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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 29 April 1954

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Agriculture

Eggs (Marketing And Prices)

1

asked the Minister of Agriculture if agreement has now been reached with the National Farmers' Union on the terms of an egg marketing scheme.

No, Sir. The National Farmers' Unions have replied to certain of the Government's comments on their proposals for an egg marketing scheme and discussions on outstanding points are continuing.

Can the Minister give the House an assurance that the broad points of principle have been agreed and that only minor points which can be quickly cleared up now remain outstanding?

No, Sir. I cannot give that assurance. Discussions will continue until, I hope, we get final agreement.

3

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will give details of the factors newly taken into account this year in determining the monthly support prices for eggs sent to packing stations.

This year the annual average price guaranteed to producers for eggs will vary, through an agreed formula, with the annual average price of feedingstuffs. In addition, the seasonal minimum prices will be determined from time to time, not necessarily monthly, in relation to current market prices and the level of supplies reaching the packing stations instead of being determined, as previously, at the start of the year. The seasonal minimum prices will be calculated in such a way that the annual average guaranteed price will be 4s. a dozen, subject to the operation of the feedingstuffs formula.

Will the result of this arrangement be that the support price, while giving the farmers what they are entitled to get from the packing stations, will not be such a heavy charge on the Exchequer as was the case last year?

That would depend upon what the retail price was. The formula which has been devised is very complicated, but it has been devised in complete agreement with the producers.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the changes will not be made so suddenly as completely to confuse egg producers?

Sugar Beet Factory, Southern England

2

asked the Minister of Agriculture if the Departmental inquiry into the proposal for establishing a beet sugar factory in the South of England has been completed; and with what result.

The time this is taking is disappointingly long. Can the Minister assure us that the facts emerging from the inquiry about a sugar beet factory in the South of England will be given to the House before Ministers come to a decision?

The group has not yet finished its deliberations on the subject. I hope that the study will be completed some time during the next month or so. I will then see what steps we can take to bring the results of the deliberations before the House.

Will the Minister give an undertaking that the needs and interests of the countries within the Colonial Commonwealth, which are often dependent upon a single-crop economy—such as the West Indies, which is dependent on sugar—will be kept in mind?

In coming to these decisions, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is important, particularly in respect of the existing facilities, to consider the needs of Devon and Cornwall? If a centre such as Taunton could be considered it would be of great use.

Attested Stock (Movement Licensing)

4

asked the Minister of Agriculture the reasons for maintaining a system of movement licensing for farm stock; and when he intends to terminate this control.

I understand that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to control of movement of attested stock to shows and sales. I consider that such control is necessary and I am explaining the reasons fully by letter.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that now that the majority of our herds are becoming attested, the burden of getting a movement licence should fall more upon the owners of the non-attested than of the attested herds?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the nearer we are getting to complete attestation the greater the measure of control which must be exercised?

I think that on this occasion I can agree with both my hon. and gallant Friend and with the right hon. Gentleman. The position is that no permit is required today under the scheme for the movement of an animal from an attested herd to one which is not subject to the rules of the scheme, or to the non-attested section of a show or sale, but in that case the animal cannot afterwards return to the attested herd.

Farm Survey Visits

5 and 6.

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether all county agricultural executive committees now inform farmers, prior to visits of inspection, that their farms are to be inspected;

(2) whether all farmers are advised of the results of county agricultural executive committees inspections of their farms and of the category in which they have been placed.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to farm surveys, which are not formal inspections but visits designed to offer the help of the county agricultural executive committee in the improvement of production. It is the general practice of committees to visit farms by arrangement with the occupiers. I have asked committees to convey to the farmer whose farm has been surveyed their views about his farm and, where they continue to grade, to notify the farmer of the grading.

The Minister, of course, will be aware that I brought a case to his attention where this was not done. Will he give an assurance that in every case in every county a farmer will not have to suffer an inspection of his farm without his knowledge either before or after?

The specific case to which the hon. Gentleman refers was before I issued the revised general instructions in February, 1953. However, I should like the House to realise that although no specific instructions have been issued to county agricultural executive committees about notification of farm survey visits county agricultural officers have been told to instruct their officers to give prior notice if they can reasonably do so.

Support Prices (Quantification)

7

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the Government will now give an assurance that in connection with the support prices for agriculture they will not be subjected to any measure of quantification throughout 1954.

The guarantees for 1954 have already been determined. The guarantee for milk is related to standard quantities in the different marketing areas. No quantitive limitation has been included in the guarantees for other commodities.

Could we have an assurance that there will be no further alterations in 1954? Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the greatest difficulty is uncertainty and delay? Does he not realise that there is no real stability as long as alterations are made? [An HON. MEMBER: "Reading."] I am not reading. I have never read anything in my life. I am speaking from my heart, and not from the books.

Perhaps my hon. Friend would read the White Paper, the 1954 Annual Review, particularly paragraph 13.

Farmer, Saint Helens (Dispossession)

8

asked the Minister of Agriculture why Mr. Sidney Morris, of Mickleham Green Farm, Sutton, Saint Helens, was dispossessed; and the present condition of the ground now under the agricultural executive committee.

Mr. Morris occupied only part of Mickleham Green Farm, and his interest in the land was terminated because his standard of farming was too low and did not show satisfactory improvement after two years of supervision. The decision to terminate his interest in the land was upheld by the Agricultural Land Tribunal. The Lancashire Agricultural Executive Committee have let the land to a neighbouring farmer who has ploughed it and is now cultivating it in preparation for a potato crop.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether or not it is true that the present condition of the farm is much worse than when Mr. Morris vacated it?

I think that is. quite incorrect. The seven acres of land in question were in bad condition last October when that land was taken over. The present occupier did not attempt at that time to clear and cultivate it, as he probably thought it would do more harm than good. It has now been ploughed, and he is likely to sow potatoes in a few days, after dressing the ground with fertiliser.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has the united support of all Members on these benches in dispossessing those farmers not doing their duty by their farms?

Progeny Testing Scheme

9

asked the Minister of Agriculture what arrangements have been made to extend the progeny testing scheme in order to produce better bacon at lower cost.

I am not yet able to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) on 25th February and to paragraph 26 of the 1954 Annual Review White Paper.

Will the right hon. Gentleman press for the earliest and widest possible extension of progeny testing in view of the colossal waste involved in producing 13 different breeds of pigs? Denmark has only one. No one knows what the average conversion factor in this country is. We are completely in the dark, and considerably handicapped compared with Danish producers.

This problem, with others, is under urgent consideration, and I assure the House that we are getting on with it as quickly as possible.

Home Department

Police Forces (Cost)

10

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the cost of the maintenance of the police forces of England and Wales at their present strength; and how much it would cost to bring these forces up to the strength which he estimates they should at present attain.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

The cost of the police in England and Wales is now about £68 million a year, of which half is paid by the Exchequer. If all existing vacancies in police establishments were filled, the extra cost would be about million a year.

Does the Home Secretary agree that owing to the forces being under strength they are greatly overworked and that the extra money would be money well spent in countering the prevalence of crime?

I entirely agree, and would add only that the most pressing problem, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, is in the big cities.

Poisons (Antidotes)

13

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, where the law provides that any poisonous fluid or substance must be marked or labelled "Poison," he will make it compulsory that the antidote to the poison shall also be clearly stated.

No, Sir. The Poisons Board has advised against the introduction of such legislation.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, as very few people know what to do when faced with a poisoning emergency, a precaution of this kind might be the means of saving life, even if the antidote were only a temporary expedient?

I think there are great dangers in this matter because undue emphasis on antidotes might result in the loss of valuable time in obtaining medical help. Barbiturate poisoning, for example, which has been the commonest form in recent years, requires immediate hospital treatment, and any delay may be fatal. I hope no one will rely on antidotes to the exclusion of getting immediate medical advice.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the possibility of a statute providing that all Socialist constituents should be labelled, "To take Conservatism"?

Swans (Protection)

14

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to include swans on the list of protected birds in order to preserve them, their cygnets and eggs, from unnecessary pain and destruction.

Wild swans are at present fully protected in 25 counties in England and Wales, and their eggs in 29 counties, by local orders made under the Wild Birds Protection Acts. I have no power to make additional orders except on application by the local authority. The Protection of Birds Bill now before Parliament will give full protection to wild swans throughout the country.

Could the Home Secretary give power to local authorities not only to protect the birds from destruction, but to provide them with food and shelter at the ponds and lakes where they congregate?

Prison Deaths (Burial)

15

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review the present practice of burying convicted murderers within the precincts of the prison where the sentence was carried out with a view to an amendment of the law and the adoption of the practice proposed for the convicted war criminals in Spandau Gaol of returning the bodies to their next-of-kin.

Can the Home Secretary explain why, in the case of the NÜrnberg criminals, which, I believe, he knows quite a lot about, and who were convicted of mass murders, their next-of-kin are to be allowed to have their bodies back, while the parents of young men like Dereck Bentley are not allowed to have their sons' bodies back, though the prisoners were. convicted of a single murder? Surely if it is good enough, in the case of the Spandau prisoners, for the next-of-kin to have their bodies back, it should be good enough for people in this country.

I think the hon. Gentleman has confused two matters. The question of the Spandau prisoners, of course, is a matter for the Foreign Secretary, but the proposal that, I think, the hon. Gentleman has in mind deals with the bodies of those who die a natural death and not of those who are executed. It is already the practice in the Department of which I am in charge that the relatives of a prisoner who dies in prison here, other than by judicial execution, have the opportunity to take the body away and to make their own disposal arrangements.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that it is quite impossible to reconcile his attitude in this matter with that of the Foreign Secretary, not only in the case of the Spandau prisoners but in the case of prisoners who were executed for mass murders and whose bodies were handed over to the civil authority for reburial outside the prison? Secondly, will he bear in mind that on this whole matter of executions in this country a Royal Commission that sat for five years came unanimously to the conclusion that our present law was wrong and could not be supported? Could he tell us when he will be able to inform the House of the result of his consideration of that Report?

The first supplementary question is one for the Foreign Secretary, and the second raises a point to which I have replied previously.

Yes, but as the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a member of the Government, and a colleague of the Foreign Secretary, surely he recognises the principle of collective responsibility. As he had something to do, quite properly, with the execution of the NÜrnberg prisoners, why is he not prepared to adopt in this country the same policy that is now being adopted in Germany?

I fully accept the principle of collective responsibility but I do not remember that when the right hon. Member was Minister of Defence he was particularly active in answering Questions which concerned the Minister of Health. That is the point I made. As for the further point, I said that was a matter on which I had already answered questions, and if the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of looking at the answers he will find that that is so.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when I was Minister of Defence I was never asked a Question which related to the activities and responsibilities of the Minister of Health?

Remand Homes And Approved Schools (Punishment)

16

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent the infliction of corporal punishment in remand homes and approved schools has declined or increased during the past year; in how many cases during that period inmates have absconded and how many have subsequently been apprehended; and what further consideration has been given to the question of discipline, treatment and punishment in those institutions.

The number of occasions on which corporal punishment was administered in remand homes and approved schools in 1953 was about 4 per cent, more than in 1952. The number of abscondings in 1953 was 2,236; I have no reason to believe that more than a very few absconders were not recovered.

The question of discipline, treatment and punishment in remain homes and approved schools is kept under constant review.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not appreciate that this is a matter which should be more than reviewed constantly? Is it not one which needs special inquiry in view of the more enlightened opinions about the treatment and discipline in these institutions?

The hon. Member will recall that the Franklin Committee reported in December, 1951, on punishments in approved schools and remand homes. It considered that the existing powers to give corporal punishment were necessary and that the safeguards against the excessive use of this form of punishment were generally satisfactory. Since then, as I have said, the conditions on which it reported have been kept under constant review. If the hon. Member has any specific point to make I shall be very glad to consider it.

Am I not right in stating that in some of the best-managed remand homes corporal punishment is very rarely administered?

That must be a matter for the authorities of the remand home. I cannot answer for specific remand homes. I think that is the proper combination: we have a Report, we keep it under review, and the operation is in the hands of the authorities of the home.

Immigration

17

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have immigrated into this country each year since the war.

I regret that no information is available about the number of persons other than aliens who have come to live in the United Kingdom since the war.

Under our system of immigration control, aliens are not ordinarily admitted as immigrants in the first instance, save in exceptional circumstances. The majority of the aliens who have been accepted as permanent residents in recent years were admitted on a temporary basis—e.g., on Ministry of Labour permits—and accepted as residents some years after their arrival.

Figures of aliens accepted as permanent residents are not available for each year since the war, but in the immediate postwar years nearly 250,000 foreigners were as an exceptional measure admitted or allowed to remain in this country as a special contribution to the relief of distress abroad and to the resettlement of displaced persons. Precise figures are not available but it is estimated that the number at present being admitted to permanent residence is of the order of 8,000 to 9,000 a year.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted that when citizens of the United Kingdom desire to go to a Colonial Territory they have to give very considerable undertakings, both financial and otherwise? Will he represent to the Colonial Secretary that it is desirable that our people should be able to go to the Colonial Territories with facility equal to that with which people from the Colonial Territories can come to the United Kingdom?

I will certainly convey the contents of my hon. Friend's question to my right hon. Friend.

Father Ingram (Warrant)

18

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what date the warrant was issued for the arrest of Father Ingram, formerly of the London Choir School, Bexley; and on what grounds the warrant was applied for.

I understand that a warrant of arrest was issued on 22nd March on the grounds of alleged unnatural offences against a pupil of the London Choir School.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that this is the evil man to whom I referred in the House some months ago? Is it to be wondered at that homosexuality is on the increase when such men can operate in private schools at will? Will he say whether the warrant has yet been served?

The police endeavoured to enforce the warrant, but they discovered that Ingram had disappeared from the school and they later found that he had flown to Northern Ireland on 24th March. Police inquiries are being made in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic.

Juvenile Courts, South London

19

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provision is being made for additional juvenile courts in South London to deal with the growing number of cases.

Last August, in order to relieve the congestion at Lambeth Juvenile Court, it was arranged that the court should sit twice instead of once a week. Alternative premises are being sought for the second court, and also for the South-Eastern Juvenile Court which sits at Tower Bridge.

While realising that these additional provisions are a regrettable necessity, may I ask the Home Secretary whether he will examine the disturbing implications of what is apparently the growing number of juvenile cases in South London in the light of the 14 per cent, reduction in the number of juvenile convictions throughout the country as a whole, which he announced the other day?

Certainly. I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned the 14 per cent., for it is always a good thing to remember the good side of questions. I will certainly bear in mind the other point which he made.

Food Price Increases

20

asked the Minister of Labour which items of food have recently increased in price so as to cause the retail price index figure to rise to 141.

The rise in the index was due mainly to increases in the prices of butter, cheese, eggs, tea, potatoes, tomatoes and cooking apples. There were also some increases in the prices of green vegetables but decreases in the prices of fish and of rabbits. Among non-food items the principal change was a slight rise in the average prices of coal and coke.

On a point of order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, why this Question has been admitted, having regard to the fact that all the information in the answer is contained in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, a copy of which is now in the Library?

Further to that, Mr. Speaker, do you think that you can manage without the assistance of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams)?

Is the Minister aware that the answer which he has just given, and which is contained in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, reached me this morning in the Gazette, whereas the Question was put down before the Gazette was published? So much for the point of order. Is the Minister not aware that since he took office this index figure has risen from 129 to 141 and that, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, the cost of living has continuously increased? Can he say when food prices will fall?

I am glad that I have not to deal with the first point, for the second point is comprehensive enough. Although no doubt the figures which the hon. Member has given are right, it is some satisfaction to appreciate that the index figure has not varied, except between 140 and 141, for a year.

Heavy Goods Vehicles (Speed Limit)

21

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he has taken during the past six months to obtain agreement between representatives of employers and employees as to the conditions to be applied for the raising of the legal speed limit for heavy goods vehicles; and whether, in view of the productivity angle involved, he will intensify his efforts to obtain a solution of this problem.

I have kept this matter under review in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. As I have previously assured the House, we will be prepared, if necessary, to assist in the reaching of agreements by the parties concerned as soon as the time and circumstances are propitious.

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that that is a very disappointing answer, especially in view of the transference of haulage to private enterprise and the possibility of the reintroduction of those practices which led many drivers in the direction of not observing the legal minimum? Does he realise the importance of getting a move on in this matter?

I fully appreciate the importance of choosing the right moment to get a move on. One of the things which we have to remember is that there is no question of my imposing a decision. I am asked to persuade, and I think I must be allowed, to some extent to choose the moment when that persuasion is likely to succeed.

Ministry Of Health

Hospital Beds (Private Patients)

22

asked the Minister of Health what steps are taken to ensure that private beds are not reserved for the use of fee-paying patients when there are urgent or chronic cases on the general waiting list.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health
(Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

The National Health Service Act, 1946, specifically provides for patients in urgent medical need of treatment to be admitted to a pay bed without charge if no alternative accommodation is available. My right hon. Friend has brought this to the notice of hospital authorities, and has also asked them to ensure that pay beds not in full use for private patients are used for other patients whether urgent cases or not.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say what view her right hon. Friend takes, not merely in connection with my own constituency but generally, of the heavy fees that are paid by private patients for minor operations, like the removal of tonsils, for which they are able to get immediate attention within a week of the arrangement being made with the specialist or consultant concerned, whereas children who, in the opinion of their parents, are suffering from defective tonsils have to wait as long as six months before they can get the operation done.

I hope the hon. Member will not exaggerate these claims, because in the case of hospitals in which he himself is interested my right hon. Friend did assure him that whereas 25 tonsillectomies were done a week under the National Health Service there were only four a year done on private fee-paying patients. I can assure the hon. Member that if there is any evidence which he or other hon. Members wish to bring to my right hon. Friend's attention, we shall be very glad to go into it in order to ensure that there is no abuse. I do not think it is fair to suggest that there is this widespread abuse when the case which we investigated for the hon. Gentleman is not justified.

World Health Organisation (Budget)

23

asked the Minister of Health whether he will instruct the representative of Her Majesty's Government on the relevant committee of the World Health Organisation, at the next appropriate meeting of the committee, to press on behalf of Her Majesty's Government for a substantial increase in the regular budget of the Organisation and to pledge this country to pay its fair share in the increase.

The proposed regular budget of the Organisation for 1955 shows a substantial increase over that approved for 1954, but my right hon. Friend is not satisfied that this increase is justified. The matter will be further considered at the next World Health Assembly. The United Kingdom contributes to the budget on a scale approved by the Assembly.

That does not seem to answer the question of whether, at this further meeting, the United Kingdom representative will press for an increase in the total budget of the Organisation so that it can overcome its many problems.

In view of the very disappointing reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, will she give an assurance that there will be a long-term guarantee of funds to the Organisation to that it can recruit the technical and qualified staff so urgently needed for long-term contract work.

That is a much wider question which I cannot possibly answer today.

Will the hon. Lady ask her night hon. Friend to examine the very important projects which would greatly promote British interests and which are now being held up because the Organisation's budget has been so long stabilised?

Can the hon. Lady say whether any countries do not pay their contributions to the World Health Organisation, and, if so, what is the total amount involved?

If my hon. Friend would put a Question on the Order Paper I should be happy to give him an answer.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply. I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Foreign Residents (Tuberculosis)

24

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the problem of persons from abroad taking up residence in this country while suffering from active tuberculosis.

My right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make a statement within a few days.

Emphysema (Research)

25

asked the Minister of Health if he will set up a special centre for research into the cause and cure of emphysema; and if he will give an estimate of the number of sufferers affected.

Research into the lung conditions with which emphysema is usually associated is in progress in a number of centres. There is not information available to form an estimate of the number of sufferers.

As neither the cause nor the proper cure of this complaint has yet been discovered, will the Minister do all she can to step up research with a view to relieving sufferers?

This is not generally recognised as a separate disease entity, but rather as a concomitant of other disease conditions. Research generally into diseases of the lung is already carried on in such centres as Hammersmith, Brompton and Sheffield, which cover research into this particular disease.

Cancer

26

asked the Minister of Health if he will, as a means of combating cancer, take steps to give powers to local authorities to register all persons suffering from this disease; and if he will promote schemes to educate patients through general practitioners and other means on the best form of treatment.

Hospitals boards are already encouraged to arrange for the registration of all cases treated in hospital, to provide information about incidence and results of treatment. My right hon. Friend has already invited local authorities to promote educational schemes, in co-operation with hospital authorities and general practitioners.

As many people who suffer from this disease are afraid to go to their doctors in the initial stages, would the Minister carry on a campaign, through medical officers of health, to encourage these people to come along at a stage when doctors can render them some assistance, rather than leave it too long, when it is beyond the power of a doctor to assist?

I share the hon. Member's concern about this grave disease, but I cannot accept that people are more likely to go to the medical officer of health to report their condition than they are to their own general practitioner. In this matter we are working on the advice of the Standing Advisory Committee on Cancer and Radiotherapy, and we are carrying out a scheme recommended by them. This is not an infectious disease and does not come in the same category as notifiable diseases to the local authority.

I am not suggesting that the patient should go to the medical officer of health, but that the medical officer of health should carry out a campaign on this subject.

An educational campaign has been approved by my right hon. Friend.

28

asked the Minister of Health what experiments have taken place in the use of the rays given off by the cobalt bomb as a means of treating deep-seated cancer; and if he will make a statement on this subject.

The experimental stage in the use of radio-active cobalt for the treatment of cancer has now passed. It is being used as a substitute for radium in the treatment of certain forms of cancer, particularly the deep-seated forms, in four radiotherapy centres in this country. Radio-active cobalt is more intensely radio-active than radium and makes treatment shorter and more efficient.

Seeing that this instrument, which could be used for the destruction of human life, can now be used for the healing of this terrible disease, will the Minister see that no expense is spared in carrying on these experiments? Will she issue a report on the progress that is being made in the experiments which have been undertaken?

This has got beyond the experimental stage. The hon. Member will know that the initial unit was at University College Hospital and that there are now units in operation at Sheffield and Leeds. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not mind my pointing out that the word he used in his Question, namely, "bomb," is a misnomer, for no explosion takes place, and the use of this term has terrifying associations for the patients. I hope the hon. Gentleman will drop the use of it.

Children In Hospitals (Parents' Visits)

27

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied with the response to his suggestions about greater facilities for parents to visit their children in hospital; and which hospitals refuse to allow visits, other than exceptions made on strictly medical grounds.

No detailed information is available, but my right hon. Friend has reason to believe that the response to his recommendations has generally been favourable.

If I send to the hon. Lady information of a hospital where the matron refuses to allow parents to see their children until they have been in-patients for one month, will she look into the matter?

I shall certainly be prepared to look into it, but the hon. Member will be aware that the final decision rests with the hospital and with the discretion of the matron of the hospital and not with my right hon. Friend.

Oranges (Thiourea)

29

asked the Minister of Health what reports he has received from medical officers of health, hospitals and otherwise in respect of intestinal or other ill effects, particularly with children, suspected to be due to the contamination of oranges by thiourea.

My right hon. Friend has received no reports of ill effects from this cause.

Is the hon. Lady aware that in several districts in North-East London analysts have reported that oranges sold in streets and shops have been contaminated with thiourea? In these circumstances, seeing the limited powers of analysis, would it not be as well to make inquiries?

I can assure the hon. Member that not least as a result of his Question inquiries have been made in the areas in which he is particularly concerned, and that we have had no reports from medical officers of health on the matter or from any general practitioner. If we had any evidence we should certainly follow it up.

Maternity Home Fire, Reading

30

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the recent accident at the Delwood Maternity Home, Reading.

My right hon. Friend is awaiting the report of a special committee of inquiry appointed by the regional hospital board, and he is not, therefore, in a position to make any detailed statement at the moment. Mean-while, he is sure that the House will wish to express its profound sympathy with the parents who were bereaved by this tragic event.

While thanking my hon. Friend for those expressions of sympathy, in which, I am sure, the whole House will join, may I ask whether, in view of the widespread national concern about this appalling tragedy, we can be assured that everything is being done to expedite the completion of this inquiry?

I assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend has no desire whatever to see any delay in the inquiry, but I am sure the House will recognise that it cannot be conducted until we have the fire officer's report, which must go first to the inquest, and before evidence can be obtained from the vital witness, Sister Holland, who has been too ill to be interviewed or even to attend the inquest. Until these possibilities are available, we cannot continue with the inquiry.

What outside authority had the responsibility for the inspection of the kitchen and heating equipment, which, it is understood, was the basis of the trouble? In any event, was it with the hon. Lady's concurrence that the fire officer opinionated that no blame was to be attached to the people who ran this establishment?

In view of the fact that both an inquest and an inquiry are to be held, I do not think that those questions should be answered at this time, even if I had the information available.

Education

Schools (National Service Information)

31

asked the Minister of Education what instructions she has given, or what arrangements have been agreed by her, in regard to the giving of information about National Service in the Armed Forces to boys in schools under her control.

None. I regard this matter as one for the discretion of the local education and other school authorities.

State Scholarships

32

asked the Minister of Education what percentage of State awards, supplemental university awards and local education authority awards, respectively, are honorary.

Some 2·6 per cent, of the State scholarships (other than supplemental State scholarships) and 8·7 per cent, of supplemental State scholarships current in the academic year 1953–54 were honorary. A further 4·1 per cent, of the State scholarships (other than supplemental) were at the nominal rate of £30, which is paid regardless of parental circumstances. I have no detailed information about the proportion of local education authority awards which were honorary, but I have no reason to think that it is substantial.

33

asked the Minister of Education the number of students entering the universities and university colleges for the first time, in October, 1953, who came with a State scholarship, a supplemental university scholarship or a local education authority award, respectively.

There were 1,979 holders of State scholarships (other than supplemental State scholarships), 1,000 holders of supplemental State scholarships, and 9,928 holders of awards from local education authorities.

What is the right hon. Lady doing to encourage local authorities who give comparatively few university awards to increase their number?

We have been in communication with local authorities, not only about the size of the award but about the method of selection.

Unesco

35

asked the Minister of Education what are the Government's proposals towards the association of the United Kingdom with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's Educational Travel Coupon Scheme.

Her Majesty's Government are not proposing to adopt this scheme. Arrangements already exist under which British students can apply for foreign currency to attend courses or to travel for educational purposes abroad and I have no evidence that foreign students are prevented from coming to this country because of currency difficulties due to United Kingdom regulations.

Is the Minister aware that a substantial dollar fund has been placed at the disposal of these arrangements for international exchange? Would it not help this country financially if we took part in this system instead of having to make use of our own scarce currency resources?

We think at present that our plan is better. We do not think it would be advisable to set up a separate scheme.

36

asked the Minister of Education what instructions she proposes to give to the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation conference regarding the observance by that organisation of the rights of international civil servants under Article 100 of the United Nations Charter.

It is not the practice to disclose beforehand the instructions given to delegations to international conferences.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the case of Mr. Leff and other employees of U.N.E.S.C.O. have aroused considerable concern and have been the subject of leading articles in "The Times Educational Supplement"? Will the Minister ensure that when she instructs the delegation it is asked to make certain that international civil servants are not obstructed in their employment by outside governments and that the rules of the United Nations are observed in this respect?

I understand that the executive board of U.N.E.S.C.O. at its next meeting in July is likely to consider what recommendations for amending the present staff regulations should be put to the general conference in November. It would be wrong for me to try to anticipate any recommendations which the executive board may desire to put forward for the general conference.

Grammar School Pupils (Leaving Age)

37

asked the Minister of Education what steps she is taking to reduce the numbers of pupils who are leaving the grammar schools when they attain the statutory age of 15 years.

I understand that the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) has almost completed the inquiry to which I referred in my answer to the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) on 29th January, 1953. When I receive the Council's Report, I shall consider how a further reduction can best be encouraged.

Teachers (Wastage)

38

asked the Minister of Education the total annual wastage from the teaching profession; and what steps she is taking to check this loss.

Net wastage in 1953 was 8,100, a figure that was much more than made good by the 13,500 new entrants to the profession. As a result of later retirements and a greater number of married women remaining in and returning to the profession, the wastage figure is below earlier estimates.

Does the Minister not agree that perhaps one of the best possibilities is that of getting women teachers who have been married to come back into the profession? Will she consider making a special appeal to them, even perhaps making an appeal to them herself over the B.B.C.?

Appeals have been made, not necessarily over the B.B.C.. but at various meetings. The result has been extraordinarily good and we are grateful to those married women who have come back.

Bechuanaland, Basutoland And Swaziland

39

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what consultations he has had recently with the Government of the Union of South Africa concerning the future of Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland.

Before the introduction of the recent Resolution in the Union Parliament, the United Kingdom Government was informed by the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa that he proposed to raise the matter thus.

Can the Minister give an assurance that in any consultations that take place Her Majesty's Government will assure Dr. Malan that the statement made by the Prime Minister before the Recess had general support from all sides of the House of Commons?

We had better let it rest on the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Trade And Commerce

East-West Trade Controls (Relaxation)

41

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress he has now made towards a major relaxation of controls on East-West trade.

Discussions are at present proceeding in Paris with other Western Governments with a view to introducing the major relaxations on East-West trade which Her Majesty's Government have in view, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Although we welcome the discussions that are taking place, since it is now two months since the Prime Minister expressed himself in favour of a substantial relaxation of these controls, can the Minister say how soon he will be able to make a statement?

I would remind the hon. Member that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade did envisage that these discussions might take two or three months.

Is the Minister aware that before the Recess I suggested to him that the machine tool industry in particular was losing orders? Is it not possible for the President of the Board of Trade to secure the release of controls in that industry?

I do not under-estimate the importance of the point that the right hon. Member has raised, but if he looks as the programme he will agree that so far there has been no avoidable delay. In fact, we have been congratulated on the speed with which we have moved in this matter.

What progress has been made in the Anglo-Hungarian trade negotiations now taking place in London?

That is a separate question. I referred to it in my answer to a Question yesterday.

Merchandise Marks Act (Prosecutions And Infringements)

42

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many prosecutions for alleged offences under the Merchandise Marks Acts have been initiated by his Department in each quinquennium since the original Act was passed; and how many complaints of alleged infringement of the Acts he is now considering.

Since the answer to the first part of the Question contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The answer to the second part of the Question is 11.

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the answer to the first part of the Question shows an increasing sense of responsibility on the part of the Board of Trade in implementing the Merchandise Marks Acts or the contrary? I take it that his answer to the second part was 11. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman say what action is being taken on these complaints?

If the hon. Member will devote his mind to it, he will see that the success of a statute is not measured by the number of prosecutions under it. As to the 11 cases mentioned in answer to the second part of his Question, they are, of course, being investigated.

Following is the table:

Number of prosecutions under the Merchandise Marks Acts initiated by the Board of Trade in each quinquennium since 1888.

Period

Number of prosecutions

1888–18926
1893–189712
1898–19024
1903–19075
1908–191217
1913–191737
1918–19226
1923–19275
1928–193210
1933–193717
1938–194214
1943–19471
1948–19522

Note: The figures given for periods before 1938 are only approximate.

Defence Expenditure

43

asked the Prime Minister if he will now issue instructions to all Ministers concerned on ways and means of securing definite relief from the present burden of defence expenditure.

The future of the defence programme and possibilities of relief from the heavy burden involved are matters which, under my direction, engage continuously the attention of Her Majesty's Government, but I do not wish to make any statement about the procedure followed by Her Majesty's Government for that purpose.

Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that the Government must obtain some definite relief from the defence burden in the coming year—those were the Chancellor's words—can the Prime Minister tell us in what ways Her Majesty's Government propose to obtain that definite relief?

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the subject is under constant review? If so, can he tell us, seriously, whether any progress has been made and, if not, when he expects progress will be made?

We inherited an enormous programme, loosely scattered out, and if we had not controlled it very severely it would have carried us into figures far beyond those at which the right hon. Gentleman now professes to be shocked. We are doing our very best to curb the growth of military expenditure, and we hope that results which are very necessary for our future finances will be achieved.

When can we expect the right hon. Gentleman to answer a question directly and not indulge in irrelevancies? Will he be good enough to tell the House, now that the Chancellor has intimated his intention—of course, with the Government—to reduce defence expenditure, and because the subject, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, is continously under review, when he expects some progress to be announced to the House?

The results of these exertions will, of course, be apparent when the Estimates for next year are laid before the House.

Indo-China

44

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the recent official French request for aid in Indo-China.

I do not wish to add to the statement which I made last Tuesday.

Can the Prime Minister at least say whether the request was confined simply to material aid, or whether there was also a request for British troops as well?

I do not wish to add to the statement which I made last Tuesday.

45

asked the Prime Minister if he will approach the Governments of India, Pakistan and Burma with a view to consultations, at ministerial level, on recent developments in South-East Asia with particular reference to the situation in Indo-China and Her Majesty's Government's proposal to examine the possibility of a defence pact.

Her Majesty's Government have been in close touch with these Governments and have undertaken to give full consideration to their views. A special Ministerial meeting would not be helpful at the present moment.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, despite the fact that there may be telegraphic communication, there is a distinct feeling in India, Pakistan and Burma that decisions may be taken at Geneva over the heads of these South-East Asian countries without proper Ministerial consultation? Is he aware that he himself has a singularly bad record in relation to those countries and should do his best by sending a Minister out there to show that he now regards those countries as full and equal members of the Commonwealth whose advice is at least worthy of the same consideration as that of the other Dominions?

I really think that the giving of special missions to Ministers in a Government should be left to the Government itself. I think that that would certainly be the rule which would be enforced should any change of authority take place here.

Communist Activities

46

asked the Prime Minister if he will set up a Royal Commission to inquire into Communist activities and propaganda in Great Britain.

No, Sir. There can be few countries in the world where Communism has more difficulty in making headway than in this island, with our free institutions and long experience. The security aspect can well be dealt with under our established laws, the vigilant administration of which is under constant Parliamentary attention.

Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Casey is reported to have said that the spy rings which have caused so much trouble in Australia are active in all countries, including Britain? Will he make an appeal to the British public relentlessly to combat Communist activities everywhere? Will he also tell the British public that there is no difference in principle between Communism and Socialism?

I really do not think that that would be a helpful suggestion for me to act upon.

Admiral Radford (Talks)

47

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his discussions with Admiral Radford, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No, Sir. My talk with Admiral Radford was informal and confidential. It would be a pity to make such contacts impossible.

Commonwealth Prime Ministers (Consultations)

48

asked the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the desirability that the British Commonwealth of Nations should pursue a common policy in the present critical juncture of international relations, he will summon a conference in London of Commonwealth Prime Ministers to see how far the several lines now being respectively pursued may be co-ordinated and harmonised.

No, Sir. I should have thought that there was quite enough going on at the present time. The closest exchange of views with other Commonwealth Governments is continuous.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that in Geneva there are discussions going on to which the Foreign Secretary of this country is a party but at which there is not represented any Asian country within the British Commonwealth of nations, and, at the same time, there is proceeding an at least equally important conference at Colombo between the Prime Ministers of countries concerned with the same matters, at which there are represented Asian countries within the British Commonwelath of nations? Surely, after both conferences are over, an attempt ought to be made to have a common meeting in London to make sure that all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are really going the same way about the same matters.

The hon. Gentleman speaks of "after the present conferences are over." No doubt the results of these conferences will be reviewed and collated in the usual course.

Defensive Exercises, Bahamas (Foreign Servers)

49 and 50.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) in view of the fact that Her Majesty's Government have invited the United States Government to send representatives to the bacteriological trials off the Bahamas, if he will extend similar invitations to the other countries who are signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty;

(2) if he will instruct our representative at the United Nations Organisation to invite the World Health Organisation to send official representatives to be present at the bacteriological trials in the waters off the Bahamas.

No, Sir.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the United States is invited to send people to these trials but France and our other Allies are not? As they are purely defensive exercises, could not the hon. Gentleman agree that the World Health Organisation, which is interested in preventing the spread of disease, should be officially represented?

No, Sir, for the simple reason that we have received no request from any other countries or organisations to be so represented.