House Of Commons
Wednesday, 28th April, 1954
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Tees Conservancy Bill Lords
Shrewsbury Estate Bill Lords
Read a Second time, and committed.
Oral Answers To Questions
Cyprus (Enosis Movement)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any statement to make about the Enosis movement in Cyprus; and what interventions there have been by the Greek and Turkish Governments in this matter.
I have no general statement to make on this matter at present. The attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the Enosis movement has been made clear on a number of occasions and remains unchanged.As regards the second part of the Question, the Turkish Foreign Minister has recently made his Government's attitude clear in a statement published on 2nd April, in which he said that Turkey is of the opinion that there is no Cyprus question and that no modification of the status of this island is necessary. The Greek Government, for their part, have explained that they wish to hold bilateral discussions about Cyprus with Her Majesty's Government, and have intimated that in the absence of such discussions they might wish to bring the matter before the United Nations.
Under what clause of the United Nations Charter could this matter be brought before the United Nations?
That would be a matter requiring careful consideration. I think it is a question which the hon. Gentleman should put down to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. At first Slight, I find it difficult to see under which clause it could be raised.
Do Her Majesty's Government reaffirm the offer, made by more than one Government and more than one Secretary of State to the people of Cyprus, that we are ready to consider their further constitutional advance towards self-government, and has that offer been made by the new Governor?
Yes, Sir. It has not been announced by the new Governor in particular, but it was made clear by my reply to a Parliamentary Question from the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) on 26th January.
Can my right hon. Friend say what reply has been given by Her Majesty's Government to the suggestion of the Greek Government about bilateral discussions?
That is a question for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
May I ask if the people of Cyprus could have self-determination to decide their association?
We made our position perfectly clear, and we are prepared to consider any suggestion with regard to the constitutional offer.
Colonial Territories (Self-Government)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to establish a two-tier system in British Colonies.
I understand the hon. Member as meaning to suggest that there are, broadly, two kinds of Colonial Territory: those which can look forward to eventual independence either on their own account or in association with others, and those which for one reason or another must, so far as can be foreseen, continue to be in some measure dependent upon the United Kingdom. With this proposition my right hon. Friend, of course, agrees, but he does-not think it would be possible now to assign every Territory finally to one category or the other. There are too many differences in local circumstances, and too many uncertain factors.
Are the Government adhering to the former policy that those Colonies should be advanced gradually to self-government, and that no Colony will become a Dominion without consultation with the existing Dominions?
Yes, Sir. It is certainly our aim to promote every Territory to the fullest practical degree of self-government within the Commonwealth.
Following that answer from the Minister, may I make it clear that it has been laid down by successive Governments that the degree of self-government granted to Colonial Territories is a matter for Her Majesty's Government and for our Parliament? May I ask further whether it is still the policy—as I suppose it is—that when a Colony reaches Dominion status it will enjoy equal status with other members of the Commonwealth who have already reached Dominion status?
As regards the first part of the question, it is certainly our view that it is a decision for Her Majesty's Government and this Parliament as to the way in which Territories should progress towards self-government. When in due course the question of becoming a full member of the Common wealth arises, of course other members of the Commonwealth are concerned and have to be consulted.
Gomes Commission Report
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what legal proceedings have been taken, or are to be taken, as the result of the Gomes Report on Corruption in Trinidad.
None, Sir. The responsibility in such matters rests with the Attorney-General of Trinidad, and he decided against prosecution.
Is the Minister satisfied that in all cases there are no grounds for prosecution in view of what is contained in the Gomes Report?
I have nothing to add to my reply. I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the reply given to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) on 22nd April, 1953, which has further information on the point.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made with the construction of the Caura Dam in Trinidad; how much work still remains to be done; when it will be completed; and what is the cost to date.
There has been no progress since 1948 when, as my right hon. Friend explained on the 29th April, 1953, the dam was placed on care and maintenance. The completion of the dam, which it is estimated will cost about £1½ million and take about four years, is included in the Colony's development proposals for the period 1956–60. The cost so far has been about £600,000.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with all the delay that has taken place in the construction of this dam and, in view of the economic advantages which would derive from its completion, will he ask his right hon. Friend to have another look at the matter to see whether the work can be speeded up?
I am very well aware of the importance of completing the dam. It was at one time hoped to complete it in the Colony's five-year economic programme ending in 1955, but owing to the urgent need for water it has been decided to concentrate on other schemes giving a quicker return for the money expended, and it is in the programme for the period 1956–60.
But surely the Minister recognises that the completion of this and other schemes in this territory would do far more to satisfy the inhabitants than the actions recently taken by his right hon. Friend in British Honduras and British Guiana?
I do not know what the reference is to British Honduras. In all these territories we must put first things first.
Detained Persons (Care Of Families)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the hardship caused to families in Kenya when the breadwinner is detained indefinitely; and what steps are being taken to deal with a problem which is causing bitterness of feeling among, those concerned.
I would refer the hon. Lady to the reply I gave on 14th April to the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). My right hon. Friend is not aware of any general hardship among families of detained persons, but there are arrangements for relief to be given in cases of need.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that these measures are fully known to the people concerned? While it is admitted that the great majority can go back to the reserve, there are individuals who cannot. What steps are taken to make it clear to those who are not able to find other means of subsistence that some welfare arrangements are available?
I hope that the publicity given to this matter by Parliamentary Questions will help to make it better known in Kenya, but I will see that the attention of the Government is drawn to this point and that it is made as clear as possible to everybody what arrangements there are for relief.
Can the Minister of State tell us the numbers detained in connection with operation "Anvil" and the conditions under which they are detained?
That is another question.
Cannot the Minister tell us what he is doing about those detainees who have been in camps since as far back as December, 1952? Does he intend to review their sentences at any time and possibly, especially with trade union leaders, release them to return once more to their normal life and activities among their own people?
That is a different question. The hon. Gentleman had better put it down.
Screening Teams (African Leaders)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been drawn to the request by Mr. Ohanga that senior chiefs and senior African leaders should be included in screening teams in Kenya; and what response has been made to it.
Senior African leaders and loyalists have been included in screening teams since their inception. Senior chiefs have not been included, however, as they are fully occupied in administering their locations, but their advice is sought when team members are being selected.
Is the Minister aware that Mr. Ohanga is presumably also fully informed of this fact but nevertheless feels that in certain circumstances senior chiefs, through their great knowledge of the background of people being screened, might be able to obtain more information through the screening process than can be obtained by the European officers who are normally employed?
Of course, I am aware of Mr. Ohanga's suggestion, but I do not know whether he really considered its implications when he made it in that it might mean taking senior chiefs away from their locations. African leaders who are very carefully selected are members of the screening teams.
While appreciating that, may I ask the Minister if he will consult with his right hon. Friend? This is a very important suggestion. I think that it ought to be considered and not turned down. If the chiefs can be spared for the work that will give clearer proof that the work is being done fairly.
I thought that I had made it clear that we are associating picked African leaders and loyalists with these teams. The most important thing is to allow the chiefs to do their own work of running the locations.
Anti-Mau Mau Operations
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
10. Mr. SORENSEN: To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies the present position in respect of the suppression of Mau Mau in Kenya; what further arrests have been made; if he is satisfied that no further irregularities have been committed by the Police Reserve or other forces under British authority; and to what extent the rehabilitation of arrested suspects or prisoners is succeeding.
On a point of order. My hon. Friend has not been here to ask this Question. I put down a Private Notice Question yesterday which was not accepted because my hon. Friend intended to ask this Question. I realise that unavoidable circumstances have made it impossible for him to be here. This is a matter of importance to people on both sides of the House, and I should have thought that the Minister of State himself would have liked to volunteer a statement so that he might show what is being done in this important matter.
I have to assume that when an hon. Member puts a Question on the Order Paper he will be here to ask it. As the Question covered the same ground as the right hon. Gentleman's Question, I had to disallow his Private Notice Question.
May we, through you, ask the Minister whether, on a matter of this importance, he does not think it wise to ask for your permission to make a statement at the end of Questions?
As a matter of fact, I anticipated that from a Question put to me by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) as to what would happen if he were not present, and I have already given my approval to the Minister to answer this Question at the end of Questions if he so desires.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what grounds the Governor of Kenya has forbidden the circulation of the book entitled, "Struggle for Kenya," by D. H. Rawcliffe.
I am informed that the circulation of this book has been prohibited in the public interest. This is within the Governor's powers, and I do not propose to intervene.
Can the Minister of State tell us the objection to this book? Is it regarded as seditious, and, if so, why was the author not prosecuted? If it is not seditious, are we to take it that it is the policy of the Kenya Government to ban the circulation of any books that are not favourable to the Kenya Government?
Under the Kenya Penal Code, the Governor in Council, if he is of opinion that the importation of any publication would be contrary to the public interest, may in his absolute discretion by order prohibit the importation of that publication. I have looked through this book myself and I am certain that there are passages in it, indeed chapters, which would be calculated to inflame public opinion and racial relations in Kenya under present circumstances.
Are we to take it, then, that the Minister of State is saying that, because this book contains a considerable and well-documented criticism of the colour bar in Kenya, the Kenya Government are justified in banning the book?
The hon. Gentleman has no right to make any such assumption.
Is my hon. Friend aware that all right-minded people will be only too glad to know that the Kenya Government are stopping the circulation of subversive literature which is adding to the bloodshed in Kenya?
Is the Minister of State also proposing to ban the recent report of the Parliamentary delegation to Kenya which takes the same view as many sections of this book?
In view of the unsatisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
Falkland Islands Dependencies
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about the present position in the Falkland Islands Dependencies; and how many unauthorised foreign settlements are still there.
At the settlement and whaling station in South Georgia, a number of improvements have been made to buildings and communications. In other parts of the Dependencies, work has continued at the six established scientific bases on an extensive programme of scientific and meteorological work planned by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. The Royal Research ship "John Biscoe" is just completing her annual relief of these bases. The number of unauthorised foreign settlements is eleven.
Is not it quite intolerable that such a state of affairs should be allowed to continue? May I ask what the Government propose to do about these unauthorised settlements?
My hon. Friend will be aware that steps have been taken and protests have been made in the past to the Governments concerned. As regards any future action in this matter, that is a question which ought to be put to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
Surely this cannot be a matter for the Foreign Secretary. This is a case of unauthorised people on British territory. Surely the Colonial Office can do something about it.
We take the necessary action as the occasion arises, as my hon. Friend will remember that we did last year; but any question about diplomatic action is one for my right hon. Friend.
I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory answer, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Shipbuilding Costs (Royal Dockyards And Private Yards)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of ships at present undergoing conversion in the Royal dockyards and private yards.
I assume that the hon. Member has in mind the conversions of destroyers to antisubmarine frigates, of which four are at present in hand in the Royal dockyards and nine in private yards.
While congratulating the Royal Naval dockyards on their obvious success in these difficult conversions, may I ask whether the attention of the First Lord has been drawn to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the cost of the work carried out in private yards, and will he in future take steps to increase the amount of conversions carried out in Royal Naval dockyards instead of giving the work to private yards?
I have read the Report and I assure the hon. Gentleman that we always give the work to the Royal dock yards as far as possible, but they are extremely busy with the refit of ships and are fully employed at the moment. Our policy is to see that the Royal dockyards are fully employed, and when they have room for work of this kind, it will be given to them.
What is the First Lord doing to get the price in the private yards down to the price in the Royal yards?
That is a point which really arises on the following Question. As the Parliamentary Secretary informed the House a fortnight ago, we are in constant and full consultation with the Ship Repairers Council to see if we can get these prices down, but I must say that the Royal dockyards have had some advantage in that they were able to buy materials in bulk earlier. [HON. MEM BERS: "Hear, hear."] Since then, owing to the rise in the cost of coal and other commodities, the price of materials has gone up.
Will the right hon. Gentleman at least express pleasure that the Royal dockyards have done so much better than private dockyards?
I accept gladly that tribute, and later on, on the Question of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), I have my own tribute to pay to the work done by the Royal dockyards.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what proportion of the work of conversion of ships in private yards a price has been, or will be, fixed not later than halfway through the conversion.
In no instance has it yet been possible to fix a price by the halfway stage of the job. It will, how ever, remain the Admiralty's policy to endeavour to agree a price at the earliest possible stage in the progress of the work.
In view of the fact that according to the Comptroller and Auditor General the work carried out in private yards costs anything up to 50 per cent, more than that carried out in the Royal dockyards, and in view of the fact that the Royal Naval dockyards have always been used as a check on the cost of work done in private yards, why is it that it is not now possible to fix prices for work done in private yards based on the cost of that carried out in the Royal Naval dockyards?
While a fixed price would be desirable from the point of view of the Admiralty, it is not easy to arrange because, until a ship is opened up, it is difficult for the yards to see how great will be the amount of repair work needed. As I said in answer to the previous Question, I am in constant consultation with the Ship Repairers Council to see if we can get these prices fixed at an earlier stage than they are fixed today.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will consider granting a bonus to the workers in Her Majesty's dockyard, in view of the fact that the Auditor General reports that the work carried out in Her Majesty's dockyard was 50 per cent, cheaper than work carried out by civilian contractors.
The Comptroller and Auditor General's recent report on the comparative cost of certain work per formed in the dockyards and similar work done by private contractors is greatly to the credit of the management and men of the Royal Yards. But I do not think it could appropriately be made the occasion for a bonus to the Admiralty employees concerned.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that one civilian 'firm, Messrs. Cammell Laird, gave one week's extra pay to all their employees, and will he do something for the workers in H.M. dockyards for their very fine work in saving 50 per cent, of the cost?
The conditions of employment in the Royal dockyards and in shipyards are really somewhat different, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, and I have already given and will not now repeat some of the reasons for these differences. If I repeat my congratulations to the Royal dockyards, that does not call for the step which my hon. and gallant Friend suggests.
In view of the Socialistic question of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) and the Socialistic statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, cannot the right hon. Gentle man come to the rescue of his hon. and gallant Friend and help him to hold the seat in the interests of anti-Socialism?
As my right hon. Friend wants to give the dockyard workers credit, would he consider the possibility of put ting more work in the Royal dockyards and so give the workers there the opportunity of earning more money, because it would appear that, even with overtime rates, the Royal dockyards will still be cheaper than some private firms?
I do not know if my hon. Friend was in the Chamber when I answered an earlier Question, but I made it clear that the Royal dockyards have been used to full capacity and are likely to be used to full capacity for many years to come.
In view of the fact that the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:
and in view of the fact that a large number of similar conversions have already taken place, does not the First Lord think that a fixed price might now be made for work done in private yards?"Admiralty inquiries have established that materials costs were not a major cause of the higher cost of contract work,"
We are investigating, in consultation with the Ship Repairers Council, the possibility of getting a price at an earlier stage, but, for the reasons given in my answer to a previous Question, a fixed price for repairs is very difficult for this Government, as it was for our predecessors, to secure.
Aircraft Carrier "Melbourne"
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty when the Aircraft Carrier "Melbourne" will be completed; and if he will give an assurance that the cost of building will be fully borne by the Australian Government, and that it is still their intention to take her over on completion.
I expect that this ship will be completed and handed over to the Royal Australian Navy in the latter half of next year. No change has been made or suggested in the general financial arrangements agreed by the previous Administration and described in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Navy Appropriation Account, 1948–49.
Has the First Lord had any approaches made to him by the Australian Government in view of the change in their Defence policy, under which they are to abolish the Fleet Air Arm?
None whatsoever. As far as I know, the matter rests exactly as it did.
Australian Naval Policy
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what consultations he had with the Australian Government before their announcement of a radical change in naval policy.
The composition of the Royal Australian Navy is a matter for Her Majesty's Government in Australia to determine. There is, of course, the closest consultation between the Admiralty and the Australian Commonwealth Navy Board regarding the employment of the two Navies.
Does not the change in the naval policy of Australia affect Commonwealth defence policy, and has not the First Lord made representations to the Australian Government? Has he had no contact with them on this matter?
As I said in my original reply to the hon. Gentleman, we are in constant consultation with the Royal Australian Navy on the question of the employment of the Navy. I repeat that, so far as this decision is concerned, it is not really a radical change in naval policy but one of adjustment in their general defence policy. It is the constitutional right of Her Majesty's Government in Australia to take such a decision.
Whilst recognising that it is the right of the Australian Government, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has considered what additional impact this will have upon British defence policy if, indeed, the Australian Government are changing the shape of their own defence policy, and what conclusions has he come to?
If the hon. Gentleman will look at the full statement he will see that it is a general statement on defence from the Australian point of view. It is not really a radical change. I do not think it will make a very great difference to the Commonwealth policy in general and, as I have said, the Australian Government have a constitutional right to make this change.
Can we take it, then, that if a proposal is made to abolish the Fleet Air Ann in that country, the First Lord will not regard it as a radical change?
It is not abolition; it is the building up of their Air Force and the cutting down of their Naval Air Arm. That does not justify the statement of the hon. Gentleman that this is a radical change.
Ratings (Discharge By Purchase)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state, to any convenient date, how many ratings have applied for discharge by purchase as a result of the concessions recently announced by his Department; and how many in consequence have since been granted their discharge.
Forty-two applications under the revised orders have been received. I should point out that it will not be possible to approve the first applications immediately; it has been made clear to the Fleet that we must give time for applications to come in from the whole Fleet in order that they may be put in a fair order of priority. Compassionate cases continue, of course, to be dealt with immediately as before and 61 ratings have been granted compassionate discharge during the period under review.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state, to any convenient date, how many officers have applied for premature retirement as a result of the concessions recently announced by his Department; and how many in consequence have been given permission to retire.
Eighteen applications have been made since the recent announcement, of which so far five have been granted.
Telephone Exchange, West Ayton
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will take steps to expedite the additions to the telephone exchange at West Ayton, near Scarborough, in view of the fact that there are several applicants for a telephone who have been told that under the present arrangements they will not get one until the middle of 1955 or later.
Additional equipment for the West Ayton exchange is now being manufactured, but, owing to the many urgent calls on our resources, I am afraid it will not be possible to complete installation earlier than the middle of 1955.
Can my hon. Friend explain why there need be such a long delay in providing an essential service, and would he say whether it is due to work on television, which surely is more of a luxury?
It has nothing what ever to do with television. The trouble is that the West Ayton exchange is not very high in the priority list.
Stamp Books (Advertisements)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when interleaved advertisements will be re-introduced into books of stamps; and what is the estimated revenue that will be obtained.
Interleaved advertisements on a restricted scale were reintroduced in September, 1953. It has now been decided to introduce full interleaving in all stamp books as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. It would be very difficult for me at this stage to give any reliable estimate of probable revenue.
May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his decision, which will be for the convenience of the public using these books of stamps, because today so often the sheets of stamps stick together, and because this suggestion will also help the revenue of the Post Office?
Would the hon. Gentleman consider using more of these interleaves for information about the Post Office which is little known, such as, for example, the fact that there is no compensation for loss of money in registered envelopes unless the envelopes are those which the Post Office supplies?
Leaves are now used for certain Post Office information.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what representations he has received in favour of the establishment of a monopoly of commercial television in the London area; and what reply he has given.
Two, Sir: no reply has been given other than that this is a matter for the Authority when it is set up.
Is it not ironical that, according to the hon. Gentleman's answer, the same commercial interests which until recently were demanding competitive television are now demanding a monopoly of commercial television for themselves in the London area?
Neither of these two people to whom I have referred are commercial interests at all.
Will the hon. Gentle man give an assurance that there will be competition between commercial broad casters in the London area?
The Authority is under an obligation under the Bill to ensure competition, so far as it is practicably possible.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many applications to operate as television programme contractors he has received; and how many he still has under consideration.
My noble Friend has had preliminary discussions with 46 individuals or bodies who are interested. As I have already informed the House, it will be for the Authority, when it is set up, to make definite arrangements with programme contractors.
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously envisaging a situation in which a single commercial concern shall have a monopoly of stations in the London area? Will he give the House an assurance that such an eventuality cannot take place?
I am not envisaging anything particular at the moment as far as the point which the hon. Gentleman has raised is concerned. The selection of programme companies must rest with the authority.
Royal Air Force
Gravesend Airport (Requisitioned Land)
asked the Undersecretary of State for Air whether he will make a statement about the derequisitioning of land at Gravesend Airport.
Action is going ahead in accordance with the letter my noble Friend sent the hon. Member last month.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there was not very much action going ahead? Can we have some idea of when this land will be free from the grip of the Air Ministry, which has held on to it in dog-in-the-manger fashion since the end of the war?
The hon. Member will know that there is on this land a hangar, which we have now put up for competitive tender. Directly that has been disposed of, the land can be derequisitioned.
Jet Aircraft (Accidents)
asked the Under secretary of State for Air how many Royal Air Force jet aircraft have been totally damaged by accident over the two years to the most recent convenient date; if he will state the number of accidents in each of the three main categories of accidents; and how many accidents are held to have been caused by the disintegration of the engine.
In the two years ended 28th February, 1954, 416 Royal Air Force jet aircraft were totally destroyed in crashes. It would be contrary to the established practice of successive Governments over a long period to publish an analysis of the causes of these accidents, but I can say that only a very few were caused by disintegration of the engine.
Can the Under-Secretary say how this rate compares with that for piston-engined aircraft of a comparable type?
I think I gave the figures to the House recently, and, of course, they compare very favourably indeed, but the question of the disintegration of the engine does not come into it.
As the hon. Gentleman is now saying that he gave some figures a short time ago, why cannot he give some closer idea of the number of these accidents caused by engine disintegration?
What I gave was a comparison between the fatal accident rates for jet aircraft and piston-engined air craft. The House will remember that I said then that the fatal jet accident rate was about half the fatal accident rate of the Spitfire.
The Question deals with the disintegration of engines. Will the Under-Secretary give instructions to the Royal Air Force establishment at Farnborough for research on disintegration of jet engines to have priority?
As I have said, the number of accidents caused by disintegration of jet engines is very small indeed.
Detention Barracks, Wahnerheide
asked the Under secretary of State for Air whether the court of inquiry into conditions at Wahnerheide is being held in public; whether the result will be made public; whether evidence will be heard from former Royal Air Force personnel who served at the camp; and by whom and where the inquiry is being conducted.
Courts of inquiry under the Air Force Act are not held in public, nor are their proceedings published. This is to ensure that all concerned can speak freely and, if need be, criticise fearlessly. This particular court of inquiry is being held in Germany. The President is a group captain, and the members a wing commander and a flight lieutenant. Evidence is being taken from members of the Royal Air Force who are, or have been, responsible for the unit or on duty there. I propose to make a statement on this whole matter when it is no longer sub judice.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the conditions which have given rise to this inquiry have been going on at this place for a number of years, and will he try to take evidence from people who were present at this detention barracks when they were in the Services but who are now civilians and can there fore speak freely, and who may be able to make a contribution to this matter?
Of course, we took evidence from members of the staff and others who were there at the time, but evidence from ex-prisoners was covered by the courts-martial which were recently held.
If I send the hon. Gentleman evidence from a person who is now a civilian but who was on the staff at that station two years ago, will be give it consideration?
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the number and percentage of accidents on zebra crossings for the quarter ended 31st March last.
The information required by the hon. and gallant Member is not yet available; I will send it to him as soon as I can.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the general figures giving the accidents for the quarter ended 31st March are already available? Have they yet been analysed, and if so can the hon. Gentleman say whether or not the degree of security for pedestrians on zebra crossings is improved or is getting worse?
I have already said that the figures have not yet been analysed. They will be analysed in the middle of May. I will send the hon. and gallant Gentleman the analysis.
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what has been the number and type of accidents on the North Circular Road, from Staples Corner to Neasden Circus, since the installation of traffic lights along that road; and if he will give similar information with regard to accidents on the same road for the corresponding previous period.
As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Do the figures disclose a diminution in the number of accidents?
Yes, Sir. The figures are extremely satisfactory. From 23rd September, 1952, to 22nd March, 1953, the number of accidents was 22. In the subsequent comparable period the figure fell to nine.
Following is the answer:
The last set of these signals came into operation on 23rd September, 1953, and excluding accidents at the junctions at either end of this length of road, the figures of accidents to 22nd March, 1954, compared with the figures for the same period a year earlier are as follows:
|23rd Sept., 1952–22nd March, 1953||23rd Sept., 1953–22nd March, 1954|
The accidents are analysed as:
|23rd Sept., 1952–22nd March, 1953||23rd Sept., 1953–22nd March, 1954|
|Passengers alighting from Public Service Vehicles.||2||1|
|Collisions between private cars Collisions between goods||6||2|
|and other vehicles Collisions involving motor||1||2|
|[Collisions with other vehicles]||2||2|
|Collisions with grass verge||1||0|
|Collisions involving pedal cyclists||5||2|
|[Collisions with vehicles||4||2|
|Collisions involving pedestrians||3||0|
Of the two persons killed in the period before the installation of the traffic lights, one was a pedestrian and one a cyclist.
Traffic Congestion, London
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what has been the result of his consideration of proposals to relieve congestion in London.
I dealt with this matter rather fully in my speech in the Adjournment debate on 15th April, and I have nothing further to add.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that he had nothing to state on that occasion? The hon. Gentleman has not given the House any information of what is being done to relieve traffic congestion in London. He said that consideration was being given to it. Can he tell us the nature of the consideration? Did not the Easter traffic indicate the urgency that something should be done?
I made as full a statement as it was possible for me to do in the somewhat limited time available. The hon. Member will remember that he himself made the longest speech in that debate.
Will my hon. Friend communicate with the British Transport Commission and ask them if they will suggest to bus drivers and to drivers of other public service vehicles that they should not close up on zebra crossings and so become stationary, impeding the natural flow of pedestrians? That is happening at many places in London.
I will certainly consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether his right hon. Friend is taking the London traffic problem at all seriously? Is he aware that when I asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider outstanding London cases, for example Hyde Park Corner, all he did was to make a contemptuous reference to London as if it deserved no consideration at all? Will he try to reconcile his right hon. Friend to the fact that London exists and does require attention?
The right hon. Gentle man has been Minister of Transport and is aware that my right hon. Friend is the Traffic Authority. My right hon. Friend gives a great deal of time to this matter, which requires very careful consideration. He is trying to deal with a problem which none of his predecessors have been able to deal with. With regard to Hyde Park Corner, I answered a Question on that subject recently and said that I did not think it was one of the cases in London which required priority treatment.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that within a week of the Minister's scorning of the Hyde Park Corner suggestion there was a terrible bus accident at Hyde Park Corner?
That accident was not due to Hyde Park Corner but to the negligence of the driver.*
Traffic Lights, Willesden
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will consider the installation of traffic lights at Chichele Road, N.W.2, where it is crossed by Anson Road.
Those roads are the responsibility of the Willesden Borough * See Question No. 45, 5th May, 1954, Vol. 527, c. 362 Council who have made no application to us for the erection of traffic lights. I understand, however, that warning signs are to be erected on the approaches to this junction.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this crossing, which was already very dangerous, has been made more dangerous as the result of the provision of a school at one side and of a municipal public hall on the other in the last three years? Without representations being made to him by Willesden Borough Council, will the hon. Gentleman accept the representations that are now made to him by the hon. Member for Willesden, East?
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman realises that the local authority has statutory responsibility for putting up these signs.
South-East Asia (Defence)
34 and 35.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he will propose to the United States and other interested governments that the independent countries of South-East Asia represented at the Premiers' Conference at Ceylon on 28th April shall be invited to participate in any discussions on the establishment of a collective security organisation in South-East Asia;(2) whether he will propose to the countries represented at the Geneva Conference that in the consideration of questions affecting South-East Asia they shall take into account the decisions of the Conference of Premiers of South-East Asian countries, meeting at Ceylon on 28th April.
Her Majesty's Government are anxious that the views of the Asian countries in conference at Colombo should be taken fully into account on all questions affecting peace and security in South-East Asia. Any expression of these views which may emerge from the conference in Colombo will be carefully and sympathetically considered.
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the Prime Minister's statement yesterday means that further discussions on the proposed South-East Asia Regional Security Pact have been postponed pending the outcome of the Geneva Conference? Secondly, will he give an assurance that this country will not enter into such a pact without the agreement of India and the other South-East Asian countries who are directly concerned with the area?
The answer to the first supplementary question is that general conversations regarding the composition of any security system have not been initiated. In regard to the second supplementary question, the attitude of India will, of course, be a matter for very careful consideration by Her Majesty's Government.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend not agree that the attitude of India with regard to Kashmir is bedevilling the whole of this situation and does not leave much hope that India's attitude will be much better on other things?
Will my right hon. and learned Friend say, in answering Question No. 34, how he is interpreting the word "independent"? Does it mean independent of Soviet Russia?
United Nations (Restricted Visas)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the terms of the visa granted to Mrs. Dora Russell when she attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York; what protest his Department has made at the restriction of Mrs. Russell to a 70-block area in Manhattan; and to what extent similarly restricted visas are being issued to other British subjects.
I understand that Mrs. Russell, who represented the Women's International Democratic Federation, was granted a visa to give her access to the United Nations Headquarters at New York to enable her to attend the Commission on the Status of Women. Restriction of movement to the immediate vicinity of the headquarters is permissible under the Agreement between the United States Government and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, approved by the General Assembly in 1947. Her Majesty's Government therefore have no reason to protest. I am not aware of any other cases involving British subjects.
Germany (Spandau Prisoners)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he and the Western Powers have made to the Soviet Union on the temporary release of one or more of the Spandau prisoners for hospital treatment and the proposed measures to ease the conditions under which these prisoners are confined; what was the nature of the reply from the Soviet Government; and if he will make a statement on these Four-Power talks.
Certain proposals, in particular proposals to cover cases of sickness, have been put forward, for discussion by representatives of the four Powers. The question of the disposal of the bodies of those who die in prison is also under discussion. Final agreement has not yet been reached, although the negotiations have made progress on certain matters.
On the latter point, concerning the disposal of the bodies, can the Minister of State give us an assurance that the Government will adopt the same practice for these mass murderers as is adopted in this country with those who murder individually? Can he give an assurance that in no instance these criminals will be treated better or worse than people convicted in this country for less crimes against fewer persons'?
I think that the purpose of these negotiations, so far as the conditions of detention are concerned, is that these people should be treated with no more and no less humanity than is given to people who have been convicted of such crimes. With regard to the disposal of bodies, that is a matter on which various views can be held on the question of possible martyrdom, and so on. I Cannot give the undertaking for which the hon. Gentleman asks.
Australian Meat Agreement
asked the Minister of Food the extent of the price guarantees agreed with the Australian meat producers and the estimated liability of the United Kingdom Exchequer; and whether it is proposed to offer similar guarantees to New Zealand and other Empire producers selling meat in the United Kingdom.
The guarantees are to the Australian Government in return for specific obligations undertaken by them. They provide for a deficiency payment related to the difference between the average prices realised on the United Kingdom market during the year from 1st October, 1954, and the current bulk contract prices discounted by agreed percentages. I cannot yet say how these two sets of prices will compare in a free market. There are no similar agreements with other Empire producers, but the meat trade with New Zealand is governed by the joint declaration of the two Governments of which I informed my hon. Friend on 7th April.
While this arrangement with Australia seems very satisfactory, would it not be well to offer similar terms to other Empire countries, bearing in mind that the world is short of meat and that the Conservative Party believes in Empire Preference?
I would remind my hon. Friend that the joint declaration to which I referred in my answer was made at the request of New Zealand. It leaves New Zealand free to sell any quantity of meat elsewhere, whereas Australia is confined to the percentage agreed every year.
Am I to understand that the guaranteed price has been guaranteed by the Government and not by private importers?
This is an agreement made between the Australian Government and Her Majesty's Government. If it is of any help to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House generally, I will put a copy of that agreement in the Library.
Poland And Hungary (Trade Negotiations)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the course of the official trade negotiations with Poland and Hungary, and the negotiations for the settlement of mutual debts.
The negotiations are still in progress, and I would prefer to wait until they are concluded.
Would it be possible for at least some of the people who are waiting for the money to get a payment on account? Have we not more assets in this country than they have in theirs?
These negotiations cover both trade and debts, but debts are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary or for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not for me. Perhaps my hon. Friend will put down a further Question to one of my right hon. Friends.
Does the same negative report apply to negotiations with Bulgaria and Rumania?
No negotiations are at present taking place with either of those two countries.
Kenya (Anti-Mau Mau Operations)
I will now, with per mission, answer Question No. 10.The latest important development is the large-scale operation to remedy conditions in Nairobi Which the recent Report of the Parliamentary Delegation pointed out "strike at the roots of public security and of respect for law and order." Nairobi has for some time been a major source of support, in recruits, supplies, money and refuge, to the Mau Mau gangs. Control of the African locations, never easy to secure by ordinary police methods, has been made more difficult, in places almost impossible, by a great rise in the African population, mainly Kikuyu, in the past few years. In 1953 alone the Kikuyu male working population of Nairobi went up by 40 per cent. Mau Mau have achieved almost complete domination of Africans of all tribes in Nairobi by murder, armed robbery, intimidation and the levying of protection money on shopkeepers and tradesmen. The object of the present operation is to remove the active and passive supporters of Mau Mau from Nairobi to holding camps where a thorough screening will take place on an individual basis. This is bound to take a little time, but will be carried out as speedily as possible. Those who as a result of screening can safely be released will be allowed to go back to their homes. Those who cannot at present be released without endangering peace and good order will continue to be detained but will receive training to enable them to become useful citizens again. From the night of 23rd-24th April, when the Nairobi operation began, until yesterday morning, some 10,000 Africans were detained for further screening. Since then there has been virtually no crime in the city. I regret to report that on Saturday last, through a serious error, a party of British soldiers commanded by a captain in the Kenya Regiment entered the India Commissioner's Office in Nairobi in the course of their operations. As soon as this was known the Acting Governor and the Commander-in-Chief apologised to the Indian Acting Commissioner. I should like to take this opportunity to express Her Majesty's Government's deep regret at this unfortunate occurrence. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that, apart from the incident to which I have just referred, no major irregularities have been committed by security forces in the past few weeks. Minor complaints continue to be received, and are investigated by a committee set up by the Acting-Governor; disciplinary action is taken where complaints are substantiated. Existing rehabilitation schemes continue, but it is early yet to make a comprehensive estimate of their success. Some progress has been made and many detainees have shown themselves willing to co-operate.
Will the Minister devote attention to one problem which arises, as on previous occasions, out of this matter, that is, the practice of sending some of these people back to the reserve? From information we receive, the position in the reserve is becoming really chronic. They have gone from the farms and now they are going back from Nairobi. Even if this cures the problem in Nairobi itself, it is creating fertile soil for Mau Mau there. Is there not a better way of dealing with these people than by pushing them back to the reserve?
I am very aware of the problem to which the right hon. Gentle man refers, and I can certainly assure him that that aspect of it will be care fully considered in dealing with this operation.
Can the Minister tell us the conditions under which these men are detained, and can he give any estimate of the length of time which is likely to elapse before they are brought to trial?
These persons are detained under the Emergency Regulations. I will not describe in detail the camps in which they are being held, but, as I say, the intention is that they shall be screened one by one. Some are already being screened and some have been released, but it is bound to take a certain amount of time. I cannot say how long it will take. They will be screened as quickly as possible, and will then be held. It is not a question of their going for trial. They will be held under the Emergency Regulations in precisely the same way as detainees were held under Emergency Regulations in Malaya.
Arising out of the first part of the Question and in relation to the scheme which the Minister and the House will recognise as the "General" China surrender scheme, which was so much supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) at the time, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that sufficient use is being made of aeroplane loudspeakers over the forest in order to convince the 1,500 or so people who were about to surrender on 10th April that the un fortunate incident on 7th April had nothing whatever to do with that surrender, and that their surrender under the conditions then proposed is highly desirable?
I know that, in general, loudspeakers have been used by the Royal Air Force to appeal to the Mau Mali terrorists to surrender, but I do not know whether, in fact, they were employed on the dates mentioned at these particular places. It was not something that we could foresee.
That is not quite the point, and I am sorry if I did not make it clear. The Minister will be aware that 1,500 or so people were on the point of surrender when, unfortunately, a day or two before there was an action in the Mau Mau neighbourhood with the result that they again dispersed. What I am asking is whether the Minister is satisfied that sufficient use has been made of loudspeakers over the forest in order to convince those people that the incident on 7th April had nothing whatever to do with them and that their surrender is expected and is still desirable under the terms then proposed.
I replied very fully to this on 14th April when, I think, the right hon. Gentleman was not here.
I was there.
But the point to which he has drawn attention will be brought to the notice of the authorities. As I explained then, the particular plan for general mass surrender—the "General" China plan as it was called—has been dropped, but the arrangements for the surrender of individuals under the original plan of last August will continue.
In view of the success of the recent operation in Nairobi, will my right hon. Friend urge the Government to offer encouragement to the Kenya Government to continue their present steps?
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether, as a result of this long overdue round up in Nairobi, the boycott on the 'buses, and the non-smoking ban in Nairobi still continue?
The operation still continues. I cannot report to the House on this sort of detail yet, but I will do so on the first occasion possible.
Can the Minister say what numbers of Kikuyu have so far been screened and how many remain to be screened? When I was there I met a great deal of scepticism amongst the camp staffs as to whether they were sufficient in number or were competent to do this immense task. Will the Minister now answer the question during Question time? What is he doing about those detainees who have been immured in the camps since December, 1952, and when is he going to release some of those people again to normal life?
Apart from the present operation—of which I have not got exact particulars, except that 10,000 have been arrested—arrests in connection with Mau Mau numbered 191,587 up to 10th April. Of these, 35,380 were released after preliminary inquiry, 156,207 were screened, and 78,413 were released after screening. Governor's detention orders numbered 1,801. That is the present position, but those numbers, of course, are now going up as a result of the present operation. In general, as I said in reply to the Question, measures for rehabilitation are going on fairly well although it is rather an early stage to be able to report.
I apologise for my earlier absence. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is done to the detainees when they have been through the process of rehabilitation? Are they given useful work, or land so that they can recover themselves in that way?
In my original reply I said that every effort would be made to give them training so that they would become useful citizens again. That, of course, would include work in the camps where they now are—work, generally speaking, connected with the emergency but work which, we hope, will help to restore them to useful citizenship.
Gold Coast (New Constitution)
With permission, I wish to make a statement on the future constitution of the Gold Coast.I am glad to inform the House that the exchanges on constitutional reform with the Gold Coast Government to which my right hon. Friend referred on the 21st October have been successfully concluded. The drafts of new constitutional instruments will shortly be submitted to the Privy Council and despatches are being published. These draft instruments will provide for an enlarged Legislative Assembly, chosen by direct election, and for a Cabinet of Representative Ministers drawn from the Assembly, with the Prime Minister normally presiding. Subject to the continuing reserved powers of the Governor and his responsibilities for external affairs, Togoland, defence and in certain matters concerning the police, they provide that the Cabinet, as the principal instrument of policy, is to be responsible for the internal self-government of the country. The intention is that the Governor will be assisted in the discharge of his responsibilities by a Deputy Governor and advised by a Committee of which the Prime Minister and other Representative Ministers will be members. The Gold Coast Government have been equally concerned with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that suitable arrangements should be made in the Constitution to preserve the independence of the Judiciary and the Public Service. It has now been agreed that a Judicial Service Commission should be set up to advise on, and later to be responsible for, judicial appointments, other than that of the Chief Justice. It has also been agreed that for the present the Governor should continue to be responsible for the Public Service but that at a later stage the Public Service Commission, which has already gained valuable experience as an advisory body, should itself become responsible for Public Service appointments. In recognition of these successive changes in the conditions of service of the Public Service the draft constitutional instruments provide for an agreed scheme of compensation in two stages on the lines proposed in Dr. Nkrumah's statement of the 8th July, 1953, which was welcomed in this House. As one of the measures decided on to preserve the confidence of overseas investors, the Gold Coast Government have proposed that, although they have no plans for nationalising industry, provision should be made in the constitution guaranteeing fair compensation should a successor Government ever consider an act of nationalisation essential. Her Majesty's Government have welcomed this proposal. There was not time to insert the necessary clause in the draft instruments, but it will be included in an amending Order which will be submitted to Her Majesty in due course. With the passing of the present Gold Coast Constitution I should like to pay a warm tribute to the part played in this important development of self-government in the Gold Coast by the Governor, the ex-officio Ministers who will now vacate their posts and the officers both overseas and African of the Gold Coast Public Service as a whole. The discussions which have led to the satisfactory settlement now reached have been cordial and constructive. It is proposed that a General Election should be held under the new Constitution in June. I am confident that when there is an All-African Government it will prove as friendly, co-operative and responsible as the present one. Under these changes, the powers retained by Her Majesty's Government are the minimum which they must retain so long as they have any responsibility for the Gold Coast. These changes must therefore be regarded as the last stage before the Gold Coast assumes full responsibility for its own affairs. The grant of such responsibility within the Commonwealth is a matter for the United Kingdom Government and Parliament and I can say that at the appropriate time Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will be prepared to take such steps as may be necessary for that purpose. Full membership of the Commonwealth, is, of course, a different question which as was made clear by the then Commonwealth Secretary on 7th June, 1951, and by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 16th June, 1952, would be a matter for consultation between all existing members of the Commonwealth.
May I ask the Minister to convey our thanks to the Secretary of State and to everyone in the Gold Coast responsible for this very successful outcome of the discussions? As one who had the privilege of conducting the final stages—which were begun by my friend Mr. Creech Jones—by inaugurating the Hussey Constitution in 1951, may I join in expressing our deep debt of gratitude to the Governor and to everyone concerned in the Gold Coast, including the African Ministers, on the responsible way in which they undertook their tasks, quite clearly indicating their competence to undertake the responsibilities for operating democratic Government.I have two questions. First, do I understand that under the new Constitution, after the elections the responsibility for the Gold Coast will continue to be that of the Colonial Secretary and the Colonial Office? Secondly, while I appreciate that the next stage will be the final stage towards what is usually called Dominion status, and that admission into the Commonwealth is a matter for Commonwealth countries generally, at the same time I hope that the Government and the House as a whole will say that they look forward to the day when the first all-African State will become a full member of the British Commonwealth.
In reply to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I confirm that under the new Constitution the Gold Coast affairs will still remain under the Colonial Office. As to the second part of the right hon. Gentle man's question, of course it is primarily a matter for my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. But, as I said in reply to an earlier Question, it is a matter for consultation among all members of the Commonwealth, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has said on several occasions in this House.
May I also be allowed to congratulate, as I do most warmly, not only the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but all in Africa and in his Department concerned in bringing about this reform? May I ask if he is aware that this constitutional reform will not only be noted but is bound to have an effect far beyond the boundaries of the territory of the Gold Coast and, indeed, throughout Africa?
Yes, Sir, I will certainly convey the congratulations and the message of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to all the persons concerned.
Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Secretary of State the hearty congratulations of all of us on the fortunate outcome of this long and still rapidly developing story? May I also ask him to convey to the Government of the Gold Coast the fact that our confidence in their competence has been increased and not diminished by the vigorous investigation which took place there into the charges of corruption and the vigorous steps which they have taken to deal with the matter?
As during this last stage but one towards full independence, certain powers concerning foreign affairs and defence are properly reserved to the Governor and Deputy Governor, may we understand that nevertheless some opportunity for training and experience in these branches of government will be given to members of the Gold Coast service so that they may be ready to take over full responsibility when the time comes?
As I mentioned in the statement, there will be a special committee set up to advise the Governor in these matters, and this committee will comprise the Prime Minister and other Ministers as well as the Deputy Governor and others, so that at the highest level they will have an opportunity of taking part in these affairs.As regards the question of a Gold Coast foreign service, of course that will come along in due course, but with the appointment of an African from the Gold Coast as Commissioner here in London, that will at least be a beginning.
While congratulating everybody, may I ask when we are going to have a proper debate on this subject?
Order. That is not a matter for the Minister. There is no Question now before the House.
Ballot For Notices Of Motions
I beg to give notice that on Friday, 14th May, I shall call attention to the need to improve the telephone service, and move a Resolution.
Derelict Common Land
I beg to give notice that on Friday, 14th May, I shall call attention to the need for taking steps to see that all common land which is at present derelict shall be brought into cultivation for the benefit of commoners and the national economy, and move a Resolution.
I beg to give notice that on Friday, 14th May, I shall call attention to the practice of deportation in the Colonies, and move a Resolution.
Business Of The House
Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. Crookshank.]
Orders Of The Day
Slaughterhouses Bill Lords
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."I think it might be of some assistance to the House in its consideration of this Ball if I were to say a word or two about the previous enactments on this subject. Prior to 1938, slaughterhouses were subject to licensing regulations, but the previous conditions under which licences were issued varied considerably. The 1890 Act introduced a system of annual licensing alongside other licensing arrangements of an earlier date, and this situation remained until 1938. In that year the Food and Drugs Act was passed, and Section 57 of that Act made it an offence to use a slaughterhouse without a local authority licence, and that licence was issued for a period of not more than 13 months at a time. There were minor differences in the licensing arrangements for the three categories of slaughterhouses, but, without going into any of the details, one can say that, broadly speaking, they all became the subject of annual licensing. The 1938 Act became operative on 1st October, 1939. By that time, as the House is aware, we were at war, and because of the meat and livestock control scheme which came into operation in January, 1940, the licensing provisions of the 1938 Act have not been generally applied. At that time—that is, before the war— the slaughterhouses that were actually functioning in England and Wales numbered 12,000, but the war-time control scheme introduced great and significant changes in the slaughtering arrangements. For the past 14 years it has been illegal to slaughter livestock except under licence from the Ministry of Food. Because of its complete control of the meat and livestock industry, and because the consumer was limited in his consumption by the rationing system, it has been possible in these years for the Ministry to manage with some 600 slaughterhouses, as opposed to the 12,000 in existence before the war. Of these 600, about 200 were originally provided by the local authorities. This is the situation which applied all through the war and still obtains today. Since the war, and whilst the present control arrangements have been in operation, both this Government and their predecessor have decided upon a policy of moderate concentration of slaughtering facilities as a long-term objective. There is no disagreement between us on that policy. In February, 1953, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I appointed two committees to prepare a plan for implementing this policy of moderate concentration, and the preparation of this plan is well under way at the moment. As hon. Members will appreciate, the task is necessarily a long and fairly complicated one, as it involves consultations with a large number of interests, including local authorities. But I want to emphasise that that is the policy to which we are committed, and we shall work steadily towards that goal. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that the policy of moderate concentration cannot be achieved except over a period of many years. Even when the siting plans have been agreed to, it will take some considerable time for them to be implemented, and this can only be done piecemeal. In the meantime, we have to provide for the new situation Which will arise when meat is derationed and decontrolled. The House already knows that it is the Government's intention to decontrol in July. We have now decided that rationing, price control and Ministry distribution of meat, and also of bacon, will end at midnight on Saturday, 3rd July next. The war-time controls over the purchase and slaughter of fatstock will be withdrawn shortly before to allow the trade to resume its activities without any interruption in supplies to the public. Meat importers, also, will be free to resume their former business, and private importation of meat will begin as soon as the Ministry's contracts are completed. In the meantime, importers will get their supplies from the Ministry's stocks. I aim sure the House would not wish me to burden it with all the details of this arrangement, but they are of tremendous importance to the trade and we shall shortly be publishing leaflets giving in great detail, for the information of farmers and others, the arrangements for marketing of home-produced livestock and the working of the new fatstock guarantees. The Farmers' Fatstock Marketing Corporation, which I am very glad to see, from the Press announcement, is being established by the National Farmers' Union, will be entitled to the guarantees just as any other seller presenting animals or carcasses for certification. I am satisfied that early July is the right time for this very considerable operation. We need a little time for the running in of the new marketing machinery before the livestock entries begin to rise rapidly to the peak, which comes a little later. By "machinery," I do not mean so much the ordinary machinery of paying the guarantees—although that is certainly a not inconsiderable job of work—but rather the whole business of marketing, the organisation of the fatstock markets, the grading arrangements and the organisation of an adequate slaughtering system. It may be that a few months' postponement would have enabled a local authority to make more detailed preparations, but any such local advantage would be far outweighed by the general inconvenience to the auctioneers, the farmers and the meat trade generally, not to mention the consumers, if the introduction of the new system were delayed for a few months when the presentation of livestock had become much heavier than it will be in early July. Moreover, I doubt very much whether the existing system of control, with its rigidities of allocations and distribution, could go successfully through another peak-kill season. Therefore, last December my right hon. Friend and I asked the two inter-Departmental committees to which I have just referred to consider what interim arrangements would be necessary to ensure that meat distribution could be satisfactorily carried out on decontrol next summer. The committees, which have taken evidence from local authorities, producers and other trade interests, reported in January this year, and on 17th February the Government announced their acceptance of the committees' reports in all except one particular. To make sure that local authorities were aware of the situation, circular letters were sent to them all on 24th February and, in more detail, on 24th March, advising them of their proposed duties and responsibilities, and urging them to enter into immediate consultation with the trade interests concerned in their own areas. In addition, I met their representatives on 3rd March and I further took the opportunity, on the occasion of the annual conference of the Association of Municipal Corporations on 1st April, at Bournemouth, to address them on the problems and difficulties with which they were faced. I have also had consultations with the trade interests, and only yesterday I addressed the annual conference of the National Federation of Retail Meat Traders on this and other related matters. I am perfectly satisfied that by now all the interests concerned are well aware of the position which will obtain on 3rd July, and I am satisfied that they are getting on with their arrangements.
Can the Minister give us some indication why he has not yet met any representatives of the trade unions—the workers in the industry? While he rightly refers to his meetings with the trade interests, I should not like it to be thought that they included the workers concerned, whom he has not yet met, so far as I am aware.
I need hardly say that consultations have taken place with my Department, though not with me, personally. I should be glad at any time to meet a deputation of that sort if I thought it would be of any value.It may be argued that this Bill should not have been brought forward at this stage, and that we should delay decontrol until the policy of moderate concentration could be carried out. As I have already pointed out, this policy is bound to take some years to implement, and the Government cannot possibly contemplate continuing the control of the meat and livestock industry throughout the whole of that time. I do not think that the system in its present form could continue to operate successfully with increasing supplies; nor would the public tolerate control devised for years of rationing and scarcity once supplies became more plentiful. What we have to do, therefore, and what this Bill sets out to do, is to enable local authorities and other interested parties to make suitable arrangements for slaughtering on decontrol. We are endeavouring to establish a modus vivendi which will enable decontrol to operate successfully while at the same time not doing anything to prejudice the long-term policy, for it must be recognised that conditions in the marketing and slaughtering of livestock on decontrol will differ very considerably from those that have been known to us for the last 14 years. The private trader, for example, will have to study the needs of his customers, the type and quality of the meat his customers want, far more than was possible under a scheme of rationing and allocation. Stock will not be bought and allocated by one central authority, as it has been over the last 14 years, but by private traders buying competitively, and for this reason it is absolutely necessary to have available considerably more premises than the 600 or so the Ministry has used in England and in Wales. The situation in Scotland, by the way, is rather different. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] Six hundred, but the situation in Scotland is different.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not quite got the point. I understood him to say that his view is that we shall need more than 600. What we are asking is how many more?
I did not understand. I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. It is not easy to give an accurate figure for the reason that much depends on the size of those which will be licensed, but I should say that the figure will be about 2,500. I should think so.
Does this mean that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is denying the statement made in another place by the Minister of State, Scottish Office, that it would be between 3,000 and 3,500?
It is not a question of denying anything. I am not sure to what statement of my noble Friend the right hon. Gentleman is alluding. The figure I have given is the nearest I can give, and there is no question of my denying anything. In the nature of things the number is bound to depend on the size of the slaughterhouses. That will make an enormous difference, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate.Because of the need for more than the 600, many slaughterhouses which have not been used since 1939 will have to be brought back into operation. It may be expected that the needs of farmers and butchers will be to a large extent met by the provision of public slaughtering facilities by local authorities either in premises now used by the Ministry or in other premises acquired or appropriated for this purpose. The demand for slaughterhouse accommodation, however, will not be fully met by this means and private slaughtering will have a considerable part to play in meeting the nation's requirements for meat of the right type and quality at the right place and time. As for the Bill itself, the House will see that it is divided into three Parts. The first Part relates to England and Wales, the second Part relates to Scotland, and the third contains some general provisions. It has been necessary to legislate separately for England and Wales and for Scotland partly because in many respects the position in Scotland is less unsatisfactory than it is, as far as slaughterhouses are concerned, in England and Wales.
Why not follow that trend?
We have to face the situation as it is. In Scotland there is just about the necessary number to carry out the scheme.
I should not like the House to believe that everyone in Scotland is of the same way of thinking as the Minister.
I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means by that. I should be very surprised if they all were. However, I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the situation in Scotland, as far as the necessary numbers are concerned, is very much more satisfactory than it is in England.
Not in the south-east of Scotland.
It is in the north-east.
Taking Scotland as a whole, the number is pretty near what will be wanted, according to the best advice I can get. Probably my hon. Friend will be able to confirm that. Apart from the fact that in this respect the situation is better in Scotland than in England and Wales, the law relating to slaughterhouses was consolidated in England and Wales in the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, which does not in this respect apply to Scotland. Accordingly, the Scottish Clauses of the Bill contain a complete code for the provision of slaughterhouses by local authorities, the registration of private slaughterhouses, their closure, and the payment of compensation; whereas in England we have had to proceed by way of an amendment of an existing Act which was not designed to cope with the situation I have outlined.The 1938 Act covered a situation in which there were widespread slaughtering facilities in England and Wales, some 12,000 premises. The new situation comes 14 years after the commencement of the operation of that Act, after 14 years when, under a rigid control system, there have been only some 600 premises in use; and now it is desired as an interim measure to open some, but by no means all, of the previously existing slaughterhouses. The essential requirement is to ensure that sufficient slaughterhouse accommodation will be available on 3rd July. This is of paramount importance, and Clauses 1 to 7 impose on local authorities the duty of exercising the powers conferred on them by the Bill to secure the provision of such additional facilities as may be required.
Must the local authority's slaughterhouses be within its area?
Not necessarily. If the local authority so wishes, the slaughterhouse need not be within its own area. Clause 1 sets out the means whereby local authorities can provide public slaughterhouses under the powers they already have under the Food and Drugs Act. Clause 2 enables them, with the consent of the Minister of Food, to revise the maximum charges prescribed by local legislation for the use of public slaughterhouses, for in many cases these charges are entirely out of line with present-day costs.As far as licences in England and Wales are concerned, these have at present to be renewed annually Clause 3. which deals with the granting of licences, gives the local authorities discretion in certain cases to grant licences up to the end of July, 1959. This should induce occupiers of slaughterhouses to make the necessary improvements to their premises to render them fit for use. All these measures are designed to ensure that there will be sufficient facilities on decontrol. However, at this stage—and this is very important—we do not regard it as desirable that either local authorities or private interests should build new slaughterhouses which might conflict with the long-term siting plan which is now being prepared. We have to take care that we do not reproduce in a different and in a more costly form the unorganised pattern of the pre-war years. The House will note that, therefore, Clause 3 (2) prohibits the granting of a licence for premises which have not been used as a slaughterhouse during the last 20 years, unless the consent of the Minister is first obtained. The remaining subsections of Clause 3 provide for the refusal of licences where hygiene regulations are not complied with, and in this respect they also bring all slaughterhouses under the same licensing system.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman refers to the hygienic conditions of the slaughterhouses. Is he thinking of the slaughtermen as well as of the slaughterhouses? If not, will he exercise any powers he may have under the 1938 Act to see that welfare conditions are provided in the slaughterhouses for the men?
This refers purely to premises, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate. Regulations made under the 1938 Act will not be interfered with by this Bill. As the hon. Gentleman will know, I hope to get through an amended form of the Act which may cover this point.Under Clause 4 of the Bill, local authorities are empowered to close private slaughterhouses where they are satisfied that adequate public slaughtering accommodation is available in the same or in neighbouring districts. They can also refuse fresh licences under those conditions. Compensation is provided for in Clause 5, which extends the provision of the Food and Drugs Act, where it is laid down that compensation is payable only when slaughterhouses are closed because of the provision of public facilities. Under this Clause compensation is payable where the local authority passes a resolution before the end of this year refusing to grant a further licence, resulting in the rejection of an application for a licence for premises which were being used at the outbreak of war. The basis of compensation is the reduction in the value of any person's interest in the premises or in any land held therewith as a result of the resolution. Doubts as to whether compensation is payable or as to the amount thereof are to be determined by the Lands Tribunal. The Government propose to contribute 50 per cent, towards the compensation paid by local authorities in the exercise of these powers. This is a charge which will become due as a result of improvements made over a period of years, and these improvements will in many ways be in the interests of the public health requirements of the local authorities. It is a charge which we consider should be borne equally by local authorities and by the Government and should not fall completely on either party. As the law now stands, the whole of the compensation bill falls on the local authorities. Turning to the Scottish part of the Bill, Clauses 7 and 8 deal with the provision of public slaughterhouses by local authorities, and the making of charges for their use. Clauses 9 and 10 deal with the registration of private slaughterhouses and the refusal and cancellation of registrations. The system proposed for Scotland differs from that in England, where we have an annual licensing system. The local authority can refuse to renew a licence if hygiene regulations are not complied with, subject to an appeal to the court, and the court can cancel a licence if local byelaws are not complied with. In Scotland a permanent registration will be granted, but the local authority can cancel a registration if the slaughterhouse is no longer required or if the premises or the occupier are unsuitable. There is a right of appeal in those cases to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Clause 11 provides for compensation on the same basis as in England and Wales. Cause 12 enables local authorities to make byelaws for the hygienic conduct and proper management of slaughterhouses, a power which already exists under Section 58 of the Food and Drugs Act for England and Wales. Clause 13 confers rights of entry similar to those available in England and Wales under Section 77 of the Act, and Clause 14 deals with the compulsory purchase of land. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will deal with the Scottish provisions more fully should the House require more detailed information during the debate. This is a somewhat technical Bill and I hope I have not wearied the House unduly with matters of a complex and technical character. I can assure the House that the aim of the Bill is to provide adequate slaughtering facilities for 3rd July, when meat is decontrolled, while at the same time leaving the way clear for the long-term concentration plan which will be implemented in the years to come. I hope, therefore, that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
): We have listened with great interest to the Minister dealing with what he says is a technical Bill. He suggested that it may well be that hon. Members on this side of the House may have come to the conclusion that there was no need for this Bill at this time. I have no doubt that many of my hon. Friends will develop that argument, but we are anxious that this part of the Parliamentary day should finish a little earlier than scheduled, so I shall deal rather broadly with the Bill itself; although I am sure the Minister will hear from my hon. Friends about the necessity of the Bill at all.The Minister is correct when he says that the previous Government adopted a policy of moderate concentration, and we are glad to know that the present Government have agreed to carry on that policy and that it is their determination to have moderate concentration for the future. We are having this Bill because of new circumstances which have arisen, due to the policy of the Government to decontrol in July. The main result of that is that there must be a much greater number of slaughterhouses available at that time, otherwise decontrol cannot take place. I am sure that most hon. Members on this side were disappointed that the Minister did not appear to know the number of slaughterhouses that will be required. I turned up the Official Report of the proceedings in another place and in answer to a specific question the Minister of State, Scottish Office, said:
There is a big difference between that figure and the figure of 2,500 which the Minister now gives us and a very big difference between that and the present number of slaughterhouses in use, which I think he said was about 600. I had a figure of 482, but perhaps I did not include the Scottish slaughterhouses. However, we need not quarrel too much about the exact figure. What has emerged is that the Ministry is embarking on a policy not knowing the facts. It may well be that, because it does not know the facts, there will be absolute chaos when decontrol takes place in July. Later, I wish to say something about the people working in this industry in order to show what difficulties lie before the Ministry and about which no steps have been taken to obviate them. When the Minister told us that he had met all the interests concerned, my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) asked why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had not personally met the trade union representatives. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman frankly admitted that he had not personally met the representatives of the trade unions although it is perfectly true that officers of his Department did meet representatives of the trade union movement. As always, they were very courteous and helpful in every way, but, as the records of the discussion will show, it is a fact that on a number of occasions the officers had to say, "That is a political question, and, obviously, we cannot deal with political questions." But the Minister can, and it is his responsibility to do so. Many people involved in this are very important, because they are the people who are actually to do the slaughtering. Until the beasts are slaughtered there is not much chance of consumers getting their meat from the butchers' shops. I think that ought to be looked at very much more closely. I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that when he sent out his circular to the local authorities on 24th February he asked them to start."It is difficult to estimate but the figure is put at somewhere about 3,000 to 3,500."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 25th March, 1954; Vol. 186, c. 754.]
There is no mention of the local authorities taking0 into consultation the local trade union officers whose members are engaged in the actual slaughtering of the cattle. The Minister's attention was drawn to that point, and on 24th March he sent out another circular which stated:"without delay consultations with the organisations representing farmers and meat traders in their districts to ascertain what slaughtering facilities will be required to enable the distribution of home-killed meat to proceed smoothly on decontrol."
A local authority would not gather that that circular was intended to implement the previous circular; and, in fact, the workers' representatives had been left out of the previous circular. I think that it would have been wise if the Minister, when he asked the local authorities to contact the farmers and meat traders, had said quite specifically, "and we want the people representing the workers in this industry." I hope that, at this stage, the Minister will feel that it is possible to make it perfectly clear, either in a statement or by the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies to the debate, that it is the desire of the Minister that the local authorities should consult not only the farmers and the meat traders but the representatives of the local trade unions which have in their membership a number of those who are actually engaged in the important task of slaughtering. Some of us feel that it would have been better if we could have had the final report of the inter-Departmental committee. But I take the Minister's point that even if we had had that report on the siting of the new abattoirs, or what is to be the building programme, that it would take some years in the present economic circumstances actually to build the new abattoirs to look after this moderate concentration, and in order that there should be decontrol it is necessary right away to have this Measure. I take it that it is a purely temporary measure which will disappear when a final Bill is brought to this House to deal with the whole question of slaughtering, after we have had the report of the inter-Departmental committee. We are anxious that nothing should be done by this Bill to prejudice the future implementation of the policy which the present Government accept, and the Labour Government previously agreed to, of a moderate concentration of slaughtering. We shall have to examine this question in Committee very carefully, in a constructive way, to make sure that we do not produce a Bill which will mitigate against the policy laid down by this Government and by the previous Administration. I believe—and I am sure my hon. Friends share this view—that it is highly-undesirable to have any substantial increase in the number of slaughterhouses. I think that before the war there were about 11,500 slaughterhouses which were inadequate. I need not go into a description of the conditions in those slaughterhouses which, I think, is well-known. I do not think that there is any difference between the two sides of the House when I say that we do not want to return to the slaughterhouses in existence in those days. Therefore, it is important that in the administration of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, we should insist that the local authorities which now have the onus of providing slaughtering facilities should not licence more slaughterhouses than are really necessary for this job. It will need all the efforts of the Ministry in the regions to make sure that is not done. I can well understand that, in view of the difficulties which face the local authorities because of this big task which is put on their shoulders, the easiest way will be to licence a whole number of slaughterhouses. They may find, subsequently, that they are not all necessary, and in that case the whole problem of compensation would come back. I hope that the Ministry's regional officials will work closely with the local authorities, giving them the best advice based on 14 or 15 years' experience of running the meat scheme, and that the Minister will see that his officials render all assistance to the local authorities. The question of slaughterhouses brings us to the problem of clean food and the clean food campaign with which we are all associated in this House. Mr. Priestley, who is the Chief Sanitary Inspector of Blackpool Corporation, said, in 1943, at a conference of the Sanitary Inspectors' Association:"The Minister hopes that local authorities have already had or have arranged for consultations with the organisations representing the local interests concerned, and, where appropriate, for such consultations to be undertaken jointly with other authorities."
These were the conditions laid down by a very experienced meat inspector, and I think they are the minimum required in slaughterhouses. I am equally sure that we shall not get that minimum in all slaughterhouses now to be licensed by the local authorities. They do not exist and it would take some time to bring them up to anything like that standard; it is doubtful whether, in many cases, local authorities would want to bring them up to that standard because of the scheme which is to come later. They are not anxious to build up a bigger compensation account for them to settle or to use money at this stage for a temporary period. Therefore, we are saying to the local authorities, "You must now provide sufficient slaughterhouses to meet the necessity of the trade on 3rd July in your area, and, at the same time, you must also make absolutely certain that meat inspection is as efficient and as well-done as it was before." In 1954, we are much more concerned about hygiene and cleanliness in relation to food than we were 15 years ago. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a member of the medical profession, could say a good deal more about that than many of us who are lay people and who perhaps do not appreciate to the same extent the grave danger of dirt and unhygienic methods associated with food preparation. It is important that we should be certain that the local authorities have sufficient inspectors now to do this job of inspecting adequately, efficiently and thoroughly. We are asking, if we take even the small number mentioned by the Minister, the present inspectors and local authorities to do five times the amount of work—it is really more than five times, because if they are working in a large abattoir they can get a lot of meat inspected, but if they have to run about to half a dozen abattoirs a great deal of time is taken up in travelling. I understand that in Stockport, for example, there are two slaughterhouses which have been doing this work during the past 14 or 15 years and the local authority have already licensed, or agreed to license, a further five. It is, therefore, obvious that if there are to be seven slaughterhouses in Stockport, the present number of meat inspectors will be quite inadequate to do this job of inspecting. It will be physically impossible for them to do so. I hope that the Minister, who, I know, is as anxious about this matter as any of us, will make certain that there is no diminution in the standard of inspection by the local authorities. If ever, as a result of the Bill, T.B. cattle were slaughtered and the meat got on to the market and public disquiet was aroused, it would be a tragedy and a very bad thing for public morale, besides being dangerous for the health of the country. Therefore, it is very important that steps should be taken—the Minister may have to consult his colleague the Minister of Health, who is responsible in this matter—to ensure that the standard of inspection must be no less than it is at present. We should hope to improve it as far as we can. Turning to the Bill, I share the appreciation expressed by the Minister of the way in which our Scottish friends have looked after their affairs in relation to slaughterhouses. I understand that the majority are owned by local authorities and that by and large not many more slaughterhouses will be required. The problem is, therefore, fairly well solved as far as Scotland is concerned. It is greatly to their credit that they have the machinery already. It is a pity that we have not taken a leaf from their book and had something like it in England and Wales. In Clause 2 power is taken to substitute"It is generally considered that the ideal slaughterhouse should consist of (1) suitable lairage; (2) slaughter halls for cattle, sheep and pigs; (3) cooling rooms; (4) detention room and inspection room with lavatory equipment; (5) condemned meat room; (6) facilities for the treatment of edible offals and by-products and condemned meat; (7) inspectors' room; (8) staff room with cooking and washing facilities; (9) adequate boiler plant."
I may be wrong, but my impression is that the Minister has for some time b"a reference to the Minister of Food for the reference to the Minister of Housing and Local Government."