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Commons Chamber

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1952

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 5th March, 1952

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Royal Air Force

Technical Site, Great Massingham


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will now make a statement regarding the future use of the technical site of the Air Ministry property at Great Massingham, Norfolk.

The Air Ministry has no plans for the future use of the technical site at Great Massingham, which is now being released.

Can my hon. Friend say that the contents of this site will now be made available to other users, particularly the local rural district council who have need for some of the radiators in some of the huts on the site?

We require the available radiators for our own use; in point of fact 22 of them have been removed by the superintending engineer for R.A.F. use elsewhere or for safe custody.

Wenvoe Television Mast


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that there is an airfield situated a few miles from the television mast now being erected at Wenvoe; and if he is satisfied that this high mast will not be a danger to the aeroplanes using this airfield.

The answer to both parts of the Question is, "Yes, Sir." The mast has been fitted with red obstruction lights.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that this mast is only four miles from an airfield and that it is 950 feet high? Is he certain that it is not a danger for those using the airfield, and will be institute radar as well as lights to indicate that the mast is there?

The nearest R.A.F. airfield is seven miles away. There is a civil aerodrome nearer, but questions about that should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation.

Us Airfields (Expenditure)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the expenditure he has incurred in extending airfields in England for the United States Third Air Force.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air who is responsible for the capital costs and the annual maintenance charges of the airfields in the United Kingdom occupied by the United States Army Air Force.

The total expenditure from Air Votes to date on developing airfields in England for the United States Air Force is estimated at £8,350,000. At present capital costs are shared, but additional maintenance costs are borne by the Government of the United States. These arrangements are, however, under review.

When the Minister says they are under review, does he mean that the Prime Minister, in view of his statement that these airfields and these bombers are a danger to the safety of this country, is asking for them to be reduced?

No, Sir. But the whole conception is changing, and it is right that these matters should be under review from time to time.

While agreeing with the last part of the answer given by the hon. Gentleman, that these matters should be brought under review, may I ask if he would consider the suggestion, when they are being reviewed, that the full cost of these airfields should be met by the United States authorities before we talk in terms of borrowing money from that country for re-armament purposes?

I am afraid I cannot add anything at the moment to what I have already said.

In view of the deplorable lack of modern machines in the R.A.F. at the present time, owing to the neglect of the previous Government, are we not extraordinarily fortunate in having the United States Air Force here at the present time?

Personal Case


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what action he has taken in respect of the case of boy-apprentice, 586228 A. F. Woodmass, stationed at the Royal Air Force Camp, Halton, Buckinghamshire, particulars of which have been sent to him, which show that he became ill on 17th February whilst on leave at his home in Slough; that a local doctor and hospital declined service on the ground that the permission of the boy's unit must be secured; that 10 hours' delay occurred after the unit was contacted before permission for local treatment was given; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent a recurrence of such delays in medical treatment for Service men when on leave.

There is no need for the permission of the unit to be obtained before an airman on leave can be treated by a civil hospital or doctor. The action to be taken in such cases was published in the medical Press in April, 1948, and is printed on the back of the current Royal Air Force leave-pass.

I have called for a report on the reasons for delay at Halton, and I shall write to the hon. Member when this is received.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the father of this boy telephoned to the R.A.F. at Halton at 10 o'clock in the morning; that he had received no reply at three o'clock and telephoned again; that at 7.15 he telephoned the police and that meanwhile this boy was so ill that the hospital instructed his father not even to remove him to the hospital, and whether, in those circumstances, the hon. Gentleman will take urgent action to prevent this kind of thing happening to boys in the R.A.F. when they are on leave?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to comment further until my inquiries are complete.

Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that the first contact the R.A.F. had with this boy was one week later when they sent an ambulance to take him back to camp; and whether he will make a very serious investigation into all the matters relating to this very scandalous negligence?

Yes, of course. But the regulations on the matter are quite clear. I would ask the hon. Member in fairness to remember that the original error, if it can be called an error, was the fact that the local doctor was not acquainted with the regulations governing these cases.

Is the Minister aware that these cases are few and far between and that in general the public has great confidence in the administration of the Service?

Civil Aviation

Alcock And Brown Memorial


asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if he will place a drawing or model of the proposed memorial to Alcock and Brown in the Library before he finally gives sanction for the erection of the memorial at London Airport.

As hon. Members are probably aware, the Royal Aero Club are sponsoring a public appeal for funds to provide a memorial to Alcock and Brown, which will be sited in the central terminal area at London Airport. Mr. William McMillan, R.A., has been asked to prepare a design and he will work in co-operation with Mr. Frederick Gibberd, the architect of the Airport, to ensure that the memorial is in keeping with its surroundings.

The Royal Aero Club intend to publish a photograph of the completed model when appealing for funds, and if it is the wish of the House I will certainly arrange for a copy of the photograph to be placed in the Library.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that this is quite the wrong location for this memorial, which should be in Whitehall where the Duke of Cambridge's statue is at present? This is a hopelessly wrong place.

A lot of consideration was given to this question. I should not like to add to what I said in my reply.

Manchester—London Service


asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if he is now able to announce details of the proposed Manchester to London air service.

British European Airways will introduce a daily return service on 20th April.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is intended to do as much for Liverpool?



asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if economic helicopters are now available; and if he will provide a service between London and the West Riding.

No, Sir. Some years of research and development work are required before an economic helicopter becomes available. A service between London and the West Riding operated with the helicopters now available for passenger carriage would not contribute to that development programme.

Is the Minister aware that in this respect the West Riding has always been a neglected area?

As it is becoming increasingly obvious that, both for military and civil purposes, helicopters tend to be the machines of the future, will the Minister see whether he can arrange with his colleague in the Air Ministry for more research into these matters and for the development to be speeded up?

A lot of work is proceeding on helicopters and we are all most anxious to see them develop as quickly as possible.

If it is necessary to develop twin-engined helicopters before progress can be made, can the Minister say what steps are being taken?

The present rules are that single-engined helicopters cannot fly over built-up areas. That is a necessary safety rule. A British designed twin-engined helicopter has flown, but it will be some time before it goes into active use.

Flying Boats


asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if his attention has been drawn to the tenth Brancker Memorial lecture given on 11th February, 1952, which deplored the declining use of flying boats; and if he will make a statement on the future use of flying boats in this country.

Yes, Sir. The Airways Corporations' future plans are based wholly on landplane operations, but two private companies registered in this country have acquired some of the flying boats formerly operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in many parts of the world, notably in the British Empire—for example, on the west coast of Canada—the coast line is particularly well suited to the operation of flying boats, though it is most unsuited to the preparation of landing grounds? Will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind?

Does the Minister appreciate that Britain leads preeminently in the science of building flying boats and that it would be a great tragedy if this country were to lose the art and prestige of doing so? Will he encourage the Department to see that use is made of flying boats?

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that some decisions were made on this question in the days of the last Government. I am examining those decisions very carefully indeed, because it is open to argument whether they were right.

Airport Trading Accounts


asked the Minister of Civil Aviation when he intends publishing the trading accounts covering the administration of British airports.

With the agreement of the Committee of Public Accounts of this House, the preparation and publication of trading accounts for the Ministry's aerodrome services has been suspended.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the whole question of airfields in this country needs reviewing and that some of the surfaces are not being kept in condition? Will he look at the matter again, because these airfields ought to be run on a proper business basis?

Statements of running costs supplemented by statements of capital expenditure are being prepared in respect of each aerodrome operated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The statements will be available to the Committee of Public Accounts and to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Would it not be advisable to publish these accounts before imposing a charge on passengers landing and embarking at these airports?

Islands Of Scotland


asked the Minister of Civil Aviation what aircraft are being developed for service between the Islands of Scotland.

No aircraft is being developed specifically for service between the Islands of Scotland.

Why is this not being done? Will the Minister consider developing an aircraft to succeed the Rapide? Also, will he press on with the question of helicopters which are most necessary for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and would not be entirely useless in the Firth of Clyde?

I do not think that it would be possible to develop a plane specifically for the Islands of Scotland. Clearly, planes should be developed which are suitable there and elsewhere. I am aware of the importance of helicopters to Scotland as well as other places.

Will the Minister bear in mind that the Rapides are rapidly wearing out without replacements or spare parts being available, and is he aware that the strong recommendation of the Scottish Advisory Council is that a number of Heron aircraft should be made available as soon as is humanly possible, otherwise there will be a complete failure in the Islands service?

Several types of aircraft are now being developed and one or more may prove to be suitable for these services.

South Wales


asked the Minister of Civil Aviation upon what date services will be allowed to operate from the airport at Rhoose, South Wales; what services are to be operated; and whether he can give any information which will encourage civil aviation services in South Wales.

Aer Lingus propose to start operating a scheduled passenger service between Dublin and Rhoose on 10th June, 1952, and the necessary arrangements are now being made at Rhoose. If this service is successful Rhoose will probably be developed as the future airport for Cardiff and South Wales. Steps have already been taken to assist Cambrian Air Services Limited to establish an economic network of services, from and to South Wales, and any further proposals for development will be carefully considered.

Korea (Cease-Fire Negotiations)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement on the information he has received from the United Nations as to the points of agreement that have been reached in the truce talks now proceeding in Korea and the points of disagreement that are still under discussion; and what the prospects are of complete agreement being reached at an early date.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to give full details of the issues on which there is still disagreement and which are holding up the signing of an armistice in Korea.

The principle on which the neutral armistice zone shall be delineated has been agreed. The opposing commanders have agreed on a formula for recommending to their respective governments the convening of a political conference to negotiate a Korean settlement within three months after the signature of an armistice. A large measure of agreement has been reached on the arrangements for supervising an armistice and for the exchange of prisoners of war.

Apart from relatively minor points of difference, agreement has not yet been reached on four principal questions:
  • (i) the repair and construction of military airfields after an armistice;
  • (ii) the right of prisoners of war to choose whether or not they should be repatriated;
  • (iii) the nomination by either side of nations neutral in the Korean conflict to provide inspection teams;
  • (iv) the designation of ports of entry on either side at which neutral inspection teams shall be stationed.
  • While thanking the Minister for that full answer, may I ask him whether there are any further questions still outstanding in addition to those mentioned in the latter part of the reply?

    I think that the latter part of my answer covers the major matters of disagreement at present.

    Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman think of any precedent for the proposal, which is one of the four matters which he says are now in dispute, where the exchange of prisoners is being negotiated and where one side has sought to put into the negotiations some proposal about consulting prisoners as to whether they wish to be liberated or not?

    Can the Minister say whether it was with the concurrence of our Government that the military made a decision not to accept the Russian Government as one of the neutral observers, and does he not think that, in view of the need to try to get understanding between East and West, this is one of those matters upon which we could give way without in any way conceding any great principle?

    The question of the nomination by either side of neutral observers is still in negotiation, and the less we say about it at present the better.

    Sudan (Status)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for an assurance that the declaration made by the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons on 27th March, 1946, regarding the future status of the Sudan still remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend's statement in the House on 15th November, 1951, which sets out the present policy of Her Majesty's Government. There is nothing in that statement which conflicts with the declaration of 26th March, 1946, referred to by my hon. Friend.


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what definition of titular sovereignty has been given to Abdallar Bey Khalil, Leader of the Sudan Legislative Assembly, or to any other party leader in the Assembly; and how far the United States ambassador in Cairo has expressed his Government's support for British pledges to the Sudanese.

    The answer to the first part of the Question is: So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, none, Sir.

    In answer to the second part, it would not be proper for me to answer for the views of the Ambassador of another State.

    Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that even the titular sovereignty of the King of Egypt as King of the Sudan will be misunderstood in the Sudan as a surrender of the rights of the Sudanese to self-determination?

    That is certainly one of the matters which my right hon. Friend will bear in mind.


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the question of the unity of the Nile Valley is being discussed in the course of the current Anglo-Egyptian negotiations; what representations he has received concerning the effect on Sudanese opinion of any concession to the Egyptian claim to sovereignty in the Sudan; and if, in view of the apprehension caused by the official statements of the Egyptian Prime Minister on this matter, he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will take no action that might prejudice the right of the Sudanese people to determine the future status of their own country.

    Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the current state of feeling in the Sudan. They have made certain pledges to the Sudan, by which they stand. Their policy is clearly set forth in my right hon. Friend's statement of the 15th November of last year in this House, to which I have nothing to add.

    Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether he has any information yet suggesting that the new Egyptian Government will take a line on this matter any different from that of their predecessors, as expressed in a broadcast by the former Egyptian Prime Minister?

    Nazi War Criminals (Releases)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds 42 Nazi war criminals, most of whom were members of Himmler's Gestapo guards at the concentration camps, were released in December, 1951, by the British authorities in Germany.

    It was decided last December that the period of time spent by war criminals in custody awaiting trial should be counted towards sentence. As a result of this decision, it was found that 42 war criminals had already completed their sentences; they were accordingly released on 22nd December. The prisoners released were all serving comparatively short sentences; 21 of them had been guards at concentration camps.

    In view of the leniency and clemency which has been shown to these thugs and murderers, can the Minister now give an assurance that those British citizens who are imprisoned as a result of crimes arising out of the war will now receive the same lenient treatment?

    In no case has any man convicted of a war crime of the first order been released. They were mostly accessories to crimes, and the reason for taking this decision was to bring our practice into line with that prevailing in other zones.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman still in agreement with the policy outlined in a reply given by the Under-Secretary on 29th January, 1951, when he said that there could be no question of an amnesty to people convicted of brutal crimes against humanity? Will he see that that policy is practised both in the letter and the spirit?

    British Service Attaches


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the total sum spent on the pay, allowances and accommodation abroad of British naval, military, air and civil aviation attaches and their staffs and the total number employed; the corresponding figures before the war; and by how much per cent. the totals of expenditure and employment have risen since before the war.

    As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL.REPORT.

    Can the Minister of State confirm the statement made to me by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government are considering the possibility of reducing the number of Service attachés?

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that, in this respect, the Admiralty are far more economical than are the other two Services?

    Following is the reply:

    —>Number of PersonnelApproximate expenditure on pay, allowances and accommodation
    Pre-war (Estimates for 1938–39)Current (1951–52)Per cent. IncreasePre-war (Estimates for 1938–39)Current (1951–52)Per cent. Increase
    Naval Attachés and Staff268020836,000181,000403
    Military Attachés and Staff54185243 55,000414,000653
    Air Attachés and Staff449110741,500301,015625
    Civil Aviation Attachés and StaffNil42Nil68,951
    NOTES.—(1) Figures of expenditure for 1951–52 are based on current actual expenditure.
    (2) Official expenditure on domestic accommodation, rent allowances, etc., where applicable, is included.
    (3) Cost of office accommodation is not included. Attachés' offices are normally situated on the Mission premises, and separate figures are not available.

    Bbc Overseas Services


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what decision he has reached on the subject of making a special grant, outside the fixed grant-in-aid from the Exchequer to the British Broadcasting Corporation to cover the current cost of the measures which are being taken, and might have to be extended in the future, to counter the jamming of the British Broadcasting Corporation's East European and Central European transmissions by the Cominform countries.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) on 3rd March.

    As that answer did not really reply to the Question now on the Order Paper, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is virtually going to allow the Cominform to restrict our overseas services, owing to the fact that we have to pay for the counter-jamming, which is enormously expensive and has to come out of the ordinary Budget?

    The answer to which I referred my hon. Friend stated that no final decision had yet been reached as to meeting the cost of the measures necessary to counter jamming.

    Before a final decision is reached, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman look up what his right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary said a year ago about the unwisdom of cutting our foreign broadcast services?

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there is a considerable body of opinion that is very uneasy on what looks like being an economy that might be needed from the strictly financial point of view, but which is really penny wise and pound foolish?

    That is certainly a matter which will be borne in mind when the final decision is being arrived at.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind the fact that if anything is calculated to encourage the Russians to undertake further jamming, it will be the knowledge that jamming does result in a reduction of the programmes sent out?


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a number of British Broadcasting Corporation's transmissions which are listened to in Eastern Europe and which are not jammed at present, for instance, in English, French and German, will have to be cut because of lack of funds; and if Her Majesty's Government will make available additional funds for the British Broadcasting Corporation's Overseas Services.

    My right hon. Friend is aware that there is a limited audience in Eastern Europe for broadcasts in English, French and German. But the cuts in these services will be relatively small. In any case, no additional funds can be made available.

    Has the attention of the right hon and learned Gentleman been called to the official statement of the B.B.C. of 9th February, in which they deplore the fact that they have to cut their broadcasts in English, French and German? Is he not aware that that is an extremely serious matter, because once we lose listeners we shall not get them back?

    The difficulty about this matter is that it is necessary to make certain cuts, and, in making these cuts, decisions have been arrived at which, in our view, are calculated to interfere to the least possible extent with these valuable services.

    May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to recall that the Government which he serves seems to be quite ready to change its mind, even as to the date of the Budget?

    Are not these economies entirely due to the mishandling of our affairs by the previous Government?


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to prevent other countries from using wavelengths hitherto used by Britain during the hours of the day when overseas programmes previously transmitted by the British Broadcasting Corporation are discontinued as a result of the reduction in broadcasting hours announced recently.

    None. The permanent use of a wavelength can only be ensured by constant transmission on it. The British Broadcasting Corporation will naturally make every effort to maintain in operation the most effective wavelengths at the best listening times.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that by instituting these cuts this year it may very well be impossible to restore them in any subsequent year? Could he make representations to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who so strongly criticised similar cuts last year, with a view to getting the decision altered?

    There is no question of giving up any wavelengths. With regard to ensuring that a wavelength which is not in permanent use is not taken over by somebody else, that is no new problem, because few of these wavelengths have been used all the time.

    Does not the Minister realise that there is a sort of squatters' right in the air on this matter and that if one stops using channels they are permanently lost? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many we are in danger of losing in this way as a result of the cuts?

    The answer is none. The amount of the cut is extremely small. As I said, the problem of ensuring that people do not squat on a wavelength which is no longer being used is not a new problem.


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to which European countries no indigenous language broadcasts will be directed and which European countries will suffer a curtailment of such services as a result of the proposed reductions.

    As certain languages are indigenous to more than one country in Europe, I will, if I may, answer this Question in terms of language services instead of countries. The weekly broadcasts in the Luxembourg dialect and special supplementary service to Belgium will be discontinued. These are at present broadcast for a quarter of an hour per week and half a hour per day respectively. The French and Dutch language services will continue to be available to listeners in Belgium. Language services to Europe which are being curtailed are Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Norwegian and Portuguese.

    Does the Minister realise that the net saving on these drastic reductions is only £68,000 and that to reduce the services so drastically for so niggling a saving is not worth while?

    Although these reductions are not very great, would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that as our foreign policy and our rearmament policy are primarily directed to avoiding another war, it is equally important for us to maintain our psychological striking force as it is to maintain our military striking force?

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is most important that we should keep in touch with Eastern Germany, because the loss of Eastern Germany from the point of view of loyalty to democracy might eventually cost us far more in military preparations than any relatively trifling sums that would be saved by stopping the German broadcasts to these people?

    Will the Minister take steps to assure himself that these cuts are all necessitated by the comparatively small and most justifiable reduction in expenditure?

    I would again emphasise that it is quite untrue to describe these as drastic cuts. They are comparatively small cuts, and, in our view, they have been made in the best possible way.

    Does the Minister consider that the reduction of 32 hours a week in the projection of Britain abroad over the B.B.C. is not a drastic cut?


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which of the British Broadcasting Corporation's foreign services are now being jammed; and what action is being taken to counter such jamming.

    The British Broadcasting Corporation's Russian, Polish and Finnish services are now being jammed, and special schedules have been introduced involving the use of multiple transmission by batteries of transmitters. There is also some evidence of partial jamming of other B.B.C. programmes to Eastern Europe. This is being watched, with a view to suitable action in case of need.

    In view of the extension of this jamming, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman press upon his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet the cost of these counter measures? Does he realise that there is a dual victory for the U.S.S.R. in the propaganda war, in that if they succeed in jamming our broadcasts they not only jam our broadcasts to Eastern Europe but, on the present basis, compel us to cut down our broadcasts to Western Europe?

    No final decision has been made on the cost of jamming and, of course, the effect of losing services through jamming will be certainly borne in mind.

    When can we have a final decision? The B.B.C. are in a difficulty at the present moment about the services they must cut in order to counter jamming.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend be very careful that the impression does not go out that his motto is "Always jam today."

    Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman see that the entire House is against the Government in this matter and that the Government are hopelessly insensitive to the feeling of the whole country?

    The difficulty with economy is that nobody wants to make the economy. In this instance we are accepting a cut on expenditure on this service, or rather we are avoiding an increase in our expenditure on this service. And we are doing our best to give the best service within our financial limitations.

    Who is in fact paying for counter-action against jamming at the moment until the final decision is taken?

    Eritrea (Massawa Demolitions)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the wharves, railways and airports at Massawa are being destroyed by British authorities.

    No wharves of railways at Massawa have been destroyed. There is no airport, only a landing-strip, and it is not being destroyed.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there are many buildings and establishments in this port and in the adjoining naval base which have been handed over or sold to the French or Egyptian authorities and which are now being destroyed? Before he permits any other demolition, will he consult the Ethiopian Government with a view to avoiding such destruction, as there is already much destruction going on in many directions?

    The Question on the Order Paper refers solely to railways, wharves and airports, and I have answered with regard to them. So far as the demolition of the naval base is concerned, that was a decision taken long ago, and that is the decision which has been implemented.

    But will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not consult the Ethiopian Government with a view to avoiding any further demolition in the naval base which serves no useful purpose?

    No further demolition will be authorised except in exceptional circumstances.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that Ethiopia was the loyal ally of this country from the beginning of the war? Would it not have been a gracious act on our part to have left these things or to have handed them over to the Ethiopian Government?

    The decision to abolish the naval base was taken a long time before the United Nations decision that Eritrea should be federated with Ethiopia.

    Persian Oil Dispute


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for a statement on the Persian oil position.

    Hon. Members will recall that the International Bank has for some weeks been considering whether it could in some way assist towards a solution of the present deadlock over Persian oil. Mr. Garner, one of the Bank's Vice-Presidents, recently spent some two weeks in Teheran discussing with the Persian Government what form that assistance might usefully take. He has since been in London, where he has had talks with Ministers and two meetings with my right hon. Friend.

    In these talks Mr. Garner conveyed to Her Majesty's Government, as he had already conveyed to the Persian Government, the Bank's proposals for seeking an interim settlement of the Persian oil dispute. Her Majesty's Government gave Mr. Garner their views on these proposals. Mr. Garner is now in Washington, but one of his colleagues, who has accompanied him on his travels, has now returned to Teheran to resume discussions with the Persian Government.

    In all his talks on this matter, Mr. Garner has made it clear that the Bank is acting as an impartial international body, whose sole interest is to use its good offices to assist in settling a dispute which has arisen between two of its members.

    Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether there is likely to be some successful or material result from these negotiations in the near future in view of his conversations with the Vice-President of the International Bank?

    I certainly hope there will be a successful result to these negotiations.

    Will the Minister assure the House that any negotiations between the International Bank and the present Persian Government will not in any way prejudice the rights of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company under the old treaty?


    Bacteriological Warfare And Atomic Research


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what official representations were made to Her Majesty's Government by the West German Chancellor, regarding German research into atomic energy developments and bacteriological warfare; and what was Her Majesty's Government's answer.

    There have been no such representations, but these matters have been discussed in the contractual negotiations between the three Western Governments and the Government of the Federal German Republic as part of the wider question of security safeguards.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that on his return to Germany after the London talks Dr. Adenauer said that he had permission to undertake research into atomic energy and into bacteriological warfare? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say, first, whether that is true, and, secondly, where one draws the line when it comes to research into bacteriological warfare and to manufacturing weapons for that purpose?

    It is not correct, in fact, that the German Federal Chancellor stated what it has been suggested in some quarters he did say. I have here a text of what he actually said. It is rather long, and I should be pleased to show it to the hon. Gentleman afterwards if he would like to see it.

    Has my right hon. and learned Friend's attention been drawn to reports appearing in the Communist Press regarding the use of bacteriological warfare by the Americans, and will he deny such reports?

    A statement has been made on that matter by the United States Secretary of State denying that fact.

    Would the Minister perhaps circulate the German Chancellor's statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

    Following is the statement:

    Extracts on Security Controls from the Federal Chancellor's Press Conference in Bonn on 20th February.

    A very long discussion took place on the question of the creation of armaments industries. In this connexion the following should be borne in mind. First, that the Federal Republic is not even in a position, and furthermore is not even inclined, to set up industries such as, for example, atomic or bacteriological industries or factories for "V" weapons or anything of that sort. Apart from this, war industries must naturally be situated where they are least vulnerable in the event that things should really become serious. This point of view naturally plays a large role as well. In the Treaty regarding the European Defence Community, according to the present draft, it is laid down that the manufacture of weapons is forbidden for all members unless they receive specific orders from the Defence Commissioner. Otherwise, our economy will be free, and our scientific research in these fields will equally be free, and certainly as far as medical or economic aspects are concerned. Furthermore there are to be further negotiations here on this subject.

    Question: You said that the industrial controls would cover almost exclusively bacteriological and other fields. In the foreign Press there has been talk of much more extensive controls. Is all this still to be clarified in negotiation or were concrete proposals for controls discussed in London?

    Dr. Adenauer: I do not believe that I only spoke of bacteriological and atomic controls, but I said that in many cases, as for example in the case of atomic weapons and bacteriological weapons, it is a matter of things which we would not even wish to manufacture, even if we could manufacture them. We do not even possess the facilities for such manufacture. We have not even got the money. I said the same about "V" weapons, and I would like to add that the same applies to large warships. Small coastal defence vessels are another matter. But those are the essential points, and on them there is agreement. On other points there will be further negotiations, because the definitions in the proposals put forward by the Western Allies were still too imprecise, so that we should certainly have run into difficulties there. But in all these connexions scientific research is free.

    Berlin (Missing Raf Men)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the detention of three members of the Royal Air Force by the Soviet authorities in Berlin.

    I have received a report that three British other ranks were arrested in the Soviet zone on 24th February. It is presumed that the three persons concerned are leading aircraftman Hickey, leading aircraftman Griffin and A.C.1 Shelton of the R.A.F. Regiment, who have been missing from their unit since the early hours of 24th February.

    The Soviet military authorities in Berlin were asked on 26th February to establish whether these men are in the Soviet zone and, if so, to facilitate their release. A reply has been received stating that no British personnel were detained in the Soviet sector of Berlin on 24th February. A request has now been addressed to higher Soviet authorities for an answer to the original inquiry whether the missing men are in the Soviet zone of Germany.

    Western Defence Contributions


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the policy of Her Majesty's Government as to the amount of naval and air contributions to Western defence to be allowed to Germany.

    The policy of Her Majesty's Government is that, subject to certain safeguards, a German contribution to Western defence should be made through the European Defence Community on a comparable basis to the defence contributions of other members of the European Defence Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The size of the forces to be contributed to the European Defence Community is still under discussion.

    Could the Minister explain exactly what that means? Are we to understand that Her Majesty's Government are committed to a German military contribution to Western defence? Could he assure us that the Government are not committed to the establishment of a new Luftwaffe or anything in the nature of an embryo German Navy?

    As to a German Luftwaffe, there will be no German national force under the proposed arrangements.

    Burma (Chinese Nationalist Forces)


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will bring the situation in the Kentung Province of Burma to the attention of the Security Council under Article 35 (1) of the United Nations Charter.

    Does not the Chiang Kai-shek administration occupy a seat on the Security Council, and is it not therefore a matter of concern when it is alleged that a member of the Security Council is maintaining and reinforcing its troops on the territory of a member State of the United Nations?

    My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made the position of Her Majesty's Government quite clear in his speech on 5th February. These troops are said to be on the territory of Burma and it is considered just as well to let Burma have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the matter.

    Is it not a fact that Burma asked at the General Assembly that action should be taken to secure the withdrawal of these troops and are we satisfied that members of the United Nations have done everything they can to persuade the Chiang Kai-shek Government that their troops must be withdrawn?

    As far as I can recollect the proceedings of the Assembly, the Burmese representatives were particularly anxious that these matters should not be brought before the United Nations. The question of persuasion or representation is another matter.


    Meru Tribe Evictions


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will institute an inquiry into the circumstances under which 30 families of the Meru Tribe in Tanganyika were evicted from tribal lands in the Engare-Nanyuki, Ngabobo and Leguruki areas, in view of the report by a Nairobi barrister, of which he has been provided with a copy, stating that homes were burnt, household utensils were broken, cattle slaughtered or taken away, crops destroyed, and old persons and a baby of three days died during the forcible transference.

    I have received from the Governor a report on the measures it was necessary to take to move these people in order to complete the scheme of land settlement in the District, of which particulars were given to the House by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State on 5th December last. The people concerned declined to move voluntarily. After the occupants and their belongings and some livestock had been compulsorily removed it was unfortunately necessary to burn their huts. Hut owners will of course be compensated for this destruction.

    The report states that one man died as he was about to get on to a lorry which was removing people from the area. He had volunteered to move when his hut was visited. Later investigation showed that he had been ill for some time and a post-mortem showed that he had been in an advanced stage of tuberculosis. Two cattle died from East Coast fever during the move.

    I am writing to the Governor to ascertain whether there have been any events subsequent to his report which would justify the allegations referred to and I will write to the hon. Member as soon as I have received a reply.

    Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him whether, in view of the fact that this report on the events by a barrister and the official Government report agree that death did occur during these evictions, he will be prepared now to ask for an independent, impartial investigation into the circumstances of these evictions?

    Constitutional Changes


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has received the Governor's Report of the debate of 14th and 15th November in the Legislative Council of Tanganyika on the proposed new constitution for the Colony; and whether he will make a statement.

    I have received from the Governor his verbatim record of the debate referred to, but I have not yet received his final views on the recommendations for constitutional changes which have been under consideration. I have no statement to make at present.

    Does not this suggested new constitution mark a step forward in that it will give parity of representation to the African, to the European and the Asiatic peoples there?

    These matters which are under consideration are very important, and when the Governor is able to write to me—which I hope will be in the next two months—I will take the opportunity of answering a Question.

    Central African Federation


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress he has made this year with the policy of closer association between Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland; what preparations he has made for the forthcoming conference on the subject; where and when it will be held; who will compose it; and what will be its agenda.

    I have nothing to add to the information on these matters given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations and myself in yesterday's debate, except that the composition of the various delegations has not yet been decided.

    As to the preparations for the forthcoming conference, is the Minister aware that the recent interviews in London, at which the Africans were not represented and at which an agenda was prepared behind their backs, have caused great suspicion on the part of Africans? What is he doing to reassure Africans on that point?

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that closer association may have been dealt a disastrous blow last night by the decision of the Opposition to vote against it, a decision which will further encourage those people who are always trying to inflame the minds of a primitive people?


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will consider appointing a Parliamentary Commission to visit Central Africa and investigate African opinion upon the question of the Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

    In view of the invitations to the two African representative bodies to come here shortly for consultation my answer is "No, Sir."

    Would the Minister not agree, particularly in view of yesterday's debate, that such a mission would be at least helpful to him?


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will publish as a White Paper the criticisms and objections of the Governments of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland regarding the proposals for Central African Federation; and the conclusions reached in the recent discussions with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and the Governors of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

    No, Sir. The hon. Member will have seen the communiqué published on the conclusion of the recent informal talks with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. I will circulate a copy of it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    As I told the House yesterday some, but not all, of the criticisms of certain aspects of the proposals contained in the Officials' Report have now come in from the Central African Governments. They will be discussed with the African representatives and subsequently at the April Conference.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the phrase "criticisms and objections" is quoted from the official Government communiqué. Were these criticisms and objections actually discussed at the recent conference and are they to be published so that we and the African population may be aware of them before the April conference?

    While I do not concede the criticisms, I am perfectly prepared to consider putting them in a White Paper.

    Following is the communiqué:

    Since the publication on the 21st November, 1951, of His Majesty's Government's statement on the subject of closer association of the three Central African territories of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland His Majesty's Government has received from or through the Governments of the three countries a number of criticisms of the federation proposals formulated by the London conference of officials in March, 1951.
    The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Secretary of State for the Colonies have discussed with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and with the Governors of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland the criticisms that have been expressed in the three countries. As the result of the discussions they are asking the Governments of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to inform His Majesty's Government and each other before the 1st March of any modifications to the officials' proposals that each of the Governments may consider desirable.
    His Majesty's Government are suggesting to those Governments that a full conference should be held in London towards the end of April to consider any modifications suggested by any of the four Governments and to formulate a final draft scheme of federation. The intention is that this draft scheme should then be published as a White Paper and should be considered in the countries concerned. As soon as possible thereafter His Majesty's Government and the Governments of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would decide whether or not to accept the scheme.


    Chief Secretary's Retirement


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies for a statement concerning the resignation of Mr. del Tufo, Chief Secretary of Malaya.

    Shortly after the arrival of the new High Commissioner, Mr. del Tufo submitted a request to be allowed to retire on the ground that the recent reorganisation of the higher posts in the Federation had radically changed his position. I have acceded to his request. I should like to take this opportunity of again expressing my appreciation of Mr. del Tufo's work as Chief Secretary and in administering the Government during the trying period between the murder of Sir Henry Gurney and the arrival of Sir Gerald Templer.

    In view of this gentleman's comparatively young age, is it not unfortunate that Her Majesty's Government do not intend to employ him elsewhere when he has rendered such valuable service in the three or four years during which he deputised in Malaya?

    I have, of course, considered this possibility, but there is no post vacant to which he could be appointed.

    Kampong Belum Evacuations


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the reasons for the recent order to the population of Kampong Belum by the British military authorities to bum their crops.

    The order was given as a preliminary to the evacuation of the inhabitants of Kampong Belum, which is now in progress. This very isolated area has been dominated by terrorists who forced the Malay villagers to grow food for their use and as adequate protection would have involved a disproportionate burden on the Security Forces it was decided to evacuate the inhabitants.

    Does the Minister realise that his policy is more likely to make than break Communists, and will he not consider telling the military authorities to prevent this kind of situation arising in the future?

    Certainly not. This is part of the policy instituted more than a year ago for the re-settlement of outlying squatters in re-settlement areas where they can be properly protected.

    Deputy High Commissioner (Appointment)


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what discussions took place with local representative leaders before the Deputy High Commissioner was appointed in Malaya.

    The creation of the post of Deputy High Commissioner for the period of the emergency was discussed and approved by Their Highnesses the Rulers and the Federal Legislative Council.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this appointment of a person from this country, over-riding local feeling and losing the opportunity to appoint a highly qualified local person, is going the wrong way about getting the sympathies of the Malayans on our side?

    That is a matter of opinion, in which I differ strongly from the hon. Member.

    Colonial Students, Uk (Hostels)


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the loss of £70,215 during 1950–51 on the 11 residences for overseas students administered by the British Council for the Colonial Office, including a loss of £27,483 in six months on the residence in Hans Crescent without any amortisation of £78,598 spent on adapting the building; and if he will close these residences.

    During 1950–51 the British Council administered seven (not 11) residences for Colonial students on behalf of the Colonial Office and the loss on these residences was £56,751. The net operating loss of £27,483 at Hans Crescent includes overhead charges of £7,922 for the first six months of the year when, because of adaptation work, no occupation was possible. For the remaining six months only partial occupation was possible for the same reason. Three of these residences have been closed. I do not propose to close the remaining four residences, which play a useful part in the welfare of the increasing numbers of colonial students in this country, but I shall try to ensure that they are run with all reasonable economy.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that the figures in my Question are quoted from the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to this House?

    Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind there is also a need for increasing the number of places available to colonial students in hostels of some kind, which are preferable to the type of lodgings which are often provided?

    The hon. Member is asking me another question, but in any case I have no intention of closing any more.

    Gold Coast (Constitutional Changes)


    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is now able to make a statement about further constitutional changes in the Gold Coast.

    Yes, Sir. In the light of the working of the present constitution and on the advice of the Governor, Her Majesty's Government have decided that the Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Assembly should disappear from the constitution and that the office of Prime Minister should be formally recognised. The Governor will consult the Prime Minister before submitting to the Assembly the names of persons whom he proposes for appointment as Representative Members of the Executive Council, or Cabinet, and before allocating to them portfolios.

    The Prime Minister will rank in precedence in Cabinet immediately after the Governor, or Officer Administering the Government as the case may be, and before any of the three ex officio Ministers, whose position in other respects will remain unchanged. The necessary amendments to the constitutional instruments to give effect to these and other consequential changes will be made very shortly.

    Does not this prove that there is no permanent half-way house between bureaucracy and democracy?

    Royal Navy (Attacker Aircraft)


    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many Attacker aircraft have crashed recently; and if the causes have been established.

    I regret that it would be contrary to long established policy to give the information for which the hon Member asks.

    If we take the trouble to go through the newspapers we shall be able to add them up ourselves. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman save us a little trouble by doing it for us? As the newspapers have published that an Attacker class of aircraft had crashed recently, will he consider issuing a statement whether there are any related causes which connect these crashes one with another?

    I do not think that information can necessarily be obtained from the newspapers. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no undue cause for alarm, in view of the number of flying hours, and every accident is very carefully investigated. If the hon. Gentleman would like to talk to me on the subject I should be happy to see him.

    Us Air Force (British Bases)


    asked the Prime Minister if, in view of his repeated warnings that the presence of atom bombers in East Anglia involved great danger to Britain, he will propose the transfer of the American bombers now in Britain to American territory.

    I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member on 21st November, 1951.

    Does the Prime Minister still hold the view that he expressed when he was the Leader of the Opposition, that these bases were a great source of potential danger to the people of this country, and is there not a case for considering this proposal on the ground that they bring greater danger than security?

    Council Of Europe (Suggested Minister)


    asked the Prime Minister whether he proposes, in accord with the recommendations of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, to appoint a Minister to be specially responsible for European affairs.

    The recommendations to which the right hon. Gentleman refers have still to be considered by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at its next meeting. Meanwhile, it would not be appropriate for me to make any statement about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government.

    Ministry Of Defence

    Ex-Miners (Release)


    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence to make a further statement with regard to the releasing of miners still in the Forces.

    As the hon. Member is aware, over 3,000 ex-miners have been released from the Forces to resume employment in the industry. Any extension of last year's scheme, in particular one to cover men who entered a regular engagement before 1st January, 1949, would result in the loss of experienced Regulars who cannot be spared. Such men are vital to the build-up of the Forces if these are to be able to meet their increasing commitments.

    There are still 30,000 miners in the Forces. If we are to win the cold war we have to win the coal war, and if we are to win the coal war we have to have more miners. Will the Parliamentary Secretary not therefore look at this again and see that these men who can get the coal which the country vitally needs are given an opportunity to do so?

    There has been no change of policy under the present Government and I think the recruiting figures for the miners are much more encouraging lately. I cannot give the undertaking.

    Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a few weeks ago the Prime Minister promised that he would reconsider this matter? From the way he spoke I expected a more favourable reply.

    Is not the reply that the Parliamentary Secretary has given this afternoon very discouraging to the case for accepting Italian workers in the coal mines when British coal miners are not allowed to come back and produce the coal?

    Is my hon. Friend satisfied that it is a sound policy to call up in peace-time those who are not required to be called up in war-time?

    Accused Persons (Proceedings)


    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he is aware that members of the Forces have been charged twice with the same offence, once before a service court-martial and subsequently before a civil court; and if he will obviate this practice by delaying the court-martial until after the proceedings in the civil court.

    It is legally possible for the same set of circumstances to give rise to proceedings both before a civil court and before a service court-martial, but in practice the alleged offender is not tried for the same offence both by a civil court and by a court-martial.

    Where jurisdiction is concurrent, it is the responsibility of the chief officer of police concerned, normally after consulting the commanding officer of the unit in which the accused person is serving, to decide whether proceedings should be taken in a civil court, or the man handed over to the service authorities.

    Fatal Accident, Manchester

    ( by Private Notice)

    asked the Minister of Transport whether he has any statement to make on the tragic road accident which occurred in the hon. Member's constituency yesterday, when four children were killed and six seriously injured whilst waiting at a bus fare stage at the junction of Crossley Road and Errwood Road, Burnage, Manchester.

    I am grieved to learn of this serious accident. I should like at once to express my deep sympathy with the injured children and with the families of those who were killed and injured. I am sure the House will understand that I cannot, at this moment, make any comment on the circumstances of the accident, but I have called for an immediate report.

    Whilst I am deeply appreciative of the sympathy which my hon. Friend has just expressed with the parents of the children involved in this accident, may I ask him whether a Ministry of Transport observer will attend the inquest so that any useful lesson which may be learned from this tragedy can be effectively passed on to local road safety committees?

    Yes, Sir. My Department will be represented at the inquest and obviously any lessons which can be learned will be conveyed to wherever best use can be made of them.

    Would the Minister bear in mind that the nation is shocked by regularity with which we are having such accidents? Would he keep in mind the desirability of having a wider inquiry, possibly a Royal Commission, so that we can have a coherent policy on the way to deal with this matter?

    In view of the fact that the Ministry of Transport is an interested party, may I also appeal for a much wider form of inquiry?

    As representative of the Gorton Division of Manchester, which has suffered very much indeed from the casualties in this accident, may I stress the point raised by several hon. Members—that there should be a Royal Commission and a full investigation into this subject and into our road transport?

    Ballot For Notices Of Motion


    I beg to give notice that on Friday, 21st March, I shall call attention to the need for the better organisation of the distribution of the essentials of life, and move a Resolution.


    I beg to give notice that on Friday, 21st March, I shall call attention to the failure of Her Majesty's Government to continue the policy of the late Government in making special provision in the capital investment programme for the reconstruction of blitzed towns, and move a Resolution.


    I beg to give notice that on Friday, 21st March, I shall call attention to the need for the full use of machinery and the desirability of double-shift working, and move a Resolution.

    Business Of The House

    Proceedings on the Agriculture (Fertilisers) Bill exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. Crookshank.]


    3.35 p.m.

    I beg to move, "That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1952 (Command Paper No. 8475)."

    Although I feel that it will be in the general convenience that I should make this statement, I can no longer speak as Minister of Defence. On the day when I accepted the late King's Commission to form a Government, I proposed the appointment of Lord Alexander to this office, and His Majesty was greatly attracted by the proposal. It was necessary, however, to obtain the assent of the Canadian Government and to enable them to make all necessary arrangements in due course.

    I had foreseen this delay, even if Lord Alexander were willing to accept so onerous a task. In the meanwhile, I welcomed the opportunity of surveying again this scene, which six years ago I knew quite well, and noting the many changes which had taken place in the interval. I will now, Sir, on handing over these duties, commend this White Paper, which has been circulated for some days, to the attention of the House.

    I must, however, put on record certain reserves which are necessary. It takes a long time, and much Departmental work, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite know, to prepare documents of this kind, and, for reasons which the House will under- stand, we had to hasten its presentation to Parliament. Meanwhile, events move constantly forward. Even the present Service Estimates and the White Paper now before us, must be subject to unceasing scrutiny to eliminate all waste and, of course, production may be affected by the non-delivery of machine tools and by the shortage of dollar purchasing power.

    I shall not occupy the House at any length with the Amendment which I have heard that the Ministers mainly responsible in the late Parliament for the conduct of our armaments—conduct good or bad—have placed on the Paper. We said something like this about them last year and we shall certainly not be offended by any opinion they may form of us. Our opinion, however, was based upon several years' experience of their methods. Theirs can only be a guess, and I trust will not be a hope.

    While we criticised the mistakes they made from time to time, and above all their repeated changes—vacillations, I think, was the word that was used—in the periods of compulsory National Service—now up, now down, now up again—we always gave them support in all necessary measures for national security. They always knew they had us with them if it ever came to a vote against their own tail. I do not suggest that we were with them yesterday morning. But this must have been a great help to any Government carrying on the business of the nation, especially as they were able at the same time to accuse us of seeking war and armament expansion whenever an election came along.

    I hope that the Division which, I understand, we are to have tonight will not mean that the Socialist Party intend to revert to their pre-war practice of voting against necessary measures of defence, as they did against conscription before the war, and that they will at any rate consider themselves as bound to give general support to treasures for which they themselves were originally responsible.

    I will now endeavour to give some general account of the British defence position as I leave it. When I spoke to the House on defence at the beginning of December. I mentioned that there would certainly be a lag in carrying out the £4,700 million programme to which the late Government had given their support, and which they had increased from their original £3,600 million programmme introduced earlier in the same year. This has manifested itself in a shortfall in 1951–52 of £120 million, as is shown in the White Paper.

    After the £3,600 million programme was proposed by the Socialist Government, they accepted an interim offer of 112 million dollars of aid from the United States of America in respect of machine tools. They had, indeed, stipulated for much larger help and relied on securing it in due course through the so-called "burden-sharing exercise" then agreed in principle with the Americans. We are to receive this 112 million dollars progressively as machine tools are delivered, and delivery is only just beginning, but we hope it will be completed in about 15 months' time.

    Meanwhile the £4,700 million programme on which we are now engaged has not received aid on a scale in keeping with the defence burden undertaken by the late Prime Minister or with our needs. Following the recent studies of the Temporary Council Committee—the "three wise men," as they are sometimes called—the United States Government have allotted to us a sum of 300 million dollars, none of which has yet been received. There is no question of reproaches on either side, but the fact remains, as I have foreshadowed, that the re-armament programme is much more likely to be carried out in four years than in three. Had it been carried out in three years as originally planned, the cost through the rise in prices would have been not less than £5,200 million. Of course, spread over a longer time the impact is less severe, but the total will be larger because of the added cost of the longer maintenance.

    I should, however, be misleading the House if I led it to suppose that the delay which has taken place is due only to a shortfall in earnings by contractors for various reasons. We have pursued a definite policy of giving a somewhat higher measure of priority to materials needed for exports. The grave financial crisis under which we are labouring supplies more than sufficient explanation for this decision. We depend upon exports to purchase the imports of food and raw materials without which we can neither re-arm nor live as a solvent economic society.

    The expenditure set forth in the White Paper on Defence, and the Estimates of the three Service Departments which will shortly be brought before the House, represent the utmost that we can do during the present year; and it is certainly much more than any other country in the free world, except the United States of America, has attempted.

    I am not suggesting that it is sufficient for our safety in the event of war, and I rely on the rapidly growing and already overwhelming power of the United States in the atomic bomb to provide the deterrents against an act of aggression during the period of forming a defensive front in Western Europe. I hope and I believe that this will deter; but, of course, I cannot make promises or prophecies, or give guarantees. I accept responsibility only for doing all that was possible, having regard to the state of our defences and economic position when, after an interval of more than six years, the Conservative Party resumed office 19 weeks ago.

    My first impression on looking round the scene at home in November as Minister of Defence was a sense of extreme nakedness such as I had never felt before in peace or war—almost as though I was living in a nudist colony. When the 6th Armoured and the 3rd Infantry Divisions had left the country in pursuance of orders given or policies decided upon in the days of the late Administration, we had not a single Regular combat formation in the country; and although a seaborne invasion does not seem likely in view of our and Allied naval power in surface ships, I thought it right to take what precautions were possible against paratroop descents, and I spoke, as the House may remember, about the importance of our showing the back of a hedgehog rather than the paunch of a rabbit to any unfriendly eye that might contemplate our island from above.

    There were at that time a quarter of a million—249,000 was the exact figure—of officers and men in depôts and training centres of many kinds. Most of these men, though uniformed British soldiers, had little combatant organisation or value. They were engaged in preparing and maintaining the considerable Forces which had been spread about the world. in Europe, Asia and Africa. I considered it imperative to impart a combatant value to this potentially powerful body of British soldiers costing at least £400 a year each. Rapid progress has been made with this policy. All these men are now supplied with rifles and machine guns and with ammunition, and they are organised into effective fighting groups which now comprise 502 mobile columns.

    These Forces are not, indeed, of the efficiency of the units on the Continent and overseas. Nor do they need to be. They are capable of giving a good account of themselves and of imposing a considerable deterrent upon any airborne adventure by being able to kill or capture the ones who land. The process has been greatly strengthened by the sailors ashore and the Air Force ground men, who also make important contributions. I am told by the weekly reports for which I called that morale is high, and that all ranks understand and have welcomed the reality and importance of their new duties, and that they like to feel that they are guarding their homes and their fellow countrymen as well as learning or teaching.

    About two months ago, on the same line of thought, we started registration for the Home Guard. Since then 30,000 men have registered. This result is solid so far as it goes, but we still need many more volunteers. It may well be that many who have joined have felt that the likelihood of war has somewhat receded, and they think they can make up their minds later on. They must be careful not to leave it too late. If war should come, it will be with violent speed and suddenness, and here at home, with almost all our Regular Army overseas, we must rely to an unusual extent on the Home Guard. Enough resolute men must be armed and ready to aid all the other forms of protection against raids, descents and sabotage.

    Although I had felt unable at first sight to provide the Home Guard with uniforms, and even with greatcoats or boots, I decided upon consideration to draw upon our mobilisation reserves to the extent necessary to clothe at least the first 50,000. My successor may do better later on. I have directed the War Office to place, as speedily as possible, all orders for which their Estimates provide in the coming year with the clothing trade, in which a certain amount of unemployment and under-employment, especially in Northern Ireland, had begun to appear.

    Thirdly, we have been able, by a severe combing of the tail—not the tail I mentioned just now, but nevertheless a very desirable and necessary process—to produce seven more Regular second battalions of famous regiments which had been imprudently disbanded. I would not use the word "imprudently" if I had not long studied all the economic advantages of the Cardwell system, with a battalion abroad and a battalion at home, and an inter-flow of reserves and reinforcements between them. These battalions now raised, in one of which the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) took so much interest—the Black, what was it?