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Commons Chamber

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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House Of Commons

Monday, 1st March, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Materials

Canadian Newsprint


asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, with what newspaper representatives and newsprint manufacturers he has been discussing the import of additional Canadian newsprint.

The discussions have been with the Board of the Newsprint Supply Company. My noble Friend has had no discussions on this with newsprint manufacturers either at home or abroad, but I understand that there have been discussions between the Newsprint Supply Company and their various suppliers.

Is the Minister aware that better results would have been achieved if negotiations with all the interested parties had been commenced earlier, and before many millions of dollars had been wasted on Canadian barley, which we could easily have done without, so that that money could have been spent on newsprint which we very much need?

I am not sure that I can accept the conclusions which the hon. and gallant Gentleman arrives at on that point.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the President of the Board of Trade will be prepared to meet the Canadian newsprint manufacturers when he goes to Canada in May of this year?

I cannot give my hon. and gallant Friend an assurance on that point, because I have no idea at the moment what my right hon. Friend's programme will be.

Residual Trading Stocks (Disposal)


asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, what materials he now holds for disposal; and how long it will take to dispose of them.

Apart from materials in which public trading at present continues, the Ministry of Materials holds residual trading stocks of aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, sulphur and pyrites, timber, hemp and mica. While the bulk of these is expected to be disposed of by sale or transfer to the strategic reserves in 1954–55, in the interests of the taxpayer it is necessary to avoid too hasty sales and consequent losses. Moreover, the termination of public trading has left or will leave the Government, for some years ahead, with certain purchase and disposal commitments for a number of commodities.

While it may be embarrassing to release too much information about these stocks, can the Minister perhaps give us a little more information? Can he say, for instance, what is the total tonnage of all the stocks held, or what was their purchase price?

I very much doubt whether it would be in the public interest —if we are to obtain the best results from the liquidation of these stocks—for me to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the specific information which he suggests.

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, public trading in tungsten ore is continuing for the present, but I may have an observation to make in a moment which will be related to what he has in mind.

Tungsten Ores (Private Trading)


asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, how long he proposes to continue public trading in tungsten ore.

My noble Friend has decided to restore private trading in tungsten ores and concentrates on 1st April, 1954. His decision was taken after consultation with the trade. Private imports from all sources except the dollar area will be permitted from this date, but in order to ensure a smooth transition from public to private trading and so that the Ministry's surplus stocks may be disposed of with the minimum of disturbance to the market, arrangements are being made with the co-operation of the trade under which in the early months of private trading consumers will continue to meet a substantial part of their requirements by purchases from Ministry stocks.

The Ministry of Materials will shortly be communicating with consumers individually about the detailed application of the arrangements. It is contemplated that the proportion of purchases from the Ministry will be reduced as the normal channels of supply are re-established. The arrangements will be kept under review in consultation as "necessary with the trade.

Is the Minister aware that the Government's view is in keeping with All Fools Day? Tungsten ore is in short supply, and handing it over to private enterprise will mean intense competition and the pushing up of the price, which would not otherwise take place.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the whole situation has been very carefully considered and that the Government are satisfied that no undue risks are involved.

Can the right hon. Gentleman given an assurance that he will not be blackmailed by the private buyers of this ore in the same way as the Minister of Transport has been blackmailed by the Road Haulage Association in connection with buses and lorries?

I can give the assurance that the Government will see that this matter is dealt with in the interests of the country as a whole.

Departmental Functions


asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, whether he will state the nature of the remaining functions of the Ministry, in view of the reversion of more than 95 per cent, of State trading in raw commodities to private traders, since October, 1951.

The wide variety of tasks of the Ministry, which are by no means confined to public trading, cannot be fully described in this reply. The abandonment of much of public trading and distribution controls has already been reflected in considerable reductions in the staff of the Ministry, and this process is continuing. The liquidation, however, of public trading positions involving many millions of pounds, if it is to be conducted with due regard for the interests of the taxpayer, must make substantial demands on the staff of the Ministry for some time. So, too, must the efficient management and custody of our immensely valuable strategic stockpile.

While recognising the the merit of the processes that my right hon. Friend is now carrying through, may I ask him to confirm that it is the ultimate goal of the Government to wind up this Ministry, which is, surely, symbolic of shortages, not of surpluses, which exist in the world today in most of the raw commodities?

My hon. Friend has made a good start to the week already, and I believe that he will have no anxieties in watching how the future unfolds, but I hope he will not mind letting the future come one day at a time.

Private International Law (Report)


asked the Attorney-General what steps Her Majesty's Government propose to take to implement the recommendations on the law of domicile contained in the First Report of the Committee on Private International Law.

This Report was published only on 18th February and consideration of the far-reaching changes proposed in it is bound to take some time.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he recognises the far-reaching consequences of these proposals, so may we have an assurance at least in connection with the status of married women that the Government will give it early attention?

I cannot give any undertaking as to when it will be dealt with.

British Shipping (Usa Security Regulations)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what protests he has made against the interference to which British ships have been subjected in United States ports whilst engaged in trade with China with the full authority of the United Kingdom Government and in accordance with decisions of the United Nations.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that British ships engaged on voyages with the full authority of the United Kingdom Government, and in conformity with the decisions of the United Nations, have been and are being shadowed and subjected to interference by the United States of America; what action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of the United States of American regarding the shadowing of British vessels engaged on the Far East trade by units of the United States Navy.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the Report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom, which has been sent to him, protesting against the placing by the United States Government or armed guards on British merchant ships while in port and detailing naval cutters to shadow them from one United States port to another; and what reply he has sent.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has received concerning interference by United States naval vessels with British merchant ships trading in Far Eastern Communist ports; and whether he will make a statement.

Hon. Members will be aware that the 1953–1954 Annual Report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom referred to certain restrictions which had been imposed on British vessels by the United States authorities. Though the Chamber do not make this clear in their Report, the restrictions in question are of two kinds and were imposed at different times for different purposes.

First of all the United States authorities have, since October, 1950, applied special security measures to ships arriving in United States ports directly or indirectly from Soviet or other Communist-controlled ports. These measures include an inspection of the ship and its surveillance by the United States Coast Guard while it remains in United States territorial waters.

Since these measures came into force, that is October, 1950, Her Majesty's Government have been informed of six cases in which these supervisory measures have been applied to British merchant vessels. In answer to our representations the United States authorities have assured us that these measures are part of the general security arrangements in force in the United States which are applicable without distinction or discrimination to American ships as well as to those of other nations. They have emphasised that the supervisory arrangements are unconnected with the trading intentions of the vessels concerned and they have given an assurance that ships will not be subjected to any unnecessary delays. Her Majesty's Government will continue to watch this situation and representations will be renewed whenever necessary.

As regards the shadowing of vessels on passage between American ports, representations were made by Her Majesty's Embassy in June and July, 1953, and there has been no recurrence of this practice since then in respect of British vessels.

Secondly, the Department of Commerce in June, 1953, issued supplementary regulations controlling the supply of ships' stores, supplies and equipment. These regulations placed special restrictions on the supply of bunkers to ships which had traded with, or intended to trade with in, any Far Eastern Communist port, or Macao. They go beyond what Her Majesty's Government think necessary to give effect to the resolution of the United Nations regarding strategic trade with Communist China. We have therefore carefully watched the application of these regulations to British ships. In only three cases have British ships encountered some difficulty in obtaining bunkers, but licenses were granted after representations by Her Majesty's representative at Washington. In one further case licenses for spare parts have been refused. This case is stall under discussion with the United States authorities.

While, on the whole, we are gratified by the action that the Government have taken in this matter, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that neither the Government nor the British mercantile marine will in this respect act as supinely as the American armed forces have had to act in response to the allegations and attacks of Senator McCarthy?

I really do not think that that question is relevant or particularly tactful. However, it is quite clear that we have been fairly treated. There have been only six cases since October, 1950, and in all of them we have received satisfactory assurances. There has been no shadowing between American ports since our representations were made. The hon. Gentleman will notice that the instances have been minor and satisfactorily settled. I only hope that all international problems will be equally satisfactorily resolved.

In view of the close relations between the two countries, did the United States Government keep the Government informed of the action they were taking?

We made representations, and I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that we have received a very satisfactory response.

In view of the importance of doing everything possible to increase East-West trade, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the speech by the Prime Minister last week on this subject is extensively circulated by British Information Services in America?

I am sure it will be, but I do not see how that is even remotely concerned with the answer I have just given.

Spain (Detained British Vessel)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British motor vessel "Sevro," detained by the Spanish authorities on 26th January, has now been released; and if he will make a statement.

I am informed that the master of the "Sevro" has been found guilty of an infringement of the Spanish law relating to contraband and has been fined 800,000 pesetas. The ship's cargo of tobacco and lubricating oil has been seized and the vessel is held pending the payment of the fine. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid has been instructed to ask the Spanish authorities for a full report on the Spanish court's proceedings.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he is aware -that the Spanish authorities claim that they can seize any vessel under 100 tons in the Straits, even if it is carrying Her Majesty's mails? Can he say on what ground of international law that claim is based? Can he give an assurance that in future ships carrying Her Majesty's mail will not be intercepted in this high-handed way?

I understand that it is accepted in international law that a State has the right to apprehend contraband goods passing through its territorial waters. In this particular case Her Majesty's Ambassador has asked for a full report from the Spanish Government, and I should prefer to suspend judgment until we have the report.

Is it not a rather extraordinary thing that we have to have Questions dealing with interference with shipping going to China, interference with shipping going to Spain, interference with shipping going through the Suez Canal? Do these foreign Governments know that there is a Tory Government in power here?

The hon. Gentleman has no reason to be proud of the record of the Labour Government so far as these matters are concerned. As the hon. Gentleman may have observed from the answer to the last Question, the Government have taken energetic measures, which have received a satisfactory answer.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further information with regard to the exclusion of the British Honorary Vice-Consul in Cadiz, Spain, from the hearing of a case against British subjects in a Spanish court.

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid has requested an explanation of the reasons for the exclusion of Mr. Hempson from the hearing of the case against the British ship "Sevro."

Will my hon. Friend make a statement when he receives the Ambassador's report, or would he prefer another Question to be put down?

I could tell my hon. Friend when we have the Ambassador's report, and then he would know when to put down a Question, if he would like to do. so.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this treatment of our Vice-Consul lends colour to the fears of Gibraltar merchants that the Spanish authorities are determined to make things difficult for British ships based on Gibraltar? Will my hon. Friend bear that fact very much in mind?

I would prefer to await Her Majesty's Ambassador's report. The Vice-Consul at Cadiz, on instructions, sought and obtained permission from the court authorities to be present at the hearing, and I await Her Majesty's Ambassador's report on why he was not allowed to be present after all.

While these discourtesies are being made by the Spanish authorities, why do we continue to make courtesy visits, including that of the mine sweeper "Apollo" with Rear-Admiral Currey last week-end? Would it not be better to discontinue these courtesy visits until the Spanish decide to behave courteously?

I do not think that because certain discourtesies have been suffered by Her Majesty's Vice-Consul we should also be discourteous. A perfectly good answer was given by my right hon. Friend last week on this subject.



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as recent events have shown that the passport system does not hinder undesirable characters either leaving or entering the country but does have a nuisance value for law-abiding people, if he will consider raising the matter in the proper channels with a view to the abolition of passports.

I do not accept the suggestion that passports have no value. They are an essential document of identity for British subjects traveling abroad and a necessary part of the United Kingdom system of control of aliens. Her Majesty's Government have no present intention of proposing the abolition of passports.

Does the hon. Gentleman not appreciate that many people are of the opinion that passports serve no useful purpose for the good and are no deterrent to the bad? Will he state whether any person can leave and enter this country without a passport?

Any British subject can leave this country without a passport, but I know of no country where he is likely to be received if he arrives without a passport. As to the opinion which the hon. Gentleman expressed, I would remind him that the Geneva Conference on Passport and Frontier Formalities recommended that the general abolition of the passport for purposes of foreign travel is not feasible at present.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that this is largely a matter for international negotiation and agreement, and will he continue to give his encouragement to the Council of Europe Assembly and other organisations which are trying to simplify these formalities, including the abolition of passports?

We shall do all we can to promote the simplification of passport formalities.

Has any action been taken to ensure that undesirable persons do not obtain British passports on the submission of false particulars? Ronald Chesney had four passports.

Overseas Information Services


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement on the future programme for the Overseas Information Services.

As the reply is rather long, I will, with permission, give it at the end of Questions.

At the end of Questions:

Her Majesty's Government have considered the Report and recommendations submitted to them by the Committee on the Overseas Information Services, for which they are much indebted to Lord Drogheda and the members of his Committee. These recommendations deal with the long-term future of the Overseas Information Services— that is, their scale, and the balance which should be struck between one information service and another in different areas of the world. The expansions recommended by the Committee would be spread over a period of three to five years, and at the end of this period the additional cost would rise to some £1,800,000 a year. In addition, the Committee advocated further considerable expenditure upon capital development in the field of broadcasting.

These are substantial sums, and Her Majesty's Government do not feel able in the present financial situation to accept commitments on this scale without further examination. This examination is continuing, and my right hon. Friend hopes to make the results of it known later in the year. Meanwhile, he will arrange for a summary of the Drogheda Report to be issued as a White Paper.

In the meantime, Her Majesty's Government have reached a decision regarding the level of activity of the information during the financial year 1954–55. This will involve provisions in the estimates for the following:
  • 1 Strengthening the information ser vices in South-East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.
  • 2 Some reinforcement of information services in the Commonwealth, and
  • 3 The establishment of three regional information offices in the Colonial Empire.
  • Changes will be made in the organisation of British Council work in certain European countries, and the savings thus obtained will be used to reinforce other services of the Council. The Council will be withdrawn from Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon as soon as arrangements can be made. There will be no change in the present pattern of external broadcasting, until Her Majesty's Government have completed their examination of the long-term issues. Finally, the current levels of activity of the information services will, except in a few minor instances, not be reduced to cover rising costs. These will be met in part by deferring a certain amount of capital expenditure and in part by the provision of new money.

    The net additional cost of these arrangements will be approximately £330,000 in the financial year 1954–55.

    While thanking the Undersecretary of State for that reply, which it has taken many months to draw from him, may I ask whether he does not think that this shows that the criticism levelled at the cuts in Overseas Information Services by the Opposition some two years ago were correct, because of the recommendations of the Drogheda Committee that they should be increased? May I further ask whether the hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that the B.B.C. services will be maintained, despite any increase in costs and in the jamming of their services? In view of the recommendation of the Drogheda Committee, why has it been decided that the B.B.C. alone of the Overseas Information Services does not receive any increase? It was the B.B.C. that suffered most when cuts were last applied.

    I cannot agree that the B.B.C. has suffered most from the general cuts made in the information services over the last seven or eight years. As the hon. Gentleman knows, they have had by far and away the lion's share of the Overseas Information Services budget and the last cuts made by Her Majesty's Government did not affect the B.B.C. at all. As to the level of activities, that will be maintained. Anti-jamming activities will go on without reducing the existing level of activities.

    As to the time taken to produce an answer to this Question, the hon. Gentleman will realise that £1,800,000 of the taxpayers' money is a considerable sum for Her Majesty's Government to decide to devote over a period of three to five years. The Drogheda Committee spent a considerable amount of time in examination before reaching a conclusion, and I do not think there has been any undue delay on the part of the Government.

    Will the hon. Gentleman ask the Minister to keep in mind that although at first sight this may seem a very considerable cost, relatively, if it will help to maintain peace, it may prove to be small, and less than the cost of a big bomber?

    That is certainly one of the considerations to be borne in mind in this further examination.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that the six-man Parliamentary Delegation which recently visited Burma and Indonesia was unanimous in thinking that there was a great opportunity for an increase in this type of work in South-East Asia and that it is welcome to hear that there will be such an increase? Will special attention be given to the export of British books to this area, where they are particularly valuable and needed?

    Yes, Sir. That is one of the supply services of the British Council which we hope to be able to strengthen by re-deploying the savings from the withdrawing of certain British Council services from Western Europe.

    With regard to the withdrawal of the Council from Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon, why was this decision taken by the Government before they had consulted the volunteer workers—including some hon. Members opposite —who formed the Executive Committee of the British Council? Was not this gross discourtesy on the part of the Government?

    I do not think it was gross discourtesy on the part of the Government at all. This decision was taken, I understand, as a result of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations going into the question thoroughly because of what he found when he went on his Commonwealth tour last year. He decided that the work could be done more economically by a smaller staff.

    As one of those who has some doubts about the merits of the British Council, may I ask why we are to have the Drogheda Report in summary? Is it not more desirable that we should see all of it?

    I do not think that is possible. There are certain security considerations to be taken into account, but I can promise that it will be a full summary.

    Without entering into the merits of the Matter, may I ask if the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon were consulted about the proposal to withdraw the services of the British Council from their countries?

    Panamanian Consular Officer (Withdrawal Of Recognition)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the reasons for the withdrawal of Her Majesty the Queen's Exequatur from Senor Leopoldo Alguero, Consul-General of the Republic of Panama in Belfast.

    The decision to advise the withdrawal of the Queen's Exequatur from Senor Leopoldo Alguero as Consul-General of Panama at Belfast was taken in the light of an official report regarding his association with a recent case involving the attempted smuggling of watches into the United Kingdom. In these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have informed the Panamanian Government that they can no longer regard him as a person in whom they can continue to repose confidence as the consular representative of his country.

    Sudan (Self-Government)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of introducing self-government in the Sudan; and to what extent friction in the Sudanisation Committee will delay the procedure.

    In accordance with the Self-Government Statute, 'the Governor-General certified that 9th January last was the "appointed day" on which the self-government institutions under the statute had been duly constituted in accordance with its provisions. The hon. Member is, no doubt, referring to the friction which appears to have developed in the Governor-General's Commission about the setting up of the Sudanisation Committee. The Sudanisation Committee has now been formally appointed but, so far as I know, has not yet met.

    Albania (British Claim)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has been able to recover the compensation awarded by the International Court against Albania for the murder of British sailors in the Corfu Channel.

    No, Sir. The present position is that the gold should come to the United Kingdom, unless Italy can establish a better claim before the International Court. The Italian Government have, however, contested the jurisdiction of the International Court.

    Does this case not prove conclusively that a wrongdoer can snap his fingers at the International Court and its decisions, while if a person who is wronged takes the law into his own hands he commits a breach of international law?

    I do not think this case proves the hon. Gentleman's contention. It has not yet been adjudged by the Inter national Court.

    Is it not open to us to take the case to the International Court under the optional clause? Do Her Majesty's Government intend to do that?

    Yes, Sir; the matter is now before the International Court. The Italian Government have contested the Court's competence to adjudge it.

    Have the Italian Government contested this course in spite of the fact that they agreed that the disposal of the gold should go to arbitration in the first place, and that if they wished to appeal against the arbitrator's decision the case should go to the International Court? Was not that the original agreement when the matter was taken to arbitration?

    Speaking from recollection, I think the hon. Gentleman is right, but the fact is that the Italian Government are now contesting the jurisdiction of the International Court.

    Africa (Communications Conference)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the Seven-Power Conference to co-ordinate defence arrangements in Africa, due to begin on 11th March.

    A conference which was held at Nairobi on the initiative of the United Kingdom and South African Governments in August, 1951, undertook a study of the facilities available for communications and the movement of military forces and supplies between the South of Africa and -the Middle East in time of war. The French and United Kingdom Governments have now convened a second conference to undertake a study covering the Western Territories of Africa South of the Sahara, which were not included on the previous occasion. This conference will open at Dakar on 11th March. In addition to the inviting Powers, there will be representatives from Belgium, Liberia, Portugal and South Africa and a delegation representing the four British West African Territories. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the United States are sending observers.

    Am I to understand from the Foreign Secretary's reply that the ambit of the conference is restricted to questions of communications?

    Yes, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right. It is a follow-up of the conference which the late Government set on foot in August, 1951.

    Will the conference consider the possibility of a trans-African road, which might serve a great strategic and economic purpose?

    It will certainly consider transport and communications, and I will see that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is made available.

    Mr. Speaker, would it not save time if the Opposition could decide who is going to be the next Foreign Secretary, so that only one of them need ask questions?

    United States Embassy (British Tenants)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has received from the United States Government about the security risks involved by the continued residence of 13 British tenants in a United States Embassy building in Grosvenor Square.

    Has the Under-Secretary seen the charges that were made before the United States Appropriations Committee that the presence of these 13 citizens constituted a grave security problem, and is he aware that charges of treason have been made against the ex-President of the United States, that the Chief Justice-designate has been described as a security risk, and senior officers of the United States Army, including the Minister of War, have been obscenely humiliated as Communist dupes? Could my hon. Friend tell our United States friends that this sort of thing does not do their cause very much good over here?

    That has nothing to do with the Question on the Order Paper. I have given the hon. Gentleman the answer that no representations of the kind suggested in his Question have been made.

    Does my hon. Friend regard the introduction of United States domestic affairs into our discussions and attempts to indulge in recriminations of this kind as wholly deplorable?

    European Defence Community


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what requests were made at the Berlin Conference, or subsequently by the French Government to Her Majesty's Government, to assume additional military commitments in Europe before the European Defence Community treaties are submitted to the French Parliament for ratification.

    The French Government have made it clear on a number of occasions that they would welcome assurances about the maintenance of United Kingdom and United States forces on the Continent. No new requests were made at the Berlin Conference, nor subsequently.

    May we take it that no pressure will be brought on the French to ratify the E.D.C. by any additional British commitments in Europe which have not first been approved by this House?

    There is no question of pressure being brought on anybody. Our French friends have asked us a number of questions, and we are in conversation with them. If, as a result of these discussions, we should draw closer together, I should think that that is something that the whole House would welcome.

    Troops, Germany (Maintenance Orders)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to Her Majesty's Government by the German Government in respect of the financial obligations of British Service men to assist in the maintenance of German illegitimate or legitimate children of whom they are fathers.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are carrying on negotiations with the American Government regarding rather similar circumstances in this country and, in view of that, could he not inquire of the German Government whether they have any representations to make on this matter to Her Majesty's Government?

    I have no doubt that if the German Government feel it necessary to make representations on this matter, they will do so, but they have not done so.

    Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that some months ago this matter was being openly espoused in the German Press and elsewhere, and even in this House, and can he really say that no contact has been made with the German Government on this matter?

    I am not responsible for what comments are made in the German Press. The hon. Gentleman asked me what representations had been received; no representations have been received.

    United States Servicemen (Debts)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of a small number of cases where members of United States forces in this country have contracted debts which they have left unpaid on returning to the United States of America and have thus left the creditors without redress, whether he will seek to make an arrangement with the United States authorities to secure the payment of such debts.

    No, Sir. I would, however, add that, provided the man concerned is still in the forces, and provided the debt is admitted or has been reduced to judgment, it is always open to the creditor in this country to seek the assistance of the U.S. Service authorities here or in the United States in obtaining satisfaction.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this has been done in some cases, and that, although I am sure the military authorities are anxious to help, they confess they can do nothing because the defaulter has gone back to America and sometimes cannot be traced but, where he can be traced, simply refuses to pay? And because this is a cause of friction between some Americans and some British subjects, to heal that, will he not look further into this question?

    I do not think that I can give such an undertaking. It is a difficult question, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that wilful failure to pay an undisputed debt, or a debt which has been reduced to judgment in this country, is an offence under U.S. military law and that anyone who is still a member of the U.S. military forces can be subject to disciplinary action if he still refuses to pay that debt.

    Not where they have ceased their service, but Her Majesty's Government would lend assistance where necessary. These are private matters, but there is no difference of principle here between an American serviceman going back to America without paying a debt and any other foreigner who leaves this country without paying a debt.

    Korea (Unification Policy)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to support the reunification of Korea following the holding of free elections in North and South Korea.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the United States, the French and other Governments who were associated with the operations in Korea accept or agree with this policy?

    There can be no doubt about that. It was all set out by the United Nations in a General Assembly Resolution on 28th August last, which said that the objectives of the United Nations remain the achievement by peaceful means of a unified and democratic Korea under a representative form of government, and full restoration of national peace and security in the area. That was subscribed to by all of us.

    May I say that we welcome the assurance of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) that we shall win the next election? May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether the Berlin formula on Korea means that the Russians have also accepted the principle that Korea shall be independent and united?

    In answer to the first part of that supplementary question, I cannot prevent the right hon. Gentleman from indulging in wishful thinking. As regards the second part, I should like to examine that, if I may.

    Anglo-Egyptian Negotiations


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as a result of the events of the last few days in Egypt, what further instructions he is giving to the British negotiators upon future arrangements in Suez.

    It is too early yet to say what, if any, effect the recent developments in Egypt may have upon our negotiations. Her Majesty's Government's policy remains as set out in my speech in this House of 17th December last.

    Do not the events of the last few days demonstrate the chronic instability of the Revolutionary Council in Cairo and the military junta that is dominating it; and in those circumstances will any agreement that may be reached after these protracted negotiations be worth the paper it is written on?

    There is certainly evidence of instability in Cairo, but it still remains the fact that it is in the general and Allied interest to get a settlement on Anglo-Egyptian issues if we can. I hope the House will not ask me to limit our diplomatic activity to those governments which have a stable parliamentary situation because, if so our progress is likely to be somewhat limited.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, as a matter of interest, when the answer to this Question was prepared, and which are the "few days" referred to in the Question?

    May I ask my right hon. Friend if it is true, as announced on the tape, that the Head Inspector of Police in Khartoum was murdered this morning, and whether he has any news from there about the Minister of State?

    I wish my right hon. and gallant Friend would ask me a Private Notice Question. This is a question of a slightly different character, and I am reluctant to make sudden statements on matters of importance in the House without notice. I have had a number of messages from Khartoum, but they require confirmation, and I should be reluctant to give information to this House which might afterwards be found to be untrue. I only know that a state of emergency has been declared by the Governor-General in Khartoum and that the opening of Parliament arranged for this afternoon has, in consequence, been postponed.

    Have I your permission, Sir, to put a supplementary question to my right hon. Friend?

    In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the instability of the Egyptian Government, does he think it might be useful to put off further negotiations on this matter until there have been free elections in both countries?

    I think the hon. Gentleman can have great confidence in Her Majesty's present advisers.

    Does the right hon. and gallant Member desire to ask a supplementary question to the Question on the Paper?

    I wanted your guidance, Sir, as to whether I might ask a Private Notice Question on this important matter either today or tomorrow.

    Ministry Of Food



    asked the Minister of Food if he will cause representations to be made to the Indian, Pakistan and Ceylon Governments that they should not restrict the exports of sound tea made from the 1954 crop, subject only to their internal requirements.

    Since there is in practice no restriction of exports of tea from India, Pakistan and Ceylon, my right hon. and gallant Friend does not feel that general representations are necessary at this time.

    But does my hon. Friend not appreciate that the unilateral action of the Indian Government about this time last year in advance of the recommendation of the International Committee, whereby they reduced the export quota from that country, has contributed to the short supply and high price of tea in this country now?

    The fact is that the ceiling figure of limit of exports is 125½ per cent. of the pre-war normal, and that this figure is not being reached at the present time.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, if the price of tea goes up considerably, it will be open to those countries producing tea to put on an export duty which will enable them to increase their revenues at the expense of the British consumer? Will he do everything in his power not to allow the price of tea to go up?

    Will not my hon. Friend re-examine this question and accept my assurance that if the figure is announced early in the year the tea growers of India can exceed 125 per cent, of the standard year's quota?


    asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the guarantee given to him by the Tea Buyers' Association of ample supplies of tea at 3s. 4d. per lb. has not been fulfilled; and, in view of this, if he will now reimpose price control.

    The undertaking concerned the availability of blends at 3s. 10d. and 3s. 8d. per lb. after de-rationing. In spite of the rise in world prices in 1953 some blends are still being sold loose at these prices. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

    May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT for 18th May in which the guarantee given by the Minister related to tea at 3s. 4d. and 3s. 8d., which are very different figures from those which he has just quoted? Did the Minister at that time deliberately mislead the House and the country, or was he misled by the tea trade?

    The guarantee given is as I have stated. I would ask the hon. Member to bear in mind that in the light of an increase in the price of common tea from Is. 11d. per lb. to 4s. 4d. per lb. a guarantee of this kind cannot be observed in perpetuity.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am informed that over Luxembourg Radio one of the largest tea firms is offering free samples of tea and that if he does not do something about this I will follow the excellent example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland)?

    When one bears in mind that the average price of tea at the Calcutta auctions has gone up by 1s. 3d. and the average price at the London auctions by 1s. 1½d. and the average retail price has gone up by only 8d., I suggest that hon. Members opposite should have some consideration for the prosperity of the tea gardens.

    Is the Minister aware that when the party opposite were in Opposition changes in prices in world markets were thought to have no relation whatever to home prices?

    I am aware that when the party opposite were in power there were increases in the controlled price of tea for precisely the same reason.

    Off-Ration Pork, Cardiff


    asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the resentment caused among butchers in Cardiff and elsewhere by his decision to restrict the off-ration sale of pork to pork butchers; and whether he will end this discrimination against other butchers.

    I am receiving a deputation from the butchers this week. I will write to the hon. Member after the meeting has taken place.

    Is the Minister aware that the butchers of Cardiff are very much upset with him and that I learn with dismay that they have little confidence in his handling of this problem? Since Nottingham, which is roughly the same size as Cardiff, has 80 of these shops, whereas there are only 20 in Cardiff, and 90 per cent, of butchers' shops in Cardiff will have no off-ration meat, will he take that into account?

    It is true that pork butchers' shops are unevenly distributed throughout the country, no doubt in relation to the demand for their products, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that pork butchers were put out of business 13 years ago, and therefore it is necessary to approach their problems sympathetically. Secondly, there is no increase in the amount of pork allocated to the pork butchers involved, and any sales in the form of joints will mean a corresponding reduction in the pork available for their pies and other products.

    Would my hon. Friend reconsider this problem? Is it really desirable to resuscitate a type of butcher selling one kind of meat? Has it not been the case for many years that most butchers have been selling all meats? Is there really a strong case for limiting these sales to pork butchers?

    There is a case, but I should prefer not to reply further until I have met the butchers' representatives this week.


    asked the Minister of Food the number of pork butchers in Cardiff who will be entitled to sell off-ration pork; and what is the number of butchers to whom this privilege will be denied.

    Will the Minister bear these important figures in mind tomorrow when he is considering this question?

    I will bear in mind figures relating to Cardiff as to the rest of the country.


    36 and 37.

    asked the Minister of Food (1) why, between 1st October, 1951, and 1st January, 1954, the price of butter rose from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. per 1b., the price of margarine rose from Is. 2d. to 1s. 6d. per 1b., the price of cooking fat rose from Is. 4d. to 1s. 8d. per 1b., the price of National bread rose from Is. to Is. 3d. for 3½-1b. and the average price of all cuts of bacon rose from 2s. 7d. to 3s. 8½d. per 1b.; and what action he proposes to take to restore the price of these articles to the level of 1st October, 1951;

    (2) why the price of various cuts of bacon rose in price between November, 1951, to December, 1953, from 2s. to 2s. 10d. per 1b., 2s. 1d. to 3s. per 1b., 2s. 7d. to 3s. 6d. per 1b., 3s. to 4s. 10d. per 1b., 3s. 1d. to 5s. per 1b. and 3s. to 4s. 6d. per 1b.; and what action he proposes to take to restore these prices to the November, 1951, level.

    Apart from the increases necessary in December, 1951, to keep food subsidies within the ceiling of £410 million set by the late Administration, most of the price increases were made in order, by removal of consumer subsidy, to make possible the de-rationing which has or will shortly take place. As to the second part of these Questions, the return to the October, 1951, level of food prices would, largely as a result of increased food consumption, mean an increase of food subsidies by over £400 million and a return to rationing and control.

    Are we therefore to take it from that reply that de-rationiug and de-control have meant higher prices and will mean higher prices? If I introduce a Bill like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), to bring down the prices of these commodities and thus implement the Tory promise at the last Election, will the Parliamentary Secretary support it?

    It is an essential prerequisite of de-rationing and de-control that the consumer subsidy should be removed. As to the second part of the hon. Member's question, I am sure that he would not seek to imitate the performance of his hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland).

    Has my hon. Friend taken steps to consult the Co-operative Wholesale Society, who are not only the largest growers of tea but the largest sellers of tea in the United Kingdom?

    As the hon. Gentleman has just said that freeing the price is a prerequisite of de-rationing, can he explain how it was that the Labour Government in 1950 took 90 items off the ration but pegged a ceiling price at that period?

    But the Labour Government did not essay de-control and de-rationing except in the case of one commodity— sweets—and it was an appalling failure.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that during 1953 there were no changes in the prices of cheese, milk and bread, while mutton, bacon and eggs came down in price?

    In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has challenged these figures, would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in pointing out that my figures are taken from the Minister's own statement?

    Fatstock Purchases


    asked the Minister of Food the number purchased, and the price paid by his Department during the last 12 months, for steers, heifers, special young cows, intermediate cows, cows, bulls and casualties in the grade fat cattle; for sheep, lambs, ewes, rams and casualties in the grade fat sheep and lambs; and for baconers, porkers, sows and boars and rejected by bacon curers in the grade fat pigs.

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

    Following is the information:

    Complete figures for the calendar year are not yet available but the following table shows, for the year ended 30th September, 1953, the number and the cost of fatstock purchased by the Ministry of Food in the United Kingdom and analysed in the main classes. My Department's records of costs are kept by broad classes of Livestock and a more detailed financial estimate by grades than is given below is not therefore available.

    Number '000Cost£'000

    Fat Cattle

    Steers, Heifers, Special Young Cows, Intermediate Cows, Bulls purchased on live grade1,615110 372
    Fat Cows purchased on live Grade34912956
    All class bought on dead weight (i.e. casualties, etc.)1294,626

    Fat Sheep and Lambs

    Bought on live grade7,75352,355
    Bought on dead-weight (i.e. casualties, etc.)115457

    Fat Pigs

    Porkers, Sows and Boars1,64834,116
    Pigs rejected by curers1,07322,226



    asked the Minister of Food how the saving of £880,000 in administrative costs regarding eggs was made; and what is now the estimated net saving for 1953–54.

    Because since de-control the accounts of the eggs division do not have to bear a share of the cost of regional and local food offices. The net saving for 1953–54, compared with 1952–53, is now estimated at £975,000.

    Can the hon. Gentleman explain whether he is now misleading his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) or me? [HON. MEMBERS: "Both."] No. Can he say whether he agrees with his right hon. and gallant Friend that the eggs division must not be abolished or agrees with the hon. Member for Kidderminster to whom he replied that these considerable savings had been made in his Department in the administration of egg distribution?

    The hon. Member knows very well that for the purposes of the interim scheme the continuance of the eggs division is necessary. Furthermore, in the light of further economies, the figure of £880,000 has been revised to make it now £975,000.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that the outstanding result of his policy has been to make eggs abundant, cheap and readily available without a black market, whereas the policy of the previous Government resulted in one stale egg per ration book per week?

    Will the hon. Gentleman kindly refer the hon. Member for Kidderminster to the figures published by the Ministry which contradict all he said? Will the hon. Gentleman realise how foolish he has been in making these administrative economies at the expense of the substantial losses that are being made in the administration of the egg subsidy?

    This Question refers to savings as a result of the ending of egg control. The hon. Member in his general statements really must not fall into the habit of believing everything he says.

    Sugar (Storage Cost)


    asked the Minister of Food the estimated cost of the storage of his Department's stocks of sugar during the year 1953–54, made for the purposes of his original estimate, H.C. 92.

    Can the hon. Gentleman explain why his right hon. and gallant Friend could not give this figure last week? Is he aware that it is really disturbing that a Minister should administer his Department in such appalling ignorance of what is happening about his Department and that otherwise I should not have asked this Question this week? Does the hon. Gentleman realise what a considerable loss the storage of sugar alone is causing to the taxpayer?



    asked the Minister of Food if he will publish in HANSARD details of the type and category of foodstuffs that are now available in greater quantity and variety than was the case on 1st October, 1951; and the price of these commodities on 1st February, 1954, in comparison with 1st October, 1951, in so far as they come within the control of his Department.

    No, Sir. But I will answer now that, comparing 1953 with 1951, there was eaten more beef, mutton, pork, bacon and ham, sugar, sweets, eggs, tea, fresh and dried fruit, and various types of milk products. To the second part of the Question, the answer in terms of the Interim Index is 16 per cent.

    Am I to take it, therefore, that those items mentioned by the hon. Gentleman in part compensate for the non-take-up of basic rations such as bacon, cheese, butter, margarine and others?

    The hon. Member will not realise that the higher a ration goes and the greater the extent to which off-ration sales are permitted, to that extent the percentage take-up is bound to fall, and that the one way of achieving the high take-up for which he sighs is lower rations and more rationing.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the basic foodstuffs in the list he has read cost the people of this country an extra £400 million compared with when we were in office and place an intolerable burden on lower income groups?

    But the increased cost on the 2¼ years—which is the basis of the Question—was less than the increased cost during the previous 12 months under the party opposite.

    In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

    Ministry Of Supply

    Ordnance Factory, Llanishen (Redundancy)


    asked the Minister of Supply whether he is now able to make a statement concerning redundancy at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Llanishen, Cardiff.

    As was foreshadowed in my reply to the hon. Member on 25th January, lack of suitable orders has unfortunately made it necessary to reduce the labour force at this factory by 135, of whom 116 have already left.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion of those workers are skilled workers and what steps he proposes to take in order to see that this skilled labour shall not be lost in Cardiff?

    I could not give those figures without notice. The difficulty, as the hon. Member knows, has arisen from the fact that we have received fewer Army vehicles for reconditioning than was expected. Every effort was made to find suitable alternative employment but, unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.

    Is not the Minister willing to indicate that he is taking steps to provide full employment for these skilled people at the R.O.F. at Llanishen? What is he going to do about that?

    As the hon. Member knows, Government-owned factories, like privately-owned factories, are dependent upon orders.

    Woolwich Arsenal (Ordnance Factory)


    asked the Minister of Supply what level of employment he intends to maintain in the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich, in each of the years 1954 to 1958, inclusive, and in subsequent years.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave him on 27th February.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while some of his proposals for the use of the Arsenal site are acceptable, there is widespread anxiety about the future level of employment in the R.O.F.? Can he give an assurance that he is no longer contemplating a level of 3,500?

    I can give the assurance that I am not contemplating any particular level or ceiling. As I explained in my lengthy reply to the hon. Member last Friday, it is quite impossible for me to give any definite assurances about the future level of employment at the Arsenal. As was indicated in reply to the last Question about Cardiff, it must be dependent to a very large extent on the availability of suitable orders.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman at least give the assurance that the three new buildings, about which there has been a great deal of controversy, will be retained inside the R.O.F.?

    I think that question goes a very long way from the level of employment about which I was asked in the Question, but I can say that the question of these three buildings is to be discussed by the joint consultative committee of officials and trade union representatives set up at my invitation in order to ensure continuous consultation on various problems likely to arise from time to time through the implementation of this plan.

    In order to try to elicit rather more definite replies on this important matter, I beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment.

    New Service Aircraft (Development Time)


    asked the Minister of Supply what action he is taking to shorten the time required for the development of new types of Service aircraft.

    As the answer is a long one, I will, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, give it at the end of Questions.

    At the end of Questions:

    With the co-operation of the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty, I have in the last few months been actively examining various possible ways of cutting down the time it takes to develop new types of aircraft. It would obviously be unwise to try and hurry the creative design work. On the other hand, I have come to the conclusion that there are a number of directions in which the administrative procedure could be further streamlined. For example, I believe we could make a quicker start on a new project, if the aircraft firms were brought more fully into the picture in the early formative stage. Then again, time could undoubtedly be saved, if, in appropriate cases, we were to take the risk of authorising expenditure on production drawings and tooling somewhat earlier than hitherto. I am in process of consulting the aircraft industry on these and other related proposals.

    We have also been considering whether anything can be done to reduce the extensive period of flying trials. In view of the major technical advances usually embodied in new aircraft, the trials programme is necessarily long and exacting. Not only have the flying qualities of the plane to be tested, but also its complex electronic equipment. In addition, firing or bomb-dropping trials have to be carried out. These numerous tests invariably reveal weaknesses and defects, some of which may necessitate redesigning major components. Altogether these trials, including the introduction of modifications, are at present taking up to three years.

    For the reasons I have explained, the flight testing stage is bound to be lengthy. On the other hand, it is clear that some of the time is taken up by delays which could be avoided. In particular, it has not been uncommon for progress to be held up for considerable periods by reason of the fact that a prototype aircraft, of which there are usually only one or two in existence, has been grounded for modifications or has crashed. In order to reduce delays of this kind we intend in future, in appropriate cases, to order sufficient development aircraft to allow more trials and modifications to be carried out concurrently, and to enable aircraft involved in accidents to be rapidly replaced.

    Accordingly, in the case of the first supersonic fighter, now being developed for the Royal Air Force, we have, apart from the usual prototypes, ordered 20 additional aircraft for development trials. The speeding up of the flying trials will have the further advantage of bringing to light much sooner any defects and weaknesses there may be in the design or materials. This should result in reducing the amount of work required on retrospective modifications, which not only disorganise the production line, but add greatly to the cost.

    I am confident that, taken together, the various changes I have outlined will appreciably shorten the time required to develop new aircraft and that the increased expenditure in the development stage which they involve will largely be offset by later savings in production costs.

    While thanking my right hon. Friend for the very sensible steps that he is taking, may I ask him whether he can give the House any indication of the amount of time which will be saved by these measures?

    It is difficult to be precise, but I do not mind saying that I shall be disappointed if these Measures do not result in getting new aircraft into service at least one year earlier than would otherwise be the case.

    Will the steps which my right hon. Friend proposes also apply to civil aircraft?

    I am talking about Service aircraft developed by the Ministry of Supply.

    One part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was not clear. He said that he thought that the aircraft firms should be brought more quickly into consultation about design. As I understood it, up till now a Government committee has conceived the types of aircraft, and design has always been done by the aircraft firms. I am not clear how firms can be brought quicker into the design, since they do the designing with their own design staffs.

    A lot happens before the Government place a design contract with a firm. I am talking about the stage where operational requirements are being formulated, before the formal contract is placed for a design study by an aircraft firm.

    As the Ministry is interested in the production of helicopters, will this speeding up process apply to helicopters both for military and civil purposes?

    Ministry Of Pensions And National Insurance



    asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he has considered the cases of conflict that arise in South Wales between coroners' verdicts in cases of death suspected to be due to pneumoconiosis and the findings of medical boards; and what action he is taking to correct the anomalies which arise as the result of these conflicts in the administration of the Industrial Injuries Scheme.

    Yes, Sir. I am now discussing this problem with my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs.



    asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware that a number of eminent psychiatrists disagree with the definition of psychoneurosis to which his Department works; and if he will submit the matter to a committee of psychiatrists selected by the Royal Society of Medical Psychology.

    No, Sir. I know that different opinions have been expressed in a particular case in connection with an appeal now pending. But I am not aware of any general representations of the kind suggested by the hon. Member.

    While thanking the the Minister for that reply, may I ask if he will be good enough to refer the case he has mentioned to an independent tribunal from the group of people I suggest in the Question?

    British Electricity Authority (Generating Divisions)


    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will ensure that the Council for Wales and Monmouth and the six North Wales county councils are consulted before the proposal to amalgamate the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board and the North Western Electricity Board is proceeded with.

    55 and 56.

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) if he will take steps to ensure that the North Western Electricity Division shall not be amalgamated with the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Division until there has been some opportunity for Welsh opinion to be ascertained and for Welsh organisations, authorities and industries to be consulted;

    (2) what steps he will take to ascertain whether the recently-announced decision to amalgamate the North Western Electricity Division with the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Division is in the best interests of the whole of Wales; what Welsh interests, authorities and associations he will consult; and if he will make a statement.

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
    (Mr. L. W. Joynson-Hicks)

    There has been no proposal to amalgamate the North Western Electricity Board with the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board. The British Electricity Authority have recently announced that their corresponding generation divisions are to be amalgamated from 1st April; this will in no way affect the supplies of electricity to customers of either of the two boards.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the whole of Wales will be gratified to receive that assurance on St. David's Day?

    May I say on behalf of the Government that, on this day in particular, we are very glad to have gratified Wales.

    Scotland (Pamphlet)


    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has considered the corrected version of "The State of Our Schools," sent him from the Educational Institute of Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

    Yes, Sir, and I note that some of the inaccuracies and misleading statements in the original version have been either omitted or corrected. Others have been retained, but on these I have nothing to add to the statement which I issued to the Press on 9th February and of which copies have been sent to hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies.

    Eggs (Marketing)


    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement on the Government's proposals regarding the marketing of eggs.

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
    (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

    I cannot add to the reply given on the 25th February to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) and the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton).

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that neither farmers nor housewives can tolerate any longer the floundering and hopeless muddle of the Government, and that really it is high time the Government produced some scheme for the marketing of eggs which satisfies either farmers or housewives?

    Can my hon. Friend draw the attention of hon. Members opposite to the fact that we have finished Questions and that that shows a deep contentment with the Government's handling of this problem?

    In view of the inability of the Government to reply, I beg to give notice (that I shall endeavour to raise this very important matter again.

    Orders Of The Day

    Atomic Energy Authority Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    3.44 p.m.

    I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

    Although short, the Bill raises a very big question and it seems right that, on behalf of my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, I should acquaint the House in some detail with the reasons for wishing to set up an Authority outside the Government service and also with the policy which will guide that Authority if the House gives us the Bill.

    Of all the discoveries made by man, splitting the atom is much the most powerful, much the most dangerous, and now, we hope, much the most promising. So much, I think, is accepted; but the general public has still to realise that the new science is also much the most expensive. If we look across the Atlantic we see that the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States has already spent 7,500 million dollars and has appropriated another 2,500 million.

    We in this country, according to our resources, are also spending large sums. In the first six years, 1946–51, over £100 million were spent. Hon. Members can see from the Vote on Account that expenditure is now running at over £50 million a year, and that is by no means all. These figures are going to rise. They show how fast the programme has been expanded in the last two years. I ought to make it clear that that is very largely the result of decisions taken by the previous Government.

    For all the money spent we could, if it were not for the top secrets involved, present a most impressive list of results. The White Paper on Defence states that atomic weapons are in production and deliveries are now being made to the Services. At the same time, great progress is being made on the civilian side, especially in the early stages of power reactors.

    I ask the House to appreciate that it is these striking successes which have been achieved under the care of the Ministry of Supply which are themselves the argument for the reorganisation of the control and management of the British atomic energy establishments which are already worth scores of millions of pounds. If the project had stood still there would be no need for this reorganisation. At present, the whole of our programme is governed by two Acts of Parliament—the Atomic Energy Act, 1946, and the Radioactive Substances Act, 1948. Last December, Parliament agreed to the transfer of Ministerial responsibility for atomic energy from the Minister of Supply to the Lord President of the Council.

    Under the Bill it is proposed to take the next step. The powers in those two Acts which relate to research, development and disposal of radioactive substances are transferred from the Lord President to the Atomic Energy Authority. The remainder of the Acts, which may be described as the essentially Ministerial powers, remain in force under the charge of the Lord President. By adopting that method the duties of the Minister on the one hand and of the Authority on the other are clearly defined. Policy remains firmly in the hands of the Government while the Authority is given sufficient freedom to operate that policy with efficiency and in a far-seei