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Commons Chamber

Volume 531: debated on Monday 26 July 1954

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House Of Commons

Monday, 26th July, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o 'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Death Of A Member

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Sir Herbert Geraint Williams, Baronet, Member for Croydon, East, and I desire on behalf of the House to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the honourable Baronet.

Private Business

Birkenhead Corporation Bill

Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.

Beit Trust Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.

Manchester Corporation Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Derbyshire County Council Bill Lords

As amended, considered.

Amendments made to the Bill.

Standing Order 205 (Notice of Third Reading) suspended; Bill to be read the Third time forthwith.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Private Bills

Standing Order 208 (Notice of Consideration of Lords Amendments) suspended until the Summer Adjournment:

As regards Private Bills to be returned by the House of Lords with Amendments, such Amendments to be considered at the next Sitting of the House after the day on which the Bill shall have been returned from the Lords. When Amendments thereto are intended to be proposed by the Promoters, a copy of such Amendments to be deposited in the Private Bill Office, and Notice thereof given not later than the day before that on which the Amendments made by the House of Lords are proposed to be taken into consideration.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Materials (Trading Loss)


asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, what loss has been incurred by the trading operations of the Ministry of Materials, from the date of its inauguration during 1951, to the latest convenient date.

The trading loss up to 31st March last was approximately £55 million.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether this is the end of the story of these dismal and improvident losses or are there further terminal losses yet to be incurred? May I also ask him to give the House an assurance that there will be no further adventures of this kind in State trading in commodities?

As far as the first part of the supplementary question is concerned, this provides for the situation until 31st March last. There may well be some further loss resulting from the terminal clearing up. As regards the second part of the question, I think we should let the future unfold.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is improper for the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) to make this attack upon State trading without asking questions which would reveal that State trading makes a profit? For instance, is it not true that the Ministry of Food is making a quarter of a million pounds a week profit from selling Danish bacon?

I do not think I will say anything which would result in my hon. Friend asking still more questions.

Housing Actions (Free Legal Aid)


asked the Attorney-General whether he is now in a position to give information concerning the Government's proposals to extend the Free Legal Aid Scheme to cover cases arising from actions taken under the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill; and whether he will make a statement.

As there are many poor people, particularly old-age pensioners, who still find great difficulty in getting legal assistance, will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least promise to help them to get legal aid so that they can contest the provisions of the pernicious Housing Repairs and Rents Bill?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this point is very much in mind.

I should like to see this service given as much as the hon. Member would but, as he knows, it is only one of many services for which money is being pressed for at the moment, and the question of priority has to be considered.

Does the Attorney-General's original answer mean that the Government have decided not to introduce the Free Legal Aid Scheme in time to benefit the thousands of poor persons who want advice about the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill?

Father Ingram (Newspaper Comments)


asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that, before the expiration of the necessary time for appeal in the case of the sentenced Father Ingram, the "Sunday Pictorial" and the "Daily Mirror" passed adverse comment and opinions concerning Father Ingram, on matters not mentioned in the trial; and, as this will prejudice this man's appeal, what action he proposes to take.

I have considered the newspaper articles referred to in the hon. Member's Question. On the information at present available to me I do not propose to take any action.

While thanking the Government and the Attorney-General for that reply, and appreciating that the newspapers originally did a public service, may I ask whether, though the Attorney-General may not be able to take legal action against them, newspapers should not be advised not to pass adverse comment and attack individuals pending the time of their appeal, so as to allow people proper opportunity to go through the Court of Appeal?

This is a matter on which the House can express its own view without any assistance from me. I was dealing only with the legal aspect of the matter, and at the moment I am not in a position to take any action.

Irish Companies (Real Estate Ownership)


asked the Attorney-General what further action he proposes to take arising from a recent judgment that companies registered in Eire cannot legally own real estate in Great Britain without a licence from the Crown.

The implications of this judgment are being studied. I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Is the Attorney-General aware that when the Crown takes over all the properties in Brixton and elsewhere which are illegally owned by these Irish companies, it will go a long way towards smashing the Eire property racket, operated in the name of D. Brady? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that in the light of the judgment of the Court of Appeal on 16th June occupiers of these properties are no longer liable for any payment whatever to these Irish companies?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must himself give them advice if he thinks that desirable. I am waiting until I have had a full study of the matter.

Pensions And National Insurance

Night Shift Workers (Payment Of Benefits)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will make arrangements with the British Transport Commission to ensure that his Department's selection of the excluded day for purposes of National Insurance benefit shall coincide with the British Transport Commission's calculation of the first day on which the employee was absent from work.

I assume that the hon. Member has night shift workers in mind. I am satisfied that the present regulations governing the payment of National Insurance benefits to such workers are fair and reasonable. In any case, it would not be practicable to make different arrangements for different industries.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that the consequence of that answer is that in a number of cases, including one from my own constituency of which I have sent him particulars, a worker must go two days without either pay or benefit? Would it not be appropriate that employers, particularly in nationalised industry, should be asked to follow the Ministry's own simple rule that the last day on which a man or woman works should be the day in respect of which he or she receives pay?

I am glad that the hon. Member accepts that it would be impracticable for me to alter my practice in order to adapt my regulations to conditions in a particular industry. Conditions in a particular industry are not matters for me, but should be settled by the parties directly concerned.

Old-Age Pensioners


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that, since decontrol of meat, prices have risen to such a high degree as to make choice cuts of meat beyond the purchasing power of old-age pensioners; and whether he will, therefore, increase old-age pensions to compensate them for this loss in the purchasing value of their pensions.

That is the reply which I expected. The right hon. Gentleman seems quite oblivious of the sufferings of old-age pensioners, particularly with regard to the rapid and excessive rise in the price of meat. Is he aware that this rise means that old-age pensioners cannot afford to buy any decent cuts of meat? Surely the right hon. Gentleman could do something for these old people before the further increases in prices which are expected later this year.

—on which some of the old-age pensioners rely has gone down in price since derationing.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on what dates since 1947 increases have been made in the basic rate of pensions paid to old-age pensioners; on what dates since 1947 increases have been made in the maximum scales of National Assistance; and to what extent his Department are making known to retirement pensioners the facilities and grants provided by the National Assistance Board.

The basic rate of retirement pension was increased for certain pensioners in September, 1951. In September, 1952, an increase was made for all retirement pensioners. The scales of assistance were increased in July, 1948, when the National Assistance scheme was introduced, and again in June, 1950, September, 1951, and June, 1952.

As regards the last part of the Question, the pension order book gives information about National Assistance and explanatory leaflets and application forms are readily available at local offices of my Ministry, in post offices and elsewhere.

Does my right hon. Friend think that the information in the first part of the answer is generally known to the public, including the editors of most newspapers? Could he also tell us in what circumstances his officers are authorised to advise pensioners to apply to the National Assistance Board if it is apparent that their means would entitle them to assistance?

I can only say that anybody who appears to be entitled to assistance is advised to apply for it. The trouble is much more reluctance to apply for assistance than ignorance of the facilities which exist.

In view of the obvious reluctance on the part of a large number of very deserving old-age pensioners to apply for assistance from the National Assistance Board, will the right hon. Gentleman consider, during the Recess, whether a change in title from National Assistance Board to something which is less suggestive of assistance might be worth while, so as to remove from these old people doubts about making an application?

No, Sir. As I have said before, it would be a mistake to forfeit the large amount of good will which has been built up by the National Assistance Board.

19 and 20.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) the number of old-age pensioners in receipt of supplementation from the National Assistance Board in June, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953 and 1954, respectively;

(2) the average weekly rate of supplementation received by old-age pensioners during the years 1948, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954, respectively.

15 and 16.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) the number of old-age pensioners in Wales, and the number in receipt of supplementation from the National Assistance Board for July, 1948, and the month of June in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954;

(2) the average weekly rate of supplementation to old-age pensioners in Wales for the years 1948 to 1953 inclusive, and the latest convenient week in 1954.

22 and 23.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) the number of retirement pensioners in Scotland receiving a supplementary allowance from the National Assistance Board in June, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954, respectively;

(2) the average weekly rate of supplementation received from the National Assistance Board by retirement pensioners during the years 1948 to 1954, inclusive.

As the replies contain a number of figures, I am arranging to circulate them in a table in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

On a point of order. Is it right that the Minister should say he will answer en bloc all Questions that entail a column of figures when those Questions deal with different subjects? The Questions asked by my hon. Friends deal with England and Wales, but my Question deals specifically with Scotland and an entirely different set of figures. I do not think it is fair for the Minister to give an answer of that kind.

I do not think that that is a point of order. The Minister said that he would publish a table of figures which included the answer to the Question of the hon. Member and I see nothing wrong with that.

Number in Payment (thousands)Average Weekly Rate
Great BritainScotlandWalesGreat BritainWales
To Old-Age Pensioner HouseholdsTo Retirement Pensioner HouseholdsTo Old-Age Pensioner HouseholdsOld-Age Pensioner HouseholdsRetirement Pensioner HouseholdsOld-Age Pensioner Households
19485102835Not available
19541,1317778Not yet available


(1) "Old-Age Pensioner" includes retirement pensioner and non-contributory old age pensioner
(2) The number national assistance grants in payment is for a date in July, 1948, and for a date in June in later years.
(3) The average weekly rate of National Assistance grant is an estimate based on a sample taken in the Autumn of each year
(4) The number of old-age pensioners in wales in each year was about 250,000.

9 and 10.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) how many old-age pensioners in Liverpool are receiving supplementary grants from the National Assistance Board to the latest date;

(2) how many old-age pensioners in Liverpool are receiving contributory pensions and how many are receiving noncontributory pensions to the latest date.

The number of retirement pensioners in Liverpool is not known. The National Assistance Board tell me that many of their Liverpool offices cover areas outside the city. They estimate, however, that at the end of June there were in the city about 3,650 non-contributory pensioners and about 18,000 cases in which assistance was supplementing retirement or non-contributory pensions. Some of the latter include the needs of more than one pensioner.

Is the Minister aware that the first part of the answer indicates that the National Assistance Board offices

That may be so, but the answer may include the figures for which the hon. Member asked.

Following are the figures:

must be fewer in number than they ought to be if they have to cover areas greater than that of Liverpool? Is he aware that it is surprising that he cannot give fuller information and that that indicates that the concern of National Assistance officers is such that they are not aware of the picture of the poverty of old-age pensioners which is being constantly brought to the notice of the Department in this House?

The hon. Member will recognise that the records of retirement pensioners are kept centrally at Newcastle and do not take account of municipal or constituency boundaries. There are four National Assistance offices inside the city of Liverpool and five offices outside it which deal with cases partly from inside the city and partly from outside.

Will the Minister look at the matter again? Is he aware that these arrangements largely concern elderly people, that one office covers nearly two constituencies and that considerable travelling distances are involved for those who have to attend at them?

Consolidating Regulations (Publication)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when the proposed pamphlet consolidating regulations governing contributions and benefits under the National Insurance and Family Allowances Acts will be available.

I have come to the conclusion that it would be advisable to defer publication for the time being.

Has the Minister finally made up his mind? Is he aware that over two years ago he informed me that he would publish such a comprehensive pamphlet, which would be most helpful not only to hon. Members but to the public generally? Is he aware that it is very difficult when one has to go through all the pamphlets to obtain relevant information?

I quite appreciate that a revised edition of the general guide would be useful, but in view of the changes which are now coming along I think that it would be better to postpone publication until those changes are made.

Would the Minister undertake that as soon as the changes take place he will speedily produce a comprehensive code?

War Pensioners (Comforts Allowance)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will take immediate steps, by a more generous interpretation of the comforts allowance, to compensate war pensioners of the 1914–18 war for disability and lack of mobility aggravated as a result of increasing age.

I am satisfied that the provisions laid down in the Royal Warrant for the award of this allowance are interpreted generously. If the hon. Member has in mind any individual case I shall be happy to look into it if he will send me particulars.

Does the Minister realise that I suggest this only as one of the reasons of dealing with this problem of the ageing war pensioners? Has he any alternative suggestions for securing that objective?

I know that the hon. Member was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry when this comforts allowance was first introduced. I should like to pay my tribute to the useful purpose which it has served; but I think we shall have to look for other and better ways of helping the larger number of pensioners whose cases I am considering, as I indicated in the debate on Wednesday of last week.

Limbless Ex-Service Men (Allowances)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, in view of the fact that, of the 23,740 limbless survivors of the 1914–18 war, only 2,156 are in receipt of any of the supplementary allowances, he will have a review of their position made with a view to alleviating their position as soon as possible.

We can, I think, be glad that the number of 1914 war limbless pensioners in the categories calling for supplementary allowances is comparatively few. I am satisfied that the conditions governing payment of these allowances are generously applied.

Is the Minister aware that it is a very small percentage of the total number of 1914–18 men who are receiving any supplementary assistance? Will he see that they are all receiving what they ought to be receiving?

On two occasions in recent years leaflets have been circulated to all pensioners to inquire whether they are quite sure that they are getting all the allowances to which they are entitled. I shall certainly consider a further circulation of that sort at the appropriate moment.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will investigate the effect on the paired limb of wearing an artificial limb from the purely physical, rather than medical aspect, by means of an immediate and swift examination of 25 per cent. of 1914–18 limbless war pensioners.

As the hon. Member knows, about 4,500 limbless pensioners of the 1914 war have recently been examined in connection with the investigations of the Rock Carling Committee and I think we had better wait and see what that Committee reports before making up our minds on this point.

Is the Minister aware that we are concerned, not with the foibles of the medical profession, but with the facts about these aged limbless men? The suggestion in my Question does not mean a medical examination but an examination, say, by the welfare staff of the Department, to see what the physical effect of the wearing of an artificial limb is rather than the medical effect, which can mean anything according to the interpretation of the medical officer.

I am not quite sure what is the distinction the hon. Member draws between a medical and a physical effect, but I am sure that the investigation by the Rock Carling Committee will throw light on this point.

The distinction which I draw is that medical men are concerned with medical terms and the physical condition is concerned with whether men are more quickly tired and more easily handicapped by advancing age because of the wearing of an artificial limb. That is a purely physical matter which can be determined by observation by sympathetic observers rather than by medical men, who are purely concerned with medical terms.

I trust that the hon. Member is not suggesting that medical men are not sympathetic.

When does the Minister expect to receive the Report of the Rock Carling Committee?

National Assistance Allowances (Disregards)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will introduce legislation to increase the minimum scales of National Assistance allowances and disregards.

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to Section 6 of the National Assistance Act.

Will the Minister reconsider that answer in the light of the closely reasoned, factual article that appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" last Friday? Does the Minister agree that the standard of these scales was fixed against one of the darkest backgrounds of British history? In view of rising productivity, does he not think that those who suffer through no fault of their own should have their standards improved?

Section 6 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, places fairly and squarely on the Board the duty from time to time of preparing and submitting to the Minister draft regulations covering the scale of assistance. The Board, on a number of occasions, has shown itself prepared to act under Section 6 without any prompting from me. Therefore, I think we should follow the course laid down by Parliament in 1948.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the disregards are the subject of examination by the Phillips Committee, bearing in mind that they are concerned with financial provision for the aged?

I am not aware that the Phillips Committee is considering disregards for National Assistance purposes.

Will my right hon. Friend kindly ask the Phillips Committee to consider them? Is he aware that in my opinion it is most important that this aspect of provision for the aged, which involves thrift and saving, should be considered by the Phillips Committee?

All I said was that I was not aware that the Phillips Committee was considering the matter. I cannot say, however, that it is not considering this matter. It certainly is not for me to dictate to that Committee what it should or should not consider within its terms of reference.

Is the Minister aware that the scales of National Assistance for two people are 5s. higher than for a contributory pensioner? The time is long overdue when he should have a look at that.

Married Persons (Pension Rate)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he has considered the desirability of granting the same old-age pension to each married person as to single persons, widows or widowers, or of reducing the difference between that paid to the former and to the latter.

Where a husband and wife are both insured they will each be granted a pension at the single person's rate. I see no reason for providing similar treatment where the wife relies on her husband's insurance.

Is the Minister aware of the anomaly of two people living in two separate rooms, in the same household, or, indeed, actually cohabiting, each receiving a pension and, therefore, receiving an aggregate income, by pension, much larger than if they were married?

That may well be so, where each has been a contributor to the Insurance Fund.

Old People (Coal Supplies)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will consider making a winter-time allowance for old-age pensioners for the purchase of coal, beyond any increase that may be made in the pension.

As the Minister has power to make an allowance for the purchase of tobacco, could be not secure power to make this very necessary grant?

No, I can assure the hon. Member that it is quite beyond my power to interfere in that way with the working of the National Assistance Board. There used to be a special winter-time allowance for fuel which was abolished by general consent in 1944 because it was found to be unsatisfactory.

As old-age pensioners find it impossible to lay in stocks of coal during the summer, could not the right hon. Gentleman ask the Minister of Fuel and Power to ensure that stocks are put aside especially for them?


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he has yet considered the comments of the National Council of Social Service in their recent report on the difficulties about the coal supplies of people over 70 years of age; and if he will discuss with the appropriate authorities before the winter the problems involved with a view to finding a solution.

I have not yet had an opportunity of examining this report which, I gather, was only published on 23rd July.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, by the time the House reassembles after the Recess, he will have studied this report? May I take it that then, as heating fuel of all kinds is most important to old people, he will, after he has read the report, consider the proposals which it makes and ensure that action is taken? If I put down a Question by the time we return, will my right hon. Friend have an answer for me?

I will certainly take an opportunity of reading this excellent report during the summer Recess—[An HON. MEMBER: "Excellent?"] I gathered from Press reports that it was well worthy of careful consideration—but I hope that I shall not come to a conclusion on it quite as quickly as my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward).

In view of the fact that some of these people will be limbless ex-Service men, could the Minister tell us when he hopes to have the report of the Rock Carling Committee?

I think I should be right in saying that I hope to receive this report before many months have gone by.

Widow's Benefits (Disregarded Earnings)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what decision has been reached on the question of increasing the amount that may be earned by a widow without this affecting the drawing of a full widow's pension.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) on 12th July, to which I have nothing to add.

Does the Minister realise that that does not really alter the grievance that there are widows to whom it is a burden and an anomaly that they cannot earn more than a certain amount without affecting their pension; and that they might be encouraged to work more and longer if they had a better allowance in respect of earnings?

As the answer to which I referred made clear, this is one of the matters which I have referred to the National Insurance Advisory Committee.


Supplies, Slough


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will take steps to improve the supply of coal to Slough.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
(Mr. L. W. Joynson-Hicks)

If the hon. Member would let me have particulars of any supply difficulties, I will gladly make inquiries.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that there is a two-month delay in deliveries in Slough; that delivery men are having to take up another job; that orders for summer supplies cannot be met; and what are to be the prospects for the winter?

I am not aware of these facts. If the hon. Member will let me have particulars, I will gladly look into them.

Industrial Supplies


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent industry is obtaining coal below the cost of production.

The costs of production vary between different pits and coalfields but, taken as a whole, the prices charged by the National Coal Board for industrial and other coals are designed to cover the average costs of production.

Can my hon. Friend give us any idea, if necessary, in general terms, whether British industry is obtaining its coal cheaper than its foreign competitors are doing?

Is it not true that some pits are selling coal to industrial undertakings at actually below the cost of production?

I should think that that is very likely, but it is not within the competence of the Ministry to inquire into the internal workings of the National Coal Board.

If industry can obtain coal at cost price, is it not possible to establish, in the centre of each of the great cities, a place where the poor and the pensioned can obtain coal at cost price?

The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was not within the power of the Minister to ascertain the facts that were put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). Surely the Minister can ask questions of the Coal Board. Have we reached a stage when the Minister cannot even ask for information from the Coal Board?

My right hon. Friend can certainly ascertain the facts. I said that it was not within his competence to intervene in this matter.



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal has been imported since the end of the last coal winter to the latest convenient date; how much of these imports have been house-coal; how much more imported house-coal he expects to arrive before 31st December, 1954; and whether he is satisfied that all these imports when added to indigenous supplies will be sufficient to avert a shortage during the forthcoming winter.

A quarter of a million tons, all of which, apart from screening losses, represents a direct or indirect addition to house coal supplies. I cannot say how much more will arrive this year, but the object of the steps being taken by my right hon. Friend is to safeguard supplies for next winter.

Does that reply mean that the winter prospects for house coal are now a good deal brighter than when the rather guarded statement was made six weeks ago?

Price Increases (Protest)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what representations he has received protesting against the inequitable price increases applied to house coal, as compared with the then current prices for industrial coal at the time of the last increases in house coal prices; and what factors he had regard to when sanctioning the last house coal price increase in the spring of 1954.

A protest was lodged by the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council. The basic factor in the price of a particular coal is its quality but the increases on 3rd May took account of other factors, including the relative scarcity of large coals. There was no discrimination against house coals for which the average price increases were about the same as those for comparable supplies to industrial and other consumers.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the complaint is now widespread from domestic consumers and their organisations that a disproportionately large amount was added to the cost of house coal, and that industrial coal did not so suffer? To allay these anxieties, will my hon. Friend undertake to publish a schedule of comparative statistics showing that the increases in the price of coal were, indeed, equitably distributed between industry and domestic consumers?

I think I can reassure my hon. Friend, so long as he is dealing with comparable coals. In the case of the main users of large coal the price for household coal was raised by 4s. 4d., for railways by 4s. 4½d. a ton and for coastal and trawler bunkers by 4s. 8d. a ton.


Spanish Arms (Imports)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received from the Spanish Government to his protest against the export of arms to Egypt by Spain.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the supply of arms to Egypt by Spain, and the representations which he has made to the Spanish Government on this subject.

In response to representations on this subject by Her Majesty's Government, the Spanish Foreign Minister gave an assurance to Her Majesty's Ambassador in Madrid on 21st June that the Spanish Government had decided, in view of the present disturbed international situation, to prohibit the export from Spain of all arms and munitions unless destined for N.A.T.O. countries.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether any arms have actually been sent by Spain to Egypt, and if so, as there are reports that they have been, does he not consider that the lifting of the ban on the export of arms to Spain was a mistake? Does it not show that every time a concession is made to Franco, he abuses the situation?

No, Sir. I thought that the hon. Gentleman would be gratified by this assurance. So far as reports are concerned that munitions of war have been sent to Egypt, we recently received information that a large shipment of Spanish arms was about to be made, and the Ambassador has accordingly reminded the Spanish Foreign Minister of this assurance. So far, we have no information that this shipment has gone.

While we are very pleased with the action taken and with the results that have been achieved, does it not show, by the tardiness of the action that has been taken—Spain has said that in view of the disturbed relations at the moment she has banned this export of arms, but have not the disturbed relations been in existence for a long time; have not our men been killed in Egypt, possibly with some of these arms?—that Spain is most unreliable and untrustworthy as a friend or ally? Would not the hon. Gentleman make representations to our American friends on these lines?

Suez Canal (Neutral Zone)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will discuss with the Egyptian Government the establishment of a neutral zone in the Suez Canal area, in view of the Commonwealth support for this proposal.

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government are not aware of any such suggestion by any Commonwealth Government.

Although this may not have been an official suggestion from Commonwealth Governments, is my hon. Friend aware that there was strong feeling in the Commonwealth that this solution, similar to that reached by the United States over Panama in 1903, might he a very useful one? Is he aware that if we had a separate nation there—a neutral nation, probably with an Arab prince as ruler—it would make for a much safer situation and command considerable support from the members of the Commonwealth?

We can deal only with the views which have been expressed by Commonwealth Governments, and, as I have informed my hon. Friend, in this case no Commonwealth Government has made any such suggestion.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the methods whereby the United States obtained control over the Panama region have not always been universally admired, and that there are many hon. Members who would not wish Her Majesty's Government to adopt the same methods with Egypt?

Strategic Action (Commonwealth Consultation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assurance that the final passage of the statement on seeking the direct agreement of Commonwealth Governments on occasions of the highest strategical importance, made by the Prime Minister on 8th May, 1946, remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on 8th May, 1946, should be read as a whole. That statement continues to represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether that applies to the final part of the text and, therefore, whether we have sought and obtained direct agreement with the Commonwealth Governments before taking action in regard to the proposal now before Egypt to withdraw all our forces?

I think my hon. Friend has been informed that the Commonwealth Governments have been kept most fully and closely informed at every stage of these long negotiations, which have now extended over a period of years. That is our usual method of dealing with these matters. If any Commonwealth Government has any point it wishes to raise at any time it is fully within its power to do so; but it must speak for its policy. We cannot speak for its policy here.

Medical Facilities, Europe (Convention)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the case of a British subject, Mrs. Mary Mason, who was recently compelled to return to the United Kingdom from Belgium in circumstances liable to endanger her health, owing to her inability to pay hospital charges in Belgium; if he is aware that the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance is intended to cover such cases and that the delay in ratifying it is causing similar hardships to other British subjects; and when Her Majesty's Government propose to ratify the convention.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government will now ratify the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance.

I have no information about Mrs. Mason's case, but will be glad to look into the matter if the right hon. Gentleman will supply me with the necessary particulars.

As regards ratification of the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance, the text was laid before Parliament as a White Paper on 1st July. It is the intention of the United Kingdom to ratify the Convention upon the expiry of the customary period.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the case to which I refer is that of a British subject who felt herself compelled to return to this country from Belgium in a state of health in which she was not fit to travel because she was being required to pay £6 a day in a Belgian hospital? In view of the great generosity shown to foreigners under our Health Service, does not the hon. Gentleman think that we ought to get some reciprocity at least from our allies in the Council of Europe and the signatories to the Brussels Treaty?

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to reciprocity I must inform him that we can only ask that the Belgians, and other signatory Powers to the Convention to which I have referred, should provide for British subjects the same facilities which they provide for their own people. If they do not have a national health service such as we have, we cannot insist that such benefits should be provided.

Would it not be correct to say that all Western European countries make provision, at any rate for emergency medical attention, for people who have not the means to pay?

I will look into the case which the right hon. Gentleman has sent to me. It is possible that Mrs. Mason's case may be covered by the Brussels Convention, but as that deals only with lawful residents in the country, and if she was a tourist, I doubt it.

South-East Asian Security (Study Group)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the discussions of the Anglo-United States study group on a South-East Asian security organisation have been discontinued.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at what conclusion the Anglo-American study group on South-East Asian defence has arrived.

The report of the Anglo-American Study Group is confidential to Governments. I am not, therefore, able to make any statement upon its conclusions. The discussions were discontinued because the Study Group had completed its studies.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the members of the Study Group were in agreement and submitted an agreed report to their respective Governments? Can he further say whether, arising out of these discussions, Her Majesty's Government are planning to enter into any fresh commitments when the House is in Recess?

I can only say that we were satisfied with the result of the work of the Study Group, and that the commitments of Her Majesty's Government are those which have been already stated publicly in this House.

Can the Foreign Secretary at least say whether or not our American friends had a better understanding of what was meant by the Locarno Pact at the end of the activities of the Study Group than at the beginning?

Germany (Dr Otto John)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has concerning the disappearance in Berlin of Dr. Otto John, head of the German Office for Security of the German Constitution; and how far requests for diplomatic assistance have been made of the British representative in Germany by the German Federal Government.

Dr. Otto John left the hotel in West Berlin where he was staying on the evening of 20th July and went to the East Zone of Berlin. A statement purporting to have been recorded by him on 20th July was broadcast by the East German wireless on the evening of 24th July. The full facts are still not established and, in particular, the circumstances in which the broadcast was made are unknown.

The German Federal authorities are in touch with the Allied High Commission on the question of an approach to the Soviet authorities.

As it is stated in certain quarters in Germany that the appointment of Dr. John was apparently made on the recommendation of the United Kingdom Government of that time, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any vestige of truth in that allegation?

The appointment was, and is, a matter for the German authority although all three Western allies were, naturally, consulted at the time of his appointment in 1950; and the three Western allies raised no objection in view of his excellent anti-Nazi record.

Does the Foreign Secretary believe that there is any truth in the statement that Dr. John left West Germany because of the rise in power of the Nazis there now?

I find it impossible to comment on the information we have now got, and I should like to ask the House to show some restraint in this matter in these circumstances. A statement is being made this afternoon by the German Minister of the Interior, and in view of the responsibility which rests with him, I hope that the House will not wish to put any more questions until we hear what he has to say.

United Nations (Chinese Representation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the satisfactory settlement at the Geneva Conference, Her Majesty's Government will now support the application of the People's Government of China for membership of the United Nations at the next General Assembly of the United Nations organisation.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Prime Minister's statement of 12th July, to which I have nothing to add.

Is it not the fact that since then we have had the outcome of the Geneva conference'? Is it not a fact that on a number of occasions spokesmen for Her Majesty's Government have said that the outcome of the discussions at the conference about Indo-China would be the ultimate test of the suitability of China for membership of the United Nations? If Geneva is to be the test of the suitability of membership, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not China who comes out of the test in any unfavourable light?

It is true, fortunately, that there has been agreement reached at Geneva; and if the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to look at the statement of the Prime Minister he will see that that is covered, and so are some other points.

European Security (Soviet Note)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals have recently been received from the Soviet Government for further big Power talks.

As the House will be aware, on 24th July the Soviet Government addressed Notes to Her Majesty's Government and to the United States and French Governments, proposing a conference of all European States and the United States of America to consider the Soviet proposals put forward some months ago for collective security in Europe. It is also proposed that the Chinese People's Republic should send an observer to this conference.

Her Majesty's Government will wish to consult the United States and French Governments as well as the other interested Governments, including their partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, about the reply to be sent to the Soviet Note.

In a matter of this kind, is it not most desirable that all the allies should consult together before sending a reply? Further, as this is a very long document, would it be the policy of Her Majesty's Government to examine it with great care to see whether there is in it any basis, or something new, on which there could be a "get together"? It has been suggested that this Note is merely a repetition of Berlin, but I hope that the very closest examination will be made of it before it is turned down out of hand.

The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that that is why my answer is so reserved. We want to make the most careful examination of the Soviet proposals. I should prefer not to make any hasty judgment upon it, whatever conclusions may form themselves automatically when one reads some of the paragraphs. I assure the House that we shall consult all our colleagues, particularly the N.A.T.O. Powers, before a reply is sent.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House hope that he will be as successful in this instance as he was at Geneva?

Ministry Of Food

Livestock (Slaughtering)


asked the Minister of Food how many cattle, sheep, lambs and pigs were purchased for slaughter in the week ended 17th July.

My Department can provide figures only of animals accepted for guarantee payments. The figures for the week ended 18th July are not yet complete, but the provisional figure of certifications in Great Britain for the week ended 11th July are 36,600 cattle, 148,100 sheep and lambs and 139,000 pigs.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how this compares with the last week of control and purchase by the Ministry?

The appropriate week is the corresponding week last year. There is a very substantial increase over that week.

Cattle (Deficiency Payments)


asked the Minister of Food if he will state, to the latest possible date, the amount which is due for deficiency payments in respect of cattle.

About £119,000 up to 11th July, which is the latest date for which an estimate can be made.

North American Fruits


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that continued refusal to restore the traditional imports into this country of North American apples and pears may lead to a readjustment of production which will deprive British consumers of this class of fruit for which, in the past, they have shown appreciation, and which provides an essential addition to the supplies available from home-grown sources; and when he anticipates it will be possible for him to indicate what policy will be followed in the forthcoming winter.

It is hoped that the fears of my hon. and gallant Friend will prove unfounded. Unfortunately there are many competitors for our limited dollar resources and it is not yet possible to anticipate the answer to the last part of the Question.

Is my hon. Friend sympathetic towards the importation of fruits from Canada and the United States if dollars are available? There is a demand in the winter time by the public for such fruits and this will not be detrimental to fruit growing interests in Great Britain?

It is essentially a matter of dollar resources. My hon. and gallant Friend should address his Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that ample supplies of fruit are available not only from internal sources but also from Europe and Commonwealth countries, and that there is no need to waste dollars when we can get the goods elsewhere?

I appreciate the hon. Member's point, but the case for the importation of this fruit is that it arrives in the early months of the year when supplies of dessert fruit are not particularly good.

New Zealand And Danish Butter


asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement regarding supplies of butter from New Zealand and Denmark.

The long-term contract for the purchase of butter from New Zealand, was originally due to expire on the 31st July, 1955, but will now be terminated, by mutual agreement, on the 31st July, 1954. The Danish contract is not due to expire until September, 1955, but discussions about the final year will take place shortly.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a good deal of criticism in New Zealand because his Department has been making a profit on New Zealand butter? Is not this most unfortunate? Will he do what he can to ensure that it does not affect future supplies?

The termination of the arrangement a year earlier than was originally intended is by mutual agreement between the New Zealand Commission and ourselves.

Is that termination one of the reasons why the Ministry is now buying some ancient butter from the United States?

No, Sir. We have assured the New Zealand Commission that we shall not import butter from other than our normal suppliers except to the extent of the shortfall on New Zealand butter this year, which will be some 20,000 tons below the expected figure.



asked the Minister of Food whether he will make a statement about the future use of the Government-built slaughterhouses at Grimsby and Wimborne.

No decision has yet been reached. The question whether they should be purchased by the local authorities is still the subject of negotiation. In the meantime and as a temporary measure the Department is operating these premises as a public service.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary do what he can to expedite a settlement? I am sure he will agree that the sooner a settlement is reached the better.

We are very anxious to reach a settlement, and we hope to know one way or the other in the next few weeks.


asked the Minister of Food when he proposes to publish new model byelaws about slaughterhouses.

Minister Of Supply (Usa Visit)


asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement about the scope and outcome of his discussions with United States defence authorities during his recent visit.

56 and 57.

asked the Minister of Supply (1) what information we are supplied with by the United States on their development of guided missiles;

(2) what are the terms of the agreement with the United States of America with regard to guided missiles.

My right hon. Friend proposes to make a statement on this subject later this week and I hope the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman will be willing to await that statement.


Private Houses (Subsidy)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many of the houses built for private ownership during 1953 received a subsidy.

Of the 2,610 houses completed in Scotland in 1953 for private ownership, 295 qualified for financial assistance. All were for persons connected with agriculture.

French And Dutch Carrots


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that recent importations of French and Dutch carrots are making it impossible for Scottish carrot growers to sell their produce; and whether he will take action.

My information does not bear out my hon. and gallant Friend's contention. I understand that supplies of French carrots are no longer available in Scotland, and that supplies of Dutch carrots are very limited. Scottish carrots were selling at the same price as French supplies, but few Scottish carrots are as yet in the market.

May we take it from that satisfactory reply that the position is now all right?

Sewerage Scheme, Loddington


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that parts of Loddington, Northamptonshire, are distinctly malodorous for lack of proper sewage disposal arrangements; and whether he will now authorise a starting date for the small scheme submitted in August, 1950, by the Kettering Rural District Council, which he has approved in principle.

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

My right hon. Friend appreciates the need for this scheme, but he cannot authorise an early starting date. There are many other areas where the need is as great or greater.

Will the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend consider not necessarily an early starting date but some starting date? The village continues to smell worse every year.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is sorry that there is a smell in the village, but I wrote to the hon. and learned Gentleman on 7th July saying that the scheme would be reviewed in a few months' time in connection with next year's programme.

Sub-Post Office, Auchterhouse


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when a new sub-postmaster will be appointed at Auchterhouse, Angus, as the lack of one causes inconvenience to this scattered rural community, particularly pensioners.

There is now a good prospect that a suitable candidate will be forthcoming and, if so, the sub-office will be reopened without delay. Meanwhile, special arrangements have been made for paying old-age pensions in the district.

Army Training (Constructional Work)


asked the Secretary of State for War in how many cases in 1952 and 1953, respectively, Army units, as an exercise, constructed roads or bridges for local authorities; what was the mileage of roads and the number of bridges so constructed; and what means were taken in 1954 to inform local authorities of the constructional services available to them from Army units.

Royal Engineer units built for local authorities four bridges in 1952 and ten in 1953. They did no road construction for local authorities in these years. Only a few engineer units require training in this type of work and, in view of their other tasks, they are available only at a small number of times and places. No special approach to local authorities has therefore been made.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will name the estates on which roadwork is being done by the 117 Field Engineer Regiment, Territorial Army, in Aberdeenshire; and what payments are being made to his Department for the work being performed.

The Glen Muick, Balmoral and Invercauld Estates. All materials are being supplied by the estates and there is no cost to the Army over and above normal training expenditure.

In the light of that answer, will not the hon. Gentleman agree that private estates ought to make a proper payment for the labour of members of the Forces? In the light of the information in his answer to the previous Question, ought he not to ban the use of Army units for work on private estates which results in an increase in the value of purely private property when there is so much work to be done on public roads and bridges?

I think the hon. Member is confused about the type of work being done. This was virtually only a track. The estates did not ask for the work to be done. It is very doubtful if it has improved the value of the estates at all. If the estates had been asked to pay for the work, it is very doubtful whether they would have given assent to the Army's doing it. The Army wanted training. This was an isolated area where there were no local authority roads anyhow and there was this track on which the Army could learn.

Does my hon. Friend agree that all reasonable people with knowledge of training would be most grateful for this opportunity?

Is the Minister aware that there are many isolated farms which would welcome the opportunity of a well-laid track being provided, connecting the farm with the highway, and if I send him a list of some in the Goole area will he get some work done on them?

I have already said, in reply to a Question put to me last week, that if there are suitable units—and there are very few of them—and there are suitable tasks for them to do, and it provides useful training, we should be very glad to look into it.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he has any statement to make on business?

Yes, Sir. It may be convenient for the House to know that the proposed date of meeting after the Summer Recess will be Tuesday, 19th October.

Perhaps I might also state that on Wednesday, at the end of business, we shall ask the House to consider the Lords Amendments to the Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Bill, which is a Private Member's Bill brought forward by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle).

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he is prepared to say definitely that, if any matter of the Bonn Agreement without E.D.C. were to come forward during the Recess, the House will be called together before any decision was come to?

I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to give me notice of that question. On the general issue about the recall of the House, I did say on Thursday that a Standing Order now provides for this to be done if necessary.

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that I have raised this matter before, and that I made a special point that it should be considered.

British Airliner, Hainan (Shooting Down)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make about the shooting down of a British aircraft off Hainan.

Yes, Sir. On the morning of 23rd July, a passenger aircraft of the British company, Cathay Pacific Airways, crashed into the sea near Hainan island while on a regular scheduled flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong. The aircraft was carrying 18 persons including the crew. After a search in which British and United States aircraft cooperated, nine survivors, including the pilot, were rescued by an amphibious aircraft of the United States Navy and brought to Hong Kong. One of the survivors has since died. The nationalities of all those killed, rescued and missing are being ascertained.

The pilot, who was injured, stated that while flying at 9,000 feet about 30 miles from Hainan his co-pilot drew attention to two low-winged radial-engined fighter aircraft with red markings. These aircraft were on the tail of the passenger aircraft and opened fire apparently with incendiary bullets setting two engines on fire. The pilot of the passenger aircraft took evasive action as the fighter aircraft followed him and continued firing. He landed in the sea at 160 miles per hour.

Since the fighter aircraft could clearly only have come from Chinese territory, Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in Peking was instructed to protest most strongly to the Chinese Government against this wanton attack on a clearly marked British civil aircraft flying on a normal international air route.

We have now been informed by the Chinese Government that they admit responsibility for this attack which, they say, was entirely accidental. They have expressed their sympathy and regret, and say that they are willing to give consideration to the payment of appropriate benefit and compensation for the loss of life and for the damage to property. They also state that they are taking appropriate measures to deal with the incident. Her Majesty's Government welcome this prompt offer to make amends for this savage and inexcusable attack upon an unarmed passenger aircraft.

Her Majesty's Government wish to express the deepest sympathy for all those who have suffered tragic loss as the result of this wanton attack. We should also like to express our gratitude for the cooperation and assistance in rescue and search operations given by aircraft of the United States services.

The texts of the two Notes delivered by Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires in Peking over the week-end and of the Chinese Government's reply will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I should like to associate hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House with the Foreign Secretary's expression of regret at this incident, and express our sympathy with the relatives of those who lost their lives, and with those who suffered. While expressing our satisfaction at the fact that an apology has been made, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that this is not the first time in which attacks have been made on civil aircraft by members of foreign air forces, who ought to be better informed? It seems to be absolutely inexcusable in this case. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the strongest representations cannot be made internationally for the avoidance of these incidents?

They have been made, and I must add that, in the judgment of Her Majesty's Government, and in view of the clear markings on the aircraft attacked, we consider that disciplinary action should be taken by the Chinese Government against those concerned. We also think that measures must be taken at once to prevent a recurrence of such incidents as this.

May I ask my right hon. Friend two questions arising from his statement? First, is this not an instance pointing to the fact that the control of the Central People's Government of China, in Peking, in the outlying areas, particularly in South and South-West China and the area near Hainan, is very slight indeed, and that they really do not possess sufficient control to ensure their wishes being carried out? Secondly, in view of the misrepresentations that may be made and the danger to life and limb, will my right hon. Friend use his good offices to see that the proposed visit of the Leader of the Opposition and his fellow travellers to China does not take place?

I think my answer shows that, whatever we feel about the action—and the House has expressed itself on that—the counter-action has also been swiftly taken. I think that, while the House retains all its feelings about these incidents, we should measure them in relation to what has actually taken place.

Is it not also a fact that the Chinese People's Government have said that this machine, which is an American-type plane, was mistaken for a machine from Formosa. Has the right hon. Gentleman any information to the effect that machines of this type do, in fact, fly in this area from Formosa?

A great many things are being said in various parts of the world about this at the moment. I have only given the House the actual facts, as I know them, and, whatever the excuse or lack of excuse, as far as the British Government are concerned, this is an incident which ought not to have taken place; and we must ask the Chinese Government to ensure that it will never take place again.

While we are all most grateful to the Americans for the rescue work which they carried out, would my right hon. Friend satisfy himself that there are sufficient British aircraft which could carry out similar rescues if required; and, secondly, will he see that, for a period at any rate, there are escorts for these civil aircraft flying on their legitimate routes?

I think that civil aircraft have a right not to be interfered with, and that is really the basis upon which we stand. We understand that British aircraft did go on rescue work, but any question as to their type and number is a matter for the Secretary of State for Air.

May I ask the Foreign Secretary if he would take some action whereby the feeling of admiration and appreciation of all of us for the bravery and competence of the pilot and crew in handling this situation, which, no doubt, contributed to the saving of a number of lives in this very unhappy disaster, might be conveyed to them?

I should be very happy to do so. I think that that represents the feeling of the whole House.

Following are the texts of the two Notes:

1 st Note: 24 th July, 1954.

I have been instructed by Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to bring the following matter to your attention.
On the morning of 23rd July a DC4 passenger aircraft of the British Company Cathay Pacific Airways, registration No. VRHEU, crashed into the sea near Hainan while on a regular scheduled flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong. The last signal received from the aircraft was an emergency call at 7.45 a.m. Peking time and stated that the port engine was on fire. The aircraft was carrying 17 persons including the crew. Subsequently 10 survivors, including the pilot, were rescued by amphibious aircraft and brought to Hong Kong.
The pilot who is injured, has now stated that while flying at 9,000 feet about 30 miles from Hainan in position 18 degrees north 110 degrees east his co-pilot drew attention to two cream coloured low wing piston engined fighter aircraft, rather like Japanese type Zeros with red filled-in markings. These aircraft were on the tail of the passenger aircraft and opened fire apparently with incendiary bullets setting two engines on fire. The instrument panel was marked by bullets. The pilot of the passenger aircraft took evasive action as the fighter aircraft followed him and continued firing. He landed in the sea at 160 miles per hour. It seems clear the fighter aircraft which attacked the aircraft VRHEU could only have come from Chinese territory. I have been instructed to protest most strongly against this wanton attack on a British civil aircraft flying on a normal scheduled flight. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom must hold the Peoples Government of the Peoples Republic of China responsible for the tragic loss of life and the injuries sustained. Her Majesty's Government reserve the right to claim full compensation.

2nd Note: 25 th July. 1954.

The Office of Her Britannic Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires present their compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Central Government of the Peoples' Republic of China and have the honour to refer to Note No. 122 dated 24th July, 1954, addressed by Her Britannic Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires to His Excellency, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Chang Han-fu, concerning a passenger aircraft of the British company Cathay Pacific Airways. The following information has now been received. The statements taken from the passengers give further details of the two fighter aircraft which shot down the passenger aircraft. According to these statements they were single engine fighters with radial piston engines, coloured cream or light grey and carrying a red circle on the fuselage as identification marks. They also had red spinners and a white stripe about three feet wide running across the wings just in from the wing tip. The pilot has reported that the aircraft disappeared in the direction of Son-ya.
The Office of Her Britannic Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires also wishes to inquire whether the Central Peoples' Government have any news of other survivors from the aircraft. Nine persons are still missing.

Chinese Government's Reply—25Th July

Your Note No. 122 dated 24th July, 1954, has been received with regard to the case involving a British transport aircraft. I am instructed by the Central Peoples' Government to give the following account of the circumstances obtained through investigation, which you are requested to transmit to the British Government. The Chinese people as well as the peoples of the world rejoice at the easing of the international situation through the recent holding of the Geneva Conference and the agreement reached on the question of restoring peace in Indo-China. Meanwhile, however, aircraft of the remnant Chiang Kai-shek bandit gang in Taiwan have enlarged even further the scope of their harassment of the coastal areas and islands of China, including Hainan Island, have dropped secret agents into China and have piratically intercepted and plundered merchant vessels of various nations sailing to China for trade in a desperate attempt to create tension in Asia. Therefore, fighting has frequently taken place over the coastal areas and islands of China.

According to the report received by our military authorities from Hainan Island, on the morning of 23rd July, patrol aircraft of the Peoples' Republic of China, while carrying out patrol duty over Port Yulin on Hainan Island, encountered an aircraft of the Chiang Kai-shek bandit gang over shat locality and fighting took place. Upon receiving this report, the Government of the Peoples' Republic of China undertook an investigation through various channels and only then did it become known that the aircraft involved was actually a British-owned transport aircraft, mistaken by our patrol aircraft for an aircraft of the Kuomintang gang on a mission to raid our military base at Port Yulin. The occurrence of this unfortunate incident was, indeed, entirely accidental.

The Central Peoples' Government of the Peoples' Republic of China expresses its regret at this accidental and unfortunate incident involving the British transport aircraft, and is taking appropriate measures in dealing with it. It extends its sympathy, concern and condolences to the dead and injured in this incident and to their relatives. It is willing to give consideration to the payment of appropriate relief and compensation for the loss of life and property involved.

East-West Trade (Strategic Controls Agreement)

With the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement on the discussions we have been having with the United States and other countries about a revision of the strategic controls on exports to the Soviet bloc, as distinct from exports to China. As hon. Members are aware, the object of these talks has been to narrow substantially the area of control, consistent always with national security, while improving the methods of enforcement.

I am glad to say that we have now achieved substantial results. There are a few technical problems outstanding and we have not yet reached agreement on controls over the sale of ships; but discussions on these will continue. We have, however, reached unanimous agreement on a considerable reduction in the control lists. In brief, what we have agreed is that, as from 16th August, the present embargo list will be reduced by one-third from about 250 to 170 items and the quantitative control list will be drastically cut from 90 to 20. A further 60 items will be kept on a watch list so that we can follow the trend of these exports. Included in these lists are a few items which have been added for security reasons. The overall result will be a substantial increase in the area of permitted trade, which will, at the same time, be fully compatible with the needs of national security.

Agreement has also been reached on improved methods of enforcement. The other countries concerned already apply financial controls or controls on merchanting transactions, and it has now been agreed that those which have hitherto freely permitted the transit of goods will take steps to introduce controls in line with the transhipment control which we ourselves have operated since 1951. For our part, we shall supplement this action by imposing control over merchanting transactions with the Soviet bloc. An Order to establish this control will be laid before the House in due course.

I hope to be able to publish the revised control lists, but some problems of definition remain to be worked out, and this will have to be considered with the other interested countries. Meanwhile, any interested exporter who wishes to know whether a licence would be granted in respect of a particular product will be able to ob