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Commons Chamber

Volume 524: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1954

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 3rd March, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. speaker in the Chair]

Petition (Old-Age Pensions)

I beg to ask leave to present a Petition on behalf of 6,388 of Her Majesty's loyal subjects in and around the City of Bristol, including and on behalf of old-age pensioners. The grievance contained in the Petition is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, in that they have made no adequate provision for alleviating the distress suffered by the old-age pensioners, and that, on the other hand, they have given taxation reliefs to those whose needs are demon-strably less.

The Petition concludes:
"Wherefore, your petitioners pray that Her Majesty's Government will take an early opportunity of reconsidering their policy so as to grant some aid and benefit to ease the heavy burden which now lies on those who have given a lifetime of service to the community, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray."
To lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions




asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will set up a judicial inquiry to investigate and report on the causes of the recent disturbances in Nyasaland.

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to the Questions on this subject from the hon. Members for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) and Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) on 2nd December, 1953.

Does the Under Secretary agree that where discontent becomes articulate and results in violence, as in Nyasaland, the greatest care should be taken in dealing with it and in inculcating an appreciation of British law and order? Was that done here?

Yes. An inquiry was made into the first part of the disturbances, and then it was thought it was clear what the causes and sequence of events were and no further inquiry was ordered. A statement was made by my right hon. Friend in October.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree, since all is quiet in Nyasaland, that the less we say to stir up trouble from this end the better for that country, and that we should allow it to manage its own affairs?

Land Situation


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is satisfied that the land owned by the Livingstone Bruce Estates British Central Africa Company and others in the Blantyre District of South Nyasaland is being fully utilised, and what unutilised land he is taking over for controlled settlement by Africans.

As the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend is not altogether satisfied with the land situation in Southern Nyasaland. In answer to the second half of the Question, I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's reply to a similar Question by the hon. Member on 17th February.

Will the Minister please look at this again, because my figures show that something like 30 per cent, of these plantations are not being utilised? Unlike the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin), I am not too happy about this situation, because the same business can blow up again if we do not solve this problem of land hunger.

The matter is being tackled now, and my right hon. Friend hopes that it will be possible to secure co-operation with the owners.


Processing Of Oil Seeds (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action has been taken on the Gardiner Report on the processing of oilseeds in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Government have distributed it to the authorities and organisations concerned for study and comment.

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman give us any idea when we are likely to have a statement of policy on this matter? There is considerable concern over the economic situation in parts of Nigeria.

Civil Service (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action he proposes to take upon the findings of the Phillipson-Adebo Report on the Nigerianisation of the Civil Service.

This Report has been considered by the Nigerian Government. A statement by the Council of Ministers of their views was published at the beginning of February. As it is rather long, I will place a copy in the Library.

Does not the Minister think that this Report took too long to come out, that six months is too long a period? Is he aware that it would have been of great assistance to the delegates at the August Conference hi London if they could have had copies of this Report which was compiled by two distinguished civil servants, one European and one African?

Of course, the Report is primarily a matter for the Nigerian Government and, as the hon. Gentleman has seen, some statements in the Report have been overtaken by events.

Is not that platitudinous? Is the hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that time is always marching on and that we should always be overtaken by events? Is this not a case of the same old lag, because this Report was held up when the delegates were discussing Lagos at the same August Conference?

The Phillipson-Adebo Report, which is the subject of the Question, assumes a retention of a unitary public service. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Conference went on another tack and recommended four services. The same thing happened, with their recommendations about the non-promotion of Nigerian officers, which is also contrary to what was adopted at the Conference.

May I ask whether "Nigerianisation" is a word used in the elementary schools of this country?


Mau Mau Activities


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many teams are now screening Kikuyu in Tanganyika; and to what extent the Tanganyika Government have taken over responsibility for screening operations and for detaining those found to be Mau Mau supporters.

There are no teams screening Kikuyu in Tanganyika at present. Full responsibility for such operations and for detaining Mau Mau supporters rests with the Tanganyika Government.

Does that mean that the danger of the penetration of Mau Mau into Tanganyika is either very slight or has disappeared?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent recent police operations in the Northern Province of Tanganyika have been successful in reducing the danger of Mau Mau activity in Tanganyika.

The recent police operations in the Northern Province have for the time being extinguished Mau Mau activities there. Small centres of potential Mau Mau infection in the Tanga Province are being broken up by the arrest of all suspects. Although there are a few Kikuyu in other parts of the Territory, no militant organisation is known to exist.

Constitution (Report) 23

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to implement the sections of the Report of the Special Commission appointed to examine matters arising out of the Report of the Committee on constitutional development in Tanganyika concerned with franchise.

None, Sir. The Report was debated in the Tanganyika Legislative Council in October. All members were unanimous in the opinion that the country was not at present ready for the introduction of an electoral system and that progress should not be unduly hurried. As regards the latter part of the hon. Member's Question, the Local Government Ordinance adopted a great number of the recommendations in the Report for decentralising Government and authorised the making of (regulations for the institution of elections to local government bodies where this proves practicable.

Is the Minister aware that all sections of opinion, African, European and Asian, are in favour of ultimately having a common roll for elections? Would he consider either Tanga or Dar-es-Salaam as one constituency with which to begin the common roll system for elections?

The hon. Member will know that in the Mackenzie Report the Commissioner said that his proposals were tentative and that there was a lack of public appreciation of the problems. For that reason the Legislative Council decided to start with local elections, and that is why regulations for local elections have been framed.

Inter-Racial Whitley Council


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the success of the Inter-Racial Whitley Council in Kenya, what steps are being taken by the Government of Tanganyika to introduce an inter-racial Whitley Council on the staff side.

I am consulting the Governor and will circulate the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Labour Conditions


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied that there is an adequate system of labour inspection in Tanganyika; and how far the labour inspectors are able to investigate the payment of wages on farms.

Yes, Sir. The Tanganyika Labour Department has headquarters staff and a field inspectorate covering all the main areas of employment. Labour Officers and inspectors investigate labour conditions, including the payment of wages, on farms to ensure that the labour laws are observed.

Is the Minister aware that many of those farmers do not keep books and that there is considerable doubt whether in fact many of them are paying the wages to the workers?

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that we feel that he has deputised quite well for his right hon. Friend?

West Africa (Dry Dock Facilities)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Her Majesty's Government have yet decided to construct in any of the ports of British West Africa a dry or floating dock to take a ship of up to 10,000 tons displacement; and where the dock is to be.

Would my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that the present floating dock at Lagos is both old and small, and will he consider consulting the four West African Governments with a view to its ultimate replacement?

Yes, but the Government are not aware of any demand from the shipping companies. If my hon. Friend knows of any, I know that my right hon. Friend will very much like to hear about it.

Jamaica (Tobacco Industry)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what information he has to account for the reduction in the employment of tobacco workers in Jamaica.

The reduction in employment in the Jamaican tobacco industry has been due to a reduction in the demand for Jamaican cigars, particularly in this country, with consequent restricted production.

Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether the reduction in the demand for Jamaican cigars is in any way due to imports of cigars from Cuba? Has he received any representations from Jamaica on that subject?

Yes, it is due to that partly, because there is a preference on the part of United Kingdom customers for Cuban cigars, and far more Cuban cigars are available. I should like to have notice of the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

Gold Coast (Co-Operative Marketing Association)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the fact that the Co-operative Cocoa Marketing Association is a non-profit-making organisation composed entirely of producer members, he will reconsider the decision to refuse representation of the Association on the Gold Coast Cocoa Marketing Board on the ground that the society is a marketing and not a producers' organisation.

This is entirely a matter for the Gold Coast Government, which appoints the members of the Board. I am informed that the Co-operative Marketing Association is one of the Board's licensed buying agents and that it is not the policy of the Gold Coast Government for any licensed buying agent to be represented on the Board.

Does not the Minister appreciate that this is not a buying agent in the same sense as a profit-making organisation composed only of buyers, but is a producers' organisation. Would he make representations there to give some encouragement to this Association, which has done good work and can do still better work?

This is a licensed buying agent in the Gold Coast—there is no doubt about that. But I will certainly bring the point made by the hon. Gentleman to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

In view of the important part that is being played by cooperative organisations in the Gold Coast and elsewhere in Africa, will the hon. and learned Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to discuss this matter with the Gold Coast Government, and also ask him to recognise and encourage these organisations in every way?

Has the hon. and learned Government seen the petition presented to the Governor-General, and is it being studied here in London?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent it is intended that the Cocoa Purchasing Company Limited of the Gold Coast should fulfil marketing and credit functions now carried out by the Gold Coast Co-operative Marketing Association.

The Cocoa Purchasing Company is one of a number of buying agents licensed by the Cocoa Marketing Board. The Gold Coast Government consider that there is room both for this Company and for the Co-operative Marketing Association. There is no intention that the Company should exercise a monopoly.

The Minister will appreciate that the Company is usurping functions hitherto exercised by the Cooperative Association, so would he at least see that the same encouragement is given to the Co-operative Association as is given to the Cocoa Purchasing Company?

The provisional figures for the last crop show that 19·7 per cent. was handled by the Co-operative Marketing Association and 17·8 per cent, by the Cocoa Purchasing Company.

Sierra Leone (Scrap Iron Exports)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the reason for the refusal of an export licence to Messrs. A. A. Abokie and Company, who wished to export scrap iron from Sierra Leone.

Exports of scrap from Sierra Leone are strictly controlled because there have been serious outbreaks of theft of scrap lately in the territory and also to prevent scrap reaching undesirable destinations. Messrs. Abokie and Co. applied for a licence to export scrap to a number of alternative destinations including Soviet satellite countries.

Is the Minister aware that when Messrs. Abokie attempted to export scrap at the European price to Western Germany, the local agents of the British Iron and Steel Federation first tried to bully them into accepting a much lower price, and then boasted that they would prevent them getting an export licence? Is not this a scandalous way of exploiting Sierra Leone to get British scrap cheaper than the European price?

My right hon. Friend has no evidence of that, and in any event Her Majesty's Government obviously cannot be responsible for the actions of the agent of the iron and steel industry's purchasing arrangements.

In view of the facts set out in the letter which I have sent to his right hon. Friend, does not the hon. and learned Gentleman think that this agent is an undesirable person to have in Sierra Leone?


Local Government


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many towns in Malaya have now elected councils; how many will be added during the present year; to what extent the qualifications for electors and councillors are uniform throughout the area; and if he will set up a special minister to deal with local government matters as suggested in the Bedale Report.

Fifteen towns in the Federation have elected municipal or town councils. Five more town councils are definitely to be established in 1954 and four others may be. The qualifications for electors and councillors are decided by the Governments of the States and Settlements and differ slightly from one to another. A Minister was appointed last November—not, of course, by my right hon. Friend but by the High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya —with responsibility for a new portfolio covering local government, housing and town planning.

Whilst thanking the Minister for the progress already made, can I ask him to press on with the other towns and villages so that they can be incorporated in the scheme, and will he make it clear to the people of Malaya that the ballot is secret?

Yes, and I think the hon. Gentleman can be comforted by the fact that, if the present plans go forward, all the towns with over 10,000 population will have these town councils.

Food Prices


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent General Templer has recently studied the question of the prices charged to the consumer by the middlemen in Perak; and what was the nature of his conclusions.

General Templer has not been making any special study of this question.

Is the Minister aware that in the B.B.C. news bulletin on 14th February it was definitely stated that during his tour of Perak General Templer made a close examination of food prices, and that he was looking for ways of reducing the profit of the middlemen so that prices might be lowered? Can the Minister tell the House if he is on the side of General Templer or of the bandits in this controversy?

General Templer, of course, always has in mind the reduction of food prices, but he has not—[Interruption]. If hon. Gentlemen will listen to the answer, I am saying that he is not making a particular study of this question, but that he always has it in mind.

Rubber Industry


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the importance of rubber to the economy of Malaya, what action he is taking to improve the position of the industry.

The Federation Government are endeavouring to improve the efficiency of the industry by encouraging replanting with high yielding trees and have instituted control over grading and packing to improve the quality of rubber exported. Extensive research and development work is carried out in this country and in Malaya to improve the technical qualities of natural rubber and develop new uses for it. A comprehensive inquiry into the Malayan rubber industry, covering costs of production and taxation, is also in hand.

In view of the fact that many plantations cannot produce rubber under about 2s. a lb. and that the present price is round about Is. 4½d., may I ask my hon. and learned Friend if he can assure the House that the American Government are doing their utmost to help the producers of natural rubber to get a fair price for their product and so be enabled to pay decent wages to their workers?

As I understand it, at the October meeting of the management committee of the Rubber Study Group various recommendations were made and the U.S. Government took action on two of them but not on the third, which related to an increase in the price of synthetic rubber.

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman take this up with the Minister of Supply with a view to purchasing rubber now that it is cheap and stockpiling it in this country, so that we may have a stockpile here and help the rubber industry in Malaya?


Parliamentary Delegation (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will place additional copies of Appendix II of the Report on Kenya in the Library.

May I thank the Minister for the speed with which he moved after the Question was put down?

Will my hon. and learned Friend consider giving greater general publicity to the facts in Appendix II, so that the people in the country know the real truth of these matters?

My hon. Friend will remember that my right hon. Friend said that he would be prepared to publish Appendix II, to which this Question is directed, if the House so wished.

Has my hon. and learned Friend considered sending copies of Appendix II to foreign embassies for transmission to their Governments?

Is the Minister aware that a great deal of the material covered by the Appendix will be found in "The Golden Bough"?

Would my hon. and learned Friend agree that the information contained in this Appendix is essential for anyone desiring to grasp the true nature of the situation in Kenya, and as it is of such a shattering nature that it ought to be disseminated with care, will the Minister send it to newspaper editors as well to everybody else?

Police Reserve (Irregularities)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many members of the Kenya Police Reserve have been charged with serious irregularities; to what extent these irregularities have arisen out of vengeance for Mau Mau activities against relatives of those charged with irregularities; and what specific instructions to avoid these irregularities are given through officers commanding and training the Police Reserve.

The answer to the first part of the Question is 42. There is no evidence that the irregularity in any case was in the nature of a reprisal. Eleven directives have been issued by the Commissioner of Police, in addition to those of the Governor and the Commander-in-Chief.

May we take it, therefore, that there are now no further irregularities or malpractices to be attributed to the Police Reserve?

I think the answer to the Question is that 42 have been charged. One cannot say as to what may or may not have happened in any place. If there are further irregularities they will be dealt with in the same way, but there have f been none further that I know of which should be the subject of a charge.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that, in spite of recent suggestions of irregularities occurring in circumstances of extreme provocation, the Kenya police has always been a body with a very fine record in the best traditions of service?

The answer must be seen in the framework of the fact that there are 10,000 members of the Kenya Police Reserve.

As this is the first Question about Kenya which we have reached, may I ask the Under-Secretary of State if he proposes to make a statement later either to confirm or deny the statement in the mid-day Press that the death sentence on the Mau Mau leader known as "General China" has been suspended and that he has offered to meet the other Mau Mau leaders to try to arrange a peace?

"Kenya Report, 1953"


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to make a further statement on the document entitled "Kenya Report, 1953"

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given to him by my right hon. Friend on 17th and 24th February, to which I am at present unable to add.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what grounds passports issued to African residents in Kenya are endorsed with the qualification that any application for further endorsement should be referred to the Principal Immigration Officer, Nairobi.

My right hon. Friend is consulting the Governor and will write to the hon. Member.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that originally I put this Question down to the Foreign Office, as it has responsibility for passports, but that the Foreign Office transferred it to the Colonial Office under the assumption that there would be more information there? Is it really the case that the Colonial Office is unaware of this gross interference with the holding of British passports by British subjects?

Inquiries have been made of the Governor, as these matters are usually within his province.

Colonial Territories

Health Service Doctors (Seconding)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what arrangements there are for seconding doctors from the National Health Service to the service of Colonial Governments; and how many are at present seconded to Nigeria and the Gold Coast, respectively.

Hospital authorities have power to second members of their medical staffs in suitable circumstances to overseas and other posts. In addition, National Health Service hospital doctors may take up employment in the Colonial Medical Service for periods up to six years, with continuing participation in National Health Service superannuation. The salaries and general conditions of service of doctors so employed are similar to those for doctors on the permanent establishment. On reversion to employment in this country, a gratuity is payable. One doctor is serving in Nigeria and three doctors in the Gold Coast under these latter arrangements.

Would my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that in Northern Nigeria there is only one doctor for every 64,000 people, and would he discuss with the Minister of Health what steps could be taken to make seconding better known and more popular?

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the trouble is partly due to the recent creation of the posts and partly to reluctance to accept a new idea.

Government Offices (Air-Conditioning)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the air-conditioning of Government-owned offices and buildings in those Colonies which lie within the tropics.

Would my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is now as cheap to build air-conditioned houses as those of the traditional type, and would he also agree that the efficiency of expatriates increases greatly with such modern scientific help?

I could not express an opinion as to whether the cost is the same. Obviously the cost of converting existing buildings is fairly heavy. My hon. Friend might be interested in "Colonial Building Notes," which sets out the methods of converting buildings to air-conditioning.

Somaliland (Student Scholarships)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what information he has concerning the 25 scholarships for Somaliland students given by the Egyptian Government; and how many British scholarships have been given during the past year.

The awards were sponsored by the Somali National League. Of the 19 scholars who have already travelled to Egypt, nine are receiving religious instruction only and the remaining 10 are to receive secondary education. The Somaliland Government have given 13 scholarships during the past year for studies abroad including three in the United Kingdom. A total of 34 students are at present undertaking studies abroad with the assistance of Government or Colonial Development and Welfare funds, eight of whom are in the United Kingdom.

In view of the fact that these students who go into Egypt become acquainted with the Egyptian atmosphere and interpretation of events, is it not highly desirable that we should supply more scholarships for Somali students to come to this country than we have done heretofore?

I appreciate the point made by the hon. Gentleman. The difference between grants and scholarships is not perhaps so well defined there, and the hon. Gentleman will note in the answer that 34 students are getting grants and that 13 are getting scholarships. I will, however, bring the point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Do they come to this country? Is it not essential that we should encourage as many as possible to come here?

No, Sir, because many of them go to adjoining Colonial Territories and can benefit from similarity of conditions, though perhaps not such a high standard of education.

With the opening of the Muslim Institute of Education in Mombasa, will my hon. and learned Friend draw the attention of his right hon. Friend to the importance of using that particularly for the education of Somalis from British Somaliland?

Yes, Sir, and I can tell my hon. Friend that of those 34 students some are at Mombasa already.

Shipbuilding (Ussr Orders)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many requests up to date have been made to Britain for permission to allow British shipbuilding yards to build ships for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; how many of such requests have resulted in contracts; with what British shipbuilding yards such contracts have been placed; and what is the kind of ship and value in money involved.

The only contract actually placed up to the present is one with a Lowestoft firm for 20 trawlers, the value of which is approximately £6 million. Apart from this order, no applications from shipbuilders for licences to build ships for the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been received.

Is not it a fact that the orders to which the Minister has referred are not comparable to the number of offers that have been made by the Russian authorities? Further, is he aware that Scottish shipbuilding yards badly need those orders, having regard to the poor inflow of orders for next year, and will he do something to stave off the threat of unemployment?

I am aware of the need for orders in some of the smaller yards. I believe that there are one or two other inquiries on foot from this quarter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that when shipbuilding firms in this country have not been permitted to build ships for Russia over a certain tonnage the orders have been promptly transferred to Europe, where they are fulfilled by our allies?

I am aware that there have been some orders placed in Europe, but the fact remains that an order has to be placed here before the Admiralty is requested to issue a licence. There has to be a firm application, and we have had only one firm application, which I have mentioned.

Does the hon. Gentleman include requests to build for other countries than Soviet Russia which are behind the Iron Curtain, or does he limit his answer to Soviet Russia alone?

If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Question, he will see that that would be outside its scope.

Royal Navy

Ceremonial Visits, Welsh Ports


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many of Her Majesty's ships will make ceremonial visits to Welsh ports this year; and if he will give details of such visits already arranged.

The Home Fleet's summer programme has not yet been settled, but I will let my hon. Friend have the details he asks for as soon as they are available.

While thanking the Minister for that promise, may I ask him to bear in mind that, while in recent years we have appreciated these visits to Barry and other Welsh ports, we should particularly like visits from some of the larger and new types, with their officers and crews.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that what we are interested in are not ceremonial visits but the visits of ships with cargoes, and that Barry is urgently in need of cargo ships rather than circuses.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be interested to know—it is relevant to the second part of his question—that we now intend to berth some ships of the Reserve Fleet at Barry.

On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to make such a remark as that made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), which is calculated to reflect badly on the Barry Council and other bodies in Barry who support the point of view I have expressed?

Further to that point of of order. Is it in order for an hon. Gentleman to make himself look quite as foolish as the hon. Gentleman opposite?

Admiralty Employees, Singapore


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that men residing in the naval base, Singapore, are often fined a day's or even two days' wages for offences committed outside working hours and that lorry drivers are fined at the will of the Admiralty without appearing at a civil court; and if he will take steps to put the civil employees resident at the base under civil law when outside working hours.

Admiralty employees who live in official quarters inside the Naval Base are subject to the civil law at all times. In addition, they are subject to local dockyard orders for the regulation of the base and are liable to be fined up to a maximum of two days' pay for offences against these orders. Motor transport drivers are liable, when on duty, to be fined under local dockyard orders. As regards the last part of the Question, I have no evidence of the need to alter the system I have described, in view of the circumstances at Singapore, where very large numbers of employees live inside the base.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the men and their families inside the base find themselves in a difficult position? Does he know that recently one of the men was evicted from his house and that a trade union official saw the camp commodore and told him that it was a case for the civil court, but the commodore said, "I am the law here "; and apparently he is the law inside the base although there are thousands of people living there and not out-side? Will the Minister look into the matter again?

If the hon. Member likes to give me more particulars, I will certainly look at them; but the point is that these families are subject to the civil law and to these regulations which are perfectly clearly laid down.

Can the Civil Lord tell us when the regulations came into operation, and whether they have ever received the consideration of the political members of the Department?

They came into force, I understand, some years ago. I do not think that they have been reviewed by the political side of the Department recently.

Will the hon. Gentleman review them to see that these people are treated in the same way as people in this country who are employed by the Services?

Certainly I will look al that, but I should very much doubt whether they could be very much altered owing to the special circumstances at Singapore, where 3,500 employees are living inside the Naval base in a way which does not happen elsewhere.

Will my hon. Friend ascertain whether the regulations were reviewed between 1946 and 1951?

Lost Aircraft, Irish Sea (Search)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what efforts were made by naval vessels to locate the Royal Air Force bomber and crew lost over the Irish Sea on 26th January last.

On receiving a report of the accident on the international distress frequency, Her Majesty's Ship "Romola" altered course and searched the vicinity of the reported position throughout the night. At first light she was joined by Her Majesty's Ship "Volage," the Trinity House vessel "Argus" and a number of merchant ships as well as aircraft, with "Romola" co-ordinating. During the afternoon Her Majesty's Ship "Perseus," joined in with her helicopters. At dusk the merchant ships were released from the search. Her Majesty's Ships "Perseus," "Romola" and "Volage" together with the Trinity House vessel "Argus," continued the search until 8 a.m. on the following day the 27th January. By then no hope remained of saving life and, by agreement with the Royal Air Force authorities, the sea search was abandoned.

May we have an assurance that no naval craft would have followed the shocking example of the Fleetwood trawler captain whose vessel picked up the body of an airman a few days after the unfortunate accident—

In view of the inadequate nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an opportunity to raise the matter at an early date.

Her Majesty's Yacht "Britannia"


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will make a statement giving technical details of the S.Y. "Britannia" in view of the prestige associated with the building of this yacht.

Full details of the yacht have already been made public, but I will send a copy to the hon. Member. The only additional information that I need give is that she has a gross tonnage of 5,769 tons and is driven by four steam turbines geared to two shafts, giving a cruising speed of 21 knots. The performance of the yacht on trials gave complete satisfaction.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that applications by the technical and the national Press to view the vessel have been turned down? Why a/re we not taking every opportunity to tell the world of this engineering triumph and of the skill of British shipbuilders? In these difficult days, is it not necessary to allow the Press to see the vessel? Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind that the Service should not always be the "Silent Service ".

If the hon. Member reads the details that I have given him, which were published very fully in the Press in April last year, I think he will agree that we have given very full details to the world. However, I will certainly go into the point that he raised about visits.

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether their Lordships are satisfied with the performance of this vessel in view of the alterations that have taken place.

Purely as a matter of information, will my hon. and gallant Friend say whether this vessel should be referred to as "H.M.S." or as "S.Y.," as printed on the Order Paper.

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that if any prestige value attaches to the construction of the yacht, its ugly appearance detracts from it.

Post Office

Telephone And Electricity Lines (Shared Facilities)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General on how many occasions during the last year he has come to an agreement with the electricity authorities to use the same poles to carry both services; and how many poles carrying both telephone lines and electric mains were erected during the same period.

Four thousand eight hundred and twenty-five occasions, involving 12,972 poles; the answer to the second part of the Question is 453.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that 453 represents adequate progress and that there is not a lack of co-operation between the experts in the two services?

The first figure refers to poles previously erected, but the second figure refers only to poles which were specially put up for the service.

Will the hon. Gentleman do all he can to bring about further progress in this field, as it seems to provide the only opportunity that some rural areas will have of obtaining this essential service?

I can give that, assurance. There is very close cooperation between the Post Office and the British Electricity Authority.

Counter Staff


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is satisfied that the Post Office counter staff is generally large enough to ensure the prompt payment of pensions and allowances without the recipients having to form long queues.

We aim to provide adequate staff for the transaction of counter business but, at some offices, a certain amount of queuing at peak periods is unavoidable. If my hon. Friend will let me have details of any case of difficulty he may have in mind, I shall be glad to make inquiry.

Where my hon. Friend receives complaints about inadequate staffing—I am sure he must receive some—is he satisfied that the work is evenly distributed throughout the week and not so arranged that there are peaks on some days and a great deal less work to be done on others?

It is not possible to make such an arrangement. There are some days in the week, especially Friday and Saturday, when a disproportionate number of old-age pensioners and other pensioners visit post offices.

When the hon. Gentleman is considering the matter and, possibly, also the question of increasing the number of staff serving at the counters, will he bear in mind that many counters are not large enough to take more staff and that he might have to attend to that matter before increasing staff?

I am very painfully aware of that fact. The difficulty is that the volume of post office business has increased enormously during recent years.

Inland Telegrams (Tariff Increases)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will make a report on the present position of the telegram service.

Sub-Offices, Dundee


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what representations he has made to Dundee Corporation with regard to the provision of permanent shops suitable for use as sub-post offices on the Fintry, Douglas and Angus housing estates.

In response to an inquiry made in December last, the Dundee Corporation were informed that temporary shop buildings are not generally suitable for use as sub-post offices but that applications for the post of sub-postmaster on each of the estates mentioned would be invited as soon as shopkeepers were able to offer suitable permanent premises.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this very unsatisfactory situation has existed for a long time and that k causes great inconvenience, especially where large numbers of family allowances are concerned? Will he look into the possibility of establishing more permanent consultation machinery between his Department and the local authority with the object of providing sub-post offices more quickly? In the meantime, will he look into the question of providing travelling post offices in connection with such housing schemes?

I will look into the question of providing a travelling post office, but the responsibility for building permanent shops does not rest primarily on the Post Office.

Telephone Service



asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many people are on the waiting list for telephones in Sunderland; and how many of these have been waiting for more than 12 months.

During 1953, 897 telephones were provided in Sunderland and at the end of the year 294 applications were outstanding. Fifty-one of these had been waiting more than 12 months.

Police Calls, Leeds Area (Boundaries)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the telephone kiosk situated at the junction of the four cross roads at Moor Top, New Farnley, opposite the Wood Cock Inn, which is within the Leeds boundary, is connected to the Drighlington Exchange; whether he is further aware of the confusion that has arisen to the advantage of thieves by the present arrangement; and whether in these circumstances he will have this telephone connected to the Leeds Exchange for contact with the headquarters of the Leeds Police Force.

Municipal and telephone boundaries seldom coincide, and arrangements are made locally to obviate difficulties over emergency calls. In the case of the Moor Top kiosk, a 999 call to the police is connected to the Morley Police Station in the West Riding, who pass the information to the Leeds City Police if necessary. This arrangement usually works very well, but if the hon. Member will let me have full details of this incident, I will have it fully investigated.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I sent him the original letter, or a copy, which I received from the local community centre? Will he give consideration to the argument that it is reasonable that ratepayers within the city of Leeds, even if they live in the rural outskirts, should have access to the police force for which they pay rates? Is he aware that when 999 has been dialled, the demand for the insertion of three pennies has resulted in the escape of burglars on at least one occasion?

I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman says, but we have been unable to trace the incident to which he refers. Collaboration between the two police forces has worked excellently in the past.

Television (Band Iii)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if, in view of the Government's inability to undertake to bear the cost of changes of frequency due to the allocation of Band III to competitive television, he will take steps to ensure that the cost, falling on local authority ambulance services, will be borne by firms who gain advantages from competitive television.

The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The decision to clear Band III over a period of years, as recommended by the Television Advisory Committee, was taken to provide additional television services, whether such services were to be provided by the B.B.C. or otherwise. The private interests affected were warned at the time their licences were issued that their frequencies might have to be changed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the change will cost the Sal-ford Corporation, for example, a great deal of money and will involve local authorities generally in an expenditure of thousands of pounds? Is it not common justice that those who gain by the change should recompense those who suffer? Cannot some of the £750,000 to which the hon. Gentleman referred yesterday be devoted to this purpose?

None of the frequencies allocated to commercial television is being used by the services to which the hon. Gentleman refers. At the time the licences were issued it was made perfectly clear to the licensees that they might have to be moved from their frequencies. We intend to make the removal a fairly slow business in order not to cause more inconvenience than is absolutely necessary.

Was not Band III allocated for broadcasting purposes internationally in 1947? Is it not also true that the various services which are involved ought never to have been put into the Band, as a result of which these difficulties have arisen, and that the cost of any change should, therefore, fall on the Post Office, which is responsible for this having happened?

I am afraid that my hon. and gallant Friend is not correct in his diagnosis.

Will the hon. Gentleman look at the problem again? The fact remains that frequencies are having to be taken from Band III to provide channels for sponsored television. Is it not unfair to place this burden on local authorities and other public services?

We should be starting a very dangerous precedent if we did what is suggested. When the licences were issued it was made clear beyond all doubt to the licensees that in certain circumstances they might have to be removed from the Band.

Royal Air Force

Navigation School, Bishops Court (Closure)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air when he intends that flying duties shall be discontinued at Bishops Court, County Down; what estimate he has made of the effect upon local employment; and what his plans are for the future of this airfield.

The Air Navigation School at Bishops Court will be closing down in April. The station will then be placed on a care and maintenance basis, though the possibility of using it for another purpose later on will be kept in mind. We shall still need a small number of the civilians at present employed there, and it may be possible to offer a few of the remainder employment at other Royal Air Force stations in Northern Ireland.

When my hon. Friend is deciding the future of the airfield, will he bear in mind the very grave unemployment situation which exists in that part of the world?

Yes, Sir. We have taken that very much into consideration, but we must also take into consideration the fact that at Bishops Court there are only temporary buildings and no married quarters and that it is badly situated geographically for navigation training.

Has my hon. Friend received any communications from the Government of Northern Ireland on this subject?

Broadcasting (Frequencies)


asked the Under secretary of State for Air which aero nautical services are at present operating in the frequencies corresponding to channels 10, 11, 12 and 13 of television Band III, respectively; and what programme he has for vacating these frequencies.


asked the Under secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the wide publicity which has been given to the air-sea rescue device, "Sarah," he will state what frequency this device operates upon so as to en courage its use by civil and military users at home and abroad.

Personal Case

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

To ask the Undersecretary of State for Air, why, in a case about which details have been sent to him, a man who has completed his National Service in the Royal Army Service Corps and has done Reserve training in the Army, has now been called for Reserve training with the Royal Air Force.

On a point of order. Question No. 45 concerns a constituent of mine. I understand that the hon. Member who is asking the Question and has not bothered to turn up today is living in my division, and that the constituent has been asked by my Labour opponent not to approach me on this Question. May I ask whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air will be allowed to answer this Question?

The hon. Member who put the Question down is not here. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) should raise the matter with the hon. Gentleman whose name is on the Paper.

Is it not the case that this Question will be answered in writing afterwards? This is a point which ought to be raised, because the matter is of extreme urgency for my constituent.

A Question can only be asked by the hon. Member whose name is on the Paper.



asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the number of Regulars who extended their service during each of the years 1949 to 1953, inclusive.

The figures are: 1949, 2,658; 1950, 4,859; 1951, 9,641; 1952, 6,086; and 1953, 7,519.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the number of Regular recruits for each of the years 1948, 1949, 1951, 1952 and 1953, excluding three-year engagements.

As the reply is in the form of a table with notes, I will, with permission, circulate it in the official report.

Following is the reply:

(1)The figures for 1948 and 1949 include a number of airmen who took on three-year regular engagements under the 1946 Bounty Scheme. It is not possible to distinguish these from airmen who took on longer engagements under the Bounty Scheme.
(2)The figures for 1950–53 exclude three-year engagements

Cook Assistants (Duties)


asked the Undersecretary of State for Air the duties of a cook assistant in the Royal Air Force; and what special training is needed for this work.

A cook assistant helps qualified cooks in kitchens and messes, normally on work directly concerned with the preparation of food, such as the cleaning of vegetables. No special training is required.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on 17th February I asked why an airman, a constituent of mine, had not been granted compassionate leave or compassionate posting and had, in fact, been sent abroad as one of only four out of 165 of his unit being sent abroad? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that in his reply he said:

"A.C.2 Senior was one of the only four cook assistants in his entry and all of them were needed overseas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1954; Vol. 523, c, 217.
Could he say why somebody else could not have been sent to peel the potatoes?

This airman was, as I said, selected for cook assistant. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The reason why somebody else could not have been sent overseas instead was that his compassionate grounds were not sufficiently strong. The whole system of compassionate posting and discharge only works and is only possible so long as we stick rigidly to the rules.

London Airport (Detained Alien)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation why it was necessary to have a guard for Dr. oestereich who was detained at London Airport when seeking to attend the conference organised by the National Committee of Teachers for Peace Conference; and how many guards were supplied by his Department each hour for the hourly charge of 8s.

Whenever an alien is refused leave to land and is detained under the Aliens Order pending his removal from the United Kingdom, an escort is provided to ensure both the safe custody and the welfare of the passenger. A single escort throughout the detention period was in this case provided by the airline and not by my Department.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that one guard at 8s. an hour is a pretty high payment?

These figures have been agreed between the various operating companies. It is a long story. It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman does not carry out his undertaking to raise this matter on the Adjournment at an early date.

Mr. Speaker, I beg to give notice once again that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.


Terminus Place


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware that virtually no traffic uses Terminus Place, S.W.I, travelling from East to West; that it is now mainly used for costermongers' barrows; and as traffic from West to East is prohibited and thus adds nearly one-quarter of a mile to vehicles travelling from Victoria Station to Victoria Street, if he will now consider making a one-way street in the opposite direction.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

No, Sir. The present arrangement is supported by the police, the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee and our own engineers, who consider that it has improved the traffic conditions at this point and that to reverse the one-way direction would have the opposite effect.

Would my hon. Friend ask the three eminent authorities to spend half an hour one day discussing the matter with local barrow boys and "coppers," who know much more about it than his expert advisers?

If my hon. Friend's suggestion were carried out, it would mean that traffic moving out of Terminus Place would cut across the heavy stream of: buses coming into Victoria Station, on; the one hand, and two streams of traffic passing out, on the other.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that in tidying up this problem he will do nothing to force out of business many of these costermongers, some of whom are my constituents? Is he aware that they are a vital and lively part of the London scene and that many of them have old-fashioned private enterprises? If he does anything to impair their business, will he promise that proper compensation will be paid to them on the lines favoured by Government supporters?

There is no intention of interfering with these enterprising costermongers, but when I paid a visit after lunch this afternoon I found only two of them there.



asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in the interests of road safety, he will arrange to give greater publicity to the need for pedestrians to use footpaths where they are available, and thus to avoid walking on the roads as much as possible.

Advice on this is contained in the current Highway Code and will be repeated in the new one. When the new code is issued, I will see what can be done to give this point special publicity.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I say that from my experience time after time people will walk on the road and not face the oncoming traffic when there is a footpath? If my hon. Friend could only impress it upon people, it might reduce accidents.

We will do so. The matter of facing oncoming traffic will be referred to in the new Highway Code.

When does the hon. Gentleman hope to be able to issue the new Highway Code?

Will the hon. Gentleman be on his guard against following the bureaucratic tendencies of his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)?

Do the remarks of my hon. Friend bear the interpretation that nobody will be allowed to walk without reading the Highway Code?

No, Sir, but it is hoped that pedestrians, like other users of the highway, will read the Highway Code.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what is holding up this new Highway Code? We have been promised it during the last 12 months, and now we learn that we are not to have it for some months.

The drafting has been completed, and we hope to begin the arrangements for printing it hi the very near future. We intend that it shall be a thoroughly good production when it is published.

Accidents (Learner-Drivers)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many learner-drivers, driving vehicles bearing L plates, were involved in road accidents last year; what was the proportion of such accidents to total road accidents; and how many of them were fatal accidents.

I regret that this information is not available for past years, but I have arranged to obtain it in future.

Driving Tests


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many persons took a driving test last year; and how many failed.

642,376 tests were conducted in the 12 months ended 2nd January, 1954, and of these 273,916 resulted in failure.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that driving tests are rapidly becoming not so much tests of safe driving as of ability to answer a small number of standardised questions and to do certain driving tricks? Will the hon. Gentleman now review the tests in order to ensure that preparation for them by the motoring schools is rather less mechanical and automatic than it now is and is more conducive to safe driving.

If the hon. Gentleman can send me any evidence in support of what he says—[HON MEMBERS:" Oh "]—I shall certainly be willing to look into the matter.