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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 526: debated on Monday 12 April 1954

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Coal

Prices, Merthyr Tydfil And Exeter

1.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the price per ton of domestic coal in Merthyr Tydfil and Exeter.

Railborne Group 4 coals, 106s. 7d. per ton and 141s. 8d. per ton respectively.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great hardship that is caused to old-age pensioners and others on small incomes by this disparity in price? As one of the principal products of Devonshire, namely, milk, is provided at a uniform price all over the country, why cannot we have the same where coal is concerned?

This is a question which is raised periodically in the districts remote from the coalfields, but, of course, coal weighs very much more than milk.

Is it not related to the fact that one is a private concern and the other is a State concern?

No, in fairness I do not think it is. This is something which has existed since the coal industry began.

Domestic Purchasing Restrictions (Relaxation)

6.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will make a further statement on the possibility of relaxing restrictions on the purchase of domestic coal during the summer months.

Yes, Sir. The maximum permitted quantities for the year will remain unchanged, but I am making a direction which will enable householders in the North to buy up to 30 cwt. during the summer as compared with 20 cwt. last summer. In the South, householders will be able to buy up to 34 cwt. as compared with 24 cwt. last summer.

Am I to understand the Minister as saying that the South is to have more than the North, or did he get it the wrong way round, because the North is colder? But apart from that, is my right hon. Friend aware that householders will be grateful to the miners, to the National Coal Board and to himself for this improvement?

It has always been the case that while the total permitted quantity is greater in the North, because it is colder there, the amount which householders in the South have been allowed to buy in the summer months has been larger because they are further from the coalfields and because there are greater transport difficulties in the winter.

Is there to be any price reduction in the coal supplies available in the summer months?

Prices, West Cornwall

8.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the current prices of domestic coals sold by distributors in West Cornwall.

Is the Minister aware that this represents about £2 a ton more than the equivalent-priced coal in the North of England? Will he bear in mind that this morning I have received, from an old-age pensioner in my constituency, a letter stating that he finds it very difficult—as they all do—to buy any coal, and will he consider recommending the Coal Board to institute an even price for domestic coal throughout the country?

If the hon. Member's suggestion were adopted it would mean that there would have to be an increase in the price of coal—even for old-age pensioners—in the areas surrounding the coalfields and in many of those areas where the weather is colder and more coal is needed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the recent price increases may mean an increase of 2s. or 4s. a ton in certain grades of coal in places like West Cornwall? Will he urge the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to do something about tapering rail charges?

Fuel And Power

Power Stations, London (Sulphur Oxide Gases)

2.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the amount of calcium sulphate which will be discharged into the River Thames from the gas-washing plants at Bankside and Battersea power stations when these are in full operation, what action he proposes to take to rid the flue gases of the other riverside power stations of harmful sulphur oxides.

I have nothing to add to the answers I gave the hon. Member on 5th April.

If these statements are correct, will the right hon. Gentleman give instructions that no more power stations are to be built within, say, 20 miles of London until a method of ridding the flue gases of these most dangerous substances is discovered?

I said last time that, in accordance with the general policy of generating more in the Midland coalfields, there would be a reduction in these particular stations.

Natural Gas (Surveys)

5.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement on progress made in the search for natural gas in the United Kingdom.

An area totalling about 3,680 square miles in various parts of England and Scotland has been chosen for prospecting purposes. Geophysical surveys are being carried out in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire; a deep borehole is being drilled in Scotland, and it is hoped to start deep drilling in Sussex soon.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that in view of the great need to economise in the use of our coal resources in every direction, the gas industry is really pursuing this research with the vigour it deserves?

Yes, Sir, I think so, and I think that the gas industry deserves credit for starting up this work in association with the D'Arcy Exploration Company.

Will my right hon. Friend consider carrying out surveys in the Westminster area?

New Capital Investment

7.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the total new capital investment of the nationalised coal, electricity and gas industries since vesting date in each case, and corresponding figures for the period prior to the outbreak of war in 1939.

In round figures, £240 million, £810 million and £205 million respectively. Corresponding figures of pre-war investment are not available for coal or gas. For electricity, the figure for the six years before 1939 was about £200 million—which would be equivalent to a figure perhaps three times as great in present day money.

Can my right hon. Friend say why it is that the increased investments in the coal mines resulted in no material increase in output last year?

That is rather a different and larger question, but I would point out that it takes up to 10 years to bring in a new pit, and about seven years to complete a major reconstruction.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many experiments are taking place to find pit room for the men, which involves a delay in expenditure on the development of the coal field?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, last year, there was an extra week's paid holiday, the Coronation Day holiday, and yet the output per man-shift went up?

Imported Timber (Monopolies Commission Recommendation)

9.

asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, if he will make a statement on the report of the Monopolies Commission on imported timber and as to the steps he is taking to deal with the Commissioner's report that the agreements and undertakings by traders to deal only with each other are contrary to the public interest.

Following discussions with my noble Friend the Minister of Materials, the constituent sections of the Timber Trade Federation of the United Kingdom have now decided to abrogate the agreements and undertakings by traders on the "Approved Lists" to deal only with each other—thus giving effect to the recommendation of the Monopolies Commission.

I am sure that most people will be glad to hear what the Minister has said and will hope that the arrangement will work effectively, but can he say whether he anticipates a reduction in the price of timber, in view of its importance, especially to the housing programme?

I am sure that the timber traders will have to make sure that they sell timber at competitive prices, because they have to get back the position which they lost, to some extent, to substitute materials. I have every hope that that fact will ensure that timber is sold at competitive prices.

United Nations

Neutral Supervisory Commission, North Korea

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the work of the United Nations Neutral Supervisory Commission in North Korea.

The Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, set up under the Armistice Agreement, is composed of representatives of Switzerland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Its main work is to ensure that the terms of the Armistice Agreement, particularly in respect of the import of military equipment and personnel, have been properly carried out.

I regret to say, however, that in North Korea the Commission and its subordinate teams have been gravely hampered by the attitude of the Communist command and by the behavour of the Czech and Polish members of the Commission.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen the report in the "Sunday Times" of 28th March, in which it was stated that Communists had been pouring planes, weapons and munitions into North Korea, in complete defiance of the Armistice Commission?

One of the difficulties with regard to such reports is that investigation facilities are usually denied. It takes a great deal of time to carry out any investigation, and by that time it is not always possible to find out the truth.

Disarmament Commission (British Representation)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who will represent Her Majesty's Government at the forthcoming meeting of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, and in the sub-committee which it is proposed to set up; and who will be the experts by whom this representative will be advised.

Her Majesty's Government were represented at the Disarmament Commission meeting on 9th April by their Permanent Representative on the Commission, Sir Pierson Dixon. Their representation on the sub-committee, which it is hoped the Commission will agree to set up, will have to depend to some extent on where and when the subcommittee decides to meet.

Will the Minister bear in mind the desirability of representing that, if possible, the sub-committee should sit in London, certainly in Europe, and not in America?

May we take it that the Government will be represented by a Minister and that he will have expert advice of the highest quality?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether it is within the terms of this Commission to consider German disarmament?

Economic And Social Council (British Delegation)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who is to represent Her Majesty's Government at the meeting of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations which has just begun.

The Delegation is being led by Sir Pierson Dixon, United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The first alternate is Sir Alec Randall, lately Her Majesty's Ambassador at Copenhagen, who served as United Kingdom Delegate to the Fifth Committee of the last General Assembly, and who was at one time adviser on League of Nations affairs in the Foreign Office.

World Assembly Of Youth (Financial Support)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the risk of damage to British prestige involved in his decision to withdraw financial support from the World Assembly of Youth; and whether he will reconsider this decision.

much regret that, owing to the overriding need for economy in our public finances, Her Majesty's Government are unable, for the time being, to grant further financial support to the World Assembly of Youth.

Will my hon. Friend disregard the growls on this side from below the Gangway and agree that the comparatively small sum of £4,000 involved is but a drop in the ocean compared to the vast sums which are spent behind the Iron Curtain on propaganda among youth? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to make the strongest possible representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter?

In making their decisions Her Majesty's Government have to disregard growls from all quarters of the House of Commons. It is disagreeble for us to have to do this, but Her Majesty's Government have to keep these matters under very strict review. It may be that only a small sum is involved, but these small sums do add up very quickly.

In view of the very important work which is done by the World Assembly of Youth in bringing democratic youth from all countries together, will the Government not reconsider their decision with regard to the expenditure of this trifling sum?

In the first place, it is for the British National Committee of the World Assembly of Youth to do a little more to make itself financially self-supporting. There are things it can do, and Her Majesty's Government will do everything in their power to assist in those matters.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the British contingent to this body has made a most valuable contribution to it in the past? As it is a non-Communist organisation, does not he think that it is important for us to be represented in it, in view of its influence in foreign countries?

I certainly do not deny that this body has done useful work, but it is equally true that Her Majesty's Government cannot give financial support to every conceivable existing organisation which does useful work.

Will not the hon. Gentleman pay more attention to the views of the rational Members of his own party and less to the irrational and irresponsible Members?

Opinions may differ in the House, but so far as I am concerned all Members of my party are rational.

In view of the interest which has been shown in this matter I propose to raise it on the Adjournment.

European Defence Community

German Participation (Ex-Nazis)

12 and 13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will not agree to, or support, German rearmament or their participation in the European Defence Community, until such time as the Bonn Government have removed from office Waldemar Kraft, Minister without Portfolio, and Emmanuel Preusker, Housing Minister, both of whom were in the blackshirted Allgemeine S.S. elite, which originated as Hitler's personal bodyguard, and Herr Theodor Oberlander, Minister for Expelled Persons, who joined the Nazis in 1933, receiving an honorary rank equivalent to that of captain in the Nazi Storm Troops and later became Reichsfuehrer of the Nazi organisation called the Federation of the German East;

(2) if he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will oppose German rearmament or any contribution from Germany in the European Defence Community until such time as the West German Government dismiss from office Gerhard Schroeder, Interior Minister in Bonn, who joined the Nazi Party in 1933.

Am I to take it that the Foreign Office has no objection to these Nazis occupying high positions, and to the rearming of Germany being under the control of ex-Nazis who were top leaders of Hitler's Stormtroops? Is this matter receiving any attention from the Foreign Office?

The bon. Member may read anything he likes into my answer. The facts are that Herr Kraft and Herr Oberlander were both placed in the exonerated category by the denazification tribunal set up under allied legislation. It is untrue that Herr Preusker ever received a certificate of honour for anti-semitic practices. He was, in fact, able to produce evidence of assistance given by him to Jews during the Nazi régime. Dr. Schroeder was dismissed from the Nazi Party in 1941 for marrying a woman of Jewish origin, and was later connected with an anti-Nazi group.

Is the hon. Member aware that Herr Preusker, the Minister for Housing, is strongly in favour of making the German workers pay higher rents, and that in this respect he draws his inspiration not only from the Nazis but from Her Majesty's Government?

Is the hon. Member aware that the spirit of his answer to Question No. 13 is incorrect? Is he aware that high Nazi officials—military officers as well as diplomatic—are back in office in Western Germany, and that the tolerance of Her Majesty's Government in these affairs has resulted in splitting the Allied Powers into two?

The appointment of these Ministers and officials is a matter for the German Federal Government. Neither Her Majesty's present advisers nor the late Government saw fit to interfere in these matters, so far as I am aware. As to the officials to whom the hon. Lady refers, I do not know the names involved. I have answered the two Questions on the Order Paper. Those Ministers and, so far as I am aware, all other Ministers appointed have, if necessary, been passed through the requisite tests under the denazification procedure.

Are we to take it that the view of the Foreign Office is that under no circumstances should anyone who was a former Nazi hold a high and controlling position, particularly in the forthcoming German contingent to the European Army? Will the hon. Gentleman say, quite categorically, that Her Majesty's Government would view with great alarm the appointment of these former Nazis to high positions?

I think the Government's position and, indeed, the position of the House, regarding a revival of Nazism is very clear. The Government regard the best guarantee against a revival of Nazism the formation at the earliest possible moment of the European Defence Community.

Would the hon. Gentleman make representations to Russia to observe the same policy in East Germany about Nazis?

British Military Contribution

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to which foreign Governments Her Majesty's Government's proposed military contribution to the European Defence Community has so far been communicated.

Her Majesty's Government have communicated their proposals for political and military association with the European Defence Community to the six European Defence Community Governments. The United States Government have been kept closely informed.

In that case, would the hon. Gentleman say when the House will have an opportunity of examining these proposals in full? Is he aware that there are many rumours in the European capitals, particularly Paris, about what the proposals contain, and that the effect of the combination of a little information and rumour is, as I have already said, having the tragic effect of splitting our allied front in two?

As my colleagues and I have repeatedly informed the House, a full statement will be made to the House directly the negotiations have been concluded. They have not been concluded so far, but I hope very much that they will be and that a statement will be made before Easter.

Is it reasonable to expect hon. Members to agree that, while all foreign Governments who are interested in this problem should be informed of Her Majesty's intended contribution, this House should not be so informed?

I really think the right hon. Gentleman should study this matter, and ought to have listened to the answer, a little more carefully. I said that the six E.D.C. Governments have been informed and that the United States Government have been kept closely informed. It will not, perhaps, escape the right hon. Gentleman's attention, though it appears to have done so, that the six Governments informed have been the six E.D.C. Governments with whom we have been negotiating and that it would have been a little difficult not to have informed them.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that this position is most unsatisfactory, because there is great division of opinion in France and it is extremely unlikely that E.D.C. will be ratified by the French unless this country gives full and specific military commitments to France which, so far as I know, this country is not prepared to give? Ought we not now to know what these proposals are before a final decision is taken?

Of course the House is entitled to know, and it will be informed directly negotiations are concluded. I do not think that the House will have very much longer to wait. I hope very much that a statement will be made before the Easter Recess.

Marshal Join

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has received from the French Government or from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council on the position of Marshal Juin as Commander of the Land Forces in Europe.

Does that mean that our representative on the Council has not asked for any instructions, or has made no comments about the position that is likely to arise?

What it means is that no representations have been received from the French Government as regards Marshal Juin. That is the answer to the Question on the Order Paper. As to the action of the British representative, he referred the matter to the Government directly the item was inscribed, and he voted for the motion of censure, which was made public, on the instructions of the Government.

Does that mean that Marshal Juin's position as Commander of the European Land Forces is likely to be questioned by the Government?

Our view was expressed in the motion of censure for which the British representative on the N.A.T.O. Council voted. Marshal Juin's future position is primarily a matter for the French Government, who appointed him to that position under N.A.T.O. in the first place.

Is not this another illustration that generals placed in such high commands as this should keep to their military job and not enter into political matters?

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the British representative on the North Atlantic Council concurred in the decision to censure Marshal Juin for his statements about the proposed European Defence Community; and whether this matter was referred to the Governments of the Treaty Powers before being placed on the Council's agenda.

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir," and, to the second part, "No, Sir."

Since it is not the intention of the Government to join E.D.C. and the French Parliament has not yet ratified E.D.C. is it not undesirable, even indecent, that a British representative should criticise a French military commander for expressing a view on a subject that has not yet been decided in France?

The hon. Gentleman is not quite accurate in describing Marshal Juin in this connection as a French military commander. He is a N.A.T.O. commander. The policy of N.A.T.O. has been affirmed and reaffirmed at several meetings as to the need for the early entry into force of E.D.C. Marshal Juin's statement that was censured at the N.A.T.O. Council was clearly and completely at variance with this policy.

Am I not right in thinking that Marshal Juin favoured a German contribution to Western defence, but without the restrictions of E.D.C?

It is not clear precisely what Marshal Juin's alternative policy was, any more than it has been in any other criticism that I have ever heard of E.D.C.

Possible Alternatives (Three-Power Consultations)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what consultations he has had with the United States and French Governments regarding possible alternatives to the European Defence Community.

Is the hon. Member aware that the American High Commissioner has announced that he has gone to Washington to discuss possible alternatives to E.D.C? In view of the fact that the chances of France ratifying E.D.C. are now minimal, is it not very important that Her Majesty's Government should be a party to the suggestions which, apparently, are already being discussed between the American and the German sides?

No, Sir. First of all, I do not take such a gloomy view of the ratification prospects as does the hon. Member, who is very partisan in these matters and who hopes that E.D.C. will not go through. Her Majesty's Government, for their part, regard E.D.C. as the best method of getting a German contribution to defence under mutually-agreed conditions between the nations of Western Europe.

Have not the United Kingdom, French and American Governments agreed on the military and political steps to be taken to prevent a German national army being established if E.D.C. gets no further?

That is another question and it raises very important considerations. I would prefer to see it on the Order Paper.

What does the hon. Member mean by saying that he has never seen a proposal for an alternative to E.D.C.? Many alternatives have been put forward in the House, including those put forward by myself.

Indo-China

Anglo-Us Discussions

15 and 20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) in view of the forthcoming Geneva Conference which is to discuss the Indo-China problem, the policy of Her Majesty's Government on this problem;

(2) whether his attention has been drawn to the official statement of the United States Government that consultations have been taking place with Her Majesty's Government and other Governments on the general situation confronting South-East Asia; and whether he will make a statement.

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent conversations between Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington and the United States Secretary of State concerning the policies of the Western Powers in South-East Asia.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what warning Her Majesty's Government have issued to the Government of China, either unilaterally or in association with the Governments of other countries, about retaliatory action in the event of Chinese support for campaigns in Indo-China, following the official proposal made to them by Mr. Dulles.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on Mr. Dulles' official proposal, made to this country, that there should be concerted action among the Western countries with regard to Indo-China.

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the nature of the official representations received from the United States Government concerning international action in Indo-China; and what reply he has made.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply Her Majesty's Government has given or proposes to give to the official representations from the United States Government concerning united retaliatory action in Indo-China.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the matters on which he has consulted, or proposes to consult, Mr. John Foster Dulles during his visit to London.

As hon. Members will be aware, Mr. Dulles arrived in London yesterday to continue the discussions that have been going on for some weeks with both the United States and French Governments in preparation for the Geneva Conference. I am sure the House will not press me to say any more while my right hon. Friend is engaged in these important discussions with Mr. Dulles. My right hon. Friend will, of course, make a statement as soon as possible after these conversations have been concluded.

Cannot the Minister convey to Mr. Dulles that the wild statements being made from time to time in America before the negotiations take place are not serving the cause of democracy or Anglo-American understanding?

Will the Minister make it clear that we have not been a party to any arrangements by which there is a threat to the Chinese that, in the event of their doing something in the Indo-China campaign we shall join with the Americans in retaliating by wiping out enormous numbers of the Chinese people with the hydrogen bomb?

I have already said that my right hon. Friend is having discussions with Mr. Dulles about the preparations for the Geneva Conference. I do not think that it is in the public interest to make any further answer today.

May I take it that the Foreign Secretary will definitely make a full statement before the rising of the House on Thursday?

I certainly hope that that will come within the terms of the last sentence of my answer.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make clear to Mr. Dulles the fact that he does not seem to understand that the issue in Indo-China is not a question of Communists versus the democratic West but nationalists who have been captured by the Communists because the French will not give their country independence?

I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend will discuss all aspects of this matter with Mr. Dulles.

Cannot the Minister give the House an assurance now that he will give no undertaking that British forces will be sent to Indo-China in any hypothetical circumstances?

I am certain that it would be wrong for me to make any statement with regard to discussions that are now in progress.

Cannot the Minister give us an assurance that it is the Government's policy to seek a negotiated settlement of the Korean and Indo-Chinese problems at the Geneva Conference and that their belief that it is possible to get a negotiated settlement will be made clear to Mr. Dulles?

That proposition is contained in the communiqué which was issued after the Berlin Conference.

Is not the important thing that no ultimatum should be given to China at the moment that might jeopardise the whole future, and the holding, of the Geneva Conference?

I shall certainly convey to my right hon. Friend all these expressions of opinion; but these discussions are now pending.

Cease-Fire (Ussr Proposal)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the official proposal of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that there should be a cease-fire in Indo-China before the Geneva Conference.

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government have received no such official proposal from the Soviet Government.

Do not Her Majesty's Government read the newspapers? Have they not observed that "Izvestia," which is an official organ of the Russian Government—no unofficial newspapers are allowed in Russia—has proposed a ceasefire in Indo-China? Will not the Government remember that when a cease-fire was proposed by the Russians for Korea, a cease-fire followed? Will they bear this very closely in mind in discussing the matter with Mr. Dulles and at the Geneva Conference, because if they think about it diligently and read the newspapers they might get somewhere?

The hon. Member's Question speaks of "the official proposal." We are not yet prepared to regard statements in newspapers as official proposals.

European Coal And Steel Community (British Association)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now completed the study and consultations made necessary by the Schuman Plan Assembly's invitation to negotiate a form of association; and whether he will make a statement.

Why do the Government take so many months to reply to questions put to them by Europeans when they react almost instantaneously to the American Government's questions?

I do not accept the implication of the hon. Member's supplementary. Apart from that, as I explained to the House at some length last week—and I do not want to repeat it all now—these proposals raise very important implications, and consultation is necessary with a very large section of the basic industries of this country, on both sides— both the employers and the unions. I do not think it is unreasonable or wrong that the Government should take some time in giving the fullest consideration to these very important matters. It took M. Monnet six months to put the proposals to us.

I accept the fact that it takes months to study these proposals, but the invitation has been before the Government for many months. Does the Minister not realise that our procrastination is handing the leadership of Europe to the Germans?

I do not know what the hon. Member means by "many months." The matter has been before us for three-and-a-half months.

Could the House be informed of these proposals when the hon. Member makes a statement to the House about the military proposals, before the Easter Recess?

No, Sir, but I hope we may be able to report some progress, at least, after Easter.

Basic Subsidised Foods (Price Changes)

34.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will publish a list of price changes in basic subsidised foods authorised from October, 1951, to date.

I will circulate a list in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say, very briefly, whether the price changes from October, 1951, to the present date are better than or worse than the price changes from 1945–51, which he has already circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

LIST OF PRICE CHANGES IN BASIC SUBSIDISED FOODS AUTHORISED BETWEEN 1ST OCTOBER, 1951 AND 1ST APRIL, 1954
CommodityUnitIncreaseDecrease
DateAmountDateAmountNet Increase
d.d.s.d.
Bread1¾b. loaf16 Mar., 19521½1½
Flour (plain)3 lb.16 Dec., 195117¾
16 Mar., 19523¾
5 Apr., 19533
Meat (carcase)1 lb.15 June, 195244
Bacon1 lb.30 Dec., 19511016 Aug., 195311½
5 Oct., 19527¾
Butter1 lb.5 Oct., 1952612
6 Sept., 19534
21 Feb., 19544
Margarine1 lb.5 Oct., 195224
6 Sept., 19532
Cooking fat and lard.1 lb.5 Oct., 195224
6 Sept., 19532
Sugar1 lb.5 Oct., 195211½
6 Sept., 1953½
Milk (liquid)1 pint1 Dec., 1951½1 May, 1953½1
1 July, 1952½1 Nov., 1953½
1 July, 1953½
1 Aug., 1953½
Cheese1 lb.30 Dec., 19511012
5 Oct., 19522
21 Feb., 19542
Tea1 lb.15 June, 19521010
Ware potatoes7 lb.1 Aug., 1952¾¾

Electric Wires And Cables (Monopolies Commission Recommendations)

35.

asked the Minister of Supply if he is now in a position to state the date on which he will declare Her Majesty's Government's policy on the

I have not with me the list for 1945–51. The food index rose by about 95 per cent. in the last two years and by about 25 per cent. in the previous two years.

Did the Minister circulate a list of these prices in East Edinburgh?

Following is the information:

recommendations of the Monopolies Commission about the supply of electric wires and cables.

My right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to make a statement shortly after the Easter Recess.

Is the hon. Member aware that he said that before the Christmas Recess and that the Minister also said it last November? May we have an assurance that this statement carries greater weight than the previous six statements in the last six months and that the statement to which he refers will be made shortly?

I can assure the hon. Member that neither my right hon. Friend nor I have ever said exactly this before. A few weeks ago my right hon. Friend explained to the hon. Member what are the difficulties about this matter. I am sure it is wise to spend the extra time so as to reach a really sensible conclusion.

Can the Minister say whether the Government have ever implemented any recommendations of the Monopolies Commission?

Pensions And National Insurance

Insurance Act (Quinquennial Review)

38.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will take steps to ensure that the first quinquennial review of the operation of the National Insurance Act shall be completed at the earliest possible date.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mr. R. H. Turton)

Yes, Sir. So far as lies within the power of my right hon. Friend.

Invalid Dependants (Death Grants)

39.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the approximate cost per year of making death grants payable on the deaths of invalid dependants who have paid no National Insurance contributions and in respect of whom, for reasons of age, no grant can be claimed on the insurance record of a parent.

While I appreciate that it may be difficult to get this information, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that the financial assistance for the death grants may be of particular value in cases of this kind where the funeral expenses are no lower, normally, but where there is a background of inability to earn and consequential financial hardship? Will he investigate the matter, with a view to making recommendations?

The National Insurance Act based the death grant benefit on the contributory principle. The hon. Member is suggesting that the contributory principle should be abolished. That would be contrary to the principle of the Act.

Can the Minister tell us whether the quinquennial review will take note of cases like this and of people such as widows, who are unable to get benefits at all under National Assistance?

The working of the death grants and widows' benefits will come within the quinquennial review.

Ministry Of Transport

Working Hours, London (Staggering)

40.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will request the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee to inquire into the possibility of extending the staggering of working hours in the London Transport area and to report on its effect upon transport facilities and costs.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

This is one of a number of proposals which my right hon. Friend is considering to relieve congestion in London.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that travelling conditions in London at peak periods are becoming impossible and that unless some constructive action of this nature is taken we shall experience a continually increasing cost inevitably followed by higher fares?

It is because of this increasing congestion that my right hon. Friend has various proposals under consideration at present.

Will the Minister ask this Committee to give special consideration to the necessity for staggering the hours of people leaving work, especially in the Westminster and City areas where, if it were done, it would make a very great contribution towards speeding up the London traffic?

Committees were set up by the Minister of Transport in the Socialist Government, but they were wound up in November, 1949. We are considering what would be the best way of studying this very important matter of staggering working hours in London.

I cannot say, but it does not fall within the terms of reference of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee to consider the cost.

Could we be told when we are to have the first instalment of the reduction in fares which Tory speakers have promised us?

Comet Aircraft (Loss)

41.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make a further statement on the loss of the Comet on the night of 8th April.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. John Profumo)

Since my right hon. Friend's statement last Friday search operations have established that the disaster occurred about 70 miles south of Naples. The bodies of five victims, a small amount of wreckage, some mail and various personal effects have been recovered. The depth of sea in the area is 520 fathoms so that there is, I regret, no possibility of salvage operations.

As the House will know, my right hon. Friend has withdrawn the United Kingdom Certificates of Airworthiness of Comet aircraft pending further detailed investigation into the causes of the recent disasters. Before taking this step he received the advice of the Air Registration Board and the Air Safety Board and discussed the matter with the Chairman of B.O.A.C.

It is clearly of vital importance that everything possible should be done to get to the bottom of these mysterious tragedies. A public inquiry will be held into this accident as well as the Elba accident. In addition, exhaustive investigations and tests will be carried out as a major national research project by the Ministry of Supply. The full resources of that Department have been made available for this purpose.

While thanking the Minister for that full reply, may I ask him whether he does not think that in view of the tremendous developments which have been made in jet aircraft these tragic happenings cannot be taken as altogether unexpected; and that the whole country will share the decision of the operators, the manufacturers and the Government to proceed with the intensification of these tests with a view to getting the Comet into operation once more? There must be no question whatsoever of abandoning the Comet.

Yes, Sir. I think it would be well not to miss this opportunity of taking our hats off to these V.I.P.s on whose courage and genius the future of this great British project now relies.

When considering the membership of the inquiry will my hon. Friend go into the question of whether it would not be desirable to call in Sir Frank Whittle as one of its members, in view of his great ability as a diagnostician of turbo-jet engine failures?

The public inquiry is one matter and the investigation which will be carried out by the Ministry of Supply is another matter. I think that what my hon. Friend has said will certainly be noted by the Minister of Supply.

In view of this strange series of accidents connected with Rome Airport, will the inquiry or investigations include some special attention to the security arrangements at Rome Airport?

That seems to be a matter for the inquiry when it is set up. I think the House would not expect me to prejudge the decisions to be taken on that occasion.

As one who has flown on both the Singapore and Cape Town routes, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the security arrangements on several points on both routes appear to be such that any competent sabotage organisation would be able to get through them?

The possibility of sabotage, of course, cannot be excluded, and this and all other possible causes will certainly be most fully investigated.

In view of the importance of salvaging, can my hon. Friend say whether Her Majesty's Government have sent their congratulations and thanks to their Lordships of the Royal Navy for the astonishingly good work done in the salvaging of the other Comet that crashed?

Yes, Sir, my right hon. Friend sent a personal message through the Admiralty to the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend, and I understand that the Commander-in-Chief very much regrets that he is not able to help with salvaging on this occasion.

Hostel, Euxton (Management)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

36.

To ask the Minister of Supply if, in view of the unsatisfactory manner in which the Highways Hostel, Euxton, is managed by the Young Men's Christian Association-Young Women's Christian Association Joint Committee, he will consider transferring the management to his department.

On a point of order. Surely, Mr. Speaker, the use of the epithet "unsatisfactory" prejudges the answer to this Question. Is it right that a Question should be framed in this way?

The Question does make a statement about the manner in which the hostel is managed. It is proper to do so. The hon. Member who put down the Question takes upon himself the responsibility for the truth of the allegation.