Nato And Ussr Armed Forces
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how the strength of the armed forces under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation compares with that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
It is not the practice of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to disclose the detailed strength of its armed forces, but I would remind my hon. Friend of recent statements by the Supreme Allied Commander that our military effectiveness in Europe is about three times as strong today as it was in 1951. If my hon. Friend will compare this estimate with the figures given to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) on 10th May, he will find this is not an unsatisfactory increase, though much remains to be done.
Soviet Embassy Attachés (Espionage)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement concerning the decision to expel two Soviet Embassy personnel from this country.
I informed the Soviet Ambassador on 7th May that two Assistant Military Air Attachés at the Soviet Embassy, Major Pupyshev and Major Gudkov, had abused their diplomatic status in the United Kingdom by attempting to engage in espionage and that Major Pupyshev had been delected in a blatant attempt to suborn a serving officer of Her Majesty's Forces. I am glad to add that Major Pupyshev's attempt was unsuccessful and that the British officer whom he tried to suborn behaved in an exemplary manner. Major Gudkov made at least three attempts to recruit agents.
While complimenting my right hon. and learned Friend on the promptness and the expedition with which this problem was handled by the Foreign Office, may I ask whether he is aware that a powerful fifth column exists in the shop stewards movement of this country? Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that our security measures are such that Communist shop stewards in this country have not access to secret processes or information which would be of value to the Soviet Union?
I think that the question of what Communists in this country have or have not access to is not a matter for the Foreign Office. As to the category of persons referred to in the Question and answer, I think that the security services did a very good job of work.
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any evidence that shop stewards are predominantly Communists?
He did not say that.
South-East Asia (Defence)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received from the Indian Government to his communication regarding Indian support for a settlement in Indo-China.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 10th May and to replies given to him and other hon. Members on this point on 13th May by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
How much longer is this matter going to be kept secret by the Government? In view of the fact that the Indian Government themselves have issued a statement on this question and have made it quite clear that they are not prepared to underwrite any settlement in Indo-China which is not agreed by all the parties, what is the reason for keeping it dark?
If the Indian Government have already stated that position publicly, nothing is being kept dark. What Her Majesty's Government object to is that when we are being constantly urged to engage in consultations particularly with the Asian members of the Commonwealth, we should be expected to make public the nature of the conversations.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he has received from the Governments of India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and Indonesia regarding the formation of a regional security organisation for South-East Asia.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has informed the House, these diplomatic exchanges are confidential and if the confidence were not respected the exchanges would be seriously impaired. Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to maintaining a full and frank exchange of views with the Asian countries concerned, especially on matters concerning the security of South-East Asia, and I am sure that hon. Members would not wish Her Majesty's Government to remove the necessary basis of confidence which makes such an exchange of views possible.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman capable at all of giving a plain answer to a plain question? Will he tell the House whether any of these countries have made any proposal for the formation of a South-East Asia military security organisation?
I am not prepared to tell the House what confidential proposals have or have not been made.
Is it not the case that none of them have made any such proposals?
It is certainly untrue that these countries have failed to answer with regard to the question of South-East Asia security.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the informal discussions with the Governments of the United States of America and other countries concerning an interim collective security arrangement for South-East Asia.
I would ask the hon. Member to await the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making to Questions Nos. 40 and 44.
Suez Canal (Shipping Restrictions)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the Security Council of the United Nations has completed its consideration of the complaint by the Israeli Government in regard to the illegal stopping of ships by Egypt in the Suez Canal; and if he will make a statement.
It became clear during the course of the debate in the Security Council that Egypt was not prepared to comply with the Council's 1951 Resolution calling upon her to terminate her restrictions on the passage of international shipping and goods through the Suez Canal. A further draft Resolution calling upon her to comply with the 1951 Resolution was accordingly introduced by New Zealand and put to the vote on 29th March. Voting was eight to two in favour of the Resolution (with one abstention) but as the Soviet Union voted against, the Resolution failed to carry.Although the use of the veto in these circumstances is to be deplored, it in no way affects the validity of the 1951 Resolution, and I trust that the Egyptian Government will not remain indifferent to the weight of feeling expressed against them on this issue during the recent debate.
If the Egyptian Government refuse to carry out the 1951 Resolution and defy the United Nations Organisation in this respect, is no action of any kind to be taken against them?
I quite agree that the refusal to comply with the Resolution of the United Nations in this question is a very serious matter. When the blockade appeared likely to be extended before Christmas last year the matter was again taken before the United Nations, and it is a fact that the extensions have not since been carried out.
Has Russia changed her viewpoint on this matter since 1951?
In 1951 she certainly did not vote against the Resolution.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that the question is based not so much on the Israeli position as on the fact that the Suez Canal is an international highway and has been recognised as such for a long time?
I quite appreciate the position.
Is it not the case that the Egyptian Government had obligations in this matter long before U.N.O. came into being? Are not they in breach of their solemn contract?
In the view of Her Majesty's Government they have no legal right to take this action.
Is the House to take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman implies that the Egyptian Government took a different view of their legal obligations prior to the inception of the United Nations? If there is a dispute as to the proper interpretation of the treaties, are not steps open to us to have the dispute resolved?
It is quite correct that the Egyptian Government adopt a legal view of the position quite irrespective of that of the United Nations. The matter to which the hon. Member refers certainly bears consideration.
Genocide Convention (Ratifications)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many nations have now ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; and whether Her Majesty's Government will now ratify the covenant.
Forty-three States have now ratified or acceded to the Convention on Genocide. As regards Her Majesty's Government's position, I have nothing to add to the statement which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary made in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) on 11th November.
Is the right hon. and: learned Gentleman aware of the fact that our attitude in this matter is regarded as an unsatisfactory one and is, in effect, delaying the carrying into effect of a convention of which we approved? Will he say when he proposes to consider the legal' position, so that, even if technical reservations have to be introduced, we can accept the Convention with such reservations?
With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's question, I think that we have made our attitude towards the crime of genocide perfectly clear by performance as well as words. So far as the legal aspect is concerned, we do not believe in adhering to a convention unless we are prepared to bring in all the necessary legislation to define precisely the crimes which are referred to. That legislation is somewhat complicated, and there is also the question of finding time for it in the legislative programme.
But the right hon. and learned Gentleman said a year ago, and several years ago, that this matter was under consideration. Is it not time that this terrible crime was banned officially by us? Why does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduce the necessary legislation?
There are many difficulties involved. One is that it extends the number of crimes to which the death penalty applies, and it is a question whether it is desirable to do that when steps are being taken to consider the whole question of the death penalty. The matter is one of considerable complication.
Saudi Arabian Oil (Shipping Agreement)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the agreement entered into between the Saudi Arabian Government and Mr. Aristotle Socratis Onassis with regard to the transport of oil which will debar British shipping from participation in this trade; and, in view of the unfair discrimination against British interests, whether he will make representations to protect British shipping.
I understand that an agreement has been made, but the text has not yet been published. If it is confirmed that the agreement will result in discrimination against British shipping, I will certainly consider what steps can usefully be taken.
In taking this matter into consideration, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also bear in mind that if discrimination does result it is likely to cost Great Britain £10 million in invisible exports, in addition to the considerable work which might be lost to British shipyards?
Her Majesty's Government absolutely agree, and wish to make it quite clear that flag discrimination in peace-time is contrary to the best interests of international commerce and to the long-established practice of traditional maritime nations.
Is it not surprising—not only in regard to this but to other matters which have already been raised at Question time today—that the Government appear to be doing nothing? Why this inactivity? What would have happened if a Labour Government had been in power?
I imagine that if a Labour Government had been in power they would have been prodded by the Opposition. That is the duty of an Opposition. This is a serious matter, and there are many ways in which we can seek to bring pressure to bear upon other nations. I do not imagine that many hon. Members opposite would be in favour of going to war on an issue of this sort.
Germany (Occupation Costs)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the monthly quota of occupation costs to which Her Majesty's Government are entitled from the Federal German Re public; and how much of this quota has been taken up in recent months.
Occupation costs, which are provided for all the Allied Powers, amount to DM. 600 million— about £50 million—a month. Within this total the allocations made by the Allied High Commission to the various Powers are confidential. In the case of Her Majesty's Government, they meet British requirements and are fully taken up.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say to what extent the 600 million marks monthly is not being taken up jointly by the Allied Powers?
So far as I know, it is being fully taken up. Certainly the British quota is being fully taken up.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what negotiations are being conducted with the Federal German Republic with a view to ending the payment of occupation costs in respect of British troops in Germany.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the present arrangement comes to an end in a few weeks' time? What is being done to provide for the future and to ensure that the British taxpayer shall not find himself saddled with an obligation of another £100 million a year as from 1st July next?
That is a rather different question from the precise form of words in the Question on the Order Paper, which I have answered. Negotiations are proceeding with regard to the total de-fence contribution after the coming into force of the E.D.C. agreement.
May we take it from what the Minister of State has said that there will be no reduction in the German contribution to British Government costs until the Bonn Treaties have been ratified by all the necessary countries?
I should like to have notice of that question.
How soon can the Minister give the House some information about the way in which this very large item of expenditure is to be borne?
The first question is to see whether there is another period after 30th June this year.
Mr Roger Bannister (Visit To United States)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements were made by the British Information Service in New York for the appearance of Mr. Roger Bannister in a television programme sponsored by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
The British Information Services, New York, were asked by a producer of programmes to transmit an invitation to Mr. Bannister to appear on television. The Foreign Office were glad to ask Mr. Bannister to accept this invitation as it was felt that nothing but good to Anglo-American relations would result. At the time it was thought that no difficulties over Mr. Bannister's amateur status would arise from his undertaking a visit from which he himself would receive no personal gain.After arrangements had been made for Mr. Bannister's journey, some doubt arose on the ground that his appearance was to be on a sponsored programme. The rules on status vary from sport to sport (and appear about as complicated as those relating to offices of profit under the Crown). In the circumstances, it was decided that it would be wiser for him not to appear in that particular programme. Her Majesty's Government have assumed full financial responsibility for his visit. The visit has been an outstanding success. I have a long list with me of the various radio and television appearances which he made, and his other public engagements. He received a great welcome in New York and says he thoroughly enjoyed his visit, and I am sure that it has been a very good thing for Anglo-American relations.
Did the Foreign Office know at the time that Mr. Bannister's reputation was going to be exploited by sponsored television to make money for a tobacco company, although the gentleman is not a smoker? Does not that show the dangers of sponsored television, and will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us an assurance that when we have sponsored television he will not bring over here an American athlete to boost Scotch whisky although he may not be a whisky drinker?
Appearances on sponsored television are a recognised form of publicity in the United States. I am quite certain that many hon. Members have appeared on sponsored television without being contaminated thereby.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that this episode will increase the wish of the British public to have commercial TV foisted on them?
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should introduce his monopolistic feelings or his spleen against commercial television into a matter of this sort.
Ministry Of Food
Tinned Milk Stocks (Disposal)
asked the Minister of Food if he can yet state the decision reached, following consultation with both sides of the milk industry, on the disposal of stocks of evaporated milk, full cream condensed milk and skimmed condensed milk.
The trade has agreed to take over a substantial part of these stocks but they will be disposed of gradually to avoid dislocating the home manufacturing and marketing programme.
Sausages (Meat Content)
asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement indicating the results of the inquiry into the meat content of sausages.
asked the Minister of Food whether he will make provision to ensure good standards of meat content in sausages.
The results of the inquiry are being examined in consultation with the appropriate trade organisations, and I hope to be able to make a statement in due course.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciate that there is evidence that as more meat is available less is going into some sausages? There are many good manufacturers who resent the fact that there are backsliders. Will he, if he wants to go down in history as a great man, try to solve the sausage mystery?
If I were to solve the sausage mystery, I should go down in history as a great man. However, what, I think, the hon. Gentleman wants to know is this. All the public health authorities have been circulated to let us know what has happened since the decontrol of meat content, and we have had replies from about 260. The inquiries show that, on the average, the meat content is up since decontrol. There is, of course, a very great difference of opinion amongst public analysts. Some think 50 per cent, meat content is sufficient, and others that 65 per cent, is right. One goes so far as to think the content should be 75 per cent. However, I am looking into this matter, and will make a statement as soon as I can.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, if he solves the sausage mystery, he will lighten the work of the courts?
Will my right hon. and gallant Friend do something through the manufacturers or others to try to get them to make sausages that taste like sausages as well as look like sausages?
The trouble with sausages, of course, is that there are so many different tastes, even in one family, that I think that a standard sausage would be extremely unpopular. I am asking the manufacturers and other interests concerned to meet me as soon as possible to discuss the result of the inquiry with them.
Fruit And Vegetables (Distribution)
asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to improve the distribution of fruit and vegetables.
As the hon. Member well knows, there is no quick or easy way of improving the present system, and I cannot usefully add to what I have already said on past occasions.
In view of the fact that the main difficulty was that of capital expenditure, and in view of the improved position now, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman energetically look at this matter?
I am always prepared to look at this question, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is an extremely difficult one. The capital expenditure involved is very considerable, as he knows.
Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consult the Minister of Agriculture, and consider whether the time is not opportune for setting up a Royal Commission to go into the whole question of horticultural marketing? There have been a number of Departmental investigations, but surely a Royal Commission might do some very useful work?
I am prepared to consider anything, for this is a matter of some importance, but over the last 30 years there have been a large number of inquiries into this extremely difficult question. There is a good deal of exaggeration in the matter, and there are also a tremendous number of interests to be consulted before I can go any further, but I will certainly have a look at it.
asked the Minister of Food what representations have been made to him regarding the continuance of those long-term contracts for the procurement of foodstuffs still in force.
The only recent representations on long-term contracts still in force have been on West African vegetable oils and oilseeds, for which the marketing boards concerned have proposed, and we have agreed, the termination of the contracts at 30th June, 1954, and on New Zealand meat which the Ministry of Food will, by mutual agreement, cease to purchase 12 months earlier than the long-term contract provided. Discussions about the marketing under decontrol of Australian milk products during the last 12 months of the long-term contract are now proceeding, and parallel discussions about New Zealand milk products will open later this month.
Sikorsky S56 Helicopter
asked the Minister of Supply to what extent he is assisting the progress made in the production of the Sikorsky S.56 30–40 seater helicopter, which could be made in this country, in view of the fact that there is an indication that it will meet the need of an economic proposition in the development of this form of air transport.
If the hon. Member will let me know what kind of assistance to production he has in mind, I shall be happy to consider it.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not of the opinion that this S.56 is years ahead of any other type of helicopter capable of carrying from 30 to 40 passengers, and would he not consider as soon as practicable acquiring some of these helicopters and handing them over to B.E.A.C. for development and group flying experience before it is too late?
I think that is rather an involved proposal, but I shall be glad to consider it. A few days ago the hon. Gentleman gave notice that he proposed to raise the whole matter on the Adjournment. That would seem to me to be a more suitable occasion to go into detailed questions.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that, whereas there are six Ministers here now, on the Adjournment there would be only the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, and that I hope that other Ministers will not shelter under his umbrella?
The Question that the hon. Gentleman asked, on which he gave notice he would raise the matter on the Adjournment, was almost identical to this one.
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind very valuable flying data in connection with helicopters has been obtained from the S.51 services operated by B.E.A.C. on such routes as Birmingham to Northolt and Liverpool to Cardiff? Why has there been a cessation in the last 12 months of those experimental flights? Could we not continue with the S.55, for instance, as a preliminary to the machine mentioned in this. Question?
Will my right hon. Friend ensure and give an undertaking that if the S.56 is to be used here it will be made in this country and not acquired from the United States?
Pensions And National Insurance
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if his attention has been drawn to the inadequacy of the war disablement pension, particularly for those who are in receipt of the 100 per cent, pension and for war widows; and what are now the prospects of raising such pensions.
There is nothing I can usefully add to what I said on this subject in the debate on the Adjournment on 8th February and in reply to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) on 5th April.
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that there is wide discontent amongst branches of the British Legion and generally among disabled ex-Service men, and does he not think it is time for action to be taken to raise the pension rates to increase the pensioners' purchasing power?
I am aware, of course, that a pensions campaign has been in progress. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said on 8th February:
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said on 12th April:"My right hon. Friend sincerely hopes that during the life of the present Government our national situation will improve to such an extent that it may become possible to do something more for war pensioners and their dependants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February. 1954; Vol. 523, c. 972.]
"It must not be thought that because a particular reform is not in the Budget it is therefore not in the mind of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 918.]
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that a few days ago the annual conference of B.L.E.S.M.A.—the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association—a moderate and modest body, expressed disappointment that the Government have not met the claims, which have received support from both sides of the House? Cannot the Minister do something now instead of waiting for the quinquennial review?
I am aware, of course, that the purchasing value of the 100 per cent, pension is only 4s. 6d. a week more now than it was when the Government took office in October, 1951. My right hon. Friend has that point very much in mind.
Will my hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind that there is a very considerable measure of support for this plea on both sides of the House, and will he once again look into the possibility of ensuring at least that the battle casualties receive complete priority over everybody else?
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what consideration is his Department giving to the question of raising the standard rates of pensions for widows; and what possibilities there are for granting increases.
The standard rate of pensions for widows under the National Insurance Acts is included in the consideration to be given to the level of all pensions and benefits. With regard to the second part of the Question, I cannot add anything to the statement I made to the House on 19th March.
Is the Minister not aware that these widows, like old-age pensioners, are finding great difficulty in living on their present rates owing to the policy of the Government of seeking to ration by the purse? Is it not time that the Government got away from such a policy, in the interests of these unfortunate people?
I remind the hon. Member that, in my statement on 19th March, I said:
"It is indeed our aim that, should the finances and the economics of the country permit, the level of benefits and pensions should be restored without delay to the level which they had when the National Insurance Scheme was introduced."—(OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 816.]
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many applications have been made to the medical boards for death certificates in respect of pneumoconiosis during the past year; how many have been granted; and what are the numbers in respect of those who had been employed in the coal mining industry in Wales.
In 1953, the Silicosis Medical Board dealt with 537 applications for death certificates for the purposes of schemes made under the Workmen's Compensation Acts; in 397 cases the Board certified that death had been caused by the disease. Under the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Scheme of 1952, 394 awards of death benefit were made in 1953 for deaths from pneumoconiosis, and 159 applications were rejected because the Silicosis Medical Board certified that death was not due to the disease. Separate figures are not available for the coal-mining industry in Wales.
In view of the disparity between the figures of applications to medical boards in respect of death from pneumoconiosis and the number of certificates granted, and the large number of cases in which there has been a refusal to grant certificates and the differing views of medical men at inquests as to the cause of death, will the Minister cause an investigation to be made into this aspect of pneumoconiosis?
If the hon. Member studies the figures I have given, I think he will find that there is not that great difference between the numbers.
Is the Minister aware that, in the case of the Sheffield pneumoconiosis panel, there has been a fall in the proportion of claims for benefit accepted by the Board in 1953 compared with 1952, and that this has caused concern? May there not be a case for an inquiry into the methods of diagnosis?
I do not think the hon. Member is referring to the figures I have given in answer to the Question. Claims under the Industrial Injuries Act are dealt with not by boards, but by insurance officers.
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that, at inquests, when death has been thought to be due to pneumoconiosis, very frequently in South Wales the medical men have said that death has been caused by pneumoconiosis but the medical board has later said otherwise?
I am aware that dissatisfaction has been felt on the question of coroners' inquests and medical boards. My right hon. Friend is at present in discussions with the Home Secretary on this matter, and I understand that during the Committee proceedings on the Mines and Quarries Bill my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power also undertook to raise the matter with the Home Secretary. I think it had better be left there.
Fuel And Power
Trolley Buses, London (Replacement)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what estimate he has formed of the additional fuel oil consumption that will be entailed in a full year consequent upon the decision to replace approximately 1,800 London electric trolley buses by diesel-powered vehicles, and of the effect upon the load-factor of power-houses in the Greater London area following diminution of the road traction electricity demand, notably at off-peak hours.
About 28,000 tons of diesel oil, with negligible effect on the electricity load factor in Greater London.
In view of the fuel aspect of this matter, and in view of my right hon. Friend's responsibilities under Section 1 of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, does my hon. Friend consider it judicious to swing over from low-grade indigenous fuel burnt at power houses to imported fuel? In view of our very large investment at the present time in electric power houses, is not this decision by a nationalised authority inimical to the national interest?
No, I do not think it is at all inimical to the national interest.
Is not the overriding factor the easing of the flow of London traffic? If the experts take the view that by switching over in this way the traffic of London will be to some extent relieved, that should be the overriding consideration.
I would not say that that was the sole factor, but it certainly is an important factor.
Does my hon. Friend realise that whatever is done in London is likely also to have a considerable influence on the provinces? Is he aware that in Brighton, for instance, discussions are at present taking place because of what is happening in London? Will my hon. Friend bear this in mind with regard to the possible increase in fuel used over the whole country?
Yes, Sir, certainly. The situation in London is different from anywhere else in the country, because nearly 50 per cent, of the trolley bus electricity is drawn from the London Transport Executive's power houses. It is for that reason, owing to the demand on those generating plants for electricity for railway traction, that the load factor is actually improved by the removal of the trolley buses.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of this decision by a nationalised authority, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Oil (Industrial Power)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent refining capacity for oil and oil producers has increased in the United Kingdom since 1945, expressed percentum and in tons per annum; to what extent fuel oil has increasingly, or otherwise, been employed since 1945 to date as a substitute for coal in furnishing the sources of industrial power; and what the policy of Her Majesty's Government is in relation to substitution of oil for coal, in the future.
Elevenfold, from 2½ million tons in 1945 to about 28 million today. The extent to which fuel oil has replaced coal for industrial purposes cannot be firmly estimated but total inland deliveries of fuel oil have increased from 0·2 to 3·8 million tons during the period and it may be assumed that this represents a current annual saving of about 6 million tons of coal. Her Majesty's Government offer loans to industrialists who can make worthwhile savings by changing from coal to oil burning.
What about domestic consumers? Can my hon. Friend undertake to give guidance to a large number of householders and commercial concerns who urgently want to know, in present circumstances and in view of the low quality of much of the coal that is available to them, whether it is likely to be successful for them to switch over to oil? Will he give an undertaking to investigate this aspect of the matter?
My right hon. Friend's fuel efficiency branch is always out to be helpful.
Does the Minister realise that the public need no help from the Government on this? They have already made up their minds and are burning oil just as fast as they can get the mechanism.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal was imported in the year to 30th April, 1954, and at what total cost; what were the countries of origin; how much of the coal imports came from East or West Germany or Poland; and how much more coal he proposes to import, or has already consented to import, during the period 1st May, 1954, to 30th April, 1955.
Approximately 792,000 tons at a landed cost of about £5 million, the main sources being Belgium, France and Western Germany. None came from Eastern Germany, 67,000 tons came from Western Germany and 2,300 tons from Poland. Under present arrangements approximately 200,000 tons have yet to come in. My right hon. Friend has not yet announced any future import programme.
In view of the fact that the whole of this imported coal is being sold by the National Coal Board at a substantial loss, can my hon. Friend say to what extent the losses, either already incurred or envisaged, have been taken into account by the Coal Board in its recent and latest increase in the price of domestic coal?
The losses on imported coal are part of the items which make up the budget which has recently been dealt with by the National Coal Board's rise in prices.
Is my hon. Friend really satisfied that the importation of this coal is necessary?
Yes, Sir. It is in pursuance of the policy announced by my right hon. Friend on 13th July.
Domestic Coal (Delivery Notes)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in order to safeguard the interests of consumers, he will take steps to ensure that retail merchants of domestic fuel supply with each delivery of fuel a receipt showing clearly the grade and price per hundredweight.
Retail merchants are already required to supply delivery notes specifying the price and the grade of the coal when deliveries exceed 2 cwts.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some retailers are not doing that and that if the consumer has a grievance about the quality, price or quantity it will be difficult to get redress? Will he therefore inform retailers that it its an offence not to give a receipt?
As the hon. Gentleman has said, it is an offence not to supply delivery notes in those circumstances, and I have no doubt that his Question and my answer will call attention to the fact if it is not being carried out at present.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that 250,000 tons of coal are being imported from Poland; and if, in view of the effect of this on our trade balance and the fact that there is unlimited coal in Britain, ne will in future refuse to give his authority for such imports.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much Polish coal is being imported this year; what is the total cost of such coal and by whom is it borne; and what proportion of those imports has to date been carried in British ships.
The National Coal Board have contracted to buy 100,000 tons of Polish coal. About 4,800 tons have so far arrived carried in two Polish ships. I am not prepared to state the terms of the contract, which was based on commercial considerations. My right hon. Friend considers applications for such imports in the light of the circumstances at the time.
Will the Minister inaugurate an educational campaign among miners to tell them that Britain is the one country that cannot become self-supporting, that our survival depends on our ability to export goods and services at competitive prices, of which coal could be a major factor, and that unless we can do that there will be no wages for the miner or anybody else?
I think the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers have already made the general sense of that observation quite plain throughout the coalfields.
Is the Minister aware that the miners need no education from hon. Members opposite? Would the hon. Gentleman indicate why, since it is a Government decision to import this coal, the National Coal Board should have to make good the loss, and that that should be used as an argument against further wage increases for the miners? Further, might I ask him why this coal is not being carried in British ships?
The reason why it is not being carried in British ships is because the quotations for these two shiploads were lower than any others, but I am happy to say that further charters have been entered into at competitive prices with some British ships.
My hon. Friend said in his reply that he could not state the terms, which were based on commercial reasons. Will he say what are the commercial reasons?
What I actually said was that the terms of the contract were based on commercial considerations. The contract has not yet been completed, and I do not think it would be desirable to make the terms public as yet.
Can the Minister state the difference in freightage charges operating now and those when coal was imported into this country under the late Administration?
Not without notice, at any rate.
Coal Prices (Transport Costs And Profits)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power by how much the retail cost of domestic coal at Southampton, Plymouth and Brighton is due to transport charges;and by how much to retailers' profit margins.
Forty shillings and elevenpence, 42s. 7d. and 39s. 7d. per ton, respectively, for transport costs and 2s. 3d. in each case for profit margin.
War Surplus Stocks (Disposal)
asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, when it is expected to complete the disposal of surplus stocks left over from the war and the subsequent period of shortages and valued at about £50 million; what is the present value of the stock; and what was the value of the stock disposed of during the 12 months ended 31st March, 1954.
Terminal stocks to the value of about £75 million were disposed of in the year ended 31st March last, and further disposals to the value of about £40 million are expected to take place during this financial year. There are also certain commitments to take up non-ferrous metals and raw cotton under continuing contracts. The work of disposal, on a much diminished scale, will extend into the next financial year but should virtually be completed in that year except for any fresh disposal liabilities that may arise in respect of jute and cotton. The figure quoted by my hon. Friend of the current value of residual trading stocks is the one I gave him on 10th May. I have no more up-to-date figure.
Can we take it that with the lowering of the stocks held the numbers of staff engaged in administering these stocks will also be reduced?
Yes, Sir, I can assure my hon. Friend that the staffs will be running down.
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department made a profit or a loss on the stocks sold during the year ending 31st March?
That is a difficult matter for me to deal with offhand.
Can the hon. Gentleman inform us whether all these stocks were in the empty cupboards left by the previous Administration?
Some of them have come in as a result of continuing contracts during the past 2½ years.
South-East Asia (Defence)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the proposed security pact for South-East Asia.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make his promised statement on the progress towards a South-East Asian defence pact.
42 and 43.
asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will make a statement regarding the proposed Asian security pact;(2) whether he will make a statement regarding the Geneva Conference.
asked the Prime Minister to what extent it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to consider the Anzus Pact as the nucleus of the proposed South-East Asia Pact.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members for postponing these Questions until now.The Geneva Conference is now entering on its fourth week. The immediate object of the discussions about Indo-China is to bring the fighting to an end on terms acceptable to both sides. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is doing all in his power to help in finding an agreed basis for this, and I am sure the House would not wish that anything should be said which might make his task more difficult. Moreover, the situation is in constant flux. As those who have put these Questions on the Paper have no doubt seen for themselves, it has undergone changes even since last Thursday. I certainly feel sympathy with the desire of many Members of the House to discuss more fully than is possible at Question time the whole foreign situation in all its bearings, but I cannot yet fix a suitable occasion. It certainly would be a great advantage—I think we should all agree to this—if the Foreign Secretary himself were present to give his own account of the events which have taken place and set his own proportion upon them. All I will therefore say today is that until the outcome of the Conference is known, final decisions cannot be taken regarding the establishment of a collective defence in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. Meanwhile it will be clear from the statements already made that Her Majesty's Government have not embarked on any negotiation involving commitments. These problems of future policy to which I have just referred are, of course, quite distinct from the question of the examinations undertaken without commitment by existing military agencies, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State referred in reply to a Question on 10th of May. They are equally distinct from the conversations which, as reported in the Press, have been in progress during the past few days between the United States and French Governments about the situation in Indo-China. In our consideration of all these matters, we are maintaining the closest touch with the Governments of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and also with the Government of Burma. All these Governments are being kept fully informed from day to day of the development of events at the Geneva Conference, since we fully realise that they will be closely affected by its outcome and may feel willing to make a contribution towards it. There is, of course, also very intimate consultation with the Governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand through their Delegations at Geneva as well as through the usual channels of Commonwealth consultation. It should not, however, be thought that the terms of this statement cast any doubt upon our readiness to examine, when the outcome of the Geneva Conference is clearer, the possibility of establishing a system of collective security and defence in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific within the framework of the United Nations. We shall certainly do so. But our immediate task is to do everything we can to reach an agreed settlement at Geneva for the restoration of peace in Indo-China. Her Majesty's Government are resolved to do their utmost to achieve this aim and to exercise their influence to ensure that any acceptable settlement shall be backed by effective international guarantees.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread appreciation of the difficulty of his answering in more detail while the Geneva Conference is on? At the same time, is he also aware that there will be general assent to any reinforcement of a settlement in South-East Asia in which India and China were taking part in order to bring about peace, but that there will be resentment about a collective peace designed to encircle China by any military entanglements?
I will bear that in mind.
Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify one point? He said that there was a distinction between the general talks which were taking place, and to which the Minister of State referred, and the talks which are taking place between the French and United States Governments; will the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that there is no contemplation on the part of Her Majesty's Government of any kind of military intervention in Indo-China before the outcome of the Geneva Conference is known?
I think that was very clearly shown in my answer.
Will the Prime Minister consider sending a message of encouragement from the House as a whole to the Foreign Secretary in his valiant and sustained exertions in the cause of peace in the Far East?
Will the Prime Minister say whether, in considering this pact for South-East Asia, the problem of economic aid to the countries concerned is being borne in mind, as that is the main reason why N.A.T.O. has been a success in Europe, that economic aid has been given to the countries concerned?
Yes, Sir, I am sure that all such matters would be relevant.
Would the Prime Minister agree that in any question of a pact guaranteeing the nations of South-East Asia a prerequisite is that those nations should desire to be so guaranteed, because surely it is a most doubtful policy to guarantee people who do not wish to be guaranteed?
That is a point which no doubt will be mentioned in the course of these discussions.
Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up a point which the Minister of State was unable to clear up earlier, namely, can he say whether or not any initiative has come from the Governments of India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon or Indonesia for the formation of such a military pact in South-East Asia?
I think I would rather deal with that as a whole, not on that one particular point.
Tax Allowances (Entertainment Expenses)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why he apologised to the Institute of Directors for the action of the Inland Revenue in asking for details about the entertainment expenses of company directors.
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. I did not apologise because the Inland Revenue asked for details of entertainment expenses. I said that the Board of Inland Revenue regretted that an error of judgment had been made by a particular tax office in demanding in a particular case unnecessarily detailed information on matters which went far beyond entertainment expenses.
Could the Minister differentiate between an expression of regret and an apology, and was not that branch of the Inland Revenue Department carrying out its job in trying to prevent tax evasion, and was it necessary to make this humiliating and grovelling apology when his officers were only doing their duty and helping the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
As I tried to explain in my original answer, the expression of regret was because unnecessary particulars were asked for in this case. On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I always apologise when I am in error, though that does not often happen.
Yes, but does the Financial Secretary still stand by the undertaking given by the Chancellor on the Third Reading of the Finance Bill last year, that he would back the Inland Revenue in all steps it took to prevent tax evasion?
Nothing I have said in reply to this Question diminishes in any way what my right hon. Friend said on that or any other occasion. This matter, as I have tried to explain, relates solely to an individual case in which it seemed to me that inquisition was being carried definitely too far.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what were the excessive inquiries made in this case?
They were very long and detailed but, if they would interest the right hon. Gentleman, I will gladly send them to him.
Would the Financial Secretary circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT?
Subject to any view that the authorities may have on the point, I should have no objection.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether this incident arose from an inquiry made by the Inland Revenue as to the number of haircuts a business executive had in New York?
There is nothing about haircuts in it, although I am bound to say it looks rather like a "close shave."
Will the Financial Secretary give an assurance that the Inland Revenue officer concerned, whose zeal the right hon. Gentleman has deprecated, is not being subjected to any disciplinary punishment; in other words, that he will not be penalised for acting in what he conceived to be in good faith in the public interest?
No officer is penalised for acting sensibly and in good faith, but it is a matter of judgment for which Ministers must take responsibility as to how far it is justifiable in this admittedly difficult and delicate matter to press precise details of inquiry and whether they are pressed to a point at which they may well become an undue burden.
The following is the questionnaire:
DIRECTORS' EXPENSES AND BENEFITS IN KIND
1. Name of Director. 2. Address of Director. 3. Total expenses paid to each Director. 4. Analysis into: — (a) rail travel. (b) subsistence. (c) entertainment. (d) any other items. 5. Where Company's car used: — (a) make, horsepower, cost and date of purchase. (b) amounts charged in accounts for: — (i) insurance, tax, repairs. (ii) petrol and oil. (c) total annual mileage. (d) business mileage. 6. Area covered by travel. 7. Number of days on which travelling done. 8. Number of nights spent away from home. 9. Towns visited and number of journeys to each. 10. Purpose of journeys and business done. 11. Number of days spent at Company's offices. 12. Entertainment: — (a) type of people entertained. (b) nature of entertainment. (c)reason for entertainment. 13. If any Company asset has been transferred to a Director, particulars should be given.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he will make a statement on the military situation in Korea and say in what activities British troops are engaged.
Both sides in Korea are disposed in accordance with the Armistice Agreement. The Communist strength has remained much the same since the Armistice but the North Korean army is being re-equipped. The main tasks of the Commonwealth Division are to repair and develop their positions and to keep up their standard of training.
But, in view of the rather more favourable situation in Korea, is it not intended to return some of the men to this country?
It is certainly our hope to get our men back from Korea as soon as we can, but that will obviously depend largely on the outcome of the Geneva Conference.
Could the hon. Gentleman say whether replacements are being sent at the present time, or whether the Government are allowing the Forces to run down without replacements from this country?
The order of battle is being maintained at about the same level.
That is a very vague reply. Can the hon. Gentleman not say whether the Government are refraining from sending replacements?
The numbers have not changed significantly.
Can I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he knows who has re-equipped the North Koreans?
We can all make guesses, I think.
Business Of The House
Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).— [ The Prime Minister.]