House Of Commons
Wednesday, 8th November, 1950
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
For Belfast, West, in the room of the Reverend James Godfrey MacManaway, M.B.E., who was at the time of his election, and is, disabled from sitting in this House by reason of the fact that, having been ordained a Priest according to the use of the Church of Ireland, he received episcopal ordination.—[ Mr. Buchan Hepburn.]
Committee Of Selection
Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite, Sir Stanley Holmes, Mr. Mathers, Mr. Messer, Mr. Mort, Mr. Oliver, Brigadier Prior-Palmer, Brigadier Rayner, Mr. Robertson, Mr. Touche and Mr. Viant to be Members of the Committee of Selection.—[ Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
Oral Answers To Questions
"Scharnhorst" And "Gneisenau"
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will consider republishing the despatch covering the escape of the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" from Brest during the last war, together with all additional information on this episode in the possession of his Department, the Air Ministry and the War Office, in view of the offence given to the people of this country by the propaganda recently put out by the Soviet Ministry of Marine, particularly to the relatives of those members of His Majesty's Forces who lost their lives in that action.
The Report of the board of inquiry which was published in 1946 as Command 6775 is still available from the Stationery Office. The Report refutes any suggestion that we deliberately allowed the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" to escape, and the board of inquiry stated that they were impressed by the evident determination of all our forces to press home their attacks.I have seen only newspaper summaries of the article in "Red Fleet," but if they are accurate, then that journal only besmirches its own record. It does nothing to touch the honour of those who died in fighting a gallant but unsuccessful action.
Property (Malicious Damage)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many cases of suspected sabotage have occurred to Royal Navy property or equipment in the last six months.
There have been 11 acts of malicious damage in His Majesty's ships and establishments during the last six months, but the circumstances do not point to a planned campaign of sabotage.
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any of the findings on the explosion at Bedenham are likely to be made public at all, and, in particular, whether anybody is incriminated to any extent?
This Question asks only how many cases have occurred. It is not about proceedings being made public.
Branch Officers (Promotion)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what are the prospects for the promotion of branch officers to lieutenant.
Most branch officers who serve to the age of 50 become lieutenants before reaching that age. In the past three years under one per cent. have failed to do so.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many branch officers, to my knowledge, are feeling very insecure about promotion to lieutenant in view of the fact that they have to wait a very long time, apparently, before being considered, and that they are then old to be lieutenants, which makes them unsuitable for further promotion?
I am sorry to hear that, because in fact 99 per cent. of them do attain this rank before they retire. There is not a great deal of insecurity that they need worry about.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what improvements are proposed in the rates of naval pensions.
This matter is under consideration.
Is it not a fact that, although the improved rates of pay have led to improved recruiting for the Navy, the skilled artificers, when they get to reasonable rank, are unwilling to stay on but would rather retire, not because of the pay, but because of the insufficient pension?
Shore Establishments (White Ensign)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what ship's name is attached to Queen Anne's Mansions, S.W.1, in view of the fact that it flies the White Ensign and not the Admiralty flag.
None. Sir. The White Ensign may, with Admiralty approval, be worn ashore on buildings used for naval purposes. Such establishments need not necessarily be independently commissioned.
Is not this naval establishment flying the White Ensign, and may it not, therefore, be expected to have flying somewhere a commissioning pennant? If not, is this because it is regarded as a tender, suitable to be hoisted up and carried on board some other stone frigate in London?
Would the hon. Gentleman say when this building will be derequisitioned?
When the "ship" is "decommissioned."
Is it not a fact that the people employed in this establishment are borne on the books of H.M.S. "President"?
I believe that to be so.
Royal Corps Of Naval Constructors (Pay)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty when he expects to make a statement on the pay of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.
The revised scales of pay of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, fixed on the basis described by my right hon. Friend the late Parliamentary Secretary on 19th October, 1949, were promulgated to all concerned in February, 1950. Since then the Government have decided to put into operation the recommendations of the Chorley Committee on the level of Civil Service salaries, and the scales of salary in the higher reaches of the Corps are subject to adjustment for this.
Could the Civil Lord tell us anything about the entry of these officers now? He told my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder), on 26th July that there had been two resignations and no entries so far this year. If we are to have the new construction we must have the best officers.
I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman will have to put that question down. All he has asked about is the pay.
Will the hon. Gentleman also give consideration to the question of officers of the Chief Inspector of Ordnance, who are in very much the same boat; and will the Admiralty give consideration to bringing their pay into line with modern ideas?
That point will be noted.
Can the hon. Gentleman say by what percentage the pay of officers of the Corps has been increased since the end of the war?
That has already been stated to the House.
Recruiting Staff (Pay And Conditions)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will make a statement on the pay and conditions of the Naval Recruiting Service.
Revised pay and conditions for ratings employed in the Naval Recruiting Service, effective from the 1st September, 1950, have been announced. With the hon. and gallant Member's permission, I will circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Revised terms for the officers are not finally settled.
When does the Parliamentary Secretary think they will come to a decision on this matter, which has been going on for a very long time?
I have made a special announcement of the ratings because it has been going on a long time. We will try to get it through as quickly as we can.
Following is the statement:
I. FUTURE ENTRIES
1. Entry.—In future entry is to be restricted to men who have completed 22 years' pensionable service, and who have held at least the rank of petty officer or sergeant Royal Marines for at least five years continuously. Such men are to be re-engaged or re-enlisted on an active service basis as recruiters for five years, and may be allowed to continue in the recruiting service, up to the age of 55, if required for so long.
2. Rank.—The ratings of petty officer recruiter and chief petty officer recruiter, and Royal Marine ranks of sergeant recruiter and colour sergeant recruiter are to be instituted. All entries into the recruiting Service will be as petty officer recruiter or sergeant recruiter, and promotion to chief petty officer recruiter or colour sergeant recruiter will be given after five years satisfactory service in the Recruiting Service, subject to recommendation.
3. Pay.—Special rates of pay have been approved for ratings and other ranks of the Recruiting Service as follows:
Petty Officer or Sergeant Recruiter
Chief Petty Officer or Colour Sergeant Recruiter
|Basic pay 15||0||17||6|
Badge Pay as for general service ratings will be payable in addition.
Progressive Pay will be at the rate of 6d. a day for each period of four years' Service in the rating, as for general service ratings. The pay of general service ratings and other ranks Royal Marines transferred to the Recruiting
Service will be based upon the above rates for petty officer or sergeant recruiter, irrespective of any higher rate of pay received while in general service.
4. Marriage Allowance, Qualifying Allotment, Ration Allowance, Lodging Allowance and London Allowance.—To be at Royal Naval general service rates, and payable under the same regulations.
5. Pensions.—Time in the Recruiting Service will count for increase of pension under normal rules, and consequently pension will not be payable concurrently with full pay.
II. ASSIMILATION OF EXISTING PENSIONER RECRUITERS
1. The pensions of existing pensioner recruiters are to be suspended from 31st August, 1950, and they are to be transferred to the rates of pay shown in Part I, paragraph 3, with effect from 1st September, 1950. Pensioner recruiters who have already completed five years' satisfactory service in the Recruiting Service are to be promoted to chief petty officer recruiter or colour sergeant recruiter with effect from 1st September, 1950, and placed on the appropriate rate of pay from that date. Those who have not yet completed five years' satisfactory service should be promoted when they do so.
Progressive Pay.—Service for progressive pay will count from 1st September, 1950, or date of promotion, if later.
Badge Pay, Marriage Allowance, Qualifying Allotment, Ration Allowance, Lodging Allowance, and London Allowance.—Payment is to commence from 1st September, 1950, under the same conditions as for general service ratings, as laid down in Part I, paragraphs 3 and 4, above.
2. Re-assessment of Pensions.—Further service in the Recruiting Service from 1st September, 1950, will count for increase of pension. The details have not yet been settled.
3. Implementation.—The existing pensioner recruiters are to be transferred to active service conditions forthwith, and the revised rates of pay and allowances issued to them as soon as possible.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether submarines with fast submerged speeds are now freely available for training exercises with anti-submarine flotillas.
A number of fast submarines are available, but I shall not be satisfied until we have more.
I am glad to hear that, but the Parliamentary Secretary did tell the House the other day that he was giving the utmost priority to new devices for anti-submarine warfare, and I hope that those new devices will not be available to crews who cannot be trained because of the lack of targets.
Retained Personnel (Period Of Service)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty on what date he anticipates that naval personnel now due for pension, but whose services have been retained owing to the present emergency, will be released.
I fully sympathise with the natural wish of those retained or recalled to know for how long their services will be wanted, and whilst I cannot give a definite date, it is my noble Friend's intention to make an announcement at the earliest possible moment.
Will my hon. Friend see that the men concerned are themselves given as long notice as possible, because to my certain knowledge men among my own constituents have already lost civilian jobs for which they had contracted before the notice for their retention was made.
I fully agree with my hon. Friend, and it is my strong desire that we should give them a definite period as soon as it is possible to do so.
Devonport Dockyard (Suspensions)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many men have been suspended in Devonport Dockyard because of Communist activities or associations; and over what periods such suspensions have been in operation.
Two men have been suspended in Devonport Dockyard because of alleged Communist activities or associations. The first has been sus- pended since 15th September and the second since 27th October.
Is my hon. Friend aware that quite alarmist reports have been circulating in the area regarding this matter, and that the reassuring reply he has given me will be received with great satisfaction throughout the area, and particularly in the dockyard?
Can the suspension of a Communist each month be described as "reassuring"?
Are these men still receiving their wages?
At the moment they are, whilst we are considering whether we can find other employment for them or whether we have to discharge them.
asked the Postmaster-General why he has not permitted amateur television in the 420–460 megacycles band as used by United States of America and Dutch amateurs, and why he has not permitted operations in the 1215–1300 megacycles band which is reserved exclusively for amateur operation by international agreement.
The band 420–460 megacycles is recognised internationally as primarily for the use of aeronautical radio navigational services, and the band 1215–1300 megacycles is needed to meet certain national defence requirements.
Is the Postmaster-General aware that this body of amateurs forms a most enthusiastic band of technicians who may be badly needed in a future emergency, as they were in the last; ought we not, therefore, to move heaven and earth to try to provide them with facilities to enable them to carry on their work? In order to avoid wasting the time of the House in discussing technical matters, would the Postmaster-General now agree to meet a deputation on this matter, which has been under consideration for a year and a half?
I am very anxious to meet the opinion of what may be a very important section of the community, and I should welcome an opportunity of discussing it with the hon. Member.
asked the Postmaster-General when building of the new Scottish television station is to commence; and when the station is likely to begin operating.
Building has already commenced, and the B.B.C. hopes that the station will be brought into service by about the end of 1951.
In view of the expectations of the Scottish people, is it not possible for the commencement of that station to be advanced substantially from that far off date?
This is really a matter for the B.B.C. I have gone into the matter with them, and I cannot see that it is physically possible to make greater speed than that provided in the time schedule quoted.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the United States of America they can build and bring into operation a new television station in three months, and have done so; and is this not, therefore, an unnecessary delay in bringing in the Scottish and other regional television stations?
There is no obligation upon me to defend the day-to-day policy of the B.B.C. in this matter. I understand, however, that in America the area covered by their stations is very much smaller than the one proposed for Scotland.
Will this station have its own studios to make its own Scottish television, or will it merely be relaying English programmes?
I should like to see that question on the Order Paper.
In view of the many functions which will have to be televised in connection with the Festival of Britain, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that some steps should be taken to try to advance the date to include that period when the Festival of Britain is operating all over Scotland as well as in London?
I will certainly convey the sentiments of the House to the B.B.C., but it is primarily their responsibility.
asked the Postmaster-General if he will make a statement regarding the provision of a television service for West Wales.
Until we have had experience of the high-power station near Cardiff it is not certain what areas of West Wales will be unable to receive the service. The question will be carefully considered in the light of that experience.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in rural areas, where we do not always have the advantages of modern entertainment, this matter is of considerable importance, and will he press on with it?
I shall look at it with sympathy.
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House when the transmitter near Cardiff will be brought into being?
That is another question.
asked the Postmaster-General what has been delaying the final decision concerning the actual site of the television station near Cardiff.
There have been local objections to the use of the site originally selected at St. Nicholas, Glamorgan, and the B.B.C. is at present negotiating for the use of an alternative site about a mile away.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say by whom these local objections have been made?
Yes, Sir. The objection has been made by the Cardiff Rural District Council on the grounds of amenities and of misuse of agricultural land.
Postal Addresses, Lancashire
asked the Postmaster-General for what reason it is necessary in writing to the Lancashire town of Chadderton to incorporate the name Oldham in the postal address.
Oldham is the post town for a large area of the urban district of Chadderton, and its inclusion in the postal address of that area is necessary for the speedy and efficient delivery of correspondence.
After six months of desultory, discursive and distressing correspondence, could my hon. Friend tell me why, in view of the fact that the democratically-minded representatives of Chadderton have unanimously decided that this is detrimental to their interests, Chadderton could not be called Lancashire 17, 13 or 91, or give it some number, and let it have the individuality of the thriving industrial township which it is?
I imagine that other parts of my hon. Friend's constituency would raise very vigorous objections to that.
Will the Postmaster-General give an assurance that postal efficiency and convenience will never be sacrificed to Chadderton prejudice?
Are we to consider from this Question that there is something prejudicial in having Oldham connected with this name?
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the hon. Member for Oldham, West, is also the Member for Chadderton, which is a large thriving industrial township, which has a right to its identity, and which asks for that right? Will my right hon. Friend face this quite serious question that Oldham has nothing to do with Chadderton, and that, therefore, what Oldham thinks about Chadderton has nothing to do with the question at all; and will he not reconsider this matter?
If Chadderton is prepared to accept a less efficient service and delay in the delivery of letters, I would certainly be prepared to consider it.
asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the practice of incorporating and requiring the incorporation in the postal address of some Lancashire towns of the name of the adjoining larger town is one which is to the disadvantage and detriment of the smaller towns; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this.
This practice, which is not confined to Lancashire, serves to ensure an efficient postal service and could only be changed to its detriment.
Redundant Staff, Harrogate
asked the Postmaster-General if he will give an assurance that when work on the conversion of loans recommences he will re-employ as many as possible of those civil servants who have been declared redundant and are at present unemployed in the Harrogate area.
All redundant staff, on discharge, are advised to register at the local office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, if they desire further employment. Whenever vacancies arise in the Post Office for temporary staff, the Ministry is notified and takes previous service into account in submitting candidates.
That is not a very satisfactory answer. Could not the Postmaster-General say quite definitely that these people, who have rendered good service to the country in the past, should be reemployed as soon as this new conversion issue is started?
I agree with the principle that the hon. Gentleman has suggested, but this is the general practice which has been agreed to. Representatives of the unions concerned have agreed to this practice, and this is the one we are carrying on.
asked the Postmaster-General when the later collections which he promised on 12th July will begin.
I hope it will be provided in many towns early in the New Year.
Air Mail (Periodicals)
asked the Postmaster-General if better air mail facilities can be provided for British periodicals between this country and the Commonwealth and Empire.
Periodicals can now be sent at reduced rates of postage by air mail to all British Commonwealth countries outside Europe.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind the difficulty of certain delays in the air service, which means that periodicals are out of date by the time that they reach certain countries? If I give him details, will he be kind enough to look into this matter?
Interference, Dover And Deal Area
asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to interference, which is making reception of the Home Service programme of the British Broadcasting Corporation difficult in the Dover and Deal area, particularly in the evenings; and what steps he is taking to correct the trouble.
Yes, Sir; the interference with the B.B.C. Home Service on 330.4 metres is due to a foreign broadcasting station. Representations have been made to the administration concerned.
Would the Minister let us know which station is concerned?
The position is this, that representations have been made to Russia, whose station is interfering.
asked the Postmaster-General if he will state the current expenditure on frequency modulation; and whether it is the intention of the Government to pursue this work.
As part of its general research effort, the B.B.C. is investigating the relative merits of both frequency and amplitude modulated broadcasting on very high frequencies by experimental transmissions from the station at Wrotham. The current cost is about £20,000 a year. I am satisfied that broadcasting on these frequencies should be developed to relieve the congestion in the lower frequency bands, but I cannot say whether amplitude or frequency modulation will be used until the B.B.C.'s experiments with both methods of transmission have been concluded.
Royal Commission (Report)
asked the Lord President of the Council when he expects to receive the Report of the Royal Commission on the British Broadcasting Corporation.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on 24th October.
While not knowing off-hand the answer which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member, might I ask him to bear in mind that there is some public anxiety in this matter? Even in another place there has been a temporary display of interest. Would my right hon. Friend urge on the Commission the desirability of making an early report?
I asked for the report by the end of the year, and I have no particular reason to think that it will not be available by then.
asked the Postmaster-General why the classified, trades and professions, telephone directory for Bristol. Exeter, Taunton and Plymouth areas was recently distributed to business telephone subscribers when in error it included very few telephone numbers in Cornwall other than those of co-operative societies.
This was due to a misunderstanding which I regret. The previous issue of the classified directory, made before the war, did not include Cornwall. It had been intended that the new issue should include Cornwall, but it was not appreciated until after distribution had begun that the particulars made available to the compilers of the directory were incomplete. Of some 1,000 entries relating to Cornwall. 42 were in respect of co-operative societies.
Should not the Postmaster-General's Department have discovered this mistake had been made before their officials delivered the directories to subscribers?
This is done by contract outside the Post Office. I agree that we have some responsibility for it, and anything which I can do to put the matter right I will do.
Is the Minister aware that a number of co-operative societies were omitted as well as private traders?
asked the Postmaster-General what is the nature of the more urgent work which prevents 41,000 applicants for telephones being served by equipment available.
Provision of service in priority cases has first claim on the limited capital resources available for connecting up new subscribers, and the heavy pressure of work on such cases is holding up completion of other applications.
Will the Postmaster-General bear in mind that there are now still about 18,000 unemployed on Merseyside, and cannot lie do something locally to benefit these unemployed and also to help the subscribers who are waiting for the equipment which is now available?
In many parts of the country I am extremely short of skilled engineers, and I am afraid that I cannot find them on Merseyside.
asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the fact that a large number of potential subscribers are waiting for telephones in the Selby area, his Department is taking any steps to extend the telephone exchange and add to the number of underground cables.
A new exchange and additional cables should be ready for service in the urban area by next summer, and additional cables are being planned for the rural area.
Will this be considered as a matter of great urgency, because a number of residents in the rural and urban districts of Selby have been waiting for telephones for a matter of years?
Yes, Sir. We are putting in not the usual standard automatic exchange but a rather sub-standard one to meet the need as quickly as we can.
asked the Postmaster-General how many applications for telephones are still outstanding in Cardiff; and whether any steps have been taken in recent months for all schools in Cardiff to be equipped with telephones.
There are 3,879 for the four exchanges serving Cardiff. So far as I am aware, there are no outstanding applications for school telephones in this area.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider consulting with the Minister of Education, with a view to seeing that schools, not only in Cardiff, are equipped with telephones, before some child loses its life as a result of difficulty in contacting hospitals and other services?
No. Sir. The obligation is on the local authority to make this application. When it does, it will certainly have preferential consideration.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman take some initiative in this matter in view of the difficulties?
Deaf Persons (Amplifiers)
asked the Postmaster-General what is the profit to the Post Office from providing deaf telephone subscribers with telephone amplifiers at 46s. a year; and if he will put the provision of telephone amplifiers out to public tender.
The charge for these amplifiers, which are purchased under competitive tender, is below the current costs of provision and maintenance. I am satisfied that the present arrangements for the provision of this service best serve the public interest.
Would it not be a good thing to try to get this service as cheaply as possible for these unfortunate people? By putting it out to public tender that would make it cheaper.
It is put out to public tender, and I regret to inform the House that I am losing a substantial sum of money on this already.
Would the Postmaster-General tell us whether he is arranging for an amplifier to amplify your voice, Mr. Speaker, so that it can be heard both down here and in the public gallery? There is a great feeling at the moment that the one person not successfully heard in this new House is Mr. Speaker.
That is not a matter for me; it is for Mr. Speaker.
Royal Air Force
asked the Secretary of State for Air how many recruits have joined the Royal Air Force since the increase in the rates of pay; and how these figures compare with a similar period last year.
Eight thousand, two hundred and seventy men and women enlisted in the R.A.F. in September and October this year compared with 2,664 in those months last year. These figures do not include those Regulars already in the Service who have extended their current engagements or re-engaged.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many National Service men have extended their engagements?
A very great proportion of the figures which I have given the hon. and gallant Gentleman apply to National Service men who have taken regular engagements on call-up. In addition, about 1,000 have extended their service from National Service to regular engagements.
Auxiliary Force (Strength)
asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the present strength of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in officers and airmen.
Seven hundred and thirty-five officers and 6,386 airmen and airwomen.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that these figures are very poor indeed, and that if he is going to man the radar stations and control units something has to be done? Will he consider offering better amenities in the way of buildings and conditions for the Auxiliary Air Force?
I am anxious to do what I can to improve the amenities. I would point out that as regards the 20 auxiliary squadrons, the percentage of strength to establishment is 72. As to the fighter control units, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, we have only been recruiting for these units during the past 18 months, and during the past year we have had an increase of 1,800.
Night Fighter Squadrons
asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent it is proposed to increase the number of the night fighter squadrons.
As I stated in my speech on the Air Estimates this year, we are planning, not only to re-equip our night fighter squadrons with the latest types of jet night fighter aircraft, commencing next year, but also to increase the size of the night fighter force. This expansion, which will be very substantial, has already commenced, but it would not be in the public interest to give numbers.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in order to be able to place the coastal radar chain on a 24-hour basis at short notice, he will make a public appeal to all the men and women with wartime radar experience to attend refresher training courses.
Publicity has already been given to the need for those with wartime radar and other experience to join the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, where there are increasing facilities for refresher training. I take the opportunity again of expressing the hope that as many as possible of those men and women will join the fighter control units of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Fighter control units are being placed under the control of Fighter Command as from tomorrow.I should, however, like to state again that, in the event of an emergency, we shall be able to man the radar chain on a 24-hour basis at short notice. The necessary arrangements for doing so, by recalling released men and women, are already in existence. In addition, I propose to make a special appeal, individually, to these men and women to join their nearest fighter control unit, or the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, in order to receive refresher training in peace-time.
In view of the very dangerous shortage of wireless electrical mechanics in the first year of the war, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he is getting these men in substantial numbers now, or, alternatively, training them, because it is really impossible to work the coastal radar chain efficiently without them?
I quite agree with what the hon. Member has said as to the difficulties, but I would point out again that we have our plans prepared, covering all the various trades required, in the event of having to man our radar stations on a 24-hour basis.
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "short notice," when he says that this manning on a 24-hour basis can be carried out?
I suggest it is about 48 hours.
Why has the right hon. Gentleman made the statement that the radar reporting units are expanding at a fast rate, when only one has been formed, and that is in London, and it has only 30 per cent. of its establishment? Why are there no other units in other parts of the country to man our radar reporting chain?
I did not say that the fighter control units themselves are expanding at a fast rate. I said that the training facilities are being increased, which is a very different thing.
When the right hon. Gentleman has made appeals for personnel, the urgent need for wireless electrical mechanics has not so far been mentioned. Will he see that this is done?
I will see that my appeals go to men in that trade.
Property And Equipment
asked the Secretary of State for Air how many cases of suspected sabotage have occurred to Royal Air Force property or equipment in the last six months.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether a tender was put out before the contract was let to fly aircraft for Army cooperation work in the Manchester area and how long does the existing contract, let to a Liverpool firm, run.
Competitive tenders were invited for Army Cooperation flying in a number of areas in February, 1949. The firm which secured the contract in the Manchester area terminated the engagement in March, 1950. Fresh tendering was not considered to be justified, and the contract was awarded to the second lowest firm in the original tendering. The present contract expires on 31st March, 1951.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are three charter firms in Manchester, and that they did not know of this tender having been put out? It seems a little unreasonable to import aircraft from Liverpool without the knowledge of the local Manchester firms.
I have no doubt that the three firms had an opportunity of tendering in March, 1949.
I will look into it.
39 and 40.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (1) when he will be in a position to make a statement following the reconsideration of the general question of Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations aid for landing in fog;(2) whether he can give any information about the experiments being conducted into the possibilities of finding a cheaper form of Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations.
Experiments so far carried out indicate that an efficient and less expensive fog dispersal system, using fuel oil delivered at high pressure, is almost certainly a technical possibility. Final checking of the experiment is now in hand, and when this is complete, it will be possible to consider whether there is justification for a full scale installation, having regard to the estimated capital cost of about £250,000. In the meantime, my Department is getting the views of airline operators on the use of F.I.D.O. as an alternative to the existing practice of weather diversion.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that something in the neighbourhood of £600,000 has already been spent at Heathrow on the installation of a form of F.I.D.O.? Can he say whether it would not be possible to adapt the existing apparatus to use the new oil-burning one at very much less cost?
I do not know where the hon. Member gets his figures from, but I will have it checked up if he will give me the details. It is not a fact that a system was installed at London Airport.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the experiments which were necessary for the development of the F.I.D.O. system during the war were planned most carefully so that the maximum number of operational units could be ready for the fogs of the autumn? Can he explain how it is that, after two years of investigation and experiment by his Department, they have been overtaken by the autumn fog season without reaching a decision?
The right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong about his facts. In the first place, experiments were not carried out by my Department, but by the Ministry of Supply. In the second place, I checked up on the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman last week, that this new system of fog dispersal was being tried out towards the end of the last war, and I found that not to be the fact. It is only comparatively recently that this new system has been developed.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that he completely misunderstood my statement last week, which was to the effect that experiments on a cheaper form of F.I.D.O. were in full swing? That is correct, because I was responsible for them. Is he further aware that the new system, which is a cheaper form depending on high-pressure burners and giving instantaneous light, was a further development we had in mind then, which he has had a long time for development? Is he aware that the experts who investigated this scheme have not been consulted by the Government in the last two years?
This question of generating hot air is rather more complicated at airports than in other places. It is not a fact that the present system we are now discussing, and the installation of which we are now contemplating, was known at the end of the war. Experiments have only recently been concluded.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations is available at Blackbushe airfield.
No, Sir, and I am sorry that in my answer to a supplementary question on 1st November I gave the impression that it was. In fact, the F.I.D.O. facilities which I indicated were available are confined to Manston.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how long it takes to turn on the apparatus at Manston? Can it be done very quickly, and, if so, why is it that the aircraft which crashed the other day did not land on F.I.D.O. at Manston?
It would be wrong for me to give any explanation or theory about this accident. As to the time taken to warm up, I think it is in the order of 15 minutes; it is possible to land towards the end of that time.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary say why the apparatus at Blackbushe has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent in the last few years that it is now unserviceable?
It is not a question of unserviceability because of deterioration, but that the installation at Manston was considered sufficient. During the time that the installation at Blackbushe was available, some 15 months, it was used only once, and that was for a take-off and not for a landing.
Has any pilot the right to use the apparatus?
Any pilot has the right to call for the apparatus if he requires it.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary definitely say that the apparatus at Manston is kept fully manned, and that it can be out into operation in 15 minutes?
The apparatus at Manston is an Air Ministry apparatus, although it is available equally for civil and military aircraft. I understand that the answer is "yes," as I have checked up on that point, but if the hon. Gentle, man has any reason to believe otherwise, I shall be very glad to go into the matter once again.
Safety Regulations (Belts)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is satisfied that the regulations which require passengers to fasten seat belts before landing are conducive to the safety of passengers; and if he will further investigation into the matter.
The weight of evidence shows that this regulation is conducive to the safety of passengers. I do not consider that a special investigation into this particular regulation is necessary, but the evidence of recent accidents, as in all previous cases, will be very carefully examined in relation to this question of passenger safety.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in several recent air crashes none of the passengers who was fastened by a safety belt survived, whereas some members of the crew who were not fastened in by a safety belt were thrown clear, and escaped with their lives?
I know that publicity has been given to that, but there are other factors involved, and it would be wrong to draw the conclusion which my hon. Friend obviously draws.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that it would add to the safety of passengers if instead of the seating arrangements compelling them to sit facing the pilot's cabin, passengers sat with their backs towards it?
Comet Air Liners
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation why Comet air liners are not used in the route from New York to the West Indies.
The Comet air liner is still undergoing trials and is not yet ready for service on any route.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that if British jet aeroplanes are made available to American passengers there will be a great demand by Americans to travel on them, and great pressure by Americans on their own internal air lines to buy British aeroplanes, which will be a great help to the British aircraft industry?
I agree with what my hon. Friend says, but I think it is irrelevant to the Question which he asked.
Festival Of Britain
asked the Lord President of the Council how much is being spent by the Festival of Britain Office in building bus shelters throughout the country; on what basis the sites for these are chosen; and what other building projects outside the Festival grounds are intended.
On the first part of the Question the answer is nothing. On the second part, the choice of sites rests with the local authorities. On the third part, the Festival of Britain Office is not erecting any buildings outside the exhibition sites on the South Bank and in Poplar.
Will the Lord President of the Council consider reducing some of the expenditure in connection with the Festival and giving the money to the old age pensioners instead?
In view of the fact that members of the Opposition Front Bench are members of the Festival Council, I think that that is a misplaced question which I should not like to describe.
On a point of order Could we have candles brought in on the extreme back benches, Mr. Speaker? There seems to be plenty of light on the other benches.
There are no lights there.
asked the Lord President of the Council to what extent he has agreed to restrict the intended activities of the Festival of Britain on Sundays as a result of the representations of the Sunday Observance Society.
asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is intended that the Festival of Britain shall be open to the public on Sundays.
I hope to be in a position to make a statement to the House on this subject shortly.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether his intention to open this exhibition on Sunday has been interfered with by the Sunday Observance Society, and will he let us know exactly what has happened?
We have in connection with the Festival of Britain a religious advisory committee representing all the denominations, and in due course I will report to the House what has been their advice, which must obviously be taken into account with the greatest seriousness. The Lord's Day Observance Society is quite another matter. They are somewhat in the nature of a pressure group which it is for hon. Members to estimate according to their personal opinions.
Quite apart from the activities of this society, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is considerable uneasiness among a large section of the population as to whether in particular any amusement park should be open on Sundays? Will he also inform the House of his intentions at the earliest possible moment, as many of us wish to inform our constituents of his intentions?
I appreciate that Members are receiving a large amount of correspondence, which I think is inspired by the Lord's Day Observance Society. On the other hand, I quite agree that it will be for the general convenience of the House to know the intentions of the Government at the earliest possible moment.
Before my right hon. Friend comes to a final decision on this matter will he bear in mind that there are thousands of people in the North of England particularly, who are now working six whole days per week, and that they also desire to see the Festival of Britain?
Of course, that is one of the factors that has to be weighed.
The Lord President of the Council said that he would make a statement. Surely, the obvious thing is to await that statement and then ask questions.
asked the Minister of Defence how many alien nationals are employed in the Armed Forces of the Crown, with separate figures for each Service.
According to the latest information in my possession the numbers are as follows:—Royal Navy, 2; Army, 483; Royal Air Force, 461.
Do not these figures make quite unsubstantial the right hon. Gentleman's ground for rejecting the proposal for a foreign legion, namely, that aliens are already employed in adequate numbers in the Armed Forces of the Crown?
It depends on what is meant by "adequate numbers."
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that full use is being made of the alien manpower available?
We have to take into account a variety of factors; for example, the question of language.
asked the Minister of Defence if he is now satisfied with accommodation arrangements in all ships used for the transport of His Majesty's Forces.
Troopships have, for the last few years, been taken out of service in turn for refitting to post-war standards. This work is proceeding as fast as possible but, while it is going on, heavy trooping requirements have meant that we have had to keep in service several older ships which are below these standards. They will be dispensed with as soon as practicable.
In view of the reply of the Secretary of State for War to a similar question yesterday, will the right hon. Gentleman make quite certain that as soon as it is practicable, there will be adequate recreational facilities and no "hard lying"?
We are very anxious to do our best for the men who have to travel in these ships. So far we have tried to do everything possible but we have been held up a little by the Korean affair.
Medical Branches (Pay)
asked the Minister of Defence if he will now make a statement in regard to the pay increases for the medical branches of the Services; and whether these increases will be effective from the same date as the increases in the other branches.
I have nothing to add at present to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member's Question on 25th October.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of when this matter will be settled?
It has been very complicated, but I hope to make an announcement shortly.
Auxiliary Services (Recruiting)
asked the Minister of Defence by how much recruiting to the Auxiliary Forces has increased or decreased since August, 1950.
In September, 1950, there were 3,442 recruits to the volunteer Auxiliary and Reserve Forces compared with 2,803 in August. The figures for October are not yet available.
As these later figures become available, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the need of the Auxiliary Forces is mainly for recruits for the next two years? Will he con- sider some special terms to get those recruits to fill the gap which will later be filled by National Service men under the National Service Acts?
It by "special terms" the hon. Member means further emoluments, I am afraid that I cannot agree.
53 and 54.
asked the Minister of Defence (1) to what extent he supported the French Government's proposals at the Washington Conference for a European army:(2) to what extent he supported proposals at the Washington Conference for the rearmament of Germany.
As regards the French Government's proposals, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made in this House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 31st October. This statement provided the basis for my discussions in Washington. As regards the participation of Germany in Western defence, my hon. Friend has no doubt seen the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Washington meetings, in which the Ministers unanimously reaffirmed the importance, subject to adequate safeguards, of a German contribution to the building up of the defence of Europe. This reflects the view of His Majesty's Government, as already stated in this House. The form and extent of the contribution by Germany is still under consideration.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether this contribution from Germany is to take the form of conscription? Will he assure us that he is not asking the Germans to accept conscription that they do not want?
The matter of how these forces are to be raised is still under consideration.
Is there any reason why the Germans should not be entrusted immediately with anti-aircraft defence, radar and civil defence over the whole of Western Germany?
There is one reason, and that is that the matter has yet to be discussed with the appropriate authorities.
When are further discussions on this matter to take place, and where?
They are taking place all the time.
Is there any proposal that the Germans should be allowed to have a tactical air force?
The matter may have been mentioned, but there is no definite conclusion.
Has the Minister taken into account the fact that the last time the Germans were permitted to rearm they used the arms in the first place to get an alliance with Russia against ourselves?
This is a very complicated subject and it is quite impossible to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Obviously hon. Members agree that it is complicated. I deprecate dealing with the matter by way of question and answer.
Would my right hon. Friend inform the House what has happened in the interval since his recent statement, which was against the rearmament of Germany, and whether he is now making a statement of the Opposition view, against that which he put forward at that time?
I have not stated the Opposition view. I have stated the Government view.
Will the Minister undertake that when the negotiations in this matter are concluded, nothing will be done to put them into effect until this House has had an opportunity of considering them?
I will consider that question.
asked the Minister of Defence what steps he is taking to coordinate the training and operational planning of the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth and Empire.
The closest contact is constantly maintained with members of the Commonwealth through the military liaison staffs in all defence matters. So far as training is concerned, many members of the Commonwealth Armed Forces attend courses in the United Kingdom, and in addition a number of officers from our own forces have attended courses in other Commonwealth countries. In most Commonwealth countries the training manuals are basically the same as those in the United Kingdom.
Would the Minister consider the possibility of Commonwealth forces actually training together? We were transporting whole divisions by air at the end of the war, and I think we are inclined to be rather static.
As the hon. and gallant Member is aware, we have air personnel now training in Canada. We expect that next year we shall have members of the Royal Canadian Air Force training in this country. To operate this on a wide scale is not practicable at the present moment.
asked the Minister of Defence what steps he is taking to raise Colonial forces so that the strain on British manpower allocated to defence can be reduced.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement I made on this subject during the Debate on 14th September.
In view of the fact that India used to keep three or four divisions before the war in a fairly high state of operational readiness, would the Minister consider the possibility of having at least two Colonial divisions in such a state, in order to obviate having to raise forces continually from this country to send out at short notice to the Far East?
The Indian Army was raised after a long period of time, and it was a very well-trained army. It would take a considerable time before we could train Colonial troops up to that level.
Will my right hon. Friend deal with this grave question very carefully, in view of the political ferment which exists in many of the Colonies?
Of course, in this matter we naturally enter into consultation with the Colonial Governments concerned.
In view of the high qualities displayed by West African and East African troops in the late war, has specific consideration been given to the raising of additional units from the Royal West African Volunteer Force and the King's African Rifles?
It seems to be assumed from some of the questions that we have no Colonial forces. We have.