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Commons Chamber

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 13 April 1954

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 13th April, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Entente Cordiale

I have to inform the House that I have received from the President of the National Assembly of France a letter enclosing an extract from the report of the proceedings in the Assembly on the 8th of this month, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Entente Cordiale. I will place these documents in the Library of the House and circulate a translation of them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I have written to the President expressing on behalf of the House our sincere thanks for this message of friendship.

The following are the documents:

RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE.
LIBERTÉ—ÉGALITÉ—FRATERNITÉ.

ASSEMBLÉE NATIONALE.

LE PRESIDENT.

PARIS, LE 8th April, 1954.

Dear Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you and the House of Commons of the declarations made in the National Assembly during its meeting of the 8th April, 1954.

I am enclosing with this letter an extract from the proceedings concerned.

Yours sincerely,

André Le Troquer,

PRESIDENT.

Extract From The Proceedings Of The Meeting Of The National Assembly Of Thursday, 8The April, 1954

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Entente Cordiate

THE PRESIDENT.—Ladies and Gentlemen—Fifty years ago today on 8th April, 1904, the Representatives of the French Republic and Great Britain signed a protocol which brought into being what is known as the Entente Cordiale. For half a century the relations between these two great countries have been growing ever closer and more friendly in every sphere, both during peace and the severe tests and sacrifices of two wars.

Franco-British friendship and solidarity, shown once again only recently by the Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance signed at Dunkirk, have been and still remain among the most solid foundations for the defence of the world's peace and freedom.

On the occasion of this anniversary, I am sure that the French National Assembly will wish to send the Parliament of Great Britain an expression of its warm appreciation and loyalty to the principles of the Entente Cordiale. [Deputies on the left, centre, right and extreme right rise and applaud.]

M. JOSEPH LANIEL, Prime Minister.— Rose.

THE PRESIDENT.—The Prime Minister.

THE PRIME MINISTER.—I desire to associate the Government with what has just been said by the President of the National Assembly and to send France's best wishes to her great partner in the Entente Cordiale.

It is a good thing that the fiftieth anniversary of this Alliance should allow us to rise for a moment above our day-to-day difficulties and should invite us to take a serious look at our situation.

After a thousand years of rivalry which led to growing understanding and mutual esteem England and France realized at last the advantages that both would gain from a friendship indispensable to the defence of their common ideals.

Thanks to the wisdom of a few statesmen, public opinion in 1904 was led to appreciate that our minor differences could no longer be allowed to prevail against the imperative need for unity.

Fifty years after its birth the Entente Cordiale still retains its full value. Its example today is as cogent as ever. [Applause from the left to the extreme right.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Detention Barracks, Western Germany

1.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence if he will make more adequate arrangements for the administrative supervision of detention barracks in Western Germany.

There are two detention barracks in Western Germany, one a military corrective establishment at Bielefeld administered by the Army, and the other a field punishment and detention unit at Wahnerheide administered by the Royal Air Force. The supervision of these establishments is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the grave public anxiety which is felt about conditions in these camps having regard to recent events? Is it not the fact that, arising out of the wartime case of Rifleman Clayton, a court of inquiry made recommendations affecting conditions of administration of discipline in detention camps? Have these recommendations been implemented?

In reply to the first part, I think the hon. Member refers to a recent court-martial. The sentences have not yet been confirmed and a court of inquiry on the matter is now sitting, so I cannot at present say any more about it. Perhaps the hon. Member will give me notice of the second part of his question. I cannot answer offhand.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary not direct the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to the shocking state of affairs which has been revealed in some of these camps and see what can be done to clear them up?

British Army

Catterick Camp

2.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the squalid and obsolete character of many of the buildings in Catterick Camp; and what improvements are now in hand.

In addition to the building of the four new barrack blocks, of which the hon. Member is already aware, improvements of the water and electricity supplies for the camp and some lesser rebuilding are planned to start this year. A survey of the whole camp has just been completed and we aim to start work on a long-term plan for the development of the camp as soon as possible.

In the light of that survey, can the right hon. Gentleman say roughly what proportion of the existing accommodation consists of huts which were intended to be temporary when they were built in 1914?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I reported to him some time ago the condition of another camp which was in a very deplorable condition? Will he refrain from calling up National Service men until these camps are in a condition to receive them?

Combermere Barracks, Windsor

3.

asked the Secretary of State for War what progress is being made with the rebuilding of Combermere Barracks, Windsor; and if, in the course of this rebuilding, he is endeavouring to secure the preservation of the best of the ancient trees.

Work is starting this summer. Trees will be felled only where this is unavoidable and new planting is planned.

Courts-Martial, Hong Kong

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of courts-martial held in the Hong Kong area in 1951, 1952, 1953 and to the nearest date in 1954, respectively.

"Empire Windrush" Loss (Ex-Gratia Payments)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an assurance that adequate compensation in cash or kind will be given to all Service personnel and married families who lost their private possessions, military clothing and equipment in the fire aboard the ss. "Empire Windrush."

All soldiers, married or unmarried, are advised to insure their personal property and are warned that, if they fail to do so, they will have no claims to compensation from public funds. Nevertheless, there were many with property on board this troopship who had not insured and it is clear that considerable hardship would arise if no compensation were paid. Because of this and the exceptional nature of the loss of the "Empire Windrush," ex-gratia payments within reasonable limits will be made to those whose losses were not covered by insurance. The necessary claim forms are now being sent out to those concerned.

Will my right hon. Friend set his face against any idea that these people should have insured? One does not expect a troopship to go down when one goes on it, and it would be foolish to insure to that extent. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give adequate compensation to these people.

I cannot set my face against insurance, because it is put out in a regulation that people are advised to insure, not only for travel by troopships but for other reasons. I agree about the exceptional circumstances, which nobody would anticipate, but that does not take away from the fact that people are advised to insure, which is a very wise practice.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that nobody claiming compensation will be asked to sign a final statement of acceptance of the amount until the inquiry has decided whether there was any negligence on the part of those responsible for the ship and the reason for its sinking in the way that it did?

Will the compensation of which the right hon. Gentleman now speaks be adequate or only partial? Will it cover all the loss suffered?

It is a highly technical matter but, broadly, normal property compensation will be on the basis of value at the time of loss. There will be certain restrictions to ensure that large sums of public funds are not paid out for things like valuables and luxuries, which people might be expected to insure. For instance, if there were diamonds in the troopship these should have been insured and should not be paid for by the War Office.

Personal Cases

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now employ in the survey section of the Royal Engineers 22989597 Sapper J. D. Atkins, about whose experience and qualifications for such employment the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme wrote to him on 8th February.

No, Sir. My hon. Friend in his letters to the hon. Member has explained why this cannot be done.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not really explained the position at all? Will he not reconsider this case of this outstanding pupil of surveying who was given a responsible post in the town planning officer's department at Stoke-on-Trent at an early age, and was highly recommended for surveying by the Stoke-on-Trent town planning officer when he went into the Forces? Surely as he is in the Royal Engineers it would be sensible to employ him in the surveying section?

There is keen competition for this branch and this lad had had only 10 months in surveying. He failed the G.C.E. examination in mathematics, and it has to be remembered that we have many candidates with better qualifications than his.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now grant a discharge to 23003674 Private H. G. Harrison, about whom the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme wrote to the Under-Secretary of State on 23rd March.

Is the Minister aware that there appears to have been a mistake in calling up this man, who is an underground mine worker, and that I am in touch with the Ministry of Labour about him? Will the Minister give an assurance that, as soon as he receives evidence from the Ministry of Labour and a request for this man's release, he will grant a discharge?

Yes, Sir, but no application has been received so far by the Ministry of Labour. I understood that when this man was called up he was an agricultural labourer.

Does my right hon. Friend welcome or deprecate questions about individual soldiers? Do they render any real service to the soldiers concerned?

Civilian Driving Licences

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War that qualifications must be held by a soldier authorised to drive Army motor vehicles to enable him to obtain a civilian driving licence without undergoing a driving test.

To get a civilian driving licence a soldier must pass a test similar to these conducted by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation for civilian drivers.

Is a soldier allowed to drive any sort of Army vehicle, and, if so, what sort of Army vehicle, without the qualifications which are necessary to obtain a civilian licence?

Before they go out on the roads to drive a vehicle, our drivers have to pass a test which is the equivalent of the civilian driving test.

Local Authority Houses (Applications)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War what inquiries he makes before a Regular soldier completes his engagement about the family accommodation he will need on being compelled to vacate his Service quarters.

All married soldiers are reminded annually to register with their local housing authority as long as possible before they leave the Army. Where help is needed, the Royal Army Educational Corps take up the man's case locally and my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and Minister of Housing and Local Government have been most co-operative in using their powers of persuasion in difficult cases.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is not the slightest bit of good asking soldiers to register with local authorities for 12 months, or, indeed, any length of time, before their service is up because the local authority will not accept applications from them? Does he not realise that it is an entirely wrong procedure to leave it to the soldier with so little help from the authorities at the War Office?

I do not think that is quite fair, because what we do is to remind the soldier about registering. I am aware of the difficulties, and also of the fact that many soldiers do not know under what local authorities they will live because they do not know what their job will be. I was asked what steps we are taking to deal with this matter, and I have given the answer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that the serving soldier is given the same rights in connection with local authority housing as he would have had had he not joined the Forces?

The Minister has stated that the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland do their best in individual cases, but can they not ask the local authority to give soldiers some kind of preference in this matter?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what examination is given to the men before they are allowed to drive a motor? I had the case of a man escaping from an asylum who was found driving. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was the last Question."]

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War what proposals he has for ensuring that Regular soldiers can be admitted to the housing waiting list of the local authority of their choice before they are compelled to vacate their service accommodation at the end of their service.

This matter is outside my control and largely rests with the local authorities concerned. I have, however, approached my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and he is considering a further approach to the local authorities.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is quite the most important welfare matter in the later stages of a Regular soldier's career, and how can my right hon. Friend say it is no concern of his? Will he not consider making some approach to the associations of local authorities to try and get a coordinated pattern in dealing with this matter?

I am very well aware of the importance of this matter, but it would be quite improper for me to approach local authorities direct—that I must do through my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. My right hon. Friend is very well aware of the importance of this, but no one can compel local authorities to do anything on this subject without further legislation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider asking his right hon. Friend to take legislative powers to place serving soldiers on the same basis in housing and education as would have been the case had they not joined the Regular Forces?

I have stressed the importance of this subject to my right hon. Friend, who is aware of it and is eager to help.

It is all right for the hon. Gentleman to say, "What about doing something," but it is not so easy to solve when the responsibility lies with the local authorities.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to represent to the Croydon Borough Council that they should not deny to an ex-Service man residential qualification because he happens to work in London? Sometimes it is a good idea to come down on one's own local authority.

Helicopters

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the use of the flight of helicopters under the operational control of the Army.

Yes, Sir. This flight of three Bristol 171 helicopters is employed on experimental work in the use of helicopters by the Army and on tests of Army equipment. It is also employed on liaison duties and on training of Army pilots in flying and co-operation with ground forces.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if the only use of helicopters by the Army, in such areas as Malaya and Kenya, is for evacuating the wounded and so forth, and will he expand the use of helicopters in the Army as the Americans are doing?

Oh, yes, but the Question referred to this particular flight of helicopters which is under Army operational control in this country. Of course, helicopters in Malaya, Korea and elsewhere are put to a very much wider operational use.

Does my right hon. Friend consider the operation of this unit is satisfactory, and, if so, will he inform his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation in order that B.E.A. may do something about the development of the helicopter?

I can only answer for my own Department, and we are very interested and keen on helicopters. We are doing everything we possibly can to get more.

Infantry Training

11 and 12.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what were the arrangements made for realistic training in field work, including night patrols, in both Germany and the United Kingdom for units about to be posted to Korea in the period immediately prior to the truce;

(2) whether he has considered recent allegations, a copy of which has been sent to him, of insufficient and misdirected training of young troops recently engaged in Korea; and whether he will make a statement.

I have read the articles to which the right hon. Member refers. The training facilities in Germany are finer than anything the Army has ever had before, and full use is made of them. Units moving through this country on their way to operational theatres get special training, and the battalion to which reference is made in these articles carried out three weeks' special training at Stanford before embarkation. I have seen the report on this unit when it left this country, and its high terms have been wholly justified by the unit's later record in operations.

While agreeing that the account given in these articles is not representative of training generally in the British Army, at any rate as I have seen it, may there not be some case for looking again into the training of this unit, because the articles are extremely circumstantial, and is the Minister really satisfied that in those instances all was well?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I read the articles carefully; they were both circumstantial and, if correct, extremely damaging. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen a letter in the "Manchester Guardian" of 9th April from a young ex-National Service officer who had been in the same battalion as the writer of these articles, categorically denying many of the charges made?

Is it not a fact that the inefficiency of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers, to which the articles refer, also applies to other units in the 5th Infantry Brigade? Is the Minister aware that my right hon. Friend had an opportunity of seeing this Infantry Brigade at work last year in Germany and that some of us were quite shocked at the standard of training in the Brigade? Would he inquire into it?

We have been into this with General West as well, who is now back in this country, and we have looked most carefully into the question of training. I am convinced that many of the charges in these articles are exaggerated.

Will the Minister appreciate that, in my view, the allegations in the articles are not representative of the training in the British Army as a whole?

Territorial Army Units (European Training)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent he intends to send units of the Territorial Army to Europe for part of their training in the present year.

Although the training facilities in Germany are excellent, the right hon. Member will realise that cost of movement and time spent in travelling necessarily limit the despatch of Territorial Army units and formations there. This year we intend to send a few Territorial Army officers and Territorial Army and Army Emergency Reserve units to Germany.

But has it not been done on a limited scale before with considerable success, and since it has aroused the enthusiasm of the men concerned, would it not be worth while to send some larger forces of the Territorial Army than the right hon. Gentleman intends, to train along with Regular forces in Germany? In the long run, would it not be an advantage?

I agree that there is a great deal to be said for such a course, but time which is spent in travelling is cut off training, there is the extra expense, and the added factor that no man can be sent to Germany unless he volunteers to go, because under the Acts we cannot compel a man to attend his fortnight's camp outside the country.

No one wants to compel anybody who does not wish to go, but is the right hon. Gentleman not well aware that many of the men wish to go voluntarily?

Yes, Sir, but the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, if I were to say that a Territorial division would go to Germany, any man who felt he would rather not go could say, "I am sorry but I will not go."

Is the Minister aware that those of us who have served in the Forces view with concern any influence being brought to bear on those who have already served, and when it comes to Territorial service, that influence should be used to send them to Germany?

Ta Civilian Clerks (Pay)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider raising the pay of civilian clerks attached to the Territorial Army.

As the Territorial Army seems to be built on a mountain of paper, and since the dealings with that paper at the battalion orderly room level sometimes leave something to be desired, does not my right hon. Friend think that it would improve both the efficiency and, in the end, the economy of the Service if the conditions of civilian clerks could be made more attractive, because at present, I am told, the turnover is very rapid.

I would tell my hon. Friend that the responsible body, which is the Joint Administrative Council for civilian employees of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations, has made no representations on this matter and, so far as I know, the men appear to be satisfied with their present rates of pay.

Education Advisory Board

17.

asked the Secretary of State for War the members of the Army Education Advisory Board; the dates of their appointments; and the occasions on which the Board has met since 1st January, 1953.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the members, which shows the year of their appointment. The Board has met five times since 1st January, 1953.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say whether he has examined the report of the Select Committee which looked at this problem after the First World War and recommended that Army education should have a relation to an external body to advise the Secretary of State for War? Has he not now gone back completely on that policy, and is he not aware of the disastrous result which followed a similar policy between the two wars?

Following is the list:

Army Education Advisory Board

Year of appointment

Chairman:

Mr. J. C. Masterman, O.B.E., The Provost, Worcester College, Oxford1952

Members:

Mr. O. Barnett, B.E.M., J. P., M.A., President, National Union of Teachers1948
Mrs. Helen C. Bentwich, Vice-Chairman, London County Council1950
Mr. J. E. H. Blackie, Chief Inspector, Ministry of Education1952
Mr. F. Bray, C.B., Under-Secretary, Further Education, Ministry of Education1948
Mr. Ernest Green, M.A., J.P., Late General Secretary, Workers' Educational Association1948
Mr. R. J. Harvey, M. A. Secretary, Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies1948
Sir Charles Morris, M.A., Vice-Chancellor, The University, Leeds1948
Mr. A. E. Nichols, C.B.E., Headmaster, Nele's School, Exeter1948
Prof. J. N. Nicholson. M.A., Principal, University College, Hull1948
Brigadier W. G. Pidsley, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C1952
Mr. E. Sydney, M.C., F.L.A., Borough Librarian, Borough of Leyton Public Libraries1948
Mr. P. H. St. J. Wilson, C.B.E., Ministry of Labour and National Service1953
Mr. E. W. Woodhead, M.A., County Education Officer, Kent County Council1948
Prof. J. N. Wright, M.A., Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of St. Andrews, Scotland1948
Mr. Arthur Bryant, C.B.E., M.A.. LL.D., Smedmore House, Nr. Wareham, Dorset1948
Mr. F. J. Swan, B. Sc, M.A., Headmaster, West Norwood County Secondary School1948

Consultant Member:

Mr. G. T. Pringle, Scottish Education Department1948

War Office Observers:

Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Callender, K.B.E., C.B., M.C, Director General of Ministry Training1952
Brigadier M. S. Beddall, O.B.E., Director of Army Education.1952

Royal Army Educational Corps

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on Army educational policy and on the proposed reorganisation of the Royal Army Educational Corps.

The Royal Army Educational Corps has three main tasks, the preliminary education of illiterate and semi-literate soldiers, general education and individual education. The proposed reorganisation of the corps follows an experiment in Salisbury Plain District and is planned to be put into effect throughout the Army. It is designed to reduce the manpower needs of the corps and to improve the standard of educational instruction in units.

When the Minister drew up the scheme, did he consult with the civilian educational authorities?

Yes, Sir, they were informed of this experiment which went on for several months on Salisbury Plain, they watched it with considerable interest, and it proved extremely successful.

Would the Minister answer my question? I did not ask whether they had been informed but whether they had been consulted.

Is it true that the Army Educational Corps are to be awarded a battle honour for the part they took in the 1945 Election?

Trade And Commerce

Factory Building

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how much factory building was authorised in the first quarter of this year compared with the totals in the corresponding quarter of the preceding three years.

Since the answer contains a table of figures, I will with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

DateProjects approvedArea
sq. ft.
First quarter, 195452410,733,000
First quarter, 19533737,051,000
First quarter, 19522355,077,000
First quarter, 195148010,360,000

These figures relate to new factories and extensions exceeding 5,000 square feet which the Board of Trade have certified under section 14 (4) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, as consistent with the proper distribution of industry.

East-West Trade

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress he can now report in connection with the international discussions on the extension of East-West trade.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) on 8th April.

If my hon. Friend has asked me for my personal opinion, I would say, extremely so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is real danger of the machine tool industry losing orders to competitors because of the failure of the Government to take action?

I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that no time has been lost so far.

Anglo-Brazilian Payments Agreement

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a further statement on the Anglo-Brazilian Payments Agreement.

Under the commercial debts settlement of last year, the Brazilian Government undertook to provide exchange for an initial remittance of £10 million together with annual payments of not less than £6 million. The Brazilian authorities have informed us that so far this year they have authorised remittances totalling £13,800,000, the greater part of which has, I understand, already been distributed to creditors. The amount of Brazilian commercial debts to the United Kingdom now outstanding is about £40 million.

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that the progress so far made in carrying out all these settlements on the part of the Brazilians has been very satisfactory and very reasonable? Is he satisfied that the funds which have been raised in this country so far have been properly apportioned on an agreed basis among those entitled to it?

I think that the reply is "yes" in both cases. So far the debt settlement has been carried out extremely satisfactorily.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Export Credits Guarantee Department will recoup any of its losses under the terms of this debt agreement?

The Exports Credits Guarantee Department has already recouped some, and I hope that it will recoup the greater part in due course.

New Industries, Portsmouth

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will do everything possible to encourage new industries to come to Portsmouth.

The rate of unemployment in Portsmouth is still above the national average, but considerable industrial development is now in prospect and should make a noticeable contribution to employment there. We shall continue to watch the position, but at the moment other areas are in greater need.

Will my hon. and learned Friend appreciate that his Department has done a lot for Portsmouth recently but that there is still room for more, otherwise we shall be entirely dependent upon the docks?

I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend about the improvement, and I assure him that the industrial developments which are now in prospect may make a further notable contribution to the cause that he has in mind.

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that he will do nothing for Portsmouth until he has turned his attention to improvements that are required in my constituency?

European Countries (Trade Liberalisation)

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress he has to report on the liberalisation of trade between this country and other members of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.

My right hon. Friend advised the hon. Gentleman on 19th November that over 70 per cent, of the trade on private account between the member countries of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation had been freed from quota restrictions. There have been some further relaxations of these restrictions by Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom, and the percentage freed is now about 76.

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to make one point clear? Is it correct that the term "liberalisation" is now only applied to quantitative restrictions and not to tariffs? If that is so, can he say to what extent the removal of quantitative restrictions has been offset by the imposition of tariffs?

I was dealing in my answer, at any rate, with quantitative restrictions. Tariffs are a matter for the members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but I do not think that any increases in tariffs recently have offset the advantages of these relaxations of quantitative restrictions to which I have referred in my answer.

Is it not a fact that liberalisation applies generally except where there are quantitative restrictions?

Is it not a fact that the term "liberalisation" has a certain microscopic connotation?

Export Subsidies

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made by Her Majesty's Government towards reaching agreement with member Governments of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and with Governments of other European countries on the subject of subsidies to exporters.

While some useful progress has been made in the discussions in the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, no agreed proposal has yet emerged which we were satisfied would lead to the elimination of tax remission and similar schemes amounting virtually to export subsidies. Discussions continue and, meanwhile, we are renewing direct discussions with the German authorities to try to find an agreed means for resuming the forward move towards the progressive elimination of these devices.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if agreement could be reached with European countries, it would make it easier to reach agreement with countries in a wider range? Can he give any specific information about France as well as Western Germany?

As regards the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I entirely agree with his view. I gather from Press reports that France is proposing to increase her percentage of liberalisation this week to 53 per cent. and on 1st November to 65 per cent., but those are Press reports only.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much longer these discussions will continue and whether shortly after Easter we can be told the results?

The right hon. Gentleman knows how difficult it is to forecast how long discussions can go on, but I think that some progress has been made already, and we hope that further progress will be made without too much delay.

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that what we want is not progressive elimination of these measures but the total, immediate recession of them by Germany?

Sunderland Trading Estate Factory (Closure)

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the closing down of the paper and board conversion factory on the Pallion Trading Estate, Sunderland.

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he proposes to take to ensure the full use of the factory on the Pallion Trading Estate, Sunderland, presently occupied by Fordham and Company, which is to be closed at the end of this month.

Fordham and Company announced on 6th April that they intended to close their factory on the Pallion Estate at the end of May. The Board of Trade will, of course, give all the help they can in finding a suitable tenant to take over this factory.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the announcement of the closing of this factory whilst the Price factory still remains vacant is causing serious concern in Sunderland? Is he aware that we should like to see some evidence of real energetic action by the President of the Board of Trade?

There are some 300 tenants of factories on the Estates in this area and some closures must be expected from time to time. I appreciate that the hon. Member regrets that, but I am glad to say that the total employment in our north-eastern factories this winter has been higher than during any previous winter.

That might well be so, but is my hon. and learned Friend not aware that there may well be a rather dangerous trend developing at this moment? Will he take even more energetic steps than have been taken up to the moment to ensure that firms that are already on this trading estate are encouraged to stay and the development of those firms is encouraged still more?

As I said in my original answer, the Board of Trade will give all the help that they can in finding a suitable new tenant for this factory.

In view of the disappointing reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter again at the earliest opportunity.

National Finance

D Scheme

28.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to be able to carry out his promised review of the D Scheme.

I am afraid I cannot give any forecast about this.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the D Scheme contains very many anomalies which remain unassailed because of the promised review and does he think it fair to try too far the patience of these who are affected?

I am aware of the particular anomaly to which my hon. Friend refers but I cannot go further than what I have said today.

Entertainments Duty (Receipts)

31.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the present annual yield of Entertainments Duty for stage plays; and what will be the estimated reduction in the yield of such duty as a result of his proposal to reduce the amount of duty on admission payments by ½d.

Particulars of receipts of Entertainments Duty from admissions to stage plays alone are not available but receipts from admissions to theatres and music-halls together amounted to £24 million in 1953–54. The cost of my proposal to reduce the duty charged on such admissions by ½d. is estimated at £175,000 a year.

Purchase Tax (Registration)

32, 33 and 34.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will give an undertaking that registration for Purchase Tax will not be withheld or withdrawn from wholesalers because of a fear of tax evasion, in view of the heavy penalties that can be imposed by the courts where there is evasion and the powers possessed by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to demand adequate sureties where the integrity of an applicant is open to suspicion;

(2) if he will undertake that registration for Purchase Tax will not be withdrawn from wholesalers because of change of address or change of legal status where there is a good tax record prior to change of legal status, providing the construction of the company remains substantially the same;

(3) if he will undertake that registration for Purchase Tax will not be withheld from wholesalers for the convenience or believed more economic administion of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise.

I think my hon. Friend will find our answers to all these Questions in the statement which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury made in the debate on the Adjournment on 18th March.

That is just what the Financial Secretary did not say. Will my right hon. Friend answer the point which I made to the effect that Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise were ultra vires in their action following their interpretation of the Act, which view is supported by counsel? Will he look into the matter to see whether that is so?

If my hon. Friend feels that, perhaps he will put a Question about it on the Order Paper.

Tax Allowances (Fares)

36.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the high cost of fares, and the impossibility of knowing when they will be stabilised, he will consider allowing essential travel to and from work to count as an Income Tax allowance.

Why does the right hon. Gentleman brush this very important matter aside in this way? Is he aware that a large number of people have had to move to districts a considerable distance from their work, that the fares which they have to pay are of a very substantial nature in comparison with what they earn, and that the cost of living is so high that very many of them cannot afford these very heavy expenses? Will he reconsider the position?

The position has been before the revenue authorities for many years. It has been impossible to differentiate fairly between persons who get compensating advantages in rent and so on in the places where they may be living, and others. Some may have cheaper rents, and that ought to be taken into account in giving them relief from Income Tax. The whole consideration has led to the negative answer which I have been obliged to give the hon. Gentleman.

Government Departments (Used Stamps)

37.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he will consider having the foreign and domestic stamps on all mail received by Government offices collected and sold for the benefit of the Treasury.

It has never been thought that a central scheme of this kind would be worth the cost of its administration. Sometimes in the past, however, particular Departments have arranged to sell stamps; the amounts likely to be realised will vary considerably, of course, as between one Department and another. I am drawing the attention of all Departments to the possibilities of this suggestion, for which I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend.

War Effort (Publication Of Statistics)

29.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will have published as a White Paper the whole of the papers, notes, figures, etc., that passed between Her Majesty's Government, the United States Government and Lord Keynes during the loan negotiations in 1945 and 1946.

Statistical material presented during these negotiations has already been published in Cmd. 6707. I am not prepared in this case to depart further from the normal rule about the publication of State papers.

Is it not a fact that Lord Keynes had a cruel and gruelling time during these negotiations? In view of the fact that Britain's war effort was treated most unfairly, and in order that we can consider our relationship in correct perspective, should not these facts be placed on record?

Many of the facts and the substance of them have already been brought out, and I am afraid that I cannot depart from the decision that we cannot depart from the normal practice in these cases.

30.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will have brought up to date the White Paper No. 6564, entitled, "Statistics relating to the War Effort," so as to include the whole of our war effort and add a report on the Commonwealth war effort.

No, Sir. The Statistical Digest of the War published in May, 1951, in the Civil Series of the History of the Second World War, brought up to date the figures in the White Paper, Cmd. 6564, and gave more details. Statistics about the war effort of other Commonwealth countries have appeared in publications issued officially and privately in the different countries.

Civil Service

Security Procedure (Appeals)

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether civil servants suspended under security procedure, and appearing before the Appeal Tribunal, are entitled under his regulations to be accompanied during the hearing by any other person; and whether witnesses will be heard who are prepared to testify to the civil servant's personal integrity and professional ability.

I presume the hon. Member is referring to civil servants appearing before the Three Advisers. The answer to the first part of the Question is "No" and to the second part "Yes."

Will the right hon. Gentleman now reconsider the matter in the light of experience and permit civil servants appearing before the Tribunal at least to be accompanied by their trade union representatives?

The matter was considered by the late Government and has been reviewed by this Government. We prefer to adhere to the practice I have described in my answer. It is possible for friends themselves to give evidence before the advisers, and to that extent the hon. Member's point is met.

Temporary Staff (Establishment)

38.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury how many non-industrial temporary civil servants were employed in Government Departments at the end of 1951 and at the latest date for which figures are available; and what percent age of those employed at the end of 1951 have become established civil servants.

The number of non-industrial temporary civil servants employed in Government Departments on 1st January, 1952, was 223,570 and on 1st January, 1954, 166,760. Of those so employed on 1st January, 1952, 28,996 or 130 per cent, have since become established civil servants.

When do the Government intend to complete the process of converting temporary civil servants into established civil servants?

There are a number of considerations, some of which point one way and some another, in this matter. They are rather difficult to summarise in reply to a supplementary question.

Recruitment

39.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury how many established civil servants were recruited during the financial year just ended and in each of the three previous financial years.

Figures are not available for financial years but in the calendar year 1950 the number recruited to the permanent non-industrial Civil Service was 46,304; in 1951, 53,232; in 1952, 33,250; and in 1953 it is estimated to have been 25,950.

Local Government

County Rates (Increase)

40.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he has studied particulars which have been sent him concerning the persistent rise in county rates; and if he will in the national interest introduce legislation, which will enable Her Majesty's Government to fix a limit to the expenditure of local authorities.

Yes, Sir, for the particulars in question are mostly drawn from the Ministry's own publications. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the average county rate has about doubled in the last 20 years? As the increase is a burden upon industry and does harm to our export trade, will he take action on the lines suggested in the Question?

This is a very difficult problem. The suggested legislation would be rather too crude an instrument for this very complex problem.

Building Byelaws (Height Of Rooms)

42.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government to what extent uniformity has been obtained as regards the building byelaws of local authorities; and what special circumstances there were in the cases of three out of 126 local authorities in Lancashire which caused him to agree to a greater height than seven feet six inches for first floor rooms.

Uniformity has been attained to a very large extent and I am grateful to local authorities for their co-operation. The special circumstances about which my hon. Friend inquires are smoke-laden humid atmosphere, low sunshine record, and, in two cases, high density. The variation is in respect of ground floor, not first floor rooms.

While everyone will agree that as much uniformity as possible is desirable, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that every possible consideration is given in his Department to appeals for a greater height made on the grounds of health by certain local authorities?

Yes, Sir. As my hon. Friend suggests, we have tried to get the maximum of uniformity without disregarding the long tradition of occasional non-uniformity.

Pennine Way

44.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when the Pennine Way which it was hoped to complete in July, 1952, will be ready; and how many miles of new rights of way have still to be established under the National Parks Act.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 16th March to the hon. Members for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop). No more new rights of way have been created since then.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he promised that this would be completed by the autumn of last year and state what is holding up completion now?

There are certain legal complications which have to be negotiated, and, since this will last for a long time, it is very important to get the most attractive and most generally agreed route. I cannot honestly say that I have any practical experience of the route, for I am rather beyond the age at which I might be expected to walk such distances, but my Parliamentary Secretary keeps walking backwards and forwards across it and he tells me that there are still some arguments about certain parts of it. It is important to get the route generally agreed.

Housing, Yorkshire

43.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the number of houses completed in Yorkshire during 1953; and how this figure compares with that for 1951 and 1952.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to Appendix B to the Housing Return.

Nationalised Industries (Committee's Report)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement of policy in regard to the acceptance or otherwise of the recommendations of the Select Committee upon Nationalised Industries, the last Report of the Committee having been published nine months ago.

When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House opened a debate on this subject on 8th February he indicated the preliminary views of Her Majesty's Government and said that any observations made during the debate would be carefully considered. There was a useful exchange of views which the Government are examining. A further statement will be made as soon as possible.

Atomic Energy (Quebec Agreement)

46 and 47.

asked the Prime Minister (1) the date on which the United Kingdom obtained freedom to develop atomic power for industrial and economic purposes without first seeking the permission of the President of the United States of America under the Quebec Agreement;

(2) the date on which his secret agreement with President Roosevelt was ratified in this country; and the date on which it ceased to have effect.

The Agreement which I signed with President Roosevelt at Quebec in 1943 covered a most secret matter of vital importance to our war effort. In these circumstances it could not be revealed to Parliament and thus the question of ratification did not arise here or in the United States. It was, however, a solemn, formal, and official agreement. It was annulled on 7th of January, 1948, when the new agreement came into effect.

The clause regarding industrial development to which the hon. Member refers applied to any industrial advantage which the United States had derived from their researches, plant and vast expenditure on the manufacture of the atom bomb. It in no way prevented us from promoting industrial atomic research and production from our own resources. We have, in fact, been carrying on atomic research and development ever since 1945, which was applicable both to industrial and military purposes.

Am I to understand that the Agreement was so secret that the right hon. Gentleman could not trust even the War Cabinet with the secret? Is it a fact that the right hon. Gentleman was the only person in this country who knew that he had made these promises?

No, Sir. My noble Friend Lord Waverley, as Lord President of the Council, had the management of the matter in his hands. In addition, the Foreign Secretary knew. As to the exact degree of appreciation possessed by others, I cannot answer.

Is the Prime Minister saying that he selected his personal confidants who were very near to him but that the War Cabinet did not know of the tremendous promises which he had made on behalf of the country? What about the Deputy-Prime Minister?

My telegram was addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and the War Cabinet, but it may well be that, owing to the great respect with which the words "Tube Alloys" were treated, it slipped out at some point or other.

I hope the Prime Minister, by referring to that telegram, is not seeking to utilise the propaganda material which has been used in at least two Conservative newspapers. He will have had his opportunity to make inquiries, as I have had mine. May I ask, therefore, whether he is not aware, as I am confirmed by the Cabinet Office, that the War Cabinet was not informed about the agreement of 1943? In all the circumstances, would it not be well for him to admit it and, if there is a case to argue about it, let it be argued on another occasion? Surely he is aware from the Cabinet records that the War Cabinet was not informed, as I have had confirmed from the Cabinet Office?

I cannot go further than I have gone. The telegram which I sent was addressed to the War Cabinet, but it may well be that some change was made, not as a result of a great decision on policy, but from the point of view of keeping these matters as secret as possible.

May I ask the Prime Minister, was it not a fact that it was thought best to keep knowledge of this matter in the hands of a very few people and that the War Cabinet was informed that there had been talks and agreements with the United States Government on this matter, but that they were not, as a matter of fact, informed of the details at all, or what the agreement was, but simply that some agreement had been come to, and the matter rested there?

Yes, Sir, I do not think I disagree with that. It was no attempt at keeping unnatural secrecy. On the other hand, obviously these things were talked of by as few responsible people as possible and at this particular stage it may well be it was not discussed in the Cabinet. I may, however, say that the Cabinet records are not necessarily conclusive in their completeness because very often when a thing like this was reached in conversation one said, "Do not put that down", and the matter did not figure in the printed record—

The right hon. Gentleman should not shake his head, because he knows it is true.

The Prime Minister has asserted that something is true; what is he asserting?

I am asking the Prime Minister a question, and he may as well answer and wait until I have finished. Is the Prime Minister asserting that he did explain all this to the War Cabinet? Is he asserting that he did seek authority and then gave directions that no record was to be preserved? I have made my own inquiries, that is the official answer, but I ask the Prime Minister, has he made inquiries from the Cabinet Office as to whether there was Cabinet discussion and confirmation and, if there was not —and that is the answer of the Cabinet Office on this—why does the Prime Minister not tell the House of Commons?

All that the Cabinet records show is that the words "Tube Alloys" were cut out in red ink and that was done by an official—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I am not suggesting that it was any improper action.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman think, on reflection, that it would have been better not to have referred to the matter, but to have left it where it was?

I should not have referred to it unless, finding ourselves in a very difficult position when we returned to office, we were concerned to prove that we were in no way to blame.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will realise that we also found ourselves in some difficulty when we came into office in 1945.

Certainly, I fully admit the many difficulties the right hon. Member had to face, but I am not going to be accused of being responsible for the way in which things stood when we resumed office.

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will issue a White Paper giving the relevant correspondence concerning the ending of the secret agreement he reached with President Roosevelt.

My right hon. Friend made Her Majesty's Government's position clear on this point in his speech during the debate on 5th April. He said that if it were desired that this later agreement should be published, he was perfectly prepared to consult the other Governments concerned to see if it could be done. I have nothing to add to what he said. It is clearly for those immediately concerned to express their views.

Will the Prime Minister say, firstly, when the document itself ceased to be secret and was available for the public, and, secondly, will he say that, in view of the obvious public interest in this country in the part revelations which have been made, he will now go the whole hog and let the British public know what correspondence passed?

50.

asked the Prime Minister the present arrangements made between the United Kingdom and the United States of America regarding the development of atomic energy by Great Britain; and what agreement has been come to concerning the use of such scientific knowledge by either country for military purposes.

Present arrangements between the United States and the United Kingdom regarding the civil use of atomic energy cover an exchange of information over a limited field. No agreement exists regarding the exchange of information on the design or production of atomic weapons. We are developing our atomic programme, both civil and military, as we see fit and as the national interest requires.

Hydrogen Bomb

52.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give the House all the information he receives officially from the United States Government concerning the explosive power, radius and effect both of the last bomb detonated in the Pacific and of any similar weapon that Government proposes to test in the near future.

The United States Government do their best, within the limits laid down by the United States legislation, to give us as their close allies such useful information on these subjects as is possible under their law. They might well be discouraged if they knew that it was immediately to be conveyed to the Soviet Government by public declaration in Parliament.

If there is very serious information given to the Prime Minister at some time should we not have knowledge of that? Using all his discretion, cannot the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that from time to time he will tell us of any developments in this dangerous weapon?

No, Sir. I cannot promise to tell all the information that is given to me in confidence by another country.

53.

asked the Prime Minister to what extent Her Majesty's Government intends to emulate or transcend the United States Government in the development of atomic and hydrogenic explosive weapons; and where it is proposed that further tests of these weapons should be made.

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on 23rd March, 1954.

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that that reply was quite inadequate? Will he not at least refer to the last part of my Question in regard to the place in the world within our orbit where these experiments may take place under our auspices?

I am afraid I must abide by my answer, which was not given without much consideration.

Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the report in "The Times" that the United States are proposing to drop a bomb at the end of the month of 10 times the theoretical power of any bomb so far dropped? What steps has the Prime Minister taken to implement the Motion agreed to by this House last week so that we can get these very important matters dealt with quickly?

Town And Country Planning Bills (Scotland)

49.

asked the Prime Minister if he will cause the Town and Country Planning Bill and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill, two almost identical Measures of great length and complexity, to be withdrawn and re-presented after the Easter Recess in a form which will enable a combined Bill to go before one Standing Committee instead of two, thus avoiding repetitive debates on the same principles, saving the time of many hon. Members and officials, and much public expense.

No, Sir. The complexity of the matters with which these Measures deal and the differences in the laws of the two countries make it impracticable to have a single Measure applying to both.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if in future every endeavour will be made to save time and expense by adding a few additional Clauses to United Kingdom legislation to cover the special circumstances of Scottish law on land tenure?

I am advised that to attempt to apply the English Measure to Scotland in this sense would greatly add to its complexity and that it would involve a Scottish application Clause of indigestible length and complication.

Basutoland, Bechuanaland And Swaziland

51.

asked the Prime Minister in view of the recent official announcement by Dr. Malan of the intentions of his Government to secure the transference of our South African Protectorates, whether he will make it clear to the South African Government that Her Majesty's Government will not agree to such a transferance without the consent of the peoples in those Protectorates.

I will, with permission, make a statement at the end of Questions in reply to this Question.

Do I understand from that answer that we shall be entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman questions on the statement?

At the end of Questions

I will now, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, answer Question No. 51.

There can be no question of Her Majesty's Government agreeing at the present time to the transfer of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland to the Union of South Africa. We are pledged, since the South Africa Act of 1909, not to transfer these Territories until their inhabitants have been consulted and until the United Kingdom Parliament has had an opportunity of expressing its views. General Hertzog himself, in 1925, said that his party was not prepared to incorporate in the Union any Territory unless its inhabitants wished it.

It is the interest, as it is also the desire, of this country and of South Africa, that the friendship which has developed so strongly between us over the years should remain unbreakable. I therefore sincerely hope that Dr. Malan and his Government, with whom we have hitherto happily co-operated on so many problems we share in common, will not needlessly press an issue on which we could not fall in with their views without failing in our trust.

My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is also making a statement on this subject in another place.

Is the Prime Minister aware that this reply will give profound satisfaction both to the people of this country and to the indigenous inhabitants of these three Protectorates? Is he further aware that the crucial reference is to the word "consult"? Can we take it now that "consultation" in this context means also consent?

If the Prime Minister did not hear me, may I repeat that the first part of my supplementary question asked him whether he did not appreciate that his answer would give profound satisfaction?

As the right hon. Gentleman did not get the second part of my question, may I ask him again whether we are to take it that the word "consult" in the context in which it is used can now be taken to be synonymous with "consent"?

I should greatly hesitate to try to give my opinion now on a matter full of legal subtleties and with the deep constitutional importance attaching to it.

May I ask the Prime Minister to accept on behalf of us on these benches that we welcome very much the statement he has made? We, too, join in the hope that the Government of the Union of South Africa, having regard to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made, will not pursue' this matter any further.

I am not sure that I can give any assurance about their not pursuing it. We have very good and friendly relations with them. Now that they have brought the matter forward like this and have seen what our attitude is bound to be—not the attitude of this Government only but a long-established attitude—I think it is very likely that things will be settled in a more friendly manner than would appear on the surface at this moment.

While agreeing with the Prime Minister that it is desirable that this matter should be settled by South Africa's dropping the question, I would ask the Prime Minister to consider, if they do pursue it, having an early debate in the House soon after the Recess so that the opinion of the whole House on this matter can be made clear to the Union of South Africa?

We must always consider whether a debate will be helpful at a particular moment or not. After all, there is such a wide measure of agreement that I do not think there is much occasion to express our views by debate.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the second part of his answer is neither as clear nor as satisfactory as the first part? Would he agree that it is essential that the people of these Territories should be absolutely certain that this Government will not permit them to fall under the influence of Dr. Malan? Will he therefore say something now that will free us from any fear that when he talks about consulting the people of the Territories he may mean consulting in the same way as when Seretse Khama was banished? Would he not agree that the people wanted Seretse Khama back, and that therefore we do not want ambiguity?

Strong views however agreeably expressed, are by no means a qualification for being a constitutional authority.

I wish to give notice that, in view of the entirely unsatisfactory nature of the Prime Minister's answer, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.