House Of Commons
Wednesday, 9th April, 1952
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Essex County Council Bill (By Order)
Read a Second time, and committed.
Tyne Improvement Bill Lords (By Order)
Second Reading deferred till Thursday 24th April.
Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Falmouth) Bill
Read a Second time, and committed.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what are the reasons for the slow progress being made on the completion of the Sale telephone exchange; and if he will, in the interests of economy, proceed with the installation work more quickly in view of the fact that additional expenses are often occasioned by leisurely rates of construction and installation.
The building is now complete and installation of equipment should begin this month. All the work on this exchange is proceeding as quickly as possible.
Does my hon. Friend realise how grateful my constituents will be for the most excellent improvement in the speed with which this exchange is being completed?
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what number of applications for telephones he has received since October last from Bristol; and how many have been supplied.
One thousand, seven hundred and thirty applications were received, and 1,414 telephones have been supplied.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will arrange for telephone kiosks to be installed on the new housing estate at Merstham, Surrey.
One kiosk will be provided as soon as a site is agreed upon with the local authority. New cables are required before other kiosks can be provided.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many separate telephones and how many shared lines have been installed in The Hartlepools telephone district since 30th October, 1951.
The reply is, 63 exclusive lines and 85 shared lines.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many applications for telephone installations were outstanding in The Hartlepools telephone district on 1st April, 1952.
There were 225 on the waiting list, and 75 were being provided or were under inquiry.
Kiosks, Glasgow (Damage)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will state the extent of damage to telephone kiosks caused by vandalism in Glasgow in the past 12 months; and the cost of repairing the same.
In the past 12 months there were 393 cases of damage to the structure or equipment of kiosks in Glasgow, costing £1,653 to repair. In addition 7,000 panes of glass were broken, costing £1,170 to replace.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider schemes which could reduce some of this harm in Glasgow, and save the expense? Surely there is some way of dealing with this trouble and of saving the expense?
It is a very serious state of affairs, and we shall be grateful for any help given to us by anyone to help to cure it.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider a scheme if I put it before him?
Will the hon. Gentleman approach the Secretary of State for Scotland to see whether education authorities could do something to bring this matter to the notice of the children?
That, in fact, has been done, but the education authorities are rather reluctant to give too many lectures on this subject—they have been asked to do so by many authorities—because they do not believe that this mischief is primarily done by the children.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that putting ordinary glass in these kiosks is quite unsuitable in some areas where these incidents repeatedly occur? Would he consider putting in cube glass—thick panes—that can stand up to wear and tear?
That is one of the matters now being considered—to what extent it is possible to strengthen these kiosks—but what one would like to see is a cessation of this wanton damage.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the latest total of outstanding applications for telephones at the Brixton exchange; and what were its figures for the corresponding dates in 1951 and 1950.
1,500 at 31st March, 1952. At the corresponding dates in 1951 and 1950 the numbers were 1,213 and 999.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this, as is the case in so many other respects, shows the steady deterioration there has been since the present Administration and he himself took over?
If the hon. Gentleman waits for the answer to the next Question, he may not be so pessimistic about the present Administration.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the deterioration started in 1950, and probably a good deal earlier?
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many new telephone subscribers were connected to the Brixton exchange during the past six months; and how many he estimates will be granted during the next six months.
There were 176 connected during the last six months. The estimate for the next six months is 110, but the rate of connection should be substantially increased towards the end of this year, when the work of extending the exchange is completed.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am still very pessimistic as a result of the answer that he has just given? Will he, perhaps, consider circulating this Question and answer to all the outstanding applicants for connection to the Brixton exchange?
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when Mrs. Haddon, 268, Essex Road, who has been waiting for a telephone for four years, may expect to receive one.
I regret that a date cannot at present be given. A new cable is required, but because of many urgent commitments elsewhere, and the general limitation on capital development, it is not possible to undertake this work at present.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that four years is a very long time to wait? Will he do his best to expedite this case, about which there are special circumstances?
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be able to put on the telephone immediately all those who have been waiting four years or more.
On a point of order. Is it not an abuse of Question time to put a Question like No. 35 down, considering that there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been waiting more than four years?
Further to that point of order. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that Questions of this type were repeatedly put down to his predecessor, and that, if any abuse has occurred, it occurred in those days?
In answer to the point of order, the Question is in order. There may well have been special circumstances about this case of which I am unaware.
Wireless And Television
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many television licences had been taken out in Scotland by 1st April, 1952.
Twelve thousand five hundred and sixty on 31st March.
Will the Minister not agree that this disposes of the facetious and unworthy statements in some London newspapers that the Scots have been having their television sets without buying licences?
I am not yet in a position to say to what extent licences have been taken out compared with the number of sets sold in Scotland.
Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that the number of sets bought would be greatly increased if he could persuade the Scottish local authorities to waive some of the many too stringent regulations which they have made for the erection of aerials?
Does the Minister think it fair that the Scots should be criticised for not immediately taking out licences when they are surely entitled to see if their sets are working? Would the hon. Gentleman convey something of the gratitude that some of us feel towards the engineers in Scotland for the absolutely perfect reception which we are getting?
I can assure the hon. Lady that my remarks were not meant to be taken too seriously, and certainly did not refer to Scotland in particular.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how much of the county of Dorset will be covered by the new television station at Wenvoe.
The B.B.C. expects that the whole of Dorset will be covered by the high-power television transmitter at Wenvoe. Reception should be satisfactory throughout the county, but in those parts more remote from the transmitter it will depend to a greater extent on the use of a suitably placed directional receiving aerial and freedom from interference. At first, transmissions will be started on lower power, and this will mean that reception will be more subject to interference particularly in the southern half of the county.
Is my hon. Friend aware that that reply will be appreciated very much in the county, and is he further aware that we hope he will soon be able to put the transmission on high power, because the people of Dorset have made a great contribution towards the life of this country?
7 and 8.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) if he will consider transferring the present low-power transmitter from Kirk o'Shotts to Pontop Pike as soon as the high-power transmitter has been installed at Kirk o'Shotts; and if he will make a statement thereon;(2) if he will consider transferring the low-power transmitter from Wenvoe to Pontop Pike when the high-power transmitter has been installed; and if he will make a statement thereon.
The difficulty of establishing a television service from Pontop Pike does not lie in the provision of a low-power transmitter, since one could be made available in due course from one of the high-powered stations. The other capital investment involved such as a suitable building, a high mast and other equipment, cannot yet be approved and I regret, therefore, that I cannot add anything at present to the statement I made in reply to the hon. Member on 2nd April.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will give an estimate of the cost of the transfer of a redundant low-power television transmitter from Wenvoe or Kirk o'Shotts to Pontop Pike.
The cost of dismantling and reassembling a low-power television transmitter would be about £3,000, but this would be only a comparatively small part of the total cost in erecting a transmitter station.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when he provides television equipment for the North-East, he will get considerably more revenue from it than he seems to be getting from Scotland?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the low-power transmission is already giving very great satisfaction in Scotland? Can he give any idea when this will become redundant through the introduction of the new transmitter?
The trouble is not the actual transmitter but what goes with it. It requires a steel mast, it requires buildings and it requires a lot of other things as well as television receiving sets. These are the factors which prevent us from putting up this transmitting set, and not the cost of the low-power transmitter itself or the cost of removing it from somewhere else.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what practical difficulties prevent the transfer of a redundant low-power television transmitter to Pontop Pike.
There would be no practical difficulty in transferring a redundant transmitter to Pontop Pike when it is possible to undertake the other work required to provide a television service.
Taking into account the small amount of money involved, and the satisfaction which would be given to a great number of people, does not the Minister think it would be better if he could change his mind?
Nothing would give me greater pleasure, but it is not a small amount of money which is involved. The transmitter itself is a very small part of the total cost.
In view of the fact that Northern Ireland is the only region which has no television coverage whatever, will my hon. Friend resist these voluble and vocal attempts of other places to jump the queue?
A pledge has been given to the North-East Coast, and that pledge will be honoured.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many of the committees set up to deal with the problem of the emission of electromagnetic energy in relation to television interference have reported; and when he expects to be able to make the appropriate regulations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949.
Two, Sir. Regulations will be laid before the House as soon as possible but I regret that I cannot give a date at present.
Will the Regulations which are to be made deal with the emission of electro-magnetic energy from petrol-driven motorcars?
Could my hon. Friend say whether it is a fact that these Regulations have been made out but have been referred back to the Advisory Committee? When does he expect the committee's views upon them? Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a matter on which we have been trying to get some answer in this House from both him and the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson), who asked the Question, for some years?
The point is, as I explained last week, that the Advisory Committee have asked that the Regulations should be submitted to them. The reason for the delay in making these Regulations is the difficulty of defining a precise method of determining the degree of interference. I can assure both the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) and my hon. Friend that I hope there will be no undue delay in bringing them before the House.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, and when, to eliminate interference with television reception by power-driven boats.
The regulation dealing with power-driven boats will be the same one as that relating to new motorcars. My noble Friend has agreed that the Advisory Committee shall be consulted on the terms of the regulation, and when this has been done it will be laid before the House.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that people living in the vicinity of the area in which power boats are in action allege that the interference is much worse than that from any other form of electrical vehicle or other type of vehicle? Is he aware that these people are very annoyed because their pictures are suffering through very serious interference? I hope he will take note of this.
I can assure the House that we should very much like to get this matter settled as quickly as we can. I know there is a lot of misgiving about it.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is causing the delay in arriving at a decision in respect of a new agreement or charter being entered into with the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The only reason for the delay is that the Government wish to give adequate consideration to this very important matter.
Is the Minister aware that the House also wants to give adequate consideration to any proposal which the Government have to put forward? When is he likely to be able to give us the White Paper which was promised, so that we know what the Government's intentions are?
The House will have the opportunity for which the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), asks.
The late Government took nearly six months before a White Paper was laid before the House. This is a matter into which it would be most unwise to rush.
Is the hon. Gentleman telling the House that the Government are giving time for big business to bring pressure to bear in order to get commercial sponsoring?
That is a most ungenerous thought, if I may say so. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that there is not a word of truth in it.
Do I understand from that answer that the Government are not giving way to big business?
The Government are not giving way to anybody in this matter. The question is that they require adequate time before the White Paper is laid before the House. The late Government took nearly six months. This Government have taken only a short time.
Order. I have called the next Question, and the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) has asked it.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is being done to improve radio reception in West Cornwall.
I understand from the B.B.C. that they are making an extensive investigation into reception of the West Home Service programme in Cornwall to find out whether the strength of the signal can be increased. The main hope of improvement must, however, lie in the provision of very high frequency sound services when that is possible.
Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that a somewhat similar answer was given last July, and that we in Cornwall are very dissatisfied with the B.B.C. engineers and with the Post Office in this respect? Is he aware that we expect something better to be done at once? Cornwall is the most important county in England, and we shall not have a television service for a long time to come, so that we have every right to expect this research, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will pursue it further.
As Cornwall is a county which is dissatisfied with both the present Postmaster-General and the past one, it shows a fine sense of impartiality.
In view of the unsatisfactory answer that I have received, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the question on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
Sponsored Programmes (Application)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what representations have been received from organisations of large business firms for sponsored or commercial broadcasting.
One firm of advertising agents on behalf of five large industrial companies has recently applied for permission to provide sponsored television programmes.
Is my hon. Friend aware that on this side of the House we are getting sick and tired of these constant attacks on private enterprise business—[Interruption]—I have not finished—particularly in view of the abysmal failure of nationalised concerns? In the case of this problem of the future of the B.B.C., would it not be better to regard it solely from the point of view of the benefit of the public—rather than from that of the mildewed mentality of party politics?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the very strong objection to the idea of sponsored television up and down the country among people of all political views—except those who put private profit before public benefit?
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is also a large body of opinion throughout the country which believes, as regards television, that a certain number of commercial sponsored programmes would be a good thing?
I suggest to hon. Members of this House, including the Leader of the Opposition, that they wait until the White Paper is published.
We cannot debate this very wide issue now.
Government Departments (Telegram And Telephone Services)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what attempt has now been made to see that each Government Department is debited with the cost of telegram and telephone service provided by the Post Office; and what progress has been made in this connection since he took office.
I hope to make a statement on this subject shortly after Easter.
Post Box, Merstham
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will arrange for a post box to be installed on the new housing estate at Merstham, Surrey.
Yes, Sir as a matter of urgency.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what expense, due to the severance of contracts, will result from the decisions to start no new buildings this year.
I do not expect there will be any.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what was the profit on the issue of postal orders in 1951–52.
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of 19th March to the hon. Member for Abertillery (Rev. LI. Williams).
In view of that reply, will the hon. Gentleman take steps to withdraw the Post Office (Amendment) Bill, in view of the intention further to increase the poundage on postal orders, which already show a substantial profit; or will he approach one of his hon. Friends so that an Amendment may be put down to the Bill that it "be read this day six months"?
Far from there being a substantial profit, there is an estimated deficit of £130,000.
Defence Work (Cost)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the estimated cost of defence work falling on the Post Office Vote in 1952–53.
I am assuming that the hon. Member is referring to provision made in the Post Office Estimates for 1952–53 laid before the House in February and not to capital expenditure. The debt annuities for the year 1952–53 include a sum of about £600,000 in respect of work which has been specially carried out in connection with the present defence programme starting 1950–51. In addition to the debt redemption, there will, of course, also be a charge for maintenance, but since the plant is new, that should not be very large.
In view of that reply, will the hon. Gentleman approach his noble Friend with a view to the capital allocation for the Post Office being increased for the ensuing year?
The Question does not refer to the capital allocation. It refers to the Post Office Vote. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Order Paper, he will see that he has put down "Post Office Vote," using a capital V.
Birth Control Literature
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will introduce legislation to make it an offence to send literature on birth control by post to persons who have not requested the issue of such literature to them.
Is it not a fact that recently the Minister of Health made a statement about this matter? As literature of this kind is being sent through the post, is there nothing we can do about it?
This is a highly controversial question about which it would be necessary to lay before the House special legislation, which would not primarily be the concern of the Post Office.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the sending of this literature through the post causes annoyance and embarrassment to people who have not requested the delivery of such literature?
Private Mail (Opening And Detention)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General under what regulations made by his Department is censorship of private mail conducted in the United Kingdom.
There is no censorship of private mail in the United Kingdom. The conditions under which a postal packet can be opened or detained by the Post Office are specified in Sections 17, 18 and 56 of the Post Office Act, 1908, and in the Foreign Parcels (Customs) Warrant, 1885, and in the Foreign Postal Packets (Customs) Warrant, 1948, of which I am sending the hon. Member copies.
How many postal packets have been detained for inspection in Scotland during the last six months? Can the hon. Gentleman give us the corresponding figures for England and Wales and also for Northern Ireland?
The hon. Gentleman had better put that question down.
On a point of order. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a question which I could not get put down? Is he going to address himself—
Order. If the question was out of order when tendered at the Table, it is equally out of order as a supplementary question.
Further to that point of order. Is it, then, proper Ministerial practice for the hon. Gentleman to incite me to put down a Question that is out of order?
I do not know that there was much incitement about it.
Air Mail (Carriage Rates)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General in what way the rate paid by his Department for the carriage of air mail varies from the international rate agreed by the Universal Postal Union.
The internationally agreed rates are maximum figures and apply only where a postal administration uses a foreign air line. So far as first-class mails of United Kingdom origin are concerned, rates paid for the use of foreign carriers vary from 2.43 to 5.25 gold francs per tonne-kilometre, according to the route and carrier. The rates paid to British carriers vary from the sterling equivalent of 2.9 to 5.32 gold francs per tonne-kilometre.
Can the hon. Gentleman say how that rate compares with the internal rate pound for pound per cargo?
Yes. It is, so far as B.O.A.C. is concerned, five-and-a-half times the freight rate, and so far as B.E.A. is concerned, two-and-a-half times the freight rate.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what rate is paid to British European Airways for mail on international services and on internal services respectively; and how these two rates compare with that paid to foreign airlines.
I assume that my hon. Friend refers to letter mails of United Kingdom origin. The rate paid to British European Airways is 132 pence per long ton/mile for international services; the rate paid to foreign air lines similarly to European destinations, is 3.0 gold francs per tonne-kilometre, equivalent to 137 pence per ton-mile. On internal services, British European Airways are the sole carrier; the rate paid varies on different routes, but is based on the freight rate, plus 33⅓ per cent.
Is the Minister aware that if British European Airways received payments equal to that paid to their foreign competitors by the Post Office, their revenue would be increased by over £60,000 a year? Why is this preference given to foreign airlines over British airlines?
Does the Assistant Postmaster-General realise that subsidising British airlines is consequently subsidising the Post Office?
Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that whereas this rate for air freight is higher than that for ordinary cargo, a priority is required for air freight which does not apply to ordinary cargo?
As indicated by these supplementary questions, there is very strong controversy on the question of whether or not British European Airways are subsidised by the Post Office or vice versa.
Is it not a fact that B.E.A. are making a profit on the present rates?
In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Royal Air Force
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many officers serving in the Royal Air Force of air rank are under 40 years of age.
I have been asked to reply.None, Sir.
Does not my hon. Friend think that this is a very highly unsatisfactory state of affairs, and does he realise that officers who held air rank during the war have gone back to being group captains for seven years? Will he not take a leaf out of the Army's book, where a major-general attained that rank at the age of 38? This is a young man's service and if we could get some younger men at the top, it might be possible to get better aircraft.
If my hon. and gallant Friend would look into the situation, he would find that promotion prospects in the Air Force are certainly not worse than in the other two Services.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that we have excellent precedents for youthful promotion in the Air Force?
During war promotion is always very much quicker.
May we have an assurance that the Under-Secretary of State for Air is all right?
My hon. Friend is ill.
I am sorry.
Uk-Based Staff (Overseas Service)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the number of home-based civil servants of his Department serving abroad in the clerical, executive and works group, including mechanical and electrical engineers, scientific, technical, draughtsmen and other categories, respectively.
As the answer consists of a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Could my hon. Friend indicate whether he considers the position to be satisfactory, or whether his Department is under-staffed or overstaffed in this respect? If it is overstaffed, does he hope to make reductions?
I do not think that the position of postings overseas is unsatisfactory at the present time.
Following is the table:
|AIR MINISTRY U.K. BASED STAFF SERVING ABROAD AS AT 1ST APRIL, 1952—|
|Mechanical and Electrical||28|
|Mechanical and Electrical||19|
|Mechanical and Electrical||102|
|Total staff (U.K. based) overseas||989|
London Airport (Bad Weather Alternate)
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if he can now make a statement about the development of a bad weather alternate to London Airport.
I presume the Question refers to the proposed development of Gatwick Airport as a bad weather alternate and as a base for some other air transport activities. I hope to be able to make a statement about this in the near future.
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that six months ago he said he was going to work fast in this and other matters? Can he say how near is the "near future"?
The hon. Member knows very well some of the difficult problems connected with this matter, which is being pressed on as fast as possible.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the important thing is to make London Airport an all-weather airport?
Will the hon. Gentleman also keep before him the claims of Prestwick as a Transatlantic air terminal?
As the hon. Member knows, so far as is possible, a good deal is being done there.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable apprehension with regard to the Gatwick proposal amongst the inhabitants of the new town of Crawley? Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that he will proceed slowly in order to avoid any unnecessary inconvenience and annoyance to people in that very important new town?
No, Sir, I could not give an assurance to proceed slowly. I will give an assurance that I will proceed with great care. My hon. Friend has brought the question of noise to my attention on several occasions.
Aircraft Insurance (Rome Meeting)
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation if the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation has announced the date of a meeting to complete the new convention on compulsory insurance of aircraft.
Yes, Sir. The meeting to complete the Convention on Damage caused by Foreign Aircraft to Third Parties on the Surface will open in Rome on 9th September.
Independent Operators (Aerodrome Facilities)
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation whether he will give an assurance that the facilities at Blackbushe Aerodrome are adequate for their regular use by Hermes aircraft.
The runways at Blackbushe are adequate for regular use by Hermes aircraft and the airport is equipped with suitable navigational aids. The passenger accommodation is being extended to deal with expected increases in traffic.
As long as the passenger-handling facilities are inadequate, will my hon. Friend consider allowing London Airport to be used for these aircraft.
I think the answer to that is covered by the hon. Member's next Question.
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation whether he will implement Section 16, subsection 3, of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, and allow Hermes aircraft operated by independent operators on scheduled operations to use London Airport until such time as an alternative airport with adequate facilities is available.
Section 16 (3) of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, deals with the facilities to be provided for charter and not scheduled services.As regards the second part of the Question, I will certainly consider any requests made by independent operators of scheduled services although, with the introduction of tourist travel, the facilities at London Airport are likely to be used to capacity in the future.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that specific pledges were given at the time of the passing of the Act of 1949, and that the previous two Governments have tried to wriggle out of those pledges.
I am examining these points very carefully.
Aerodrome, West Hartlepool
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation whether, in view of the fact that Boldon airport is no longer available for immediate use as an international airport and the fact that West Hartlepool airport is the only available airport to serve Tees-side, he will take steps to see that this airport is given all possible facilities, particularly designation and advertisement in the "Air Pilot," as an airport where Customs facilities are available on demand.
I regret that, in the absence of evidence of substantial overseas air traffic from West Hartlepool, I cannot agree to the designation of the aerodrome, but special arrangements have been made for the Customs clearance at West Hartlepool of the two regular international services expected to use it in 1952. The facilities at present available at West Hartlepool aerodrome are already recorded in the "Air Pilot."
Low Flying Aircraft, London
asked the Minister of Civil Aviation what circumstances have led to the recent marked increase in the number of large aircraft flying over the centre of London at low altitude, even at times when the wind was not along the east-west runway at Heath Row; and what is the identity and purpose of the De Havilland Rapide aircraft that frequently circles Westminster at about 1,000 feet.
I am unable to confirm the statements on which the Question is based. Generally speaking, there are fewer aircraft flying over the centre of London when the wind is in the east. If my hon. Friend cares to give me further information I shall be glad to investigate the matter.
Is my hon. Friend aware that this morning at 9.45 a Viking crossed over this House at about 2,000 feet going south-easterly, another one at 9.55, another one at 10.15, a D.C.6 at 10.25, a Viking at 10.40 going south-west and another Viking going south-east at 11 o'clock? If these were over Westminster, is not this the longest possible transit of London, for it entails about 40 miles of flying over built-up areas, and is not every one of these transits adding to the risk of another accident like the ones New York has had?
My hon. Friend's very interesting observations will certainly be noted with care and will be examined.
Bea Internal Services
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
59. MR. JOHN RANKIN,—To ask the Minister of Civil Aviation why he proposes to return British European Airways internal services to private enterprise, in view of the fact that the services are now being successfully operated.
At the end of Questions—
In view of the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon about the nationalised industries, and in view of the nature of my Question, which deals with much the same subject, could I ask permission from you, Mr. Speaker, to get the Minister to give a reply to my Question?
No, I am afraid not. I have not been asked by the Minister to facilitate him to give an answer.
asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in his investigations into the nationalised industries.
It is only gradually that the full results of the policy of nationalisation become apparent. The most noticeable case at present is, of course, in the sphere of transport, where severe increases in London Transport fares have taken place under the authority of a judicial body over which neither Her Majesty's Government nor the House of Commons have any control. Further heavy increases in railway passenger fares outside London are pending as the result of the decisions of the Tribunal.We intend to de-nationalise road haulage at the earliest possible moment. Details of the Government's intentions in this respect will be announced shortly after the Easter Recess. It was announced in the King's Speech on 6th November that a Bill would be introduced to annul the Iron and Steel Act with a view to the re-organisation of the industry under free enterprise and with an adequate measure of public supervision. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply amplified this on 12th November and said that the creation of an Iron and Steel Board, embracing the whole industry, would be an essential feature of the Government's proposals. Meanwhile he has given a direction to the Corporation not to alter the financial structure or management of the publicly-owned companies or to sell or dispose of the undertakings or securities without his consent. Serious increases in the cost of gas and electricity do not require any special comment by me today. Good results have been achieved in the coalfields.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain, for the benefit of the House, how the de-nationalisation of road transport can do anything to prevent the increase in railway fares?
If the Leader of the Opposition will look at the Question asked by the hon. Member, he will see that it was of a general character and dealt not merely with road transport but with the nationalised industries.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he had been present at the debate last night, he would know the difference between Conservative promises on generalities and their dealings with the particular? I was interested because I understand—and the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that all authorities on transport are agreed that if we are to keep the railways going they must be integrated with the road services. As he seems to have discovered a different way, I thought that perhaps he could throw some light on it.
As to the question of generalisations versus particularisations, as I said, the Question was in general terms; but a similar question might have been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman in former times as to whether, in regard to the solving of the housing problem, he and his party were not equally falsified by their performance.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, although it is quite true that the Question was a general one, the answer was particular?
I welcome the Prime Minster's statement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in so far as it may lead to the removal of some of the obstacles to cheaper transport, but will he give an assurance that he will protect the public against monopolies, whether private or public? Secondly, is he in a position to make any statement as to the steps which he may intend to take to give greater control to consumers and to Parliament over those industries which will remain nationalised?
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, in regard to the supplementary question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that in the Provinces, where there is competition, the cost of transport is considerably cheaper than it is in the London area?
Will the Prime Minister bear in mind when investigating these matters that there is a very large body of opinion in the country which believes that there was a considerable amount of sabotage in the nationalised industries by people who desired to bring them into disrepute in the country?
I do not think that there is any foundation for such an assumption. We, on the other hand, encountered a lot of difficulties in clearing up the mess which was made in regard to these industries. In reply to the first part of the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), it seems to me that, in regard to transport, the great thing is to meet the needs of the consuming public, while at the same time safeguarding the conditions of employment of the railwaymen.
May I ask the Prime Minister to read the last sentence of his reply again, as I gathered from that that the Government are convinced that the nationalisation of the coal mining industry has been a blessing and a boon to the country?
I have always thought that the men who do this hard manual work, with danger, and far from the light of the sun, should have special consideration, and I used these very words long before many of the hon. Gentlemen opposite were born, when introducing the miners' eight-hour day Bill.
This is becoming too large a question for discussion now.
Ministry Of Defence
Forces, Korea (Miners, Release)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether, in view of the increasing need for more miners, he will consider releasing from Her Majesty's Forces all miners with underground experience who were serving in Korea and the Far East last summer, and were not then allowed to apply for release, but are now repatriated.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence if he will cause it to be made known to all ranks in the three services that ex-miners who were serving in the Far East last year, and were therefore debarred from applying for release under the general scheme in order to return to the mining industry, may now apply for such release as individuals.
As I informed the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) last Wednesday, there is no question of reopening the general scheme.Steps are, however, being taken by the Service Departments to bring to the notice of all ranks that ex-miners who were debarred from applying for release from the Forces to return to the mines under last year's scheme because they were then serving in the Korean theatre may apply for release for this purpose on completion of their service in Korea.
Will the Minister make this generally known to these men because an injury was done to them in that they were serving their country and could not take advantage of the scheme; and, secondly, in view of the fact that his right hon. Friend, about a fortnight ago, said that there were nearly 12,000 vacancies in the mining industry, would not these men be of assistance to the mining industry, because they could go into productive work with very little training and at less cost than it takes to train trainees?
With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, the orders will go down in the ordinary way, and that has been arranged. The second part of the question involves re-opening the whole scheme, and that, as I have several times said, we are not prepared to do. We are not changing the policy of the last Government, and I think that it would be unreasonable to open the whole matter again.
Will the orders go down to these men in such a way that they understand that the Government realise that they should come back to the coal mines because they can render better service there than in the Forces?
Will the hon. Gentleman do his best to make sure that this information reaches all ranks, as very often there are deficiencies in information which filters through company orders and so on, as he well knows?
It will be done in the way that all these things are done. It will go through Army Council Instructions and so forth.
Imperial Defence College (Outside Lecturers)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence how many outside lecturers have been invited to speak at the Imperial Staff College in the past six months; and what were the subjects on which they spoke.
Thirty-seven outside lecturers addressed the students at the Imperial Defence College during the six months ending 31st March, 1952.Apart from those of a military nature, the talks covered the main aspects of national and international affairs.
Is it not a fact that Mr. Arthur Horner addressed the Imperial Staff College on Communism? While I appreciate the desirability of fostering friendly relations between officials in the various nationalised industries, can the Minister indicate the consistency in a policy which sends a man to instruct Army officers on Communism and which denies Mr. Edgar Young the use of naval uniform for propagating Communism?
One of the subjects studied at the Imperial Defence College is very naturally Communism and the cold war, and I imagine that it was thought, when this gentleman was asked to lecture there, it might be valuable to hear something, as it were, from the horse's mouth. This, in fact, is one of the obligations for which we are indebted to the late Government, because Mr. Horner has lectured there several times before.
Would the Minister invite Mr. Edgar Young to give a talk to the Navy?
Did Mr. Horner get paid for his services and, if so, how much?
Mr. Homer has been paid for his services, but it is not the usual custom to disclose the amount paid to individual lecturers.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence how much land is retained for training purposes by the three Service Departments in England, Wales and Scotland, respectively.
The following acreages of land are held for training purposes in England, Wales and Scotland respectively, either on freehold or on leasehold or requisitioned under Defence Regulation 51:
Does that include aerodromes?
Can my hon. Friend say what proportion is requisitioned?
Not without notice.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me why the ratio of retained land in Wales is so much higher than in either England or Scotland? Does he appreciate that there is great discontent in Wales because of the allocation of so much land for these and other Government purposes?
The hon. Gentleman will realise that it is very important not to take really good agricultural land for these purposes, and that is one reason why mountain regions tend to be used. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs has intervened in this matter and that the claims of Wales have been met to a very considerable extent.
Commonwealth Forces (Transfer Of British Personnel)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he will consider adjusting the present Regulations so that it is made easier for members of Her Majesty's British Forces wishing to transfer to the Forces of the Commonwealth to do so.
Applications from serving personnel of the British Forces to join Commonwealth Forces are considered on their merits. It must be borne in mind that we are doing our best at present to encourage men and women to stay in the United Kingdom Forces. The Commonwealth Governments have, however, been assisted on a number of occasions in recent years to recruit British ex-Servicemen into their Armed Forces.
Will my hon. Friend agree that it is particularly desirable that there should be interchangeability between these arms, and as these Forces are serving together in many theatres, could he see his way to remove the restrictions altogether?
There are frequent exchanges of personnel. This is rather a different question, that of recruiting into the Commonwealth Forces. My hon. Friend will realise that we have the interests of our own Forces to keep in mind.
Is my hon. Friend arranging for corresponding recruiting campaigns in Commonwealth countries to recruit men to the United Kingdom Forces?
No actual recruiting campaigns are going on, but we give assistance to ex-Regulars. I do not think that any general Commonwealth plan would be of very great value in this matter.
When the frequent exchanges of personnel, about which the hon. Gentleman speaks, take place, what happens about the widely differing scales of pay between the different Commonwealth Forces?
I cannot say without notice.
Ministry Of Food
Tea Ration (Increase)
asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the representations made by the tea trade to increase the tea ration from 2 ounces to 2½ ounces, he will now increase the ration.
asked the Minister of Food whether he is yet in a position to make a further statement about the de-control and de-rationing of tea.
The withdrawal of the subsidy on tea announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take effect from 15th June.The trade has undertaken that blends of sound quality tea will be on sale at 3s. 8d. a lb. in sufficient quantities to meet any foreseeable demand. This is the same as the present average price and only 4d. more than the present low priced tea. This means that although the subsidy is withdrawn the existing weekly ration of low priced tea will cost only ½d. more. Also, in view of the improvement in supplies the tea ration will be increased from 2 oz. to 2½ oz. a week from 10th August. This is a first step towards the complete de-control and de-rationing of tea, which I hope will be possible by the end of the year.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether that decision has been taken at the request of the tea trade and not in accordance with the general interests of the community?
That is a most extraordinary question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer it."] I will give the answer, as I always do. I take full responsibility—of course I do. This was in the national interest and was not done for any one section.
Does my right hon. and gallant Friend's encouraging reply mean that, in the case of the cheaper grades of tea, only 'half the present 8d. subsidy which is being removed will be passed on to the consumer, and that the trade will bear the rest?
Yes, Sir. That is so.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the housewives appreciate that cheap tea is always the most expensive in the end and that this is a trick which will not deceive them? Will he also read today's "Financial Times," which confirms everything I said last Monday, that this ration ought to have been increased weeks ago?
If the hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of looking through the figures for the time when he was at the Ministry, he will see that this might have been done about two years ago.
Has my right hon. and gallant Friend received any assurance from the exporting countries that they will not increase their export duties, and does his announcement mean that London will be permitted to re-export teas on the London market?
I should be very glad if my hon. Friend would put that question down.
How long does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman expect to take in replacing the present rationing system for all foods by this new price rationing system?
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory replies by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I beg to give notice that I shall take further steps to raise this matter at the earliest opportunity to explain to the House the full facts of the case.
asked the Minister of Food if he can now give the food items with increases affected by the Budget.
I cannot add to the reply which my hon. Friend gave to the hon. Lady on this subject on 24th March.
One commodity at least was mentioned in the announcement made earlier by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. Can he say whether the ½d. per week extra which he has announced is arrived at by comparing the highest prices with the lowest? If the highest price is 4s. 8d., and the lowest 3s. 8d., how does he arrive at a ½d. per week extra?
The average price is 3s. 8d., as I said in my answer to the last Question, and, as I pointed out, the actual increase on the lower-priced teas will be ½d. per weekly ration.
Is that on 2 oz.?
On 2 oz.
What will be the increase on the better grades of tea?
One can, of course, buy teas at very high prices. What will be happening is that those who are paying the higher prices for tea will be subsidising those who are paying the lower prices.
asked the Minister of Food what is the estimated amount of cheese which is expected to arrive from New Zealand during 1952.
The present estimate is 80,000 tons. But, as the hon. Member is aware, no very precise figure can be given so early in the year.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this is a serious reduction on last year's figures?
Certainly, Sir. That is one of the troubles we are up against. The dollar trouble has something to do with it; if it had been handled better we should not now have been in all this difficulty. The other trouble is the shortfall from New Zealand.