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Commons Chamber

Volume 531: debated on Thursday 28 October 1954

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 28th October, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Bank Of Scotland Order Confirmation Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Commerce

Imported Textiles (Marks Of Origin)

1.

asked the President of the Board of Trade in what circumstances imported textiles are permitted under his regulations to be sold in this country without bearing any indication of the country of their origin.

Those which neither bear a British name or trade mark nor are subject to a compulsory marking order under the Merchandise Marks Act, 1926.

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman has been receiving complaints of foreign competitive manufactures being received in this country without marks of origin, and in contravention of the existing law? Is he taking no steps about it?

If anything is done contrary to the existing law and the hon. Member calls my attention to it, I will see that the necessary steps are taken or that those able to take them are advised, but if there are firms who think that the marking should be extended further to other textiles not covered, it is open to them to apply to me for that purpose.

British Designs (Japanese Copying)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has completed his inquiries into the evidence submitted to him of Japanese infringements of British designs; and what action he proposes.

This matter is now being discussed between representatives of the Lancashire and Japanese cotton industries. I hope that these discussions will lead to a solution of the problem.

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman knows that the discussions have been going on for months, that the origin of the complaint took place about 12 months ago, that a lot of evidence was submitted to him, and that all the information that I get is that no action has been taken, while the infringement is continuing unabated?

Quite a lot of action has taken place in consultation with the cotton industry. Japanese representatives have just been over in this country for consultation with the industry here, and they have given an assurance that on their return they will recommend to their industry the need for certain procedures to prevent the copying of textile designs. I understand that that visit is to be followed by a visit to Tokyo by representatives from Lancashire so that action has been taken.

Was it not laid down in the Japanese Peace Treaty that the Japanese Government should take action against copying of this kind, and can we have an assurance that that policy is still being followed?

I fully appreciate that. This is a complicated subject involving a pretty wide field, and I am as ready as anyone to see that this policy is carried out. The underlying purpose of the discussions is to find the best procedure by which it can be done.

Has my right hon. Friend taken the opportunity of the visit to this country of the Japanese Prime Minister to discuss this important subject with him?

General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will support a proposal for the progressive reduction of Customs tariffs during the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Conference to be held in Geneva.

Her Majesty's Government have co-operated with other Contracting Parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in formulating proposals for the progressive reduction of tariffs. It would, however, seem to us difficult to come to any effective decisions until we know what contribution the United States may be enabled by future legislation to make for their part towards the reduction of tariffs, which can only be undertaken on a multilateral basis.

In view of that Answer, will the President make it quite clear that the world needs trade rather than aid, and that trade should not only be free but fair?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that tariffs are not necessarily barriers to trade, but sometimes a means of regulating it?

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade his present policy with regard to the entry of Japan as a full member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

This question was among those discussed recently with Commonwealth officials at the London Conference. I have also had some talks with the Japanese Prime Minister on this subject. Our eventual decision will depend upon whether an acceptable basis can be found to enable us and other countries to undertake relationships within the G.A.T.T. towards Japan without any violent disturbance of existing trade patterns or the development of disruptive or unfair Japanese competition.

Is the President aware that the attitude of the workers engaged in the pottery industry in Staffordshire is that this problem would be more easily solved if they had an assurance that the standard of life of the Japanese workers was beginning to approximate to that of workers in Britain, and that there is nothing they would like to see better than that?

Newsprint (Import Control)

5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now remove the control on the importation of newsprint.

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether adequate supplies will be available in 1955 to enable newsprint to be decontrolled.

The balance of payments position does not as yet permit the removal of the control on the importation of newsprint, but I am at present discussing with the Newsprint Supply Company what further progress can he made and whether more freedom in the use of newsprint can be allowed in 1955.

Will my right hon. Friend remember that the difference between men and beasts is that men can read; and that it really is a very serious matter to limit the daily exercise of this priceless function?

I am to discuss this question of newsprint with the Newsprint Supply Company tomorrow.

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that the 900,000 tons of newsprint which could be made available in 1955 would suffice to enable this restriction to be abolished without any fear about the balance of payments, foreign supplies, or anything of that kind?

Various statements are made about how much would be necessary to do this, that or the other. These matters, which are serious and difficult, are under discussion between me and the Newsprint Supply Company at the present time. I have a meeting with them tomorrow. I think we might wait the outcome of it before reaching any final decision.

It is estimated that if freedom for this commodity, and the other consequential freedoms which would necessarily follow, went to their full extent, the burden on our overseas exchange would be about £40 million in sterling, a very substantial sum, not all dollars.

When the right hon. Gentleman is considering this matter, will he see that no steps are taken to make the publication of American horror comics easier in this country?

The problem of newsprint supply is already sufficiently complicated without bringing any further difficulties into it.

East Germany

6.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he intends taking to negotiate a trade agreement with East Germany which will be of assistance to British firms wishing to increase exports to the East German market.

None, Sir. Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the East German authorities as the Government responsible for the Soviet Zone of Germany, and cannot, therefore, enter into official trade negotiations with them.

Is the Minister aware that, at the Leipzig Trade Fair, British firms exhibiting their goods found that they were at a hopeless disadvantage compared with their European competitors? Nearly every other country has a trade agreement, but the Herring Board has to do its business with East Germany by a process of barter. All this is handicapping British trade. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the position and see whether something can be done to improve it.

The hon. Gentleman may be somewhat overstating the handicaps. All I am stating is the position. I am not in a position to enter into a trade agreement with a Government which is not recognised by Her Majesty's Government.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is something which he can do in this matter? Even to relax the barter arrangement a little would be most helpful to many ports in this country, and particularly to Great Yarmouth, from which herring can be sold to East Germany, which is a good market for them. We cannot make satisfactory arrangements by barter.

If there is anything, short of what I am asked in the Question about a trade agreement, that I can do to ease the individual problems of individual trade organisations, I shall be happy to look at it.

China

7.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what assurances he has received from the Government of China as to what goods they have available for export in quantity, and at prices and quality that would compete in free world markets, in exchange for the goods they wish to import from the United Kingdom.

In view of the fact that China sold much more to us last year than we bought from her, and that therefore she has goods available and can sell them at competitive prices, would my right hon. Friend see whether the embargo on what we can export to China cannot be lifted a bit further?

This Question deals with the other side of the trade, with what the Chinese have for sale to us. So far as that is concerned I have not, at a Government level, asked for allocations of goods because we do not conduct our trade in that way. It is done by importers in this country.

In view of the fact that the President confirms that last year China had goods available at qualities and prices which could compete in our markets, and that she was selling more to us last year than we bought from her, surely we could relax somewhat our export embargo in order that we can sell goods back to them instead of sterling?

Is the Minister aware that the request to do something to relax this embargo now comes from both sides of the House?

Monopolies Commission (Procedure)

8.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to require the Monopolies Commission to adopt a judicial procedure in place of their present procedure when conducting examinations.

My hon. Friend will appreciate that, as the Commission are not a court of law, and no code of law exists in this field, a judicial procedure in the strict sense would not be appropriate or practicable. Full consideration will, however, be given to any suggestions for procedural changes which are put forward.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the procedural change suggested is quite small and would mean carrying with it the confidence of the businesses which are being examined? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that the change involved is merely that of making the Commission more of an arbitrator and less that of an inquisitor or prosecutor? Would not that be a quite simple change to make, one which would make a lot of difference in the public relations of this Commission and the businesses that were being investigated?

Quite a number of changes have been suggested from time to time over the past few years. Most of them are found on examination to present very considerable difficulty. If my hon. Friend has some particular change in mind and would like to tell me about it afterwards, I should be very happy to have a look at what he suggests.

Poland

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why it is necessary to place a ban on the export to Poland of grinding and honing machines and multi-spindle automatic lathes, when British firms are able to supply these machine tools more cheaply than the countries from which Poland is at present drawing her supplies.

The export of certain types of these machine tools to Poland and other Soviet bloc countries is forbidden under the strategic control arrangements agreed with other countries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the Leipzig Exhibition any amount of these machines were on offer which countries covered by the embargo list could buy, and therefore that the present effect of the embargo in practice is to deny business to British exporters without denying supplies to the purchasing countries?

I think not. The purpose of strategic control is to ensure the opposite, namely that all the countries concerned in this matter should agree together what should be prohibited and what should be permitted to be sent. Such a list has been drawn up. Some machine tools are on the list and some are off. I think that the ones referred to in the Question happen to be embargoed.

Is it not clear that the purpose of the embargo has not been achieved, since Poland and the other countries are able to buy all the machine tools they want, but not from us?

If hon. Gentlemen have any evidence—[Laughter.]—we have asked for evidence on several occasions and so far such evidence has not been forthcoming. If such evidence is available we shall be happy to look at it.

I have already offered the evidence to the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that if he or any of his officers had been at Leipzig he would have found it possible to buy, as a Briton, or a Pole, or anyone else, any quantity he wanted of these machines.

That is an answer in general terms. If the hon. Gentleman can specify to me some machine tool which is embargoed under the agreement with other countries in Europe and which is in fact, being sold by one of them contrary to that agreement, I shall be happy to look into it.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the evidence produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) is sufficiently detailed for him to set up some examination?

Ussr

10 and 11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) the total number and value of applications for licences to export machine tools to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which were under consideration on 6th July. 1954, and have since been granted;

(2) the total value of the machine tools for which licences have been granted and refused, respectively, in the last six months for export from this country to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

In the last six months applications for permission to export a complete rolling mill and tinplating plant worth together over £10 million have had to be refused. Licences for £11 million worth of machine tools have been granted and £3 million worth refused. This represents the granting of 116 of the 150 licences outstanding on 6th July last. Seven of the remaining applications, for machine tools worth about £3 million, were withdrawn by the applicants.

Is it not clear from the right hon. Gentleman's answer—for which I thank him—and from previous answers given to similar Questions, that in the overwhelming number of cases where applications are made, especially with regard to machine tools, many months generally elapse before the applicant is told whether his licence is to be granted or refused, so that British businessmen are in great difficulties about making their export plans? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman speed up this process of giving a simple answer to a simple question—a simple "Yes" or a simple "No"—which is all the applicants want?

I should have thought that that statement would have been true about the situation as I found it, but I do not think it is true today, because I have been able to re-negotiate a much shorter and much more straightforward list of goods, which has been published, as a result of which everybody should know where they are and whether their goods can be freely sold or are subject to embargo.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that now, three years after he came to power, his supporters in another place are charging him with setting up a Soviet State? Does he not understand the implications of this?

It is not quite in order for me to contemplate what is happening in another place.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that even the most carefully drawn up list of goods is liable to omit large quantities of products which never precisely fit into any item in the list, and concerning which therefore, an ad hocapplication must be made? Will he see that these ad hocapplications are dealt with much faster than at present?

They are, of course, being dealt with much faster than they were under the previous system as I found it. Indeed, one of the purposes of the arrangements which we have now made is to speed things up in order to prevent these goods from going to destinations which might be dangerous, and to expedite trade where that might be safe.

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, following the publication of the lists of goods controlled for export to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he will now publish a similar list indicating which types and tonnages of ships, floating cranes and dredgers are still embargoed for export to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern Europe.

Consultations about the strategic control of ships are not yet concluded. I think it would be better to defer publication of any list until the discussions have reached a conclusion.

While appreciating all that, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to hurry forward this business, because there a good deal of anxiety in our shipyards? Is he aware that it is common knowledge that the Soviet is modernising its mercantile marine, and that orders are being placed in almost every Western European yard except British yards? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at any rate speed up these consultations.

I have the matters to which the hon. Gentleman refers and the interests of shipyards in Sunderland and elsewhere very much in mind. I am sure that he would not press me to come to an arrangement not in the interests of this country.

Will the right hon. Gentleman read once again the account of the offer which Mr. Ivanov Kabanov, the U.S.S.R. Foreign Minister of Trade, made to the British businessmen of orders for over 200 British ships; and will he also read the article in the "Financial Times" last week, in which it was stated that there are about seven European countries, in addition to Japan, supplying whalers, cargo ships and dredgers to the U.S.S.R.?

I will certainly read again the list which I have read before, but it is true that under the recent reform on strategic controls which I have managed to introduce no less than three-quarters of the goods mentioned by Mr. Kabanov are free for sale in this country.

Is it not a fact that the strategic list proposed by the Government at the time of the Korean war is now hopelessly out of date, even with the changes made by the right hon. Gentleman? If British industry is to hold its own, the list must be much wider so that it can sell its goods.

The list was out of date, and it has been revised in consultation with our friends, including many countries of Western Europe. When one has a revision of that kind, one has to take account of the views of all one's friends in the matter. I think that this is the best list at which we can arrive at present.

Merchandise Marks Act (Infringements)

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many complaints he has received this year about infringements of the Merchandise Marks Acts; and in how many cases he has instituted legal proceedings.

Forty-one, Sir. Legal proceedings have so far been instituted in 12 cases.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say what has been the result of the proceedings that have been instituted? How many successes has he secured so far?

I think that in eight cases the proceedings have proved successful, in two unsuccessful and that two are still pending.

Distribution Of Industry

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that it is still the policy of the Government to secure a balanced distribution of industry throughout the country, in accordance with the declarations on pages 11, 12 and 13 of the White Paper on Employment Policy, Command Paper No. 6527, of 1944.

In view of the expansion in the Greater London area of the motor industry which the President has recently approved, would he not agree that in spite of the general success of the distribution of industry policy there is still a need to steer new schemes away from congested areas like Greater London to other parts of the country that need them?

Yes, but I do not think that the general White Paper on full employment, which is the Paper referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, necessarily makes it obligatory to refuse an expansion of a particular firm in a particular area. The general policy remains as stated.

Spinning Mill, Oldham (Closure)

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the Granville Mill, Oldham, which has been operating as a weft and big cop spinning mill since 1884, has closed down on the grounds of foreign competition; and, in view of the resulting loss of employment and production, if he will make a statement of Her Majesty's Government's policy as to the cotton industry.

My information does not suggest that the closing of this mill is due to foreign competition.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? First, will he say whether he has any policy for employment in the cotton spinning industry, particularly in view of the fact that there are now 13,000 fewer people employed in that section than in October, 1951? Second, will he say whether he has power to hold an inquiry into the closing of this mill, which had 97,000 spindles, employed 240 people, made a profit of £24,000, paid a dividend of 15 per cent., changed hands at £2 a share as recently as last June, paid £9,000 for loss of office by directors and was bought by a gentleman who before the war operated successfully as a mill knacker? Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into this and let us know what the facts are, because the whole of the workers in the industry are concerned about the facts in this case?

As far as employment policy is concerned, I am glad to say that there are four vacancies for every man out of work. So far as this mill is concerned, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman himself might make a few inquiries in Lancashire about this matter. It is true to say that it was taken over as recently as last June by the present owners, who paid £2 for each £1 of issued share capital. At that time imports of foreign grey were running at about the same level as at the present time. On that basis, I think it very hard to contend that it was foreign competition which closed the mill.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The only trouble was that had I not suggested that it was foreign competition, the Question might not have been allowed at all. But does not the right hon. Gentleman think that if a mill which ought to make money is closed down for tax reasons, he owes a duty to the House and to the public to say how this comes about?

The grounds upon which I could order an inquiry into operations of this kind are, as the hon. Gentleman knows, limited by legislation.

National Finance

Dividend Restraint

18.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the importance of good industrial relations, what action he proposes to take to ensure a reasonable policy of dividend restraint.

If there is a proper understanding of the full course of industrial dividends and of the part that dividend policy plays in our economy. I do not think there is anything in the present situation which need prejudice good industrial relations.

May I ask the Minister not to under-estimate the dissatisfaction that is felt on this matter, and, before it is too late, will he try to understand that many people are unsettled about it and expect that some real action will be taken in this very important matter?

I certainly do not under-estimate the importance of this matter, and that is why I am most anxious that a complete and proper understanding of the facts in the case should be widespread.

26.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is still his policy that there should be restraint in the distribution of dividends; and how he proposes to make his policy effective.

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. My right hon. Friend considers that it is best to rely in this matter on the voluntary action of individual managements.

As the voluntary action has broken down, in the sense that profits distributed in the form of dividends over the last 12 months are higher than those distributed in the previous 12 months, what action does the Chancellor of the Exchequer propose to take?

My right hon. Friend has always made it clear that restraint on dividends, just as in the case of restraint on other personal income, is not the same as a complete freeze.

29.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he proposes to take to restrain the present rise in dividends and ensure that a higher percentage of industrial profits is used for re-equipment.

31.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he is taking to implement his recent suggestion that companies should plough back a greater proportion of their profits.

It must clearly be left to the managements of individual undertakings to decide how profits should be allocated; and my right hon. Friend trusts that in doing so they will have regard to the great importance, in the national interest, of increasing the volume of industrial investment.

As the only practical effect of the appeal which the Chancellor made a few weeks ago has been that he has been publicly and flatly contradicted both by the "Financial Times" and by the chairman of the Stock Exchange, is he just going to sit idly by and do nothing at all?

There are signs that the rate of industrial investment is increasing. This criticism comes hard from a Member of a former Government whose last Budget was designed to reduce the rate of investment.

Can we have an assurance that there will be a consistency of attitude on the part of the Chancellor? The Chancellor having suddenly changed his attitude from that contained in all the replies which we had last Session, can we be assured that he will not change back again as a result of the bad time he had at the bankers' banquet?

I think that my right hon. Friend's attitude has been consistent in this, as in other matters.

Is my hon. Friend not aware that payment of good dividends is one of the best ways of attracting capital for investment?

It is a most important fact that if we are to have investment in new enterprises, the investors must be assured of a reasonable return.

Industrial Investment

19.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what evidence he has that British industry is placing to reserve considerably less than industries in many European countries; which countries are shown by his investigations to be reserving more; by how much more than in the United Kingdom; and, in each case, how much of the total gross earnings are taken away by taxation, as compared with the United Kingdom.

The available evidence is to be found in publications of the O.E.E.C. and relates to the level of investment in this country compared with the United States and other European countries. Exact comparisons are impossible owing to differences of definition and tax structure, but there is no doubt that we are investing a much smaller proportion of our resources than the United States and that we are investing less than Germany and several other European countries.

My right hon. Friend has not answered one important point about which I asked him. I asked whether foreign industries were paying as much in taxation as British industries, and my right hon. Friend has not answered that question. Further, will he bear in mind that if company profits were not taxed so heavily, more would be put to reserve, and that if our level of taxation were no higher than that on the Continent, the comparison would not be so bad?

I said that it was difficult to make an exact comparison of the tax structures of individual countries. As far as Germany is concerned, until recently, at any rate, the burden of taxation on its industry was slightly higher than in this country. As to the United States, the margin, although it is in the other direction, is probably not very wide. I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the lower the level to which taxation can be reduced, the more opportunities companies should have and take to place to reserve.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that since the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a reduction in taxation, dividends have risen?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the "Financial Times" recently published figures showing that, on the average, companies in this country distribute nearly four times as high a proportion of their profits as do countries in Western Europe?

I saw those figures in the "Financial Times," and I thought that the hon. Member might take the particular case of Germany, which is in great contradistinction to some of the other cases put.

University Teachers (Salaries)

20.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the recent negotiations concerning the salaries of university teachers.

My right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to make a statement before long.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Chancellor has had the recommendations of the University Grants Committee, and if so, how long he has had them in his possession? Does not the Financial Secretary agree that there has already been plenty of time for the Chancellor to consider this, and to make up his mind on what have been very protracted negotiations?

These representations reached my right hon. Friend in July. As the hon. Member knows, all these matters have to be negotiated through the University Grants Committee and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors, and the Long Vacation of the Universities has intervened.

Tea Prices (Old Age Pensioners)

21.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the rising price of tea, he will introduce concession price tea coupons for old age pensioners pending an adequate increase in the basic pension.

I am afraid not, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the explanations of the difficulties in the way of such a scheme given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by my predecessor on 16th and 15th February, in answer to Questions by the hon. Lady the Member for the Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) and by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd).

Is not the Financial Secretary aware of the special place that tea takes in the budget of old-age pensioners? Since he is unwilling to apply a control to the price of tea or to grant this sort of alleviation, will he at least ask his right hon. Friend to stop making imprecise promises about the increase in the basic pension, treat this as a matter of urgency, and give an undertaking to this House now that an increase in pensions will be granted to our old folk in time for Christmas?

I fully understand the importance of tea to old people, but this Question. I think, is based partly on a supposition that the tobacco duty relief scheme could easily be extended to tea. I should explain to the House that tobacco duty relief operates because there is a heavy duty on tobacco. There is no duty on tea. It would not be possible, therefore, even were it thought to be the right thing to do, to operate a similar scheme in regard to tea.

Artistes (Income Tax)

27.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the public concern at the accumulation of large sums, over periods of many years, in arrears of Income Tax and Surtax by members of the entertainment professions; and whether he will make stricter regulations concerning collection of arrears of Income Tax and Surtax.

I share this concern, and would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given by my predecessor to the hon. Members for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) and Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) on 31st March and 1st April. As he then stated, the Inland Revenue has continuously under review the most effective means of assessing and collecting tax due from these and all other professions and occupations.

Is my hon. Friend aware that workers, who have their Income Tax deducted from their pay packet before they touch it, and small businessmen, professional men and so on who often find themselves pilloried in the courts for small sums, find the position very difficult to accept? There seems to be evidence that there is one policy for the small defaulter and another for the large. Can my hon. Friend say whether there has been any progress during the six months or more since the Questions to which he refers were asked and answered?

Might I also ask if there is not something rather shocking in the fact that men like Robert Newton can get away with about £40,000 of Income Tax while, in the last published figures, 31 people were sent to prison for sums which were trifling by comparison with that large figure?

I think that we all feel very strongly about those who attempt to evade the tax collector. There is, however, the difficulty that one cannot easily apply P.A.Y.E. to people in the entertainment profession because, in the main, they have not an employer. For that reason it is impossible to collect the tax under P.A.Y.E. at the source. I can only repeat that the Inland Revenue is constantly seeking new means to catch up on tax evaders, though some still slip through the net.

Might I ask the Minister to look at newspapers in which he will find a report about a case in my own constituency in which an hotel keeper is bankrupt, and one of the main items of bankruptcy is a terrifically large sum due for Income Tax?

If he will send them to me, I shall be very interested to look at the local papers from the hon. Member's constituency.

28.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware of the Income Tax concessions made to members of the entertainment professions in respect of expenditure on hospitality, clothing and other items; and what steps are taken by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to ensure that all expenditure in respect of which such concessions are made is necessarily and exclusively incurred by the taxpayers concerned in the discharge of their duties.

Members of the entertainment professions are, like members of other professions, chargeable to Income Tax in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions. They enjoy no special concessions. In computing the profits of a profession chargeable to tax, no deduction is allowable in respect of sums not wholly and exclusively laid out or expended for the purposes of the profession, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the Inland Revenue uses all the means available to it under the law to ensure that inadmissible items are not allowed.

Does not the evidence show that many members of the entertainment profession, whilst enjoying a substantial portion of their income free of tax, manage to evade tax on the rest? Is my hon. Friend aware of two cases —one that of an actress who was allowed the cost of a mink coat as a chargeable expense, and the other the case of Diana Dors who draws £60 a week, £50 of which is tax free? Does he not feel that figures like that merit the closest scrutiny?

I am precluded from discussing in the House the affairs of individual taxpayers, but I will examine any information which my hon. Friend may wish to send me.

Can the Minister answer the second supplementary question which the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A. Price) asked earlier, as to what precise steps have been taken by the Treasury in the interval of six months between the time the Questions to which the Financial Secretary referred were asked, and now?

I really think that in matters of this sort it is better not to say in public what precise steps the tax collectors are taking.

Gold And Dollar Reserves

30.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the recovery over the past three years of the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area has been less rapid than that in the reserves of most other European countries; and what steps he proposes to correct this relatively unfavourable trend.

Yes, Sir. I am also aware that when the Government took office at the end of October, 1951, the reserves were running out at the rate of over 300 million dollars a month; and that from June, 1952, when the policies of the Government began to have effect on their inheritance, the rate of increase in the reserves compares favourably with that of other countries as a whole. I am further aware that in this latter period members of the sterling area have been repaying old debt to the International Monetary Fund and European Payments Union, and that on this score the U.K. alone has repaid over 200 million dollars recently.

Will the hon. Gentleman not agree, in view of the clear statement in the recent Report of the International Monetary Fund, that Europe as a whole has been doing better over the period in which this Government has been in office, the Government ought not to be either too complacent or too self-congratulatory?

Since June, 1952, the reserves of Continental Western Europe have risen by 18 per cent. and the reserves of the United Kingdom have risen by 70 per cent. I have heard legatees complain about their inheritance, but it comes singularly oddly from a testator.

Even though the hon. Gentleman has given a very ingenious answer, is he not aware that the dollar loans arising during the war were repaid throughout the period 1945 to 1951, and is it not a matter of some serious concern that according to the International Monetary Fund, which I imagine the hon. Gentleman does not dispute, the sterling area was the only large trading area which did not show a substantial rise in reserves between 1951 and 1954?

I have given the exact figures and I do not think their accuracy can be challenged. If the right hon. Gentleman is interested in financial assistance and loans and the repayment thereof, he will be interested to know that in the period during the Administration of his party the average net assistance received was over £300 million a year; under our Administration it is £38 million.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the whole idea of gold reserves is quite fantastic, having regard to the amount of gold that the Americans have buried at Fort Knox?

Civil Servants (Territorial Army)

32.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury which Departments of State refuse to allow civil servants to volunteer for, or remain in, the Territorial Army.

All Departments encourage civil servants to undertake voluntary service in the Territorial Army, and the other Reserve and auxiliary Forces, to the fullest extent consistent with the national interest. Permission is withheld only where it would not be in the national interest for the civil servant to be called away from his work on the outbreak of a war.

Can my hon. Friend justify a young person employed in a junior position in the Ministry of Defence being forced to resign his duties in the Territorial Army? He is surely not a key person in any way?

The decision in every case is for the Department concerned, and perhaps, therefore, my hon. Friend would address that question to the Minister of Defence.

National Stud (Report)

33.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when he will present the report of the Committee on the National Stud.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
(Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I understand that the committee expects to submit its report in not more than six months' time.

Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the horses that are bred will move more quickly than the committee?

Agriculture

Myxomatosis

34.

asked the Minister of Agriculture which counties have been affected by myxomatosis; and the number of cases which have been reported to him.

Myxomatosis in wild rabbits is now present in every county in Great Britain except Dumbarton, Roxburgh and Selkirk. The disease is so widespread that it is no longer possible to record individual cases.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is practically no trade at all today in wild rabbits? Can he assure the House that there is no danger to humans from eating rabbits that have been infected with myxomatosis?

I am aware that the trade in wild rabbit carcasses has fallen away to nothing. The evidence with regard to myxomatosis affecting human beings or any other animals is that except for the infection of three hares, there has been no infection passing to any other kind of animal.

36.

asked the Minister of Agriculture in how many cases there has been evidence of the deliberate spreading of myxomatosis; and what action he proposes to take.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 21st October to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) and the hon. Members for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and Test (Dr. King).

Can my hon. Friend say whether there is any foundation for reports that rabbits are already developing some resistance to this disease?

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that not only is there widespread national indignation but a sense of national shame at what has happened about myxomatosis? Will he not use the Bill that is passing through the House to make, at any rate, the further wilful spreading of this disease illegal?

White Fish Authority (Quick Freezing Experiment)

37.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what progress has been made by the White Fish Authority in respect to the preparation, freezing, packing, storage, transport and handling of quick-frozen fish.

The authority is well advanced with the preparatory work for its commercial experiment in the quick-freezing at sea of distant-water fish, which is being grant-aided by my Department. The authority has drawn up a code of practice on the preparation, packing, storage, transport and handling of quick-frozen fish and have appointed trained inspectors at the main ports who are studying the working of the code in co-operation with the quick-freezers.

From the experience that has been obtained so far, is the Minister optimistic about the success of this experiment?

These are very early days yet. This experimental ship has not yet gone to sea, and it would be premature to express an opinion for another 12 months or so.

Output

38.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what progress has been made in the programme for agricultural expansion.

The net agricultural output for 1953–54 is estimated at about 55 per cent. above pre-war, compared with 43 per cent. in 1950–51 and 52 per cent. in 1952–53.

Can the Minister understand the farmers being a little dissatisfied, or does he think that they are being a little unrealistic?

Pigs (Marketing)

41.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement on the recent representations he has received about the difficulties farmers are meeting in disposing of bacon pigs; and how far bacon imports from Denmark and the Republic of Ireland are aggravating these difficulties.

Free markets with comprehensive guarantees for the producers as a whole, and for individual producers, have been restored for all fatstock, and the Government are convinced that this represents in present circumstances the best system for marketing pigs as well as other stock. The difficulty over the marketing of pigs has been due, not to imports of bacon, but to the fact that the number of pigs offered to bacon factories has far exceeded their curing capacity. This has been caused by the disparity between the price paid for pigs of bacon weight and the prices for pork pigs in the open market.

My right hon. Friend has discussed the position with representatives of the producers, who have informed us that they are examining the problem of reducing this disparity in prices. Further intervention by the Government would be likely to disturb rather than improve the marketing arrangements. My right hon. Friend, in his capacity as Minister of Food, is now suggesting that his Joint Advisory Panel, which consists of representatives of all the interests concerned, should discuss the position at the next meeting of the panel.

Is it not true that while the Government were encouraging the greater production of pigs, they did nothing whatever to increase the capacity of the bacon-curing factories?

This is not primarily a matter of the bacon-curing capacity of the factories. About half the production of pigs goes to the pork market and half to the bacon market.

Does my hon. Friend's answer apply equally to the import of live pigs from Ireland?

The import of live pigs from Ireland is, as far as I know, negligible. There is a certain import of pork from Ireland and a certain import of bacon, but it is a very small proportion of the total.

Tillage Area (Reduction)

42.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the reduction in the area of tillage of 378,000 acres; and what action he proposes to take to arrest this decline and to increase food production.

I am aware of the reduction in the tillage area this year to which the hon. Member refers. This is mainly due to a reduction in the area under feed crops. The net effect of this will depend on the use made of the increased area of grass. Half of this has gone into the more productive temporary grasses, and it would be premature to assume that there will necessarily be a fall in total food production. All these matters will be taken into account in the statutory review of the economic conditions of the industry, early in 1955.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this is a tangible piece of evidence of the failing confidence in this Government on the part of the agricultural community?

Landrace Pigs (Atrophic Rhinitis)

44.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether any recurrence of disease among Landrace pigs has now been reported.

Since 1st July, one further outbreak of infectious atrophic rhinitis has been confirmed in Landrace pigs in Cheshire, bringing the total to date in Great Britain to four, one of which was in Fife.

May we take it that time enough has now elapsed for us to be reasonably confident that there will not be further outbreaks of this disease among Landrace pigs?

It is early to give a conclusive reply, but progress is very encouraging.

Egg And Poultry Marketing

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will now favourably consider an egg and poultry marketing scheme, in view of the detrimental effect prevailing uncertainty as to future policy is having on the industry.

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what progress has been made towards a marketing scheme for eggs and poultry; and whether he will make a statement.

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will make a statement concerning the marketing of eggs.

Discussions with the N.F.U.s on the future arrangements for egg marketing, including the question of a producers' marketing board, have been proceeding and the unions' comments on proposals put to them and certain counter-proposals by the unions were received at the beginning of this month. Ministers have now considered this communication and the discussions with the N.F.U.s will be resumed shortly.

Will the Minister take care during these discussions to see that the consumer interest is not overlooked?

Certainly. We shall see that there is a proper balance between consumer and producer interests.

Can my hon. Friend assure us that there is no withdrawal from the position of the Government being in favour of producer-marketing schemes?

Sea Defences, Bradwell Quay (Repairs)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken to protect the lives of residents and agricultural and other property immediately to the west of Bradwell Quay, Essex, where no work has been done to strengthen the sea wall since the first-aid repairs after the flood of January-February, 1953; and why this part of the sea wall has been neglected.

These defences protect a small area of land in which there was no loss of life in the exceptional flood of last year. The river board informs me that the defences in this area have been restored substantially to their pre-flood strength, first-aid repairs having been strengthend by backing the wall where breaches occurred. The board will consider the need for improving the defences in this area in due course: but it does not regard the matter as one of immediate urgency.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the river board informed me a month or two ago that it could not do very much about this place because the residents there are not subject to drainage rates? Is that really the reason why they are not to be protected? Even if fortunately, no lives were lost last year, is it not the case that many of the people living there are below high-tide level, and is not the Minister particularly concerned about the agricultural land?

No, the consideration of drainage rates, although something we should take note of, is not the main consideration. The broad policy is to restore the sea defences to the pre-1953 flood level except where there is a large population, industrial plant or exceptionally large areas of agricultural land. In this case there is no justification for raising the level of the defences immediately.

Remembrance Day (Date)

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider taking steps to alter the date of Remembrance Day from 11th November to either V.E.-Day or V.J.-Day, in order to give a better chance of outdoor ceremonies taking place in reasonably good weather.

I understand that the date of Remembrance Day was very carefully considered by the then Government in 1945 and 1946 in consultation with representatives of the Churches and the British Legion and with Commonwealth Governments, and that many possible dates, including those suggested by the hon. Member, were considered. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition announced on 19th June, 1946, that the King had approved a recommendation that Remembrance Sunday should be celebrated on the Sunday before 11th November, unless 11th or 12th November be a Sunday. Her Majesty's Government have no intention of making any change now.

Does the Prime Minister agree that this date is not necessarily fixed in perpetuity? It is becoming more and more difficult for the rapidly ageing veterans of the First World War to pay the respect which they wish to pay to their fallen comrades on 11th November, when the weather is usually very bad.

I certainly think that it should remain under consideration from year to year.

Thermo-Nuclear Weapons (Control)

46.

asked the Prime Minister what action Her Majesty's Government propose to take in view of the fact that, under the official policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, control of the atom and hydrogen bomb has now been transferred from political to military control.

The right hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. There is no basis for the assumption that control of the atom and hydrogen bomb has been transferred from political to military control. There has been no change in the arrangements for political consultation on the use of these weapons between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government either directly or through N.A.T.O., to which I referred in my statement on 23rd March this year.

I am sure that the whole House will be delighted to know that political control of these weapons will be maintained. Do I then understand from the answer which the Prime Minister has given that the statement recently made by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, in which he indicated that it was not a question that these weapons might be used but that they would definitely be used if we were attacked, was an irresponsible one; that it did not reflect the policy of S.H.A.P.E., of which he is a servant; and, if that is the case, will the Prime Minister make the proper representations to S.H.A.P.E. to make sure that its servants—whom we cannot question in this House—indicate the policy of S.H.A.P.E. as determined by the political heads of States?

I do not think I will add to the answer I have given at this moment. I think the House should be kept informed of the various aspects of this overwhelming question as they arise, and what I have said indicates correctly the position at this moment.

Can we take it that the Prime Minister's assurance applies also to tactical atomic weapons, such as the atomic artillery now in Germany and Okinawa? Can the Prime Minister indicate how the political control will work, since the whole organisation of the Army has been founded on the use of these tactical weapons?

Yes, it is quite true that these tactical weapons have been issued, and that amongst these tactical weapons is included the control of the Tactical Air Force, but that is in a different position from the general control of the strategic employment of nuclear weapons. But I really would not feel inclined to go into these definitions by way of a supplementary answer. I will do my best at some future time to explain the position to the House, but it presently stands exactly as in the answer I gave to the Question of the right hon. Gentleman.

In his consideration of the matter, will the right hon. Gentleman pay particular attention to the words used by Viscount Montgomery, as reported in "The Times," that they were basing all their operational planning on using atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons in their defence, and that this called for a certain reorganisation of their forces and in their strategy? Will the right hon. Gentleman give particular study to those words?

Yes, Sir. I thought that they had been rather carefully chosen. They were:

"I want to make it absolutely clear that we at S.HA.P.E. are basing all our operational planning on using atomic and thermonuclear weapons in our defence."
That might justify the planning, but it would not imply a claim for the authority, although I could not at all say what would happen if a surprise and treacherous attack were suddenly to break out upon us.

Are we to take it from the questions which have been raised by the Opposition that their policy is to announce to would-be aggressors—in advance of aggression taking place—that we would not hit back with all that we possess?

I do not want to develop any differences that may possibly arise about this matter. I think that we are all in the same boat.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the business for next week?

Yes, Sir. Let me say first what it is proposed to do today. It is hoped that it will be convenient to the House to take the Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance (No. 2) Bill and the Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution tonight, after the business already announced for today. As the House is aware it is the Committee stage of this Bill which is the effective stage, and the conclusion of the Second Reading today will enable Amendments to be tabled in good time.

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 1ST NOVEMBER—Debate on: Railway Reorganisation Scheme.

TUESDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER—Debate on: Middle Eastern Affairs, which will arise on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion to approve: Draft Coal Industry Nationalisation (Borrowing Powers) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 3RD NOVEMBER —Conclusion of the Committee stage: Food and Drugs Amendment Bill [ Lords], by about 7 o'clock.

Committee and remaining stages: Expiring Laws Continuance (No. 2) Bill.

Proposed Amendments to Standing Orders relating to Money Resolutions.

THURSDAY, 4TH NOVEMBER—Committee stage: Civil Defence (Armed Forces) Bill [ Lords].

FRIDAY, 5TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the following consolidation Measures:

Pharmacy Bill [ Lords].

Trustee Savings Bank Bill [ Lords].

Post Office Savings Bank Bill [ Lords].

Committee stage: National Gallery and Tate Gallery Bill [ Lords].

If agreeable to the House, we hope to obtain the remaining stages.

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say when he proposes to provide time to debate the White Paper laid during the Recess by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government on the subject of the operation of Exchequer equalisation grants in England and Wales?

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is intended that the subject of Cyprus shall fall within the scope of Tuesday's debate? It would, of course, be in order in a debate on the Motion for the Adjournment, but I take it that it would probably be more convenient to have a separate debate on that. Can he say when it is likely to take place?

No, Sir. It is not for me to say what would fall within the scope of the debate, but the Chair.

Yes, but can the right hon. Gentleman say when there is likely to be a separate debate on the subject of Cyprus?

No. I do not know. There has been no demand for a debate on that subject. I certainly cannot anticipate what my answer would be in that event.

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer he gave to a question a moment ago about a debate on the White Paper on Exchequer Equalisation Grants, since there is a great deal of feeling in the country about this matter? Will he do what he can to find time for a debate at an early date?

I said last week that we are at present engaged on the concluding stages of the legislative business before the House. The sooner we get that done the more days there will be available for a variety of topics it may be desired to debate.

Can the right hon. Gentleman find time for a debate on the Report recently published on Welsh Affairs?

The White Paper was published only last week, but I hope it will be possible, and I should like to arrange a debate very soon. I hope it will be possible before Parliament is prorogued.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why, almost every day, there appears on the Order Paper the item Teachers (Superannuation) Bill when it is quite clear that the Bill will not make progress this Session? The right hon. Gentleman flatly refuses every week to say when we are to take it. Does he not think that putting it down on the Order Paper is becoming rather farcical?

The right hon. Gentleman, on his return, has taken the place of his colleague who was the Secretary of State for Scotland in asking this weekly question. All I can say in reply is that I do not see our taking it next week.

In view of the absorption of the Ministry of Food by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will the Leader of the House tell us whether he is able to devote time to debating a matter that has already been before the House on Second Reading of a Bill, namely, the appointment of a special Parliamentary Secretary for the fishing industry?

No, I do not see any prospect of finding Government time for that Private Member's Bill.

Do the Government intend amending the Land Drainage Act, 1938, before the end of this Parliament? If so, would the right hon. Gentleman say when? Perhaps it would help the right hon. Gentleman if, before next Thursday, he were to consult the Minister of Agriculture. He would find that many rural areas have been making representations on the matter.

Yes, I am aware of that, but, really, this is not the day to announce the business for next Session. It is the Queen's Speech that does that.

Shall we have a debate on the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty? I understand that in regard to the ratification of this Treaty the Government are following what may be called the Ponsonby procedure. That is the procedure laid down by Mr. Arthur Ponsonby, as he then was, on behalf of the Labour Government in 1924, under which a treaty is laid before the House for a period of 21 days and that then it is ratified unless there is an expression of Parliamentary disapproval. This Treaty was laid on 19th October and the 21 days expire on Monday week. May I, therefore, ask whether the Government intend to arrange for a debate on this Treaty on or before Monday week?

I do not know that any representations have been made disapproving this Treaty.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, under this procedure, in the case of an important treaty the Government themselves initiate the discussion? Does this mean that the Government do not regard the Treaty as important, or are they trying to sneak through ratification without proper Parliamentary discussion?

No. Nothing sneaks through this House. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have known that.

This is a serious matter. Is it not desirable that the House of Commons should discuss this before the Treaty is confirmed? Or are we suggesting that the House of Commons is now indifferent to putting very large numbers of British troops on the Continent of Europe indefinitely? Are we not to have a discussion about that?

I am not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman has seized the point. If he is referring to the European arrangements, then I can say that, of course, it is intended to have a full debate before Prorogation.

Adverting to the affairs of the natives of these islands, and to the right hon. Gentleman's answer to a question just now about Exchequer equalisation grants, does the Leader of the House recall that there was a promise made by the last Minister of Housing and Local Government that the Government contemplated bringing in a local government reform Bill in 1955? Will he undertake to see that the new Minister is instructed in the elementary facts of local government to enable him to meet the task?

There is no need for me to instruct my right hon. Friend in the elementary matters of local government. He knows them.

To return to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey), in view of the fact that the Government themselves have said that the South-East Asia Defence Treaty is an important Treaty, will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that he will consult the Foreign Secretary and make a statement on behalf of the Government as to whether it is their intention that we should understand that the Treaty is ratified, even though the Government have proposed no debate in the House of Commons on the subject?

I did not quite catch the hon. Member's point, but, of course, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary heard what he said. It is not for me to lay down the Rules of Order, but I should have thought that the subject might well be discussed on Tuesday.

In view of the possibility that the Foreign Secretary might also not have caught my point, perhaps I may make it again. Will either the Leader of the House or the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether it is the Government's intention to have a debate on the ratification of the South-East Asia Treaty before the time limit for a debate has run out?

In view of the fact that the South-East Asia Treaty affects the people of this country, because many of our young men might have to be sent to South-East Asia if ever the Treaty were brought into force, perhaps I may put this point to the right hon. Gentleman: it is understood that, under the Ponsonby rules, if a certain number of days pass without the House of Commons having discussed a treaty made overseas, then it is assumed that that treaty is ratified. I beg of the Leader of the House not to be facetious about this, but to tell the House, in a straightforward way, whether we are to have an opportunity to discuss this treaty before the assumption of ratification.

As hon. Members have pointed out, the procedure is well known to the House. Ratification is an executive act, but if there is a demand for a debate in the House or complaint against any treaty before it is ratified, then no doubt, just as debates took place in the past, no doubt they will take place in the future. But there has been no request at all by the Opposition for such a debate.

Dock Strikes

3.45 p.m.

Talks took place in the Ministry of Labour this morning with representatives of the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers and of the Port Employers in London. Some progress was made, and certain proposals were formulated. The General Secretary of the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers has taken these proposals to his Executive, which meets this afternoon. I am not able to make any further statement at the present moment, but I will inform the House as soon as there is more to report.

I am sure that the whole House will be delighted to know that these talks are so successful so far. We hope that they will lead to a resumption of normal working at an early date. If Mr. Speaker gave permission, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be prepared to answer a Question on this matter tomorrow?