous standard of judgment to escape clause applications, the reliance which exporters in the United Kingdom and other countries could place on the continued application of United States tariff concessions would be so undermined that their will to make the special efforts and to take the added risks that are frequently necessary to increase their dollar-earning exports would be seriously impaired. In such circumstances, the difficulties of the Governments concerned in playing their part in what must be a co-operative endeavour to redress the present unbalance in payments between the dollar and non-dollar areas would be gravely increased. That in turn could not but affect the ability and willingness of those Governments to co-operate with the United States in commercial and other policies.

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the memorandum issued on 18th April to the United States of America on the increase of applications for protective tariffs, Her Majesty's Government will give a lead by removing import duties into Great Britain.

Her Majesty's Government are prepared now, as in the past, to negotiate tariff concessions with other countries on a mutually advantageous basis.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the only way to avert world economic collapse, and, indeed, a third world war, is to remove all barriers to international trade as quickly as possible?

Is not the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) now becoming infected with Liberalism?

On a point of order. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, if I may say that I am not infected with Communism.

Anglo-Soviet Trading

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what approaches have been made, and over how long a period, by his Department to the Soviet Trade Delegation in London to buy, with the sterling accumulated by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in this country, British textiles and other consumer goods.

My Department have taken every opportunity in the course of the last 15 months to impress upon the Russians, through their Trade Delegation in London, the desirability of their buying textiles and other consumer goods from the United Kingdom, and in particular submitted a list of such goods to the Delegation in September last. Again, my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade at the March session of the Economic Commission for Europe, urged the Eastern European Governments represented to import more of these goods, especially textiles, from Western Europe. Finally, I myself wrote recently to the head of the Soviet Trade Delegation in connection with the reports of the Moscow Economic Conference asking whether he was in fact ready to enter into contracts and offering the assistance of my Department.

Will my right hon. Friend bring his answer to the notice of those starry-eyed innocents who believe that by going to Moscow they can get business which cannot be got from the Soviet Trade Delegation here, and does he agree that the Russians do not want cotton textiles at all, but only certain types of woollen textiles?

My information on the latter point is that the demand from the Russians, in so far as it exists, is for woollen rather than for cotton textiles.

Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member opposite to refer to the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) as a "starry-eyed innocent"?

In view of the alleged success of the unorthodox trade delegation to Russia, would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared, if means could be found to free these gentlemen from their duties here, to send them on a world tour in order to help in the rescue of decadent capitalism?

Coronation Pottery Souvenirs

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will allow pottery souvenirs for Her Majesty's Coronation to be made available in this country in the traditional manner.

Yes, Sir. I am glad to say that the supply on the home market of pottery souvenirs for Her Majesty's Coronation will be allowed. While the occasion would itself undoubtedly justify this step, it will also have the advantage of a useful export trade, as well as satisfying the very natural demand for this coronation ware at home. The method of release is being worked out, but there will be enough available for the home market to meet the requirements of this occasion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see that this country is not flooded with trashy souvenirs of the Coronation to the detriment of the traders in this country?

I think that the standard of work done in the potteries of this country will quite well look after that matter.

In view of the fact that, as a rule, these souvenirs are very largely heraldic in design, will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the United Kingdom heraldry is used and not solely English heraldry as has so often been used in the past.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the hon. Members for Stoke can be relied upon to look after pottery matters, and is he further aware of, or has he received information about, the very satisfactory correspondence which has taken place between the hon. Members for Stoke and the Prime Minister who decided that it was unbecoming to raise this matter in public for the time being?

Imperial Preference (Treaty Limitations)

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of international treaties entered into by the United Kingdom which prevent the extension and development of Imperial Preference.

Following is the information:

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade prevents member Governments from granting preference margins in excess, broadly speaking, of those prevailing on a base date which, in the case of the United Kingdom, is 10th April, 1947. In addition, the United Kingdom has, both under the General Agreement and under bilateral treaties and agreements, commitments as to the maximum extent of particular margins of preference, and commitments not to increase above stated levels the rates of duty on particular classes of goods when imported from foreign countries; these commitments limit the extension and development of Imperial Preference.
Further, as a party to the Congo Basin Treaties and as Administering Authority under the United Nations Trusteeship system, the United Kingdom has commitments which prevent the institution of Imperial Preference in territories which fall within the Conventional Basin of the Congo and the scope of the Trusteeship Agreements respectively.

List of international treaties and agreements referred to in paragraph 1 above.

MULTILATERAL

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; Protocol of Provisional Application signed at Geneva on 30th October, 1947 (Cmd. 7258).

BILATERAL

Argentina—Agreement relating to Trade and Commerce of 1st December, 1946 (Cmd. 5324).
Cuba—Commercial Agreement of 19th February, 1937 (Cmd. 5867). (See note (a) below.)
Denmark—Agreement and Protocol relating to Trade and Commerce of 24th April, 1933 (Cmd. 4424) and Supplementary Agreement relating to Trade and Commerce of 19th June, 1936 (Cmd. 5400). (See note (b) below.)
France—Agreement relating to Trade and Commerce with Protocols of 27th June, 1934 (Cmd. 4632) and Exchange of Notes regarding the importation of Raffia of French Origin and of British East African Coffee and New Zealand Kauri Gum, 16–23rd July, 1937 (Cmd. 5558). (See note (c) below.)
Greece—Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 16th July, 1926 (Cmd. 2790). (See note (d) below.)
Iceland—Agreement relating to Trade and Commerce of 19th May, 1933 (Cmd. 4331).
India—Trade Agreement of 20th March, 1939 (Cmd. 5966). (See note (e) below.)
Poland—Agreement in regard to Trade and Commerce of 27th February, 1935 (Cmd. 4984).
Sweden—Agreement relating to Trade and Commerce of 15th May, 1933 (Cmd. 4421). (See note (f) below.)
Turkey—Agreement of 3rd February, 1940, amending the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1st March, 1930 (Cmd. 6171).
U.S.A.—Trade Agreement of 17th November, 1938 (Cmd. 5882). (See note (g) below.)
Notes.—(a) Cuba reserves the right under Article 7 (4) of the Agreement of 1937 to terminate the Agreement at three months' notice if the United Kingdom should increase the differences which existed on 1st May, 1936, between the duties on Cuban sugar and tobacco and those on Commonwealth sugar and tobacco.
(b) Of the obligations on the United Kingdom Tariff arising out of the Agreements with Denmark, only the binding of free entry for bacon is now operative. The other tariff obligations are in suspense while the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is operative between the United Kingdom and Denmark.
(c) There is an oral understanding that the Agreement relating to Trade and Commerce of 1934 is suspended so long as both parties to it are contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
(d) By an Exchange of Letters dated 21st February, 1951, it was agreed that the tariff provisions of this Treaty of Commerce and Navigation should remain inoperative for such time as both the United Kingdom and Greece are contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
(e) Article 7 of this Agreement contains an undertaking that the United Kingdom will maintain free entry for imports from all sources of the following products:—
  • Shelac, seed lac, stick lac and other varieties of these lacs.
  • Jute, raw.
  • Myrobalans.
  • Mica slabs and splittings.
  • Hemp of the variety crotalaria juncea, not further dressed after scutching or decorticating; tow of such variety of hemp.
(f) Negotiations for the formal abrogation of this Agreement are in progress.
(g) This Agreement is inoperative so long as both parties are contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Temporary Civil Servant (Reprimand)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he has taken in connection with the letter involving a disciplinary case which he sent by hand to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, on 8th April, 1952.

Can the Minister guarantee that in future when hon. Members table Questions concerning his Department, no pressure will be exercised by the civil servants concerned that the Questions shall be altered?

The hon. Member is, of course, familiar with the facts of this case. The letter written by the temporary civil servant in the local office was one which should never have been written in the circumstances. The hon. Gentleman has had a full apology from me, and the civil servant concerned has been severely reprimanded. I hope that will close the incident.

Is the Minister aware that this civil servant has been sending out other letters expressing her personal opinion and enclosing franked envelopes for replies to be sent by the people concerned? Will he consider whether, indeed, she ought to be in a position to continue doing that?

If the hon. Gentleman has any other matter of this sort to bring to my attention, I very much hope he will do so.

Textile Industry (Government Orders)

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many workers in the textile industry he estimates will be provided with employment, and for how long a time, as a result of the placing of additional orders on Government account for goods worth some £20 million or £25 million; and what steps are being taken, by these or other means, to alleviate unemployment and short-time working among textile workers in Braintree and Bocking, Essex.

I cannot give a more precise indication than one on the lines given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the debate on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill on 7th April last, namely, that £20 million spent on textiles might provide employment for 20,000–30,000 people for a year.

As regards the second part of the Question, I think it unlikely that any of these orders will be placed in Braintree and Bocking because the latest figures showed unemployment there to be below the national average, because the area has reasonable opportunities for alternative employment and because I think it in the national interest to concentrate these additional orders in the worst affected areas.

While fully appreciating that point and realising that in my constituency the workers concerned are very few compared with Lancashire, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if, nevertheless, he is not aware that unemployment, even for a few thousands or a few hundreds, means just as much to the men and their families? Will he take note of the fact that that was why I inserted the words "other means" in my Question?

I do not belittle the point made by the hon. Member, but unemployment there is below the national average and below what it was in that district in March, 1950.

Is it not a fact that during the war certain types of armament factories were moved to textile areas and to textile factories and, if that was done, is it not possible to do it again to relieve unemployment?

That matter raises a separate issue, but it has been under discussion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that however welcome as temporary alleviation these orders based on armaments may be, they provide no sort of long-term or permanent remedy for the crisis now prevailing in the textile industry? Will he do something to persuade his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary not to discourage merchant adventurers from going anywhere in the world where they can find new markets for these goods?

Export Market Research

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what facilities are provided by his Department for advice on export market research.

The services of the Commercial Relations and Exports Department of the Board of Trade are at the disposal of exporters who require assistance or advice in conducting export market research. The Department is always prepared to provide for exporters through Her Majesty's commercial representatives overseas broad surveys of the market for specific goods in particular countries abroad. At the stage where exporters require intensive studies of the markets abroad for their products they are advised to use the services of private specialist organisations.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what use is made of these facilities and whether it is being increased at the present time?

Very full use is made of these facilities at present, and within the limits which can be covered by an organisation as widely stretched as that all over the world they provide a very useful service. Detailed studies are often carried out by specialist organisations in the countries concerned.

Has my right hon. Friend consulted the merchant adventurer for South Ayrshire on this matter?

Government Industrial Establishments

36.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the decision to grant a second week's annual paid holiday to workers in Government industrial establishments he is now able to reconsider the claims of the staff side for equal pay.

As the question of the grant of a second week's paid holiday to Government industrial employees is still being discussed with the trade union concerned, the second part of my hon. Friend's Question does not arise.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the approach for this week's holiday has come from Her Majesty's Government to the National Joint Industrial Council or from the National Joint Industrial Council, because Mr. Craig, speaking for them announced that the approach was made by the Government? I should like that point cleared up.

I do not think that in the case of negotiations it is very helpful to indicate from which direction certain proposals came. These are important and delicate negotiations, and I hope my hon. Friend will prefer to leave the matter there.

37.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now make a statement on his policy with regard to a second week's annual paid holiday to workers in Government industrial establishments.

I regret that I have nothing to add to the reply that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) on 8th April.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the women of the country are watching the progress of these negotiations with very great interest?

I can assure the hon. Lady that the general interest in these negotiations is fully appreciated.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the taxpayers of the country are watching this matter with very great anxiety?

Where in private industry a fortnight's holiday has now been granted, can the hon. Gentleman extend the fortnight's holiday, to start this year, to the same type of workers who are now in Government employ?

As the hon. Member, with his own experience of the Ministry of Labour, will realise, that is rather a difficult question to answer during the course of negotiations.

Nationalised Industries (Bank Advances)

38.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what Treasury control is exercised over bank advances to the nationalised industries; what further sums will be permitted over and above the present total of such advances at approximately £140 million; when refinancing of these industries is to be carried out; and what methods he proposes to sanction.

Before approving temporary borrowing from the banks, the Treasury, in consultation with the Minister concerned, satisfies itself that the advances are necessary to enable the nationalised industries to carry out their approved capital programmes and generally to discharge their functions as defined in the relevant Acts. Borrowings by the British Electricity Authority, which account for a very large part of the present total of bank advances to the nationalised industries, are about to be funded by a public stock issue. As regards the other industries, it is not possible to forecast what further bank advances will be necessary, and it would not be in the public interest to disclose the intentions in regard to either the timing or the method of refinancing existing advances.

Could my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that, quite apart from the legitimate needs for capital expenditure and expansion by the nationalised industries, due discretion and control are exercised over further loans to them in accordance with the policy of restriction exercised by the joint stock banks over private industry?

As my hon. Friend will, I think, appreciate, when he reads the terms of my answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT, full control is envisaged.

Will the hon. Gentleman do everything he possibly can to prevent some of his hon. Friends sabotaging these nationalised industries?

That is not a dispute into which I should like to enter with the right hon. Gentleman.

At the end of Questions

Questions To Ministers

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you permit the Prime Minister to answer Question 45, which asks whether the Minister of Transport is to be made responsible for fares, and such other Questions addressed to him on the Order Paper today as he may feel disposed to answer?

Agriculture (Annual Price Review)

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

52. Mr. JOSEPH T. PRICE,—To ask the Minister of Agriculture whether his offer of an additional £50 million to farmers has been accepted; and what proportion of this sum will be passed on to the domestic consumer in increased prices.

57. Mr. ANTHONY HURD,—To ask the Minister of Agriculture if he can now announce the outcome of the annual price review of farm products.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I should like to make a statement on the result of the Annual Agricultural Review. I am glad to be able to inform the House that a schedule of farm prices has been agreed which, in the current national circumstances—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are we to understand that the time which the right hon. Gentleman will take up will be taken into account?

The statement is in answer to Question 57, and it comes before the business questions.

May I start again? I am glad to be able to inform the House that a schedule of farm prices has been agreed which, in the current national circumstances, is considered both by the Government and by the leaders of the three National Farmers' Unions to be properly related both to the economic condition of the industry and to the task before it. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement and a schedule of the agreed prices.

Agriculture will have its full share of the nation's economic resources. Because the majority of our farms are small and the men who farm them find it particularly difficult to finance expansion in output in the face of rising costs, we have tried to mitigate where possible the adverse effect of cost increases and so avoid the need for undue increases in farm prices.

The Government have decided to hold unchanged until 31st March, 1953, the basic release prices of feedingstuffs. We propose also to lay before the House a scheme for continuing ploughing-up grants; and a scheme to extend the subsidy on fertilisers. Subject to the necessary statutory authority, we propose to authorise the renewal of a calf subsidy.

The increases in farm prices, together with the subsidy arrangements I have mentioned, should enable the industry both to meet the higher costs which have arisen during the year and to finance the programme for the further expansion of output.

The country's economic difficulties, coupled with the actual and prospective world shortage of food, especially meat, make it essential that more food should be raised from our own soil. The just and constructive award which I am now announcing provides a firm foundation for the long-term policy which the Government are working out in conjunction with the leaders of the industry. It should lead to significant improvement in the supply of home-produced food for the consumer, and I see no reason why by 1956 net output should not have been raised by at least 60 per cent. above prewar.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just had a statement which, unless some figures are given in it, seems to me to be a gross abuse of the normal custom of the House. The point of order I am anxious to raise is this. Upon what grounds was it decided that a statement of that kind should be made which, in point of fact, conveys no real information whatsoever?

I understand that this statement was in answer to Question 57. It is quite customary for long answers to have the figures and details put in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is clearly understood that it is within your discretion that, if a Minister desires, for purposes that seem to him proper, it is possible for him to rise and make a statement in answer to a Question, particularly when that Question is of great importance. That has always been well understood in the House. But the Minister when he rose made no reference whatsoever to this statement being in answer to a Question. I think I am right in saying that. Therefore, this statement was made to the House without any relevance to any Question on the Order Paper. If it was such a statement and you, Sir, in your discretion, thought fit to allow that statement to be made, I say it is an intolerable impertinence that that statement should not include any single fact which we want to know.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I distinctly heard you say that the statement was to be made in answer to Question 57, in my name.

I would point out to the House that it is often very difficult for a Minister and for the Speaker to draw the line about voluminous statements. There is a danger both ways. Either it is so long as to consume a great deal of the time of the House or it may be unduly short, we are all liable to make mistakes.

On this point I am bound to say that I think the Government have laid a trap for themselves. There have never been a more inadequate statement on the result of the farm price review than that offered this year. The Minister of Agriculture has given me every facility, and I exempt him from any part in it, but somebody has treated the House with a good deal less than the courtesy that we normally have. I will be as interrogative as I can. This is a most important statement. Are the Government not aware that an announcement of the farm prices, involving a very large measure of recoupment of public money, really ought not to be conveyed to this House without the figures being mentioned? Are the Government aware that, although I may not necessarily criticise the figure if I knew it, I am entitled, as is the House, to know what it is, as indeed is the whole country?

I want to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman some specific questions. I warn the Leader of the House that the use of this form of statement is bound to add to the great number of questions which one has to ask in order to get at the truth. First of all, may I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman if he will be good enough to tell us what is the total recoupment made by the Government to the industry? Secondly, how much of the increased cost this year is the industry itself being asked to bear? Thirdly, within that recoupment, what is the actual split between the straightforward increase in farm prices and the new or extended subsidies? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned some four subsidies which are either new or extensions of old ones. How much, in fact, of the recoupment is being covered by those subsidies and how much by straightforward increases of prices?

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman how much of this total recoup- ment, which I guess to be a round £50 million altogether, is being charged against the consumers' food subsidies? The policy may or may not be right, but we really must know. Would I be right in thinking that it is £50 million and that it is not being charged against the food subsidies? If so, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us, on the basis of the Chancellor's answer that £150 million reduction in the food subsidies represented an increase of 1s. 6d. per head in the cost of food, what this particular charge represents? Would I be right again in guessing an additional 6d. per head from now on? I should like to ask one or two other questions arising out of such details. We must really get at this. For example, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, at the end of his statement, referred to the fact that he sees no reason why the net output in 1956—

On a point of order. All these questions are completely and absolutely irrelevant. I should like to submit one point for your consideration, Mr. Speaker. It is well known in the House' that a smallish but growing group of Members on this side have certain strong views in relation to the farming subsidy policy. I want to ask you whether those hon. Members on this side of the House who are going to rise to ask further questions will be accorded exactly the same type of privileges as are now afforded to other hon. Members.

Further to that point of order. May I respectfully point out that the Minister said that he would circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement, with a schedule? Surely it is perfectly within the powers of hon. Members thereafter to ask any questions arising from that statement after they have had proper time to consider it.

I am rising to a point of order which is a very short one. I should like to ask the Minister, when he replies to the rather voluminous points which have already been raised, to explain to the House why, in giving the report he has already given, he has elected to do so in answer to Question No. 57 which is of general concern, and at the same time has ignored Question No. 52, standing in my own name and referring to specific figures which are germane to this subject.

I want to suit the convenience of the House. I have other questions to put, but perhaps it would be as well at this stage if I asked the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to answer the questions on general cost which I have put, and then I should like to put some more specific questions on the details of the statement.

I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the last time the Labour Government were responsible for announcing the result of the Annual Price Review, it was not announced in this House at all. It is my purpose to try to give as much information as I can to the House and to answer the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The first and the main point in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks was the actual cost in recoupment of this Review. This is a complicated figure to give: it can only be done in three parts.

The starting point must be the schedule as announced by my predecessor this time last year. Following on that, the Special Review of last November added £16 million in respect of labour in a full year to the price schedules determined by my predecessor. Following upon that the once-for-all additions made to these schedules in fulfilment of the Special Review of 1950 have to be taken off. That is a sum of £2½ million.

The particular award which I am announcing today adds to the price schedule of a year ago, as adjusted in these two ways, £39 million. I want to emphasise to the House that this award is not a bonus to farmers. This award will enable farmers to maintain the present level of income and will give help to mitigate the cost increases which might otherwise have made it particularly difficult for the small farmers to expand production.

With regard to the second point made by the right hon. Gentleman, as to the cost of the award to the consumers of this country, I would say that the cost of the award will, in the normal way, be taken into account by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food in announcing the retail price increases necessary to bring the food subsidies down to the rate of £250 million a year announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget proposals. It is the intention of the Government to issue a White Paper dealing with all the very difficult and intricate figures which surround this Review and giving further details as to the exact extent of recoupment and where it becomes effective. I would ask the House to await the publication of that White Paper.

On a point of order. I am sorry to take up the time of the House, Mr. Speaker, but this is something which I do not think either you or hon. Members should tolerate. It was perfectly well known last night, or late yesterday afternoon, by members of the Press upstairs—one of whom gave me the details—that the figures that we have been asking for this afternoon have already informally been given to the Press. Why should not the House be informed that the total figure it will cost the consumer is £52 million? It is really disgraceful and outrageous.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has sought to give the impression that he has answered the points I have put. With very great respect, he has not. The main issue which we must know in order to form a judgment is simply what is the total cost of the whole recoupment. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said £39½ million, with the other things. In point of fact, am I not right in saying that when one allows for the feedingstuffs subsidy and the other subsidies, the total recoupment is of the order of £50 million?

Further, am I not right in saying that the whole of that £50 million, subsidies as well as price increases, is to be charged against the consumer subsidies? Therefore, am I not right in saying that there is something of the order of 6d. per head to be paid by every consumer per week for this increase in farm incomes? It may be right or wrong; but we must have it.

In the whole of this announcement there is no indication of an agricultural food policy. Reference was made to a figure of 60 per cent. over pre-war by 1956, which represents, if achieved, an increase of 2½ per cent. per annum between now and then, as against the increase of 7 per cent. per annum achieved under the Labour Government. I am very glad to hear that we are to have a White Paper. In view of the inadequacy of this announcement and the impossibility of discussing it intelligently before we get the figures in the White Paper, will the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House arrange for us to have a debate on this White Paper, this award and the apparently non-existent Government food policy for which we have waited so long?

May I put a simple point which I think the House wants to know and is entitled to know, and which certainly the housewives of this country are entitled to know: how much does this mean in terms of the food prices? Will some Minister on the Front Bench opposite tell us exactly how much the prices of the foodstuffs—the meat and the milk and the bread—will go up to the housewives as a result of this arrangement? That is a simple question.

I have already answered that question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think that, on reflection, the House will agree that it is absolutely impossible to assess exactly what it will mean in retail figures and prices. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it roughly?"] I stand on what I have said—that the cost of this award will be taken into account by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food in announcing the retail prices necessary to bring the food subsidies down to £250 million.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he was consulted by his right hon. and gallant Friend before his right hon. and gallant Friend made this extraordinarily incomplete statement to the House? There are many precedents for statements having been made, in the House or outside it, on the result of these considerations of farm prices, but I have never known a statement of this kind made which was so incomplete and yet so tendentious, and containing no figures. May I further ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of that, he will afford an opportunity to the House to discuss the whole of this matter?

I was waiting until we came to the business Question. If, however, it suits right hon. Gentlemen for me to deal with the matter now, it seems to me that, as my right hon. and gallant Friend has said there is to be a White Paper, then we had better wait and see what the White Paper says before we decide on what further action the House would like to take.

May I ask the Minister how far, in agreeing on these prices, the extra freight charges which affect certain parts of the country very severely were taken into account? Secondly, may I ask him whether, in view of the fluctuation in various prices which farmers have to pay, it is his intention to undertake an interim review of prices in the current year if that should be necessary?

My answer is that we have taken into account all cost increases arising since the last Annual Review, other than the wages award, which has been dealt with separately.

As the Minister has no authority to speak for agriculture in Scotland, may I ask whether the Secretary of State for Scotland is not to be asked to clarify the situation as far as Scotland is concerned?