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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 530: debated on Monday 19 July 1954

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Ministry Of Supply

Low-Flying Aircraft, Rugby


asked the Minister of Supply what knowledge he possesses of low-flying jet aircraft over Rugby; and what action he is taking in this matter.

The only aircraft operating in that area for which I have any responsibility are those manufactured at the Armstrong-Whitworth Works. These have to be flight-tested before delivery to the Services.

The pilots are expressly forbidden to fly below 1,000 feet, except when taking off or landing; and I have received no evidence to show that any of these aircraft have contravened the regulations.

Is the Minister aware that his colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Air, disclaims all knowledge of R.A.F. planes in this connection and that I believe him, because in my division there are many ex-pilots who think that these planes are from the right hon. Gentleman's establishment at Bitteswell? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is an intolerable nuisance to teachers in schools and to parents who have small children? Would he look at it again, please?

Looking at it is not so easy. The areoplane, presumably, is no longer there. We have consulted Rugby police, who tell us that they have not observed or had reports of low-flying aircraft for a long time. Nevertheless, I have brought the hon. Member's complaint to the attention of the firm concerned, though I have no evidence whatsoever that anyone there has transgressed at all.

Victor Aircraft (Accident)


asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement about the accident to the Victor aircraft.

I have little to add to the full accounts which appeared in the Press. The accident occurred while the aircraft was carrying out instrument tests at low altitude over the airfield of the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield. The circumstances are being investigated by the Accidents Investigation Board, and the wreckage will be sent to Farnborough for examination.

The House will wish to join with me in expressing its sympathy with the relatives of the test pilot and three observers who lost their lives.

While appreciating that expression of sympathy and wishing to associate my hon. Friends with it, may I ask whether this unfortunate tragedy will have the effect of greatly delaying the production of this aircraft?

It is too soon to say until we have a report on the results of the inquiry. This was the first and only prototype, but a second prototype is due to be completed very shortly.

Vertical Take-Off Aircraft (Research)


asked the Minister of Supply what research is being conducted in this country into methods of vertical, or near-vertical, take-off of aircraft, other than by rotating wings; and how far this research has proceeded.

The Ministry of Supply has given contracts to a number of firms to undertake research into various methods of vertical or near-vertical takeoff. Engines and airframes suitable for this purpose are being developed.

As the right hon. Gentleman no doubt is aware, elsewhere in the world development is fairly far advanced. Will he see that there is no question of money shortage to delay the development of what may well be one of the most important types of machine?

I realise the importance of this work. Quite a lot of money has already been spent on it and the amounts being spent are going up fairly steeply. All this research into vertical and near-vertical take-off has very important military applications, and, therefore, I do not want to go into details of exactly what we are doing and how far we have got.

Princess Flying Boats (Use)


asked the Minister of Supply if he has yet made a decision about the future use of the Princess flying boats.

No. Sir. The discussions with airline operators, who are interested in acquiring the Princess flying boats, are not yet concluded.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that it would be quite intolerable if these machines were not used, and that if they are to be used the sooner the decision is made the better? Is there nothing he can do, with his personal charm and by other methods, to see that someone makes up his mind on this matter?

Can the Minister say what is holding up a decision about these aircraft? Is it difficulty about delivery of the right type of engine, or is it an absence of decision in the discussions with the Corporation?

Only a limited number of concerns are prepared to take on a novel enterprise of this kind and there is the problem of facilities at overseas bases. There is also the problem, about which I have spoken before to the House, that engines of sufficient power to run these flying boats economically on a commercial basis are not yet available. There are, therefore, elements of uncertainty in the whole proposition and that is why the discussions are, perhaps, taking longer than some of us would like.

Is it not a fact that the engines have not been available hitherto because of the decision of the right hon. Gentleman's Department? Although there may be better ones in the future, will he see that priority is given to these flying boats?

I cannot agree to give priority to these machines—for which there is as yet no definite user—over machines which are urgently required for the Services and for the civil airlines. I am not at all anxious to authorise the expenditure of large sums of public money on the development of special engines exclusively for use in those three flying boats. However, I am glad to say that among the range of new engines being developed by the aircraft industry for aircraft of various types there is one which appears to offer every prospect that it will be suitable for use in the Princesses.

Bacteriological Warfare (Anglo-Us Discussions)


asked the Minister of Supply to what extent he discussed the question of bacteriological warfare with United States defence authorities during his recent visit.

Is there any arrangement for interchange of information between the United States Government and ourselves on the question of bacteriological warfare?



asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, whether, as the result of his further discussions with representatives of the newspapers, he will announce when newsprint rationing will end.

My noble Friend has nothing at present to add to the reply which I gave on his behalf to the Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) on 31st May. His discussions with the representatives of the newspapers are still going on.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the prospects of decontrol in 1955 are much less favourable by reason of the fact that producers are unable to produce the extra 50,000 tons required? In those circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman now sanction the purchase of additional newsprint from Canadian or Scandinavian sources instead of hanging on to the control like grim death?

I assure the hon. and gallant Member that we are not hanging on like grim death, but are looking forward to the day when we can get rid of these last controls. Unfortunately, one of the new machines which we reckoned on being started in this country in the very near future will be delayed a little. I cannot add anything to what my noble Friend said the other day, that in existing circumstances, and bearing in mind balance of payments and supply difficulties, he did not see much chance of authorising more than the 100,000 additional tons authorised for next year.

As there is so much rubbish in the newspapers these days, especially Sunday papers, will the hon. Gentleman be careful about spending dollars in this way?

Legal Aid And Advice Act (Implementation)


asked the Attorney-General whether he will now make a statement with regard to proposals for implementing the provisions of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949, in order to avoid injustice being done to persons who through lack of means are unable to obtain professional advice when necessary so as to be adequately represented in county courts and magistrates' courts when necessary.

Does the Attorney-General feel that he is entitled to be so complacent about this matter in view of the fact that 6 million houses will be affected by the new Housing Repairs and Rents Bill? Does he realise that it is impossible for laymen to understand the complications involved in that Measure and similar Measures? Does he not think that something ought to be done to help the laymen to conduct his case in the county court in a proper manner?

I am not in any way complacent about the matter. I fully appreciate the paint of view of the hon. Member, and I hope that the time may come when we shall be able to do something.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman familiar with the procedure adopted by the Assistance Board in assessing the needs of applicants for legal aid and advice certificates? Is he aware that a constituent of mine was recently granted a certificate and commenced a serious legal action in the High Court on the strength of the certificate, but later had the certificate withdrawn on a reassessment of means, which intervened while the action was pending? Will the Attorney-General look into the procedure, which seems to me to be highly contentious?

I think that is a slightly different question from the one I was asked, but if the hon. Member will give me particulars of the case he mentioned. I shall be glad to look into it.

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what would be the cost of implementing the Act? Could he say, also, when he is likely to bring forward proposals to implement the Act?

I cannot give any figure for the cost. The matter has been considered, but it is extraordinarily difficult to arrive at a figure. As for when the Act may be implemented, hon. Members will appreciate that I am not in control of a matter of that kind. I cannot give any undertaking about what may be done in a future Session.

Would the Attorney-General reconsider this matter? With the greatest respect, is he not aware that he himself would find it considerably difficult to understand many of the provisions of many of the new Acts now coming into force? Is it not a very serious thing to expect a layman to know when he ought to take a case to the county court and when he ought not to do so? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not realise that the new Act will enable agreements to be entered into between the parties and, in consequence, people will be compelled to enter into them not knowing their legal position?

I certainly appreciate that legal aid is a very valuable social service, but, as the hon. Member will know, there is a great demand for the extension of social services of all kinds and the matter has to be dealt with as one of priority.

Pensions And National Insurance

Insurance Board Doctors (Sessions)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware that there is dissatisfaction among some members of the medical profession employed on Ministry of National Insurance Boards with regard to the allocation of sessions; and on what grounds some doctors are given a much larger number of sessions regularly than others.

I am not aware of any dissatisfaction on this point. If the hon. Member has any information suggesting that there is, perhaps he will forward it to me. As far as possible the work is spread fairly among the doctors concerned.

I am much obliged to the Minister for his answer, but would he be good enough to inquire into the position and to see that practitioners are given an equal opportunity of attendances at these sessions? I think he will find that his information will lead him to the conclusion that they are not being given such an opportunity at present.

I have already said I have no information on the point. Perhaps the hon. Member will send me any information which is in his possession.

Old-Age Pensions


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to give an estimate of the amount by which old-age pensions could be increased, on the assumption that on 1st July, 1954, a further £335 million per annum were allocated by the Treasury for the purpose of increasing old-age pensions.

As a matter of arithmetic, retirement pensions could, for the time being, be increased by about 30s. a week. If the increase were permanent the prospective annual deficit of the fund would be more than doubled.

Is the Minister aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed me last week that £335 million has been the value of the reliefs in Income Tax and Surtax which he has made to the rich since he has been in power? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would have been better not to have reduced those taxes so much, and to have given old-age pensioners if not another 30s at least 15s. more a week?

As the hon. Gentleman is no doubt also aware, more than two-thirds of these Income Tax concessions went to people of comparatively small incomes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that is so, to people with less than £1,000 a year. Moreover, a suggestion of the kind which the hon. Member has made would completely destroy the insurance basis of the scheme.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the extent whereby the present old-age pension is sufficient to maintain a pensioner under present-day conditions of higher fares, rents, food and cost of living, generally.

I rather anticipated that reply. Is it because the right hon. Gentleman and everyone else in the country knows that the old-age pensioners are suffering so much that there is really no need for any inquiry; and, particularly in view of the facts as given in this morning's leading article in the "Daily Herald," will the right hon. Gentleman see whether the Chancellor can give back some of this money to the old-age pensioners instead of relieving the rich?

The reason why I am not anxious to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into these points is that it would waste a lot of time and could only show that the National Insurance pension is not now, and never has been at any time, sufficient for a person to exist on, unless that person had some other resources as well.

Is it not common knowledge that many of the problems of old age and of the National Insurance Fund are being now carefully investigated both by the Phillips Committee and in the quinquennial review? And, further, is it not common knowledge that the Government intend to do all they can to perform an act of justice to the pensioners for the second time in the lifetime of this Parliament?

Special Needs (Voluntary Assistance)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to what extent the National Assistance Board invites voluntary organisations to help recipients of National Assistance meet needs such as clothing and bedding.

The National Assistance Board tells me that its general policy, which has not changed since the matter was reviewed in its report for 1949, is to welcome the co-operation of the voluntary organisations in cases presenting special problems. It has no record of the number of cases involved.

While not wishing in any way to denigrate the splendid work of the voluntary organisations, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, to the extent to which they are being asked to co-operate, it is not a reflection either on the inadequacy of the Assistance Board's scales or the inadequacy of the discretionary powers given to the Board's officers?

No. I do not think so. I think that if the hon. Member will refer to the 1949 report of the Assistance Board, he will see that, by enlisting the aid of voluntary bodies, the Board is able to confer substantial benefits in certain types of cases in which it would not be justified in increasing any grant itself.

Umpires' Decisions


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will appoint an expert committee to overhaul umpires' decisions, in the light of modern industrial conditions

No, Sir. It is for the independent statutory authorities to apply past decisions given by umpires under the repealed Unemployment Insurance Acts where they consider them to be appropriate, and it would be improper for me to interfere in the manner suggested.

Is the Minister not aware that chairmen of insurance tribunals frequently feel themselves legally bound by previous decisions which are no longer in accord with contemporary industrial conditions?

These are independent statutory authorities, and it would be quite wrong for me to interfere with them in any way. If the law requries changing, that is another matter altogether, and one which, of course, the Government would be prepared to consider.

Allowances (Scale)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what representations he has received in the past 12 months from the National Assistance Board on the inadequacy of the present scale of allowances for those in need; and what action he will take.

Is the Minister aware that many people will regard this as a dereliction of duty on the part of the Board? Is it not the Board's statutory duty to advise the Minister about these things? Will he, therefore, now ask the Board to give immediate consideration to the scale of allowances in relation to the expenses of those who are applying to the Board, and the knowledge which the Board has in its possession?

No, Sir. It is not for me to give insructions to the National Assistance Board. The Board is an independent authority and it is for the Board to take the initiative in a matter of this kind. I would remind the hon. Member that the new scales brought into force in 1952 give recipients of National Assistance a more generous standard than at any time hitherto.

Is the Minister aware that we do not need representations from the National Assistance Board, the report of the quinquennial revaluation or a Royal Commission to let us know that the old-age pensioner is now in a bad position and that the right hon. Gentleman ought to do something about the matter forthwith?

This question is concerned with National Assistance, not insurance benefits.

Does the Minister say that the National Assistance Board can increase the scales of allowances to recipients each week as the cost of living goes up, as we know has been the case with all foodstuffs in the last 12 months—especially meat and butter?

I must refer the hon. Member to Section 6 of the National Assistance Act, passed by the Government which he supported in 1948.

Fuel And Power

Sea Coal (Distribution)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will give an assurance that every assistance will be given to reputable persons applying for a licence to distribute sea coal.

Yes, Sir, wherever adequate arrangements do not already exist for the distribution of sea coal.

As any contribution towards solving the coal shortage, especially in view of the high prices of domestic coal, must be welcome, could my right hon. Friend not do something to encourage people to distribute this sea coal?

Mining Subsidence


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will consult the Minister of Housing and Local Government on the representations made by local authority associations on the problems arising from mining subsidence, with a view to the preparation of legislation to extend the scope of compensation for subsidence damage.

I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend on this subject, but on the question of possible legislation I cannot add anything to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 30th November last.

Is the Minister aware of the very wide welcome given to the fact that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has received a deputation on this subject from the local authorities, and that very many take this as an indication that the Government are now considering legislation to implement the Turner Report? Will he confirm whether that impression among the local authorities is correct; and, if so, whether he can indicate that legislative action will come in the next Session?

I cannot confirm any impression which the hon. Member may believe exists. I think he had better await the result of the deputation.

Will the Minister also consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer and see whether the Turner Report could not be carried out without any considerable addition to the burden on the national Exchequer?

Power Cuts


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will give an assurance that the coal situation will not involve any serious electricity power cuts affecting domestic and industrial premises during the ensuing autumn and winter.

It would be absurd to give an absolute assurance because this must largely depend upon the level of coal production. The Government, however, are watching the position closely and are determined to take all necessary steps in good time.

Could the Minister at least give an estimate of what he thinks is the prospect in the coming months, for the benefit of those who use coal, both domestically and industrially, because such an estimate would be of help?

My hope is that the level of coal production and such other measures as the Government may take will be successful.

Spanish-Soviet Trade


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the trade agreement recently concluded between Spain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he will forbid the export of strategic material to Spain that might find its way to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I am informed that no such agreement exists. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is contrary to the information which I have received? Is he keeping an eye on the extensive trading going on between Fascist Spain and the Iron Curtain countries, while, on the one hand, they are trading extensively and, on the other hand, are trying to placate American opinion by denouncing such East-West trade?

The hon. Member must have his ear closer to Radio Moscow rather than to the information available from Spain, where Her Majesty's Ambassador has been informed by the Spanish authorities that the Moscow radio report which has been reproduced in the foreign Press is quite untrue.

Cyprus (Future)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government proposes inview of the official pronouncement of the Prime Minister of Greece on 16th June that the Greek Government propose to bring the question of the future of Cyprus before the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Under Article 2 (7) of the Charter, the United Nations have no powers to discuss a question which lies entirely within the domestic jurisdiction of a member Government. Her Majesty's Government hold that the status of Cyprus is such a question.

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be desirable to settle this matter as between friends even before it is allowed to come—and even if without proper legal status—before an international body? Would not he further agree that it would be hard to find a more staunch friend to this country than Greece; and could he say in what way it could be advantageous to this country to retain a sovereignty over an island which the majority of its people do not wish to have recognised, when Greece has already stated that she will give us any reasonable military or other facilities on the island should the island eventually become part of Greece?

I would agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said about the staunch friendship of Greece, particularly in the last war, but we cannot agree that any Government, however friendly, can claim the right to be consulted about what is to be the future situation of one of Her Majesty's present possessions.

Guatemala (Fact-Finding Committee's Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now in a position to make a statement on the report of the Fact-Finding Committee on Guatemala; and what instructions he will give thereon to the British representative on the Security Council.

The Spanish text of the Inter-American Peace Committee's Report reached the Secretariat of the United Nations on 13th July. I am informed that in view of its length it will take a few days for it to be translated and circulated as a Security Council document. We shall, of course, consider the Report carefully and decide what further action is required.

Can the Minister say when he will be able to make a statement to the House on this Report and on the policy instructions being given to Her Majesty's representatives?

It is not customary to give information ahead of time about instructions given to Her Majesty's representatives at the Security Council. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State made the position of Her Majesty's Government quite clear last Wednesday. He said that we shall make this document available as soon as we can.

Will the representatives of Her Majesty's Government be instructed to urge upon the Security Council that under Article 39 it is the duty of the Council to determine from what territory the invasion of Guatemala was arranged and who sold the arms and aircraft with which the rebels conducted it?

I cannot add anything to what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend in the debate last Wednesday, when he made the position perfectly clear.

European Collective Security (Note To Ussr)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received from the Soviet Government to his Note of 8th May, 1954, regarding collective security in Europe.

As the question of German rearmament and the future of Germany is again in the melting pot, would not this be a suitable occasion on which to try to get a four-Power meeting on Germany? Will the hon. Gentleman remind the Soviet Government of the latter part of Her Majesty's Government's Note, in which they invited the Soviet Government to join with France and the United States and Britain in seeking a lasting and acceptable solution of the German problem?

I do not think that any reminder is necessary. I hope that the Soviet Government agree, as we do, that the reply of Her Majesty's Government is conclusive.

Saudi Arabia (Shipping Agreement)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement on the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and Mr. Socrates Onassis; and what action he has taken to protect British interests.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the agreement between Saudi-Arabia and Mr. Onassis.

Her Majesty's Government have now studied the agreement between the Saudi Arabian Government and Mr. Onassis. There is no doubt, in their view, that this agreement constitutes flag discrimination by seeking to force buyers of oil to use tankers of one particular flag. It is, therefore, contrary to accepted maritime practice.

Her Majesty's Government deplore such interference by a Government with the shipper's freedom of choice of vessel, and it is clear that British interests will be adversely affected by this agreement. We have been in the closest touch with the United States Government and with other Governments and commercial interests, whose objections to this agreement are as strong as our own.

My right hon. Friend has expressed to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador his grave concern at this agreement and his hope that the Saudi Arabian Government will think very carefully before pursuing a course which seems calculated to lead them into difficulties with friendly Powers.

Has a reply been received to the Government's representations to the Saudi Arabian Government?

Can the Minister confirm that this agreement has finally been settled, or is it still in draft form?

I should like notice of that question. It is not quite clear, but I think it has been finally settled.

Is it the intention to take this matter to some international organisation to see whether an amicable settlement can be reached, or do the Government propose to leave it where it is?

We hope to reach agreement with the Saudi Arabian Government, with whom we have friendly relations.

Forced Labour (Ilo Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the report by the United Nations International Labour Organisation Committee on Forced Labour, what proposals Her Majesty's Government intend to make to the United Nations in respect of these disclosures.

The Report of the ad hoc Committee on Forced Labour, appointed jointly by the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation, has been considered by the governing body of the International Labour Organisation, which supported the Committee's recommendation that an appeal be made to Governments to abolish forced labour practices.

The governing body also urged Governments which had not already ratified the relevant international labour conventions to give prompt consideration to doing so, and will consider at its autumn meeting proposals with a view to the possible formulation of fresh international standards.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council, in April, adopted, on the initiative of the United Kingdom delegation, a resolution welcoming the action of the International Labour Organisation and inviting them to pursue the problem. This resolution also appeals to Governments to reconsider their laws and practice, and calls for a joint progress report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation.

The General Assembly will, at its session this autumn, consider the action already taken on the ad hoc Committee's Report. This action has Her Majesty's Government's support.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Can he say what countries have not so ratified this convention?

Germany (Gehlen Staff Organisation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the so-called Gehlen staff organisation, with headquarters at Pullach, near Munich, which is under the supervision of Brigadier General Reinhardt Gehlen, in view of the fact that this organisation is an embryonic general staff and its existence is inimical to the armistice conditions.

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. This organisation is not an embryonic German general staff and it is not incompatible with the revised Occupation Statute.

Is it not a fact that this organisation lies within the American zone? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever he may say, quite a few people believe that this organisation is the intelligence wing of an embryonic German general staff?

So far as I know, the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is correct, but I refute what he has said in the second part.

Ministry Of Food

Food Consumption Statistics (Publication)


asked the Minister of Food in what publication he intends to make available the figures of food consumption in this country formerly published in his Department's bulletin.

The Board of Trade Journal.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House how frequently these figures will be published and whether they will be as comprehensive as those at present available in the Ministry of Food Bulletin?

It is intended that they will be of the same character as have hitherto been published. Hitherto, the full figures have been published annually. They were last published in the Ministry of Food Bulletin for 29th May and it is proposed to publish this year's figures about the same time next year in the Board of Trade Journal.

Does not this information indicate that the hon. Gentleman's Department is to be absorbed by the Board of Trade?



asked the Minister of Food when he expects to have disposed of all his stocks of coffee; and what action he proposes to take to prevent the price of coffee rising again when it is completely restored to the free market.

By next October: my right hon. and gallant Friend has no power to control the world price of coffee.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Coffee Buyers' Association has recently issued a circular entitled, "What's happening to coffee?" in which they state that contracts made by the Government as bulk purchase long-term contracts have helped to keep down the price of coffee in this country? Is it not deplorable that the Government should have given up bulk purchase long-term contracts, which would have been helpful so far as coffee is concerned?

The hon. Gentleman should realise that had it been intended to continue or to renew these bulk purchase contracts it would have been at a price in the region of the present world price, and we hope that the world price will fall.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the same leaflet it states that had there not been a severe frost in Brazil last season there would have been much more coffee available at a lower world price?

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say why the Government are quite incapable of doing what he constantly blamed the Labour Government for not doing?

In this case, the contracts have come to an end. To renew them would mean to continue the contracts at a high world price, and we hope that the world price will fall.

Ceylon Tea


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the decision of the Ceylon Government to reduce tea shipments to Britain; and what steps he is taking to safeguard an ample supply of tea next year.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the statement, issued under the authority of the Ceylon Government, that they will export only 30 million lb. next year as against 65 million lb. this year and 116 million lb. last year? Is there no planning or preparation at all in the Ministry of Food to safeguard the food of the people?

The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The report refers to a limitation of tea coming to the London auctions. There is no limit on the amount of tea which may be imported into this country from Ceylon via the Colombo market.

Does that answer mean that no preparations are being made to safeguard ample supplies at reasonable prices and that it is being left to the free market which, as with coffee, will send prices up?

No. It means that Ceylon proposes, according to the report, to do what it is entitled to do and that is to limit the amount of high grade and medium grade tea coming to the London auctions so that more shall go through the Colombo auctions.

Danish Bacon


asked the Minister of Food whether he will now make a statement on the procurement of bacon from Denmark.

Negotiations have not yet been completed, but I hope that talks will be resumed in the near future.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that while there may be a very good case for reducing prices there is no case for reducing the amount, and that if, in fact, the amount is reduced it will result only in higher prices for the housewife because this is bacon which is at a good price from the point of view of the domestic consumer?

As negotiations are still proceeding I think it better that I make no comment.

Eggs (Retail Price)


asked the Minister of Food whether he will now make provision for a maximum retail price for eggs.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary declare a policy about eggs? We are now approaching the old controlled price. Will he say whether or not he intends to hold the price? We support the Government so far because they intervened to hold the price and all I ask is whether they will determine the figure at which to hold egg prices during the coming months?

The policy of the Government is revealed by the fact that today eggs are cheaper than they were at this time last year, and also even the year before under control and subsidy.

Why are fewer eggs being consumed if the prices and everything else are as satisfactory as the hon. Gentleman says?

No statistics are available to the hon. and gallant Gentleman at the moment by which to determine the number of eggs consumed.

Clerical Officers, West Hartlepool (Employment)


asked the Minister of Food what efforts are being made either to provide or find alternative employment, within travelling distances of their homes, for the clerical officers being displaced from his Department at West Hartlepool.

I have been asked to reply. For West Hartlepool, as for the rest of the country, all Departments were asked nearly six months ago to declare their clerical officer vacancies so that they might be used for the Ministry of Food staff. I understand that as a result local vacancies have been found for five out of 11 clerical officers from the Ministry of Food's office at West Hartlepool.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, of the five established officers with 15 years' service or more who have been ordered to remove more than 100 miles from West Hartlepool, at least four have domestic difficulties? Further, is he aware that in the Inland Revenue Department considerable overtime is being worked—indeed, some work is being taken home by some of the officers—and in other Government Departments in the neighbourhood a large number of temporary staff are employed while these permanent officers are being ordered 100 miles away?

We have endeavoured to give such vacancies as are available as a result of the changes in the Ministry of Food system, of which the hon. Member is aware, to the cases in which it seems that the greatest hardship would be involved by posting away.

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's question referred to the Inland Revenue, and he has a Question on the Order Paper to my right hon. Friend tomorrow which specifically raises that point.

Catering Establishments (First-Aid Equipment)


asked the Minister of Food why the revised proposals for food hygiene regulations contain no provision that first-aid equipment shall be readily accessible in premises to which the Factories Act, 1937, does not apply.

Because the circumstances are not similar. This is one of the subjects which my right hon. and gallant Friend will review in the light of the comments received.

Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. and gallant Friend to look at this again? Does he appreciate that there is a good case for extending these provisions to all premises where food is handled?

The difficulty is that of finding a requirement which can be applied to the many and varied circumstances of the premises to be covered.

Shipbuilding (Ussr Orders)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to encourage British shipbuilders to seek orders in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern Europe.

I have been in constant touch both with the shipbuilding conference and with individual shipbuilders on this subject. Certain shipbuilders have visited Moscow and are now negotiating with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for contracts for merchant shipping. Discussions on Russian requirements as a whole have recently taken place in London between the shipbuilding industry and the Russian trade delegation.

While thanking the Civil Lord for that rather more encouraging reply than some we have had recently, may I ask him whether he has also been in consultation with the President of the Board of Trade in relation to the strategic regulations about the export of shipping to the Soviet Union? Can he now make a statement on that subject?

Yes—I have certainly been in touch with my right hon. Friend. I am not in a position to make any further statement.

Can the Civil Lord now say whether it would be possible for British shipbuilders to accept orders and build vessels of a type similar to those provided for under the Russian-Netherlands Treaty?

That is a different question. First, we have to obtain a firm inquiry before the question of licensing arises.

Royal Fine Art Commission (Advice)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer under what statutory powers the Royal Fine Art Commission ensures that its advice is obtained before building works are undertaken.

The powers of the Royal Fine Art Commission are granted under Royal Warrants and not by statute. These powers enable them to call for information on building works. So far as I am aware there are no statutory obligations on developers or planning authorities to consult the Commission.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in its last Report the Commission say that too often it is either not consulted at all or consulted at such a late stage that serious improvements cannot be considered? Is not it time that statutory powers were given to the Commission to enable the advice to be tendered before it is too late?

I am aware of the passage in the 12th Report to which the hon. Member refers, but I am not at all sure that it is not better for the authority of the Royal Fine Art Commission to rest on its very high standing and reputation rather than on compulsion.

Army Training (Constructional Work)


asked the Secretary of State for War the cost of the road which the Army is building on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire.

I assume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to a report which appeared recently in the "Daily Express." The 117 Field Engineer Regiment, Territorial Army, is in camp near Ballater for its fortnight's training. It is common practice for Royal Engineer units doing field training to seek local permission to carry out work such as bridge building and road making.

In this particular case, the unit is carrying out some demolitions and building about two miles of new track and a bridge on an estate near Balmoral; building four small bridges at yet another estate: and repairing about three miles of existing track and erecting two small bridges on the Balmoral estate.

All these exercises provide good training value and local resources are used. The extra cost to the public is nil.

Does not the Under-Secretary think it quite wrong that men's time and public money should be spent on building private roads and private bridges which will be used only for a few weeks in the year in the deer forests, when, as a further Question on the Order Paper shows, there is a desperate need in the Highlands of Scotland for public bridge, road and pier construction?

These small tasks are all part of a general military training programme which includes demolitions, water supply, track repairing, bridge building, and so on. I think that the hon. Member is engaged on the military engineering task of trying to make a mountain of a molehill, and if he joins the Territorial Army we will help him.

While the training may be very valuable in the military sphere, is there any special reason why this road development and construction should take place on this particular estate: and. at the end of the day, who will benefit from this? Apart from the training experience for the men concerned, will it be the owner of the estate, the county council, a local authority or the public generally? Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to furnish an answer to those questions?

Before any of these activities are undertaken, for the prime purpose of military training, applications are made to those in the neighbourhood of the camp who would like to have work done. If their request conforms with military requirements it is undertaken. As the right hon. Gentleman will have heard, there were three separate estates on which minor tracks were converted into slightly better tracks, and not only the one.

Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to furnish an answer to this question: who benefits from this in the long run? If a benefit is conferred on a member or some members of the public in the area, will they compensate the Army for the expenditure incurred?

As I said earlier, the benefit is primarily for the Army, for the unit gets training in road making. There are no suitable local authority roads in the neighbourhood. This is in hilly country close to the Army camp. I suppose that to a minor degree it might be said that at the end of the day the track is slightly better than it was at the beginning.

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that many other tasks are undertaken for local authorities all over the country.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a similar Army camp in the South-East of Scotland, and if I submit a scheme to him for building a road to the isolated Clapperton Railway Junction, will he consider that as a military exercise?

Certainly, Sir; if there is a suitable unit in the area we shall be only too glad to consider the suggestion.

Will the Under-Secretary use his influence with the military authorities to try to get them to repair some of the roads at Nottingham which have been torn up by military tanks?

The answer is the same as before. If there is a suitable unit in an area where there is a suitable task, we shall certainly consider it.

Is it not much better for the men to undertake useful work in their training rather than to dig holes and fill them up again?


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will allow the Army to undertake, as an exercise, public works in the Highlands and Islands, such as bridge, road and pier construction, which otherwise would not be undertaken at all.

Royal Engineer units are encouraged, subject to certain conditions, to undertake civilian tasks which provide good military training not otherwise available, but it is rare for units to undertake their training in these areas.

Is the Minister aware that my constituency is full of camps of all sizes and shapes and, also, that there is in the area a great need for the carrying out of public works which are unlikely to be undertaken in the near future at any rate? Is he aware that we should be very grateful to see the Royal Engineers, to entertain them in camp and to give them some work to do? I hope that the Under-Secretary will feel encouraged to go forward with these schemes and so do a great public service.

I am sure that the Royal Engineers will be indebted to the hon. Member for his offer. My answer is the same as before. If there is a suitable task and a suitable unit is stationed in the neighbourhood, we shall be only too glad to look into such suggestions.

On what special basis does the War Office decide to go to one district or another? If there is a case for minor development and road construction as apparently the hon. Gentleman asserts there was on the Ballater Estate, why cannot such work be done in the area to which the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) belongs? Why should the War Office proceed in one case and not in another?

The first factor to be considered is where a unit is to camp. It goes to a place not because there is work to be done there, but because it is suitable from the general training standpoint, with amenities, and so on. Once the location of the training camp has been fixed, if the unit is a Royal Engineers' unit, and if there is a suitable task to be carried out in the locality, we proceed to carry it out.

As it is very often the case that Army units are not welcomed at all, is it not a very good thing to see them being welcomed for a change?

Bomber Pilot (Training Cost)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how the approximate costs of training a bomber pilot today compares with the costs of training a bomber pilot in 1945.

It cost about £10,000 in 1945 and it costs about £25,000 today.

There are several factors, including the increased performance and complexity of the aircraft, the additional cost of the aircraft spares and fuel, and pay increases.

Is the last figure which the hon. Gentleman gives the figure for the V-bomber or an earlier type?

The figure of £25,000 seems an enormous sum to spend on training one bomber pilot. Will the hon. Gentleman be so good as to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, or otherwise, details as to how the figure is made up? The House would be interested, because, after all, we are the guardians of public expenditure, and we ought to know.

Does it not seem as if prices are going up since the Conservative Government came into office?

Commonwealth Territories (Racial Discrimination)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in which territories, in respect of which he has reserved powers regarding natives, there exists statutory race discrimination affecting membership of trade unions or professional associations.

Southern Rhodesia is the only territory in which the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has reserved powers within the sphere mentioned by the hon. Member. There is no statutory discrimination on racial grounds in that territory as regards membership of trade unions or professional bodies.

In view of that reply, can my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the recent Press reports that a coloured Southern Rhodesian journalist would have to leave his professional association on its registration as a trade union have since, happily, proved to be incorrect?

Transport (Waiting Regulations, Wembley)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will now give the date on which unilateral waiting regulations are to be introduced in certain streets in Wembley.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

My right hon. Friend cannot name a date until he has considered any comments or objections to the draft regulations, which he is due to receive by the end of this month.

Can my hon. Friend say why this has taken so long? Has there not been ample time for the comments to have been received already?

There have been a number of applications for waiting restrictions throughout a great part of London, and these have been submitted to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee with a view to there being a general revision of the regulations. We have now reached the point where the draft regulations have been prepared and circulated, and it is hoped that a decision can be taken in the very near future.

Has the hon. Gentleman any reason to believe that unilateral waiting regulations are unpopular where the Department seeks to introduce them? Do not they serve as useful a purpose as zebra crossings—if not a more useful purpose—in reducing road accidents?

Both unilateral waiting regulations and zebra crossings make a valuable contribution to the solution of the traffic problem.

Aden (Frontier Incidents)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a further statement on the present situation on the frontiers of Aden.

Since the account which my right hon. Friend gave on 14th July in reply to the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine), the Governor has reported that the raids continue. In the first fortnight of this month 28 incidents have occurred in areas of the Protectorate where subversive Yemeni influence is known to be concentrated, and in at least four cases Yemeni regulars and irregulars have raided or fired on the Protectorate from Yemen territory.

Searching inquiry has shown the Yemeni allegation that R.A.F. planes have been flying low over Beidha to be completely unfounded. No R.A.F. planes have flown over Yemen territory; civil aircraft sometimes fly close to Beidha in circling to land at Mukeiras, but they have been doing this for years and never practise low flying. If this is what the Yemen Government refer to, their description is a travesty of the facts.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what action the Government are taking to deal with these alleged acts of aggression?

As my right hon. Friend informed the House on 14th July, we are hoping that talks will take place between the Yemeni official concerned, the Amil of Beidha, and our own frontier authorities on the subject, but the Amil has been ill and the talks have, therefore, had to be postponed. We now hope that the Amil will shortly be able to initiate the talks. Meanwhile, my right hon. Friend is considering what else can be done to restore tranquillity.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the frontier is properly demarcated?

It is demarcated except for three areas. It was last demarcated in 1951, but those areas were left over for further demarcation. Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly asked the Yemeni Government to agree to negotiations on those areas, but so far they have refused to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if a Labour Government had been faced with this problem they would have been undergoing severe pressure from the opposite side of the House to take more drastic action?