House Of Commons
Tuesday, 2nd February, 1954
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Civil Employment Act (Extended Service)
asked the Minister of Labour whether youths called up for National Service have their attention drawn to the fact that if they volunteer for a longer period of service they lose the protection of subsequent employment as provided by the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act.
:Under present arrangements this may not be done in every case, but I will introduce the necessary changes to ensure that it is.
:I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his answer, but is not statutory power required to make this compulsory?
No, Sir. We think that this is probably done in nearly every case. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for bringing it to our notice, and we shall make the slight necessary change in the directions for our own people to see that it is done.
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will introduce legislation to permit a National Serviceman, on registering for military service, to claim exemption on conscientious grounds where the person signing on has grounds to believe that on entering the forces he may be liable to corruption from the practice of homosexuality in the Armed Forces.
:On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to whether a Question framed in these terms is within the spirit of the traditions of the House? There is no evidence whatever that the practice of homosexuality is more prevalent in the Armed Forces than outside them. I suggest that this Question is an abuse of the Order Paper in that it is not aimed at protecting the rights of the individual but casts an entirely unwarranted reflection upon the Armed Forces of the Crown.
:The hon. Member who puts down the Question is responsible for it.
The answer is "No, Sir," and I must entirely reject the unworthy implication contained in the Question.
If a person signing on for National Service knows that he is being directed to a unit where there has been, or is, someone who has been found guilty of doing this for seven years, surely he should have some grounds for contracting out.
:That seems to be hypothetical.
Industrial Production (National Service)
asked the Minister of Labour how many consultations he has had in the last two years with employers in industry concerning the effect of military conscription upon production figures.
:On the assumption that the hon. Member is referring to consultations with employers' organisations as to the general effect of National Service on production, the answer is "None," because the need for National Service is generally accepted by both sides of industry.
:Notwithstanding that reply, is the Minister aware that many employers say that after two or three years'employment with a firm young men become useful, and then they are taken away for two years into the Services and it does not follow that upon their return they are improved for industrial purposes? This is an important matter.
:National Service is a burden in which we have all to play our part, and, as I have said, it is generally accepted by both sides of industry.
asked the Minister of Labour how many cases have occurred of two or more prosecutions of young men refusing to take their medical examination for the forces in 1951, 1952 and 1953, respectively.
Thirty-six in 1951, 40 in 1952 and 41 in 1953.
:Does the Minister agree that it is not the practice in this country to sentence people more than once for the same offence, and is it fair that persons should be prosecuted two or three times for the same offence?
The difficulty here is that when a man has been prosecuted he has, of course, not evaded his liability for National Service. Therefore, he has again to be served with his call-up notice for medical examination, and if he refuses that call up, once again the whole machinery goes into action.
Is it not clear from the figures that the Minister has given that there is no relaxation, and would he consider cases like that which I have where a National Service man has been fined £10, £21 and then was given six months in prison? In that case the threat of court proceedings has overshadowed his life for the last two years, and does it not seem contrary to our sense of justice that that should be so? May I ask the Minister to give it reconsideration?
:Does not the hon. Member realise that we have had this argument over and over again for many years and that the House and the country are not content with the technical answer that a man commits a new offence every time he disputes a new notice to attend for medical examination; that, in fact, the offence is the same every time, whatever the technicalities may be; and does he not think it is contrary to British justice to go on hounding a man in this way?
:It is the duty of the Ministry of Labour also to preserve the general fairness of our National Service scheme.
:Would it not be grossly unfair to all the men who fulfil their obligations if a man, by paying a fine on one occasion, could purchase for himself exemption from military service?
asked the Minister of Labour the numbers of conscientious objectors registered unconditionally by each tribunal during 1952 and 1953, respectively.
:As the answer contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
:As my information is that the overwhelming proportion is covered by two tribunals in Scotland, would the hon. Gentleman confirm whether that information is correct, and if so, is it not strange that conscience should be decided on geographical grounds, or is it something to do with the constitution of the tribunal?
:It is not quite like that. The two largest areas are Scotland and Wales, but I think the hon. Gentleman had better look at the figures first.
:Could my hon. Friend say how many separate figures there are in this table?
Not without notice.
Following are the figures:
asked the Minister of Labour in what circumstances exemption from National Service is granted to racing motorists.
:The National Service Acts do not empower me to grant exemption to any person who is liable under those Acts; therefore exemption from National Service is not granted to racing motorists.
:Can my hon. Friend explain how it is that Mike Hawthorn, described as a British racing motorist, is able to escape his responsibility, and is my hon. Friend aware that it gives very great offence to the parents of decent boys in this country when Mike Hawthorn is paraded in front of the Press and radio as a national hero, and will my hon. Friend say what he is doing about it?
The difficulty is that in this and in other cases of a similar kind the man has to be in this country for us to serve the call-up notice upon him, but I assure him we are not losing sight of the fact.
:Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether any of these racing motorists, who may not have been granted exemption, have been granted deferment?
:No, not in this particular case anyway.
In any other case?
Builth Wells Office (Closure)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will explain the reasons for the proposed closure of the employment exchange at Builth Wells, Breconshire; and what alternative arrangements he contemplates for an efficient service of his Department to be obtained by the residents of the area of the Builth Wells Urban, Builth Wells Rural and Colwyn Rural District Councils.
:The amount of business done at the branch employment office is not enough to warrant the continuance of full-time facilities. On the retirement of the branch manager in April a local service will be provided on three days a week, including market days.
:Will the Parliamentary Secretary look at this again? Surely the object of an employment exchange is not merely to pay out unemployment benefit. Particularly as Builth Wells is the centre of a de-populated area, the Ministry of Labour Exchange is very important in the district.
:We have looked at this very carefully. One of the reasons for this decision was that the live register of unemployed has averaged only 26. Certainly we shall keep it under review, and if the hon. Member has any further evidence we shall be glad to look at it.
Occupational Health Service
asked the Minister of Labour whether he has now considered the views received from the National Joint Advisory Council on the subject of a comprehensive occupational health service; and what further action he is proposing.
:I assume my hon. Friend has in mind the consideration by the National Joint Advisory Council of the Dale Report on Industrial Health Services. My right hon. and learned Friend has received separately from the parties on the Council their views on matters arising out of that Report. In the course of these observations, proposals have been put forward relating to the development of a comprehensive occupational health service. This matter is under active consideration.
:When the Minister comes to consider what further action he can take, will my hon. Friend remind him of the Dale Committee's opinion that all the health services, including the occupational health service, should ultimately come under one administrative roof?
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the relatively high proportion of unemployed men over 50 years of age in Sunderland and district; and what steps he is taking to provide these men with employment.
:I am aware that unemployment in Sunderland and district is relatively high though wholly unemployed men aged 50 and over form a smaller proportion of the total number of unemployed males than for Great Britain as a whole. My officers cooperate closely with other Departments in seeking to increase employment opportunities in the area, and it may be hoped that older persons, here as elsewhere, will be helped by the attention being given to the First Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women.
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for what he has said, but has his attention been called to a recent publication showing that nearly as much as one-quarter of our unemployed population are over 50, and whilst I agree that this is a reflection of the national problem it does demand attention from the Ministry?
Yes, I quite agree, and as Chairman of the National Advisory Committee my attention has certainly been drawn to it. I am glad the hon. Member raised it, because the more it is brought to public attention the more likely is it that we will get a solution.
asked the Minister of Labour the number of severely disabled persons in Sunderland at present unemployed.
On 21st December, 1953, there were, in Sunderland, 64 unemployed registered disabled persons, classified as unlikely to obtain employment except under sheltered conditions.
:Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that this is a toll that industry takes from our workpeople, and again we feel that we in this industrial area are entitled to have the special protection of the Ministry.
:Yes, we certainly are doing what we can to meet the particular problem.
asked the Minister of Labour what factors caused the increase of 670 in the number of persons unemployed in Sunderland in January compared with the number unemployed the previous month.
The increase of 381 in the number of men unemployed included 177 in building and contracting, and 106 in shipbuilding and ship-repairing, mainly on account of bad weather on the day the unemployment count was taken. There were increases of 106 boys and 184 girls unemployed which consisted chiefly of school leavers who had not yet been placed in employment. The remainder of the increases occurred in a number of industries in which there were normal seasonal fluctuations.
:Does the Minister realise that we are disturbed in Sunderland by this substantial increase, which means that we have now the highest unemployment figure for two years? Can he assure the House that it is due to temporary causes?
:There are quite a few causes. I have mentioned the fact of bad weather on the day the count was taken, and, of course, it always takes a month or two to place school leavers in their first employment.
Steel Works Employee (Dispute)
asked the Minister of Labour if he will investigate the case of an alleged wrongful dismissal of a senior assistant who was employed in a special department of Washington Steel Works, by the managing director of Joseph Cook Sons and Company (1930), Limited, Washington, County Durham; and if he will take steps to resolve the dispute which has arisen there from.
I have been informed about this case of alleged wrongful dismissal and, in my opinion, the circumstances are such that there is no useful action which my Department could take in the matter. If the ex-employee concerned thinks there has been some departure from the terms of his contract, it is, of course, open to him to seek legal advice.
Whilst I appreciate the difficulty of bringing this case within the Industrial Disputes Order, is the Minister aware that the action for which the senior assistant was dismissed was an action performed on the instructions of the Departmental manager, and it was the managing director who dismissed the senior assistant? Is he also aware that the action was associated with an attempt to settle a wage dispute, over which the workers were threatening to strike? Is not this an example of injustice for carrying out an order from a superior officer, and will not the Minister take exceptional action to deal with the particular injustice in this case?
It is a very difficult case, but I am afraid it does not fall within the ambit of the Industrial Disputes Order. We have tried to do what we can, as I think the hon. Member knows, to get a settlement unofficially, and we shall continue to do it.
asked the Minister of Labour what beneficial results have yet resulted from the Interim Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women.
:The general reaction of the public and the Press to the Report has been remarkably sympathetic, and examples of modifications of age restrictions on engagement or retirement are coming in daily from all parts of the country. Some 60 firms have withdrawn age limits on vacancies notified to employment exchanges, and about 500 firms have notified vacancies specifically for older workers. Many others have made known their willingness to engage older workers as and when they have suitable vacancies. There is also evidence of some relaxation in compulsory retirement rules.The Press and organisations of many different kinds have co-operated excellently in giving publicity to the Report, and in promoting discussion on the subject. In particular, most local employment committees are giving the Report wholehearted support and are publicising its recommendations in their areas.
Can my hon. Friend say when the next report of the Committee is likely to appear, and will he convey the congratulations of the nation to this Committee for their good work?
:I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. This Committee has done a lot of hard work and it has a lot more to do yet. When we shall produce our next report I could not say at the moment, but the Committee meets regularly, its sub-committees meet even more regularly, there is a vast field yet to cover and we hope, slowly anyway, that our efforts are having some result on the employment of older men and women.
:Does not the hon. Gentleman think it ironical that, when we have labour-saving devices and are entering into the atomic age for power, we are thinking in terms of a long working life rather than a shorter working life?
No, I do not think it is ironic. If the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to read the Report he will see that it is essential for our survival, in an era of full employment, to make the best use of every man and woman.
Cost Of Living (Retail Prices Index)
asked the Minister of Labour to specify the chief items responsible for the food part of the Index of Retail Prices falling in the last six months from 113·8 to 109·6.
asked the Minister of Labour to give a list of the items of food that have decreased in price over the last few months which have resulted in a fall in the Index number of food prices.
Food items included in the Retail Prices Index which showed appreciable reductions in price between June and December, 1953, were bacon-canned ham, imported mutton, rabbits, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, cooking apples and condensed milk. Small decreases in average prices were recorded for several other food items.
Does not the hon. Member recognise that there are many more times the number of articles that have gone up in price and that some of the articles he has mentioned are not purchased daily by the bulk of the house wives of this country?
:I am, in answer to another Question, going to give the other side of the story, and I think that the two equally balance each other. I find it difficult to find anything in the list that I have given which does not figure in the normal expenditure of the average household.
But, in the main, are not these items decreased by a small amount, and is it not a fact that they are not used every day like tea, coffee, butter and so on, which have gone up? [Hon. Members: "Eggs?"] They are costing £20 million subsidy. These other items to which I have referred have gone up to such an extent that it completely offsets the small decreases which have occurred in other articles.
I cannot stop hon. Members compiling their own shopping lists, but as the hon. Member said those decreases were not significant, I think I should say that bacon has gone down 11 per cent., imported mutton 15 per cent. and tomatoes 31 per cent.
asked the Minister of Labour if he will specify the items included in the food part of the Index of Retail Prices which increased in price during the last six months.
Food items included in the Retail Prices Index which showed appreciable increases in price between June and December, 1953, were home-killed beef, most kinds of fish, butter, margarine, cooking fat and sugar. The price of milk was also higher in December than in June as a result of the arrangements for seasonal variationsin the price of milk.
:Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the best index is the grocery order book of the average housewife, and will the hon. Member bear in mind that those who are in the lower income groups spend a higher proportion on the goods that have gone up in price than those in the higher income groups, and does he not think that there should be a price index for people whose income is from £500 to £600 and another for those whose income is greater than that figure?
The fact is—and I ask the House to look carefully at this matter—that it is the concern of my Ministry to present facts. Again today I have given the facts about the items of food that have gone up and the items of food that have come down. I have said that when a careful balance is taken of the expenditure of the average household it means that the food section of the index has fallen four points in the last six months.
:What about the Housewives League?
If hon. Members like to take butter instead of eggs they can make all sorts of comparisons, but I do not want to argue that, because it is the duty of myself and of my Ministry to preserve this Index as something on which the wages of three million workers directly depend. I hope it will be agreed that the Ministry and I try to present the purely statistical facts of the case.
Is it not the fact that under the same system of indexing in the last year of the Socialist Government the prices went up 16 per cent.?
asked the Minister of Labour whether he has yet considered the letter from the hon. Member for West Ham, North, concerning the cost of living index figure; and whether he will make a statement in connection therewith.
:Although this Question was put down on Thursday, 28th January, the letter referred to was dated 31st January and was received yesterday only after special inquiries had been made by my Department. By making comparisons with 1951 and selecting only those items which have risen in price, the hon. Member's letter gives a completely misleading picture of what has happened to the average level of prices during 1953. As I stated in the House last week, the average level of retail prices has been steadier during 1953 than in any recent year and the average level of all retail food prices has fallen during the last six months.
The Minister will be aware of the fact that I sent him the excellent front page article and leading article in the "Daily Herald" which completely answer the statements he made previously today. Why is it that the Minister has made no reference to that, and will he be good enough to have it circularised in the Official Report so that we can get the facts?
I notice that the article in question thoughtfully mentions all the prices of foods that have gone up and mentions none that have come down.
:Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the difficulty about the Index is that whilst it sets out to reflect general price trends, what has happened regarding food prices is that in a condition of falling prices the Government, by their fiscal policy, have increased the prices of essential foods and that has distorted the Index?
That has nothing to do with the case. [Hon. Members: "It has."] Perhaps I may state the facts. Every month we take 100,000 price quotations to bring the Index up to date for that month, and those quotations are spread over the entire range of the things which go into the shopping basket of the normal household. The Index was produced by the previous Administration and I hope that none of us will try to make a party political issue out of what is a bit of factual statistical analysis.
Inview of the wide interest in the literary output of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), could we have his letter published in the Official Report?
Part-Time Education, Aberdeen
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many children in schools in the city and county of Aberdeen and in Scotland, respectively, are now receiving only part-time education.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered a memorandum by the General Council of the Scottish Trades Union Congress on Scottish industrial development, a copy of which has been sent him; and what his plans are for implementing the recommendations in that memorandum.
I have received no recent memorandum from the Scottish Trades Union Congress about industrial development, but I have sent to the hon. and learned Member a copy of the reply sent on my behalf to a resolution passed by the Congress in April last.
:Did the Minister not receive such a memorandum within the last few months containing suggestions of great value to the people of Scotland, and what is he doing about that memorandum?
As I have said, I received one in April last and I have sent the hon. and learned Gentleman a copy of my reply.
:Is not the Minister doing anything to implement the suggestions contained in the memorandum which he received in April last?
:It would take a long time to read out the reply.
Fishing Vessels (Grants)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications for grants have been received, and how many have been acceded to, under each of the two schemes made by his Department last July under the enabling powers in the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1953.
The Herring Industry Board have so far received applications from Scottish fishermen for 47 boats and engines and have approved 35;the White Fish Authority have received applications from Scottish fishermen for 57 boats and engines and have approved 31.
:As it is obvious that a number of applications have been refused, will the Minister specify upon what ground they have been refused; whether under paragraph 5, which relates to fitness to operate a fishing vessel, or under paragraphs 6 and 7 which relate to the financial position of the applicant?
I could not answer that question withoutnotice, but it is not the fact that a number have been refused because, in the case of the White Fish Authority, 19 are still under consideration and, in the case of the Herring Board, six are still under consideration.
Is it not a fact that the number who have presented applications which have been granted is both remarkable and encouraging?
Doctors, West Fife
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the West Fife area has been described by the Scottish Medical Practices Committee as one of the seven under-doctored areas in Scotland; and what new steps are being taken to remedy this state of affairs.
:Publication of the Committee's list of these areas is the first step towards rectifying the position, by letting intending practitioners know the scope they afford for the development of additional practices. Two doctors have recently arranged to start new practices in the listed areas in Fife, while a third additional doctor is shortly entering an existing practice as an extra partner.
:Is the Minister aware that that reply is satisfactory so far as it goes, but that my Question asks what specific new steps the Minister is taking to attract more doctors into the area? Will he answer that part of the Question?
:I think that the initial practices allowances, which are now in working order and which these two new doctors will receive to assist them in starting new practices, will help to attract doctors to the area.
Technical College, Dundee
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps are being taken to approve a site for a new trades college in Dundee.
I have asked the Dundee Corporation to consider building a new technical college, and the whole question, including that of a suitable site, is now being examined by them.
:Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that his Department will expedite this matter as much as possible in view of its importance to employment in Dundee and to productivity in Scotland as a whole?
:I agree with the hon. Member, and I assure him that we shall help actively.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the approach made to him by the North of Scotland Hydro- Electricity Board, with an offer of land in the neighbourhood of Campbeltown suit able for afforestation; and whether he will facilitate negotiations in this matter, especially in view of the considerable number of unemployed in Campbeltown.
The offer by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electricity Board to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers is under consideration at present in accordance with the usual procedure fordealing with proposals for the acquisition of agricultural land by the Forestry Commission. I cannot yet say what the outcome may be, but my hon. and gallant Friend's representations regarding the unemployment position at Campbeltown will certainly be taken into account.
In view of the fact that there have been so many public announcements about the Forestry Commission having difficulty in finding sufficient plantable reserves, could my right hon. Friend expedite this matter for that reason and also for the sake of employment in the area?
:I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that we will do our best, because we are very anxious to ensure that there is no hold-up in afforestation.
Lunacy And Mental Deficiency Laws
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will recommend the setting up of a Royal Commission to investigate the law in Scotland in relation to mental illness and mental defect.
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) on 26th November last.
:Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why, if such a Commission is necessary for England, it is not considered necessary for Scotland? Can he tell us when the last inquiry of this kind took place in Scotland and whether he is satisfied that the law in Scotland is in keeping with the findings of modern medical science on this subject?
:The last review of the English law was by a Commission which reported in 1926. In Scotland we had the advantage of a Report from a strong committee under Lord Russell, which reported in 1946 just before the introduction of the National Health Service, which has certain effects on this matter. No further action has been taken up to date, but I hope to be able to publish a White Paper before very long.
Fish Meal And Oil Factory, Peterhead
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when work on the construction of the fish meal and oil factory at Peterhead is expected to begin.
I am glad to say that suitable premises in Peterhead have now been acquired. The adaptation of the existing building and installation of the necessary equipment should, therefore, commence soon.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, if possible, it is desirable to have this factory completed in time for the summer fishing?
:Does that mean that no work is to be undertaken in connection with the proposed factory in Inverness?
No. I was not asked about a proposed factory in Inverness.
No, but that is what I am now asking the Secretary of State.
Arrested Persons, Lanarkshire
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the results of his inquiries into the action of the police against two of her constituents which the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire has brought to his notice.
The police acted in accordance with Section 4 of the Trespass (Scotland) Act, 1865, which empowers them to arrest and detain in custody anyone found in the act of committing an offence, provided he is brought before a magistrate on the following day. This procedure is not, however, obligatory, and I have brought the matter to the notice of the Chief Constable.
:Is the Minister aware that these two men were given no prior warning from the police, that they were kept a whole night in the cell, that bail was refused and that the following day they were fined only 7s. 6d., which showed that their crime was not a very great one? Instead of drawing this Section 4 to the notice of the police, would not the Secretary of State inform all police authorities in Scotland that he deprecates very much indeed what happened to these two citizens, who were treated worse than the most hardened criminals?
No doubt the fact that this attention has been drawn to the matter today will percolate throughout Scotland.
:Does the Secretary of State now realise that there is serious dissatisfaction with police methods not only in Edinburgh but in a great many parts of Scotland?
:In case this does not percolate to the police authorities, and since it is such a serious matter against the civil liberties of citizens, will the right hon. Gentleman take the steps which I have suggested and bring it to the notice of every police authority in Scotland?
I have no objection whatsoever to doing that, but I cannot alter the law, which is as it stands under the 1865 Act.
Canals (Dangerous Sites)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what were the results of the recent meeting in Edinburgh between the Minister of State, the corporation of Glasgow and the British Transport Commission about the Forth and Clyde and Monkland Canals; and what decision was arrived at to provide adequate and efficient barriers to children at known dangerous sites.
:It was agreed that technical experts representing Glasgow Corporation, the British Transport Commission and my Department should prepare a report on the best way of removing the danger arising from the Monkland Canal and that the legal and financial aspects would be further discussed thereafter.
:Will the Secretary of State concentrate on the immediate need for this provision, whatever the long-term policy of the Transport Commission may be, so that the anxiety of parents may be allayed at an early date?
:One meeting of technical experts has been held already and I assure the hon. Member there has been and there will be no delay.
Scientific And Technological Research
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what extent any co-ordinating body exists between the Government, industrial and university laboratories to pool the results of their scientific and technological research work; if he is aware of the need to make such information available to small firms which do not maintain their own research centre; and if he will consult the authorities concerned as to the most effective method of conveying such scientific and technological information to them.
There is a free exchange of research information between the universities, industrial research associations and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. That Department operates a technical information service available to large and small firms alike, and the research associations provide industrial liaison services to their member firms. The Department is also about to make arrangements with the Scottish Council for a study of the special needs of small firms in Scotland for research and technical information.
Housing And Industrial Development, Lanarkshire
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what sites are available in the county of Lanark for industrial development and the accommodation of overspill from Glasgow, outside the designated area of the new town of East Kilbride.
In the county council's development plan, which has recently been submitted to me, three areas in the county are suggested for the long-term accommodation of housing overspill. In one of these areas some provision for industrial overspill might also be practicable. The three areas together will provide for a total of 11,000 people. In addition, numerous sites for industrial development to meet the county's own requirements are reserved in the plan. These sites total 539 acres and, in addition, 141 acres of vacant land are held by the President of the Board of Trade under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, for industrial development.
:Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for the complimentary nature of his reply, may I ask whether he is aware that a socially dangerous unbalance of development now threatens Lanarkshire, because new factories are enticed to one spot whilst industry and employment are forsaking others, like Newmains, leaving a record of waste, ruin, evil and unhappiness in their train?
I think that I gave as full an answer as it is possible to give during Question time without opening a debate.
:Are these acres at present in use for agriculture?
I am afraid that I must have notice of that question.
Electricity Generating Capacity
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will state the aggregate electricity generating capacity in Scotland expressed in megawatts installed, MWI, respectively, in respect of all generating capacity both steam and water operated by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and otherwise, excluding private generators, all figures expressed as at 1st January, 1954.
The aggregate electricity generating capacity, excluding private generators, in the whole of Scotland on 1st January, 1954, was 1,725 megawatts installed. Of this total capacity the amounts, in megawatts installed, in the two Scottish divisions of the British Electritcy Authority were 1,039 steam, and 119 water; and in the area of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, 127 steam, 399 water and 41 diesel.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to state in convenient form the amount of electricity exported from Scotland to England during the calendar year 1953; the amount of electricity imported by Scot land from England during the calendar year 1953; and the net gain or loss to Scotland, expressed in convenient form, in respect of these electricity import/ export arrangements during 1953.
There is usually a simultaneous exchange of electricity between the two countries; and to that extent gross figures may be misleading. I am informed, however, that in 1953, on the main transmission lines, 211,034,000 units were sent from Scotland to England, and 236,975,000 units from England to Scotland, giving a net import into Scotland of 25,941,000 units.
Arising out of the last two answers by my right hon. Friend, may I ask, is not the Scottish output absolutely splendid?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the prospective deficiency or otherwise in the electricity generating capacity of Scotland at the latest convenient date and taking into full account the capacity available at the water-power establishments of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
I do not think I can usefully forecast the future maximum demand or the extent to which it will be met from Scottish supplies. Even at present the balance between supply and demand varies from day to day: on 25th January, for example, there was a deficiency of 35 megawatts. As regards hydro-electric supplies, the Board have guaranteed 185 megawatts for this winter and next: but that figure may be increased.
Remote Area Subsidies
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has now reached a decision on the question of the payment of remote area subsidies to certain county burghs, including Turriff and Huntly.
I expect to be able to give decisions very soon, and I will communicate them to my hon. Friend. I regret the delay.
Children And Young Persons Act
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he can now say when the necessary legislation will be introduced to amend the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937, so that an order made in a Scottish court committing a child to the care of a Scottish local authority can be enforced if the child is subsequently abducted to England.
:I agree that the law requires amendment in this respect and should welcome an opportunity of discussing the matter with the hon. Member.
:Whilst appreciating the offer of the right hon. Gentleman, may I point out that the Question asks if he is now in a position to state a date? On the last occasion he said that it would be at an early stage; will he now press his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to state a date when this small but very important Bill can be introduced? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he will have all the help of hon. Members on this side of the House in getting such a Measure through?
:I am very grateful to the hon. Member for his offer of assistance. There are certain ways in which Bills can be handled in this House without the Government necessarily introducing them. I would be grateful to the hon. Member if he would discuss the matter with me.
North Hydro-Electric Board (Moriston Project)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total estimated cost of implementing Scheme No. 23 (B) of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, known as the Moriston Project; what would have been the estimated cost of implementing Scheme 23 (A) for the same project; and what were the reasons for departing from Scheme 23 (A).
Scheme 23 (B), which has been submitted for confirmation, proposes a diversion of the Tomdoun-Cluanie Inn road along the south shore of Loch Loyne, estimated by the Board to cost £180,000;it is intended to replace the original proposal for a viaduct across Loch Loyne, estimated by them to cost £275,000. I understand that the Board's primary reason for the new proposal is their desire to reduce the cost of the scheme; but they also consider that the proposed diversion, though about six miles longer, will have better alignment and be less liable to blockage than the present road.
:Would it not be helpful if the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board arranged to publish in convenient form from time to time the original estimates as approved by this House and the cost of the schemes when they are ultimately completed, so that we could all adjudge the disparity which invariably exists between the two figures?
I must point out that that is a very different question from the one on the Order Paper.
Netting Of Rabbits (Caldra Method)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what inquiries have been made by his Department into the Caldra method of netting rabbits; and whether he will make a statement.
A technical officer of the Department of Agriculture has already examined the equipment used in the Caldra method, and Sir Eric de la Rue, the originator of the technique, has been good enough to arrange a demonstration for officials tomorrow night. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare have published a pamphlet describing the method, and my Department will draw the attention of farmers to the technique.
Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to make a statement regarding the experiment which is to take place tomorrow night?
Weather permitting—that is to say if the experiment takes place—I will do so.
:Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the statement applies to rabbits gallivanting under fallen timber and sallying forth to ruin pastures and crops?
I am afraid that Sir Eric de la Rue has not invented a contraption which will work under fallen timber.
Teachers' Superannuation Scheme
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total amount paid, under the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme for the years 1949 to 1953, by teachers and by employers; and if he will state the total sum paid out in pensions in the same period.
The amount contributed was £7·6 million (about £3·8 million each from teachers and employers) and the amount paid out was £7·7 million.
:In view of the fact that the scheme was in balance to the extent of £50 million over the previous 15 years and, according to the figures just given by the Secretary of State, is now "washing its face," how does the right hon. Gentleman justify the increase in the teachers' superannuation from 5 per cent. to 6 per cent?
I am afraid the position is that the actuary's report shows conclusively that the current income of contributions is far from enough to cover the future liabilities. But I would remind the hon. Member that there is a Bill which will shortly be discussed and which deals with this matter.
Potato Harvest (School Children)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further arrangements he is making for potato harvesting this year, which will obviate the necessity of young children being taken from school for this class of work.
Steps will be taken to ensure that the fullest use is made of all adult labour available. Nevertheless, the help of the older pupils will be needed if the Scottish potato crop is to be lifted.
:The right hon. Gentleman indicated in the second part of his answer that he would use older pupils. According to all the statistics so far gathered, all the children come from the junior secondary schools and finish their education at 15 years of age. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the principle of using older children, could he go to the fee-paying schools and the senior secondary schools, where the children usually attend school at least until they are 18 years of age?
As the hon. Member knows, the children must be aged 13 or over, but I will gladly consider any suggestions.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability of finding an outlet for the potatoes when they have been collected?
Employment, Shorts Area
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what decisions he has reached on the representations made to him by the deputation he received on the future of the Shotts area of Lanark shire.
I am aware that new employment will be required when pits in the Shotts area are closed through the exhaustion of seams. Opportunities for employment elsewhere will be available for many of the experienced miners, and the Government will do their best to encourage suitable industries to set up in the area to provide employment for those who remain.
:Is the Secretary of State aware that a particular suggestion was made by the deputation on this very serious matter, and it can be seen from previous Questions today that it is not just this area but many parts of Lanarkshire which are facing dereliction? Surely it is the responsibility of Scottish Ministers to safeguard the wellbeing of Scottish people?
I can assure the hon. Lady that I am fully aware that this is a serious matter. As she knows, Shotts is in a Development Area and assistance is available under the Distribution of Industry Act. We will do our utmost for it.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is county-wide anxiety on the subject and representations have been made repeatedly to him and his colleagues, but the situation has deteriorated in the last six weeks?
I am aware of the gravity of the situation and we are most anxious to deal with it.
Commonwealth Division, Korea (Future)
asked the Prime Minister what consultations have taken place between Her Majesty's Governments in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with regard to the future of the Commonwealth Division now in Korea; whether Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will now propose that the Division be retained as a formation to constitute a Commonwealth contribution to United Nations defence forces; and, on this basis, whether they will earmark appropriate British units to serve with the Division.
We are in frequent consultation with the Governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand about arrangements affecting the Commonwealth Division. I can make no statement at present about the future of the Division. I hope, however, that as long as the Commonwealth countries are making a contribution in Korea, a Commonwealth formation will be kept in being. If any proposals are made for constituting standing United Nations defence forces, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has suggested, they will receive careful attention from Her Majesty's Government.
Would not the Prime Minister agree that this Division has constituted a most valuable example of Commonwealth co-operation? In view of the importance of co-ordinating the defences of the Commonwealth countries would he bear in mind the importance of starting on this basis?
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Member for drawing attention to what had already been in our minds but now receives more prominence through his exertions.
:Will the Government take the initiative in trying to use this Commonwealth effort as a starting point for building up the system of collective security envisaged in the Charter? Will they further study the question of trying to get in future a more integrated United Nations Command under political control on the linesof N.A.T.O.?
I do not think there is any difference between us on the general theme.
May I ask the Prime Minister to consider the possibility of Her Majesty's Government moving a Motion of appreciation of the work which this Division has done, so that we may put on record the enormous appreciation of the whole country of the work of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom together?
Yes Sir, I am sure that will be carefully considered.
Defence (Mobile Strategic Reserve)
asked the Prime Minister whether the statement made on Wednesday, 27th January in London by the Minister of Defence regarding the building up of a mobile strategic reserve in the United Kingdom ready to go off to deal with any emergency at any time represents Government policy.
asked the Prime Minister what is to be the composition and size of the mobile strategic reserve to be concentrated in the United Kingdom.
asked the Prime Minister why the statement about future defence policy has not been announced by him to the House of Commons instead of being revealed by the Minister of Defence to a meeting in a private club.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the new re-armament plan of Her Majesty's Government.
My noble Friend's speech was simply a re-statement of what is well known. Shortly after assuming office, I myself expressed concern at the absence of regular formations in this country, and re-creation of a strategic reserve has always been one of our declared objectives. The Government's policy on defence will, of course, be stated in the annual White Paper which, I hope, will be ready on the 18th of this month.
Can the Prime Minister say where this strategic reserve is to come from, because our only reserve is at present locked up in the Canal Zone and his own back benchers will not let him sign the agreement with Egypt which would let it out?
:We have frequently spoken about a re-deployment of our forces in the Canal Zone which are at the present moment a very heavy drain upon our resources—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Certainly. And if proper and decent arrangements can be made, that undoubtedly will be one of the sources which will enable us to carry out our policy of forming a mobile strategic reserve.
:Is the House therefore to understand that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government at an early date to form this strategic mobile reserve in this country; and if that is the fact, why was not Parliament told of this and given some opportunity of eliciting details, rather than that the Minister of Defence should make this important statement—for such it is—in a Conservative political club?
:There is nothing new about this statement, nothing new at all. It has been well before the House and ought to have been well in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman for a good many months and even years—even two years past. But I am quite clear that the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, made was a perfectly right and proper one for him to make. It contained, as I say, no new, novel announcement at all, but was a very necessary re-statement of important facts in a coherent form. It is usual when Parliament is sitting, of course, to take advantage of the opportunity of making statements, new statements of policy, to them. But even that is not a rule. Many precedents to the contrary could be quoted.
Does the Prime Minister's answer therefore express the view that the Minister of Defence was incorrectly reported in view of the statement in "The Times" to the effect that after many months of careful thought and study he—that is the Minister of Defence—and his colleagues in the Cabinet had formulated a plan for re-armament? Or is it merely another case of the mountain in labour producing a mouse? Or was he referring to the £4,700 million plan as modified in the light of changed economic circumstances?
I think that is too much mixed up with mice and all that sort of thing.
:Will the Prime Minister please do me the honour of replying to the first part of my supplementary question. Is it his case that, in view of what I have quoted from "The Times" report, the Minister of Defence was misreported?
I have not compared the report in "The Times" with any statement on the subject made to me by my noble Friend. But I have given a full answer to the effect that this was not a statement about which complaint should justly be made that it was not made in the first instance to the House.
:While agreeing that Lord Alexander said nothing new, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman would agree that it is quite clear the Minister of Defence went out of his way to give the impression that it was a very important statement; that he stressed that for many months the Government had been engaged in a review of the defence situation and that these were Government proposals? We did not expect anything new or novel.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if all these answers he has given to the various questions on this subject mean that there are to be no modifications in the Government's defence policy?
:The White Paper is to be put out on 18th February, that is barely a fortnight from now, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, for all his zeal, can restrain himself till then.
:That simply will not do. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman a perfectly fair and simple question. I have asked him whether his answers mean—in spite of the speech of the Minister of Defence at the Constitutional Club—that the Government do not contemplate any modifications in their defence policy?
Wait and see.
I think it would be a great pity to destroy the right hon. Gentleman's pleasurable anticipation of the occasion.
In the formation of a strategic reserve, would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the supreme importance of truly airborne troops?
:On a point of order. Would it be proper to refer to the Monopolies Commission the behaviour of Privy Councillors on the other side of the House who want to monopolise the whole of Question time?
:In view of the fact that in the next 12 months the American Government is to reduce its armed forces by 300,000, does not the Prime Minister think the statement by the Minister of Defence, that there is no opportunity of reducing the period of conscription in this country, unfair to the British lads?
No, Sir. We regard it as an honour to do our duty in the world field, and each country has to judge its own necessities and commitments for itself. But, in any case, the hon. Member will have the chance of dealing with this and of putting his views on this matter when the discussion on the Army Estimates and the White Paper takes place.
Berlin Conference (Foreign Secretary's Speech)
asked the Prime Minister whether the official speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the Berlin Conference on 27th January, in which he opposed the idea of a Five-Power Conference to discuss any or all of the situations which are at present causing international tension, represents the present policy of Her Majesty's Government.
:Everything which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said in the course of these difficult negotiations which he has been conducting with so much skill and experience, reflects the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The Foreign Secretary's speech to which the hon. Member refers, dealt with Mr. Molotov's proposal that a Five-Power Conference should consider any or all of the problems which were the cause of international tension, and the Foreign Secretary said that Her Majesty's Government did not consider that that was the best way to resolve the tension. He advocated dealing with Germany and Austria in Berlin, with the Korean questions at the Korean Political Conference, and with disarmament within the framework of the United Nations Organisation. The question of a Five-Power Conference is to be further discussed in restricted session later this week.
:Does that reply mean that the Prime Minister has completely run away from the proposals he made in his speech on 11th May last year when he called for a conference of leading Powers to discuss world problems without a rigid agenda, and is he content to see the Foreign Secretary consigning his grand design to the dustbin of history?
No, Sir. I am watching with great interest the developments, which contain many hopeful features, now taking place in Berlin. I think it would be a great mistake to plunge into the midst of these very intricate and delicate discussions with statements of sweeping character made in the House of Commons.
:In view of the Government's opposition to the Indian Government's proposal for a meeting of the Assembly of the United Nations, what steps are Her Majesty's Government taking to secure a political conference on Korea?
I think I might ask for notice of that question.
Questions To Ministers (Transfer)
On a point of order. I should like your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a matter about which I feel deeply. I also feel deeply about the shabby treatment accorded to George Buchanan as Chairman of the National Assistance Board. I had a Question accepted by the Table about the terms of office of chairmen of national boards which appeared on the Order Paper addressed to the Prime Minister all last week. It appeared on the Order Paper yesterday. I was prepared to deal with it today, but I found that it had been transferred to the Treasury without any notice whatever being given me. I have made all possible inquiries and have at no point discovered a communication notifying me of the change. I wish to know if there is any way in which an hon. Member can be protected against this shabby treatment.
:I have dealt with this matter several times. The transference of Questions from one Department to another is nothing to do with me or the Table. It is entirely a matter for Departments. I have said—
Order. I have said that it is desirable when Questions are transferred that as much notice as possible should be given.
:Is it not a little unusual? Granted that a Minister has a perfect right to transfer a Question to another Department if he thinks it will be more suitably answered by another Department, nevertheless once it has been accepted by the Department, and, as in this case, appeared on the Order Paper addressed to the Prime Minister for a week and appeared on the Order Paper addressed to the Prime Minister as late as yesterday, to change it today when it might have been answered is surely rather unprecedented.
I have nothing to do with that.
I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman has suffered any inconvenience. I really had not got in mind that I ought to have asked him to transfer his Question to another day. I ought to have come to the conclusion about the proper Department to answer it at an earlier period. I express my regret.
Commonwealth Economic Conference
The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement giving the details of the plan agreed to at the recent Commonwealth Conference to combat the effects of any recession in the United States of America in 1954.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the recent Common wealth Conference in Sydney.
:To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the discussions which took place and the results which were achieved at the Commonwealth Conference in Sydney.
At the end of Questions—
Mr. Speaker, I will with permission answer Questions Nos. 73, 74 and 80 together.It is clear that neither a short statement, which is all I can make to the House today, nor an official communiqué issued on behalf of the Governments concerned, can, of their nature, reveal the full value of the Sydney meeting at which the Commonwealth discussed freely and frankly the problems facing them. We met a year after we had set out together on a new course of policy. The success of such a meeting should be judged rather by the maintenance of agreement and the effective sharing of experience than by the test of whether new and startling decisions were reached. The first notable feature of our discussion was that all the Ministers involved, including the Canadian Finance Minister, whose country is outside the sterling area, registered absolute identity of view and purpose on the line to be followed by the sterling area countries in our external financial and economic policy. We confirmed the wisdom of our decision taken a year ago to work towards a freer system of trade and payments between the dollar and non-dollar world. Indeed, I know of no other approach which would keep the policies of the old and new Commonwealth countries and of Canada in step. The statement of the President of the U.S.A. to Congress and the Report of the Randall Commission since published, give us considerable encouragement. But the results we hope for, including the eventual convertibility of sterling,will be achieved only if all those concerned contribute. Apart from what we ourselves must do, we look for good creditor policies by the United States. Over the last year or so they have been paying out gold to the rest of the world. This has been largely due to heavy military expenditure. We want to see some more permanent pattern emerging. We shall also look to international institutions to play a more active and intimate part in enabling the problems of trade and finance to be tackled together. We welcomed the prospect of LM.F. credits being more readily available whether to help the world to ride out the effects of an adjustment in the American economy or to augment the reserves as a step towards freeing trade and payments. Our series of conferences have established facilities for close consultation and we shall use these in order to compare notes before a review of the G.A.T.T. which is at present to take place in October of this year. Our second major decision was to concentrate on the immediate necessity of increasing our own strength and sense of self-reliance as the most powerful unit of our type in the world. We were not ready to sit back and await what success might attend our long-term policies. We reaffirmed in the light of experience, sinceour last meeting, our determination so to conduct our internal policies that we hold inflation in check and concentrate our energies and inventiveness on increasing our overseas earnings. This not only strengthens our own economy but is our contribution to the advance to freer trade and payments. Second, we repeated our intention to ease, as opportunity allows, restrictions on intra-sterling area trade. Third, we considered how best to provide the means of developing the huge latent resources of the Commonwealth and Colonial Territories. Thus we propose to maintain the health of the Commonwealth's balance of payments. Hon. Members will no doubt wish me to sum up the effect of these decisions on the economy of the United Kingdom. I am convinced that whether world trade goes up or down, whether we have to face a recession in trade or not, the development of overseas resources helps United Kingdom exports. I made it clear to my colleagues at the Conference that we shall regard investment in producing and manufacturing enterprises in the United Kingdom as a high priority just as they realise that capital available for development must be spread over a large area and that the projects must be remunerative. We can take pride in the fact that, in the last year, United Kingdom visible and invisible exports accounted for 60 per cent. of the gross earnings of the sterling area. Hon. Members may also have seen that the United Kingdom Government authorised in 1953 loans and grants totalling some £120 million for investment in the sterling Commonwealth. I am satisfied that we can, in the coming year, continue to give the Commonwealth and Empire the lead it so much needs provided that we proceed with the task of making our own economy stronger, more flexible and expansive. In conclusion, I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to a proper opportunity of expanding these themes and of imparting to the House some of the sense of strength and unity of the meeting which we have just held as the guests of the Australian Governmentand under the wise chairmanship of the Australian Prime Minister.
:May I be permitted to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the honour which Her Majesty recently conferred upon him? [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] As regards his statement, is he aware that it falls in no way behind the standard set by the communiqué" issued in Sydney as regards clichés and platitudes?May I also ask him whether, in view of his claim that there was absolute identity of view and purpose, the question of surplus Australian wheat was discussed at the Conference, and if so, what decisions were taken about it; and particularly whether the United Kingdom proposes to purchase more Australian and less dollar wheat? May I ask him whether the question of G.A.T.T. was discussed, and whether there is also identity of view in the Commonwealth on that subject? On development, would the Chancellor agree that, if we are to play our part in developing the Commonwealth it must involve a very substantial export surplus? Would he be prepared to say what understandings were arrived at in Sydney which affect the size of that surplus? Finally, in view of the last few words of his statement, may we take it that the Chancellor has already arranged with the Leader of the House for an early debate on this important subject?
:I feel honoured that my language compares with that produced by the joint genius of the Commonwealth leaders. In regard to wheat, technically the position was not on the agenda, but, of course, it came up for discussion, not only at the conference, but also among the Ministers concerned, because of its obvious importance. All I can say is that wheat has now been restored to purchase by private hands in this country, and I sincerely hope that we shall continue to take a portion of Australian wheat, both hard and soft wheat. In regard to G.A.T.T., there was, as far as I know absolute identity of view about the need to consult together before revision of G.A.T.T. takes place next October, and there was absolute identity of view on the subject of the general policy to adopt towards the freeing of trade and payments.On development no actual figure of the surplus was named in these discussions. Of course, on the future outlook for the balance of payments either for the sterling area or for the country here, figures cannot be given with absolute certainty, but we obviously decided that it was necessary to increase the earnings both of the sterling area and of ourselves at home in order that an adequate surplus may be available for overseas investments. In regard to a debate, if there is to be a debate I personally should be only too glad if that could be arranged through the usual channels.
:Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable uneasiness as to whether the determinations at Sydney will not lead to a lessening of trade within the Empire countries themselves, and can he satisfy us that, to set that off we may expect greater general trade between this island and the rest of the world?
:I am glad that my hon. Friend has made that point, because I think it is quite untrue that there was any intention at Sydney to lessen trade in the sterling area. In fact, looking at the position of what is called a down-turn in trade, or the possibility of a recession, it should clearly be the objective of the sterling area to maintain its own trade, its trade with Europe and non-dollar trade at its present level, and that was our view. I am sorry that any alternative impression, which I think is quite unjustified, should get about. I go further and say that I think that developments as they occur will indicate that the Commonwealth countries intend to increase their trade as far as they possibly can.
Now that the import of wheat has reverted entirely to private hands, if the private traders prefer to import their wheat from North America rather than from Australia, may I ask the Chancellor what steps will be taken by Her Majesty's Government to obtain wheat from where we ought to get it?
I said in my original answer that I think it is certain that, having regard to our need for varieties of both hard and soft wheat, the levels of purchases from Australia are bound to continue either at their present level or at a better level, and, if events occur which are undesirable from the point of view of the economy either of the United Kingdom or the sterling area, the right hon. Gentleman can rely, not only upon the wisdom, but also upon the actions of Her Majesty's Government to intervene.
Why was it that the Chancellor considered it necessary to introduce the phrase "If we are to have a recession"? Whether we have a recession or not, surely that remark must cause anxiety in the minds of a good number of people in Britain, and can he give us any assurance that he is not hinting that we are already on the verge of a recession in this country?
I think much the best indication is in a sentence contained in the much-maligned communiqué—which, incidentally—is criticised in the way that documents of this kind are always criticised. It contains a most important phrase in regard to this question. After reviewing the scene, both in regard to world trade as a whole and in America, and with the experience of the Finance Ministers present—one of whom, Mr. Havenga, has introduced 22 budgets, while the Canadian Finance Minister has introduced six or seven—we came to the conclusion that we could look ahead with confidence on the world scene in the coming year, provided that we did not relax but made greater efforts towards more trade. I hope that will have been noticed by the public, because I think that was a very important statement.
While realising the necessity for avoiding any kind of alarm and despondency, are we to take it that the Treasury now wish us to refer, not to an American recession, but to an American adjustment?
:If so, the hon. Gentleman would be in very good company, because it was the word which was used by the President of the United States.
:Can the Chancellor say whether, again on this occasion, Her Majesty's Government brought forward a proposal for increasing Imperial Preference?
:The question of preference was, of course, referred to, and it was always in the mind of many people among those present, including myself, that it was important that the right conclusion should be reached. While members of the Commonwealth were ready to maintain the existing preferences, they saw great difficulties in extending the area of preference more than it is at present. That was the view which I discussed with each one of the Ministers and which was also discussed by them together.