Skip to main content

Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 526: debated on Monday 5 April 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Pensions And National Insurance

1914–18 War Widows (Pensions)

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware of the financial difficulties of widows whose husbands were killed in World War I, and whose pensions were frozen; that many of the concessions allowed to old-age pensioners are not available to these widows; and, in view of the concessions recently allowed to other categories of pensioners, whether he will now consider improving the pensions of widows of the 1914–18 war.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Brigadier J. G. Smyth)

I assume that the hon. Member refers to widows in receipt of alternative pensions. These pensions are higher than the standard rates of widows' pensions and my right hon. Friend does not feel justified in increasing them.

As regards the second and third parts of the Question, if the hon. Member will let me know what concessions he has in mind I will write to him.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether a widow who is receiving the alternative pension can transfer to the standard rate if it would be of benefit to her to do so?

Yes, Sir. The alternative pension was discontinued many years ago, but widows in receipt of the alternative pension have the right to draw that pension as long as they like to do so and if the standard pension becomes more beneficial to them they can then transfer to that pension.

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that there is a great deal of feeling on the subject of the pensions of widows of Service men and will he have a look at the matter over a wide field? He will agree with me, will he not, that widows should not have to go to the National Assistance Board in any circumstances if they have lost their husbands in either of the world wars?

This Question refers to widows' alternative pensions, which is not quite the same thing. These pensions have been and still are in most cases greater than the standard pension and, therefore, the question put by my hon. Friend does not arise.

Hospital Confinement Grants

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will amend his regulations so as to permit payment of the home confinement grant to a mother who, having gone to some expense in anticipation of home confinement, is sent to hospital for a short period in an emergency.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mr. R. H. Turton)

The present regulations permit payment of the home confinement grant in such cases provided that the whole cost of the claimant's maintenance was paid or payable by her. The National Insurance Commissioner has recently decided three claims on these regulations and my right hon. Friend is studying the position in the light of the Commissioner's rulings.

In view of the difficulties that arise in these cases will my hon. Friend consider amending the regulations so as to cover these exceptional cases?

I said that the Commissioner has just given decisions in three cases and three more decisions are pending. At the moment, it is premature to make up one's mind. The important thing is the principle, which I enunciated in my original reply, and that has been determined.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that circumstances differ in these cases and that, therefore, his right hon. Friend might exercise discretion?

As the right hon. Lady knows, it is not a question of exercising discretion. If there is to be a change it will mean amending the regulations. The three cases that have been decided differ, but there are three cases to come and I think it would be wise to wait until we have the six decisions from the Commissioner and then study those before we come to a decision.

Amputations (Health Effects)

4.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when the report of the Rock Carling Committee on the effect of amputations on health and the expectancy of life will be available.

I regret that I am not yet in a position to say when the Committee's final report will be available.

In addition to the report to the Minister, will a report be published summarising the findings of the Committee?

It will undoubtedly be made public after it has been examined in the Ministry and by the Central Advisory Committee.

5.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will consider the desirability of periodic examinations of pensioners over 50 years of age who have lost a leg, to ascertain the effect of extra strain on the paired limb.

My right hon. Friend thinks we had better wait and see what the Rock Carling Committee reports before making up our minds on this point. As the hon. Member knows, many limbless pensioners are not in favour of periodic examinations.

Has the experience of the Ministry in the examination of the sample number of limbless men for the purpose of the Rock Carling Committee not convinced it that many defects were found in the examination and that examinations might be made periodically?

Any pensioner can, of course, have a medical examination at any time if he feels that his assessment should be increased, but I think we had better wait until we see the result of the Committee's deliberations.

War Pensions

6.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the annual value of the war disability pensions paid to ex-privates, ex-warrant officers, Class 1, and ex-captains for total loss of sight, loss of two or more limbs, or the loss of one eye or an arm or leg just above the elbow or knee; the estimated cost of uplifting the rates of war disability pensions paid to ex-privates and junior non-commissioned officers up to the rates paid to ex-warrant officers Class 1 and 2, respectively; and whether he will bear in mind the special claims of those pensioned at the lowest rates when considering increases in war disability pensions.

DisabilityDegree of DisablementAnnual amount of basic pension only
Ex-PrivateEx-Warrant Officer, Class IEx-Captain
Loss of:Per cent.£s.£s.£s.
sight or two or more limbs1001438186172660
one eye4057774151068
one arm just above elbow701008130161864
one leg just above knee60861112215912

12.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, in view of the improved national situation noted in the recently published Economic Survey, if he is now satisfied that the time has now come to do something more for war pensioners and their dependants.

My right hon. Friend does not think it is for him to express any opinion on the financial and economic position of the country at this juncture.

Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether this subject is regarded by the Government as of first priority?

Just at the moment I cannot add anything to the reply I have given.

Fuel And Power

Efficiency Service

13.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether the appointments have been made for the

As the reply to the first part of the Question contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The estimated additional annual cost of raising, to the rates paid to ex-warrant officers, Class 1 and 2, the disability pensions paid to all lower ranks is £9,400,000 and £7,400,000 respectively.

As regards the last part of the Question, I can assure the hon. Member that my right hon. Friend has under constant review the provisions for all classes of war pensioners.

Following is the information asked for in the first part of the Question:

board of directors and staff of the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service; and when it is expected that operations will start.

Yes, Sir. The directors, general manager and secretary have been appointed; staff recruitment is proceeding and the service expects to start operating on 1st May.

31.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent he proposes to make available to the new fuel advisory company details of private industrial processes, entrusted to his Department by manufacturers and others, when his Departmental fuel efficiency service is brought to an end and the new company takes over.

14.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he has any estimate of the amount of fuel saved in industry over a convenient accounting period as a result of the installation of better plant and employing better heating methods; and whether the improvement in the heating of houses which has been undertaken in recent years has gone to reduction in consumption of fuel or to greater amenities.

No estimate is available, but substantial savings have been made. Comparison between the increase in industrial fuel consumption and that of general economic activity shows a saving of about 3 million tons of coal a year. Improved domestic heating is thought, at present, to result more in increased comfort than in reduced fuel consumption.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the saving has been greater in industrial or domestic consumption?

When the right hon. Gentleman says that 3 million tons have been saved in industry last year, with what is that compared—the previous year?

17.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that a waste of public money, effort and educated manpower results from the overlapping of functions of the fuel departments of Ministries, of various local authorities and of the new fuel efficiency service; and what steps he intends to take to secure economies by preventing such overlapping.

As at present advised I could not accept my hon. Friend's view of these matters, but I would be glad to consider any information he may care to send me. I can assure him that steps have already been taken to prevent overlapping when certain of my Department's responsibilities are transferred to the new service.

Gasworkers, Stoke-On-Trent (Medical Supervision)

16.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what medical supervision is available for workers in the gas industry of Stoke-on-Trent; and how many of the men have X-ray examinations of the lungs, and at what intervals.

The West Midlands Gas Board employs three full-time and a number of part-time medical officers; but as the main subject of this Question is part of the Board's day to day administration, I am asking the Chairman to write to the hon. Member about it.

While thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask whether he will bear in mind the work which has been done so far, and is still being continued, by the Medical Research Council upon the specific risks which gas workers have to undergo, especially with reference to cancer of the lung? Will he see that as far as possible the gas boards throughout the country provide ample medical services for their workers?

As I think the hon. Member may be aware, I have brought that subject to the attention of the gas boards and impressed on them the importance of medical services.

Departmental Staff, Eastern Region

18.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many non-industrial established civil servants, temporary civil servants and non-industrial staff, respectively, were employed in or by the Eastern Region of his Department at the end of 1951 and at the latest date for which figures are available; and what percentage of the temporary staff employed at the end of 1951 has since become established.

Thirty-seven, 20 and nil; and, in February, 1954, 33, 11 and five. Since 1951, 15 per cent, of the temporary staff have been established.

Power Stations (Sulphur Oxide Gases)

21.

asked the Minister of Fuel what proportion of the dangerous sulphur oxides will be removed from the fuel gases at Dunston power station, County Durham, by the apparatus installed for the elimination of dust and smoke.

Does the Minister really believe that the removal of grit will do much good? Is not the question of gases, which destroy health and property and everything else worth keeping, important?

I think it is worth while removing the grit. I agree that the gas is also important and I have another Question to answer on that subject.

28.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the limited possibilities of existing processes for ridding the flue gases of power stations of harmful sulphur oxides, he will arrange for investigation and research into this question.

Will the Minister give special attention to this matter, in view of the fact that present methods involve the use of large quantities of water; and that the River Thames, I am informed, will already be saturated with the effluent of calcium sulphate when two of the power stations only are in use on its banks?

Yes, Sir. I am informed that the hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that the limit has been reached in regard to the River Thames, owing to the effluent which he mentions. Work is now taking place in connection with a new process involving the use of gas works liquor, but it is in an experimental stage.

29.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many extra tons of sulphur in the form of sulphur oxides will be discharged into the atmosphere annually when the extension to the Barking power station now contemplated is complete; and what methods are proposed for eliminating these dangerous sulphur oxides from the flue gases.

A steady decrease in fuel consumption at this station is expected from now onwards and the discharge of sulphur oxides will, therefore, be reduced. The new part of the station will disperse its oxides at high temperature and great velocity through chimneys 375 feet high.

Is the Minister aware that the local authority is very anxious about this question, as are the people living in that area; and that I receive many letters from my constituents and people further afield saying how much they are suffering already from the gasworks and the power station in that area, and how anxious they are that a further station is contemplated?

As I have just said, we must face the fact that the method of sending out the smoke at high temperature and, by fans, at a high velocity, is the best practical method known to the engineers apart from the method of gas washing, which some experts consider not to be very satisfactory. However, it is fortunate that the old A station, which is probably the cause of most of the trouble, is due for retirement shortly. The new part of the station will go from a three-shift to a two-shift system of operation owing to the general policy of concentrating electricity production, as far as possible, in the Midlands coalfield.

Is it not a fact that in case of fog those gases sent out at a high velocity will descend on this area and produce all the troubles which have existed in the past?

I am a bit of a fog expert myself, and I would say that that is not true of radiation fogs of limited height. It would be true with regard to the denser fogs which grow up after fog has continued for a period of several days.

Gas Boards (Workers' Representation)

22.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how far it is proposed that there shall be employee representation on the area gas boards.

I do not contemplate any such change in the constitution of the boards.

Gas Prices

27.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the action he has taken on the recommendation of the Ridley Committee on national policy for the use of fuel and power resources that gas prices should reflect local differences in costs of supply.

I have satisfied myself that, in general, the principle of this recommendation has been applied by the gas boards in revising the tariffs.

In view of the importance of this recommendation to a fair fuel pricing policy, would the Minister explain just what he means by "in general"?

It is the responsibility of the local gas boards, which have, in fact, accepted the principle.

Coal

Opencast Mining (Requisitioned Land)

15.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when he proposes to discontinue requisitioning land for the purpose of surface mining.

So far as I can foresee at present, it will remain necessary for some years to maintain opencast coal production at a high level. The Government fully appreciate the inconvenience caused by opencast, and land will be requisitioned for this purpose only so long as is essential in the national interest.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that before land is requisitioned he will make the fullest inquiries?

Will my right hon. Friend take note that it is not just a matter of inconvenience, but of taking agricultural land in the desperately serious food situation which exists?

Since land taken for opencast mining is restored to agriculture—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and, in many cases, gives very good crops, will the right hon. Gentleman try to do something about land which is taken for sand, gravel and other purposes and which covers a much greater acreage, but is not restored to agriculture?

I very much appreciate the hardship caused to agriculturalists by opencast mining. The question raised by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) is a different one.

Is it not only a matter of hardship to those concerned but of the food supplies of the nation?

Are not farmers equally affected by land taken and devastated to obtain sand, gravel and other things? Will the right hon. Gentleman take effective action to protect farmers in those cases also?

Production, Wales

19.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the annual production of coal in Wales in 1948 and 1953, respectively.

Rivelin Valley

20.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is now able to make a statement on the National Coal Board's request to prospect for coal in the Rivelin Valley.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is really difficult to get to this area, that it is a quiet area and that there are various hospitals in the vicinity?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us the procedure? If the Coal Board discover that there is coal which is workable there will it have to come back to the Minister for permission to work the coal?

At present, the authorisation which is being sought is for boring only. An entirely new authorisation would be wanted for working the coal and would have to be applied for if it was thought that working was worthwhile.

Domestic Consumption

23.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the aggregate annual cost of domestic solid fuel allocation schemes, including all overheads and the number of officials employed including fuel overseers; the consumption of domestic coal and coke, respectively, for 12 months ended 31st March, 1954, compared with the last corresponding pre-war year; and what estimate he has formed of additional domestic coal and coke required to end all restrictions.

About £1½ million; 140 Ministry officials and 1,921 full-time staff in the offices of local fuel overseers. In the year ended 31st March last, the consumption of domestic coal and coke (excluding miners' households) was 32·6 and 3·1 million tons, respectively, but comparable pre-war figures are not available. The additional fuel required to end restrictions cannot be accurately estimated, but may be about 3 to 4 million tons.

In consideration of the fact that in the summer of this year the allocation of domestic solid fuel will be the only major rationing scheme remaining, can my right hon. Friend say what progress he is making towards eliminating fuel allocations?

I would be extremely eager to end the scheme, but the increase in the consumption of coal by industry is at present—in one way, I am glad to say, but not glad from the coal point of view—at exactly the same rate as the increase in production from the mines.

Stocks

24.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the latest position with regard to stocks of coal and coke, respectively, in the United Kingdom.

On 20th March distributed stocks of coal were 13·2 million tons and stocks of coke at gasworks and coke ovens were 1·35 million tons.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that in spite of the cold weather some of the gloomy forecasts of his critics that there would be a drastic coal shortage this year have been unfounded? Will my right hon. Friend further say that it is to be his policy to continue asking the leaders of the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mine-workers to stimulate further increased output this year?

Certainly, Sir, but the crucial decision in avoiding difficulties in the house coal market this February was really taken last July, when the Government decided to import some coal.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the separate figures for Scotland? Is he aware that the public in Scotland have been increasingly anxious about the stock position in the last month or two?

In view of the fact that coal stocks at 1st April were the highest for many years past, due no doubt, in part, to sound administration, will my right hon. Friend now consider a policy of increasing still further the exports of coal from the United Kingdom?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the estimates and stocks were knocked into a cocked hat by the ready response and energy of the miners?

The country's fuel position depends, of course, fundamentally on the production of the miners. It is very desirable to export as much as possible; at the same time, if we export too much in relation to production at any given time we shall cause a fuel crisis in the succeeding winter. That is what happened many times under the Administration of the Labour Party.

Does not that answer make nonsense of the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)?

I do not think so, because stocks at the end of this winter amounted to 13·2 million tons. At the end of the winter for which the right hon. Gentleman was so notoriously responsible—1946–47—there were only 5·2 million tons.

The right hon. Gentleman has seen fit to indulge in criticism which he knows, if he searches the records of his own Department, are quite unfounded. He has just stated, in reply to a supplementary question, that the production of coal depends primarily and, indeed, almost exclusively on the miners, and at the time of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks there were many fewer miners than there are today.

That may be, but it does not excuse a Minister who takes the view that everything is going to be all right when he has totally inadequate stocks to meet requirements.

I propose—this is quite unusual for me—to take the first opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment.

Exports

25.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will set up a fuel exports committee to consider the best methods of furthering an export drive for such qualities of coal and coke as are available for export in this country at the present time.

I do not think that a new committee is required, but I attach such importance to this export trade that I would gladly consider any new proposals for furthering it.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a danger of us being priced out of the export market, particularly in Northern Europe? Unless action is taken now we shall find that when action is taken later during the summer, the main orders will have been taken by our competitors. Will my right hon. Friend take this aspect into serious consideration when he discusses the matter with the Coal Board?

Summer Stocking (Restrictions)

30.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether it will be possible to relax restrictions on the purchase of domestic coal during the summer months.

I fear that restrictions cannot yet be abolished, but I am considering certain minor adjustments.

Does the Minister appreciate the enormous advantage to householders in security and transport in getting the coal out to them in the summer?

Will the Minister bear in mind, when he does relax the restriction on the amount of coal which house- holders are allowed to stock in the summer, that in large cities like Birmingham, one constituency of which the right hon. Gentleman represents, many thousands of people live in rooms and have no place to stock their coal? Will he, therefore, encourage small retail merchants to have plentiful stocks, including some at the cheaper prices, in order to prepare for the needs of these people for next winter?

That is in my mind. It is also true that in the centre of Birmingham there are a large number of houses with good cellar accommodation.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many people with small incomes find it difficult to find the money to stock up, even if they have storage space, and will he try, when thinking about this new proposal, to do something to help them?

That, of course, has always been the case and is one of the difficulties. That is one of the reasons why those people who have the cellars and also the financial capacity to stock up in the summer are not only assisting themselves but are freeing the system of distribution to look after—in winter—the others who are not in that position.

Further to what the hon. Lady has said, will the Minister endeavour to persuade his colleagues to enable old age pensioners to be able to buy coal in summer or winter?

Ministry Of Materials

Newsprint Imports

32.

asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, the anticipated imports, both in tons and value, of newsprint from dollar sources during 1954; and what estimate he has formed of the increase or otherwise that would occur in such newsprint imports from dollar sources in 1955, following complete decontrol of newsprint and reversion to a free market on 31st December, 1954.

Imports from dollar sources in 1954 of 226,000 tons, costing about £12·3 million, have been authorised.

With regard to the second part of the Question, my noble Friend cannot forecast how much of their production the Canadian mills would be prepared to sell to this country if imports were freely allowed and control over consumption were removed. Nor can he say how rapidly our newspapers would expand.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the principal defence so far against a fuller decontrol of newsprint is a shortage of dollars? Is he aware that large quantities of dollars have currently been spent on canned fruit imports, thus undermining the Worcester-shire fruit growers' market? Cannot these inessentials be eliminated and the dollars spent on something far more essential, namely, newsprint?

I think that the announcements in the last week or so show that the Government are trying to be as helpful as they can to the newsprint industry.

Will the Minister make up his mind whether it is a shortage of dollars or a shortage of newsprint which is holding up a solution to this problem? He seems to be changing his mind week by week. His statements do not coincide with a statement by the Canadian newsprint manufacturers.

The hon. and gallant Member will, I think, recall that I said that there was a shortage of newsprint in the short-term. In the longer term the main obstacle is that we have to watch the balance of payments position carefully.

Departmental Functions (Continuance)

33.

asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, when it will be possible to discontinue the few remaining functions of that Department.

The Ministry of Materials is carrying out no unnecessary functions and apart from stock disposal, there will remain certain functions which must be carried out either in the Ministry or in another Department. This is a matter which is under consideration, but I am not in a position to make any statement.

Could not savings be effected similar to those in a recent merger with which my right hon. Friend had to do? Had not his Department better get on with the job?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the last sentence of the reply which I have just given.

Court-Martial Appeals (Delay)

34.

asked the Attorney-General what steps he is taking to speed up the hearing of court-martial appeals.

35.

asked the Attorney-General why it takes, on the average, 20½ weeks for appeals against court-martial convictions to reach the Appeals Court; and what action he is taking to reduce this period.

Twenty-and-a-half weeks is the average time from the announcement of the findings of the court-martial to the final disposal of the case by the Appeal Court. My hon. and learned Friend gave a detailed explanation of the appeal procedure in answer to Questions on 29th March. All concerned are, he then said, fully aware of the need to deal expeditiously with these applications, but it is not possible to reduce the time limits prescribed by the Rules of Court without curtailing the rights of the convicted person. The matter is a difficult one, but if the hon. Members have any suggestions for improving the procedure I will, of course, see that they are considered.

Will the Attorney-General consider, among the other deplorable features of the case of Corporal Leighton, the fact that it took about two months between the time he petitioned for permission to appeal under the Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act, and the date on which leave was granted to appeal and that two months is an excessive time? Would it not help if sentences were suspended pending appeal, as that would certainly be a powerful inducement to the authorities to get the appeals heard?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I am considering the matter carefully in all its aspects.

Will not the Attorney-General agree that there is no pressure of cases to be heard by the Appeals Court, and that, therefore, the period of five months between the holding of the court-martial and the hearing of an appeal appears to be totally unjustifiable? As the Solicitor-General was unable to explain why there was a delay of 79 days in the case of Corporal Leighton in presenting the petition, we still do not know why as long a period as nearly nine months occurred in his case.

The main difficulty in these cases arises from the fact that certain lengths of time are allowed to accused persons and if those times are curtailed an alteration in the Rules of the Court would be required; and there are a number of complications.

United Nations (Chinese Representation)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the nature of the objections which Her Majesty's Government now hold to the proposal that China should assume the full duties and obligations of membership of the United Nations organisation.

I gave a full statement of the points which affect Her Majesty's Government's consideration of the matter when I spoke in the debate on 30th July last. These considerations are still valid today and I have nothing to add to them.

As the purpose of the Geneva Conference is to try to get a settlement of questions with which China is intimately concerned, and if the only objections in this matter are those to which the Minister referred in his speech, can he say why this whole thing cannot be discussed at the Geneva Conference?

If the hon. Member will refresh his memory about what I said on 30th July, he will understand the answer to his question.

The Minister will remember that in his speech he did not refer to the necessity—as stated by Mr. Walter F. Robertson, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs—that the heart of the present policy towards China is that there should be kept alive the constant threat of military action vis-à-vis Red China in the hope that at some point there will be an internal breakdown. Would the Minister say whether there is any possibility of reconciling his objections to those stated by the United States Assistant Secretary of State?

One of the matters to which I referred was the progress made at the political conference on Korea. That conference has not yet met.

Burma (Defence)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in negotiations about the defence of Burma, he is bearing in mind that China has claimed rights over part of Burma; and how many Chinese Communist troops have entered Burma recently.

There are no negotiations in progress with the Burmese Government at present covering tactical or strategic aspects of the defence of Burma.

I have no information on the second part of the Question.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House whether it is a fact that for years past the Chinese Government have laid claim to the northern part of Burma and that might lead to serious conflict in the future?

It is true that the Chinese Government have laid claim to certain areas in Burma. I said that I have no information with regard to Chinese troops being on Burmese territory.

In view of the possible danger to Burma from China, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many more Chinese Nationalist troops have been evacuated to Formosa?

I think it would be better if the right hon. Gentleman put a question on the Order Paper dealing with that matter.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how far the other Anglo-Burmese negotiations have gone?

Spain

Dr B J Peck (Claims)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why claims for expensive payments for various services 'have been made on Dr. B. J. Peck by his Department arising out of an attack made on Dr. Peck and his wife while touring in Spain.

55.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why he has requested Dr. B. J. Peck to reimburse hospital and other expenses incurred in Spain following the murder of his wife in 1953.

61.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether be will meet some of the expenses incurred by Dr. Peck last year, as the result of the attack on himself and the fatal attack on his wife in Spain.

Dr. Peck owes £11 direct to Her Majesty's Consulate-General at Barcelona. In view of the tragic circumstances of this case, my right hon. Friend is prepared to waive £6 of this sum representing the use of the official car. He has no authority to waive the remaining £5 in respect of consular fees since there is a statutory obligation on consular officers to levy them.

In addition, there are, first, outstanding charges of £300 to £400 in respect of hospital and other expenses due to the Spanish authorities. Secondly, there is the sum of £60 in Spanish currency already advanced by the Consul-General to Dr. Peck and his wife's relatives for the hire of ambulances and cars. I understand that Dr. Peck's relatives, on whose behalf these expenses were incurred, expressed readiness to pay immediately they had been notified of the amount the Consul-General had disbursed.

Does the hon. Gentleman know that the road on which this incident occurred was well known to the Spanish authorities as a bandit-infested area and that no notification whatever was given to motoring organisations, either there or in this country, of that state of affairs? Under those circumstances, will Her Majesty's Government press on the Spanish authorities the desirability of doing something—if the House pleases—on ex gratia lines to reduce the charges, which include £250 for less than one week's hospital treatment in a Spanish hospital?

If the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question be true, I have no doubt that the Spanish Government would wish to give sympathetic consideration to a just settlement of this case.

In view of the tragic circumstances which surrounded this case, cannot the Under-Secretary urge the Spanish Government to take into consideration all the circumstances and to waive the whole amount which is due? In this country we should not insist on payment in a case where murder had been done.

I understand that Dr. Peck's representatives are in touch with the Spanish authorities and, of course, the embassy is being kept informed.

Is it not traditional British policy, which has been accepted by almost every Government which we can recall, to safeguard the interests of British nationals in foreign countries; and, as no military or similar support could be accorded to this gentleman and his family in these very difficult circumstances, is it not the least the British Government can do to meet a substantial part of the bill incurred?

So far, I have received no communication from Dr. Peck or his representatives disputing this amount of £60. Every possible assistance was given by the Consul-General and the embassy to Dr. Peck and his representatives.

Is there any truth in the rumour that the French Government refused to extradite the attackers of Dr. Peck and his wife?

Basques' Trial, Vitoria

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what report he has received from the British representative at the trial of Basques at Vitoria on 25th March.

Her Majesty's Ambassador has reported that the trials took place at Vitoria on 25th and 26th March, and that of the 17 accused 14 were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment and three were acquitted.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the comparative leniency of the sentences imposed on these men was due to the fact that a British observer was present at 'the trials? Will he accept the thanks of all democratically minded people for sending the observer?

Russian Born Wives (Divorces)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of the documentary proof he has received from the Soviet Government relating to Russian women who have divorced their British husbands.

The divorce certificates were received by Her Majesty's Embassy in Moscow on 29th March. The certificates state that the divorces have been registered and give the dates as follows:

  • Mrs. Burke—25th April, 1952
  • Mrs. Bolton—20th January, 1953
  • Mrs. Rickitts—18th May, 1953.
  • Mrs. Henderson—15th September, 1953.
The place and grounds of the divorces are not indicated on the certificates, which are in the form of copies of entries in the central register. As soon as legalised copies have been received in the Foreign Office, they will be forwarded to the husbands.

Is the documentary evidence acceptable? If so, are the husbands concerned free to remarry if they wish to do so, or is it still a matter for the court?

It is not within my competence to answer such a question. I advise the husband to consult a solicitor.

European Defence Community

British Association

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the military commitments to be undertaken by Her Majesty's Government as an inducement to France and other European countries to ratify the European Defence Community.

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now inform the House of the details of the plan for a British contribution to the European army which Her Majesty's Government have put forward.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary hopes to make a statement to the House on this matter shortly.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what he means by shortly?

Treaty (White Paper)

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make available to the people of this country, in some convenient form, the unofficial English translation of the text of the European Defence Community Treaty and of the protocols, conventions and declarations relating thereto.

In view of our treaty relationship with the European Defence Community Powers, and the close partnership Her Majesty's Government intend to establish with the community, arrangements are being made to make available as a White Paper the unofficial English translation of the Treaty and of the main protocols.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for taking that step. Is he aware that the British public will now have an opportunity of assuring themselves, as many hon. Members have already done, having seen a copy in the Library, that the Treaty is as full of holes as a sieve?

I entirely disagree with the last part of the hon. Member's remarks.

Israel (British Publications)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it has yet been found possible further to facilitate the entry of British books and publications into Israel.

No, Sir. It has not been found possible in the 1954–55 Estimates to make provision for a scheme backed by public funds to facilitate the entry of British books into Israel. However, as I stated in my reply on 25th January, permission is given exceptionally for United Kingdom exporters to accept in local currency a limited part of the payment for certain types of book.

Will not my hon. Friend agree that British books and publications are very much more effective ambassadors of the British way of life than many other so-called cultural manifestations which are exported from this country? Would he use his influence to increase the amount allowed for this purpose?

I certainly agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. We will certainly do our best to see that such funds as are available are put to the best use.

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider the position? Is he not aware that there is a great anxiety in Israel itself to have books of this nature available, that other countries are sending their books and that it is to our detriment that there are not books from England available in Israel?

I am well aware of that. The best efforts will be made to see that such funds as we have available from the public purse are used to the best advantage.

Germany

Defence (Federal Parliament's Decision)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will publish as a White Paper the text of the communications of the Allied High Commission to the German Federal Government regarding the amendments to the Federal Basic Law and the reply of the Federal Government thereto.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the provision that the constitution amendment shall enter into force only when the European Defence Community Treaty has been ratified has the status of an international agreement or contract, because, if so, surely it would be appropriate to publish it as a White Paper?

Admiral Doenitz

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Grand Admiral Doenitz was allowed to enter into contracts with the Athænum Publishing Company whilst serving his sentence in Spandau Gaol; and if he will make a statement.

The hon. Member is misinformed. Doenitz has not been allowed to enter into contracts with any publishing company.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I and other hon. Members have seen photostat copies of the handwriting of Admiral Doenitz on the proofs sent to the printers? Will the right hon, and learned Gentleman look into this again to ensure that it is stopped? If we would like to see the photostats, I will arrange to show them to him.

I will certainly look at anything that the hon. Member sends me. As to the facts which he has raised, Doenitz has not been allowed to enter into any contracts.

52 and 53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs' (1) whether he will approach the West German Federal Government to seek an assurance that they will not employ in any military position the German war criminal Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz on his release from Spandau Gaol at the termination of his sentence next month;

(2) if he will approach the West German Federal Government to seek an assurance that Grand Admiral Doenitz will not be allowed to take up any military position in the European Defence Community on his release from Spandau at the termination of his sentence next month.

In asking these Questions, may I say that the last word in each case should be "year" and not "month."

The hon. Member is still misinformed. Doenitz' sentence expires in September, 1956, and it is not intended that he should be released before then.

That is very welcome, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman now answer the Question and say whether he will make an approach to the German Government to ensure that this war criminal is not employed in any military position?

Any appointment of a prisoner such as Doenitz, who was formerly a Grand Admiral in the German Fleet, would have to be subject to the unanimous approval of E.D.C.

In the circumstances, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that the best way to ensure that no war criminals of this kind are allowed to hold positions as German military officers in future would be the ratification of E.D.C. and that, otherwise, it may be inevitable?

59.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date ex-Admiral Doenitz will be released from Spandau prison.

As the E.D.C. Treaty would not prevent Admiral Doenitz from being appointed Admiral of the Home Fleet of the German Home Waters Navy, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that every step will be taken by Her Majesty's Government to prevent this man from ever being employed again in a military position when he is released?

The hon. Gentleman's Question dealt with the date of his release, and that is what I have answered.

Spandau Gaol (British Staff)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British Service men and civilians are engaged on prison duties at Spandau Gaol; and to whom they are responsible for the efficient discharge of their duties.

The British Governor, under whom there are one chief warder and six deputy chief warders, is responsible to the British Commandant, Berlin. In addition, every fourth month when it is the British turn to undertake guard duties, a British military guard of about a platoon in strength is provided. This guard is responsible to the four Allied prison governors jointly.

To clear the British personnel at Spandau of any complicity, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman cause an investigation to be made into the extensive and illicit correspondence which is now going on between the war criminals in Spandau and Nazi underground organisations in Germany?

I have complete confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the British personnel there.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman not seen the photostats now circulating in this country showing the considerable correspondence between ex-Admiral Doenitz and the other men at Spandau and persons formerly associated with the Nazis in West Germany and this country? As this is clearly illegal, and must be the responsibility of those in command at Spandau, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman approach the other Powers with the object of having an investigation to determine how all this correspondence is permitted to go on, and also to put a stop to the printing of these articles in the German Press?

I already have an offer from the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) to send me a copy of the documents, and I will postpone my answer until I have seen them.

As alternate control of the prison by the four occupation Powers still continues, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that there is consistency of treatment of the prisoners among the four authorities?

I shall later show the right hon. and learned Gentleman the photostat copies. Will he give an assurance that he will then take action, particularly at the forthcoming talks, to ensure that the illicit correspondence which has been and is now going on with the Nazi underground movement will stop? Will he put that on the agenda for the talks which are due to take place tomorrow?

The hon. Gentleman must be content, for the time being, with my assurance that I will look at what he has to show me.

East-West Trade

45.

asked the Prime Minister what representations have been made to him on behalf of President Eisenhower about restricting East-West trade.

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) last Thursday.

Hydrogen Bomb Tests

46.

asked the Prime Minister what hydrogen bomb explosions taking place within the territories under the control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been recorded by instruments in Britain.

It would not be in the public interest to disclose the extent of our information relating to Russian nuclear weapon tests.

Is not it true that the Prime Minister has said that there have been such explosions in Russia? Can we at least have that confirmed?

Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is in sympathy with the view expressed in many quarters that we should ask the United States to disclose information about the hydrogen bomb? If so, why does he object to giving information about Soviet experiments? The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, objects, in the public interest, to giving the House information about Soviet hydrogen bomb experiments. As I understand, the House, generally speaking, desires that the United States should disclose information about their experiments. Is there not some inconsistency in that position?

I certainly should be very glad to study any disclosures made by the Soviet Government.

In view of the debate which is to take place this afternoon, is not it wise that the House should be in possession of as much information as possible, otherwise this matter will not be debated in its proper proportions and perspective?

I am advised that it is not in the public interest to disclose such information as we have about Russian nuclear bomb tests.

48.

asked the Prime Minister what limits of latitude and longitude contain the area of 440,000 square miles in which movement of shipping is subject to control during the present series of hydrogen bomb tests; what shipping routes pass within or close to these limits, and what territories are contained therein.

As this answer is technical and scarcely intelligible without reference to the atlas, I am circulating the reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT

Shall we have a map in the OFFICIAL REPORT as well, to brighten the answer?

I took it for granted that most hon. Members would have access, if need be, to an atlas, but if the hon. Gentleman has any particular stress and difficulty in the matter, I will give directions that a map shall be sent to him with the answer to his Question.

Does the Prime Minister now propose to hand over to the Americans the copyright of "Britannia Rule the Waves"?

As the Gilbert and Ellice Islands are in the area, have precautions been taken to protect those islands from any misadventure which might come to them on account of hydrogen bomb tests?

I have nothing to add to other statements which have been made upon the subject.

As Mr. Stirling Cole, the Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Committee, has stated that the distance of radiation effects has now increased six-fold, from 50,000 square miles to almost 300,000 square miles, can the Prime Minister guarantee that the effects of radiation will not affect the "Gothic" in its journey in the Pacific and Indian Oceans?

I do not think we should anticipate the debate which we are to have this afternoon by plunging into highly complicated and technical details which I cannot profess to be able to answer.

Following is the information:

The area which has been notified as dangerous to shipping comprises portions of a rectangle contained by latitudes 08° and 20° North and 157° and 172" East. The area closed to shipping is limited to the territorial waters of Bikini and Eniwetok atolls. Shipping routes passing within or near the danger area are those between Honolulu and the Philippines and the East Indies, between Japan and the Society Islands and between Japan and Noumea. The danger area includes only some minor atolls in the Marshall Islands in addition to Bikini and Eniwetok.

Indo-China War (Aid To France)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will invite the Prime Minister of France to London to discuss with him ways in which Britain can be of assistance in bringing the war in Indo-China to an end, and to obtain his view before the Geneva Conference on the suggestion made by Mr. Dulles that there should be greater military aid given by the free countries to the French in Indo-China.

Her Majesty's Government are in close touch with the Governments of both France and the United States about the problems of restoring peace in Indo-China. I do not think it necessary, therefore, to invite the French Prime Minister to London.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that the first thing that has to be done by the French is to give complete independence to Viet-Nam, and that until that is done it would be the greatest folly for either American or British troops to be committed to ground fighting in Indo-China, where the conditions are quite different from those in Korea?

I think the hon. Gentleman might perhaps find methods of tendering this very valuable and important advice to the French Prime Minister without my troubling him to come over here.

Would it not be in the interests of us all if the attention of the French Government were directed to the successful dealing with a similar problem in India by the British Labour Government, with its resultant advantages to the peace of the world? Would it not be of some advantage to the French Government to profit by the results of our dealing with a very similar problem?

58.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the extent of the military and economic aid so far given, and proposed, to the French in Indo-China by Her Majesty's Government.

Her Majesty's Government have always given most sympathetic consideration to any requests for the provision of material assistance to the French in Indo-China, but nearly all such requests have been addressed to the United States Government.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 13th July, 1953, to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). I do not think that any detailed account of such assistance as we have been able to offer would be useful or appropriate.

British Honduras (Guatemalan Interference)

54.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will address a protest to the Government of Guatemala with regard to Guatemalan interference in the internal affairs of British Honduras.

I would ask my hon. Friend to wait until Her Majesty's Government have had an opportunity- to consider Sir Reginald Sharpe's report to the Governor of British Honduras.

Bahamas (Bacteriological Trials)

56.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will invite the United States Government to send observers to the bacteriological trials which are to be carried out in Bahaman waters.

Is every precaution being taken to prevent the poisoning which may result having effects on American fishermen who may be in the area and to prevent the bacteria doing any damage in the United States?