House Of Commons
Wednesday, 2nd April, 1952
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Shipbuilding And Repairing (Steel Allocation)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is yet in a position to make a statement about the allocation of steel to the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry for the next quarter.
The allocation of steel for the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industries for period II is approximately at the same level as for period I.
Will the right hon. Gentleman do what he can to assist this industry, because there is some apprehension in shipping circles about the future trend of freight rates, and this may seriously affect the industry?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I realise the difficulties and, as I told him a fortnight ago, I am doing all I possibly can to help.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the arrival of American supplies will soon result in an increase in the steel allocation?
I cannot give a definite answer on that point. I hope it will be better, but I cannot make a definite statement now.
Personnel (Political Views)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty in view of his action regarding Commander Young, based on the political views held by him, what steps he now proposes to take with respect to the many men now serving, and who have served, in the Royal Navy, and who hold views identical with those of Commander Young.
None, Sir. I am not aware of any officer or man whose conduct is causing the same embarrassment and discredit to the Royal Navy as that of Mr. Edgar Young.
In view of the reply which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the first part of the Question, will he not reconsider the petty action he took in respect of Commander Young, at the same time wipe out the obloquy that he himself has inflicted upon the Senior Service?
The answer is, "No, Sir."
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the basis for getting rid of someone either from the active list or the retired list is what he thinks or believes or the expression he gives to those beliefs, because, as the First Lord has told us, he is retaining men in the Service who hold views similar to those of Mr. Young?
I think there is some misunderstanding behind the Question of the hon. Member. Mr. Young has been taken off the retired list not because of his political utterances, but because he has used his naval connection to add weight to those political utterances, especially when making speeches abroad.
Does the First Lord mean that he described himself as being what in fact he is, a retired commander of the Royal Navy?
Does the First Lord realise that his action will have the backing of almost the whole of the people in this country?
Naafi Parcels, Korea And Malaya
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to what extent the forces for which he is responsible, other than personnel afloat, will be included in the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes' parcels scheme inaugurated for the military Forces in Korea and Malaya.
The scheme will apply to any naval or Marine personnel serving ashore with the Army to the same extent as it applies to Army personnel.
Would the Minister endeavour to make it clear that these parcels are not sent out from this country but are packed and delivered in Malaya or Korea as the case may be? It is not clear.
I will do what I can about that.
Long-Range Aircraft (Operational Experience)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps are being taken to enable officers to gain operational experience in long-range shore-based aircraft.
Naval officers have, of course, no occasion to operate such aircraft, but an understanding of the operation of R.A.F. long-range aircraft is acquired by naval officers at the joint service schools and certain R.A.F. courses.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that our senior naval officers have, in fact, sufficient experience in the operation of these aircraft?
Yes, I can say that I am satisfied on that point.
Reconnaissance Aircraft, Indian Ocean
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what is the Admiralty's policy with regard to reconnaissance aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that it is not in the public interest to give details of such policies.
If my right hon. Friend cannot give details, will he say whether it is proposed to carry it out with shore-based aircraft and if so, are there sufficient supplies of them?
I am afraid that I cannot add to my reply to the original Question.
Can I ask my right hon. Friend if it is his policy to retain flying-boats?
Miners (Release Applications)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many men have applied for release from the Royal Navy, in order to return to the coalmines, in the period from 1st October, 1951, to 29th February, 1952; and how many of these men held higher rank than able seamen.
Nine applications have been received by the Admiralty but all have been refused since the special scheme for the release of ex-coalminers from the Armed Forces to return to underground work came to an end on 30th September, 1951. All men in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines were given sufficient warning of the approaching end to the scheme. No application has been received from any rating above able seaman.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why his Department can supply this information and the War Office cannot? Secondly, will he tell the House how many of these men were ignorant of the previous scheme which lapsed last September; and will he use all the influence he can to get these men back to the mines? Is he not convinced that they would be doing a much more useful job digging coal than sailing around in ships?
I am afraid I cannot answer for any other Department, nor am I able to give the numbers for which the hon. Member asked. I believe there is a later Question in the hon. Member's name addressed to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, and perhaps he will await that answer.
Will my right hon. Friend do something about the hon. Gentleman's assertion that naval service consists of sailing round in boats?
Would it not be better, in view of the acute shortage of coalface workers at the moment in the mines, to grant unconditional release to coalminers in the Navy, rather than import Italian labour?
That is a policy which was introduced by the previous Government, and I am not prepared now to give an answer on a wider basis.
Would the First Lord consider the point made in Question 48 today—that if these men were serving in Korea or the Far East last year, they were debarred from applying under that scheme? Will he consider re-opening the scheme on a limited basis for those very few men?
I cannot anticipate a Question which is later upon the Order Paper. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wait till it is reached, when we may be able to satisfy him.
Overseas Allowance, Malta
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why he has cut the local overseas allowance for officers of lieutenant-commander's rank and below in Malta, while this allowance has been raised in Cyprus and Gibraltar.
Local overseas allowance is paid to compensate for the additional cost of living overseas which is, of course, variable. The cost of living in the U.K. having on the whole risen more than the cost of living in Malta since the last rate was fixed, married officers of the ranks in question have suffered some reduction. This is mainly due to the marked decrease in the difference between rents in Malta and the U.K.
Does the lessened allowance apply only to lieut.-commanders and below that rank in Malta, in view of the fact that the rate for chief petty officers has been put up to exactly the same as for captains, both of them being considerably higher than for commanders?
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend is incorrect in that. I think he will find that though alterations had been made previously there was a special decision, for which he asked the reasons, and he has been given an answer.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware of the increasing ugliness of naval ships designed since the "Dido" and "Town" class cruisers and the war-time fleet and "Hunt" class destroyers, culminating in the haphazard profile of the new "Daring" class destroyer; and if he will direct attention to the practicability of designing pleasant-looking ships without detracting from their fighting efficiency.
Her Majesty's ships are designed to be fit for their purpose, namely, to fight with the maximum efficiency, and I can assure my hon. Friend that our latest warships will not be found wanting in this respect.
In spite of a number of innovations having taken place since sail gave way to steam, it has never yet been impossible to design handsome ships. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the fighting efficiency of a ship is contributed to substantially by the keenness and fondness of the sailors in her for that ship, because of their appreciation of good lines in these as in other circumstances?
I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I was on the "Diamond "only on Monday last, when I found that the men had a great affection for their ship. If he has any better or more attractive design himself, perhaps he will let me know.
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that anybody at the receiving end of a naval shell is more reconciled to the effects of it if he knows it comes from a beautiful battleship?
I must say that I rather doubt it.
Postal Packets, Northern Ireland (Examination)
9, 13 and 27.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) the terms of the warrant under the authority of which officers of his Department handed over postal packets passing through the Post Office in Belfast for opening and examination;(2) to whom the officers of his Department hand over letters and other postal packets under warrant; and to what extent such persons are responsible to him for their action while on such premises; (3) what check his officials in Northern Ireland adopt to see that they receive back the identical letters they pass over to the censors.
I propose, with permission, to answer Questions 9, 13 and 27 together.
Mr. Speaker, I desire to have separate answers to those Questions.
If the hon. Gentleman insists upon that, he will probably get the same answer three times.
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman waits for the answer, when perhaps he will not want me to read it three times.In this matter I act in Northern Ireland in pursuance of an express warrant in writing under the hand of the Governor, who acts on the advice of the Government of Northern Ireland. The warrant is issued under the prerogative power at common law, which is recognised and preserved by the Post Office Act, 1908, as amended, so far as Northern Ireland is concerned, by the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1922. It not only authorises but requires me to detain and produce for inspection postal packets addressed to a specified individual or individuals. I have no responsibility for the persons carrying out the inspection. The only duty of my Department is to act in accordance with the warrant. I can assure the hon. Member that all proper steps are taken to ensure that letters dealt with under such a warrant are sent on by post. I have no further responsibility in the matter, and I am unable to give any further information.
Will the hon. Gentleman ask his colleagues to cease talking about the importance of iron curtains abroad if this sort of thing goes on in Northern Ireland, and has not the Press of the United States been referring to this condition of things as "typical Westminster hypocrisy"? Also, will the hon. Gentleman say whether he has received complaints from Belfast about missing letters and postal orders for which his staff are under suspicion, and will he not, therefore, inquire a little further into the conduct of these police officers, who have been recruited on a sectarian and political basis and are responsible to nobody?
I am only responsible for the letters, and I have given the hon. Gentleman the assurances for which he asks.
How would it have been possible to discover the plot of the Irish Republican Army to welcome German forces if they landed in Northern Ireland if it had not been possible to open their letters?
Savings Bank (Nominations, Registration)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will alter the present method of registration of nominations in respect of Post Office savings bank accounts so that two nomination forms shall be required to be executed by the nominator and witnessed, one to be retained by the Director of the Post Office Savings Bank and the other to be returned to the nominator after the nomination has been registered by or on behalf of the Director
Consideration is being given to this question in the light of a recent appeal heard by the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion, and I will see that it is fully examined.
While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him to see that the matter is dealt with quickly, in view of the possibility of fraud in the present procedure?
Yes, Sir, I am hoping to have an examination carried out at once.
Salaries And Wages
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General to what extent the recent rise in the Post Office salaries and wages bill is responsible for the increase in postal and telegraphic charges.
The estimated cost in a full year of increases in salaries and wages announced during 1950–52 is about £28 million. The consequent rise in expenditure is the main reason why it has become necessary to increase Post Office tariffs.
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that this increase in wages will not decrease the commercial surplus?
I am afraid that the commercial surplus for the next year will be less than it has been for 25 years.
Is not that answer in contradiction to the statement that the hon. Gentleman made on Monday, when, in answer to a specific Question, he stated that the surplus on the commercial accounts would be reduced from £25 million to £3 million for 1951–52?
There is no contradiction whatever. I was asked bow much the increases in salaries meant to the Post Office Bill generally, and I have given the answer.
Road And Petrol Taxes
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will state, for the latest convenient date, the cost to his Department for road tax and petrol charges; and what increase is anticipated resulting from the Budget changes.
The Post Office is not liable for Road Fund Tax on its vehicles. It is estimated that the expenditure on petrol in 1951–52 will be about £2,500,000 and that the recent increase in the price of petrol will raise Post Office direct costs in 1952–53 by £565,000.
Can the Assistant Postmaster-General tell me whether this is the means whereby the Tories are to implement their promise to bring down the cost of living?
Mail Delivery, Chelsea (Delay)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he has considered the complaints received by him from residents in the Sloane Avenue areas of Chelsea, regarding the late arrival of the first post in that area; and what steps he proposes to take to arrange for an earlier delivery of mail.
My noble Friend regrets that a re-organisation of postmen's duties, and sickness, have led to delay in completing the first delivery in the Chelsea area. The position is improving as the postmen become accustomed to their new duties, and I hope that the delivery will shortly be completed by 9 a.m.
Before these service changes were introduced, had representations from the staff made it clear that the proposed arrangements were inadequate and that the public service would suffer? Will the hon. Gentleman look into this?
If the hon. Gentleman will put down that Question, I will give him an answer to it.
Does my hon. Friend realise that many residents of the Chelsea district are speaking in contemptuous terms of the service they are now getting and that this service has been going on for a considerable time? Will he take steps to improve the delivery, because at the present time many residents are receiving their letters as late as 9.15 a.m. and in some cases as late as 9.30?
I hope that my hon. Friend will agree before long the service is very much better than it has been in the past few weeks.
May we have an assurance that the delivery will take place by at least 8.30 a.m.?
I cannot give any specific guarantee. I have explained the circumstances which led to the delay. Perhaps the chief one was sickness. The position has now improved in that respect, and I anticipate very quickly a marked improvement in the time of delivery.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he expects the report on Post Office regionalisation to be available.
The report on the present system of Regionalisation in the Post Office was presented to the House on 11th February, 1952.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he promised in November that this report would be available in the Library, and yet as late as last week it was not in the Library? Will he take steps to have it put in the Library, as he promised?
The report is in the Library. The first part of the report was presented to Parliament on 11th February, and was available in the Vote Office.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what losses he estimates would be incurred yearly by operating a system which permits letters carrying a ½d. stamp, posted before 1 p.m., to be accepted for the second delivery on the following day.
The estimated loss of revenue would be about £8 million.
Could the hon. Gentleman say if that is a net loss, or does it take into account any gains which might accrue from the adoption of this system?
The estimated loss is a net loss.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what recent changes have been made in the conditions under which subscribers must accept a shared service.
There has been no change. I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) on 26th March.
Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that those who were on the telephone service before 1st January, 1948, will not have pressure brought to bear upon them to take a shared service?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no intention whatever of departing from the arrangements regarding the shared service that were made by my predecessor two years ago.
On a point of order. My Question, No. 13, has not been answered.
I understood the Minister to answer it with No. 9.
I did not give permission.
Perhaps the Minister will answer the hon. Gentleman.
If the hon. Gentleman wants me to read out the answer, I will read it all over again. It was:
"In this matter I act in Northern Ireland in pursuance of an express warrant in writing under the hand of the Governor who acts on the advice of the Government of Northern Ireland. The warrant is issued under the prerogative power at common law"
On a point of order. Is it not out of order to indulge in idle repetition, which this seems to be?
Would it not be in order for my hon. Friend to refer the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) to the answer given to his previous Question?
That course could be followed by the hon. Gentleman.
Then I will refer the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) to the answer I have already given.
Is not this another injustice to Ireland?
On a point of order. I have not been able to put a supplementary question on this point.
I allowed the hon. Gentleman to put a supplementary question on the previous Question, and this is an exactly identical answer. The hon. Gentleman asked a very long supplementary question.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General at which villages or hamlets in the Hexham division the rural district council's association have recommended to him the erection of telephone kiosks during the next 12 months; and when he hopes to be able to provide a kiosk at Settlingstones, near Hexham.
My inquiries suggest that there may have been some misunderstanding regarding the list of recommended kiosks in this area. The position is under discussion with the county branch of the Rural District Councils' Association. As soon as my inquiries are complete I will write to my hon. Friend.
Can my hon. Friend say when Settlingstones will get a kiosk? Does he realise that this place is three miles from the nearest kiosk, that there is no public transport service, and that the nearest doctor and nurse are more than eight miles away? Does he, in general, appreciate that telephone kiosks are very much more necessary in rural districts than in urban areas? Will he give rural districts priority over urban areas?
The location of rural kiosks is made after discussion with the Rural District Councils' Association. I cannot say offhand whether the specific place to which my hon. Friend refers is in next year's list, but I would remind the House that a very large number of rural kiosks has been provided in the past three or four years.
Exchanges And Distribution Network
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will give representative figures for the cost of a post-war telephone exchange and, separately, the cost of the distribution network, together with an indication of the capital investment required for each subscriber connected.
I can give my hon. Friend the cost of any particular post-war exchange he may name, but I cannot produce any "representative figure" since the cost of an exchange varies with its size and type. It also depends on whether the exchange serves a complete area or is one of a group serving a highly developed area and on whether or not it is a trunk operating centre. Distribution networks are added to, not replaced, on the opening of a new exchange; and here again the cost varies widely according to the number and location of spares available in the existing cables.
asked the Assistant Postmaster - General why cheques, value £32 13s. 4d., in settlement of a telephone account by Mr. W. E. K. Webb, Hopton Court, Alfrick, Worcestershire, such cheques being posted in a letter from Anglesey on 8th November, 1951, were not received at the Birmingham telephone manager's office until 10th January, 1952; why the telephone manager cut off Mr. Webb's telephone in the interim; why the original cheques were discovered in the General Post Office system immediately Mr. Webb issued further cheques; whether he is aware of the defamation of the subscriber's character, resulting from the disconnection of the telephone service; and what steps he will take to prevent, in the future, injury to the reputation of a subscriber arising from such mistakes in his Department.
My noble Friend very much regrets the mistakes, and feels that a full public apology is due to Mr. Webb, which he has asked me to make. This unfortunate occurrence was due to the original letter from Mr. Webb going astray in the post.It was because payment of Mr. Webb's account had not been received by the telephone manager that outgoing service was suspended on 19th November, in accordance with standard procedure. Service was restored on 20th November as soon as Mr. Webb explained that he had sent cheques by post on 8th November. Although I am glad to say that this unfortunate incident is practically the only one of its kind which has come to the notice of Post Office headquarters for many years, I am making investigations to see what further action can be taken by the Post Office to prevent such an occurrence. The letter containing the original cheques was not received by the telephone manager until 10th January, but after full inquiry it has not been possible to establish how the letter was mis-sorted and delayed.
Wireless And Television
14 and 15.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) if he will make a further statement on the erection of the small power station at Pontop Pike.(2) if he will make a further statement on the question of a separate wavelength for the North-East.
There is no immediate prospect of a television station at Pontop Pike so long as the restrictions on capital investment remain. So far as sound broadcasting is concerned, the number of medium waves allotted to this country is not sufficient to permit the use of a separate one for the North-East coast. My noble Friend has recently reexamined the whole question and has announced that this area will receive priority both for a television station and for a very high frequency sound station as soon as the economic situation of the country permits.
With reference to Question 15, has the Assistant Postmaster-General given consideration to the point I made to him on Monday—whether Stagshawe could radiate on 434 metres?
That is one of the wavelengths which is no longer available to this country.
Is the Minister aware that his noble Friend refused the courtesy of giving that answer to a number of hon. Members who requested a meeting with him as far back as 6th December last year?
There is another Question on the Order Paper about that, but I can deal with that point now. My noble Friend did nothing of the sort. He invited a number of Labour Members to meet him and they ref used to do so unless they could meet him alone. He has still offered to meet them alone, and that offer is still open if the hon. Members wish to take advantage of it.
Is the Minister aware that his noble Friend made it a condition that Members of Parliament should tag on to the back end of a local authority deputation before he would meet them, and that he stated categorically that he refused to meet them separately until after the local authority deputation had been met—and then he would only meet them to talk over matters and not to discuss questions of policy?
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is quite misinformed—or rather, he is not misinformed, because he has the letter. The truth is that it was not Members of this House who first asked my noble Friend to meet them; it was members of local authorities, as early as last September. My noble Friend has said quite categorically that he is willing to meet Members of this House and the local authorities, but the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Ewart) and his hon. Friends did not choose to accept that invitation.
On a point of order. Is it in order for my hon. Friend to answer my Question in reply to a supplementary question from the other side of the House?
As this is a matter of interest to the North-East, in which I happen to be interested, may I ask the Minister whether he will not agree that it is customary and traditional in this House, if hon. Members wish to see a Minister, for that Minister ordinarily to see them without their having to be associated with any other body, however interested that body may be? Will he not agree that this is the usual custom?
I am aware that this is the usual custom and it is exactly the custom my noble Friend was prepared to follow. He has invited hon. Members from both sides to meet him, but hon. Members from the other side of the House did not want to go with anybody else and so my noble Friend said he would be quite happy to meet them separately, and he is still prepared to do so.
Do I understand that if I wish to see the Minister's noble Friend in any matter affecting the interests of my constituents, and if he insists that he can only see me when I am in company with somebody else, then I am bound to do as he says?
My noble Friend made no such stipulation. His offer to meet the Labour Members of Parliament, including, we hope, the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), is still open.
Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a matter of concern in Northern Ireland? Might not a way out of my hon. Friend's difficulties, and out of all the trouble, be to put the transmitter at Stagshawe on the same wavelength as Holme Moss and give us our own frequency in Northern Ireland, solving all the trouble there?
I am given to understand that that is not practically possible. It would produce what is known as a mush area in Durham county.
Was not it showing extreme discourtesy to Members of this House when the hon. Gentleman's noble Friend agreed to meet Labour Members, when that meeting was postponed—
And Conservative Members, as well.
—and the meeting was postponed as a consequence of the King's death; and when, after that time, a request was made by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) and local authorities to meet the Minister, the Minister, instead of renewing the date when Labour Members should meet him, attempted to compel the Labour Members to meet him along with the Conservatives and local authority representatives? Is not that extremely discourteous to the House, to say the least?
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should read the correspondence between my noble Friend and the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, before he makes such a statement. I think if that correspondence were released to the Press, the conclusions which his constituents would reach would be that the hon. Gentleman and his Friends were far more pernickety about their own dignity than they were about the welfare of their constituents.
In view of the misrepresentation of the facts which the Assistant Postmaster-General has given, supported by the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward), would he not agree to consult with the Leader of the House in order to allow a day on which we might discuss this matter and have it fully thrashed out?
That is no concern of mine.
On a point of order. Is it in order for a Minister, when Members exercise their traditional rights, to refer to those rights in contemptuous terms?
Order. I wish hon. Members in all parts of the House, whether they are Ministers or not, would leave out of their answers and questions terms of a contemptuous and wounding nature. I am bound to say that in my experience in the House that Rule is frequently transgressed.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General for how long listeners in the North-East are likely to continue to be obliged to share a sound broadcasting wavelength with listeners in Northern Ireland.
The only hope of a solution to the present difficulties lies in the introduction of very high frequency sound broadcasting. The time when that will be possible depends on the national economic position. My noble Friend has, however, announced that this area will have priority for a very high frequency sound station when the situation permits.
Will the hon. Gentleman advise his noble Friend to discuss this matter with Labour Members of Parliament from the North-East Coast?
I can assure the hon. Member that my noble Friend will be delighted to do so.
Will my hon. Friend reconsider his decision to give this area priority in the event of very high frequency coming into use, because East Anglia at present has either to have the Midland or the Home Service, neither of which is really interesting from a regional point of view?
My noble Friend is convinced that when something can be done the North-East Coast should have priority.
Would it not be possible in the meantime to give to other regions the privilege of sharing a wavelength and give theirs to Northern Ireland and the North-East Coast?
There is no satisfactory way out of this, with the shortage of wavelengths, except on the V.H.F. system.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General who were invited by his noble Friend to meet him on 18th March to discuss the lack of television facilities and the disadvantages of the shared wavelength on the North-East coast, and who refused to accept the invitation.
My noble Friend invited hon. Members for the constituencies and representatives of the local authorities in the area to a joint meeting. He regrets that members of the Northern Group of Labour Members of Parliament did not accept this invitation to a joint meeting.
Will my hon. Friend be good enough to publish the correspondence in the OFFICIAL REPORT? IS my hon. Friend aware that all this attack on his noble Friend has developed because Durham County Council did not wish to be associated with the other local authorities in their representations to his noble Friend?
I think we have spent quite enough time on this subject this afternoon. All I can reiterate is that my noble Friend will be only too pleased to meet Labour, or any other, Members of Parliament on this subject.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply to the Question, and the fact that I have been unable to put a supplementary question, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment on the first opportunity.
Licences (Deaf And Dumb People)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will make available television licences to deaf and dumb people at the reduced rate of £1 per year, in view of the fact that broadcasting licences are granted at concessionary rates to the blind.
My noble Friend regrets that he cannot agree to make this concession.
Why not? If it is a question of cost, what is the estimated cost to the Post Office, or the Treasury? If it is a question of organisation and finding out the numbers, will my hon. Friend consult the Minister of Health, who probably has the figures?
Representations have been made from time to time on behalf of many deserving people, old age pensioners, the bedridden, disabled, deaf and dumb, etc., but the attitude taken by successive Governments has been that they have regretted they could not make these concessions.
Grand National Commentary
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the amount spent by the Post Office in installing, testing and preparing lines and apparatus in anticipation of the British Broadcasting Corporation's request for facilities for broadcasting a commentary on the Grand National Steeplechase on 5th April next.
The cost of the preliminary work at the Aintree racecourse in preparation for a broadcast is about £12, which will be paid by the B.B.C.
Is it not now perfectly clear that there are neither technical nor financial reasons for this broadcast not taking place? Will my hon. Friend therefore discuss with his noble Friend and with those responsible for the conduct of the affairs of the B.B.C. an approach to this matter from the aspect of the public interest in the hope that a satisfactory arrangement can be worked out between a willing buyer and a willing seller, as a result of which we may get the broadcast which everyone wants?
As I have explained, the Post Office have no responsibility in this matter, although, as I have said, I think everyone will regret it if the broadcast does not take place.
Is not the hon. Gentleman of the opinion that the lady who is stopping this broadcast deserves the censure of the public?
Is my hon. Friend aware that the imputation in a remark made a moment ago is entirely contrary to evidence which is readily available to the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) in the history of the negotiations which have gone on so far on this matter, and that it is entirely improper for him to say that sort of thing?
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what action he is proposing to take in regard to the temporary British Broadcasting Corporation's Charter which expires in June.
The Government have the future of broadcasting under review, and when their proposals are ready a White Paper will be issued for the consideration of Parliament.
In view of the very short period between now and the time of the expiration of the present agreement, can the Minister say when this White Paper is likely to be issued?
I am afraid that at this juncture I can give no estimate of the date.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), is quite right. Knowing that the time is getting very, very close under that six months arrangements, surely the Minister can say when this White Paper will be laid. Are the Government still muffling along when they do not know—[HON. MEMBERS: "A contemptuous term."] That is a very different thing from saying that Parliament has no right to any sense of dignity. The Government postponed the matter of the Charter for six months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] I want to know when the Government are going to act, because the time is getting very close. Surely we ought to know when the Charter will be produced. I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell the House this and not keep us hanging about merely because a quarrel is on with the Tory Central Office.
I cannot add to what I have said in answer to the supplementary question.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, who is treating the House with persistent disrespect, when we can be informed when this matter, which is becoming one of great urgency, will be dealt with?
I cannot say anything more in regard to the date of the publication of the White Paper than I have said already.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if, in view of the reduced requirement of the Foreign Office for broadcasting channels, he will now allocate a channel for the broadcasting of meteorological information, along the lines of the former Airmet broadcasts.
The B.B.C. is not proposing to give up from its overseas services any wavelength suitable for reception in this country. If such a wavelength became available, the improvement of reception of the B.B.C. home programmes would have the first claim upon it.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it was repeatedly stated that the only reason why such a channel could not be made available for this service was because of the requirements of the Foreign Office for their overseas service, and as that service has now been reduced can he make a channel available?
The Foreign Office services are being reduced, but the reduction is not such as to enable them to provide us with a wavelength.
Will my hon. Friend nevertheless give serious consideration to the early re-introduction of the Airmet service on this or some other wavelength?
We cannot do that without a wavelength.
Why not get one?
Is there any reason why the Third Programme wavelength should not in non-programme hours be available for this purpose?
If the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a Question, I will give him a specific answer to that point.
Sporting Events (Copyright)
asked the Assistant Postmaster - General whether, in the renewing of the British Broadcasting Corporation's charter, he will arrange for the British Broadcasting Corporation to hand over the copyright of sporting events, after limited use, to the promoters of such events.
The question whether a copyright in such events should be established is at present being examined by the Copyright Committee appointed by the Board of Trade, and I cannot anticipate its findings.
Will my hon. Friend use his good offices to help to bring about an agreement between the B.B.C. and the owners of Liverpool racecourse in order that the public may not be denied the opportunity of hearing a commentary on the Grand National, which, after all, is one of the greatest sporting events of the year?
I know that there will be very great disappointment, both at home and overseas, if it is not possible to broadcast the Grand National, but I am afraid that the point to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers does not fall within my competence.
Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that before any definite arrangements are made in regard to the new Charter the House will have some opportunity of making its views known, as there is considerable apprehension in the country that all the backdoor negotiations about sponsored programmes might completely alter the complexion of the B.B.C.?
On a point of order. May I have an answer to my perfectly legitimate question?
That is not in my power to elicit. I allowed ample time for an answer to be given.
Further to that point of order. Is it not regrettable that the Assistant Postmaster-General has this afternoon consistently treated the House with the utmost discourtesy?
That is not a point of order.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when it is proposed to open a television studio to serve Scotland.
No plans have yet been made to provide television studios outside London, but outside broadcasts from Scotland will be included in the television programme.
Will the hon. Gentleman endeavour to persuade the B.B.C. to develop as speedily as possible a television newsreel service for Scotland?
That is outside the Question which the hon. Member has on the Order Paper.
Further to the point about a television studio in Scotland, would it be possible to make more use of Scottish talent not only for Scotland but also for the general service from London?
The selection of talent by the B.B.C. is a matter for the B.B.C. and not for me.
Royal Air Force
Office, Andover (Refurnishing And Redecoration)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what was the cost of the work recently carried out in refurnishing and redecorating the commander-in-chief's office at Amport House, near Andover.
The cost of redecorating and refurnishing this office, which is also used for conferences, was £605.
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that that is excessive expenditure for redecorating and refurnishing one office in times when we are all urged to be economical? Is he aware that door handles were fitted at a cost of more than £3 a pair, that electrical brackets which cost more than £15 a pair and one chandelier which cost £39 were fitted and that the library was redecorated with varnish and gilt at a cost of £300. Is not this excessive?
The main expenditure was, of course, in the purchase of furniture that was bought from the Ministry of Works and was in accordance with the Ministry of Works' scale for office furniture for administrative staff.
If that is the scale, ought not the scale to be cut?
Can my hon. Friend say when the work was taken in hand, and when it was undertaken?
Yes, it was ordered on 15th December.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary assure us that with the money expended the place has been made really comfortable?
I should like to assure the House that we are keeping a very careful eye on expenditure.
Miners (Release Applications)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many Royal Air Force personnel have applied for release from the Royal Air Force, in order to return to the coal-mines, in the period from 1st October, 1951, to 29th February, 1952; and how many of these men held rank higher than corporal.
Under a limited scheme applicable only to certain categories of National Service men in the Royal Air Force, 22 airmen applied for release during the period in question: 13 of these have so far been released. Airmen above the rank of corporal are not eligible.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the tremendous shortage of manpower in the pits, which is being intensified by the refusal of the miners to have Italians in, and will he use his influence to extend the scheme so that all ex-miners are released from the Forces?
England—New Zealand Race (Official Entry)
asked the Under-Ssecretary of State for Air what proposals there are for an official Royal Air Force entry in the England to New Zealand air race in 1953.
The question of an official Royal Air Force entry in the England—New Zealand Air Race in 1953 is at present under consideration.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the very great international prestige which will be attached to the outcome of this race, and concentrate on getting a good British aircraft?
Brabazon I Aircraft
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if he has considered the request from the British European Airways for the use of the Brabazon I for service between this country and France during the tourist season; and what was his reply.
This request is still under discussion with the Ministry of Supply and British European Airways, but it is apparent from a preliminary investigation that the cost and technical difficulties of converting this aircraft to passenger use are considerable, and that its early introduction to commercial service is impracticable.
Is the hon. Member aware that it is possible to convert this plane to carry 180 passengers a day from here to France, and would not the revenue help to recoup the money spent both on the plane and the runway?
As I have informed the hon. Member, the matter is now under discussion on an inter-Departmental basis between the Ministry of Supply and British European Airways. These discussions will be concluded as soon as possible.
International Site, County Durham
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if he is in a position to make a statement as to the future possibility of an international airport being established at Boldon, County Durham.
No, Sir, but the site is being safeguarded against surface development which might prejudice its use as an international airport at some future time.
While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he or his noble Friend will keep in mind the industrial and economic importance of the North-East, and the absence of such facilities as are asked for in the Question? Furthermore, can we hope for better treatment from the remote control in the House of Lords than we have had from the Postmaster-General on other matters?
With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, which is the only relevant part, all these matters are considered.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is, so far as I am aware—I am open to correction—the only point in the country where there is no provision for air travel, and could not that matter be corrected?
The right hon. Gentleman is misinformed. Tyneside is served by Woolsington Aerodrome and Tees-side by West Hartlepool Aerodrome, which are both in that area.
Is not it also a fact that neither of these two airports is capable of the development required for a civil airport for the future?
As the hon. Member was the Parliamentary Secretary in this Department during the previous Administration, he will be able to explain his lack of action in the matter.
Australian Citizens (Uk Passports)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that an Australian citizen domiciled in this country and married to an English wife is unable to obtain a British passport to accompany his family on foreign journeys without surrendering his Australian nationality; and if he will take steps to remove this anomaly which gives pain to loyal Commonwealth subjects domiciled in this country.
An Australian citizen who has been ordinarily resident in this country for one year can apply for registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and so become eligible to hold a United Kingdom passport.The Australian Citizenship Act, however, provides that an Australian citizen who acquires the nationality or citizenship of a country other than Australia shall thereupon cease to be an Australian citizen. This applies to the United Kingdom, in which case an Australian's status as a British subject is not, however, affected. The hon. Gentleman will therefore see that it is Australian and not United Kingdom law which lays down the circumstances in which Australian citizenship is lost.
May I take it from the very courteous answer given by the right hon. Gentleman that he recognises that this is a matter of particular difficulty in our relationship with the Australian Commonwealth, and will he try to devise, in consultation with the Australian authorities, some machinery under which our Commonwealth friends can at least have the appearance of some preference when living in this country, as compared with aliens who have no ties of blood with us?
I feel exactly as the hon. Gentleman feels, which is why I revised the original draft of this reply. It really is not a matter in which we are the authority. This is Australian law, and all I can do for the hon. Gentleman is to expound Australian law. What we can say, and what I have said, is that in any event the status of Australians in this country as British subjects is not in any circumstances affected.
I merely wish to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that his appearance at the Box is the first display of good temper we have had from the Front Bench opposite today.
I am sorry I was not here yesterday.
Germany (Neo-Nazi Parties)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further steps he is taking, in conjunction with the other occupying Powers, to prevent the emergence of new Nazi parties in Germany.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) on 25th February.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can confirm a story, which has had fairly wide currency, to the effect that the Soviet are already paying £85 a month to the family of Major-General Remer while he is in gaol and that the Soviet have also made money available to Fritz Roessler, alias Frans Richter, the former Nazi leader, to the extent of £765 down and £60 a week for his wife and family in the event of his sudden death?
I am afraid I have no information about what my hon. Friend has said. Perhaps he would be good enough to put a Question on the Order Paper.
Will the Minister try to make it clear that the best way to prevent a revival of Nazism in Germany is to assist in the development of the democratic parties and institutions? Will he also make it clear that the recent elections in Germany have shown that the German people themselves are now capable of keeping the new Nazi party under control.
Overseas Broadcasts (Jamming)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a statement with regard to the Government's decision about meeting the cost of the measures necessary to counter the jamming of the British Broadcasting Corporation's foreign transmission by Cominform countries.
Yes, Sir. These measures will be carried out and will not—repeat "not"—be financed at the expense of existing services.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the decision of the Government in this respect will be widely welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House as a firm demonstration that Great Britain is not prepared to permit her right of free speech on the air to be curtailed by any foreign Power?
The essential is that this jamming practice must be met with anti-jamming efforts on our part which will not be allowed to affect our general broadcasting service.
Will this now entail another Supplementary Estimate?
If the hon. and gallant Member wishes to know how this is to be financed, perhaps he will await the debate which is to take place shortly.
Civil Servants (Overseas Allowances)
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
42. Mr. DRIBERG: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why children's allowances payable to civil servants serving overseas cease when the children are 15 years of age in the case of civil servants in Branch D, though they are paid until the children are 18 years of age if the parent is in one of the higher grades of the Service; and if he will take steps to remove this discrimination.
I will accept a written reply to save time.
I would rather give an oral reply.This question is now under discussion with staff representatives. The existing Regulations were laid down by the late Government.
British Subject, France (Detention)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will inquire into the circumstances under which a British subject, Miss Roberta Simpson, was detained in a French gaol for seven days, and was subjected to indignities inconsistent with accepted procedure; and what steps were taken to inform the British Consul of Miss Simpson's arrest.
I received a full report from Her Majesty's Consul at Nantes about this case on 24th March. Miss Simpson, who entered France on 3rd August, 1951, was arrested at Azay le Rideau on 18th March on the charge of not possessing the permit required by all foreigners whose stay in France exceeds three months. Her Majesty's Consul was informed of the arrest by the French authorities in a letter dated 19th March, and at once made appropriate inquiries. Miss Simpson was brought to trial on 25th March, sentenced to seven days' imprisonment and immediately released. I have no information about the indignities to which my hon. Friend refers but if she will give me particulars, I will look into the matter further.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he will call for the newspaper report in last Sunday's "Sunday Dispatch" in which the lady concerned writes of her experiences? Would he then take steps to make representations to the French authorities on the subject?
The lady concerned made no kind of representations either to the consul at the time or to anyone else. If I receive any authoritative information from any source, I will gladly look into it, but on the facts there is no case for such an inquiry.
Trieste (London Talks)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the official talks on Trieste which are taking place in London.
Yes, Sir. As has already been announced, Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government have agreed to examine jointly with the Italian Government arrangements in zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste with a view to reaching a closer collaboration in the zone amongst themselves and with the local authorities in the spirit of the friendly relations which unite them in the Atlantic Alliance. The talks are expected to begin in London in a day or two.I am glad of this opportunity to make it clear that these talks will be solely concerned with administrative arrangements in zone A, which is under Anglo-American military government, and that there is no question of discussing the future of the Free Territory as a whole. As regards this wider issue, Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to see a solution of the whole Trieste problem. It is our view that this can best be brought about by direct conversations between the Italian and Yugoslav Governments. We have done our best to encourage such conversations for some months past.
While appreciating the Foreign Secretary's reply, and the fact that this is a matter for Anglo-American co-operation, might I ask him whether Yugoslavia will be allowed to participate in these talks at the appropriate time, in view of their interest in the Slovene and other minorities in zone A?
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he put his question. Of course, the Yugoslav Government will be informed of the progress of these discussions; but what we are actually dealing with is a purely administrative problem, as the hon. Gentleman understands, within this zone. I think we must get ahead with it on this more limited basis, but I have undertaken to keep the Yugoslav Government informed of the progress we make—at least, I hope that there will be some progress to inform them about.