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Written Answers

Volume 530: debated on Monday 12 July 1954

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 12th July, 1954

Margarine (Consumption)

1.

asked the Minister of Food the consumption of margarine during May and June of this year; and how this compares with the same period in 1951.

Now that rationing has ended up-to-date comparisons of consumption month by month are not available, but the indications are that retail sales are rather higher than three years ago.

Pensions And National Insurance

Ex-Service Men (Disability Pensions)

41 and 42.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) what increase of pension is granted to an ex-Service man who has lost one eye when the sight of the second eye is completely destroyed as the result of cataract and optic neuritis, respectively;(2) what considerations now influence him in deciding whether an increase of pension can be granted to an ex-Service man in the case of loss of function of a second paired organ, not as a result of military service.

Full information on these matters was given in the statement which I made in reply to the Questions put to me by several hon. Members on 15th February. I cannot usefully add anything to what I said on that occasion.

Old-Age Pensioners

46.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he has considered a copy of a resolution passed by the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers in Newport, calling attention to the necessity of increasing payments to old-age pensioners, many of whom are members of this organisation; and what answer he has given.

Yes. The branch has been informed that I have taken note of their resolution.

Pneumoconiosis

44.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when he expects to present to Parliament a scheme of benefit under the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Act, 1954, for men partially disabled by pneumoconiosis.

Detailed proposals have been worked out and sent to interested organisations for comment. I cannot yet say when it will be possible to seek Parliamentary approval.

Fuel And Power

Power Stations

47 and 48.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) what discussions he has had with the British Electricity Authority as a matter of broad economic and financial policy to install equipment at new British Electricity Authority power houses which is capable of burning oil or coal as fuel for generation of electricity supplies; and whether he will make a statement on this subject;(2) in view of the continuing shortage of coal for all purposes, what evidence has been obtained by his Department as to the advisability and comparative costs of employing fuel oil as a substitute for coal at publicly-owned British Electricity Authority power houses; whether he will make a statement as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to substitution of oil for coal as power-house fuel, in consideration of the British Electricity Authority's consumption of 36 million tons of coal per annum; and what quantities of coal he estimates can be saved at power houses by oil substitution for coal during the period forward to 1960.

I made a full statement on Friday and have at present nothing to add to it.

Gas Coke Directorate

49.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of officials still serving in the Gas-Coke Directorate of his Department; what premises they occupy in London and the provinces; what is the total cost of this directorate on an annual basis as at present organised; what are his reasons for retaining a Gas-Coke Directorate, in view of plentiful supplies of coke and derationing of domestic coke; and whether he will close down the Gas-Coke Directorate forthwith.

There is now no coke director, but supervision of gas coke distribution is in the hands of Gas Council and Gas Board employees who work in their own offices with my right hon. Friend's authority. I am advised that this does not involve the Council or the boards in any extra expense, since most of the work would have to be carried out in the normal course of business.

Pricing Policy

54.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will give a general direction to the National Coal Board to sell its fuel to private industry at not less than its economic cost of production.

No. The pricing policy of the National Coal Board is designed to take into account the costs of production.

55.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the dissatisfaction expressed by some of the fuel boards in respect of prices charged by one to the other, he will consider introducing legislation for the appointment of some kind of price tribunal to determine the price levels to operate between the coal, gas and electricity boards.

Domestic Stocks, Bristol

57.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the domestic coal stocks in Bristol compare with those of this time last year; and if he will give an assurance that there will not be a shortage in the city during the coming winter.

Industrial Buildings (Insulation)

58.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal could be saved annually if all industrial build- ings were insulated on the inside with suitable insulating material.

No such estimate can be made, but the insulation of a million square feet of factory roofs and walls in suitable cases might save up to 6,000 tons of coal a year.

Guatemala

66.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what communications have been received from the new Government of Guatemala in respect of British Honduras.

Jerusalem (Disturbances)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the situation in Jerusalem.

From the conflicting reports which we received it was not clear who fired the first shot in the fighting which broke out in Jerusalem on 30th June. In view of the danger of this outbreak leading to even more serious trouble between Israel and Jordan, and because of the likelihood of damage to the Holy Places in Jerusalem, Her Majesty's Government and the United States and French Governments urged both sides to exercise restraint and assist the efforts of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation to arrange a cease-fire. The shooting eventually ceased at about noon on 2nd July. The Mixed Armistice Commission met in Jerusalem on 11th July, and, after statements by General Bennike, Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, and the Israeli delegate, adjourned till today.General Bennike said that the incident had cost the lives of nine people and that 52 others had been wounded. He stated that the Truce Supervision Organisation had obtained no evidence that either side had planned an offensive, and that it was not clear who fired the first shot. Lack of control over border guards by both sides may have been the basic cause of the outbreak. He appealed to the Jordanian and Israeli delegations not to cloud the air with mutual recriminations, but rather to try to agree on measures designed to make a recurrence of such incidents impossible. To this end General Bennike made some specific suggestions which, I hope, will receive the serious attention of the delegations of the two sides.General Bennike concluded his statement by saying that Israel and Jordan are in the eyes of all the world the trustees of Jerusalem, and it is only through their own most earnest efforts that this important centre of population with its Holy Places and its religious and cultural institutions can be preserved in the interests of the two States themselves and of all the nations of the world. Her Majesty's Government wish to associate themselves most sincerely with these words.

Agriculture

Egg Marketing

70.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has now agreed with the National Farmers' Union the terms of an egg marketing scheme to be presented for the approval of Parliament and producers.

No. Any scheme submitted must be subject to the procedure laid down in the Agricultural Marketing Acts, and I could not approve its terms in advance. Informal discussions with the National Farmers' Unions about egg marketing are still in progress.

Crichel Down Inquiry

71.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what directions he gave, after agreeing, on 17th February, to make a firm decision within two months about the sale of Crichel Down to Crown Lands, in his capacity as ex-officio Commissioner for Crown Lands, as to the means by which Crown Lands should seek a tenant for the land proposed to be bought; and what instructions were given about drawing the prospective tenancy to the attention of Lieut.-Commander Marten.

None. The option on the land was offered to the Commissioners of Crown Lands on my behalf as Minister of Agriculture, and I asked for a decision within two months because the Agricultural Land Commission would need to make alternative arrangements for equipping the land should the Commissioners of Crown Lands decide not to buy it. No special directions or instructions were given about the selection of a tenant as this was a matter of ordinary day-to-day administration.

72.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the terms of the letter sent by the Lands Service to Mr. T. C. Tozer, on or about October, 1950, in reply to his application to be considered as a tenant for Crichel Down.

The terms of the letter were as follows: "In reply to your letter of the 11th October. This property is not at the present time being offered to let, but your application will be borne in mind."

73.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the cause of the delay between the receipt of correspondence on Crichel Down from the bon. Member for the Northern Division of Dorset on 14th June, 1952, and the initiating of an investigation on 14th July, 1952.

The points raised in the letter of 13th June from my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) had first to be considered within my Department before deciding what additional information was needed.

Bird Pests

asked the Minister of Agriculture for an estimate of the value of the damage done by wood-pigeons and other birds to crops during the past year.

It has been estimated that a wood-pigeon eats between 10s. and £1 worth of food a year. Other bird pests, on the average, probably do slightly less damage. It has not been found possible to form a more reliable estimate owing to the extremely varied diet of these birds. There is no reliable information of the numbers of wood-pigeons in the country; but there are very many and there is little doubt that their numbers have increased in recent years. Last winter some 1½ million wood-pigeons were killed in organised shoots and by individuals with half-price cartridges issued by the Ministry; but reports received this summer show that great damage is still being done by these birds.

Tyne Valleys, Northumberland (Depopulation)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, with a view to discouraging the depopulation of the north and south Tyne valleys of Northumberland, he will arrange with the Forestry Commission for the establishment of a pulping factory in that area to process the increasing amount of thinnings now forthcoming there.

I regret that this proposal for a pulping factory is not a practicable proposition. A small pulp mill of economic size would require at least 50 thousand tons of timber suitable for pulpwood a year to keep in operation, and supplies of this magnitude are not available in the area. A private company has, however, been considering the possibility of establishing a factory to produce fibre board, which requires less material. This project has been encouraged by the Commissioners, who have offered to make supplies available. The Commissioners are fully aware of the need for additional outlets for the increasing supplies of thinnings from the plantations, and will continue to do all they can to encourage ancillary industries as a means both of providing an outlet for the raw material and of increasing the possibilities of employment.

Teachers (Honours Degrees)

79.

asked the Minister of Education if she will ask the Burnham Committee to reconsider their recommendation of the payment of a good honours degree addition to teachers with first-class honours degrees, so as to include graduates of the National University of Ireland and Trinity College, Dublin, since 1922 on the same basis as graduates of universities in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

No. My right hon. Friend has little doubt that the Committee considered this matter carefully in framing their 1954 Report.

Roads

Weed-Killing Sprays

80.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what guidance his Department have sent to local authorities on the use of toxic sprays on roadside verges; and what research into this problem is being conducted by institutions under his control.

In August, 1951, county councils were advised by my Department, at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, of the need for caution in the use of weed-killing sprays on roadside verges. Similar cautionary advice, in rather more detail, has continued to be given to highway authorities through my divisional road engineers as occasion has arisen. Research on my behalf was begun in Gloucestershire in 1953 by the Road Research Laboratory, with the help of the county council, and is still continuing.

Maidstone By-Pass

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the congestion which now occurs, both at weekends and market days, when approaching or leaving Maidstone, Kent, on the London and the Ashford Roads, due to increasing traffic between London and the North and the South-Eastern coastal resorts; if he will relieve this situation; and when he proposes to make a start with it.

I know of the congestion to which my hon. Friend refers and which will be relieved when the proposed by-pass is constructed, but, as I have already informed him, I cannot at present forecast when this work can be begun.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how far rehousing problems are holding up the start of the construction of the Maidstone by-pass.

Rehousing problems are not, as far as I can see, likely to delay the eventual start; but, as my hon. Friend will have gathered from my answers of 25th June, other considerations enter into the timing of thin scheme.

Railway Reorganisation (White Paper)

81.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is yet able to say when the White Paper on Railway Reorganisation will be available to hon. Members.

Royal Commission On Scottish Affairs (Report)

82.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Royal Commision on Scottish Affairs is likely to report.

I understand that the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs are nearing the end of their inquiry, but I am not yet able to say when their report will be submitted.

Home Department

Naturalised British Subjects

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of British subjects by naturalisation who have been convicted of smuggling and other criminal offences since 6th July, 1945 how many of these were subsequently denaturalised by proceedings under the British Naturalisation Acts; and if he will state their names at the time of their original entry into the United Kingdom and at the time of their denaturalisation.

I regret that the information requested in the first part of the Question is not available. Since July, 1945, two persons have been deprived of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies on account of having been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than 12 months within five years after becoming naturalised. Particulars of these cases were published in the London Gazette on 29th January, 1952, and 20th March, 1953.

Dr Joseph Cort (United Kingdom Residence)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement in relation to Dr. Cort's interview with the Birmingham police in December, 1953, in view of the fact that Dr. Cort made a signed statement then, a copy of which was despatched to his department the following day and which, with Dr. Cort's authority, is now in the possession of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East.

I indicated in the House in reply to Questions on 8th July the nature of the statement made by Dr. Cort to the Birmingham Police, and I have nothing to add.