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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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Industrial Research (Foreign Undertakings)

2.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in view of the fact that the Exchequer now contributes to industrial research both directly through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and indirectly through remissions of taxation, what steps are taken, or are contemplated, to ensure that the results of such research benefit British industry and not that of our competitors: and how many applications has the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research received for assistance from firms manufacturing in cooperation with British, German and Japanese firms.

In addition to published information, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research helps British industry by making its unpublished scientific and technical information and experience freely available to genuine British inquirers. This supplementary assistance is not available in the same way to foreign undertakings. The Research Associations, which are partly supported by public funds through D.S.I.R., have a British membership, and the admission of foreign-controlled firms is strictly controlled. I regret that I have no information on the last part of the Question.

Does the Chancellor think it right that he should pour out millions of pounds on research and then firms should use the benefit of research at State expense to grant manufacturing rights to other countries? Is he aware that manufacturing rights in respect of materials like nylon, Terylene and other synthetic fibres have been granted to Japan, Germany and other countries? Will he ask one or two of his senior officials to investigate the problem and prepare a report for him?

Yes, Sir. I should like to examine the statement made by the hon. Member. Perhaps he will consult me so that I may have the full information in order to compare notes with my colleagues.

National Finance

Estate Duties (Active Service)

3.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take steps to ensure that no National Serviceman killed on active service or otherwise, while wearing Her Majesty's uniform, will have his estate assessed to death duties.

I would refer my hon. Friend to a reply which my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury gave on 1st April, 1953, to a Question on this topic by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe). I am sending him a copy of that reply.

Could my right hon. Friend arrange to publish in suitable form a statement saying what dividing line is taken by the Inland Revenue between the theatres of operation which are regarded as active service and those which are not? Is he aware that there is considerable doubt about Kenya and operations against Mau Mau, about Malaya and operations against the Communists, and now the series of murders which have taken place in the Suez Canal Zone when no active theatre of operations is said to be involved?

It has hitherto been thought that the answer given by the Financial Secretary covered the sort of situation which my hon. Friend has brought to my attention. I certainly think we should do everything we can to remove any doubts in anyone's mind. If my hon. Friend has a particular case in mind, I hope he will also bring it to my attention in the examination which I shall give to his supplementary question.

Mutual Security Aid

4.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements have been made for the continuance of United States aid in the form of agricultural products under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act after the current year.

6.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the Government of the United States of America regarding the products to be supplied under the Mutual Security Act next year.

Proposals for foreign aid in 1954–55 are still before the U.S. Congress. It is not known, therefore, whether any further offers of aid in the form of surplus agricultural commodities will be made to this country, and no discussions with the U.S. Government have taken place regarding the supply of such commodities next year.

While I appreciate that in the short run this is an arrangement which helps both Governments, might I ask my right hon. Friend not to lose sight of the long-term distortion to trade which might result in part from the immediate disturbance of markets, which is out of all proportion to the relative smallness of the shipments?

Whether I should pay attention to my hon. Friend's question or not is really beside the point, because the interests concerned have already brought these considerations to our notice and we are aware of all the difficulties which may or may not be involved.

Is it not the case that under the Mutual Security Act it is a condition of these arrangements that there should be no interference with normal trade and that, in fact, the purchase made under the Act should be aditional to those which would be made from other countries, particularly in the Commonwealth.

5.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the consultation he has had with Commonwealth Governments regarding the future extent and effects on Commonwealth trade of the policy of accepting United States defence aid in the form of surplus United States food products.

The action to be taken about future Mutual Security Act purchases could best be considered in relation to specific offers. The interests of Commonwealth and Colonial producers have been and will be the subject of constant attention by H.M.G.

Does that reply mean that, on the general policy—the general political issues involved—there is no consultation with the Commonwealth, but only in regard to particular shipments?

No, Sir. There have been general consultations in the recent proceedings of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and, of course, there have been, and no doubt will be, consultation about particular commodities as they affect particular countries.

But, if the conditions laid down in the Mutual Security Act are to be carried out, surely there should not be any adverse repercussions on trade with the Commonwealth?

Unfortunately, we do not live in so perfect a world as may be envisaged by the provisions of any particular Act, whether of another legislature or of the domestic legislature. It is a difficulty of reconciling human nature and human interests with the provisions of a particular statute.

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that the Commonwealth have made arrangements for the progressive expansion of production in line with his own injunction to save dollars?

Personal Incomes (Value)

7.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the purchasing power today of an income of £100,000 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 with an income of £100,000 per annum now has a net income, after tax, of £8,488. This is equivalent in purchasing power to about £8,075 in November, 1951, when the net income corresponding to a similar gross income would have been £5,940. In these figures, it is assumed that the earned income included in the total is sufficient to qualify for the maximum earned income relief.

Does not the answer prove conclusively that the richer members of the community have benefited enormously from the total effect of the Government's financial policy, and that the richer they are the more they have benefited?

Would not the Chancellor agree that it is a reasonable slice for the Treasury, and could he also tell us if there are many of these people, apart from Labour hon. Members?

I have not had any in my acquaintance, but if any hon. Members will introduce me to anybody in that category, I shall be very much obliged.

8.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the purchasing power of an income of £500 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 £500 per annum now has a net income, after tax, of £499. This is equivalent in purchasing power to about £475 in November, 1951, when the net income corresponding to a similar gross income would have been £487.

Does not this answer show that the lower income groups of the community, including Members of Parliament who are solely dependent on their Parliamentary salary and have to pay their expenses out of that income, are worse off under this Government?

The simple facts relating to this question are that the tax on an income of £500 has been reduced from £13 under the benign administration which I have conducted to £12s. 2d., a fall of 91 per cent., whereas, in regard to the mythical family with £100,000 a year which was previously referred to, they have suffered a reduction of only 2·7 per cent.

Is it not also the case, judging from the Chancellor's original answer, that the man with £500 a year who has two children, nevertheless now has a purchasing power which is £24 less than it was in 1951; or, if not £24 gross, then £24 net, which was £12 less than in 1951? [Interruption.] If hon. Members do not seem to be able to understand these confusing figures, they had better wait for it. Am I to understand that the Chancellor said that the net income of the man with £500 a year and two children was now worth £475, against £487, under the right hon. Gentleman's dispensation?

I can only repeat the figures that I gave with singular clarity and honour in my original answer. The net income of a family with £500 a year would have been £487, and the other figure is £475, so that the perspicacity of the right hon. Gentleman remains as acute as ever.

What is the Chancellor bragging about? Has he not taken it all back in the prices of food?

In contrast to the Administration which we succeeded, for the last year or so the prices of food have barely risen at all.

Is not such a family in the position of being £12 worse off than under the Labour Government?

On a point of order. Are we to allow hon. Members to ask long supplementary questions, with people getting their figures wrong and going back and checking them, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds. South (Mr. Gaitskell)?

Sir John Cockroft (Salary)

9.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he agreed to pay Sir John Cockroft a salary of £8,500 a year.

The hon. Member is mistaken. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works announced on 1st July, Sir John Cockroft's salary will be £5,000 a year as a member of the Atomic Energy Authority, with an additional payment of £1,000 in his capacity as an executive.

Is not the figure of £6,000 still £2,000 more than the salary of the Secretary of State for Scotland? Will not this mean that the Secretary of State for Scotland will want a rise, and so will the Chancellor of the Exchequer and all the other Ministers getting £4,000 a year?

Convertibility

10.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes he proposes in the working of the European Payments Union as a prelude to convertibility.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 6th July to the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell). The changes which we have made are designed to meet the needs of the moment. The effect on the Union in the event of convertibility being decided upon by one or more countries, is now being considered by a Committee established by the Council of O.E.E.C., of which I am chairman; we are about to start work.

Does not the Treasury Bulletin point to certain difficulties which may arise if some currencies are made convertible while others are not strong enough to become convertible, and have the Government any proposals for altering E.P.U. to deal with the situation, or do they intend, as has been suggested, to do it in another year's time?

The latter part of the question would be a simplification. In regard to the former part, nothing could be more complicated than a situation in which some currencies would be convertible and some would be non-convertible. That is precisely why we are setting about an examination of this problem in the event of a possible future convertibility operation. We are simply doing it against such a possibility, and not with any specific plan in mind.

11.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer which European countries have indicated to him that they are ready to make their currencies convertible.

Such decisions, which have not been imparted to me, must be left to the countries concerned.

Do I understand the Chancellor said in his reply that it is not intended to go forward with convertibility until practically all the countries concerned are ready to do so?

No, Sir; I could not say that, because this question of convertibility lies absolutely within the discretion of individual sovereign countries. I could give no undertaking, but I think it is more likely that there will be a collective approach to this subject than an individual one.

Continental Day Trips (Duty-Free Goods)

12.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why day trippers returning from France are not permitted any allowance of duty-free goods.

The circumstances in which day trips are made are not comparable with those in which concessions are granted to foreign tourists and our own nationals returning from travel abroad.

Is not this a mean and paltry discrimination against people who cannot afford longer holidays? Does it also apply to air passengers who spend a few hours in Paris or Brussels and come back the same day? Will not the Chancellor have another look at this matter and take steps to see that all people are treated alike?

No, Sir; I am not prepared to go back on the present practice. The position would be that, if we had day trips for £3, which is a typical day trip passage, it would be possible to bring in a small amount of concession cigarettes, half a bottle of spirits, perhaps half a pint of perfume and a bottle of sherry or other heavy wine, all at considerable concessions made by the Customs, which would mean that the trip would he very much worth while. Therefore, I think we had better stick to the present regulations, whereby travellers who do not go on day trips are given very considerable concessions by the Customs.

Does that answer mean that if we can afford to take an extended holiday abroad we obtain privileges, whereas if we cannot afford to do so we do not? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Is that what is meant by Tory policy, one law for the rich and another for the poor?

Anglo-Argentine Trade Talks

13.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the progress of the current Anglo-Argentine commercial and financial discussions.

Discussions on trade and financial matters opened in Buenos Aires on 7th July. It is not possible to make any statement on the talks at this early stage.

Private Water Companies (Taxation)

14.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why a water company gets more favourable treatment in regard to Income Tax than a public water board; and how far this concession to private enterprise companies extends to other public utility services.

I am not clear what treatment in regard to Income Tax the hon. Member has in mind. If he will write to me on the matter, I will gladly look into it.

Is the Chancellor aware that a financial expert, giving evidence before a Select Committee of this House, said that a private water company was in a more favourable position in regard to Income Tax than a public water beard? Will he have an investigation made into the matter in order to see that there is equitable treatment? I will gladly supply the right hon. Gentleman with the quotation.

I very much look forward to receiving the information which the hon. Gentleman will send me, because this matter is news to me and to the Revenue.

Foreign Travel Allowances

15.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the main classes of travellers who expended £5 million in the dollar area last year; and how much was expended by each class.

The main classes were businessmen, private persons travelling for health or family reasons, officials, students and delegates to conferences. About £3½ million was authorised last year in respect of businessmen. No comparable figures are available for the other classes.

If we can afford, as I am glad to hear that we can, £5 million under the benign administration of the Chancellor for certain people belonging to the privileged classes which are growing up in this country to visit America, cannot he spare something for ordinary travellers to see our most important ally?

I am aware of the importance of this matter. We shall have to wait and see.

How much of this £5 million was expended by the dockers of this country?

Perhaps the hon. Member will send me such information as is in his possession.

18.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total amounts of francs issued for the use of British visitors to France during the last 12 months to the most recent convenient date; how much of this was basic allowance; and amongst how many applicants the balance was shared.

Allocations for travel in France by U.K. residents in the year to 31st may, 1954, totalled about £14 million. Of this total, about £8 million represented basic allowance; about £2 million other allotments and about £4 million settlements by travel agents, etc., cover both basic and other allotments. The number of applications in respect of which the £2 million currency for travel other than basic allotments was issued is 45,000.

Is the Chancellor aware of the knowledge possessed by everybody now that these regulations are substantially ignored—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—particularly by a large proportion of the people who spend holidays on the Riviera for very long periods of the year? Is the right hon. Gentleman not also aware that the most expensive hotels in Nice and Antibes are full of British visitors living there on £5 or £10 a night? Does he not think the time has come to relax the restrictions on the smaller man, who very often has to save for three or four years before he takes a holiday abroad?

I am aware of the anxiety about the travel allowance, and that it is widely held. I can give no further answer today except to remind the hon. Member that there is very close supervision in the matter and that the eyes of the authorities are probably more acute than some hon. Members may realise.

19.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the present arrangement for the furnishing of foreign currency to yacht owners going abroad; whether it is now permissible for the currency for yacht owner, captain and crew to be issued collectively; and what additional allowances are provided in respect of cost of fuel in the case of steam yachts.

There is no special arrangement. Yacht owner, captain and crew must apply individually for their basic travel allowance, but there is no objection to the pooling of these allowances provided the foreign currency collected from each person is utilised for his direct benefit. The allowance of £25 given to travellers taking their cars abroad is also given to yacht owners in respect of the cost of fuel.

Are the eyes of benign authority kept on the number of yachts on the Mediterranean, sailing under British flags at the present time?

As recent evidence has shown a very close watch is kept, and will be kept.

20.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent British citizens possessing British passports who are not liable to the payment of British taxes because of the period of their residence abroad are eligible for the issue of foreign currency.

Although residence abroad for the purpose of taxation does not necessarily involve residence abroad for the purpose of exchange control, British citizens living abroad and exempt from taxes are rarely eligible for the issue of foreign currency.

If the hon. Member will put that question down I will attempt to give him a longer answer.

Had the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) any of these difficulties when he lately went to the South of France?

Is the Chancellor aware that my wife and I went without lunch day by day, stayed in village hotels, had a very good time and hope to do the same next year?

I have no doubt that he had a better time than if he had stayed at some of the posh hotels.

Germany (Occupation Costs)

16.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of the last payment received from the Federal German Government in respect of occupation costs; and when it was paid.

Occupation costs are disbursed by the Federal German Government day by day, in accordance with payment authorisations issued by the Occupying Powers.

Bearing in mind the heavy load of taxation already borne by our taxpayers, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that so long as the Occupation Statute is in force he will see that occupation costs to which this country is entitled are fully paid up, and that there will be no arrears when the statute comes to an end?

I will discuss that question with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Government Stocks (Tax Refunds)

17.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much of !he interest due on 1st May, 1953, on the Government stocks, a list of which has been sent to him, and which was paid less tax at 9s. 6d. in the £ instead of at 9s. in the £ has not yet been claimed by the stockholders, registered at the appropriate date; and whether he will now issue instructions to the Bank of England to issue supplementary dividend warrants; and why a credit adjusting such incorrect deduction was not allowed on the next half year's dividend warrant.

The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available centrally and could not be obtained without a disproportionate amount of work. The answer to the second and third parts of the Question is that applications for refund of tax over-deducted in these circumstances are dealt with by the Inland Revenue. Stockholders concerned were so advised in a notice circulated by the Bank of England.

Government Departments (Regional Organisations)

22.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury which Departments have reduced the size and cost of their regional organisation during the last year; and what is the total saving.

The Departments which reduced the size and cost of their regional organisation during the year ended 31st March, 1954, are Admiralty, Central Land Board and War Damage Commission, Central Office of Information, National Assistance Board, Board of Trade and the Ministries of Food, Fuel and Power, Housing and Local Government, Labour and National Service, Supply and Works. The saving amounts to 2,022 in staff and about £977,000 a year in money.

Are not some of these regional organisations to be closed down entirely? What effect is that likely to have on the efficient administration of Government Departments?

The Question relates to Departments which reduced their size in the past year. If the hon. Gentleman wants information about future proposals, perhaps he would be good enough to put a Question on the Paper.

Housing

Rothwell

23.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why he is refusing to allow Rothwell Urban District Council to build traditional houses when local brickyards have an abundance of bricks, to the extent of having no stocking place, which could be used for such building at a lower cost than that of the non-traditional type of house.

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

The demand for craftsmen for traditional house-building in this area exceeds the supply, and the two local brick-yards, according to their returns to the Ministry of Works, have no stocks in hand. My right hon. Friend hopes, therefore, that the council will be willing to build some of their houses by new-tradition methods.

I do not think so. The prices of new-tradition houses varies throughout the country, but generally speaking it is in step with those for traditional houses.

Furnished Houses (Rent Receipts)

26.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will make a Regulation under Section 8 of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, requiring the lessor to give the lessee receipts for rent paid.

My right hon. Friend is advised that no such regulation could be made under the powers of the Section.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary ask his right hon. Friend the Minister to look at Section 8 of the Act? Is the Minister aware that, in the absence of rent receipts, several of the provisions of this Act are being made largely inoperative throughout the country today?

My right hon. Friend has already taken legal advice on Section 8 and is advised that under it receipts for rent cannot be asked for. However, I will ask him to look at the matter again, and, in the meantime, if the hon. Gentleman will send me details of any cases of abuse, I will look into them.

Requisitioned Houses

28.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government 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.

On 31st December, 1953, my Department still held for housing purposes approximately 69,400 premises, accommodating about 100,000 families, which had either been requisitioned or taken by agreement with the owners. The present rate of release is about 10,000 properties a year. My Department holds no other properties on requisition. My right hon. Friend has no power to sell requisitioned properties. On derequisition they are returned to their owners.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that answer, may I ask whether he does not agree that this is a large figure for nearly 10 years after the war? Will my hon. Friend bear that in mind?

My right hon. Friend is trying to carry out the recommendations of the working party on requisitioned properties, and I think that the House agrees with those recommendations.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the attitude taken up by his Ministry over the question of de-requisitioning houses has caused a great grievance in the large cities where thousands of people are still on the housing registers? In Birmingham today there are heaps of houses which have been derequisitioned and empty for six months, awaiting not occupation by the owners, but sale to the highest bidder, and this while 60,000 people are on the housing list. Why not requisition such properties?

I cannot agree that hardship has been caused. Every case has been brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend or myself and adequate notice has been given that derequisitioning ought to take place. Local authorities have the power to acquire or to take over such properties on lease, and, therefore, the question of removing a tenant does not really arise.

33 and 34.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) on what date he instructed the Southport Town Council. Lancashire to serve notices on tenants in requisitioned property; and what instructions he gave regarding rehousing the displaced tenants;

(2) if he is aware that his instruction to Southport Town Council, Lancashire, to serve notices to quit on 23 families living in requisitioned houses will mean that these tenants will be made homeless, as no instruction to rehouse has been made; and if he will notify the town council not to evict those families until suitable alternative accommodation has been offered them.

My right hon. Friend has not instructed the council to serve notices to quit. The council were advised in October, 1952, that all requisitioned properties should be released by 10th December, 1953. As the council had failed to comply, my right hon. Friend issued a direction to the town clerk on 20th May, 1954, that the properties still held on requisition should be released not later than 31st August next.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that on two occasions last year I put supplementary questions to him, the first on 30th June and the second on 21st July, in reply to which I and other people considered that he gave a definite promise that there would be no request made by the Ministry to de-requisition properties unless the local authority could give an assurance that the people in them would be rehoused before the properties were derequisitioned? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that the town clerk of Southport sent out a letter on 18th June last in which he stated:

"…request you to take immediate steps to find alternative accommodation, and if you fail to vacate the premises"—

That is just like hon. Members opposite. The letter goes on:

"I shall reluctantly be compelled"—

It is unfair to other hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper to waste time.

Is it not infra dig, Mr. Speaker, for an hon. Member of this House to ask a Question relating to another hon. Member's constituency? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The hon. Lady is asking a Question relating to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Fleetwood-Hesketh).

I am not a judge of what is infra dig. I am only concerned with the rules of order, and the Question was in order. The hon. Lady has been a long time asking her Question, and I hope that she will now be quick.

I would have been much shorter had they not howled from the other side. I was reading a quotation from the letter. Mr. Speaker, would you ask these people to keep as quiet as we do when others are speaking?

I hope the House will keep quiet and will let the hon. Lady ask her question.

I am waiting to do so, and intend to do so whatever happens. [Interruption.] I am not in the least worried whether I am thrown out or not, but I am asking this question—so let us have it straight to begin with. The letter says:

"…If you fail to vacate the premises I shall reluctantly be compelled to take appropriate steps to have you evicted from the premises."
Will the Minister say if this is within the terms of the letter which he sent to Southport? Will he please hold this matter up in view of the fact that a number of families—one with eight children—are to be put on the streets next Monday unless he does something about it?

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Can I say this with reference [Interruption.]—

I was challenged about asking a question concerning another hon. Member's constituency. I hold in my hand a letter from the representative of that constituency saying that he can do nothing whatever about it.

It was a rather long and somewhat interrupted supplementary, of which the hon. Lady did not give me notice. I therefore do not think I can reply in detail, but I would say this. There are two questions at issue. The first is that of the family in the premises to be vacated. The hon. Lady in her original Question asked why the Ministry said that the tenant had to quit. 'The answer is that the Ministry did not say that but that the council would have to derequisition the premises and gave 12 months' notice of the derequisition. If the council wished to acquire the premises either by compulsory purchase or by taking a voluntary lease, it was up to it so to do. That was its responsibility as the housing authority. As my right hon. Friend is in touch with the local authority, which has to the end of August, I think that there is plenty of time for the matter to be settled.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that as the Member for this constituency I have been in constant touch with the Minister for nearly three weeks on this matter—and he has done his best to help me? Is my hon. Friend also aware that in consequence of the Minister's last letter to me I have again been in touch with the council which is doing all in its power actively to pursue certain alternative courses which the Minister suggested in order to reach a happy solution to this difficult problem.

40.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will issue a further circular to local authorities urging them to restore requisitioned properties to their previous owners; and whether he can give an estimate of the number of properties held on requisition by local authorities at the present time.

My right hon. Friend sent local authorities a circular on this subject generally at the end of last year. Properties are now being released at the rate of about 10,000 a year. The process obviously takes time, and he does not think it necessary to send a further circular at the moment. The answer to the last part of the Question is about 69,000.

Subsidies

29.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what he estimates will be the effect of his reduction in housing subsidies on the rent of houses built after 1st April, 1955, of the same standard as those built prior to that date.

My right hon. Friend would refer the hon. Member to the reply he gave to the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) and to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) on 6th July.

Is it not evident that there will be increases of rent, and is this not an example of Tory policy equalising-misery by first forcing up the rents of private houses and now of council houses?

The attitude which the hon. Gentleman takes on this matter is really very curious. When the interest rates went up, he demanded an increase in the subsidy at once, and he got it. When the interest rates came down, my right hon. Friend decided to adjust the subsidy, but only after a period of time in order to give the local authorities notice. Nothing could be more generous, and nothing could be more unfair than the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the reduction in local authority subsidy contributions will be of real assistance to local rates and should be borne in mind when considering this matter?

30.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what change has taken place in the cost of house building since February, 1952; and how far he took this into account before deciding to reduce the housing subsidy paid to local authorities.

The estimated cost of building a standard three-bedroom house has increased by £58 since subsidy was last calculated. This increase, together with other offsetting factors set out in the Report which my right hon. Friend has already presented to the House, was taken into account in calculating the new rates of subsidy.

Is the Minister aware that many local authorities estimate that the average cost of building a three-bedroom house is now well over £1,700 as against £1,522, the figure taken by the Minister two years ago on which to calculate his subsidy? In view of that, does not the hon. Gentleman agree that costs have risen very much more than any benefit which local authorities may obtain from reduced rates of interest?

I think not. The £58 was calculated most carefully and is only one of the factors which has to be taken into account. It is easy to distort the question of subsidy by taking only one factor and ignoring the others. There will be an opportunity for the House to discuss the matter when the Order is before it, because it requires an affirmative Resolution.

Ex-Regular Soldiers

37.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware of the difficulty experienced by Regular Service men in obtaining accommodation on discharge; and what proposals he now has for its solution.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 18th May to the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall).

As I have not that answer by me, may I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he appreciates to the full the difficulties being experienced by these long-Service men on discharge in re-establishing themselves in civilian life largely owing to their difficulty in finding accommodation?

Yes, the difficulties are realised. The housing management subcommittee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee is now considering the question of residential qualification with particular reference to Service men. It is calling for evidence from all appropriate bodies such as the British Legion, the Soldiers, Sailors and Air Force Families' Association and so on.

Housing Programmes

39.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many local authorities have been informed that their completion rate has been so exceptional that their future housing programme must be reduced.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that his answer is completely inaccurate? In a letter sent to me in May the Minister made it quite clear that because of the exceptional progress the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth had made its housing programme was to be cut. If that is so, why does the Parliamentary Secretary now say, something completely contradictory?

It is a very curious use of language to call the Lambeth housing allocation a cut. In 1952, 78 houses were built; in 1953, 211, and in 1954 an estimated figure of 600 houses. At the end of May the borough had 758 houses under construction with another 507 approved but not started, giving 1,265 in hand.

Are we to understand that the policy of the Government is to build all the houses they can—the more the merrier? Why is it that this Labour majority on the Lambeth Borough Council is going to be punished for its energy in building more and more houses? Why are the Government stopping it from building more and more houses?

I should think that the Lambeth Borough Council will be gratified to know that in 1954 they have in hand six times the number of 1951 completions when the right hon. Gentleman and his party were in power.

Is the hon. Gentleman not now doing what the Government are persistently doing, namely, trying to claim credit to this Government for the activities of a Labour majority. [Interruption.] I do not think the hon. Gentleman needs the assistance of the Financial Secretary, though he is a "smart alec."

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary in such an opprobious term as a "smart alec"?

The term is new to me. I do not think it is English, but until I have had it defined to me, I would not know whether it is in order or not.

Is it not the case that the Government are claiming the credit for the achievements of the local authority which happens to have a Labour majority? [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I am not withdrawing. Because a Labour local authority has made an eminent success of its housing programme, why should the Government step in and stop it?

I was merely trying to answer a Question and not claim any credit. It is curious, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman at some time will explain to the House why this Labour Council did not do so well under a Labour Government?

Housing Medal (Improvement Schemes)

41.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will offer a housing medal for outstanding examples of improvement or conversion.

Yes, Sir. The housing medal competition for 1955 will be in two parts. The first is to feature schemes of conversion or improvement carried out by public and private owners; the second, schemes of new housebuilding by private enterprise.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him how many people have seen the current exhibition in Oxford Street of improvements and conversions?

Up till yesterday evening, approximately 75,000 in 21 days, including many local authorities and organisations.

Local Government

Tourist And Holiday Board

25.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a statement as to the action he has taken to enable rural district councils to contribute to a tourist and holiday board.

My right hon. Friend made an order on 4th June, which gives rural district councils the power to do this.

Town And Country Planning

27.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will set up a National Advisory Council on town and country planning.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary inform the House whether the Minister has decided to abolish the regional planning organisations? If he has so decided, is it not more than ever necessary, in view of the fact that there is already a Central Housing Advisory Committee which is rendering a useful service to his Department that he ought to have an advisory body for dealing with planning? Will the Minister reconsider the matter?

Planning is not the same as housing—it is less standardised—and my right hon. Friend has made no decision as yet regarding the regions. He thinks that there is no point in appointing a committee unless there is a useful purpose for it to serve.

Southend Waterworks Company

31.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now apply the water code of the Water Act, 1945, to the Southend Waterworks Company.

My right hon. Friend is not yet in a position to add to his reply of 6th July.

Does my hon. Friend think it fair and proper that this statutory company should base assessments in the Borough of Southend upon rateable value and in the surrounding rural districts on rental value? Will my hon. Friend make investigations to see whether the company has acted properly in revising its assessments before ascertaining the true rental value of each property?

I do not think it would be proper for my right hon. Friend to comment at the moment because, first, he is in touch with the water company, and, secondly, he may have to act in a quasi judicial capacity, but I will take note of what the hon. Gentleman says.

London Development Plan

32.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he expects to announce his decisions upon the London Development Plan.

My right hon. Friend cannot yet say, although consideration of the Plan is going forward as rapidly as possible.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is some 18 months since the public inquiry took place, and that this long delay is causing great inconvenience to Londoners, particularly among people who want to buy or sell property?

The public inquiry took nine months and only ended in June, 1953. There were 7,000 objections to the Plan. It is of fundamental importance to London that any decision come to should be fair and adequate rather than hasty.

Slaughterhouse, Penzance

35.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why planning approval was given to the Old Workhouse at Madron, Penzance, being used as a slaughterhouse.

The responsibility for granting planning permission rests with the Cornwall County Council as local planning authority.

As this is a matter of more than local importance and is an example of the major policy of the Government in regard to slaughterhouses, will the Minister give guidance to planning authorities so that when the ultimate policy of moderate concentration of slaughterhouses is put into effect these abominable places will not again be licensed?

I am bound to say that the actual question of the planning decision did not come to my right hon. Friend. It is eminently a matter for local decision, and it was made by the local county council after it had taken everyone into consultation.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in the recent debate on slaughterhouses the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) referred to muddle between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government? In view of my hon. Friend's answer, is it not really the case that this muddle exists in the mind of the hon. Member and that his interference—or perhaps I should say intervention—should be addressed to the county council?

As the Ministry of Food is encouraging the opening of these slaughterhouses which are hopelessly out of date, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government says that it is the responsibility of the authority, should not that Ministry instruct the local authorities that these slaughterhouses when hopelessly out of date ought not to be reopened?

The local planning authorities, as distinct from the local authorities, have had sufficient guidance on the principles which they should observe in planning.

May I ask the Minister to take into account the fact that the villagers concerned protested almost unanimously against this licensing?

There again I am bound to say that the West Penwith Rural District Council by majority decided to support the issue of a licence.

City Of London (Rebuilding Projects)

38.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government regarding what post-war projects in the city of London he has overruled objections by the Royal Fine Art Commission; and on what grounds.

Atmospheric Pollution

36.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if, in view of the recently published report of Dr. Richard Scorer of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, on the subject of atmospheric pollution, a copy of which is in the possession of his Department, he is prepared to make a statement on the action being taken in this matter.

My right hon. Friend understands that the publication is being studied by the Committee on Air Pollution.

Will my hon. Friend urge my right hon. Friend to ask this Committee to hurry its deliberations? In view of the fact that the findings of this Report show that the citizens of London are being slowly poisoned it would be an advantage if we could have the findings of the Committee published soon.

My right hon. Friend realises that it is an important subject, especially to Londoners, but I think that the speed of the Committee's deliberations really must rest with the Committee.

Ancient Monuments (Preservation)

44.

asked the Minister of Works what recommendations, since the recent destruction of the Normanton Barrows, he has received from the Council for British Archaeology, with a view to preventing further damage to ancient monuments; and what action he proposes to take.

The Council have made a number of recommendations for making owners of property and the public more fully aware of scheduled monuments and for obtaining reports on their condition. I have also received the advice of the Ancient Monuments Board, and I am considering what action I should take.

Is it correct that the Council has offered the assistance of local archaeological societies throughout the country to help in the preservation of these ancient monuments?

They have suggested that the organisation of county correspondents should be strengthened, and that is a good idea which I intend to follow up.

Nationalised Industries (Select Committee)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement upon the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the recommendations of the Select Committee upon Nationalised Industries, the final report of the committee having been published nearly 12 months ago.

46.

asked the Prime Minister what action is now contemplated arising from the recommendation of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries which finally reported in July, 1953.

I have been asked to reply.

The House will recall my statement on 8th February that the Government accepted in principle the idea of a standing committee on nationalised industries, as recommended by the Select Committee, subject to any necessary detailed modifications and to consideration of the views expressed in debate, and on the understanding that the way was left open for a Joint Select Committee for this purpose, if that should eventually be decided upon.

The Government have carefully considered the views expressed on this matter from both sides of the House and are satisfied that there is a substantial body of support for the establishment of a Select Committee. They are further satisfied that there is no desire in another place that this committee should be a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses.

In these circumstances, the Government intend to table next Session a Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee of this House on the general basis recommended in the Select Committee's Report. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a note commenting, in detail on certain points.

Following is the note:

The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries recommended in their Second Report (House of Commons Paper No. 235) that a committee should be set up under a Standing Order in the following terms:
"There shall be a select Committee, to be designated the Committee on Nationalised Industries, for examining the Reports and Accounts of, and for obtaining further information as to the general policy and practices of the Nationalised Industries established by Statute whose controlling Boards are wholly appointed by Ministers of the Crown and whose annual receipts are not wholly or mainly derived from moneys provided by Parliament or advanced from the Exchequer. The Committee shall consist of not more than 21 members, who shall be nominated at the commencement of every Session and of whom seven shall be a quorum. The Committee shall have power to appoint subcommittees from its own members. The Committee and any such sub-committee shall have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to report from time to time."
The Government think it premature to create a Committee under Standing Order but propose in the first place to move next Session for a Committee under an ad hoc Motion. Subject to this, the Government propose to adopt this recommendation subject to the following modifications and qualifications:

Terms of Reference

The Select Committee's terms of reference should be as in the suggested Standing Order, subject to the substitution of the word "current" for "general" in the phrase "general policy and practice of the nationalised industries."
The Government consider that it would be inappropriate that the proposed committee should investigate matters which have been decided by the Minister concerned or clearly engage his responsibility and for which he should, therefore, be answerable on the Floor of the House, or all matters (including questions of wages and conditions of employment) which are normally decided by collective bargaining arrangements. They also consider that the proposed committee should not concern themselves with matters which fall to be considered through formal machinery established by the relevant Statutes or with matters of day-to-day administration.

Composition

The Committee should consist of not more than 14 members of whom five should be a quorum.

Sub-Committees

The Committee should not have power to appoint sub-committees.

Power to send for persons, papers and records

The Committee should normally take evidence about the affairs of a nationalised industry from the Chairman of the Board of the industry concerned or a representative nominated by him. The witness might he accompanied by other representatives of the Board where appropriate. Ministers should not normally be invited to appear before the Committee.

Power to report

The Committee should report from time to time and publish its evidence except where such publication might be held to be contrary to the public interest.

Staff of the Committee

The staff of the Committee should not include an officer of the status of the Comptroller and Auditor General. It should have the assistance of liaison officers from the Treasury and from each of the Departments whose Ministers are responsible for the affairs of nationalised industries.

Prime Minister And Foreign Secretary (Visit To United States)

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give details of the membership of the party which accompanied him on his recent trip to the United States of America; and what was the total cost of this visit, giving separately the costs in respect of Ministers, other honourable Members and civil servants.

I have been asked to reply.

The party consisted of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, the noble Lords, Lord Cherwell and Lord Moran, the hon. and gallant Member for Bedford (Captain Soames), Sir Edwin Plowden, Sir Harold Caccia, Mr. Allen, Mr. Colville, Sir Anthony Rumbold, four secretaries, two detectives, two cypher officers, two security officers and two personal servants.

The cost of the aircraft chartered for the party was £4,255. The other costs, including travel and subsistence, amounted to: Ministers, £1,409; the hon. and gallant Member, £259; civil servants and others, £4,100. The total cost, therefore, amounted to £10,023.

Whilst not in any way wishing to comment adversely on the amount spent, may I be assured that none of the Ministers, civil servants, or any who went on that trip to the U.S.A. had to meet any part of the cost out of their respective personal salaries whilst performing their public duties, as Members of Parliament have to do here?

Members Of Parliament (Financial Interests)

48.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give details of the rule concerning the relinquishment of all outside financial interests by members of Her Majesty's Government on appointment to their respective offices; and whether he will introduce the necessary legislation to make this procedure universally applicable to all Members of Parliament on taking the Oath of Allegiance.

In answer to the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on Monday, 25th February, 1952, a copy of which I am sending to him. The answer to the second part of the Question is: "No, Sir."

Whilst agreeing that it would be wrong to try to prevent the representatives of the big vested interests who are sitting on the benches opposite with all their company directorships, from being Members of this House, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will not agree that it is wrong for the 1922 Committee to try to prevent working men and those who work with their hands as well as with their brains from becoming Members of this House?

European Defence Community (Germany)

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will invite Herr Adenauer to London to discuss with him the problems arising from the fact that the European Defence Community Treaty has not yet been ratified by France.

I hope that the House will allow me reasonable discretion about invitations of this character. Such matters are always in my mind, and my respect and regard for Dr. Adenauer are well known.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that he usually gives me this sort of answer and then has a meeting later on with the persons to whom the Question refers? Would be bear in mind that Herr Adenauer said that while he thinks the E.D.C. Treaty ought to go ahead, in his view it can be modified? Would it not be a good thing for the right hon. Gentleman and Dr. Adenauer to meet and discuss how this Treaty could be modified, instead of trying to bludgeon the French who, after all, are only bearing in mind what he himself once advocated—a European army with Britain it it?

If ever I should have the good fortune to meet Dr. Adenauer, the hon. Member will have the pleasure of feeling that he has once again pointed the way to Government policy.

Bacteriological Warfare

50.

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider transferring the duties of the Minister of Supply relating to experiments in bacteriological warfare from the Minister of Supply to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

No, Sir. This is a defence matter for which the Ministry of Supply is the appropriate Department.

Is it not the duty of the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland to protect the civil population against bacteria and against the spread of disease? Is there not a certain amount of overlapping in this case? Could not some economy be effected if the matter were transferred to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Washington Declaration (Ireland)

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether the case of Ireland was under discussion between himself and President Eisenhower before signing the recent statement on the principle of unification of countries whose people desire it.

The case of Ireland was not discussed between the President and myself. I thought all that was settled happily a long time ago.

Does not the Prime Minister consider that Clause 3, namely, the case of nations divided against their will, fits the case of Ireland like a glove? Would it not be a strange omission not to consider the views of two million Irish voters, whose swing-over contributed to the Republican victory last year, and who resent the partition both of Ireland and Korea? Are the principles of democracy to be applied only to nations abroad?

The principles of democracy, subject to their usual qualifications, are of general application.