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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1954

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British Army

Ta Annual Training (Workers' Pay)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, in a number of industries, the workmen's holiday with pay entitlement is computed on the number of weeks' full-time employment, and that in some industries the 15 days of army emergency call-up is excluded from this computation; and what action he proposes to take.

Employers generally are most helpful over arrangements for men doing their annual training. I do know, however, that some employers are not giving credits under their holidays with pay schemes for the period of annual training, and I would take this opportunity of expressing the hope that they will find their way to do so.

I understood that the right hon. Gentleman or his colleague, the Minister of Labour, was having consultations with employers in this matter. Can he say whether they have reached a result? It is certainly the position that people going for annual training are now being victimised. Surely something can be done about it?

Territorial Army morale depends upon the good will both of the men who serve and their employers. Without that good will it would never work. I think that much the best thing at this stage is for me to appeal to those employers who are not counting annual training in this respect to reconsider their attitude in this matter.

If the right hon. Gentleman is going to inquire into the matter, does not he think that in view of the small amount involved it would pay the Army to reimburse these people and thus remove this cause of resentment?

Fainting On Parade

2.

asked the Secretary of State for War in what units of the British Army it is an offence to faint on parade; under what Section of the Army Act men are so charged; how many men have been so charged in the last five years; and what penalties are prescribed for those found guilty.

It is not an offence under the Army Act to faint on parade. The other parts of the Question do not, therefore, arise.

Can the Minister say why, in the Brigade of Guards, fainting on parade is automatically attributed to idleness and is subject to punishment? Can he also say whether it is not a fact that the Commanding Officer of the Coldstream Guards recently issued summary punishment to an officer in this respect, and whether this action was not illegal under Section 46 of the Army Act?

No, Sir. It is not automatic that a man receives punishment if he faints on parade. Each case is gone into. There are various ways of preparing oneself for a parade, and a bad way is to have an "all night sitting" the night before.

In considering the question of fainting on parade, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the very large Government majority yesterday, which showed clearly that hon. Members opposite were fainting in their Parliamentary duties?

If a man who has had an "all night sitting" is susceptible to fainting, cannot he arrange to pair with somebody?

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my supplementary question? Is it not a fact that the Commanding Officer of the Guards recently issued a summary punishment to a junior officer? Is not this specifically forbidden under Sections 46 and 47 of the Army Act? Will the Minister inquire into the situation and take disciplinary action against the Commanding Officer concerned?

No, Sir, it is not forbidden. It is my experience that the best way to run an army is to trust the commanding officer to run his unit, and take action if he does not do so properly.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Regular Recruitment

3.

asked the Secretary of State for War his estimate of the additional recruitment to the Regular Army which has resulted to the latest date from the improvements in pay introduced on 1st April; and if he is satisfied with this response.

The pay improvements were designed mainly to persuade the right type of man already in the Army to prolong his service. It is too early properly to assess their effect, but the numbers who have prolonged their service since 1st April seem to show an encouraging improvement which, I hope, will be maintained.

Is the Secretary of State aware that confidence in the administration of the Army, which is one thing that will attract more recruits, is not enhanced by his refusing to carry out the rules and regulations laid down by Parliament? Will he say whether he thinks now, on the basis of his experience, that the improvements in pay will bring him a sufficient number of recruits to enable him to reduce National Service?

I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question that the main object of the recent pay changes was to induce men to prolong their service and to remain in the Army, and, so far as one can see in the three months since they have been receiving the new pay, the results are encouraging.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the difficulty in the carrying out of his recruiting policy is due as much as to anything else to the fact that the penalties under the Army Act apply only to private soldiers and not to officers in the Brigade of Guards?

I would point out to the hon. Member that he is quite wrong in supposing that the particular incident to which he referred was in breach of the Army Act.

National Service Training (Boredom)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the published report of the conference between representatives of his Department, the Air Ministry and the British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education on the subject of National Service; and what steps he will take to abolish boredom and time-wasting in the Army.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War what courses have been arranged for unit officers on the best methods of counteracting boredom and stimulating the interest of National Service men.

I have read this report with great interest. It is part of the job of every officer to keep his men interested and contented, and I think that all officers well know this. This responsibility is stressed throughout an officer's training both at Sandhurst or his officer cadet school, and later in his unit.

As the Secretary of State has wasted so much time in the House denying that there was time wasting in the Army will he now recognise, from this report, that all these authorities agree that there is time wasting in the Army? Will he, therefore, pay more attention to a question in which he himself says he is greatly interested and substitute civilians for soldiers in clerical and such-like duties? That has not been fully done, according to the reports he has been given.

I dealt with that matter last week at Question time. I have never denied that there are inevitably certain duties in the Army that are not exciting for National Service men We should like to get rid of them, but without an enormous increase in expenditure and a much larger number of civilians we cannot do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the trouble does not arise from routine duties but from the fact that large numbers of National Service men are not fully and usefully occupied during their training? Will he have a look at the critical remarks by a High Court judge last week at Shrewsbury Assizes, who drew attention to the demoralising effects of boredom and to the need for the Secretary of State and other authorities concerned to accept some responsibility in this matter?

The hon. and gallant Member may be an expert about boredom. If he will send me particulars I shall be interested to look into the matter, but I would assure him that the object of the vast majority of officers is to see that their men are not bored.

Does my right hon. Friend know that no boredom in the Army is greater than that which I feel when I listen to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton)?

Helicopters

5.

asked the Secretary of State for War on what date his discussions with the Secretary of State for Air on the Army's need for helicopters commenced; how many meetings have taken place since 1st May, 1954; when the next one will be held; and whether he will make a statement on the progress made.

I have nothing at present to add to my reply to the hon. Member's Question last Tuesday.

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman give information when he is asked instead of trying to blackleg comedians? I asked him last week a Question about what progress had been made, and he answered in one word:

"Progress."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd June, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 209.]
I would ask him, if he cannot give any more information than that, whether he thinks it has not been proved that the Army needs helicopters as much as lorries?

It is impossible for me to make a statement on a subject that is under discussion. The whole object of the discussion is to reach agreement and finality. Until that is reached any statement is futile.

Requisitioned Properties

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will direct that prior consideration be given to the original owner, or owners, whenever a sale is contemplated.

Six hundred and eighty-three properties are held under requisition under Defence Regulation 51. When no longer required, they are returned to the owners. It is the aim to do this as soon as possible.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these figures are fantastically large? Does he also agree that it seems to be the natural tendency of bureaucracy to keep what it has and that the recent Crichel Down case suggests that an investigation on the lines indicated would be beneficial and, in any case, could do no harm?

Considering the amount of requisitioning during the war I do not think that these figures are large. They have fallen from over 1,000 in August last year to 683, and our object is to get rid of these requisitions altogether as soon as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman said that land is handed back to the original owners. Is that done regardless of agricultural considerations?

I am answering only for my Department. So far as we are concerned, requisitioned land is always handed back to its owners.

As the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has suggested that the fault lies with what he describes as bureaucracy will the right hon. Gentleman repudiate any allegation of any sort or kind against his staff? He must accept responsibility.

I am answering only for my Department, and I repeat that it is my object, and I am confident it is my staff's object, to get rid of these requisitioned properties as quickly as we can.

Incident, Vienna

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement as to the facts of the occurrence in Vienna on the night of 1st June when two British soldiers were involved in shootings which caused death and injury to Viennese civilians and injury to a British military policeman.

Her Majesty's Ambassador, as soon as he heard of this most distressing incident, expressed his deep regret to the Austrian Chancellor and his sympathy with the victims and their families. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State wrote in similar terms to the Austrian Ambassador.

The two soldiers concerned have been charged, and a summary of evidence is to be taken, so that I cannot say more at present.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the grave harm done to the good name of this country by such shocking events as this in a friendly country like Austria, and will he give the House an assurance that generous compensation will be made to the innocent, injured people?

I regret this incident as much as anybody else. The last part of the supplementary question is far more a matter for the Foreign Secretary than for me, but I know that the matter is now being taken up.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is able to say whether it is the Government's intention to make adequate compensation for a serious offence of this kind.

I think I can go as far as this, that it is the Government's intention that we should behave towards the Austrian Government in a way commensurate with the matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, apart from very isolated instances, the conduct of our troops has been exceptionally good, and that they have, in fact, been good ambassadors?

I am very proud to agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. I think that throughout the world the conduct of British troops, often in very trying conditions, has been exceptionally good.

Raoc Tradesmen (Pay Increases)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether a decision has yet been made with regard to the application for the payment of ability pay to skilled tradesmen in Royal Army Ordnance Corps establishments on a level equal to that paid to skilled men in equivalent trades in Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers establishments.

The necessary review has just been completed and some increases will shortly be authorised.

Holiday Towns (Key Workers' Ta Training)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps his Department takes to cause least inconvenience to the holiday trade in towns, such as Brighton, which live by that trade, by precluding key workmen there from being attached to units having their annual training at the peak of the holiday season.

We try to avoid inconvenience to the men themselves and their employers when men are called up for training as individuals, or in fixing the dates of unit camps. Territorial Army training necessarily takes place throughout the summer months, and some inconvenience to the holiday trade is, I am afraid, unavoidable.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the last thing I want to do is to press him on this as a general question, but that the hotel and restaurant business in Brighton is a vital key industry there, and that the hoteliers ask that their key people should not be called up during the peak holiday period? As to the particular case of which he is aware, would my right hon. Friend be willing to see the owner of the hotel in question to discuss with me and with him the very real problem?

My trouble in dealing with a particular point sympathetically is to avoid general repercussions. I am always willing to see anybody who wants to see me, and I will do that, but I cannot extend to my hon. Friend any hope in this matter.

If I were to transfer this man to the Army Emergency Reserve, I should be going against the whole principle of the Territorial Army, which is that if a man is in a certain area he belongs to a Territorial Army unit, whereas if he lives a long way from the Territorial Army centres, he is in the Army Emergency Reserve. One thing which is essential for a successful camp is some good cooks.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in addition to their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden, whom we are glad to see here, more overseas visitors are expected this year than ever before? Is it not the job of the Secretary of State for War to consult the Board of Trade and make satisfactory arrangements to look after the tourist traffic?

It is also my job to see that the Army is in a state to resist unwelcome visitors to these shores.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this regiment, which also had its camp at the same time last year, there are two more cooks this year and fewer people, I gather, who will be in the camp, so that things are better this year rather than worse?

The total number of cooks available to this camp is exactly one-third of the unit's establishment for cooks.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps his Department take, when the British Travel and Holidays Association back a recommendation for the deferment of calling-up for Territorial annual training, to find somebody else to take the place of the man so called up.

Representations by this association and similar bodies are always taken fully into account when decisions of this kind are taken.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Jewish Ex-Service Men's Association in Brighton has put this case to him only today, in addition to the British Travel and Holidays Association? Can anything be done to find someone else to take this man's place, because kosher cooks are not easy to find in small Jewish hotels?

I was not aware of that representation until I met my hon. Friend just before Question time, but when I receive the Association's representation I will, of course, look into it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as long as we have to have a Reserve Army, its training must come before business considerations?

Jewish Territorials (Kosher Cook)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many members of the Jewish faith will be attending the annual camp of the 411th (Sussex) Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army, over the August Bank holiday week; and why an expert kosher cook is required.

If he is not required as an expert kosher cook, and he is required in his hotel where, for religious purposes, they must have kosher cooks—because the hotel is expected to provide this sort of catering—and where there is no one else to do the job, cannot my right hon. Friend try to find somebody else?

I should be only too glad to help in this case, but the fact remains that a unit must go to camp as a unit. Once we start transferring and excusing people, then the unit, instead of going as a unit, goes as half a unit, with a lot of people having changed their dates, and the whole point of the camp fails.

Would the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that a cook of this nature is very difficult to replace, particularly at that time of the year, and that the cook is required for the purpose of providing the type of food which is eaten on religious grounds? Will he see whether he can do something about this? Will he try to transfer the date or to make other arrangements in order to help with this problem because the hotel cannot get anyone for the job, especially for a fortnight or some such period as that?

I am aware of the difficulties of the hotel management and I sympathise with them in this problem, but it is something which comes to employers through National Service and it often comes to individuals as well. I have my duty and it is that, apart from quite exceptional cases, the arrangements have to run.

Trade And Commerce

East-West Trade

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement following the further consideration given to relaxations of restrictions on East-West trade.

My right hon. Friend regrets that he is not yet in a position to make a statement.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that for a long time there has been widespread dissatisfaction and concern over this matter? Although he says he cannot yet make a statement, would it not be helpful if a statement were made as to how much longer it will be before these relaxations are introduced?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are just as anxious as he is that these discussions shall be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. A statement will be made at the earliest moment.

Is the Minister aware that his answer has been the same for many weeks? Can he give an assurance that a statement will be made before the Summer Recess?

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said at the end of March that he expected that these discussions might last two or three months. The three months are not yet quite up. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not unprecedented for international discussions to last a little longer than expected.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give an assurance that progress is not being held up by Her Majesty's Government.

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will issue an up-to-date list of the goods and articles for the export of which to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and to the Republic of China, respectively, licences may and may not be granted by his Department.

As regards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) on 3rd June.

The China embargo list was published in the OFFICIAL REPORT on 19th June, 1951. There have been minor changes and traders should continue to consult the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Supply, as may be appropriate, about particular goods. A list which gives a general indication of the kinds of goods for which normally an export licence for China would be granted was published in the Board of Trade Journal of 12th June last.

Will the Minister say whether it is the policy of his Department to expand these lists or not? Does he realise that the promotion of international trade with these countries may have an important, beneficial and far-reaching effect on world peace?

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman knows the Government's policy on this matter. So far as the embargo list in relation to the Soviet bloc goes, we are engaged in discussions with a view to reducing the size of the list. There are no discussions proceeding and no proposals to change the present list in relation to China.

Fungicide Imports

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will allow the import of S.R.406 into this country for the control of fungus diseases.

I understand that S.R.406 is available only from the United States of America and that it has not yet been proved in large-scale trials to be an effective fungicide under United Kingdom conditions. In order however, to enable its efficiency to be tested, import licences for limited quantities have been issued during the last 18 months and the Board of Trade are prepared to consider further applications for licences to import the material for experimental purposes.

Arms (Exports To South America)

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the amount of arms exported in the last 12 months, to the most recent convenient date, to each country in South America.

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would the right hon. Gentleman give the figures for Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, in which we are interested?

I will give the hon. Gentleman the figures. There are 20 countries, but he mentioned three. These are the figures, in £ sterling for 1953: Guatemala, £386; Nicaragua, nothing; and Honduras, nothing. [Laughter.]

Would my right hon. Friend say whether any British weapons were used recently in the World Football Cup battle?

Would the Minister reply to his hon. Friends who are laughing about this Question and tell us why there has been a suggestion that British ships should be searched on their way to these countries, who made that suggestion, on what basis, and whether, in those circumstances, such a request should have been made?

Following are the figures:

UNITED KINGDOM EXPORTS OF ARMS, AMMUNITION AND MILITARY STORES AND APPLIANCES (INCLUDING SPORTING GUNS AND SOME NON-MILITARY EQUIPMENT AND EXPLOSIVES) IN 1953.
£
Argentine Republic20,668
Bolivia52,303
Brazil42,099
Chile165,439
Colombia70,570
Costa Rica201
Cuba1,308
Dominican Republic
Ecuador18,149
El Salvador5,456
Guatemala386
Hayti
Honduras
Mexico1,961
Nicaragua
Panama (including Canal Zone)2,227
Paraguay
Peru327,423
Uruguay23,757
Venezuela196,463

Subsidised Horticultural Imports

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will publish a list of subsidised horticultural produce entering this country.

It is usually far from easy to establish whether particular goods are directly or indirectly subsidised. The Board of Trade has no full list of subsidised horticultural produce entering this market and would, I am afraid, find it extremely difficult to compile one.

Would the Minister get in touch with the National Farmers' Union and ascertain exactly what is happening about subsidised imports of horticultural produce, which are working unfairly towards producers here?

I should be glad to receive any representations which the National Farmers' Union care to make on this subject.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether his Department had any hand in the private arrangement whereby 20,000 tons of potatoes are to come from the Argentine—most extraordinary of all places—in exchange for Bedford lorries? Why should we wish to import potatoes from the Argentine under present circumstances?

I assure my hon. Friend that we have not been the buyers of these potatoes. As a matter of fact, I know nothing of that contract other than what I have read in the Press.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is undoubtedly a considerable element of subsidy in many of the horticultural products coming into this country? As the purpose of the recent increases in horticultural tariffs was to protect the home grower does he not agree that this element of subsidy is largely vitiating the effect of those increased tariffs?

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies to that question, is he aware that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is one of the most ardent supporters of setting the people free?

I shall not answer the right hon. Gentleman's question, but I shall answer the question of my hon Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). We are aware that there are elements of export subsidy in a number of horticultural imports into this country, and, in principle, we are opposed to export subsidies.

Light Industry, Midlothian

19.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the last Report of the Census of Population in the county of Midlothian and if his Department will vow steer light industry to the county

I have seen this Report. The Government will certainly bear in mind the position in the developing coalfield area of Midlothian, but the hon. Member will appreciate that there are other areas, particularly Development Areas, where the immediate needs are greater.

Is the Minister aware that since that Report was published in 1951, the Midlothian County Council and the small burghs have built a large number of houses in order to rehouse redundant miners and their families from Lanarkshire, and that no attempt has been made to provide alternative industry for the women? Is he also aware that this policy has discouraged the transfer of miners from Lanarkshire and militates against the production of coal in Scotland?

I think that the hon. Member will agree that the unemployment rate in this area is less than that in Scotland as a whole. I assure him that we shall consider sympathetically applications for industrial development certificates in suitable cases.

Middle East Markets (Personal Visits)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to encourage the implementation of paragraph 86 of the Report of the United Kingdom Trade Mission to Iraq, Kuwait, the Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, which states that directors and senior officers of companies should pay extended visits to Middle Eastern countries in order to secure the confidence of the people who matter.

In his foreword to the Mission's Report, my right hon. Friend invited special attention to the recommendation that in the markets of the Middle East there is no substitute for knowledge acquired by personal visits. He feels confident that firms interested in these markets will bear in mind the importance of visits by their directors or other senior executives.

There is the closest cooperation between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in all good causes.

Is there the slightest evidence that any of these visits to the Middle East, in order to bump up exports, are in any way stopped by the Inland Revenue officials?

Will the Minister say whom he regards, in the terms of the Question, as the "people who matter?"

Imported Machinery (Duty)

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the lifting of certain restrictions on the importation of dollar machinery, he will use his powers, where applications to import machinery are granted, to permit such machinery to be imported duty free.

My right hon. Friend has under consideration the question of duty-free licensing of imports of machinery, including machinery from dollar sources, in the light of the report of the committee which was set up to consider this subject. He hopes to be able to publish the report and make a statement before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Does the Minister not think that since the announcement he made on 21st June that the whole purpose of the restriction on the importation of dollar machinery was to reduce cost, it is an anomaly that even now he should grant applications to import this dollar machinery and not waive the duty?

We are at cross-purposes. The import policy is quite distinct from the policy of duty-free licensing, and as regards the latter we must clearly await the report and my right hon. Friend's announcement on that report.

Will the Minister bear in mind the beneficial effect which the removal of duty would have on the export trade?

All these matters will be taken very much into consideration before my right hon. Friend makes his announcement.

New Factories, Wales

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the latest figures for approvals of new factories and extensions in Wales and Monmouthshire; how these figures compare with Scotland and England, respectively; and whether, on a percentage basis, this shows an improvement or decline in the relative position of Wales as compared with recent years.

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

Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether Wales is holding its position in this matter?

I hope that my hon. Friend will study the figures. He will understand that for this year we have the figures for the first quarter only, which is a short period on which to base an annual estimate.

Following are the figures:

The figures, which are based on estimates of value made by applicants for industrial development certificates, are as follow:

195219531st Quarter, 1954
£m.£m.£m.
Wales and Monmouthshire1·520·8*1·5
Scotland6·66·01·58
England (excl. Mon.)43·364·226·6
Great Britain51·491·129·68
Wales as per cent, of Great Britain (value basis) per cent. 2·9per cent. 22·8per cent. 5·0

* This figure includes two very large steel projects.

Canadian Apples

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what consultations he had with apple growers during his recent visit to Canada; and whether the supply of Canadian apples to British domestic consumers will be resumed in the near future as the result of his talks.

While my right hon. Friend was in Canada he received deputations from first, the Nova Scotia and the Ontario apple growers and, later, the British Columbia growers, and he was glad to have this opportunity of hearing at first hand of conditions in those industries and of the importance of the United Kingdom market to them. He told them that he was sorry that he could give no undertaking when we should be able to afford to import apples from North America.

Will my right hon. Friend see that the President bears in mind the interests of the home growers of apples, and remind our Canadian friends that we cannot buy more from them unless they buy a good deal more from us, as the trade balance is very much against us?

I should like to remind my hon. Friend that we are anxious to remove the restrictions on the dollar imports of manufactured goods, foodstuffs and the few remaining raw materials at the earliest possible moment.

Imported Artificial Silk Staple Fibre (Drawback)

24 and 25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) on what date drawback ceased to apply to imported artificial silk fibres used in the manufacture in this country of articles for export;

(2) whether, in view of the need for encouraging export trade, he will take steps to reintroduce a drawback on imported artificial silk fibres, which are subject to import duties and are used in the manufacture of articles for export.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to artificial silk staple fibre. The drawback scheme for artificial silk staple fibre used in the manufacture of articles for export came to an end on the 31st December, 1951, in respect of all subsequent imports.

On the question of reintroduction of the drawback, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 23rd February to the Question asked by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall).

Can the right hon. Gentleman state the reasons for discontinuing this drawback, which, when available, helped to minimise the harmful effect of this duty upon manufacturers making goods for export? Does he appreciate that while this drawback is not available, the indirect consequence of this duty is to cause considerable loss of valuable export trade?

I have had no evidence that it does amount to any significant handicap, but if the hon. Gentleman has any information which he cares to send to me to the effect that it does, I shall, of course, be glad to receive it.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not received representations from the Rayon Merchants' Association, in Manchester, quite recently on this subject?

The representations which we have had, and which have not been many, have not led us to believe that the effect is at all significant as a handicap to our export trade.

Hire Purchase And Credit Sale Order

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade on what grounds it is necessary to maintain in force the Hire Purchase and Credit Sale Agreements (Control) Order, Statutory Instrument, 1952, No. 121, which affects a wide range of household goods; and if he will now take steps to rescind the Order.

My right hon. Friend is examining the scope of this Order, but I cannot yet make a statement.

Will the Minister bear in mind that this Order has now served its original purpose, which was to conserve certain materials, that it continues to discriminate unfairly against the poorer sections of the community, and that there is a considerable demand that it should now be rescinded?

Exports To Canada

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what opportunities there are for expanding our exports to Canada of heavy engineering products.

The capital development schemes projected or already being undertaken in Canada provide many and varied opportunities for our heavy engineering products and I am confident that British industry will do all it can to win an increasing share of this valuable trade.

Is the Minister aware that, although our exports of motor cars compared with last year have increased to sterling countries and to many European countries, such as Sweden, they have drastically declined in respect of Canada? Can he say what the President of the Board of Trade did about that when he was in Canada?

My right hon. Friend had many interesting and valuable discussions while he was there, and, in all the circumstances, I think that our exports to dollar markets during the past 12 months have held up not too badly; but as regards the future, I believe that there are very great opportunities, and that there is much evidence that many of our exporters are beginning to get well-established in that very important market.

Is the Minister aware of the appreciation of the Canadian people from coast to coast resulting from the recent visit of the President of the Board of Trade, and can he tell the House if the President will make a comprehensive statement on the result of his travels in the near future?

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend found his visit of the very greatest value and interest.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of that supplementary question? Is it the intention of the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement to the House?

I am not sure. I should rather doubt whether my right hon. Friend would make a comprehensive statement to the House.

I shall be very glad to consult my right hon. Friend on the point. I know that he will be very anxious to impart to the House all specific information on points of interest to hon. Members.

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what opportunities there are for expanding our exports to Canada of pedigree livestock.

There is a potential market in Canada for pedigree livestock from this country, especially for bulls, cows and heifers; but prices there are very competitive, and the high freight costs and the expense and delay necessitated by quarantine regulations are a considerable handicap to our exporters.

Worcester Property Holdings Ltd (Inquiry Report)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the formation by the directors of Savoy Hotels Limited of the subsidiary Worcester Property Holdings, Limited; and what action he proposes to take on the matter.

The Inspector's Report is being printed and arrangements have been made for its publication, and for copies to be available in the Vote Office, tomorrow afternoon.

May we know when the Minister will make an announcement about the steps that he proposes to take?

I think that the hon. Member and other hon. Members will wish to have an opportunity of reading the Report before they ask Questions about it.

Aberdeen Blind Asylum (Contracts)

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what new contracts he proposes to place with the Aberdeen Blind Asylum at an early date.

In view of the expressed desire of the President of the Board of Trade to attract industry and employment to the North-East of Scotland and the fact that the institution has relied on Government contracts for a very long time, cannot the Department use its influence in the right places to ensure that further contracts are placed at an early date?

I think my hon. Friend is putting her Question to the wrong Department. There are about eight Government Departments which order goods, but the Board of Trade is not one of them.

United States Dams (Contracts)

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has made to the United States Government about the grant of further contracts for the Chief Joseph and Dalles dams by the United States Army Department to United States firms, although the English Electric Company had tendered at a substantially lower price.

Representations stressing the importance we attached to the decisions on these contracts were made while they were under consideration by the United States authorities. In view of the award, instructions have been sent to our Ambassador in Washington to make representations at the highest level, expressing our disappointment that this decision does not follow the more liberal policy which appeared to be foreshadowed by the President's message to Congress.

Were not the British prices in these cases substantially below the American prices? In view of all that has been said by American leaders about the need for "trade, not aid" in respect of competitive British products, is it not deplorable that this kind of thing should happen?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the differential in these cases was substantial. The result is extremely disappointing.

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by the matter being taken up at the highest level? Does he mean between the Prime Minister and the President, or does he mean by the Ambassador or a Cabinet Minister?

National Finance

Petrol-Driven Fork-Lift Trucks (Fuel Rebate)

33.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to extend to petrol-driven fork-lift trucks used in factories the fuel tax rebate at present given to similar diesel-driven fork-lift trucks.

As satisfactory machinery already exists for giving a rebate on taxable diesel fuel, will the Chancellor consider extending the main advantage to the users of petrol fuel in these circumstances in order to avoid the unfair discrimination which now exists, which, whether intentionally or not, has a substantial and not altogether desirable influence on engineering development?

I regret that there are very few exceptions in relation to light oil. They relate only to lifeboats, chemical synthesis and fishing boats. I am not prepared to extend the list of exceptions.

Purchase Tax Revenue, Wales And Monmouthshire

34.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the approximate annual amount of Purchase Tax collected from persons resident in Wales and Monmouthshire, adopting approximate methods of calculation which enabled him to estimate the amount of Income Tax paid by Welsh people.

If it is assumed that consumption per head in Wales and Monmouthshire is not very different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom, the amount of Purchase Tax involved would be in the region of £15 million a year. I am afraid that no material is available on which to make any closer estimate.

National Land Fund

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the balance of the National Land Fund; how much has been spent; and on what projects.

The balance at 31st March, 1954, was £56,799,174. Since the inception of the Fund, £906,881 has been spent.

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the properties in respect of which payment has been made since the date of the last list supplied to the hon. Member.

What steps is the Chancellor of the Exchequer taking to further the objects of the Fund?

I took special powers to pay for chattels in my last Budget. That is a further indication of my interest in using the Fund.

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question on the Order Paper, I will tell him. Receipts apart from interest amount to about £55,000.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make some of the Fund available for the National Parks Commission, for which purpose it was established?

I am aware of the reasons for which the Fund was established, and I will certainly use the Fund where I think it proper to use it.

Following is the information:

Following is the list of properties in respect of which payment has been made from the National Land Fund, since mid-1952. There were 27 earlier cases.

AcreageTransferee
l. The High Close Estate, Ambleside.535National Trust.
2. Stoke Wood and Stoke Hill Farm, near Exeter.196Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries.
3. Mount Grace Priory, Northallerton, Yorkshire.10National Trust.
4. Highstand Wood and Farm, near Carlisle.649Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries.
5. Loch Alsh House, grounds & cottage, Balmacara, Ross-shire.15National Trust for Scotland.
6. "The Old Lifeboat House", Port Eynon, Glamorganshire.Youth Hostels Trust of England & Wales.
7. Pare Le Breos Estate, Glamorgan-shire.410Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries.
8. Northchurch Estate (comprising three farms), Hertfordshire.371National Trust.
9. Kildermorie Estate, Ross-shire.18,600Secretary of State for Scotland.

German Shipbuilders (Steel Rebates)

36.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has completed his inquiries about the proposed financial aid to German shipbuilders; and if he will make a further statement.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) on 24th June.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that reply has failed to allay the very deep anxiety of our shipbuilding industry? Is he satisfied that we are taking sufficiently energetic action to prevent this blatant evasion of the spirit of the Anglo-German agreement?

We have taken a lot of action in so far as we can operate within the field controlled by Governments. I am certainly trying to find out what further opportunities there are in this field, but I cannot interfere in a field outside the field of Government.

Is not this practice of the German steel industry in conflict with the rules of the Coal and Steel Community? Will the Chancellor consider instructing our delegation at Luxembourg to make representations on this point?

This point was raised when the Economic Secretary answered Questions, and he very wisely said that it was a very complicated subject. I am investigating it, and if I see a line of action I will certainly take it.

English Steel Company Shareholders (Voting Rights)

37.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the £10 million of capital of the English Steel Company still remaining in the hands of the Iron and Steel Realisation Agency has any voting rights in normal circumstances.

The holders of these securities have rights of the kind commonly attached to debentures and preference shares respectively. In the hon. Member's phrase, these do not include voting rights in normal circumstances.

Is it the policy of the Government where half the capital of an iron and steel company passes into private hands and half remains in public hands that all the control of the company should be concentrated in private hands?

No, Sir, not as a general proposition. It happens to have been a convenient operation in this case. That exactly carries out the sense of Section 18 (1) of the Iron and Steel Act, to the terms of which I would refer the hon. Member.

Does the Chancellor think he will be regarded as a reliable trustee for the taxpayer if he goes on approving dubious deals of this kind?

I should not think it was a dubious deal to sell the risk-bearing part and to keep the safe part.

Imported Vehicles (Duty)

38.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the rate of duty chargeable on motor cars and commercial vehicles imported into the United Kingdom.

The rate of Customs duty chargeable on such vehicles is generally 33⅓ per cent. ad valorem, or 22 2/9 per cent. If the vehicles are entitled to the benefit of Imperial Preference. With certain exceptions, Purchase Tax is also chargeable on passenger vehicles at the rate of 50 per cent. of the duty-inclusive wholesale value, and on goods vehicles at the rate of 25 per cent. of the duty-inclusive wholesale value of their chassis.

In view of the great success of the motor industry in selling in markets all over the world, what justification is there now for protecting the industry in the home market in this respect? In view of the complete lack of protection offered to, for instance, the Lancashire cotton industry against its chief competitors—there is no protection whatever—does not the Chancellor think it time that these duties were changed?

The duties date back to 1915. They were assimilated in 1938 into the structure based on the Import Duties Act, 1932, and they are now charged under the Import Duties (Consolidation) Order, 1949. They have at least a respectable history.

Tips And Gratuities (Income Tax)

39.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the present instructions given to inspectors of taxes with regard to taking into account for Income Tax assessment purposes the personal and voluntary payments made by customers and clients by way of tips and gratuities to employees in hotels, restaurants and other catering establishments.

Tips of this kind are chargeable to Income Tax and tax offices have instructions to arrange that the appropriate tax is collected.

Since it has always been the practice—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] Keep quiet you Lobby fodder. Since it has always been the practice for the Inland Revenue to regard tips and gratuities as part of the assessable income of the catering staff, surely it is only reasonable that employers should equally be allowed to take personal and voluntary payments into account when assessing their total remuneration?

My hon. and gallant Friend's forcible intervention will need a little study.

International Monetary Fund (Annual Meeting)

40.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he proposes to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund this summer.

Balance Of Payments (Information)

41.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will publish the figures of the sterling balance every month, at the same time as the publication of the gold and dollar reserves.

I am reviewing the publication of information about various aspects of the balance of payments and will bear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind.

£1,000 Per Annum (Purchasing Power)

42.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the purchasing power today of an income of £1,000 per annum, as compared with November, 1951, for a married man with two children, taking into account the changes in taxation and allowances and in the cost-of-living index.

A married man with two children earning £1,000 now has a net income, after tax, of £898. This is equivalent in purchasing power to about £854 in November, 1951, when the net income corresponding to a similar gross income would have been £833.

In any conversations on the financial position of Members, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the improvement that has taken place under a Conservative Government in the salary of a Member with no other income and with the average family?

Will the Chancellor give a comparable figure for an income of £100,000 per annum?

Income Tax Act, 1952 (Section 468 Applications)

43.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the general principles upon which 14 applications have been refused under Section 468 (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1952.

The general principle on which Treasury consent has been refused in these cases is that on a balance of considerations it would not have been in the national interest to grant consent. These considerations are, on the one hand, any new factors or circumstances which are represented to require the proposed transaction or other reasons for it based on the efficiency and development of the applicant's operations, and, on the other hand, the prospective loss of revenue or of foreign exchange to this country involved in the transaction.

This general principle is embodied in the terms of reference of the advisory panel to which applications are referred in cases of difficulty. The decision in all these cases to refuse consent has coincided with the advice of that panel.

While I do not think that the principle as stated by the Chancellor is absolutely crystal clear, may I draw the attention of the Chancellor to the strictures made on the Section when the Conservative Party was in Opposition and ask him whether, in view of the criticism then made, he has considered repealing it?

As a matter of fact, its operation has been so smooth that the strictures upon it have been very considerably reduced.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is at least one member of the Conservative Party who still maintains the strictures on that Section?

Dollar Allocations

44.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a White Paper setting out the amount of dollars allocated to various classes of persons and industries; and the principles upon which the allocation is made.

I think that the hon. Member's request requires further definition before I can judge whether the White Paper on the United Kingdom Balance of Payments, 1946–1953 (Cmd. 9119) covers the subject.

Does the Chancellor agree that this is a matter of importance—and of growing importance—as the possibility of convertibility gets nearer? Will he consider letting us have more detailed figures than those at present available in the White Paper?

If the hon. Member defines the figures he wants I will do my best to find them.

Guatemala (Situation)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about the situation in Guatemala and about the proceedings of the, Security Council of the United Nations on the appeal made to it by the Guatemalan Government.

I have been asked to reply. Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in Guatemala has confirmed that a state of seige has been declared and that a military junta has taken over power under Colonel Diaz, Chief of Armed Forces. A decree has been issued outlawing the Guatemalan Communist Party.

I have nothing to add to the reply given yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State about the proceedings of the Security Council.

As the American Commission of Inquiry is to act for the United Nations in this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman urge that the Commission should arrive on the spot before the fighting ends and that it should go first to the place from which the invasion was launched? Would it not be dangerous to the authority of the United Nations if it were thought that the Commission was merely a device to gain time while the rebellion succeeds?

As far as I am aware the Commission is under the Organisation of American States, and comes under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter. It is something which is entirely constitutional and within the general framework of the United Nations. We certainly hope that it will operate not only constitutionally, but in an expeditious manner.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Commission has now started its investigations and whether the Government made a request that the Commission should investigate the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the British merchant ship two days ago, with special reference to the identity of the aircraft which caused the damage?

Yes, I was aware of this incident. We are making our own inquiries about that and as soon as we have the information we shall make it available.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the fact-finding Commission has any time-table within which it has to report?

It is difficult for me to reply on the exact physical details of the Commission, but as far as we are concerned I can say on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that the sooner we hear of its activities and report the better.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the matter does or does not still remain on the agenda of the Security Council?

I am informed by the Minister of State that it is not on the day-to-day agenda.

Since this Commission is to act for the United Nations, and it is four days since the decision was made by the Council, will the Government now urge that the Commission should leave immediately?

I think we can take it that my answer will be noted as representing the views of Her Majesty's Government.

Disarmament Sub-Committee Report (White Paper)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will lay the recent Report of the Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations before the House as a White Paper.

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. The Report of the Sub-Committee will be included in a White Paper on the proceedings of the Sub-Committee which it is hoped to lay before the House in the near future.

In view of the very great importance of these discussions, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether we can have a full record of what was said by the delegates so that we may fully understand the attitude of the different Governments?

As far as I know this will be a full report, but whether it will contain absolutely every word I cannot say.

Wartime Hutted Camps (Closing)

47, 48 and 49.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) if he will fix a date after which no local authority may use wartime hutted camps to assist in discharging its housing duties;

(2) if he will consider increasing the allocation of houses and giving financial assistance to local authorities who still have to use hutted camps for housing purposes, in order to enable them to discontinue their use.

(3) what steps he is taking to abolish the slums created by the continued use of wartime hutted camps for housing purposes.

50.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action he proposes to take on the Third and Final Report of the Working Party on Requisitioned Properties in Use for Housing.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Mr. Ernest Marples)

My right hon. Friend has already asked housing authorities to close down these camps as soon as possible. The number of families which have to be rehoused from camps is taken into account together with all the other relevant factors when settling a housing authority's programme. Houses built to replace hutted camps qualify for subsidy.