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Commons Chamber

Volume 529: debated on Monday 28 June 1954

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House Of Commons

Monday, 28th June, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

City Of London (Various Powers) Bill

Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.

Birmingham Corporation Bill Lords

Read a Second time, and committed.

Manchester Corporation Bill Lords

To be read a Second time Tomorrow.

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Newport (Isle Of Wight)) Bill

Dunoon Burgh Order Confirmation Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions


Cross-Channel Cable


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the present position with regard to the experimental arrangements for linking the electric power system of Great Britain with Western Europe by means of a cross-Channel power cable; and what consideration has been given by his Department to the construction of a tunnel under the Channel for this purpose which would serve to carry the necessary cables as well as provide a pilot tunnel for the road and rail tunnel which could be built as soon as Her Majesty's Government's objections thereto are overcome.

The proposals which I approved, and to which I referred in my statement of 6th July last year, were for experiments in regard to a scheme for laying submarine cables and transmitting electric power across the Channel. No proposals have been made to me for the construction of a tunnel. Cable-laying trials were conducted off the English coast last summer, and the corresponding sea trials by the French authorities are now in progress at Boulogne.

Will the Minister consider discussing the matter with his colleagues, as a move of that sort might be of considerable use in bringing about understandings between the Western European Powers and ourselves, and particularly, also, in respect to reducing the cost of generating power?

I had before me a concrete proposal from the British Electricity Authority which had been agreed with Électricité de France, and I think we ought to press on with our own practical scheme.

Nuclear Energy Generation


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is satisfied that good co-operation has been arranged between the Ministries affected, the British Electricity Authority, the Atomic Energy Authority and manufacturers so that the generation of electricity can be obtained from nuclear energy as soon as possible and contracts undertaken for plant for other countries.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the nature and method of the co-operation to be established between the British Electricity Authority and the proposed Atomic Energy Authority.

Co-operation is already close and continuous in all matters affecting the generation of electricity. As stated in another place, the Atomic Energy Authority will not itself generate electricity except as a by-product of the manufacture of fissile material or as a product of experimental power stations, nor will it compete with the electricity boards, but will offer them any electricity generated that may be surplus to its own requirements.

Having been in this since the beginning, and seen the very fine work carried out by our scientists, engineers and manufacturers, has not the time arrived when the Minister should see that there is maximum co-operation between all concerned so that we can keep in the forefront of world development in this matter?

In co-operation with other Ministers, I have already secured that. Indeed, there is a special programme of collaboration between the Atomic Energy Department and the British Electricity Authority, and also private manufacturers.

Will the Minister consider pressing upon his colleagues the possibility of common appointments to the boards of these corporations?

Naturally, the appointments are made after consultation between Ministers.

District Heating Schemes


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number and location of new district heating schemes planned in conjunction with electric power developments.

Will the right hon. Gentleman discuss with his colleagues the possibility of providing special financial assistance beyond the resources of the electricity industry for the development of these schemes?

No. I think it is much better that this matter should proceed as at present, on the basis of proper commercial negotiation.

Sub-Stations (Safety Precautions)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will, within the powers conferred upon him by Section 5 of the Electricity Act, 1947, give a general direction to the central authority to ensure that greater safety precautions are to be taken in sub-stations.

Is the Minister aware that the machinery of joint consultation, no matter what the relevant Section may be, in this matter and in other matters appears to be breaking down to the great dissatisfaction of those concerned? Is he also aware that recommendations arising out of an accident some time ago at Bishopsgate that nearly resulted in serious loss of life have been made and accepted but not implemented by those responsible? Will he do something about it?

The Act passed by the previous Government clearly lays down in Section 53 that this is one of those matters that should be dealt with by joint consultation. I should not like to assume simply on what the hon. Gentleman has said that that consultation has broken down.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had any complaints from either side about the lack of consultation in respect of that Section?


Efficient Use


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what recent steps have been taken or are intended by his Department to save coal, improve its use and prevent air pollution.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, in view of the coal situation, what action he is taking to reduce waste by industrial users and to avert any undue hardship among the public or dislocation in industrial production during the forthcoming winter.

The National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service has been set up at my request. Under the new Government loan scheme I have approved 51 schemes amounting to £339,000. I have approved substantial capital investment by the fuel industries which will enable them to save further large tonnages of coal.

While welcoming the steps taken by the Minister, may I ask whether, in view of our economic difficulties, the time has not come for him to put a great drive behind the saving in the use of coal in the national interest? In view of the contribution being made by the miners and by the Coal Board, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is his duty to initiate this great drive in order to forestall the difficulties that may arise?

The hon. Gentleman will, perhaps, bear in mind that very massive savings are made every year by the fuel and power industries and by great private industries, such as the steel industry. With regard to industrial fuel efficiency, that is more a matter of proceeding in detail, and it was for that very purpose that this Fuel Efficiency Service was set up.

Can the Minister say what will be the anticipated saving on the schemes which he has so far approved?

The right hon. Gentleman has said that he has authorised over 300 schemes. Is he able to say how much fuel he anticipates will be saved?

Is the Minister aware that according to the Anglo-American Productivity Team it is estimated that the efforts of 10,000 miners in the industry are going to waste through lack of proper organisation, and so on? Does he not think that this is having a retarding effect on the industry?

Industrial And Domestic Supplies


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much of the proposed coal imports will be destined for the domestic market to alleviate the house-coal shortage.

To save a long supplementary, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he and, indeed, everybody would read the leading article on page 6 of yesterday's "Sunday Times"? It would do them all good.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will now make a statement upon house-coal supply prospects for next winter, in view of increased coal imports.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what further steps he is taking to expedite summer stocking of coal, in view of the threatened shortage of house coal in the coming winter.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a general statement about the coal and fuel prospects for next winter; and what particular steps industry and householders should take in preparation for the winter months.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what advice he is giving to industry, particularly the textile industry, about stocking coal for the forthcoming winter

Consumers generally should buy and stock as much coal as they can during the rest of the summer. So far, I am glad to say that distributed stocks are somewhat higher than last year. But the purpose of my answers last week was to emphasise the danger that will arise in the winter if consumption continues to rise as at present and production remains broadly static. The Government and the coal industry as a whole fully appreciate the gravity of this prospect.

As I announced last week, the Government have already decided to import more coal, but the fundamental need is for greater production, and this has been stressed by the N.C.B. and in the recent report of the Executive of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Can my right hon. Friend give an asurance that the Coal Board, in the course of the next nine months, will deliver to merchants all over the country a total quantity of coal which will enable the merchants to honour their obligations in supplying the maximum allocation to householders, namely, 34 cwt. in the South of England and 50 cwt. in the North of England?

It depends upon the level of production which Members in all quarters of the House and, indeed, people throughout the country wish to see increased.

Does the Minister anticipate that all the steps that he has now planned will be as effective as the precautions which he took in the middle of last summer?

That is the reason why the Government have taken their decision with regard to importation, and it is because of the gravity of the prospects for the winter that we hope that these steps will result in our getting through next winter with the same success that we had last winter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that domestic consumers are stocking up in the summer as they should?

So far, they have taken about 300,000 tons more than in the same period last summer.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the difficulty of certain people in stocking up in the summer? Will he do what he can to see that people who cannot stock up in the summer can get their coal in the winter?

Yes. That is one of the reasons for encouraging those who can get it now to do so. We recognise that not all people can stock up in the summer, but it eases the problem of serving those who cannot stock up in the summer if those who can stock up in the summer do so.

Is the Minister aware that in view of the difficulties which we are likely to face this coming winter, the N.U.M. are doing all they can to get the men to work on Saturdays during the summer months to meet the situation?

Yes, and I think that this House and the country appreciate the firm and frank leadership of the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers. It is a fact that, no doubt following the lead that has been given, some districts and some coalfields have decided to work every Saturday this year.

Could the Minister give an estimate of the amount of coal which he expects to import this summer?

No, Sir. I would not like to give such an estimate. As I explained last week, it is undesirable to do so because it might prejudice the best buying of the coal at the best price by the Coal Board.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power his plans to ensure adequate supplies of coal and coke for industrial and domestic users in Wales and Monmouthshire next winter.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of the concern that is felt in Exeter, and other parts of the West Country, at the possibility of a breakdown in the supplies of coal next winter; and if he will ensure that adequate reserves in the area are built up to prevent this.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will give an assurance that there will be adequate stocks of fuel available in Heston and Isleworth this coming winter.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will take steps to ensure that coal merchants in the London area receive enough house coal to enable them to meet in full demands for the full ration of 34 cwt. for the year which includes the winter months.

The National Coal Board assures me that steps will be taken, in co-operation with the organisations representing the merchants, to ensure that all districts receive their fair share of the total supplies available next winter.

May I ask the Minister whether the problem in South Wales is very different, in scale or severity, from what it is in other parts of the country and, secondly, whether South Wales ports will have an opportunity of importing some of the coal which he proposes to buy from abroad?



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many grades of coal are recognised by his Department; and on what criteria grading is determined.

Seven, for house coal. The main criteria are size, ash content, rate of burning and calorific value.

Is the category of any coal at any given colliery determined by a committee, or how exactly is it arranged?

It is determined by the Coal Board, in consultation with the merchants, with whom they have special arrangements.



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what contribution he expects can be made by domestic coke supplies to the anticipated shortage of house coal next winter; and if he will give an assurance that coke will continue unrationed at least until 31st March, 1955.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he is now taking to encourage sales of coke for domestic use, in view of the risk of a shortage of house coal next winter.

As the House is aware, I have removed restrictions on the sale of coke and do not contemplate their re-imposition. So far, this summer sales of gas coke to the smaller consumer show an increase of 17 per cent. over last year, and coke supplies should materially assist the fuel position next winter.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that many millions of modern solid fuel-burning appliances which have been installed in the last five years were designed to burn smokeless fuel, notably coke, and that many of these appliances are still being used to burn inferior grades of coal? Will he make it clear that he has removed all the restrictions on coke to encourage the use of smokeless fuel and to economise overall by the best use of these appliances?

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me yet another opportunity to point out that these improved appliances reach their maximum efficiency when burning coke and that coke is the best of the smokeless fuels now freely available to the public.

Is the Minister aware that the best way of encouraging domestic consumers to stock coke during the summer is to have a price concession similar to that for house coal? Is my right hon. Friend also aware that anything he can do to encourage the Gas Council and other distributors to give such a concession and thus relieve the pressure on their own storage space during the summer will be most helpful?

Why does the Minister put up with this fuss every year about the shortage of coal and other fuels? Now that the Government have got rid of food rationing, why not allow the free importation of coal in the same way as we buy anything else abroad when there is a shortage?

Until more progress is made in our economic affairs, we cannot lightly consider a considerable importation of coal in view of the demand for foreign exchange.

Miners (Absenteeism)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the current rate of total absenteeism in the mines compared with 1938.

12·40 per cent.; the figure of 6·44 per cent. for 1938 is not strictly comparable.

Has the Minister's attention been called to a report issued at the end of last week by the National Union of Mineworkers, pointing out the dangers to its own members and to our economy if present conditions are not changed, and that the only solution is to increase the production of coal without increasing production costs if the country is to survive? To import coal is sheer lunacy.

Would it not be fairer to break down that figure into voluntary and involuntary absenteeism?

There are several views upon that matter. Some of the best judges take the view that it would be unwise to make that distinction.

Will the Minister try to arrange a system of pairing between the absentee miners and the would-be absentees behind him?



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many times, and by how much, he has authorised increases in tae price of house coal since nationalisation; and the aggregate of such increases per ton, average.

Since nationalisation there have been 11 national increases, which together with adjustments for local distribution costs amount to some 44s. a ton on average.

Is it not clear to the Minister that all these Questions and answers today prove the disastrous effects of nationalisation?

Is the Minister aware that one of the largest increases which took place was on account of the miners having a two weeks' holiday, which has been due to them for many years and which they have only just received?


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power under what conditions coal merchants in the South of England are prepared to meet orders placed between 3rd May and 31st August at the price ruling at the date of order; and whether he will seek to secure the operation of a similar scheme in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The trade's conditions are that householders should not make special stipulations about date of delivery or precise quality, and that the coal is delivered by 31st October. There is no need for such arrangements in the North, where the same summer prices apply to all deliveries made between 3rd May and 31st October.

Mines (Capital Investment)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the total of capital investment in the coal mines since nationalisation.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much capital was invested in the coal mines in each of the last three years: and how far these sums fell short of the maximum required by the National Coal Board.

The Government have placed no limit on the National Coal Board's capital expenditure, which, in the last three years, has been £26·6, £38 and £52·4 million respectively. The total since nationalisation is about £205 million up to the end of 1953.

Is the Minister satisfied with the increased production in relation to this expenditure?

One must remember—as my noble Friend well knows—that in the case of coal mining, which is an extractive industry, capital expenditure, in new sinkings or major reconstructions, for example, very often takes some seven years to become effective.

Is it not also true that for the last seven years about £250 million worth of investment has been required to keep coal production where it is?

It is true that in an extractive industry, unlike ordinary manufacturing industries, a considerable amount of extra capacity must be brought in by capital investment to take the place of that part which has gone out of production and is no longer there. I hope the House will find it satisfactory that although the Coal Board has been rather slow in getting on with this investment in recent years the figure has increased so much that it has doubled in the last three years, and I am hoping that this year, for the first time, it will be actually up to the figure given in the "Plan for Coal."

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the coal mines are now getting enough capital in proportion to the coal consuming nationalised industries, especially the electricity industry, which, until recently, has been getting about four times as much capital to spend as the coal mines?

Yes. The difficulty in the coal mining industry is that although there has been no restriction on capital it has not had enough experts to be able to spend it properly. There is a very great difference between the coal mining industry, in which between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. of the total cost of the product is labour, and the electricity industry, where from 60 per cent, to 70 per cent. of the cost of the article comes from capital expenditure.

Is not the country now paying dearly for the coal policy pursued before 1939, the consequence of which was that everybody drifted away from the industry? Is it not true that since nationalisation one of the major jobs of the Coal Board has been to attract new engineers and planners to the industry?

What the right hon. Gentleman has said somewhat under-estimates the part played by the war. It will be remembered, as a matter of history, that the great drift away from the mines took place after 1940, when our Continental export markets were lost.

My right hon. Friend has not fully understood my supplementary question. I asked whether or not he was satisfied with the production of coal in relation to expenditure since nationalisation.

I do not think I could give a short answer to that question. Many matters have to be considered, and I would not be prepared to give an answer offhand.

Miners' Concessionary Supplies


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the total of miners' free and concessionary coal distributed in the 12 months ending at the latest convenient date; and what percentage of it comprised, respectively, first, second and third grades of house-coal.

Is the Minister aware that there have been complaints from members of the mining industry themselves about the quality of concessionary coal? Does not this underline the fact that the type of coal now being mined, and the figures of improved coal production, are not as satisfactory as they appear on paper?

It is obvious that we should all like an improvement, but the amount and quality of this coal varies according to an infinite number of agreements, which are part of wage and service agreements in the industry. I know that there have been complaints.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that many of the best mines in our coalfields are now worked out, because of which we have to accept an inferior quality of coal? Is he further aware that the screening plants in the coal industry are capable of dealing with only 40 per cent. of the coal which is now produced? Will he speed up capital investment, including that in relation to screening plants, in order to get better quality coal?

I agree that many of the best mines have been worked out and that there has been a very considerable increase in the amount of screening done.

Purchases (Permitted Quantities)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the maximum permitted quantity of coal which a householder may purchase in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Truro, in a year; and how much it would cost each such householder, assuming both purchases were of group four coal of the same quality.

50 and 34 cwts. respectively; 242s. 1d. and 242s. 11d. respectively, assuming that full advantage of summer prices was taken in each case.

Do I understand that the total cost is about the same at both places although the cost per ton at Newcastle is less?

Exports And Imports


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent exports of British coal are to be restricted this year, in view of his decision to increase imports of coal.

21 and 22.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) how much coal is expected to be exported from this country over the next 12 months; and its expected price per ton;

(2) how much coal is expected to be imported over the next 12 months; and at what price per ton.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the coal exports this year compare with the anticipated coal imports.

Coal exports so far this year amount approximately to 6½ million tons, at an average f.o.b. price of about £4 9s. a ton, and imports to about 400,000 tons. I expect that in 1954 exports will be about 14 million tons as in 1953. About imports, I have nothing to add to the replies I gave on 21st June.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a price system which enables coal mined in this country to be sold in this country at an average price that is probably too low, enables it to be sold abroad at a different price, and results in the necessity of importing coal at a still higher price is not really very satisfactory?

I could not follow my hon. Friend's supplementary question in every detail, but I would say that it is by no means only the price policy which is the reason why we are having to import coal this year.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is time that the Coal Board got off average costing and on to marginal costing, and that until a step in that direction is taken there will be no solution of the fuel problem in this country?

One would have to face that that would mean a very considerable increase in the price of coal in this country.

Merchants, Southern England (Supplies)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much of the household coal ration was, in fact, supplied to merchants in the South of England during the last coal winter; to what extent this was less than the ration per head; and what was the cause of the deficiency.

14·8 cwt. per registered customer. The maximum quantity consumers were allowed to purchase varied between 10 and 24 cwt. according to the amount taken during the previous summer.

Open-Cast Production


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much open-cast coal is going to the domestic market.

How much of this coal is washed before delivery? If a large proportion is unwashed may that not be the reason for the increasing dissatisfaction of householders with the quality of the product they are sold as coal?

I could not say what proportion is washed, but it is true that it does appear in the three lowest groups of house coal.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the figure he has given amounts to 1,560,000 tons of open-cast coal going to domestic consumers this year, and as a very high percentage of this coal is unwashed is it not a little unfair to blame the pits for the amount of stone in the household coal, which is largely due to this wretched open-cast method of working?

I agree that it is very unfortunate that we have to resort to open-cast production, but there is no doubt that it makes a great contribution to our fuel supplies. It is more important, of course, for industrial than for household supplies, and we are bound to continue it for many years.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of reducing the percentage of open-cast coal being mixed with the deep-mined coal? Because of the increased percentage of open-cast mixed with deep-mined coal the miners are being brought into disrepute, as people blame them for the stone and slate in their coal, which really comes from the open-cast working.

If we could get a substantial increase of production of deep-mined coal no doubt we could make arrangements of that kind.

Would my right hon. Friend say what the policy of open-cast production costs in ruination of good agricultural land?

Fuel And Power

Capital Allocation


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he can make a statement on capital allocation; and whether he has obtained an assurance that the required capital will be available for the long-term needs of all forms of power and fuel.

I have no reason to doubt that it will be possible to meet these needs.

Is the Minister aware that the question of capital allocation in the Report of the Electricity Board causes some concern? In view of the great contribution being made to Britain's economic development by the Coal Board, the Electricity Board and the Gas Council, does the Minister not think that it should be his responsibility to see that these organisations have a long-term capital allocation so that they may plan a long time ahead?

Yes. There will be an opportunity for discussing that matter when the Gas and Electricity (Borrowing Powers) Bill comes before the House shortly.

In view of the low price—[HON. MEMBERS: "Low?"]—of British coal, is there any reason why the price should not be put up so that the Coal Board could provide out of their own earnings sufficient money to finance their own capital investment programme?

Would the Minister, for the benefit of some of his colleagues, say whether it is a fact that British coal is now the cheapest in Europe?

Oil Fuel (Supplies)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view, of the coal shortage pending, he will encourage substitution of oil fuel for coal in appropriate industrial and domestic circumstances by giving an undertaking that adequate supplies of oil fuel will be available when plants are converted for oil burning, in view of the need to restore confidence following the alternations in Government policy in 1947–48, which sponsored conversion of coal plants to oil and then back to coal, thus causing heavy losses to all concerned.

Yes, Sir. Such substitution is in the, national interest, and to encourage it is part of the Government's fuel policy. The use of oil in place of coal has been increasing in recent years and in 1953 provided a coal equivalent saving of about 13 million tons compared with 10 million tons in 1950.

The increase is likely to continue over the next few years and the oil companies have told me that they expect to be able to meet such increasing demands; but those considering a new or larger use of oil would, of course, be wise to discuss their plans first with prospective suppliers.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement—in such unequivocal tones—in favour of conversion from coal to oil, will do a great deal to restore the loss of confidence which has been felt in recent years, as a result of the alternations in policy of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)?

Departmental Advisers (Nuclear Science)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if his Departmental advisers now include those versed in the problems and possibilities of nuclear science.




asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on, the situation in Guatemala and the safeguarding of British lives and property.

Since my right hon. Friend reported to the House on 21st June both sides have continued to make conflicting claims and counter claims. The insurgents claim to be advancing on Guatemala City, and Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in Guatemala City has confirmed the report that President Arbenz of Guatemala has resigned and handed over to Colonel Diaz, the Chief of the Armed Forces.

According to Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires all British subjects in Guatemala are still safe. Damage to British property was caused when the Shell Company installation outside Guatemala City was machine-gunned by an unidentified aircraft on 22nd June.

In addition, the master of the British ship "Spring Fjord" reported to Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires on 27th June that his ship was bombed by an unidentified aeroplane and set on fire off the Guatemalan port of San Josée. The crew are safe. Communications with San Josée. are interrupted but Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires is endeavouring to obtain further details.

Her Majesty's representatives in neighbouring countries have also been instructed to make urgent inquiries of the Governments concerned in an endeavour to establish the identity of the attacking aircraft.

In view of these incidents, is it not becoming increasingly evident that this matter concerns nations other than those in Central and South America, and is it not extremely unfortunate, therefore, that Mr. Lodge, chairman of the Security Council, should have made a statement warning off the United Nations from interfering in this situation? Can we take it that it is the policy of the Government that the report that may be received from the fact-finding commission going into Guatemala and the neighbouring countries shall be considered officially by the Security Council?

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any information about the nationality of the aircraft which, it was reported recently, had attacked some of the main cities of Guatemala? Is there any indication at all where it came from?

Ought we not to make representations to the United Nations Security Council, therefore, that it ought to make the necessary inquiries to establish the facts?

There is another Question on the Paper about the Security Council, and I will deal with that in answering it.

Why did the British representatives abstain from the most recent vote that the matter should be referred to the Security Council?

There is another Question that we shall come to in a moment about the Security Council.

Security Council Meeting


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what attitude has been adopted by Her Majesty's representative on the Security Council to the renewed request of Guatemala for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to consider the invasion of Guatemala.

A meeting of the Security Council to consider Guatemala's further request was held on Friday, 25th June. A proposal to accept the Guatemalan complaint on the Agenda was defeated by five votes to four, the United Kingdom and France abstaining. The attitude of Her Majesty's Government, which was made clear at the meeting by the United Kingdom delegate, is that the Security Council cannot divest itself of responsibility.

However, a competent regional organisation within the meaning of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter exists—namely, the Organisation of American States. The Inter-American Peace Committee, which is a part of that body, is sending, with the agreement of the Guatemalan Government, a fact-finding committee to the area. This committee will inform the Security Council as soon as possible of its conclusions and the Council, by allowing the regional organisation to take action does not, therefore, surrender its ultimate authority.

Can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government accept the proposition laid down by the United States Administration that incidents in the American hemisphere are not the concern of the United Nations? Would he answer that quite clearly? As for the fact-finding body, is it not the case that Guatemala has not been in agreement with the nations which compose this fact-finding commission? Will he make certain that the inquiries are carried out with all possible speed and that, if necessary, the United Nations itself sends a competent body to investigate?

Her Majesty's Government are in favour of adhering to the Charter of the United Nations. If the hon. Member will study Chapter VIII he will see that there is a clear place in the Charter for these regional organisations and that each case has to be taken upon its merits.

Answering the second part of the supplementary question, I think there is widespread misunderstanding about the composition of the peace committee. The representatives are Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and the United States. That does not mean that all of them are necessarily hostile to the Guatemalan Government.

Is not Chapter VIII of the Charter subject to Article 35, under which Guatemala had an absolute right to have its dispute heard by the Security Council? Is it not a fact that under Article 39 the Security Council had an absolute duty to determine whether there was a threat of invasion? Is it not most regrettable that, instead of voting with New Zealand, the United Kingdom delegate compromised the principles for which we fought in Korea by his regrettable abstention?

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman at all. I think the Charter as a whole has so to be operated as to produce satisfactory results in the cause of peace. In this case, in view of the circumstances—and the right hon. Gentleman is as well aware as I am of some of the difficulties in regard to Latin American countries—I think it is quite right, in the first instance, to try this peace committee, always provided that it has to report back to the Security Council.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that Latin American disputes are always more easily settled in the first place within the hemisphere and that the intervention of external organisations in these matters always has the result of making them worse? Was not the intervention of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) most ill-judged?

Is it the Minister's point that successful aggression can sometimes be in the best interests of the cause of peace?

My point is that each case has to be dealt with in such a way as to produce peace as quickly as possible. Our view is that this peace committee of the Organisation of the American States is the best way to find the facts as quickly as possible.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend say what are the terms of reference of the fact-finding commission and what action will be consequent upon its conclusions?

Is it not also essential that anybody who brings his case before the United Nations should feel that he is getting justice?

That is certainly true and I think that in this case the Guatemalan Government will get justice.

What will be the attitude of Her Majesty's Government or the United States Government if an Asian country at Geneva now takes the line that incidents in Asia should be settled by the Asian people?

Disarmament Sub Committee (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the work of the Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Commission.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement with regard to the present position of the United Nations Disarmament Conference.

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

Foreign Office Staff (Increase)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the number of civil servants in his Department increased from 5,529 to 5,593 between 1st January and 1st April, 1954.

The increase is due to the seasonal increase in the work of the Passport Office which each year necessitates the engagement of temporary staff at this time.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend say whether that means that the staff has been reduced since the end of the first quarter?

The time for the discharge of this temporary staff will be later in the year.


Occupation Costs


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what agreement has been reached with the West German Government on the subject of occupation costs after 1st July next, when the present arrangements expire.

If the hon. and gallant Member will repeat his Question in a few days' time I hope to be able to give him a definite answer.

Does that mean that between 1st July and a few days' time the position is left absolutely open, that no arangements have been made and that a vacuum has been created as a result of the Government's indecision?

I should be grateful if the hon. and gallant Member would wait for a few days.

Prisoners, Spandau (Underground Traffic)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has completed his investigations, arising from the evidence and documents submitted to him by the hon. Member for West Ham, North, of the underground traffic carried on by the prisoners of Spandau; and whether he will make a statement.

The investigations are still proceeding, but I hope to communicate with the hon. Member shortly.

Ministry Of Food

Non-Welfare Milk


asked the Minister of Food the average annual cost of production of non-welfare milk per pint; and the average sale price.

The average cost of milk as delivered to the consumer is about 7½d. a pint. The retail price for ordinary and pasteurised milk during 1954–55 will average about 6¾d. per pint.

What social justice is there for selling milk which is non-welfare milk at ¾d. a pint less than the cost of production to a nation prepared to pay hundreds of millions of pounds for beer at three times its cost of production—and to pay for it gladly.

I can only say that the different fluids are consumed by different people of different ages for different purposes.

Livestock Sales (Staff)


asked the Minister of Food the number of officials in his Department who will be employed in connection with the sales of livestock.

On a point of order. Can anything be done to help private Members, Sir? I put a Question on eggs on the Order Paper to the Ministry of Food, but it has been transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. Previously, the Ministry of Food answered similar Questions. We ought to stop this reprehensible and evasive action.

It has frequently been pointed out that the transference of Questions is entirely a matter for the Departments. It is impossible for me or the learned Clerk to know exactly what the bounds of Ministerial responsibility are.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary think that this considerable staff will be adequate?

West Indian Produce (Marketing)


asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement on the marketing arrangements regarding the procurement of foodstuffs from British West Indian territories.

The only foodstuffs bought by the Department from the British West Indies are sugar and concentrated orange juice. The sugar is marketed through the trade, the orange juice distributed under the Welfare Foods Scheme.

In view of the anxiety expressed recently, which the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, will he look at this matter sympathetically and see that the vital food-producing industries in the West Indies are adequately safeguarded?

I appreciate the point which the hon. Member has in mind, particularly in relation to bananas and citrus fruit, and I assure him that the representations of the West Indian delegates have been very sympathetically examined.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any progress was made during the recent discussions with the West Indian fruit delegation on the question of citrus fruit?

Yes. What was explained and what was promised to the West Indian delegation, as recently described to the House by my right hon. and gallant Friend, relieved their anxieties in relation to citrus fruit.

Skimmed Milk (Disposal)


asked the Minister of Food if he will give an estimate of the quantity of surplus skimmed milk disposed of as waste in the years 1952, 1953 and to the nearest convenient date in 1954.

Would it not be a far better policy, instead of wasting this valuable food by throwing it down disused mineshafts, to give it free of cost to milk distributors, who would, I think, gladly bottle it and offer it for sale to consumers?

That is a difficult problem. The skimmed milk in surplus, which amounts to one-third of 1 per cent. of the total supply of skimmed milk, is in the hands of the manufacturers. They do their utmost in time of flush to convert it into powder or dispose of it for food on farms, but this is a difficult problem which recurs whenever there is a milk flush of substantial size.

Is my hon. Friend aware that very good skimmed milk cheese can be made—Dorset Blue Viney? If the manufacture of that cheese was encouraged I am sure that it would have a large sale among people who are afraid of getting too fat, because it contains no fat.

I am sure that manufacturers are aware of the possibilities of converting this milk into cheese, but I note my hon. Friend's point.

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter and see whether there is not a possible way of putting this waste milk to good use?

I am as concerned as the hon. Gentleman is about this, but this is a very difficult problem for a short period of each year.

Butter (Price)


asked the Minister of Food whether in view of the fact that butter purchased by his Department at 2s. 11d. per lb. is retailed at 3s. 10d. per lb., or more, he will reimpose price control.

No, Sir 2s. 11d. per 1b. is the f.o.b. price for Southern Dominions butter. To the average f.o.b cost must be added the cost of freight, duty, handling expenses, overheads and costs of distribution before a true comparison with the retail price can be made.

Having regard to all the normal and legitimate costs of transport and distribution, is it not quite obvious that the Ministry of Food is getting far too great a share of the swag, and that out of this 11d. margin, the Minister is taking 5d. or 6d. a 1b.?

I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that his guess is quite wrong, and that the modest profit, which may at any time turn into a loss, is not of the size that he guesses.

Does the Minister appreciate the significance of this Question, which states that butter is sold at 3s. 10d. per lb., although that fact was hotly denied by the party opposite last week?

House Of Commons Catering (Empire Wines)


asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as chairman of the Kitchen Committee, why no Empire wines are separately listed on the wine list in the Members' Dining Room; and why only one Empire wine is listed under the heading various.


asked the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, as chairman of the Kitchen Committee, if he will take steps to increase the variety of Empire wines available in the Dining Rooms.

I will submit the points raised by the two hon. Members to my Committee at the earliest opportunity.

Would my hon. Friend consider having an Empire Wines Week in the Members' Dining Room and putting Empire wines on the wine list, because I feel that hon. Members are not aware of the high quality of many of our Empire wines and that many are not aware that good, dry South African sherry is 6d. a glass cheaper than Spanish sherry?

Would the hon. Gentleman arrange to have an Empire Wines week, supplying the wines free to Members who cannot afford them?

Would the hon. Gentleman send a copy of the wine list prices to the general secretary of the old-age pensioners' association in his constituency whose members would be very interested in it?

Is my hon. Friend aware that anyone who has tasted Empire wines is more than willing to pay for them?

Would the chairman of the Kitchen Committee tell me where the Dining Room is, because I have never been in it?

I have made careful note of all the points raised by hon. Members in various parts of the House and I can assure them that they will be very carefully considered. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton), who is a member of the Committee, does not know where the Dining Room is.

Ministry Of Supply

Aircraft Noise (Research)


asked the Minister of Supply what progress has been made in research by his Department into the silencing of aircraft engines.


asked the Minister of Supply if he will give an estimate of the cost during the current year of his research into the problem of reduction of noise of aircraft; and what progress has so far been made.

The main research effort into the problem of reducing aircraft noise is being undertaken by the Ministry of Supply. However, important work in this field is also being done by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, by the universities and by aircraft firms acting on their own initiative.

In order, therefore, to give a complete picture, I propose, with permission, to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a detailed statement covering the progress of research on this subject as a whole.

In view of the widespread personal hardship and loss of value on private houses which is caused in all parts of the country nowadays through aircraft noise, will my right hon. Friend make full use of the powers which he has taken under the Statutory Instrument of 4th June, in order to ensure that no possible precaution is neglected?

I think that the powers to which my hon. Friend refers are powers taken by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, and perhaps he would raise that point on another occasion. I well recognise that aircraft noise is becoming an increasingly serious and urgent social problem to which a solution has to be found—and found quickly—and I warmly welcome the stimulus which has been given by public interest and public criticism.

While agreeing about the magnitude of this social problem, may I ask whether the Minister is quite satisfied that the scale of research matches the problem? Can he say what is the total sum of money being spent upon it, because. although there is a good deal of work, many of us are not certain that the scale of research is sufficiently wide?

The figures are contained in a statement which I am circulating. I agree with the hon. Member, and I should like to see more spent, and more effort go into this, but, in fact, the expenditure has been more than doubled in the last year, compared with the previous year, and I have no doubt that it will go on increasing.

In view of the satisfactory nature of that reply, and the importance of the subject, I beg to give notice that I will take an early opportunity of raising it on the Adjournment.

Following is the statement:

The problem of reducing aircraft noise is being tackled from a number of different angles. The main effort has been concentrated on jet engines.

A leading firm of engine-makers have been given a substantial contract by the Ministry of Supply to carry out an extensive programme of studies and experiments. This includes a detailed analysis of the noise of a jet engine operated with various alternative types of nozzle on an open air test bed. The nozzles which are being tested include toothed, corrugated, convergent-divergent and fishtail types. Promising results have been obtained from toothed and corrugated nozzles and further studies are being made to decide the optimum shapes for these types.

Since it is known that the by-pass engine causes less noise than the conventional jet engine, a special study of the by-pass engine in relation to the noise problem is being carried out, with the object of determining the relationship between noise, jet velocity and temperature. The effect on noise of injecting water into the jet stream is also being investigated.

Two other engine companies are working under Ministry of Supply contract on the development of silencers for piston engines used in helicopters. Some of the types of silencers which are being tested are showing encouraging results, Work is now proceeding on the task of lightening the weight of these silencers and of reducing their adverse effect upon engine power.

The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation is experimenting with the construction of a brick baffle wall at London Airport. This wall is shaped to accommodate the forward part of a large civil aircraft, with the object of reducing noise in certain directions when engines are being run on the ground. However, results are not yet entirely satisfactory and the investigation is being continued.

After obtaining competitive tenders from appropriate firms, the Ministry of Supply has placed a contract for the design of two types of mobile ground mufflers. One of these is to be suitable for single-engined aircraft and the other for multi-engined aircraft. The first muffler of the single-engine type is expected to be ready for experimental testing in the course of the next few months.

One firm of aircraft manufacturers has been experimenting with portable screens which are placed round the aircraft while the engine is being run up. Some reduction of noise has been obtained and further screens are on order. In addition, four other aircraft manufacturers are employing a firm of consulting engineers to advise them on the use of specially designed pens for muffling the sound of aircraft whose engines have to undergo running tests on the ground. Another firm, on its own initiative, are building a pair of mobile ground mufflers to its own design.

In addition, a series of tests are being carried out by the College of Aeronautics under contract from the Ministry of Supply. These tests include:

  • (a) The measurement of thrust and noise levels of engines with nozzles fitted with noise reduction devices of various designs.
  • (b) Measurement of the sound field from small jets at supersonic speeds, combined with Schlieren investigations.
  • (c) Measurement of the turbulence structure in the mixing region at the jet exit, both at low and high speeds.
  • Southampton University, with some financial support from the Ministry of Supply, is carrying out valuable laboratory work with the object of obtaining a fuller understanding of the nature of jet flow. Their programme of research includes:

  • (a) Development of a shock tube for recording the interaction between an eddy and a shock wave.
  • (b) Development of an optical eddy-counting technique, including a focusing device.
  • (c) Measurement, by means of the hot wire technique, of turbulence, velocity and temperature distribution along the jet.
  • (d) Examination of noise from jets of non-circular shape.
  • (e) Study of noise emitted from special jet extensions, with annular corrugated orifices, designed to reduce low frequency noise.
  • Manchester and Edinburgh Universities are also undertaking important fundamental research on the origin and nature of jet noise.

    Expenditure by the Ministry of Supply on this problem during the current financial year is estimated at about £100,000, as compared with £40,000 last year. In addition, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation expects to spend about £20,000 on the study of this problem in the present year. Figures of expenditure by firms and Universities on their own account are not available,

    Aircraft Manufacturing Licences (Foreign Countries)


    asked the Minister of Supply what steps are being taken to ensure that no further British aircraft are made abroad under licence involving patents held or financed by Her Majesty's Government while there is uncertainty about employment prospects among workers formerly engaged on Comet manufacture.

    None, Sir. A general refusal to grant manufacturing licences to foreign countries would be likely to reduce rather than increase employment here.

    As there is some concern among the workers in the industry who have been working on the Comet, can the Minister make a statement which would make it clear to them just what employment advantages there are in having about 600 British aircraft being made at present in Holland and Switzerland under licence?

    We would all prefer to see British aircraft made in Britain rather than in other countries, but I think we may be quite sure that the companies concerned do not grant manufacturing licences for their aircraft to be made abroad unless they are fairly well satisfied that by refusing them they would not obtain orders to make the aircraft in this country.

    Is the Minister aware that on 3rd May he gave an assurance that so far as Short Bros. and Harland, Ltd., of Belfast are concerned he was trying to find alternative contracts to the Comet contracts? Is he now in a position to make any further statement about this?

    Is it not a fact that some wings of aircraft destined for the Royal Air Force are now being manufactured in Italy and brought back to this country for assembly? While that may have been all right at one period, have not the circumstances changed?

    Staff (Increase)


    asked the Minister of Supply why the number of civil servants in his Department increased from 32,798 to 33,045 between 1st January and 1st April, 1954.

    This slight increase in staff is accounted for mainly by the expansion of effort on research and development and by increased production in the Royal ordnance factories. The increase would have been larger had it not been offset to some extent by a further decrease in the staffs of the administrative branches.

    Will my right hon. Friend say why he calls an increase of 247 people in three months a slight increase? Is he aware that if he wishes to reduce noise on this side of the House, he had better stop increasing the size of his Department?

    I called it slight because I think it is about 0·8 of 1 per cent., which I usually regard as slight. I have pointed out that the reason why there has been an increase in staff is because there has been an increase in research and development, which I regard as satisfactory. There has also been an increase in production in the Royal ordnance factories and certain other factories which has necessitated increased staff. Some of this staff are foremen and supervisors who count as civil servants. This has been accompanied by a reduction in our administrative staff of the Ministry of Supply, which I also regard as satisfactory, and I make no apology for the position.

    Disarmament Sub-Committee (Report)

    At the end of Questions—

    With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Questions Nos. 38 and 43.

    The Sub-Committee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission held 19 meetings in London between 13th May and 22nd June. Its report is in the Library. Her Majesty's Government sought a comprehensive agreement providing for the total prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction, together with major reductions in armed forces and other armaments, the whole to be carried out under effective international control.

    The establishment of such effective international control is an essential condition of any disarmament plan. The control organ must be given rights and powers adequate to enable it to detect evasions. It must also be able to take immediate action to stop the continuance of such evasions. If its authority is challenged by the Government of the country concerned, there must be a rapid procedure, not subject to the veto, for enforcement. Above all, if there is to be any reality in the prohibitions or reductions, the officers of the control organ must be in position, equipped with adequate facilities, at the moment when the prohibitions and reductions begin to take effect.

    In accordance with these views, we sought to achieve agreement in the Sub-Committee. I would draw the attention of the House particularly to the Anglo-French proposals tabled on 11th June. These were new proposals for the phasing of a world disarmament programme.

    We suggested that during the first phase, a preliminary phase, the control organ should be established and put in position. During the second phase, half the agreed reductions in conventional armaments and the prohibition on the manufacture of nuclear weapons would take effect. During the third phase, the remainder of the reductions in conventional armaments, and the total elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, would take effect. The timing of the three phases would be regulated by the international control organ itself.

    Of course, conditions precedent to such a plan are, first, agreement on the weapons to be prohibited and the extent of the reductions in other weapons, and, second, agreement upon the functions and powers of the international control organ. We sought to discuss these matters, and certain papers were tabled.

    The Anglo-French proposals were an attempt to meet in important respects Soviet objections to previous plans. The attitude of the Soviet Government, however, remained quite rigid throughout. The Soviet representative took the line that it was a waste of time to discuss detailed proposals unless we first accepted the Soviet proposal that there should be an immediate and unsupervised prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons. This was to be followed by agreement on the total prohibition of nuclear weapons and on reductions by one-third in the armed forces and armaments of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the prohibition and reductions to come into effect simultaneously with the establishment of an international control organ.

    It was clear that by the word "establishment" the Soviet representative meant the commencement of a process of negotiating the functions and powers of the control organ. He also made it quite clear that he was not prepared for the control organ to be established and to be in position capable of functioning before the prohibitions and reductions came into effect.

    That is a position with regard to disarmament which we cannot accept. We earnestly seek disarmament but it must be under a properly supervised and enforced system in which States can be confident that other States are also carrying out their obligations.

    I do not think our discussions were a waste of time. We had a full and frank exchange of views. We must now continue the discussions in the Disarmament Commission. Hard though the task may be, we must never give up our attempts to achieve a disarmament plan acceptable to both sides.

    In expressing the great disappointment that many of us feel at the failure of the conference to achieve agreement, may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not agree that the discussions appear to indicate no fundamental difference in principle between the views of the Russian Government and those of the Western Governments but rather on the important question of machinery? Will not the Minister of State undertake that, as soon as the international atmosphere improves—if there be political settlements in the Far East—every attempt will be made by Her Majesty's Government to bring about further meetings and efforts by this important Sub-Committee in the direction of securing a disarmament agreement?

    We will certainly carry on, both in the Disarmament Commission and in the General Assembly, and, if need be, by further meetings of this Sub-Committee. It is true that both sides profess to want the total prohibition of nuclear weapons, but there is a fundamental difference on the very important point of the practical arrangements of safeguarding such prohibition in production.

    While I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the principles which, apparently, he laid down are principles which would be approved of by the whole House, would he not say that this controversy as to the application of the principle is one which might well be discussed between the heads of the big three States? Quite obviously, no reduction in tension in the world will be achieved until we can get some sort of scheme for reducing the weight of armaments.

    There is so much technical detail about this matter and the discussions take such a very long time that I am not sure that the question of machinery is very suitable for discussion between heads of States. It cannot be done without going into a great deal of detail. I assure the hon. Member, however, that we certainly will not give up the task of trying to narrow the difference.