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Commons Chamber

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 14 March 1951

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 14th March, 1951

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Falkirk Burgh Extension &C Order Confirmation Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, relating to Falkirk Burgh Extension &c., "presented by Mr. McNeil; read the First time, and ordered (under Section 9 of the Act) to be read a Second time upon Thursday, 22nd March, and to be printed. [Bill 81.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Telephone Service

Government Departments (Expenditure)


asked the Postmaster-General what amount of money was expended in telephone calls by Government Departments in the years 1947, 1948 and 1949, respectively.

The recorded values of inland telephone calls made by Government Departments were as follows: 1947–48, £5,470,000; 1948–49, £4,880,000; 1949–50, £4,810,000.

In view of the extent of these calls, will the hon. Gentleman say what steps have been taken to secure economy within the Departments, and would he agree that this extensive use of the service is a reason why ordinary people cannot get a telephone?

Is the Minister telling the House, and is it correct, that every telephone call made by a Government Department is noted and priced?

Weather Forecasts


asked the Postmaster-General what progress is being made on the development of facilities for telephone subscribers to dial WEA in order to receive weather forecasts; what will be the cost to his Department; and by what date will they be provided.

In view of the heavy demands on the limited national resources, my right hon. Friend is consulting with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air on the question whether this new service can be provided in present circumstances.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this matter has been under development for a large number of years and that considerable progress has been made on the equipment? Would it not be a good asset to this country to continue as we have gone so far, in view of the fact that foreign countries have had this facility for more than 14 years?

There are very few foreign countries that have this service, but I agree with the premise of the question. and we will do what we can.

While awaiting this service, will the Minister re-introduce the Airmet service, which was of such value to many organisations and people?

No, Sir, for reasons which were indicated in an Adjournment debate two months ago.



asked the Postmaster-General the date on which the new telephone exchange will operate in Cardiff.


asked the Post master-General whether he is aware of the growing waiting list for telephones in the Cardiff area; and how this list compares with those of other cities of comparable size to Cardiff.

The proportion of waiting applicants at Cardiff is at present somewhat higher than at other towns of similar size. This is due to the diversion of engineering staff to work on the new automatic exchange. There should be substantial improvement when the new exchange is opened.



asked the Postmaster-General how many telephones were supplied to bookmakers during 1950.

This information is not readily available, as our records do not distinguish between different types of business-rate subscribers.

Has the attention of my hon. Friend been drawn to a Press advertisement by a West End bookmaker, who says that he has 200 telephones, manned by an efficient staff, and to that of a City bookmaker, who claims that he has 100 lines? In view of those facts, will he please decrease the supply of telephones to bookmakers and increase the supply to my constituents?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency—and I have written to his right hon. Friend about this— ministers of religion are still waiting for telephones? Should they not have them rather than bookmakers?

Many are called, but few are chosen.

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me have details of that position, I shall be only too happy to look into the matter.

Is it the policy of my hon. Friend's Department to supply telephones to bookmakers rather than to other commercial or private interests?

Officer, Southampton (Motor Car)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that a lady, representing the Post Office, Southampton, is touring the countryside in a chauffeur-driven car for the sole purpose of asking telephone subscribers whether they have any complaints; and whether he will stop this waste of public money.

The officer was testing the automatic service from subscribers' premises in a very scattered rural area. Use of an official car was authorised exceptionally in this case, because of lack of public transport and of the wide area to be covered.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this lady was touring the St. Mary Bourne district, which is between 30 and 40 miles from Southampton, and that she stated specifically to my constituents that she was only inquiring whether they had any complaints to make? Would it not be more sensible and cheaper to let subscribers make their own complaints?

No, I do not think it would. The reason why the official car was used was because of the lack of transport facilities in this scattered rural area.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is quite misinformed, that the lady in question fully explained the reason for her visit and that she made the specific statement that she was only visiting to ascertain whether subscribers had any complaints to make?

Is it not a fact that the services rendered by this lady fully justified the expenditure incurred?

There is no doubt about that. It is part of the arrangement to make the telephone service in that area more efficient?

Would it not have been cheaper and simpler if the lady had just rung up the subscribers and asked them if there were any complaints?

I am surprised at the right hon. and gallant Gentleman asking that question in view of the fact that he was once Postmaster-General.



asked the Postmaster-General whether the telephone facilities in the Blackburn area will be increased sufficiently in 1951 to bring the supply of telephones expressed as a percentage of the demand for them in that area into line with the corresponding percentage in other areas in the North-Western Region.

Widely varying conditions make it impracticable to regulate development of the telephone service in different areas on any general percentage basis such as that suggested. Subject, however, to the needs of the defence programme, my right hon. Friend expects that the relative rate of supply in the Blackburn area will be increased this year.

Relative to the needs of the surrounding districts and towns in Lancashire.

Why not relative to the disparity between the Blackburn area and other areas?

That is another question. So far as Blackburn is concerned the immediate needs have been attended to; there has been expansion there and actually a diversion of manpower.

Speaking Clock, Newport


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will arrange to install a speaking clock for the convenience of telephone subscribers when the new post office and telephone exchange is completed at Newport.

My right hon. Friend hopes to provide this service when the new exchange is opened.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a speaking clock will be installed in the new Cardiff exchange?

We shall provide the service, but whether the speaking clock will be stationed in the Cardiff exchange I could not say without notice.

Post Office

Technicians (Duties)


asked the Postmaster-General the number of technicians 2A classified as employed on internal duties; and the number of technicians 2A classified as employed on external duties in the Post Office engineering department.

On 23rd February, 1951, there were 9,317 employed on internal duties, and 7,352 on external duties.

Advisory Committees


asked the Postmaster-General whether the membership of the Advisory Committee under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949, is complete; how long after the passing of the Act the Committee was nominated; when its first meeting was held; when its last meeting was held; and what advice it has given to him.

Two committees were set up on 26th July, 1950, to consider, in the one case, interference from the ignition systems of certain internal combustion engines, and, in the other, interference from refrigeration apparatus. They are complete in membership. The committee considering ignition systems had its first meeting on 13th September, 1950, and its most recent one on 17th November, 1950; that for refrigeration apparatus met first on 14th September, 1950, and most recently on 26th February, 1951. Neither committee is yet ready to make recommendations.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on 3rd May last year I asked him what measures he would be prepared to take concerning the suppression, in particular, of interference from motor car engines with television reception? Is it not incredible that this committee, which was set up under an Act passed in 1949, and which first met in 1950, has still made no recommendations on such a simple problem?

I disagree. It is not a simple problem; it is a very difficult one. In view of the consultations which had to take place, as was made perfectly clear during the Committee stage of the Bill, I cannot agree that there has been undue delay.

As we are allowing an increasing number of newly manufactured vehicles to come on to the market without suppressors, thus increasing the problem, can the Assistant Postmaster-General say when he expects that the committee will be able to make its recommendations?

No, I cannot say, but, like the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt), I realise the importance of an early report, and we will do what we can.

Hms "Theseus" (Telegram)


asked the Postmaster-General in what particular the address was incorrect on a cablegram handed in aboard H.M.S. "Theseus" in an operational area on 14th December and delivered in Hill Head, Hampshire, on 29th December last, and which was delayed for that reason.

Inquiries have shown that the address was correctly shown on the telegram handed in on board H.M.S. "Theseus," but my right hon. Friend regrets that mutilation occurred in the course of transmission to this country.

Postmen (Age Limit)


asked the Postmaster-General why, in view of the shortage of manpower, he is placing an upper age limit of 40, or 45 in the case of ex-Service men, on the recruitment of postmen.

The physical effort and exposure to weather involved in the majority of postmen's duties make it necessary to avoid an undue proportion of established postmen in the higher age groups if an efficient service is to be maintained. The postman's class already includes a high proportion of men over the age of 45, as well as of registered disabled men.

In view of the fact that London Transport, for its bus services in the country, finds it possible to employ men over 40, will the hon.

Gentleman state what is the very much larger difficulty in the case of the Post Office?

The fact that there is no parallel between the London Passenger Transport Board and Post Office postal services.

Would the Assistant Postmaster-General say whether this policy has been agreed in consultation with the Minister of Labour, who is trying to encourage the employment of older men?

We are always in consultation with the Ministry of Labour on this question.

Is the Minister aware that his answer is not in accord with the answer which the Minister of Labour gave on an Adjournment debate?

Could you disabuse the minds of the engineers, Mr. Speaker, of the idea that we are such tender plants that we cannot stand the spring sunshine?

That may be so, but, when the sun shines, the whole of that side of the House goes black, and I cannot see anyone. Hon. Members will remember that, in the old House, Members on the Front Bench were continually complaining that they could not see across the House because the sun shone in their eyes. We have to try this plan out, and do our best.

Reverting to the Question, does the hon. Gentleman really think that 45 years of age is too old for postmen to carry out their duties, and, if so, does he apply that principle to the Government Front Bench?

Argentine Air Line (Mail Rate)


asked the Postmaster-General why he pays the Argentine Air Line nearly twice as much for carrying mail from Great Britain to South America as he pays to British Overseas Airways Corporation.

The rates of payment where the use of foreign air services is concerned are prescribed in the Convention of the Universal Postal Union. The Argentine Air Line is used in order to facilitate reciprocity in the interests of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and to accelerate the mail.

While the Postmaster-General is bound to pay not less than the full rate to a foreign airline, that is no reason why he should pay cut prices to a British airline. If the Argentine price is a fair price, why does the Post Office not pay a fair price to our own people?

Because the price paid by the Post Office to B.O.A.C. in this case is negotiated on a purely commercial basis, which, I think, would recommend itself to all sides of the House.

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile the statement that the prices are negotiated on a commercial basis with the fact that the two negotiants are both monopolists?

I said that they are negotiated on a purely commercial basis because that happens to be the fact of the case.

Would the hon. Gentleman study the evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee of the House last year and familiarise himself with the views there expressed?

I am only too familiar with the views expressed. The answer to that is that the Post Office is paying two and a quarter times for mail what the B.O.A.C. receives for passenger traffic and four times the amount it receives for ordinary freight.

Are not airmail rates very much higher than ordinary freight rates because airmail is very much more difficult to handle? How does the Minister justify squeezing a publicly-owned corporation in this way?

I resent that; there is no squeezing. We have been perfectly fair in this matter.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Postal Deliveries, Cardiff


asked the Postmaster-General when he will be able to arrange a later postal collection in this House for letters to be delivered in Cardiff the next day.

Letters for Cardiff posted in time for the 9.15–9.30 p.m. collection at the House of Commons are due to be delivered by first post next week-day. Supplementary collections made after this time depend upon the hour at which the House rises. Letters for Cardiff posted for supplementary collections made up to 10.40–11 p.m. would still be due to secure first delivery next week-day: those posted in subsequent supplementary collections up to 2.40–3 a.m. would normally secure second delivery.

Is my hon. Friend aware that for a long time letters posted at six o'clock have not been delivered next day in my constituency?

Savings Certificates (Children)


asked the Postmast-General whether in view of the continuous rise in the cost of living, he will amend the Savings Certificates statutory regulations so as to provide that parents or guardians may obtain repayment of National Savings certificates held by children under seven years of age.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir G. Harvie-Watt) on 6th March.

While this matter is being examined between the two Departments, will the hon. Gentleman exercise the special discretion which he possesses and authorise repayment in all cases where the continued rise in the cost of living is causing hardship?

In view of my right hon. Friend's reply last week, I cannot give that assurance.

Surely, quite apart from that point, the hon. Gentleman has a discretion under the existing regulations. Is he or is he not going to exercise that discretion?

I cannot give an answer until the matter has been decided by the Government.

Cable And Wireless


asked the Postmaster-General what action is being taken to remedy the deficiency in technical staff in Cable and Wireless.

The small shortage in the technical establishments transferred to the Post Office is being made good from normal sources of recruitment.

Does the hon. Gentleman's reply mean that there is now no shortage of staff on the technical side of Cable and Wireless?

Had the hon. Gentleman listened to my reply, he would have heard that I did not say that.


asked the Postmaster-General what is the estimated deficiency of operators at Cable and Wireless; what is the average monthly intake of recruits; and how long is the period of training.

The United Kingdom shortage at present is 500, including 231 on ancillary duties. There are 382 recruits in training, with an average monthly intake of 50. The period of training varies from six months for inland operating to 12 months for overseas cable work.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this problem is at the root of the very big decline in the cable service, and is he satisfied that all steps that should be taken are being taken to get the proper number of operators?

It is one of the causes, but I do not think it is one of the main causes. We are giving this matter active consideration.

Is it true that the service is deteriorating since it was nationalised?


asked the Post master-General the total average emoluments, including salary, bonus, overtime, Sunday duty and any other allowances, of a male telegraph operator in the London Station of Cable and Wireless, Ltd., for the years 1946 and 1950, respectively.

The figures are £765 and £592. The hon. Member is no doubt aware, from my right hon. Friend's reply of 28th February, that the former figure includes a non-pensionable and variable profits bonus.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the prospects of these men have deteriorated since nationalisation, and can he give an assurance that pre-nationalisation contracts with these men are still being fulfilled under nationalisation?

This is an industrial matter, and the rates of pay were freely negotiated between the trade unions concerned.

Unions And Associations (Recognition)


asked the Postmaster-General whether the committee appointed by him to advise him on claims for recognition by trade unions and staff associations in the Post Office has yet begun its sittings; and when he expects a report from it.

My right hon. Friend understands that the committee has fixed its first meeting for tomorrow. He is unable to say when it is likely to complete its task.

Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to convey to the committee the fact that among the matters it has to advise upon is a claim which has been outstanding for over a year, and will he also ask his right hon. Friend to urge the Committee to accelerate its sittings?

Postal Deliveries, London


asked the Postmaster-General what steps he is taking to improve the first post deliveries in the St. Marylebone area, in view of the wasted time and inefficiency caused to business firms by the present late deliveries.


asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that early posts in the Piccadilly and St. James's districts of London have recently been delivered to business and private addresses as late as 10 a.m.; and what action he proposes to take to improve this service.

My right hon. Friend regrets that abnormal sickness and a reorganisation of postmen's duties has led to some delay in completing the first delivery in the districts in question. The position should rapidly improve as the postmen become accustomed to their new rounds, and it is hoped that completion of the delivery by the recognised time will shortly be effected.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there has been very grave dislocation of business owing to the very late deliveries to business firms in this area? Will he try to expedite matters and to ensure that early deliveries are resumed and maintained so that efficiency in business houses may be maintained?

Yes, Sir, we will keep a close watch on that. The latest report I have is that there has been a considerable improvement. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this reorganisation is being undertaken in order to secure a better and more efficient service, and I am convinced that, as a result of the reorganisation. that will ensue.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what the hour of the early delivery is supposed to be, and what it will be when the reorganisation is complete?

Not without notice, but it will compare with deliveries in other parts of the London area.

Can the Assistant Postmaster-General say whether or not the Communist cell which, some years ago, existed in the Western District Office in St. Marylebone, and which, as I was informed by the Post Office, was delaying the sorting of letters, has been eliminated?

I am not aware that there has been any delay for that reason at all. The delay is entirely due to the reallocation and reorganisation of the postmen's walks.

The later evening collection will affect the St. Marylebone area in exactly the same way as any other parts of London where there is an evening collection.

Deliveries, Benfleet


asked the Postmaster-General what steps he is taking to improve postal services in the Benfleet urban district in view of the inconvenience caused by late and irregular deliveries.

My right hon. Friend is looking into this matter and will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in one specific case, particulars of which have been sent to him, first deliveries took place on four days in one week between 11 a.m. and 12.35 p.m.? Is it not about time that my constituents had a very much better service than that? Will he urge upon the Postmaster-General the necessity for speed?

As a result of the hon. Member's complaints we are looking into the matter and I am positive that action, as usual, will be taken.

Mauritian Employees


asked the Postmaster-General how many Mauritians work in the Post Office; and if they receive the same pay and are eligible for the same promotion as the staff recruited from this country.

As regards the first part of the Question, my right hon. Friend regrets that information is not readily available. Mauritians in Post Office employ have the same pay and conditions of service as other members of their grade.

Is that equally true of the Continental Telephone Exchange and does the answer mean that any Post Office worker who comes from any part of the Colonial Empire has no differentiation whatever made against him?




asked the Postmaster-General what is the proposed annual expenditure on television this current year and for next year, respectively.

The B.B.C.'s annual expenditure on television is a matter for the Corporation. It is estimated that in the current year Post Office expenditure in providing communicating links between television stations will be about £450,000. I cannot yet say how much will be spent next year.

Can the hon. Gentleman give us any idea how the expenditure of this money will be of benefit to North Devon?

Not without notice, but in any case it is a question for the British Broadcasting Corporation.


asked the Postmaster-General how much is being spent on extending the coverage of television in England.

It is estimated that in the current year B.B.C. expenditure on extending the coverage of television in England will be, approximately, £215,000. The Post Office will spend £350,000 in providing communicating links for the same purpose.

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that, in view of the fact that re-armament must make it more difficult to manufacture television sets and to extend the supply of electricity to rural areas, it would be better to spend more money on improving sound broadcasts instead of television?

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that a great deal of this expenditure on the development of television is directly competitive with the re-armament programme? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to consider Sir William Haley's estimate of £4,250,000 to be spent on the development of television during the next three years and see that that expenditure is drastically reduced?



asked the Postmaster-General what instructions he has issued to the British Broadcasting Corporation in relation to the three high-power television stations now in the process of erection.


asked the Postmaster-General whether any decision has been taken, in the light of the re-armament programme, to retard or postpone the erection of the Wenvoe television station.

The rate of television development has been reviewed in relation to the defence programme. It has been decided that the high-power stations at Holme Moss, Kirk o'Shotts and Wenvoe should be completed, but that the five low-powered stations should be postponed indefinitely.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Holme Moss. Could he say when it will be completed?


Reception, North Devon


asked the Postmaster-General whether he can now reply to the letter from the honourable and gallant Member for Devon, North, dated 22nd February, on the subject of radio reception in North Devon.

My right hon. Friend hopes that the hon. and gallant Member has already received his reply.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the reply of the Postmaster-General gave no satisfaction, and that he covered himself with the cloak of the B.B.C? Is it not time that the Minister took responsibility for his office?

I must recommend the hon. and gallant Member to read the Charter under which the B.B.C. has its licence.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the only chance which people living in this area have of receiving a reasonably objective account, either of Government policy or of what happens in this House, is through the good offices of the B.B.C, and, in view of the fact that people are at present so much under the control of the Press and Tory propagandists, will he do his utmost to expedite this service?

In view of the unsatisfactory reception in many parts of the country, which is not entirely due to the B.B.C. by any means would the Assistant Postmaster-General consider hastening the establishment of V.H.F. broadcasting stations which could boost the B.B.C. services in the different regional areas?

Can the Assistant Postmaster-General tell us by what date we may expect some results from the action taken in reference to North Devon and North Cornwall?

Transmitters (Cost)


asked the Postmaster-General if he will give an estimate of the cost of the transmitters necessary to raise the quality of sound transmission in Devonshire to the standard in other parts of the country.

This is a matter for the B.B.C. on which my right hon. Friend has no information; he suggests that the hon. Member should communicate with the Corporation.

Licences, Devon (Revenue)


asked the Postmaster-General what revenue the Post Office derive from wireless licences in Devonshire.

Proceeds from the sale of wireless licences in Devonshire during 1950 were approximately £222,000.

Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is a little hard that the people of Devon should have to pay this vast sum of money and then not get proper reception?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that V. H. F. broadcasting transmitters can be bought for approximately £50,000, and in view of the fact that he is collecting four times that money from licence holders in the Devon area would it not be wise to proceed with this service as soon as possible?

Is this not a question of wavelengths and frequencies rather than transmitters? Although this may be a matter for the B.B.C, is it not a matter for the Government to see that we get the wavelengths necessary for transmissions in this country? Will the hon. Gentleman see that we get an adequate allocation of wavelengths?

Reception, Furness


asked the Postmaster-General if he will take steps to improve broadcasting reception in the Furness district of Lancashire.

My right hon. Friend understands from the B.B.C. that the Light Programme should 'be received satisfactorily on the long wavelength. Reception of the Home Service is unsatisfactory; this is one of the areas in which the B.B.C. hopes to make an improvement.

Will the hon. Gentleman ask the B.B.C. governors to consider whether their first duty is not to see that everyone in the country can hear the aural programme before spending money on other developments?

Programme reception is constantly reviewed by the B.B.C. and improvements have been made but this is a very difficult problem, particularly in the Barrow area.

Royal Air Force

Airmen (Clothing Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for Air what are the clothing allowances granted to Regular airmen and National Service airmen, respectively.

Regular airmen receive £5 12s. 0d. a year in areas where tropical kit is worn and £6 4s. 0d. in other areas; National Service airmen receive £2 9s. 0d. a year in all areas. A revision of these rates is now being considered for both Regulars and National Service men.

When the Minister is considering the revision of these rates will he do what he can to remove the discrepancy between men serving side by side in the same units?

I could not give any such undertaking because the requirements of Regulars are quite different from those of National Service men. As the hon. Gentleman knows, National Service men serve two years and it is estimated that they do not require any replacement of their uniforms in two years. On the other hand, the Regulars have to replace their uniforms.

Class G Reserve


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will make a statement showing how many G reservists to whom notices of recall for training have been, or are to be, sent, had served one, two, three, four, five or six years before VJ day.

This information is not available and it would entail a disproportionate amount of work to obtain it. It is estimated, however, that about 3,000 of those who are being recalled saw service in the last war.

Is the Minister aware that in at least one village I know, six out of eight men being called up under the G Reserve scheme are 38, 39 or 40 years of age or over? Does he think that this is carrying out the pledge to make sure that there is not a disproportionate number of those being called who served in the last war and who are now getting on to middle age?

I quite appreciate the point of view of the man who is 40 years of age, who may be called up even for 15 days' training; but the object of the whole scheme is to increase our preparedness in the event of an emergency this year and it has to be realised that it is most desirable to have men who have had experience.


asked the Secretary of State for Air how many Class G reservists to whom calling-up papers have been sent were under 35; how many were between 35 and 40; and how many were over 40.

Of the Class G reservists to whom warning notices of call-up have been sent, 710 are aged 40 or over. Figures of those under 35, and between 35 and 40, are not readily available, but as soon as the scheme is in full operation I will be glad to give these figures.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the 710 men are all specialists?


asked the Secretary of State for Air why the appeal by Mr. F. Jacob, Windy Ridge, Prospect Place, Haverfordwest, against his call-up under Class G Reserve has been turned down in Air Ministry letter A.78379/51/ D.D.M.D./1651963, in view of the fact that he is 42 years of age and his job as a railway clerk was reserved at 35 during the 1939–45 war.

The reason why Mr. Jacob's appeal, which was very fully and sympathetically considered, had to be rejected, is that, as I told the House recently, the number of men in the Air Force trade of Clerk Special Duties, who are available for call-up, is limited, and the grounds on which he appealed were not felt to be sufficiently strong to warrant exemption. The arrangements which during the last war governed the call-up by age groups of men who had not previously received Service training, are not appropriate for the selective recall of trained reservists on the present occasion.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that for a time during the last war I was a special duties clerk myself, that most of my job was taken up with making cups of tea for the officers, and that because I was very successful at this I was very appropriately recommended for a commission in the Intelligence branch?

Could not the Air Ministry secure a considerable reduction in staff if they would use less lengthy references in their letters than, for example, the reference which appears in the Question?

Has not the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) shown himself, to have every qualification for the position of a Parliamentary Private Secretary?


36 and 37.

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) what facilities are provided to enable ex-Royal Air Force personnel in Jamaica to rejoin the Royal Air Force;

(2) whether he will take steps to open a recruiting office in Jamaica.

Ex-R.A.F. personnel living in Jamaica are accepted into the Royal Air Force if they now conform to the standards required; no, facilities are provided in Jamaica, but they can re-join through the recruiting and selection organisation in this country. Any British subjects whether of European descent or otherwise will be admitted to the Royal Air Force provided they attain the requisite standards. But it has never been the practice in peace-time to open recruiting offices overseas; and it is not at present intended to do so.

How do these Jamaicans get here to join up at our recruiting offices? If we want men why cannot some facilities be provided, where one has trained men, to let them join up where they are?

Whether they come from Jamaica, or any other part of the British Commonwealth, they have to make their own way here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It is quite impracticable to pay the expenses of men who may desire to join one of the Forces, because after they arrive here they may be found to be medically unfit or otherwise unacceptable. Therefore, the money is wasted.

Can the Minister say why they should not be medically examined on the spot?

As far as the Royal Air Force is concerned it is not only a question of medical examination but whether they are suitable for a particular trade. Recruits to the R.A.F. are trade-tested.

Was there not a recruiting station in Jamaica during the war?

I do not know whether there was the usual kind of recruiting station. Certainly, recruits were not trade-tested and, as a result, a large proportion of those brought over were found afterwards to be unsuitable; though I hasten to say that many others rendered splendid service.

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say why a small trade test board should not visit Jamaica and other areas and test these men, and also make use of a local medical officer? This would be quite easy.

I think the suggestions which have been put forward, including the suggestion in the main Question, are very fair, but I have stated what the policy has always been in the three Services to date. I am not saying that the suggestions will never be operated, but I cannot go beyond a statement of the present position.

Accident, Tillingham


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will investigate the circumstances in which a 320 gallon petrol tank recently fell from an aircraft near the sea-wall at Tillingham, Essex; and if he will make a statement.

I am advised that the petrol tank in question was an auxiliary petrol tank which was released by mistake from a fighter aircraft of the United States Air Force. The aircraft was carrying out a training exercise at the Bradwell Bay firing range. No damage or casualties were caused by the accident.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say what is the position in cases of this kind if damage or casualties are caused? Is there any procedure for claiming compensation?

Yes, Sir. There is a United States Air Force Claims Commission in this country for the purpose of investigating and settling any claims in respect of damage caused by United States Air Force aircraft.

Princess Flying Boats


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will make a statement on the take-over of the Princess flying boat project by the Royal Air Force.

It has been decided that the three Princess flying boats should be completed for the Royal Air Force. Each boat will have the equivalent lift of one Hastings squadron, and they will, therefore, be a most valuable addition to our transport resources in time of war.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether he is proceeding with any other long-term projects for the development of flying boats? It is felt in this country that we have a considerable amount of operational and manufacturing "know-how" which should not be concentrated on one project only.

The hon. Gentleman will remember that that matter was discussed in the Estimates debate.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when he expects these flying boats to be delivered to the Royal Air Force?

On what port will those flying boats be based when they are in operation? On Southampton?

I am sorry I cannot promise that Southampton will necessarily be one of the bases, but this matter is under consideration.

Us Strategic Air Command, United Kingdom


asked the Secretary of State for Air how many units of the United States Strategic Bomber Command are now stationed in the United Kingdom.

Units of the United States Strategic Air Command at present located in this country comprise a medium bomber group, an escort fighter group, two strategic reconnaissance squadrons all with maintenance and supply backing and a small number of ground detachments.

Has the constitutional position of the presence in this country of units of this Command been looked into, seeing that it comes directly under the orders of the President of the United States and is not part of the Atlantic Treaty Organisation and does not appear to be part of any force over which there is any command or jurisdiction exercised by this country?

I do not think there is any constitutional difficulty whatever. These units are here with the approval, I believe, of the great majority of the people in this country and I think it would be a great pity to confuse the issue by suggesting that there is some constitutional difficulty.

Has it not been a practice over many years for this country freely to invite units of any Allied country to be stationed here under its own discretion?

Civil Aviation

Northolt Aerodrome


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether, in view of circuit danger, it is intended to cease flying at Northolt Aerodrome when British European Airways have completed their removal to Heathrow.

I have nothing to add to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) on Thursday, 15th February, 1951.

May I take it that flying will not take place from Northolt in these circumstances and that the Ministry of Civil Aviation will resist all attempts to resume it?

Prestwick Airport


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what are his proposals for the development of Prestwick as an international airport.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend, the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on 15th February.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am getting very tired of having to put this Question and of getting very unsatisfactory replies? Would he tell my why the recommendations of the Clydesmuir Committee have not been accepted in their entirety since, as all Scottish Members know, they represent the real wishes of Scotland in regard to civil aviation?

I am surprised when the hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the replies are unsatisfactory, because in the answer to which I referred him there are two columns in HANSARD much of which are occupied by details of recommendations which were made by that Committee and which were accepted by us.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in spite of two columns in HANSARD and every other assurance, this great airport is being wasted? How long is this going on?

Southampton Marine Airport


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what proposals he has for the future of the Southampton Marine airport.

The water-area licensed for aircraft operations will remain under the control of the Southampton harbour authorities. The passenger handling buildings will be disposed of to the best advantage.

Could my hon. Friend be a little more explicit? He has several times said that the airport is to be kept on a proper care and maintenance basis— a care and maintenance basis for what? What is the use to which the airport will be put?

The decision to keep these buildings on a care and maintenance basis was made on the understanding that we would operate the Princess flying boat. As my hon. Friend has heard, this flying boat will now be used for military operations.

Marriage Laws (Royal Commission)


asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the marriage laws.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the Government's intentions concerning the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into divorce law reform.


asked the Prime Minister whether a decision has yet been taken by His Majesty's Government as to the setting up of a Royal Commission to examine and report upon the divorce laws.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the marriage laws.

I have decided to recommend to His Majesty the appointment of a Royal Commission to review the law relating to divorce. I am not yet able to announce the precise terms of reference or the names of members of the Commission, but I will make a further statement on these points as soon as possible.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him to assure the House that the terms of reference will be sufficiently wide to cover not only the law directly relating to marriage, separation and divorce, but also such cognate matters as pensions, insurance and marriage guidance and advice, so that people may be helped to avoid broken marriages? May I also ask my right hon. Friend whether the Government, who have shown some hesitation in reaching a further decision on this matter, recognise that it is very undesirable for the public to be kept for so long in uncertainty on questions which affect the lives and futures of so many thousands of men and women? May we have an answer to these points as soon as possible?

I will certainly take into account the points put forward by my hon. Friend when considering the terms of reference. I know she would not expect an answer now. But in my experience people have had to wait a considerable time on these questions of the divorce laws. I cannot promise how soon we shall get a result, but we shall appoint the Commission as soon as possible.

Will the terms of reference be sufficiently wide to enable the Royal Commission to consider what can be done to increase the public regard for the sanctity of marriage?

I have always understood that that was one of the points taken into consideration by Royal Commissions on this subject.

Could my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this Commission, which cannot possibly report for some years and which, in any event, binds no one to anything, will not be made the pretext for murdering the Bill passed in this House on Friday with a decisive majority and with widespread public approval?

Ministerial Changes (Newspaper Report)


asked the Prime Minister why advance information was given by his office to the "Daily Herald" in regard to the retirement of the right hon. Member for Woolwich. East, from the post of Foreign Secretary.

The hon. Member is mistaken. No such information was given by my office.

While, of course, I fully accept the Prime Minister's assurances with regard to his own office, may I ask him whether he is aware that in the first or country editions of the London morning newspapers for Friday, 9th March, the "Daily Herald"—and the "Daily Herald" alone—carried an authoritative statement on this important event? Will he order an investigation into this apparent leakage, having regard in particular to the importance of avoiding any suggestion of discrimination in favour of a party-controlled newspaper?

There was no authoritative statement. There was no authority whatever in that statement. I can assure the hon. Member that if he looks at the papers, as I do, he will realise that I am always getting completely authoritative statements about things which have not happened. Guesses are made and every now and again a guess comes off right. I have been looking into these things. It is impossible to trace them. I get statements about Cabinet meetings and decisions which have never happened—all reported in the most authoritative way.

Would my right hon. Friend indicate what advance information was given to the "Daily Worker" about the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers)?

Does the Prime Minister not realise that there is a distinction between statements which turn out to be inaccurate and statements which turn out to be completely accurate? Will he institute an inquiry as to how this information, which was not apparently officially issued, reached that newspaper?

I am aware of the difference between accurate and inaccurate information, but there are so many speculations made that every now and again an intelligent journalist is bound to ring the bell.

Was not this just a case of what is always called intelligent anticipation, on the part of the "Daily Herald"?

Armed Forces Operations, Korea


asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement on operations in Korea.

Does the Minister intend to make one of the periodic statements which he makes from time to time to the House? If so, would it not be better that it should be made at the end of Question Time?

I would put that observation into the category of intelligent anticipation. I have not yet answered the Question. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I first answer the Question. The answer is that I hope to make a further statement before the Easter Recess.