Pensions And National Insurance
Employed Widows (Child Supervision Payments)
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why when a widow with young children in receipt of a widow's pension obtains part-time employment, no allowance is permitted to her in estimating her income for the purpose of reassessment of her pension rates in respect of the payment she has to make for the supervision and care of her children.
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. Where such a payment is necessarily incurred in connection with the employment, it is regarded by the statutory authorities as an allowable deduction in calculating earnings.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that I am obliged for that information, and so will be the lady who is under the same misapprehension and who has not had this allowance?
Disabled Miners (Clothing Allowance)
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether the clothing allowance of £5 per annum given by his Department to disabled soldiers who wear a Jones' Saddle, may also be granted to disabled miners who are also obliged to wear this fitting.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply Riven on 3rd May to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey).
Since I have not got that reply with me, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that certain members of the industry concerned do not know what the exact provisions are? Is it not a fact that miners are peculiarly susceptible to this sort of injury, which necessitates wearing this equipment?
The reply was that there is no provision in the National Insurance Industrial Injuries Act for such an allowance.
Is this not a matter that ought to be referred to the National Insurance Advisory Committee, since we are getting so many cases in the mining industry of men who are now compelled to wear this equipment? Ought they not to be treated like men who have the misfortune to be wounded on the field of battle?
It has always been held by this Government and their predecessors that clothing allowances are not proper subjects for the industrial injuries insurance scheme.
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many people have applied for National Assistance since 1st January, 1954, up to the latest convenient date; in how many cases grants have been made; and the additional expenditure so far for this year.
The National Assistance Board inform me that they received about 1 million applications for National Assistance between 16th December, 1953, and 25th May, 1954. Of these, about 400,000 resulted in the grant of a weekly allowance and about 430,000 in a single payment to meet a temporary situation.I regret that the figure asked for in the last part of the Question is not available.
Do not these figures suggest that there is a good deal of misery in the country, particularly among the old-age pensioners? Is it not time that the matter was taken rather more seriously than it has been in the past?
I think the figures show the very great work which the National Assistance Board is doing in relieving distress among old-age pensioners.
Industrial Injuries Fund (Benefits)
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware of the distress of many persons in receipt of 100 per cent. Industrial Injury Benefit at 55s. per week; and whether, in view of the fact that the Industrial Injuries Fund now stands at over £93 million, he is prepared to introduce proposals for an increase of benefit.
No, Sir. My right hon. Friend has not bad his attention drawn to any distress among the persons referred to.
That is a surprising statement. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the income of this Fund—and there is no reason to anticipate additional payments for industrial injuries—was over £40 million, that only just over £20 million was paid out in benefit, and that £3,750,000 was charged for the cost of administration? Is he aware that the Fund is building up year after year? Surely the money is there. Why does he not do something about it instead of arguing about Jones' Saddle, when there is £90 million of money stored up there?
The hon. Member's next Question deals with that supplementary question, and, if he wishes, I will answer his supplementary question then.
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware that the annual amount of benefit paid from the Industrial Injuries Fund represented in 1951–52 less than 45 per cent., and in 1952–53 less than 53 per cent. of the revenue of the fund; and whether he will reduce the contributions or increase the benefit.
I would remind the hon. Member that the Government Actuary pointed out in his First Report on the finances of the Industrial Injuries Scheme, published in 1950, that expenditure on disablement benefits would increase automatically for many years to come and that if the Fund is to be self-supporting when this mature position is reached contribution income must substantially exceed outgoings in the early years.
As the Government Actuary's forecast has not proved correct and the comparatively small increase this year compared with last year was made up very largely by amendments in legislation; and, further, as the Parliamentary Secretary now has in the "kitty" 2½ years' contributions, has not the time come for an immediate revision of this matter?
In 1951, the percentage of the total revenue taken up in benefit was 42. In 1952, it increased to 53 per cent. That was the time when insurance benefits were put up, while the contributions were increased. Since that date, there has been no Government Actuary's report, but, during that time, this Government has made a great number of improvements in the Industrial Injuries Scheme and has not put up the contributions at all. While the Government Actuary is going into these matters and has yet to give his report, I think it would be inadvisable to come to the conclusion suggested by the hon. Member.
If the anticipated increase in the number of recipients was an argument for not increasing the benefit, would not the decrease in the number of recipients of war pensions be an argument for increasing war pensions?
I think the two subjects are entirely dissimilar. I am dealing with an insurance scheme, and I am saying that, in the interests of the whole of the insured population, the Industrial Injuries Scheme should be based on an actuarial basis. War pensions are an entirely different matter, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not doing his own cause any service by trying to compare the two.
In view of the fact that the quinquennial review is being carried out, will my hon. Friend ask the people who are carrying it out to give particular attention to the matters raised by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale)?
I replied earlier to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) saying that, under Section 59 of the Industrial Injuries Act, the Government Actuary has to review the finances of the scheme and report thereon. This is quite a different review from the review under the National Insurance Scheme, with which I think my hon. Friend is conversant.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has considered the information relating to the coal-mining industry, a copy of which has been sent to him; and what immediate action he proposes to take to arrange for the decentralisation of this industry which is vital to the export trade and upon which many other industries depend.
As I told the House on 26th October last, the Board has issued a directive which makes it clear that its aim is to delegate authority to its divisions and areas to the fullest extent consistent with its own statutory responsibilities and it has appointed an independent committee to consider whether any more fundamental changes in its organisation are desirable.
Will the Minister make clear that as we must import about half our food and raw materials the export of coal at world competitive prices is vital to the standard of living net only of the miners, but of the whole country? Will he also remind them that in 1913 we exported 80 million tons of coal and that now we are importing coal? It is quite ridiculous.
Will the Minister also remind his hon. Friend that in 1945 we produced 176 million tons of coal, and will he also send him a copy of the Reid Report, so that the hon. Member may see how much nationalisation has saved this country?
Will my right hon. Friend tell the right hon. Gentleman opposite how much coal we produced before the war, and, also, that the nation has never yet reached the total output which it produced before the war?
Is the Minister aware that this sniping at the miners by the Government will not help us to get the increased coal production which is needed this year?
I am sure that the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) would not want to convey that impression. There has been no sniping by the Government. There may have been criticism by hon. Members, but, as the whole House knows, there has been nothing of that kind on behalf of Ministers and responsible Members of the Government. The plain fact is that the coal industry is supporting the industry of the whole country at present by the 200 million tons or so of coal which it produces every year, but, as is known in the industry as well as outside, we desperately need to have an even greater production.
We agree on the importance of increased production, but will the Minister give the Coal Board more miners, or help it to get them? Will he not tell his hon. Friends that production has been increased by 40 million tons since 1945?
It is the fact that output per man-shift at the face and overall is higher at this time than it has ever been before, but it needs to be increased even more. The Coal Board, whose primary responsibility it is, is now carrying out an energetic campaign to increase manpower in the deficiency districts, particularly the West Midlands and South Yorkshire, and the Board has been much assisted by the Government's special housing policy for miners in these areas, which we introduced soon after we came to office, and which is helping very much.
Coke Prices, Bradford
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that purchasers of coke residing in smokeless zones in Bradford were informed by delivery men on 19th May that the following week the price would be increased from 5s. 5d. to 5s. 8d. per cwt.; and what steps he proposes to take to reduce the price for a by-product when good household coal can be purchased for 5s. 4½d. per cwt.
The North Eastern Gas Board has increased the price of coke following the recent increase in the price of coal, but the coke is still cheaper than the better qualities of house coal. I understand this question was raised originally by a tenants' association in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. W. J. Taylor), and that he has already taken it up with the Chairman of the North Eastern Gas Board.
Does not the Minister think it a little unusual that delivery men should notify customers at the door that the price will be increased by 4d. or about that amount next week? Will he do something to stop that and ensure that a proper advertisement appears in the Press in order to notify customers?
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North took the most helpful action in bringing it to the notice of the Chairman of the Board. Perhaps the hon. Member would add his testimony.
Quality And Prices (Complaints)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what procedure a merchant or his customer should follow in seeking redress for wrong quality coal and incorrect pricing; and what recourse is available in the event of the complaint not being admitted.
If anyone thinks he has been overcharged for the quality of coal supplied, he should complain to his supplier. If he cannot get satisfaction he may report the facts to the local fuel overseer or the regional coal officer of my Ministry.
Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to answer the last part of the Question. What recourse is available in the event of the complaint not being admitted? As I understand the position, the Coal Board is the final arbiter? I should be glad if my right hon. Friend would deny that.
If the complaint is brought to the attention of the local fuel overseer, and thus to the officers of my Ministry, in the case where there has been a wrongful upgrading of coal my Department will bring a prosecution.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if, in view of the national concern, he will give an assurance that, in cases where householders have complained to their respective merchants of the presence of stone, bricks and dirt in their house-coal ration and have failed to obtain redress, his Department will initiate action under the Merchandise Marks Act.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many prosecutions he has initiated under the Merchandise Marks Acts.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, in view of public disquiet at the inability of the National Coal Board to eliminate stone and bricks from household coal, what action he proposes to take to protect consumers' interests in this matter by proceedings under the Merchandise Marks Act.
I myself have no power to take proceedings under the Merchandise Marks Acts. There is a recognised procedure whereby a householder may seek redress from his merchant for any stone, bricks or dirt supplied to him, and the merchant may seek redress from the National Coal Board.
Yes, but as this method of seeking redress is not working, can my right hon. Friend say why the Coal Board should be inviolate under the Merchandise Marks Acts, whereas if a private enterprise undertaking perpetrated similar frauds it would immediately be prosecuted? Why should there be one law for a nationalised undertaking and another for a private enterprise undertaking?
Would the Minister confirm that the Coal Board will admit a claim when a merchant receives 2 per cent. stone and dirt? How can he square that with the fact that merchants will not admit claims of their customers who receive as much as 50 per cent. dirt?
I cannot confirm the exact percentages, but the fact is that the merchants advise me that the machinery for reclaiming from the Coal Board is working satisfactory from their point of view.
In view of the fact that the President of the Board of Trade is entitled to prosecute a private enterprise firm under the Merchandise Marks Act, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend will take steps to enable him to prosecute the Coal Board? It is a public scandal that it should be allowed to perpetuate frauds against the consumer.
There is no difference formally between the position regarding coal and other commodities under the Merchandise Marks Act. I think that my hon. Friend may have in mind some difficulties which have arisen recently in her area. I believe that may be the source of a number of complaints which we have had recently. Everyone knows that the household coal, which has to go into a certain number of grades, has to be supplied from about 1,000 collieries, and there are often changes in the quality from different coalfields and seams. I believe that the machinery for re-allocating some of that coal into different grades has not been working at a satisfactory speed and I am taking up that matter with the Chairman of the Coal Board.
Is the Minister aware that there is need for an inquiry into the whole question of coal distribution, particularly into costs?
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has yet approved the import of coal to meet the needs of next winter; the approximate amount; and the countries of origin.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power by how many tons United Kingdom coal consumption in the first 23 weeks of 1954 exceeded consumption for the first 23 weeks of 1953; whether stocks, or exports, or both are being depleted to meet the increased consumption, in view of static production, comparing 1954 with 1953; and what steps he now proposes to take to deal with the coal position.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to make a statement giving the present coal stocks and the comparable figures for 1952 as well as the prospects for the coming winter.
Compared with last year. consumption so far has been greater by 3 million tons and production by 1 million tons. Exports and bunkers have remained the same and total distributed and undistributed stocks are now 1½ million tons less.For some time the Government have been carefully considering the prospects for next winter, and I have already authorised further imports.
Has the Minister information that this is likely to meet all the contingencies next winter, particularly in a spell of bad weather?
That is their purpose.
Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to the statement recently made by Mr. Arthur Horner, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, to the effect that the coal situation now is the most dangerous since 1946? Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that his measures in importing additional coal will meet the situation without cutting down still further our vital exports of coal?
The House will remember that earlier in the year the National Union of Mineworkers assured the Coal Board that it would regard a 2½ per cent. increase of output this year as the minimum standard for which to aim. So far, there has not been any increase in output, save for the extra 1 million tons which results from there being no Coronation special holiday this year. Recently, the miners' leaders reaffirmed their determination to ask for what they had suggested earlier in the year, and they have been making helpful speeches in the coalfields to help in that matter. This was one of those speeches.
The Minister said he had authorised the importation of coal. Will he tell the House how much can be imported? Is there a ceiling or an open licence?
No, there is not an open licence. I should not wish to inform the House about the quantity or source of supply as I wish to give the Coal Board the best commercial opportunities to get the coal as cheaply as possible.
Is it not a fact that last February, when a substantial increase in miners' wages was negotiated, it was on the express understanding that the cost of the increase would be compensated for by a 2½ per cent. increase in production? As that increase has not yet materialised, what further action does the Coal Board now propose to take?
As it is a Government decision to increase the imports of coal, will the Government foot the bill, or the Coal Board?
No, as in all recent cases of importation, of which, unhappily, there have had to be many examples since the war, we must face the fact that it is the consumer who foots the bill.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that domestic consumers are unable to obtain grades 1, 2 and 3 house coal before the increase in price in June, owing to the fact that supplies are not made available by the National Coal Board; and the present stocks of these grades of house coal in the country at the latest convenient date.
I can assure my hon. Friend that the Board is not withholding supplies of the better grades of coal it needs to dispose of its whole available production in order to meet weekly allocations to the merchants. Total stocks in merchants' yards at 5th June were 408,500 tons, but quantities of the different grades are not separately recorded.
Does my right hon. Friend consider that the very extensive and expensive advertising which took place for this campaign in the middle of June was really justified in view of the fact that the Coal Board has, apparently, not got the coal to deliver?
The Board has not got as much coal of the best quality as the public want. The public naturally, in many cases, want the better qualities, even more so in summer, when they require large quantities for stocking up.
Technical Efficiency (Savings)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the total saving in coal consumed by the nationalised electricity and gas industries, due to improved technical efficiency, since vesting date in each case.
Approximately 12 and 2 million tons respectively.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this saving is a tremendous tribute to the soundness of the policy of the nationalisation of those industries?
No, Sir. I think that that would not really be the case because, after all, even more sensational savings of fuel were made under private enterprise between the wars.
Allocation And Price Control
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he has taken since publication of the Ridley Report in September, 1952, to ascertain the annual tonnage of house-coal supplies frustrated by the rationing scheme, and thus revise the Ridley estimate of 4 million tons of frustrated supplies annually; whether he is aware that this figure has now evaporated on account of eight price increases of house coal since September, 1952, aggregating more than 25s. per ton average; and whether he will now end house-coal rationing, while retaining price control.
Taking all factors into account, I would not at present alter the estimate of some 3 to 4 million tons that I gave my hon. Friend on 54th April.
Is it not a fact that house coal has risen in price on no fewer than 19 occasions since nationalisation, and is now nearly double the price it was in 1947? As house coal is rationing itself by price, is it really necessary to continue this extensive and cumbrous machinery of allocation for house coal?
I need hardly say that I, and I am sure the House as a whole, would be only too glad if we could get rid of it, but while my hon. Friend has mentioned certain factors, he will, I am sure, also give due weight to the fact that wider this Government the average income of people is rising and that there has been a very large increase in the housing programme, and consequently a very large increase in the demand for coal.
In relation to the increase in the price of coal on numerous occasions since the advent of nationalisation, can the Minister say how many times the price of coal has risen since the advent of private enterprise in the mining industry?
25 and 26.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) if he will take steps to see that all delivery lorries selling 1 cwt. or less than 2 cwt. bear a notice board indicating the grade and price of coal;(2) if he will now amend his Regulations so that delivery slips of coal for quantities over 2 cwt. must bear the amount, grade and price.
Adoption of these suggestions would involve extra costs and there may be other practical difficulties, but I will consider both suggestions in consultation with the trade organisations concerned.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) the Minister said:
Is he aware that we are finding that that is not so? These specimens of delivery notes which I hold in my hand contain no reference whatever either to grade or to price; they are merely weight delivery notes."Retail merchants are already required to supply delivery notes specifying the price and the grade of the coal when deliveries exceed two owt."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1954; Vol. 5127, c. 1692.]
If the hon. Lady will let me have the delivery notes I will have them examined.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will assess the calorific value of coal for domestic consumption in the 12 months 1953–54 compared with 1952–53.
I regret that these figures are not available.
Will my right hon. Friend kindly see that they are made available? May I ask why it has taken so long—indeed, so long that we have had, on the North-East coast, a strike of coal merchants against the quality of coal delivered to them—for him to examine the running of this very inefficient machine?
The matter to which my hon. Friend refers is the responsibility of the Coal Board. As I said earlier, I have inquired into it, and I hope it will be avoided and that in future there will be more rapid working of the machinery for altering the grading of coal.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will accelerate the supply of large house coal to the Amersham area of Buckinghamshire in order that householders may be enabled to obtain summer delivery of their supplies.
I will make inquiries and will write to my hon. Friend.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the lower summer prices are payable for orders placed before 1st June, even though delivery may not have been before that time?
There is a Question about that later on the Order Paper.
Prices (Discount Benefits)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in cases where household coal was ordered before 12th June but not delivered by that date, the purchaser is entitled, under his regulations, to the discount of 10s. per ton.
No, but there are arrangements operated by the trade in the South of England under which, subject to certain conditions, merchants are prepared to meet orders placed between 3rd May and 31st August at the price ruling at the date of order.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer will be received with some satisfaction? Is he further aware that a large number of merchants are telling people who order coal that they will not get the benefit of this discount, which was applicable until 12th June? Will he notify the coal merchants that this discount is payable if the coal was ordered in the time specified and that it will not be lost because the coal was not delivered in time?
No, Sir, because, as I pointed out, this is an arrangement which was brought about by the trade.
Fuel And Power
Fuel Advisory Company
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if the transfer of his Department's fuel efficiency service to the new Fuel Advisory Company is now completed; and what arrangements he has made to check future progress by the company in promoting the more efficient utilisation of fuel in industry.
Yes, Sir. An officer of my Department has been appointed an observer and both at administrative and technical levels we are in close touch with the service.
In view of the importance to the country of saving coal, would the Minister tell us whether the House will from time to time be kept informed of the progress made by this company, especially as he knows that these arrangements are very experimental, and some of us doubt their efficiency altogether?
Yes, I can tell the House that since the new service has been set up there has been an increase in the flow of inquiries from industry.
Departmental Chief Scientist Officer (Appointment)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether it is proposed to fill the vacancy to be caused by the resignation of the Chief Scientific Officer to his Department; and at what salary.
Yes, Sir £3,250 per annum.
In view of the scientific knowledge and equipment available to the Coal Board, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is necessary to continue this office?
I think it is very important, because the scientific work of the Chief Scientist embraces matters far outside the field of the Coal Board itself. It relates, also, to the utilisation of coal.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that since this appointment was made in 1946 it has proved extremely valuable over the whole field of scientific research on matters relating to fuel and power? Would he repudiate the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that the work concerns only coal and indicate that it relates to coal gas, electricity, gas turbines and much other scientific equipment?
Does the Minister understand that when it comes to a question of gas I pay homage to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)?
Israel-Jordan Frontier (Security Council Discussion)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in the discussions at the Security Council in regard to Israel-Jordan frontier tension: and if he will make a statement.
The Security Council debate on this matter was adjourned on 12th May. There is nothing I can usefully say about this matter at the present time, except to deny the reports that Her Majesty's Government have proposed the replacement of General Bennike.
In view of the provision of Article 2 of our 1948 Treaty with Transjordan, will my right hon. and learned Friend try to persuade that Govemnment to make full use of the machinery of the United Nations to settle their dispute with Israel?
I think it would be a very good thing if both sides would make full use of the existing machinery.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Israel, especially in relation to Jordan, is most anxious to sit down with the Arabs to settle their dispute? In view of the fact that hostilities were brought to an end partly at our request and at the request of the United Nations, is not there an obligation upon the United Nations, including ourselves, the United States and France, to persuade the Arabs to sit down round the table to settle the dispute: especially having regard to the fact that the so-called armistice has been going on for between five and six years?
Frankly I think that the difficulty about this problem is that the more that is said in public about it the more difficult it is to get the two sides together. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are seeking to do our best.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that very little has been said in public about this so far as this House is concerned, and that the so-called armistice has been going on for five or six years? In these somewhat unprecedented conditions, is it not time that a peace was made? Shall we do any good by evading the issue?
We are trying to reduce the temperature and to get both sides into a condition where progress could be made. If I am asked to comment on the activities of one side with which I may not agree, in fairness I have to point out where I think that the other side have not been behaving as they should. I do not think that the public interest is advanced by that course of action.
Buraimi Oasis (Situation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the situation at the Buraimi Oasis.
Her Majesty's Government still think that arbitration is the best method of settling the Buraimi question. The gap between the Saudi Government and ourselves regarding the terms on which the whole dispute may be submitted to arbitration is not very wide; and my right hon. Friend hopes very shortly to put to the Saudi Government further proposals which we hope will result in closing it altogether.
Atlantic Charter (Articles 4 And 5)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he and his representatives at international conferences will continue to press for the necessity of putting into operation articles 4 and 5 of the Atlantic Charter.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the importance of impressing upon Members of our own Government, and the representatives of all countries, the importance of the immediate application of Articles 4 and 5 of the Atlantic Charter, giving to all peoples free access to the goods of all the world? If goods cannot cross frontiers, armies will. The application of these Articles would be a most important contribution to world peace.
The answer to that question is the same as to the principal Question—"Yes, Sir."
Albania (British Claim)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he now proposes to take to recover the compensation of about £800,000 awarded by the International Court for the murder of British sailors in the Corfu Channel, in view of the fact that the Italian claim on the £800,000 worth of Albanian gold was held to be outside the jurisdiction of the court unless the Albanian Government agreed to the hearing.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he proposes to take to recover the compensation awarded against Albania in the Corfu Channel incident, in view of the decision of the International Court of Justice that it was not competent to adjudicate on Italy's claim in the Albania gold case.
We shall now have to consider the consequences of the judgment of the International Court of Justice, in collaboration with the French and United States Governments.
Sudan Defence Force (British Officers)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the decision of the Sudan Government to terminate the contracts of the British officers serving with the Sudan Defence Force.
Yes, Sir. In the Agreement of 12th February, 1953, it was agreed that the Sudanisation of the Sudan Defence Force should be completed. That was one of the tasks of the Sudanisation Committee set up by that Agreement. The Committee recommended last March that the Sudan Defence Force should be Sudanised as soon as possible. The Sudanese Council of Ministers endorsed this recommendation and the Governor-General gave his assent in April.It is in pursuance of this decision that the Sudanese Minister of Defence has now given three months' notice, dating from 8th June of the termination of the services of the British officers in the Sudan Defence Force. This is the last stage in a process which has been going on for a considerable time. There are now only about 24 officers, as I understand, affected by this decision, all of them seconded from the British Army. Major-General Scoones, the Kaid, Commanding Officer of the Sudan Defence Force, will be handing over his command to Lewa Ahmed Pasha Mohamed, a Sudanese officer with a distinguished record who is at present Deputy Kaid. He was one of the Sudanese representatives who attended the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen last year. I am sure that all Members will join with me in sending to the Kaid designate and to all officers and men of the Sudan Defence force our good wishes. There are many in this country who have happy memories of service during the last war either in the Sudan Defence Force or alongside it in the field. We remember with gratitude that the Sudanese Defence Force fought gallantly for the Allied cause in Ethiopia and in the Western desert. They were wholeheartedly with us from the beginning to the end, in bad times as well as good. The Sudanese people are with good reason proud of the record of this Force. At the same time, I should like to pay a warm tribute to the band of British officers whose devoted service has done so much to build up this Sudanese National Army since it was established as a separate force 30 years ago.
While wholly endorsing my right hon. and learned Friend's valedictory remarks to the officers of the Sudan Defence Force, may I ask whether he is satisfied that this decision will not weaken the Governor's power to maintain law and order in the event of a disturbance, or his having to deal with a situation of emergency during the period of transition?
The Sudan Defence Force has a fine corps of Sudanese officers to draw from and I have no reason to believe that they will not obey any orders that they may be given.
Does the Sudanisation of the Sudan Defence Force mean the posting of Egyptian officers to the Sudan again?
No, under no circumstances.
Britain And China (Diplomatic Missions)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is yet in a position to make a statement regarding the date on which the exchange of diplomatic missions between Her Majesty's Government and the People's Government of China becomes operative.
Germany (Defence Organisation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under what conditions the West German Government is entitled to create a defence organisation; how far the consent of the occupying Powers is required; and how far action has already been taken by the German Government.
Pending the entry into force of the Bonn Conventions and the European Defence Community Treaty, the Occupation Statute for Germany reserves to the occupying Powers all matters concerned with "disarmament and demilitarisation." The West German Government cannot, therefore, at present create a defence organisation without the consent of the occupying Powers.In order to enable the German Federal Government to prepare for the entry into force of the European Defence Community Treaty the occupying Powers have agreed to German representation on the European Defence Community Interim Committee and to the Federal Government undertaking preliminary defence plans and studies.
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that reply, but can he say whether any preliminary measures have been taken by the Bonn Government in preparation for the, defence organisation? Have they not created a Ministry of Defence and are they not raising forces in readiness either for entry into E.D.C. or N.A.T.O.?
The only force that has been raised is the frontier police force, armed with light weapons and amounting to 10,000 men, which was authorised by the occupying Powers in 1951. Apart from that, I understand that the Federal Government are keeping within the terms of the authorisation by undertaking preliminary defence plans and studies.
Would my right hon. and learned Friend consider laying a White Paper which would describe how far West Germany is now rearming in the sense of police requirements and frontier troops?
I will consider that suggestion. It might be a very good thing if the House could see exactly the difference between frontier forces in East Germany and in West Germany.
Is the Minister aware that it would be a very good thing if we had a White Paper and that I hope he will consider that suggestion? If he publishes one, will he give all the available information on the preliminary steps that some believe have now been taken in preparation for a defence organisation?
I will certainly consider that. It would be well if the House bad the fullest information.
In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in answer to the previous supplementary question, if he does publish a White Paper will he produce fuller information about the greater degree, the substantial degree, of rearmament that has taken place in Eastern Germany?
And see that the figures are accurate?
Saudi Arabia (Shipping Agreement)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he has taken to protect British interests against the Agreement reached between Mr. Aristotle Onassis and Saudi Arabia.
An Arabic text of the Agreement was published in Jedda on 7th June. The terms of the Agreement are now being carefully studied.
Is the Minister aware that that does not add very much to the answer that he gave to a similar Question a month ago? Does the Agreement prohibit or show flag discrimination against Great Britain which will prevent British tankers carrying oil and might involve us in the loss of approximately £10 million in invisible exports?
The hon. Member says that this is the same answer as was given a month ago, but since then the Agreement has been published and we have been able to get it translated, although we have not yet given it the fullest study that it deserves. There are certainly some disquieting features about the Agreement and the attention of the Saudi Arabian Government has already been drawn to some of these by Her Majesty's representative.
British Ships (High Seas Search)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been received from the United States Government with regard to the searching of British ships on the high seas.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make clear in reply to the United States of America that it is for the British Government, and no one else, to control movements of British ships on the high seas.
Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington was asked by the United States Government whether, in the event of a British ship being suspected of carrying arms to Guatemala, and if time and circumstances did not permit the British authorities to take the necessary action to prevent the arms reaching Guatemala, Her Majesty's Government would authorise the United States Navy to intercept and detain the vessel.The position of Her Majesty's Government in this matter has been made quite clear in the statement issued on 18th June, the full text of which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT. We cannot recognise the power of other countries to interfere with British shipping on the high seas in time of peace except in accordance with recognised provisions of international law.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that the actions of successive British Governments in refusing to license the export of armaments to Guatemala has not been dictated by the political complexion of the Government of that country, but has been taken purely in defence of British interests?
I think it has been quite clear that the decision not to export arms to Guatemala in particular has been borne out by events.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the hostility that this proposal aroused is enhanced by the complaint that American citizens are apparently shipping arms? Will he not serve the cause of world peace best if he notifies the American Government that if they stop shipping arms—if this complaint is well founded—we may have a peaceful settlement in that area?
I think that the position of Her Majesty's Government has been properly stated in the statement issued and in the answer that I have given.
Would the Minister not agree that now that it appears that Guatemala is subject to attack from another State, the Government ought to reconsider their ban on the supply of arms?
I do not think it is proved that Guatemala is the subject of attack from another State.
Is it not a fact that in the past the British Government have often asserted the right to stop gunrunning by ships not flying the British flag?
My hon. Friend will notice that in the answer which I gave I used the words "except in accordance with recognised provisions of international law."
Is there no limitation on the export of arms to Nicaragua and Honduras? If not, is not this a pure discrimination because of the land nationalisation proposals which have taken place and which happen to be very necessary in this backward Republic?
I should like to have notice about the question of the export of arms to Nicaragua and Honduras. If it is a question of attributing these matters to the land nationalisation policy in Guatemala, I would point out that the ban began in 1948.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is able to tell the House that the ban on the shipment of arms to Guatemala has taken place since 1948. cannot he also tell the House whether there was a similar ban on the shipment of arms to Nicaragua, Honduras and other States in Latin-America?
The Question on the Order Paper relates to representations received from the United States Government with regard to the searching of British ships on the high seas. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on the point which he has raised, I will certainly try to answer it.
Following is the statement:
Her Majesty's Government strongly disapprove of the sale of arms to Guatemala and for several years have been refusing licences for the export of any arms to that country. We will, of course, continue this refusal.
In fact, very few British ships sail to Guatemalan ports, but the British Government will co-operate to the fullest extent possible under British and international law in seeking to prevent British ships from carrying arms to Guatemala.
There is no general power of search on the high seas in peace-time. The British Government, however, have certain powers under Defence Regulations and otherwise to detain or requisition in certain circumstances. The Commander-in-Chief, West Indies, is being instructed to take appropriate action where practicable if the carriage of arms by British ships should he suspected.
Ministry Of Food
Sausages (Meat Content)
asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement following his consultations with the trade on the problem of sausage content: and what proposals he has to make for protecting the public in this respect.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) on 15th June.
Since I do not know what that answer was, might I ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is a fact that representatives of the proprietary brands of sausages, the Grocers' Federation and the Co-operative movement came down firmly in favour of the reimposition of the meat content standard as it used to be?
Two views on the subject were expressed, and in respect of one of those views I have no reason to dissent from what the hon. Member has said, but I suggest that he studies the statement in full.
asked the Minister of Food what persons or organisations outside his Department he consulted before fixing the retail price of milk; the present price; and if he will take off all controls and allow the law of supply and demand to operate freely.
The present maximum price of milk is 6d. per pint. The views of the trade were well known, and no special consultation was necessary when this price was fixed. With so large a consumer subsidy involved price controls are necessary.
Does not the Minister know, and will he not proclaim, that an attempt to overcome the law of supply and demand must end in disaster? Will he ensure that his policy does not attempt the impossible, and will he tell the trade so?
I will not comment on my hon. Friend's generalities, but the removal of price control would result in a substantial increase in the price of milk.
Is it not true that the Treasury fixes the price of milk?
asked the Minister of Food whether he will revoke the Milk (Great Britain) Order, 1954, in order to avoid an increase in the price of milk on 1st August.
Will the hon. Gentleman look at this matter again and consult the Milk Marketing Board about it, because it has expressed its view? Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that it would create universal satisfaction if the Government refrained from increasing the price of milk in August?
I am aware of the views of the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that not to proceed with the August change to 7d. per pint would result in an increase in the subsidy from the present level of £90 million per year to £120 million.
What is the average cost of production per pint throughout the year of the non-welfare milk, which my hon. Friend said is sold at 6d. per pint?
If my hon. Friend will put a Question on the Order Paper, I will give him the details.
asked the Minister of Food the current weekly rate of the subsidy on eggs for the latest available date; and the amount of the subsidy so far incurred during the present financial year.
For the week ended 19th June about £600,000: for the financial year to date £10.5 million.
Re-Commissioned Mills (Future)
asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement on the future of Re-Commissioned Mills Limited.
In the crop year 1954–55, Re-Commissioned Mills Ltd will provide a drying and storage service for wheat and coarse grain at commercial rates. The long-term policy is still being considered.
In view of the importance of this service, will the Parliamentary Secretary expedite consideration of the long-term policy?
I realise the importance of an early decision, but many interests are involved and consultations are still proceeding.
Imported Butter (Prices)
asked the Minister of Food what prices he has agreed to pay for butter under existing bulk-purchase agreements with New Zealand, Australia and Denmark, respectively.
Three hundred and twenty-six shillings, 326s., and 345s. per cwt. f.o.b. respectively for the contract year 1953–54.
Will the Minister give the figures in shillings per lb., so that the housewives know what he is talking about. Will he also explain what is happening to the difference between the price that he is paying and the very much higher price—about 4s. per lb.—which the housewives have to pay?
My right hon. and gallant Friend has made clear the policy of following the market price. If that were not done, considerable profits might go to people who do not deserve them.
They are getting 6d. per lb. now.
Germ War Tests (Bahamas)
asked the Minister of Supply whether he will make a statement regarding the germ war tests in which H.M.S. "Lomond" has taken part.
Yes, Sir. The trials have gone off satisfactorily. The weather has been excellent and the arrangements worked smoothly. Valuable information has been obtained. The activities planned for this season are now concluded and the party are due to arrive back shortly.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman most warmly for that answer, but can he possibly give us some information to the effect that our money has been well spent?
I do not think that I should add anything to the full statement which I have already made.
Is the growth of the germs affected by the weather?
As the various factors were also available off the Isle of Wight, why were not the experiments conducted off the Isle of Wight instead of off the Bahamas?
Perhaps the hon. Member would suggest that we should have conducted the experiments off the coast of Ayrshire.
Legal Aid And Advice (County Court Cases)
asked the Attorney-General whether he is yet in a position to make a statement regarding the implementation of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, in view of the need to provide legal assistance for tenants who wish to contest claims for increased rent in the county courts.
Is not the Attorney-General aware of the importance of ensuring that people are able to take to the county court cases in relation to the rent increases which will be coming into force in a month or two's time? Cannot he carry out the undertaking which has been given that this matter will be capable of being proceeded with in the county court?
I am fully aware of the importance of the matter. The undertaking which was given was that it would be dealt with as soon as possible.
The Attorney-General keeps on saying that this is being considered. Is it not now a most urgent matter, in view of the Landlord and Tenant Bill, that the legal aid scheme should be extended to cover this matter? May we know when we are to have a statement about it?
If I knew when it was to be dealt with I should tell the hon. Member.
Innkeepers' Liability (Report)
asked the Attorney-General whether Her Majesty's Government has now considered the Report of the Law Reform Committee upon the law relating to the liability of innkeepers; and when he proposes to introduce a Bill to carry out the proposals contained in it.
The Government have not yet had an opportunity of considering this Report.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell me when consideration of the Report is likely to be concluded?
My hon. Friend may not be aware that the Report was made only on 20th May.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman is looking into the liability of innkeepers, will he also consider their obligations to the public?
Ussr Manganese (Imports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade the quantity and value of manganese imported from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the past two years.
In the 12 months, June, 1953, to May, 1954, 93,000 tons of manganese ore valued at £1,688,000 were imported from the Soviet Union. There were no imports from the Soviet Union in the previous 12 months.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but does he not think that the time has come for a complete revision of the list of strategic goods the export of which to Eastern Europe and China is banned? Is he not aware that manganese is one of the most strategic materials that we could import?
The hon. Gentleman will know that manganese ore is not on our embargo list, and he will also know that in consultation with other co-operating countries, we are engaged in negotiations with a view to substantially shortening the present list of embargoed items.
Pedestrian Crossing Regulations
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what steps he has taken to acquaint the public and with the new pedestrian-crossings Regulations which come into effect on 1st July next.
We have arranged for special advertisements to appear in the national and provincial newspapers at the beginning of July; I am planning to make a short broadcast on the evening of 30th June; and arrangements have been made for a short film to be shown on television. In addition, leaflets explaining the regulations have been produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and are being given a wide circulation.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary see that all his advertising publicity is completed before the operative date, namely, 1st July, because, as he well knows, people are in a state of confusion about the entire situation?
Yes, Sir, we are beginning it before the operative date and, if necessary, we shall continue it afterwards.