House Of Commons
Wednesday, 9th December, 1953
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
Inverness Harbour Order Confirmation Bill
Considered; to be read the Third time Tomorrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
Ministry Of Food
asked the Minister of Food the estimated number of slaughterhouses required to meet the marketing policy contained in Command Paper No. 8989.
asked the Minister of Food his policy in regard to the future numbers and location of slaughterhouses; and if he will make a statement.
:I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on 25th November and my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) on 2nd December.
I am aware of the reply which the Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby, but is he aware that if the marketing policy of the Government is to be implemented there will have to be a rapid increase in the number of slaughterhouses? Will he consider sympathetically the claims of West Cumberland when representatives meet him this week on the matter?
:The hon. Gentleman will realise that there are two distinct problems. The first is the moderate concentration policy which will obviously take some years to fulfil. Then there is the immediate policy as a result of decontrol. All the organisations concerned, including the one mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, are being consulted.
Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say whether he is taking any special steps to assist the National Farmers' Union in their voluntary marketing policy?
I will look into that.
:Will the Minister also consider sympathetically the claims of Rugby, where we have a first-class site and where, as he knows from his officials, we have first-class plans for a future abattoir?
:I think the Questions I have answered already indicate that this is a task which cannot be accomplished quite so quickly as hon. Members think.
Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say when the Report of the Departmental Committee is expected?
I hope to get it very soon. I cannot say any more.
Will the Minister say what is meant by "very soon"?
I hope in a very few weeks.
asked the Minister of Food the number and weekly capacity of the slaughterhouses in Hull in 1939 and today; and the number of population at present served.
I am informed by the local authority that in 1938, the last complete year for which they have records, there were 42 slaughterhouses in use and that the total average weekly killings in these premises in that year were 325 cattle, 980 sheep and 600 pigs. My Department is using three of these slaughterhouses which have a weekly maximum capacity of 450 cattle, 900 sheep and 140 pigs. The area served has a population of 340,000.
asked the Minister of Food the number of slaughter houses in Hull destroyed by enemy action from 1939 to 1945 and closed down as unsuitable since 1939, respectively; and how many of the unsuitable premises are to be reopened in order to provide sufficient facilities for the third port in the country.
:According to the local authority, of the 42 slaughterhouses in use before the war, 13 were destroyed. My Department is using three. I cannot say how many of the remainder are suitable for re-opening as this and other questions are being discussed at this moment with all the national interests concerned. I hope to have a report on the interim position before long.
Does the Minister intend that cattle for Hull should be sent 30 miles away to be slaughtered and then carried back the 30 miles to Hull after slaughter in order to give him another two years in which to consider whether Hull is to have a slaughterhouse or not?
No. That is the purpose of the inquiry which has been going on.
asked the Minister of Food how long the question of a new central abattoir for Hull and district has been under consideration by his Department; whether the new site is to be acquired by private agreement or compulsory purchase; and, in view of the decontrol of food and marketing of agricultural produce, what are the dates on which approval to build will be given and on which it is intended that the abattoir is likely to be in use.
:The proposal of the local authority to build a slaughterhouse in Hull was notified to my Department in 1949, but no action on it is possible until it is known whether the final approved plan for a moderate concentration of slaughterhouses throughout the country will provide for the siting of a slaughterhouse in Hull.
:As the Government claim that money, labour and materials are available in Hull for private houses, why cannot some of that money, labour and materials be used instead to build a slaughterhouse for the whole of the community so that next year there can be satisfactory slaughtering arrangements in the third port in the country?
:The hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate that it is a question of siting.
We have got the site.
:It is a question as to where the site should be. Representations from all the people concerned have to be taken into account, and that is the purpose of the inquiry.
asked the Minister of Food whether, in the light of the Government White Paper, Command Paper No. 8989, he will accelerate the work of the committee considering the allocation and siting of abattoirs.
The committee are well aware of the urgency of the problems referred to them and of the need for an early report.
:While I appreciate the difficulties of my right hon. and gallant Friend and also that the committee is bound to take a certain amount of time, will my right hon. and gallant Friend consider the possibility of substituting an interim plan whereby some marketing centres, like Ashford, which are concerned about the future, may commence planning for slaughterhouses and make provision for the siting of abattoirs?
I can tell my hon. Friend that the interim scheme is looked upon as a matter of urgency now.
:On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you ask the Minister, when replying to Questions, to address himself to the House so that we can hear him. We have not been able to hear his answers recently.
I can generally hear the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Perhaps he will take the hon. Member's intervention to heart. Mr. Beswick: Further to that point of order. Is it not the case that no one in the House heard the list the Minister gave of foodstuffs whose prices have decreased?
:Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the problem of slaughterhouses is just as urgent in Scotland as it is in England?
That does not arise on this Question.
Auction Markets (Advisory Organisations)
asked the Minister of Food what organisations he proposes to consult before announcing his plan to improve auction markets
I will, with permission, circulate in the Official Report a list of the professional and trade organisations to which the Government are turning for advice. These bodies and any others which have an interest will be consulted freely as occasion requires.
:Do any of these bodies include representatives of consumers?
:No, they do not. It is mostly to do with auction markets.Following is the list:
The Joint English and Scottish Livestock
Auctioneers' Consultative Committee;
The National Farmers' Union of England and Wales;
The Scottish Farmers' Union;
The Ulster Farmers' Union;
The National Council of Associations of Fresh Meat Wholesalers;
The National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations;
The Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Associations;
The Livestock Traders' Association of Great Britain;
The National Association of British Market Authorities.
asked the Minister of Food what recent representations he has had from egg producers respecting the marketing of eggs
:The only recent representation of which I am aware is an indirect approach by the Poultry Association of Great Britain. On this, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture on 3rd December to the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton).
:Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman explain why his Department is retaining bulk purchase and the importation of eggs while at the same time abolishing bulk purchase of imported grain?
:The hon. Gentleman will realise that the egg scheme was an interim scheme and until the permanent scheme is set up and we decide what form the marketing of eggs shall take, it has been decided that the Ministry shall continue to import.
asked the Minister of Food what level of retail prices of shell eggs had been anticipated when the original estimate of his Department was prepared.
A level high enough to eliminate the subsidy.
:Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the House audibly what the figure was? It must have been a definite figure and not a mythical figure.
:I cannot add to what I have said—a level high enough to eliminate the subsidy.
:Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that, under the Socialist rationing arrangements for eggs, the taxpayers had to find £26 million in subsidies, and then all the individual consumer got was one stale egg per week, whereas today abundant eggs are available at reasonable prices?
:In view of the difficulty of pursuing this matter at Question time, I give notice that I shall try to raise if on the Adjournment.
Condemned Meat (Conditions Of Sale)
asked the Minister of Food whether he has yet introduced the revised conditions of sale for condemned meat; and what are these revised conditions.
Yes, Sir, I will, with permission, circulate in the Official Report a summary of the revised conditions which are of special interest to hon. Members.Following is the summary:
1. Condemned meat and offals from Government slaughterhouses bought at auctions must now be processed, boiled or sterilised before re-sale. Where the meat is re-sold to a retailer for animal feeding, or to a processor, the liability for processing, boiling or sterilising must be included in the contract of sale. 2. The revised conditions of sale also require sellers of raw condemned meat and offals to inform the medical officer of health in the area where the meat is delivered of the names and addresses of the consignees.
asked the Minister of Food whether he has received the letter sent by Mrs. Joyce Mew, chairman of the British Housewives' League, concerning high prices of food; and what reply has been sent.
Yes Sir. The chairman's attention has been drawn to the debate on the cost of living which took place in this House on 10th November.
Could the Minister say why he thought fit to send a reply to the Housewives' League when he could not do so to the old age pensioners? Might I ask him if he considers representations from the Housewives' League more valid and of greater importance than those from old age pensioners?
No, I certainly do not; but the best answer to the old age pensioners was that the Government had done something for them.
:Did the letter in question include any appreciation of the fact that the rise in the cost of living has been checked during the last two years?
:Is it the case that this lady has now been censured for sending that letter and that she really thought that there was still a Labour Government in office?
Will the Minister indicate whether in his reply he tried to prove that the cost of living had gone down within the last two years? Has he actually convinced the recipient of his reply of the truth of that statement?
I indicated that the rise had been stopped and, on exactly the same basis as that used by the previous Administration, I also told the lady that the price of food had dropped by 16 since last April.
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that detailed figures of the price index show increases as at 13th October last, taking January, 1952, as 100, to 119 for bread, flour, biscuits and cakes, 109 for meat, bacon, ham and fish, 116 for milk, cheese and eggs, 131 for butter, margarine and cooking fats, and 125 for tea and sugar; and, in view of the burden placed by these increases on industry, old age pensioners and house wives, what proposals he will make for easing them
By selecting particular items the hon. Member obscures the true position, which is that the index for food as a whole has fallen for the fourth month in succession, and is only 2 per cent. higher than it was a year ago,
:Is the Minister aware that I am not at all surprised at his reply, that the figures are from the Ministry of Labour Gazette and that they show this increase as from January, 1952? Is the Minister aware that under the National Health Service there are greatly improved facilities for brain surgery, and will he go to see a brain specialist?
:The hon. Lady had better see an oculist. The figures I have before me now are figures which have been used by the last Administration and the present Administration. I said in my answer that there has been a fall for the fourth month in succession.
:Is it not a fact that, taking bread, rice, butter, cheese, canned meat, and flour, what cost 10s. in October, 1951. now costs 15s.?
:The right hon. Gentleman has the same fault as his hon. Friend of picking out commodities which suit right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The foundation of the Cost of Living Index was laid by the right hon. Gentleman's hon. and learned Friends. We are using exactly the same index, and the figures I have given are correct.
I am not complaining about the index. I am complaining about the hard fact that since the Government came into power food has gone up by 50 per cent.
:The right hon. Gentleman is really not speaking in accordance with fact. The fact is that there has been a steady decline in the increase which took place under the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
Are my figures right or not?—On a point of order. On an important question of this kind I am entitled to know whether the Minister accepts my figures or not.
:The right hon. Gentleman asked two questions, and there are other hon. Members on his own side anxious to put further questions.
I know, but I am not concerned with that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is Mr. Speaker's business whether he accepts my point of order or not. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, is not it the responsibility of the Minister to give this information to the country? I have stated what is a fact, and he has not denied it.
:I propose to do so now. If the right hon. Gentleman had been present during the last debate he would have had all the figures—
I read that debate.
In that case, the right hon. Gentleman must know that his figures are wrong.
asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of further increases announced in the price of tea, he will take steps to avoid such increases by price controls
No, Sir. Tea prices in this country inevitably reflect world prices and this would be the case with or without price control.
May I take it that this is a case in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot question figures, since his own in the records this week show a very steep increase for all brands of tea? Does he doubt his own figures, and does he still adhere to the repetitive statement that de-control will not increase prices?
Yes, I do. I stick to the answer which was that this would have been the case with or without price control. If the hon. Lady carries her mind back, she will recall that twice during control under the Labour Government the price of tea rose by 4d. a 1b.
Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that any improvement in the standard of living of Indian workers, which hon. Gentlemen opposite so often ask for, must be paid for ultimately by the consumer, and may I ask him whether he can confirm or not the report that the rise in prices in auctions recently has been due to buying on Russian account?
asked the Minister of Food if he has considered the petition addressed to the House and containing over 2 million signatures of housewives protesting against food price increases; and what steps he proposes to take to help the prayers of the petitioners.
:The petition asks that the problem should be tackled by subsidies and controls. But the policy of removing controls and restoring competition has done more than controls ever did to enable the public to buy the food they want at prices which are becoming more stable that at any time since the war.
:Is it the policy of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to shoot prices up so high that he can always say that they will remain stable? The motto over the door of the Ministry of Food is:
Will he remove it and substitute:"We not only serve; we care."
"All hope abandon, ye who enter here."?
:That is unnecessary. Again I must call the attention of the hon. Lady—apparently she is determined not to look at any figures—to the fact that it is the fourth month in succession that prices have gone down.
As my hon. Friend mentioned 16 items in Question No. 7 and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) mentioned half a dozen other commodities, can the Minister give us the names of half a dozen food commodities the prices of which have remained static or have dropped during the last two years?
I should be quite prepared to do that, but the fact is that the cost of living index is a well known and established method.
I referred to food prices.
I am also talking about food and not the all-items index. I repeat that hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot quarrel with the index, for they themselves contrived it.
:Would it not be interesting if my right hon. and gallant Friend asked the hon. Lady if, in the course of all the great public meetings which she addresses, she would tell the people that the cost of living index and the food prices index are reckoned in precisely the same way as the Labour Government reckoned them?
asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement on the representations made to him by the pork butchers concerning the effects of stricter rationing of meat as it affects them and their customers
:When off-ration sales were first allowed the general and pork butchers were informed that the concession would be limited to the period of heavy supplies. The flush of home killing has now passed and it has therefore been necessary to withdraw that concession.
:As I understand that there is no shortage of pork from the home market, could not the Minister enable some extra supplies to go to the pork butchers whose customers are seriously discomfited by the Minister's latest policy?
:My hon. Friend will appreciate that pork plays an important part in the general meat ration. The pork butchers will get the same entitlement as others.
Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the statement of the chairman of the Northern Council of Pork Butchers that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman betrays such ignorance about this subject that he must think that he is dealing with road sweepers or boilermen? That is not my view, because I take it that road sweepers and boiler-men have a better appreciation of pork than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
:That may be, but I stand by what I said.
asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he proposes for assisting foreign purchases of prunes for consumption in this country.
The United States Foreign Operations Administration has allotted 5 million dollars for the purchase by private traders of prunes for shipment to this country against payment in sterling. Details of the import arrangements will be announced as soon as possible.
Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware of the satisfaction which the release of these black-coated workers will give to the housewives of Britain?
:While the Minister is considering the importation of prunes, is he also considering the possibility of drying some of the surplus crop of plums in the Vale of Evesham?
In the summer before last we had a very big surplus and conducted experiments which were fairly successful, but this year we have not had the same surplus.
Sugar Stocks (Storage)
asked the Minister of Food at what places his Department's stocks of sugar are being stored.
In the port areas, except for a small proportion which is stored in Ministry buffer depots and in the open near to the store-buildings.
:Might I appeal to the Minister to repeat his reply, because I did not hear a word he said?
:Perhaps I might appeal to the hon. Gentleman to keep his hon. Friends quiet.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that sugar is being dumped on to airfields which have not previously been used for that storage? In view of the exceptional problem that he faces in storing 1½ million tons of sugar, will he take special precautions to ensure that it is adequately stored?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that precautions are taken. All the stocks are completely weatherproof and windproof. This represents only about 10 per cent. of the total stock, and this has been done for many years.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say where the stocks of surplus money now being extracted by the sugar monopoly from the British public are being stored?
:Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman explain the Supplementary Estimate of £36 million if this is only ordinary practice?
asked the Minister of Food the total cost of the stocks of cereals upon the disposal of which, during 1953–54, he estimates making a loss of £19,500,000; and what percentage loss does this represent
:The estimated loss of £19.5 million relates, in the main, to stocks as yet unsold, and it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose their cost.
How would it be contrary to public interests? The Minister has disclosed what his loss is going to be. Would it not be comforting to the public to know what percentage loss it is?
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that it would not be in the public interest to disclose anything which might reveal what stocks are held.
Departmental Trading Activities
asked the Minister of Food whether he will provide more detailed and more frequent reports on the financial results of his Department's buying and selling of grain and other foodstuffs
:Full information on the financial results of my Department's trading activities is already given annually in published Trading Accounts. It would be impracticable to publish Trading Accounts more frequently.
:Is the Minister aware that it makes the public very anxious when once a year we are told that the Minister wants another £127 million to make up trading deficits on various accounts? In view of the many millions of pounds he has apparently frittered away, will he produce half-yearly or quarterly statements?
:If there has been any anxiety on the part of the public, they must have got used to it after six years of Socialist administration.
sked the Minister of Food if he will give an assurance that the traditional trade between Britain and Canada and, particularly, British Columbia, will be kept in mind when the importation of apples is under consideration.
asked the Minister of Food if, when considering the purchase of tinned salmon, he will bear in mind the long-established trade between Britain and the Province of British Columbia in Canada.
asked the Minister of Food whether he will publish in the Official Report full details of the programme for the sale of British barley, of which he has already notified grain traders.
:I am placing in the Library copies of the two documents to which the hon. and gallant Member refers.
:In making these arrangements, has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman taken into account the ominous fact that during the first 10 months of this year we have spent no less than 37 million dollars in importing Canadian wheat, which will make it very much more difficult for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to dispose of the vast stock of British barley that he now holds.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said "wheat," but I suppose he meant barley.
:The hon. and gallant Gentleman does not know the difference.
The fact of the matter is that many people were under the impression that we might be caught with short supplies on decontrol, and that view was expressed in this House. Therefore, the stocks that are held today are considerably less than many people thought we ought to have.
Will the Minister say whether his statement makes clear the amount of this barley that goes for the distillation of whisky?
My business is to sell barley. All I do is to give the figures which are available every month.
:Will not the buying of this cheaper imported barley and having abundant supplies have an effect in bringing down the prices of livestock products, because of cheaper feeding stuffs?
:Cheaper feeding-stuffs are bound to have that effect.
Blind Persons (Treatment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the increase in the number of blind persons in the Colonies and the fact that most of this blindness could have been prevented by early treatment, what action is to be taken to deal with this problem
I cannot agree that the incidence of blindness is increasing in Colonial Territories. As a result of the joint survey by the Colonial Office and the National Institute for the Blind from 1945 onwards, the British Empire Society for the Blind has been formed and is now conducting, in conjunction with Colonial Governments, an energetic campaign for the detection, treatment and prevention of blindness. I would invite reference to the recently published report of the Society, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to their admirable work.
Colonial Development Corporation (Schemes)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what proposals he has in mind to enable the Colonial Development Corporation to fulfil its terms of reference, laid down in the Overseas Resources Development Act, 1948, and thus to become a more effective instrument for Colonial development instead of merely a financing agency
:The responsibility for carrying out its terms of reference as set out in Section 1 (1) of the Overseas Resources Development Act rests with the Corporation. I am not aware of any obstacles preventing the Corporation from fulfilling these terms of reference.
:Will the Secretary of State confirm that under the Acts it is the duty of the Corporation itself to initiate and carry out development schemes as well as to lend money to private enterprise? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the last two years of his—shall we say?—overlordship no new development schemes have been initiated?
I do not think that is accurate. In any case, a large part of the time of the Colonial Development Corporation in the last two years has been devoted to clearing up the inheritance from the previous management.
Will my right hon. Friend agree that capital is limited, and that as a consequence of what has happened in the past it should be spent only after careful thought?
That is generally so.
Would the right hon. Gentleman like the Colonial Development Corporation to succeed? Does he think it is likely to be a success? We would like to know definitely the right hon. Gentleman's views.
:The right hon. Gentleman may be assured that, in so far as I and the present Chairman can, we will do our very best to make the Colonial Development Corporation a success. In fact, we have devoted a great deal of time to the subject during the last two years. I forget what the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question was.
It was whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks the Corporation will succeed.
I have often asked hon. Members not to try to translate me from politician—or statesmen, just as they think—into the realm of prophet.
Can the Minister deny that in the last two years no new development schemes have been begun? Can he give us an assurance that there will be, and that it is his intention that there shall be, new development schemes begun?
:Certainly. If development schemes present themselves which will satisfy the criterion which has to be applied, the answer is emphatically in the affirmative.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will have reprinted Command Paper No. 6070, Labour Conditions in the West Indies; and state what action has been taken and what are the present conditions under each heading and paragraph
:No, Sir. Information on current labour conditions in the West Indies is already available in existing publications.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the time of the publication of these Command Papers they were looked upon by the whole trade union movement as being a black indictment of our colonial administration? Is he further aware that Sir Walter Citrine, who was a member of the Commission, and Ernest Bevin came to this House and addressed a few of us and asked us to watch out and take action on these lines? Has not that time arrived?
:I think that a great advance has been made in the matter since the original Report was published. The information on current labour conditions in the West Indies is very massive, but, if the hon. Gentleman is short of some particular information, I shall be only too happy to help him where I can.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission, with powers to visit any Colony it desires, to investigate and report on labour conditions and other allied subjects
:No, Sir. Labour administration is the responsibility of Colonial Governments and a general Commission of the sort suggested is neither called for nor compatible with the trend of colonial constitutional development.
In view of the increasing interest in this among organised workers throughout the world, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept this constructive suggestion, will he consider his reply with a view to taking other action?
I should like to give the hon. Member as sympathetic an answer as I can, but my present view on these matters is that where help is necessary over any of these labour matters in the Colonies, we should deal with each case as it arises. I take this opportunity of saying that the T.U.C. has given us the greatest help in these matters.
Will the Minister give consideration to the appointment of a committee for each Colony representing all sides of this House to go into conditions in each of them so that they can give consideration to the circumstances and the problems of each Colony? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a committee of this calibre would help him, this House, and the Colonies?
No, Sir. I am afraid I cannot accept the suggestion of setting up 36 committees of this House. I should regard that as an entirely unjustified abrogation of my responsibilities.
States Of Emergency
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in how many Colonies has a state of emergency been declared; and in how many Colonies have additional British troops been required in the period since he took office.
Since October, 1951, states of emergency have been declared in Kenya, British Guiana, the Buganda province of Uganda, the Northern Region of Nigeria and in the First Division of Sarawak. Additional British troops have been sent to Kenya and British Guiana. The states of emergency in Nigeria and Sarawak have ended
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that millions of people in this country are deeply disturbed about this trend of affairs, because they believe that we should offer the Colonies something better than military measures? Is it not high time that the Government now produced some constructive proposals to deal with the situation?
:States of emergency are declared in order to restore public law and order, which is the first duty of the Government.
:Will my right hon. Friend say on how many occasions states of emergency in defence of Colonial Territories were declared during the period of office of the previous Administration?
:Yes, Sir. Between 1946 and 1951, states of emergency—in addition to the Federation of Malaya and Singapore—were declared 'in Aden in 1947 and 1948, in the Gold Coast in 1948 and 1950, in Grenada in 1951, in Jamaica in 1946, in Nigeria in 1949, in Trinidad in 1947, and in Uganda in 1949.
:Can the Colonial Secretary find some corner of the Colonial Empire where the coloured people have not been driven to terrorism by despair, and will he carry out an enlightened policy which attends to their basic needs of food, shelter and a job?
I can only describe the hon. Lady's supplementary as a gesture of suggestio falsi and suppressio vera.
Breaches Of Contract (Penal Sanctions)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps the Government are taking to implement the Penal Sanctions (Indigenous Workers) Convention of 1939 which was ratified by the United Kingdom providing for the abolition of penal sanctions for breach of contract.
:The Convention laid down that the penal sanctions covered by it should be abolished progressively, and action has been taken accordingly. In most Colonial Territories they have been completely abolished. In the few Territories in which certain penal sanctions remain discussions are taking place in preparation for the next Session of the International Conference in June, 1954.
Am I right in thinking that by the date mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman we shall have a full report? Is he satisfied that by that time we shall be able to say that we have fulfilled our obligations?
I think so. The obligation is to get rid of these things progressively, and I think we can say that we have done that.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the public alarm arising from the disclosures at the recent trial of Mr. Brian Hayward and 10 Kikuyu members of his screening team; and what steps is he taking to prevent any further resort to the torturing of Mau Mau suspects
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent standing instructions by the Kenya Government, with regard to screening operations, stress the undesirability of selecting very young officers for independent assignments on such operations; and to what extent very young officers have been given such independent assignments.
Yes, Sir. I would refer the hon. Members to my reply to the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) last Wednesday.All screening teams and their European leaders, who are personally selected by the Provincial Commissioners concerned, are specially instructed at training centres, and, if found unsuitable for the work, are not employed on it. Written instructions have been issued that the work of screening is to be strictly supervised at all times, and the Kenya Government are satisfied that these instructions are being carried out. In the Rift Valley Province, where 20 screening teams now deal with about 4,000 persons a month, a senior officer is engaged almost full time on the supervision of this work. I have no information about the ages of the team leaders. I am communicating with the Kenya Government on this point and will write to the hon. Member when I have their reply.
:Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny that Mr. Brian Hayward has been re-appointed to the post which he held before he was sent to prison?
:There are a number of other Questions on this matter on the Order Paper today, but the short answer to the hon. Gentleman is: No, he has not been re-appointed.At the end of Questions—
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the right hon. Gentleman rose to answer these important Questions, some of us were rather expecting that he was going to ask your leave to answer Questions Nos. 59, 60, 61,70 and 72 jointly, as he had earlier referred to these Questions and we were promised answers to them on which we could ask supplementaries.
:Further to that point of order. I did not press a supplementary question on Question No. 29 when the right hon. Gentleman referred to Question No. 59, among others, because I understood that he was proposing to make a statement on it. Could we be told whether he has asked permission to answer it?
:He has not. This is the first that I have heard of it.
:Further to that point of order. Does not a rather special situation arise when a Minister misleads the House by implying that he is going to reply orally to Questions later in Question time, even though he may be secretly hoping that they will not be reached?
:I must first of all rebut entirely any suggestion, which is quite unworthy of the hon. Gentleman, that I seek at any time to avoid giving this House information on any subject. I ask him to withdraw that imputation because I think hon. Members in all parts of the House know that it is utterly without foundation.If you give me permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall be willing to answer the Questions, but I thought that we had taken a good deal of time already.
:I am very glad indeed to withdraw the imputation, in view of the Minister's readiness to answer the Questions now.
It is quite irregular for this procedure to take place. I have received no request for it, and I would not have this regarded as a precedent, but in view of the heat which seems to have been raised in this matter and the imputation which has now been withdrawn, I will give permission to the right hon. Gentleman to read his answer.
Is it not a fact that a very important discussion is about to take place today on the housing conditions of Scotland, and that these present Questions, if proceeded with, may lead to notice being given that the matter will be raised on the Adjournment, which immediately stops all argument and further discussion upon them in this House?
:There is a very important debate to take place, but in view of what I have said, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give the answer, and then I hope the House will then proceed to the proper business.
:On a point of order. Do I understand that if we generate enough heat we can expect our Questions to be answered?
I was not quite clear what happened, but it was stated categorically by the hon. Member who raised this matter that some undertaking had been given that his Question would be answered.
An implied undertaking.
:Let me understand what happened. Did the hon. Member say that the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken to ask permission to give this answer?
I said that there was an implied undertaking. I gather that you have now given your permission, Mr. Speaker?
No, I have given it under a misapprehension. I heard the hon. Member say that the right hon. Gentleman had misled the House by giving that undertaking.
By implying it.
I did not hear that, and if that is the case I cannot allow the Question to be answered. We must get on.
:Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid there is some misunderstanding. The right hon. Gentleman distinctly said to me in reply to Question No. 29 that he would not answer it then because he was going to answer a Question later. The matter can easily be resolved because the right hon. Gentleman has asked permission to answer it. We do not want to give the impression that the Colonial Secretary is now intervening in Scottish affairs. That would be the last thing that we should want. Could he possibly answer the Question now?
No. I must adhere to my Ruling.
:Last Thursday I put a Question to the Leader of the House on this very matter, and it was my understanding—it will be within the recollection of the House—that on that occasion the Leader of the House consulted the Colonial Secretary, who briefed him to say that this statement would be made.
May I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a statement which appears in today's Official Report, in which an hon. Member opposite said:
"On a point of order. I propose to give you notice, Mr. Speaker, that I shall raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess, subject, of course, to your approval, in order that some of us may speak about poor old [Scotland]."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1953; Vol. 521, c. 1826.]
I would be willing to allow this Question to be answered if the right hon. Member felt that he had given an undertaking and was anxious to fulfil it, but that, I understand, is not the case. The House is now quite satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman is willing to do it. I am the bar in the way. I am not willing that he should.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Africans have been killed, how many wounded and how many captured during operations against Mau-Mau since 1st January to the nearest convenient date.
From 1st January, 1953, to 28th November, 2,821 Africans were killed and 980 were captured, of whom 263 had been wounded. In addition, 507 were presumed wounded but escaped. These figures apply entirely to operations of a military type and do not include figures of persons captured or arrested in operations of a police type.
Do not the sinister proportions prove the ruthless manner in which the right hon. Gentleman's "shoot to kill" instruction is still being interpreted, and, in these circumstances, will he qualify the instruction in order to prevent this abuse which his own figures clearly show is still being carried on?
:The inferences which have been drawn from the figures by the hon. Gentleman are entirely wrong. These operations of a military character are conducted in thick jungle areas, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman's experience as a distinguished war corespondent would have led him to a different conclusion.
:Is it not the case that, in the whole history of war, there has never been a case in which the proportion of those killed to those wounded has been double, as it is in this case of operations in Kenya? In view of this fact, will not the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the manner in which the "shoot to kill" order is being carried out, in order to make sure that wounded men are not thereafter done to death?
I cannot rise while a lot of hon. Members are on their feet. I am not yet prepared to alter these regulations to allow British soldiers and others on active service—which is what they are doing—in these forest areas to have to fight entirely with their hands tied behind their backs.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how he expects the soldiers fighting in hand-to-hand fighting in these areas not to pursue indiscriminate methods of slaughter, in view of his own answer in this House a little while ago that any person who may be injured by bombs dropped from Lincoln bombers have only themselves to blame for being in a prohibited area? If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that death is the proper penalty for being in a prohibited area, how can he distinguish between dealing it out by bombs and dealing it out by Bren gun?
The hon. Member is entirely at sea in this matter. Very great precautions have been taken to warn everybody that they must not be in prohibited areas. The bombing, which is the question raised here, has been done on appointed targets, and these areas are almost entirely uninhabited, except by game.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will instruct the Kenya authorities to cease the periodic issue of figures of alleged Mau Mau killed.
:No, Sir. Questions which have been addressed to me in this House indicate that it is in the public interest for figures of Mau Mau casualties to be published.
:Does not the Minister agree that the odd figures published at the end of particular operations are most likely inaccurate, probably of no value at all for intelligence purposes, and generally help to provoke an atmosphere in which killing instead of settlement becomes the main aim?
I could not agree with that. If the hon. Gentleman looks back on the Order Paper he will see that Questions have been addressed to me on this very matter. I think that this House, the public and the security forces must have the figures which are now published roughly once a week.
:Is it not the experience of the right hon. Gentleman from his own 'distinguished military record in the First World War that the number of persons killed, as recorded in these periodic lists, is extremely high in relation to those wounded or captured? Will he not take account of the fact that there is a mounting horror in this country at the vast number of people killed.
:No, Sir. My experience in the First World War was never of fighting in almost impassable forest areas, nor would I accept in any way the nature of the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman makes.
Prohibited Areas (Bombing)
sked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what success has been achieved by the bombing operations, conducted under his general authority, against suspected members of Mau Mau
76 and 77.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether he will publish now, and hereafter at regular intervals, details of all raids carried out by British aircraft in Kenya, giving the number and type of aircraft engaged, the number, weight and kind of bombs dropped, the nature of target and the estimated casualties;(2) whether any security ban has yet been placed upon the sending out from Kenya of news and details about raids carried out by British aircraft
:Bombing by Harvard aircraft has been carried out regularly in the prohibited areas since April. Up to 5th December, Lincoln bombers had attacked five targets; in each case, the bombing was directed accurately against a specified target, and the results were most effective. Captured terrorists have confirmed that casualties have been inflicted, but the number is not known. Air action has also driven numbers of terrorists out of the forest into the Native Reserves, where they have been successfully dealt with.I am not aware of any ban on the publication of reports of raids by the Press. Details of operations are usually issued weekly, and I am asking the Governor and the Commander-in-Chief to consider the inclusion of the additional information required by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), in so far as security considerations permit it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say how a Lincoln bomber, or even a Harvard bomber, flying at either 3,000 feet or even 300 feet, can identify a black man, black woman or even a black child in forest conditions; and, in those circumstances, will he not do something in order to prevent an indiscriminate policy of applying the death penalty to people in the forest and prohibited areas who may even be trespassing or may even have been abducted there by suspected Mau Mau terrorists?
:The hon. Gentleman should not address questions to me which are based on a number of unsupported hypotheses. I have said already that these five raids were made on specified targets which were spotted by reconnaissance and aerial photographs, and the general tendency of the question is to give an entirely wrong impression.
:Can the Minister tell the House what was the weight of bombs used in these raids, and also what was the character of the target that was specified?
:I cannot give accurately the weight of bombs, but I think I am right in saying that the largest bomb carried by these aircraft is about 1,000 1b. I should think that 500 lb. bombs were the ones probably used. The targets are terrorists' hideouts, if that is the right expression, which have been found by reconnaissance and aerial photography.
:Is the principle upon which this bombing was carried out the same or different from that of the bombing carried out in Malaya when the previous Government were in power?
:It is exactly the same, although it is carried out with a different type of aircraft.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I wish to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far the unauthorised presence of a person in a prohibited area of Kenya confers thereby on the security forces the right to kill such a person
This matter is governed by Emergency Regulation 22A (7) which reads:
"Any authorised officer may within a prohibited area take such measures including means dangerous or fatal to human life, as he considers necessary to ensure that no person prohibited from entering into or remaining or being in a prohibited area shall enter into or remain or be in such area."
:Is it not the case that this bombing also brings an indiscriminate death penalty to those who may be in the prohibited areas even though their offence is merely that of trespassing? In these circumstances, will not the right hon. Gentleman considerably qualify the order as he has at present stated it?
The tendentious word in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary is "indiscriminate." I have repeatedly told the House that there is no indiscriminate bombing in the forest areas.
Malaya (Guerrilla Activities)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many acres of land have been given away in Malaya by General Templer, the High Commissioner in Malaya, in consequence of the undertaking which he made to the villagers in the Jabor Valley on 30th July to the effect that he would give them an acre of land for every Communist guerrilla killed as a result of the information they gave.
None, Sir. The villagers have not yet given any information of the kind required. I am asking the High Commissioner for further particulars.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say to whom this land that was to have been given away belongs? Does he not think that this policy of the end justifying the means is completely out of keeping with everything for which we stand, and that this policy of bullying and bribing should be brought to a stop and replaced by a policy which will bring co-operation?
I am not prepared to reply to the supplementary question put by the hon. Gentleman until I have more information.
United Nations (Central African Territories)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the declaration on 26th October of Her Majesty's Government's delegate to the Fourth Committee of the United Nations that if the political situation in Central Africa were made a subject of debate, the British delegation would have to consider its future co-operation in the work of the Committee
Under Article 73 (e) of the Charter, Her Majesty's Government undertook to transmit regularly to the United Nations, for information, technical material on economic, social and educational conditions in dependent territories. This we have done. We have also been ready to join in general discussions based on these transmissions, although no provision is made for such discussion in the Charter; but there is no obligation under Article 73 (e) to transmit political informationMoreover, we believe that to expose the domestic politics of our Territories to discussion would be harmful to their peoples Since Article 2 (7) precludes the United Nations from intervening in the domestic affairs of any State, Her Majesty's Government, like their predecessors, are not prepared to allow discussion of the political affairs of any of our Territories, either in general or in particular. They will oppose all attempts to extend the Charter by such discussion and, if it were to occur, they would find it difficult to co-operate further with the Fourth Committee, except in regard to Trust Territories.
How do Her Majesty's Government distinguish between political matters and educational, social and economic matters? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is the duty of the Government to give an international lead on these matters and to accept the decisions of a United Nations Committee, even on subjects which are very unpalatable to Her Majesty's Government?
It should not be beyond the bounds of ordinary people to decide what is political and what is social and economic. If the hon. Gentleman wants a very succinct account of our attitude, he might get it by reading either a statement made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) or statements by other Members of his own party, which have dealt in exactly the same way with similar questions.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to continue providing information concerning Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to the appropriate Committee of the United Nations.
In existing circumstances it is Her Majesty's Government's intention in agreement with the Government of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland to transmit information on social, economic and educational conditions in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as in the past.
:If a new member of the Commonwealth is created by the Central African Federation, how does it come about that we are entitled to transmit information?
:My hon. Friend will no doubt remember that in a large number of these matters the Protectorate status of Rhodesia and Nyasaland has been preserved and authority flows directly from the Colonial Office and not from the Federation.
Northern Rhodesia (Congress Members' Exclusion)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what grounds any member or agent of the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress is excluded from the area of the native reserve or native trust land in the Kalomo district unless written permission is obtained from the Native Authority, and is prohibited from addressing any meeting of more than three persons or from making collections of money in areas subject to the Tonga-Leya Native Authority without his written permission
I assume that the hon. Member has in mind Orders made by the Tonga-Leya Native Authority under powers granted by Section 8 (d) of the Native Authority Ordinance. The Native Authority, acting on its own initiative, made those Orders because of the disturbances which had taken place as a result of Congress activities in the neighbouring Gwembe District.
:Does not the Colonial Secretary think it desirable that we should apply to Rhodesia, in order to develop a genuine partnership, the principles of the Declaration of Human Rights?
:There is nothing in the idea of partnership which would permit agitators to stir up trouble in any district.
Action Group Leaders (Letter)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the letter, of which he has been informed, sent officially by Mr. L. H. Goble, acting chief secretary of Nigeria, to the chairman of the Action Group on 6th November, 1953, was written with his authority
:If the hon. Member is referring to the letter which was addressed to Mr. Awolowo on the 9th November, the answer is "Yes, Sir."
:Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the way to secure co-operation in Nigeria is to make the kind of threat which was included in this letter, and in particular the threat that any attempt to secure the secession of the Western Region from the Federation would be regarded as the use of force, when there was no indication that force was at all intended?
:There is every indication that force was intended. I have a number of quotations here, with which I shall not trouble the House unless I am pressed, which show that there is no question that the statements of the Action Group leaders threatened force. What I said—and I have stated this in public—is that Mr. Awolowo has not withdrawn from any of the statements which I have quoted, and that therefore no settlement will be reached in Nigeria if we submit to threats and do not say that they will be resisted.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is to be the agenda when the Nigerian Constitutional Conference reassembles in Lagos in January.
:I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 33 of the Report of the London Conference on the Nigerian Constitution. More detailed elaboration of the agenda will no doubt be for the Conference's Sterling Committee.