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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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Wind-Blown Timber


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a further statement on the progress made in dealing with the gale-blown timber in the North-East of Scotland; and whether he expects it all to be dealt with by January, 1955.

Extraction is still proceeding at the rate of about 2 million cubic feet per month. As the statement of progress is rather lengthy, I shall, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will my hon. Friend answer the last part of the Question and say whether the timber will be dealt with in the time originally anticipated?

My right hon. Friend cannot give a specific date because certain of the timber is in inaccessible places, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will read the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow morning, he will find a full report of the progress.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that his Government will still be in power at January, 1955?

In view of the present situation, is it the policy now to authorise the Forestry Commission, where possible, to issue felling licences in respect of standing timber?

Following is the statement:

Arrangements have been made for working all but approximately half a million cubic feet of the 47¾ million cubic feet of gale-blown timber in the North-East of Scotland. The rate of felling and extraction has been maintained at 2 million cubic feet per month and the volume extracted to roadside is now estimated at 26 million cubic feet. Approximately 3 million cubic feet of round logs have been transported to mills outside the affected area under the transport assistance arrangements. Further increases in the rates of assistance took effect as from 1st March and it is hoped that this will result in the increased movement of the remaining blown timber. Transport to England and Wales of mining timber surplus to the requirements of the Scottish coalfields continues, also under freight assistance arrangements made by the Government, and to date orders have been placed for about 2½ million cubic feet.
If the present rate of progress is maintained, it is estimated that the vast bulk of the windblown timber will have been cleared by the end of January, 1955. Although there will probably be some exceptions, as work on some blown areas is still behindhand, broadly the situation is that the material then remaining on the ground will consist largely of larch and hardwoods which have been deliberately left until last as they are less liable to deterioration, and small lots which are inaccessible or of indifferent or poor quality. Work will, of course, go on to clear the saleable timber as quickly as possible.

Atomic Energy Research (Industrial Development)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland for a detailed statement as to his plans for industrial development in Scotland flowing from the projected atomic energy reactor station at Dounreay, Caithness.

The Dounreay reactor will be experimental, and it would be premature to try to forecast at this stage what other industrial developments may take place in Scotland as a result of the presence of this station.

Does not the hon. Member realise that this may be a great opportunity to bring industry and population to the North of Scotland? Is it not astounding that he is not in a position to give some details about the plans which will flow from this expensive work?

As the hon. and learned Gentleman will know, it will be several years before there is sufficient development to enable us to take action, but we are fully aware of the potentialities.

National Records And Archives (Indexing)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to have the national records and archives of Scotland indexed and made readily accessible to the poets, historians, biographers, economists and other scholars in Scotland.

The responsibility for indexing the national records and archives of Scotland is placed by statute on the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, and my right hon. Friend is informed that this work is progressing steadily. A considerable proportion of the records is already indexed, and all, whether indexed or not, are readily accessible to lawyers, scholars, and students in the General Register House.

I referred in my Question to "archives." There are a great many archives and records in the Record office in Chancery Lane, London, which are badly needed by the scholars of Scotland. Will he take steps to have them properly indexed and made available to Scotland?

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for his correction of my pronunciation of the word "archives," which I accept.

Fishmeal And Oil Factory, Peterhead


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that no further progress has been made with the construction of the fishmeal and oil factory at Peterhead; and what is the cause of the delay.

The Herring Industry Board are in process of obtaining the necessary local consents and will commence work on the factory as soon as these are forthcoming.

Very soon. There is a certain amount of plan drawing to be done, and the local council has to give its final consent. Apart from that, it will not take long.

I am glad to see that the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire has now come back to the House again.

The local council gave its consent long ago. It is very urgent that this factory should be set up in time for the summer fishing. Cannot my hon. Friend give a better assurance about it?

My hon. Friend is wrong. Consent is required from three parties, the third of which is the town council. That consent cannot be given until the detailed plans have been prepared. That is now being done.

Damages Awards (Interest)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that under Scottish law relating to actions for damages for negligence interest at 5 per cent, on the amount of damages awarded runs only from the date of the decree awarding damages; that it would be in accord with both justice and expedition that such interest should instead run from the date of either the accident or the summons; and if he will introduce legislation to enact this change in Scottish law.

I am aware that in Scotland interest on damages awarded in actions for negligence runs only from the date of decree. Amendment of this long-standing rule of Scots law would require very careful consideration, and my right hon. Friend can hold out no hope of early legislation.

Is not the Minister aware that this has for long been carefully considered and recommended by the Muir Society, a body representative of lawyers in Scotland, and will he consult them on the advisability of adopting their recommendation in the matter?

We are aware of that, but the hon. and learned Gentleman will know even better than I that this is really too complicated a question for discussion at Question time.

Raemore Grazings, Lairg (Use)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that Raemore grazings on Gruids Farm, Lairg, Sutherland, are to be used by the Forestry Commission for growing trees; and, in view of the scarcity of agricultural land in Sutherland and the abundance of non-agricultural land suitable for growing timber, if he will take steps to ensure that these pastures should be used by the crofting community to produce food.

The Raemore grazings are to be used for forestry in accordance with the Strathoykell plan which was approved by the Highlands Panel. My right hon. Friend cannot see his way to alter the arrangements made for the planting of this area. I have today written to my hon. Friend about this matter.

Is it not wholly wrong that grazings which have provided food for over two centuries should be used for growing timber, when we have so much land in Sutherland which is not suitable for food production but is suitable for timber production?

I have written to my hon. Friend fully on this matter, but I would remind him that the land was originally secured for forestry, and we have to take into account the fact that afforestation will provide work for crofters not fully employed. The general effect in the area has also to be taken into account, as well as grazings.

Potato Harvesting (Mechanical Aids)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what research is now being carried on for the purpose of producing an efficient mechanical potato harvester.

In addition to research and experimental work being carried out by commercial firms, research is being undertaken by the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering and its substation in Scotland to find efficient methods of digging potatoes out of the ground and of separating potatoes from extraneous matter.

Is the Minister aware of the dissatisfaction expressed recently by farmers in Scotland about the lack of an efficient potato harvester, and also of the suggestion that the big potato merchants should be levied in order to get money for this research?

This is a very complicated question of the separation of earth and stones from the potatoes. One machine has been produced, but it was found to be faulty in one respect, and the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering has devised a different principle. At this moment, consideration is being given to putting it into production.

River Forth (Pollution)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in the prevention of pollution of the River Forth; whether he is aware that oil and tar discharges are threatening to destroy all life in the river; and whether, as a first step, this particularly destructive effluent can be prevented.

The prevention of pollution will be primarily a matter for the River Forth Purification Board, which was established last October and will shortly be functioning. If the right hon. Member will supply particulars of the oil and tar discharges to which he refers, I shall make inquiry.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that hundreds, if not thousands, of fish have been destroyed by this pollution, and that it would be much more efficient to deal with the pollution quickly than to prosecute fishermen for taking a few fish from the Forth?

Monkland Canal (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made towards meeting the representations of Coatbridge with regard to the Monkland Canal.

As my right hon. Friend stated on 30th March in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), a report by technical experts on the Monkland Canal in Glasgow is being considered urgently. With regard to the Coatbridge position, I am sorry that, at the moment, I cannot add to the answers that were given to the hon. Lady on 9th February.

Does that mean that only the representations of Glasgow have been considered, and that only the Glasgow part of the Canal will be filled in and not the Coatbridge part?

I do not think that would be quite right. We are well aware of the hon. Lady's case, but we think it is better to settle the Glasgow problem first, because that will enable us to reach a proper decision with regard to the other.

Anti-Haemoglobin Serum


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that surgeons operating on haemophiliacs in Scotland are fully informed on, and have accessible supplies of, anti-haemoglobin serum for the treatment of patients during emergencies.

Yes, Sir; I am, however, informed that fresh blood would usually be preferable to the serum in such circumstances.

New Hospital, Peebles


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when it is intended to replace the present War Memorial Hospital in Peebles.

A site was obtained two years ago at Hay Lodge, where the existing premises are used for out-patient purposes. My right hon. Friend regrets that, in present circumstances, he cannot say when it will be possible to start building the new hospital.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this hospital is very badly sited beside the River Tweed, and that, when the river is in flood, the whole hospital has to be cleared out?

I am aware of that fact, but there are other serious and priority matters to be dealt with by the Regional Board.

Legal Aid (Old-Age Pensioners)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to amend the Legal Aid Act so that old-age pensioners in receipt of National Assistance can be defended in cases where they are sued by landlords for increased rents.

Unless they have considerable capital, old-age pensioners in receipt of National Assistance already come within an income range which would make them eligible to apply for legal aid in defending any action brought against them in the Sheriff Court.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are quite likely to be a large number of cases coming before the courts, and does he think that the legal aid system will be able to cope with them?

If the hon. Lady will give us examples, we shall very carefully and sympathetically look into them.

Old People's Homes, Glasgow


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many elderly people are presently resident in homes provided by Glasgow Corporation with his financial assistance; and what additional accommodation is scheduled for the immediate future.

About 240 elderly persons are resident in 10 homes provided by the Corporation with Exchequer assistance under the National Assistance Act, 1948. The Corporation are in course of providing two additional homes, one of which will be opened soon.

Is the Minister satisfied that, in view of the large number awaiting admission to homes such as these, two more homes will be satisfactory to meet the situation?

My hon. Friend will remember that the Corporation provides homes for a great many other people at Foresthall and elsewhere.

Approved Schools (Costs)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the main reasons for the increase from 54s. to 66s. in the weekly contribution payable by education authorities in respect of a child or young person sent to an approved school.

The cost of the schools is shared equally between the education authorities and the Exchequer. After the rate of the authority contribution for 1953–54 had been fixed, the numbers in the schools fell, but expenditure on staff and overheads did not fall correspondingly, and the contributions from education authorities, which are based on the numbers of pupils, were not sufficient to meet half the cost. The rate of contribution for 1954–55 has been fixed to recoup the Exchequer in part for the larger share it had to bear in 1953–54 and to take account of the higher cost per head which results from the smaller numbers in the schools and from increases in salaries and wages.

That means, of course that between the Government and the local authorities it is costing £6 12s. a week to keep one child in an approved school. If the number of pupils has fallen, why are the Government not taking steps to reorganise the schools and to reduce the number?

I think the figure which the hon. Gentleman gives is about right, although I should like to check it.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the estimated weekly cost of maintaining a child hi an approved school for the year 1954–55; and what percentage increase this shows over 1954–53.

The estimated weekly cost for 1954–55 is £6 10s. 5d., which represents an increase of 23·6 per cent, over the figure for 1952–53.

Is not this a shocking example of how the Government fail to control expenditure, and to stop this rise in costs?

It is easily explained. There are two reasons: (1) the number of children attending the schools has fallen, and (2) there has been a rise in salaries. To neither of them, I think, can the hon. Gentleman raise objections.

Civil Defence (Hydrogen Bomb)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the fact that the new hydrogen bomb is 600 times more powerful than the atom bomb, what new instructions he proposes to issue to Civil Defence authorities, especially in regard to air-raid shelters.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department said on 1st April, in reply to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), instructions to Civil Defence authorities are being reviewed in the light of the development of atomic weapons of all types.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Civil Defence authorities in Glasgow have pointed out that in the event of a bomb attack every hospital in Glasgow could be destroyed? What steps is he taking in the matter?

This is too big a question for me to answer across the Floor of the House at Question time.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider sending a delegation to Dublin to see why Dublin is not in so much danger as Glasgow?

Mental Hospital Patients (Financial Assets)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how far his regulations permit the superintendent of a mental hospital in Scotland to assume responsibility for the financial assets of one of his patients and to disburse such assets without court warrant.

It is an established practice for medical superintendents to undertake the disbursement of small sums placed in the custody of hospital authorities, for the benefit of individual mental patients. This is done without formal authority where the medical superintendent is satisfied about the capacity of the individual patient to instruct or consent to the disbursement. My right hon. Friend sees no reason to forbid this practice.

Air Survey


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will arrange for a comprehensive aerial survey of Scotland with modern micro-magnetic instruments as well as photographs in order more fully to investigate raw material resources above and below ground, to determine accurately cultivable and grazing areas with easiest access to them, to see with greater certainty the extent of bracken growth, and to investigate any other items which aerial surveys have shown elsewhere to be capable of development for economic benefit of the country

I understand that the possibility of an aero-magnetic survey for geological purposes is receiving consideration. A photographic survey for the other purposes suggested by my noble Friend would not be likely to add to the information already available.

Does not the Joint Under-Secretary of State think that if an aerial survey is to take place it might just as well be comprehensive? Does he not think that the results of what we would learn from a photographic survey might be surprising?

We think we have all the information that could be got from such a survey, but I have no doubt that the suggestion will be borne in mind.

Slaughtering Facilities


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that there will be adequate slaughtering facilities in the North of Scotland when the new system of meat marketing begins.

The Slaughterhouses Bill at present in another place requires local authorities to satisfy themselves that slaughterhouse facilities are adequate. They may provide and operate slaughterhouses themselves and may register others who propose to do so. A circular has been sent to local authorities explaining the proposals in the Bill, and I have no doubt that, as they have been advised to do, they will consider, in consultation with the interests concerned, the slaughterhouse accommodation required to meet the situation resulting from the decontrol of meat.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. May I impress upon him how important it is, especially in the North of Scotland—and time marches on—that these slaughterhouses should be ready when the new system comes into force?

"Galloway Mazer" (Export)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what submissions have been made to the Waverley Committee on the future of the "Galloway Mazer."

Representations have been submitted to the reviewing committee on the export of works of art by the Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland with regard to the proposed export of the "Galloway Mazer."

Is it in the power of that committee to make representations? For the benefit of the House, may I ask the Minister to make it clear that this is a most valuable and unique piece of Scottish silver and that it would be a disaster for it to leave Scotland.

Crofting Commission (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Report of the Crofting Commission will be published.

My right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to publish the Report after the Easter Recess.

Norwegian Factory Ships


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any information to give the House regarding the use of factory ships in Scottish waters for converting surplus herring into oil and meal.

The Herring Industry Board is endeavouring to secure the use of two factory ships. I cannot say more at present.

Can the Minister assure the House that the use of these factory ships will not be to the detriment of the establishment of shore-based factories of an economic size? Can he tell the House who owns these factory ships?

They are Norwegian ships. I do not think that there is any likelihood of the one prejudicing the other kind of production.

Can my hon. Friend assure me that these factory ships are not the real cause of the unwarrantable delay in erecting the factory at Peterhead?

Can the Minister assure the House that the taxpayer's money is not toeing used for the benefit of a foreign country and to the detriment of our own people?

The House knows that the processing of herring is an urgent matter. It needs expansion. The Herring Industry Board is considering the best and most economical ways of achieving that purpose.

Why cannot this work be undertaken under British auspices instead of being given to the foreigner?

All these matters are considered, but here is a proposition—and we have gone no further than this—which the Herring Industry Board is examining.

Education, Scotland

Technical College Grants (Apprentices)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what financial considerations he applies which prevent an apprentice in the county of Peebles from qualifying for a grant to attend the Heriot Watt or any other technical college for the purpose of improving his trade knowledge.

Education authorities are empowered to give grants towards fees, travelling expenses and incidental costs of attendance at technical colleges, but an apprentice may not qualify for grant if he, or a relative on whom he is dependent, is able to meet the whole cost.

Are we to take it that there are stringent rules or a means test applicable to these regulations?

The hon. Member will know that the bursary regulations previously applied and now applied, necessarily take account of the parents' means; that is an old-established custom.

Nursery Schools, Glasgow


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the annual cost of nursery schools in Glasgow; and what is the amount recovered in charges.

It is estimated that the total cost for the year ending on 15th May, 1954, will be about £123,000; of this sum, about £7,700 will be recovered in charges for meals.

Is the hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that this is a satisfactory sum to be contributed by the parents?

Education in these schools is like education in other schools; it is a free service, and we have no means of recovering the cost, except for meals.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the average daily attendance of children at nursery schools in Glasgow during March; what is the number of nursery schools; and what is the total staff employed in this service.

The average daily attendance during March was 1,175; the number of schools is 41; and the total staff employed 243.

Teachers (Status)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the increasing anxiety among parents and teachers concerning overcrowded classes, the lowering of teaching standards, and the decline in the status of the teaching profession, he will seek to make an early broadcast explaining present and future prospects in the educational field.

As my right hon. Friend has already shown in a statement to the Press and in answer to Parliamentary Questions, he does not accept the allegations contained in this Question. No doubt opportunities will present themselves in the future for broadcasts or other statements relating to educational progress in Scotland.

How can the Minister possibly be so much out of touch with Scottish opinion? Does he not realise that, if the personality of the Secretary of State for Scotland were allowed to ooze over the ether, the effect upon the morale of the teachers would be absolutely devastating?

Housing, Scotland

Overspill Populations


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has given consideration to the application to Scotland of a Town Development Act; or what similar assistance he proposes for Scotland.

My right hon. Friend hopes to receive recommendations on this matter from the Clyde Valley Planning Advisory Committee, whose report on the machinery for dealing with overspill he expects very shortly.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that it is more than a year since I put down a similar Question and got a similar answer, and that already the English Act has been two years in operation and the position in Scotland is really worse?

Yes, but the hon. Lady will understand that there is an Advisory Committee working very hard on this matter. It would be much better to await their report.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not agree that in Scotland there are many areas which would greatly benefit by the infusion of new life from the cities by some such arrangement as the New Town Development Act provides for England?

Rents (Old-Age Pensioners)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will set up a working party to investigate what effect the proposals for increasing rents will have upon the cost of living for old-age pensioners and persons in receipt of National Assistance in the Gorbals division of Glasgow.

The effect of a repairs increase will vary according to the rent of the house, but persons solely dependent on assistance for their rent will normally receive increased assistance to meet the repairs incrase. In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend does not think that a working party is necessary.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the supplementary assistance which this particular class of old age pensioner receives, or will receive when the Bill becomes an Act, will ultimately be passed on to the landlords? Does he think it right that public money should be used in this way?

Special Housing Association (Direct Labour)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered representations from the Scottish National Building Trades' Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Scottish Section) that the amount of work undertaken by the Direct Labour Organisation of the Scottish Special Housing Association should be reduced; and what reply has been given.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why instructions have been given to the Scottish Special Housing Association to reduce the number of houses to be built by direct labour.

My right hon. Friend has considered various representations from the two federations that the amount of work done by the Direct Labour Organisation of the Association should be reduced. The federations have been told that my right hon. Friend, being satisfied that the Direct Labour Organisation was of sufficient strength to serve its present purpose, did not intend it to expand any further.

Why does the Minister say that his right hon. Friend has assured these federations of employers that the Direct Labour Organisation will not be increased? Has he not in fact told them that the amount of work to be done by the Direct Labour Organisation will be reduced?

The answer to the second part of tine question is "No, Sir." The answer to the first part is that we consider that, as the Direct Labour Organisation is already servicing practically all the sites for the Association houses and building about one-fifth, that is sufficient for the present.

Is it not a fact that the Minister gave an assurance to these particular organisations that, as a result of the action taken by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his right hon. Friend, the number of houses to be completed by the Direct Labour Organisation will be less this year than it was last year?

Has not the Minister said that the number of houses to be completed by the Direct Labour Organisation will be reduced from 1,366 to 1,185?

What authority have these organisations to call the Government to account for what the Special Housing Association should do?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many houses were completed in 1952–53 by the Direct Labour Organisation of the Scottish Special Housing Association; and how many he estimates will be completed in 1953–54.

In the years ended 31st March, 1953, and 31st March, 1954, the Association's Direct Labour Organisation completed 1,366 and 1,185 houses, respectively.

Is it not a fact that as a result of representations that were made to him about the Scottish Special Housing Association, he said that there would be fewer houses built by direct labour than in the previous year?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the programme varies up and down. I think he will find that the number of houses built next year will be above the number completed last year.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman either deny or confirm that he gave an assurance to these two organisations that, as the result of his directive, the number of houses would be less than in any previous year, as he had told the Association to curtail its activities in the direct labour department?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many building trades apprentices who were unable to continue their apprenticeship with private contractors have been taken over by the Scottish Special Housing Association during the past two years.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman indicate whether the apprentices employed by the Association are registered with the National Building Apprentices Training Council? Will he also publicly acknowledge the satisfaction that the Association has given by being able to employ apprentices for whom private contractors had no employment.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered a request from the Scottish National Building Trades' Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Con tractors (Scottish Section) for permission to examine the accounts of the Scottish Special Housing Association, with a view to satisfying themselves about the association's claims in respect of the economies effected in site servicing by the Direct Labour Organisation; and what reply has been given.

The federations have been told that the Association's Direct Labour Organisation competes against rates agreed by my right hon. Friend's Department which, he is satisfied, reflect current market rates. My right hon. Friend could not, of course, permit the federations to examine the Association's records to ascertain the detailed basis of the Direct Labour Organisation's estimates and the results.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the Association's prices are compared by the Department of Health with competitive tenders? Does not the Controller and Auditor-General also examine the Association's books, and should that not satisfy the contractors that the Association operates on a competitive basis?

Do these people assume that because they are Conservatives they can order the Government to bow to them? How will this decision apply to all the other people?

The right hon. Gentleman evidently knows them better than I do. I do not know what their political colour is.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what reply he has sent to the representatives of the Scottish National Building Trades' Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Scottish Section) that the Direct Labour Organisation of the Scottish Special Housing Association is depriving the civil engineering contracting industry of the work of site servicing and of profits.

The federations have been told that the Direct Labour Organisation's activities do not, in the Government's view, materially affect the volume of work available to private contractors in the building and civil engineering industry.

How on earth could the Joint Under-Secretary inform those federations of employers that the fact that the Direct Labour Organisation could do the site servicing for nearly all the houses does not affect the work of those organisations? Is it not an impertinence on the part of those organisations to seek to influence the Government to curtail the activities of the Direct Labour Organisation?

The hon. Gentleman will know that of about 40,000 houses which we are building in Scotland only 5,000 are being built by the Association. In addition, there is all the other civil engineering work to be contracted for. In those circumstances, the Government do not consider that this Organisation has interfered.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment

Ministry Of Defence

Sea Cadet's Death, Essex


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to tie Ministry of Defence if his attention has been called to the recent death of a sea cadet in Essex, accidentally shot during rifle practice, and to the expert evidence and comments by the foreman of the jury at the inquest; to what extent pre-Service cadet units are equipped with obsolete United States firearms obtained, as in this case, under wartime lend-lease; why this particular rifle was issued to the Sea Cadet Corps without any adequate proof that it could be safely handled; and, in general, what technical tests are made, and how often, of the reliability and safety of weapons in use in pre-Service cadet units.

From the reports I have received, it is clear that the primary cause of this unfortunate accident was a breach of range discipline. Pre-Service cadet units are equipped with various types of 22 rifle, including a number obtained from the United States under wartime lease-lend. The United States types are not any less safe than other types. In the case of the Combined Cadet Force, the Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps Units, rifles are examined about twice a year by armament experts. In the case of the Sea Cadet Corps, maintenance of the rifles is the responsibility of the local units, and they will in future be required to hold an annual certificate of serviceability.

Does the hon. Gentleman say that the expert evidence given at the inquest was not accurate? His reply just now does not seem to agree at all points with that evidence.

The reply I have given is in accordance with the expert advice I have received.

New Rifle


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence what progress is being made with the manufacture and issue of the new rifle.

Five thousand rifles have been ordered from Belgium for troop trials. It is hoped that five hundred will be delivered in July and the rest before the end of the year. Production has not yet started in this country.

Pre-production planning is going on, but we do not want to go into production until the troop trials are completed.

Educational Attainments


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence what educational attainments qualify entrants to the Services to be classified in standard six.

Standard six in the grading of educational attainments used by the Services means that a man has attended school up to age 15 and has achieved the normal educational level at that age.

Is the Minister aware that that reply is almost as incomprehensible as that which he gave me last week? Will he explain why the number entering the Army who fail to reach standard six is so much greater than among those entering the other Services?

I apologise for my written answer last week. I do not think that it was clear. I ought to have defined what standard six is. The reason for the standard being lower in the Army is that the Navy takes very few National Service men, and the Air Force can get all it wants. The men choose the Navy and Air Force and these Services, therefore, do not accept the lower standard.

British Army

Trooper's Funeral, Germany (Notification To Parents)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now make a statement on the circumstances in which the body of Trooper B. A. Brown was buried in Germany, without proper notification to his parents of the funeral arrangements; and why they were not given the opportunity of attending the funeral.

My hon. Friend has already written to the hon. Member about this case. I would myself say how sorry I am that this failure occurred.

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the letter which I have sent in reply to his hon. Friend's letter to me? It makes one or two new points, I think. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in comparable circumstances, parents have ever been flown to their son's funeral? If so why it was not done in this case, in view of the error which has been admitted?

I think that the letter explained the reasons for this error. The flying over of parents for funerals is not a thing which is done, and indeed, in this case it would have been too late to do it

National Service Men (Middle East Postings)


asked the Secretary of State for War the minimum age and the period of training which must previously have been served before a soldier can be sent to the Middle East.

Before embarking for the Middle East, a soldier must be 18 years, 3 months old and have had at least 12 weeks' service, including 10 weeks' training.

In view of the fact that, when in Opposition, none was more hostile than the right hon. Gentleman to the idea of sending inexperienced lads to active areas, why does he now permit inexperienced youths to be sent to the Middle East with but a minimum of training, when there are already 80,000 browned-off troops there?

The regulation about the age at which National Service men go to the Middle East has been the same since the introduction of National Service.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of his hon. Friends who, during the last Government's period of office, were so anxious to get these conditions altered, have exercised any pressure on him recently?

I am not aware, without reference to HANSARD, of any pressure in this respect.

Courts-Martial (Committee Recommendations)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the recommendations of the Lewis Committee on Courts-Martial have not yet been implemented in the Army, and why they have not been implemented.

Apart from the recommendations which were not accepted by the Government of the day, nine. The Select Committee on the Army Act and Air Force Act is now considering these nine recommendations.

As it is five years since the Lewis Committee reported, should not the Secretary of State proceed to implement the recommendations that have been accepted without waiting for the report of the Select Committee, which has a very much wider task to complete?

Those recommendations which were accepted by the then Government have been put into effect. The ones now outstanding are being considered by the Select Committee, in accordance with the opinion of the House at the time the Select Committee was appointed.

British Troops, Colonial Territories (Costs)

41 and 42.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) to what extent the cost of maintaining British troops in Colonial Territories falls on the British, and on the colonial, taxpayer, respectively;

(2) to what extent the cost of transporting British troops between the United Kingdom and Colonial Territories falls on the British, and on the colonial, taxpayer, respectively.

It depends on the circumstances. Where United Kingdom troops are stationed in Colonial Territories for reasons of Commonwealth defence, the cost of transporting and maintaining them there is met from United Kingdom funds, but the Colonies are encouraged to make contributions towards the general costs of Commonwealth defence. Where the troops are sent to help to preserve or restore order, the Colonies are expected to pay, so far as they can afford to do so, the extra costs, including transport.

Can the Minister tell us what say the citizens of the Colonial Territories have in the employment of such troops, what is the total amount of money which they contribute annually towards this military expenditure, and why they should pay so heavily for the blunders of the Colonial Secretary?

Those are different and much more detailed questions, which do not arise out of this one.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that all those who are concerned with the welfare, good government and security of the colonial peoples consider this as money well spent?

Can the Minister tell us who is going to pay for the 19 new colonial battalions, about which he was so coy last week?

I am far from coy about these battalions, but without notice I could not give the hon. Member a detailed answer.

Youth Employment Service


asked the Secretary of State for War what liaison he maintains with the Youth Employment Service.

The Army's school liaison officers and chief recruiting officers at command headquarters and recruiting officers locally keep in touch with the Youth Employment Service.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that because of the large number of young men he gets into the Army, both for National Service and as Regulars, the closer liaison he maintains with the Youth Employment Service the better?

Coal (Whitewashing)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the practice of whitewashing coal, which has been brought to his attention by the hon. Member for Harrow, East, has now been expressly forbidden as a military duty by his Department.

Coal may sometimes be whitewashed to mark the edge of a coal dump for safety hi the dark or as a check against pilfering. I think this has led to the old Army legend that it is sometimes done to please inspecting officers, an instance of which has yet to be proved.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a pail of whitewash would soon overcome this device against the pilfering of coal? As this is, in any case, a very silly practice, can it be stopped?

Yes, Sir. I think there are a lot of things that might be whitewashed, but not that.

Infantry Training


asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent officers and non-commissioned officers returning from Korea, Malaya or Kenya, are being used to train the Regular Army in modern battle tactics.

The fullest possible. For instance, on the staff of one school, which is not exceptional, there are three majors, six captains, two warrant officers, 12 sergeants and seven corporals who have experience of operations in Korea.

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken the opportunity of reading the three articles in the "Manchester Guardian" written by a platoon officer who saw active service in Korea? They are very restrained articles. Do they not tend to show that there is not sufficient intensive battle training before our young troops are sent into action?

I have read those articles, which were written by a young subaltern. I have already been into this and seen reports of General Erskine and also of General West and others. It is a question of taking the word of a young subaltern against many others. They are very damaging articles. I am satisfied, from the inquiries I have made, that they are not grounded on fact or justified.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make immediate inquiry into the standards of infantry field training in the Army.

The standards of field training are continually watched and studied by the military training staffs in and outside the War Office.

Is it not the case that, the Secretary of State having been trained in the cavalry, he has grown up with the idea that in dire circumstances his horse will always look after him? This is certainly not so in the infantry. Do not the articles to which reference has already been made bear the hallmarks of authenticity and bear out the experience of many people who are concerned with the training of the Territorial Army, and in particular point not only to shortcomings in Korea but shortcomings in the training of the troops in Germany?

It was not my experience during my training that my horse always looked after me. So far as the training in Germany is concerned, it is my belief that the infantry training in Germany is of the highest standard ever reached by the Army in peace. I should be only too glad to enable the hon. Gentleman to go to look at it if he would like me to arrange it.


asked the Secretary of State for War to state the infantry and guard battalions which proceeded from Germany to Korea between 25th June, 1950, and the Korean armistice; and if he will indicate those battalions that underwent three weeks training in East Anglia between the date of leaving Germany and embarking for Korea.

The following infantry battalions went from Germany to Korea during the period: 1 Royal Norfolk. 1 Black Watch, 1 Royal Fusiliers, 1 Durham Light Infantry, 1 Duke of Wellington's Regiment and 1 Royal Scots. Of these, only 1 Royal Fusiliers carried out training in East Anglia before embarkation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it seems that the officer who wrote in the "Manchester Guardian" about the system of training in Germany was serving in the Royal Fusiliers? Will he look at the system of training not only in the first battalion of that regiment but of the 5th Infantry Brigade, because if anything is wrong with training in Germany it must be in that brigade? Will he look into that and make a statement to the House?

I have already done that both in Germany and East Anglia, and have seen reports of the generals concerned.

"Empire Windrush" (Loss)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an undertaking that all persons travelling on thess. "Empire Windrush" who suffered loss because of the fire on that vessel, and whose possessions were not insured, will receive full compensation.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance that those who have lost personal clothing and possessions as a result of the loss of the ss. "Empire Windrush" are to be completely compensated, in view of the exceptional character of the disaster and their own exemplary conduct\ which contributed towards minimising it.

This question is still under discussion, but I hope to make an announcement before the Easter Recess.

If it should be brought to light that this vessel was not in the state that it should have been and that there were failures in the mechanism, and so on, will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind when he is negotiating with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the moneys to be paid out on the loss of goods and chattels?

Church Parades


asked the Secretary of State for War why Queen's Regulations relating to church parades have been consistently contravened in Southern Command; and why, upon this being brought to his attention, he took no action.

If the hon. Member has any complaint about a specific church parade I will look into it.

The Secretary of State himself told me that 101 church parades had taken place illegally. Why, in view of the information he himself has given about more than 100 illegal parades in Southern Command, is he not prepared to take action? Is it not a fact that Queen's Regulations say that church parades may take place only on days of local or national significance, and that a regimental week-end is not a day of local significance?

I wrote to the hon. Member explaining that the parades that have taken place in Southern Command came within the category specified in Queen's Regulations.

Ministry Of Food (Future)


asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied that the recent rate of progress in derationing foodstuffs and winding up the trading affairs of the Ministry of Food will make it possible to close this Department of State by the end of this year.


asked the Prime Minister to what Departments it is intended to allot the remaining functions of the Ministry of Food after the forthcoming abolition of rationing.

The end of rationing this summer will make possible further large staff reductions but will still leave important duties of Government to be performed. It is not yet possible to forecast the arrangements for carrying out these long term functions.

Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the Government have decided that the Ministry of Food shall be closed down at the earliest possible time, having regard to its remaining duties?

Yes, Sir. I think that general statements of that character have been made for some time past, but the actual details must be precisely stated when they are all settled.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who will bear the cost of the distribution of welfare foods when the Ministry of Food is closed down, and whether this burden will be laid upon local authorities?

Hydrogen Bomb


asked the Prime Minister what British observers were present at the recent hydrogen bomb experiments in the Pacific.

No British technical observers watched the explosions. But the United States authorities had agreed that we should have certain facilities for collecting scientific data bearing on their effects. Similar facilities had been granted to the Americans on the occasion of our own nuclear test in Australia. Therefore an aircraft of the Royal Air Force made a flight in the vicinity of the explosion of 1st March, some hours after it occurred; a similar flight was also made on 27th March. No injury or damage was suffered by this aircraft or its crew, on either occasion.

I think, however, that the House should know that two Canberra aircraft which had been assigned to this duty were lost in transit to the American base in the Pacific. Of these, one is believed to have fallen into the sea and the relatives of its crew of three have, of course, been told. The second made a forced landing on an island with the loss of the aircraft but without injury to the crew. Her Majesty's Government greatly regret the loss of life, and I feel sure that the House will join with me in expressing our sympathy with the relatives. The House will understand that the loss of these two aircraft was in no way due to the risks of the special mission which they were to have undertaken.

On behalf of all Members on this side of the House, I should like to express our regret at these losses. May I also ask the Prime Minister, in view of the importance of this House and the Government having full information on this matter, whether we are to have observers present at future tests?

I have not any knowledge of new arrangements having been made from those which existed at the beginning of these tests.


asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that the uncontrolled destructive power indicated in the recent hydrogen bomb test is creating a feeling of insecurity in the minds of people who are becoming convinced that it is more likely to destroy than to save civilisation; and whether he will take steps to bring about an early meeting of the United Nations in order to direct the attention of the nations away from a negative and mutually destructive policy to one of mutual aid by using more effectively the. machinery of the United Nations.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary dealt fully with this aspect yesterday. I also said something about it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a general feeling in this country that the only organisation which can deal efficiently and effectively with the "hell bomb" is the United Nations organisation? Is he further aware that the League of Nations was destroyed because it was not used, and will he see that the United Nations organisation is not destroyed in the same way? Will he use it effectively now, at this critical moment in our history, so that it will not be destroyed in the way that the League of Nations was?

I thought we were all agreed yesterday that something much more intimate, swift and precise should be put into operation than the procedure of the United Nations organisation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that, pending the meeting of the Assembly or appropriate committee of the United Nations, he will keep in close touch not only with the President of the United States but also with the Governments of the British Commonwealth, since the deep concern which is felt by the peoples of this country is, I believe, shared by the peoples of the Commonwealth, particularly in Australia and New Zealand?

Yes. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is in continual touch and correspondence with Australia and New Zealand.

President Eisenhower


asked the Prime Minister whether he will extend an invitation to President Eisenhower to visit this country for the purpose of discussing with him present international difficulties and, in particular, matters connected with the hydrogen bomb, and of resolving any differences of opinion that may stand in the way of a subsequent approach to President Malenkov for the calling of Big Four talks on the present international situation.

It goes without saying that we should be delighted to welcome President Eisenhower in this country, where we knew him so well during the war. I have more than once expressed my hopes that such a visit would be possible. I do not, however, think it likely that he would feel that he could leave his heavy duties at the present time. The visit of a head of State, I must remind the House, is a matter of the highest consequence.

While thanking the Prime Minister for that reply, the sentiment of which we all share, may I ask him whether he will, as soon as he feels that a convenient opportunity presents itself, extend an invitation to President Eisenhower?

We shall certainly take whatever measures we think best, but I am not sure that, with the question in the controversial position it is now, it would be the best thing to extend an invitation at this moment. I have already more than once expressed to President Eisenhower the great satisfaction which it would give the whole of this country if he could pay us a visit, but he has been in office only for a year and the opportunity has not occurred.

East-West Trade


asked the Prime Minister whether he will request the resignation of the President of the Board of Trade for failure to implement Her Majesty's Government policy of expanding East-West trade.

Does not the Prime Minister remember that on 25th February he forecast the immediate expansion of East-West trade, and that ever since the President of the Board of Trade has been saying it will take two or three months before even some of the most important restrictions can be removed from strategic goods which are sent to and fro between ourselves and Russia? Unless something more urgent is done about it, the Prime Minister's own policy will be frustrated.

No one has worked harder, more persistently and strenuously every day at the details which are involved in bringing about a greater expansion of East-West trade than my right hon. Friend. I can assure the House that he has been a fanatic in the matter.