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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1954

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Royal Navy

Maltese Employees And Ratings


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what grounds the Board of Admiralty base their decision to grant Maltese naval employees less holidays with pay than other British naval employees.

I assume the hon. and learned Member is referring to a decision announced in January, to increase by three days the paid annual leave of locally-entered industrial employees of the Service Departments in Malta. This increase was granted in pursuance of the policy of conforming with the current practice of other local good employers.

Does the Minister realise that discrimination of this kind is apt to have an adverse effect upon public opinion in Malta and elsewhere and is quite inconsistent with the great services rendered by that George Cross island in the war?

I am sure the people of Malta would not consider that there was any discrimination in this matter and would realise that the conditions of service for United Kingdom based service are related to entry in this country while conditions of service for those entered locally are related to local conditions.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that Maltese naval ratings in the Royal Navy have been refused inclusion in the recent increases in the rates of naval pay; why this discrimination is made; and what other differences there are in status between Maltese and other ratings.

It was announced in March that the pay of Maltese locally-entered personnel was being reviewed, and it is hoped to make known the result of this review in the near future.

Will the Minister not agree that these amenities and privileges should be accorded to all ranks according to rank and that there should not be discrimination between the races involved? Will he give an undertaking to review the problems concerned with this and the previous Question?

I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no question of discrimination or status. As I said in answer to his first Question, the recent pay increases to the Forces in general were for certain reasons, after an examination. As I have just announced, the Maltese pay is being reviewed. There is no question of status. The Maltese in the Royal Navy have done a tremendous job for many years, but it must be realised that they enter on different engagements.

Because they do not undertake the normal liability to serve all over the world.

Air Mail (Uk—Far East)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the average time for air mail to reach naval personnel based in Japan.

Air mail takes six days, on the average, to reach Tokyo. The further period required to get it to naval personnel depends on whether they are serving ashore in Japan, or in ships which may be either at Japanese ports, or at sea.

Where ships are at sea, is the mail sent to them or is it held in the port until the ship returns? If it is sent to them, what is the average time taken?

The time taken to get mail to the ships at sea of course varies, but every opportunity is taken to send mail by ships going to the area where the other ships are at sea. Great trouble is taken about it. If the hon. Member has any case in mind, I should be glad if he would let me know. When I was out in Korean waters in August people seemed very pleased with the air mail arrangements.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider a fortnight or three weeks an abnormal length of time for letters to take to reach a man?

Hm Yacht Britannia (Press Facilities)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will make a statement giving details of the result of consideration given to the proposal to enable the Press to inspect H.M.Y. Britannia, at some date subsequent to Her Majesty's return.

Yes, Sir. The Press have been informed that Her Majesty's Yacht "Britannia" will be open to accredited Press representatives at Battle Bridge Pier in the Pool of London between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, 16th May.



asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on how many occasions Royal Naval helicopters have been used for transportation purposes to or from built-up areas near the centre of London; and what safety precautions are required to be observed.

On seven occasions since October, 1952. The aircraft observes the precautions laid down by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation for a civil helicopter and, when in flight, follows the line of the river to the maximum extent practicable.

Does the Minister feel that any unreasonable risks were taken when an helicopter landed in the region of Green Park and, if not, would he have a word with his right hon. Friend and, from the experience gained by single-engined helicopters of the Royal Navy, indicate to him that the fears about the unreliability of helicopters does not appear to be as great as he seems to think?

I do not think that helicopters are unreliable. I will certainly bear in mind the points which the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Shipbuilding (Orders)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the total amount of orders, less the amount of cancellations of orders booked in earlier years, booked by British shipyards in the first quarter of 1954, and the corresponding figure for 1953.

After allowing for the cancellation of licences issued in earlier years, the tonnage of merchant ships licensed in the first quarter of 1954 was 5,878 gross tons; the corresponding figure for the first quarter of 1953 was 119,815 gross tons.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the total amount of orders, less the amount of cancellations of orders booked in earlier years, booked by north-east shipyards in the first quarter of 1954 and the corresponding figure for 1953.

In the first quarter of 1954, cancellations of merchant ships licensed in previous years to be built on the North-East Coast exceeded the licences issued by 1,910 gross tons. In the first quarter of 1953, licences issued amounted to 40,470 gross tons and there were no cancellations.

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that these figures reveal a position which warrants the closest attention by the Admiralty, and will he continue to do all that he can to see if he can improve the position as soon as possible?

Yes, I agree. The matter of course deserves the closest attention, and that is what we are giving it. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, if we look at the over-all position, the order books are still very full, and in some places the orders would take three or four years to complete.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman not agree that there has been an increase in inquiries made of North-East shipyards since the Budget?

I am, of course, very glad to hear what my hon. Friend says, because it is a little too early perhaps to estimate what my right hon. Friend's concessions in the Budget will amount to.

Will the Admiralty be a little less complacent about this position? The figures are most disquieting, and even the recent information about this new inquiry is disquieting. Is it not time that the Government took the initiative in calling together both sides of the industry to discuss the situation as it now is?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are not in the least complacent about this. I ask him to compare the short period referred to in the last Question with the much longer period which it took to build up these large orders.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that Holland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have concluded a trade pact under which Holland will build cargo boats for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and if he will now give approval for British shipbuilders to tender for and accept orders from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for similar types of boats.

I am aware that under a recent Protocol to the 1948 Commercial and Payments Agreement between the Netherlands Government and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Netherlands Government have undertaken to authorise the construction of certain cargo ships for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) on 24th March.

Would the Minister take this opportunity of making it perfectly clear what type of vessel British shipbuilders may now tender for and supply to Russia if their tenders prove successful?

I think that we have always made our position clear that any requests to build ships for Russia would be given every consideration. So far as I am aware, there have been no requests from British yards to build similar ships to those referred to by the hon. Member in the Question.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make it quite clear that British shipbuilders can accept tenders from the Soviet Union for the building of cargo vessels similar to arrangements made between the Soviet Union and the Dutch Government?

As I have already said, all requests will be given every consideration.

While we are aware that all requests will receive the consideration from the Government that is expected of them, will he make it quite clear that if it is open to the Dutch Government—an ally with us in N.A.T.O. and closely associated with the United States—in all these matters—to undertake the building of ships for the Soviet Union, there is ho reason why British shipbuilders should not be allowed to do so?

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, these matters, after what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 25th February, are at the moment under consideration between the Western Powers.

Would my hon. and gallant Friend not agree that recently, although he states that requests have not been received, business men returning from Russia have been informed that no licences will be granted for ships over 2,000 tons, and these orders were fulfilled by shipbuilders on the Continent?

I am not aware of that information. As the House knows, a very large contract for trawlers amounting to about £6 million, has been secured by a firm in this country.

Would the Minister say if the position of this type of vessel is still under consideration by the Western Powers? How is it possible for the Dutch Government to tender for these vessels and accept orders when the same does not apply to Great Britain?

I think that the hon. Member has put a different interpretation on my words. Actually I said that if firms in this country desired to build these ships, their requests would be considered, but I also said that the whole question is under consideration.

Television Facilities, Aberdeen


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he expects that television will be visible in the city of Aberdeen.

As I informed the hon. and learned Member in my reply on 27th January, the B.B.C. expects to have working by the end of 1954 a temporary low-power station at Redmoss which will serve Aberdeen and a limited area around. It is too soon to give an actual date.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this is not good enough and that he is in honour bound to keep his long-standing and many promises to provide Aberdeen with television at an early date?

I think that what I have told the hon. and learned Gentleman today is not inconsistent with what I told him before. In any case, the work is being done by the B.B.C.

Service Personnel, Kenya And Korea (Postal Facilities)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what differences exist in the scale of charges for sending letters, parcels and telegrams to our Armed Forces in Kenya and Korea, respectively.

None in regard to letters and parcels, except that there is no air parcel service to our Forces in Korea. The only difference in respect of telegrams is that Forces Social (EFM) Telegrams cost 3s. 6d. to Kenya and 2s. 6d. to Korea.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of having a uniform rate for telegrams to our Forces overseas?

There is a subsidy on these telegrams as well as a subsidy on letters and parcels, and the question of amending that subsidy would, of course, have to be referred to the Minister of Defence, to whom, I think, any subsequent questions on this matter should be addressed.

In view of the fact that telegrams might be more necessary now to those serving in Kenya, would it not be considerate to reduce the charge in that case?

There is a subsidy on these telegrams. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that there is a strong case for this, it is no good his asking me as the matter does not rest with me. I think that he should make his representation to the Minister of Defence.


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the average time taken for delivering a parcel to a member of the Armed Forces in Kenya.

About 32 days by surface mail, I am looking into the particular instances of delay notified by my hon. Friend and I will write to him when the inquiries are complete.

Telephone Services



asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many people have been waiting for telephones to be installed in Sunderland for more than one, two or three years, respectively.

Twenty-nine applicants have been waiting between one and two years, 15 between two and three years, and 15 over three years.

South Wales


asked the Assist ant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Garden City Bakeries, Llanwern Road, Ely, Cardiff, which employ over 200 people have been waiting for many years for the provision of an additional telephone line and, in view of the fact that the service of these bakeries to the public is handicapped, what action he proposes to take.

Yes, Sir. An additional line will be provided later in the year. I am sorry that it cannot be put in earlier, because of the many other pressing demands on our resources and the number of prior applicants who are ahead of this firm.

I have been pressing in this matter for a long time and the Minister now tells me that an additional line is available but cannot be put in until the autumn. Can he give the reason why it cannot be put in until then?

I am sorry if I have not made it clear: an additional line will be available.


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the percentage of applicants who have been waiting three years or longer for telephone facilities in each of the areas London, Lancashire, Cardiff and South Wales, Bristol and South-West, and the South of England, respectively.

Up-to-date figures for all areas are not readily available, but the position just over six months ago was approximately as follows:

London20 per cent.
North West England20 per cent.
South Wales (including Cardiff)24 per cent.
South West England (including Bristol)20 per cent.
Southern England (excluding London)10 per cent.
It has been possible this year to make some increase in the funds available for Wales. The number of three-years-old applications in the country as a whole has been almost halved since the beginning of 1952. Further progress will be made as additional line plant is provided.

Is the Minister aware that the number who have been waiting over three years ought not to be considerable and that we cannot, therefore, judge his merits by the general statement? Is he further aware that the delay in Wales Is now getting a thorough nuisance? HOW much extra money is being made available for the Welsh region?

I hope the hon. Member will judge my merits by the fact that in the past two years we have very considerably decreased the waiting list.

In the figures which my hon. Friend has given, why should the proportion be substantially higher in South Wales than in any other region which he referred to?

The main reason is that so many of the outstanding applications in South Wales are for people who are a considerable distance from the nearest point to which they can be connected. We have this year, however, increased the allocation for Wales by 20 per cent., and this will go up by a further 30 per cent.

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that quite a number of applicants in South Wales are very close to telephone centres? Will the increased allocation of money that the hon. Gentleman is giving this year at least bring South Wales in line with the rest of the country?

Our whole idea is that it should do so. One of our difficulties is whether with a given amount of money we should connect, say, five people who can be readily connected, or one who may have been waiting much longer and who lives a greater distance from a connection point.

West Drayton


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is now the national average waiting time for applicants for telephones; what is the average time that applicants in the West Drayton area have been waiting; and when he expects to satisfy the applicants who have been waiting for over three years.

An average time for all applicants cannot be given and, even if it could, it would be meaningless. So much depends on whether exchange and line equipment are available, and these factors vary from place to place. Even in West Drayton an average would not mean very much. There are over 300 applicants waiting, 114 of whom have been waiting for three years. Some of these will be connected in the near future, but the bulk must, I fear, await the completion of new cable schemes which are planned.

Apart from his answer about Wales, the Assistant Postmaster-General has said that under the present Administration the waiting time has been considerably shortened. Is he aware that important industrial firms in the West Drayton area have been waiting up to five years for a line? When will the additional equipment be available?

Very often a place gets to the stage when not much more can be done without embarking on a major scheme. That is the kind of major scheme to which I have referred, and that has been planned and arranged for.

I support the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) in this. I have often to telephone that area, where there are many firms. The line is extremely bad and is often out of order. Any new scheme would be a godsend for these growing firms.

I hope we can do something for West Drayton in the near future, but I cannot give an exact date. If my hon. and gallant Friend finds that lines are out of order and will let us know, we will see what can be done to correct them.

Is it not by now clear to the Minister that he cannot expect to rectify the position regarding telephone installations until he gets the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make him a bigger allocation of money? Will he not press his right hon. Friend to do this?

Allocations to the Post Office for any purpose must be viewed in the general picture of the amount of money that we can afford to spend on everything else, including roads, for example.

Has the Minister thought of diverting the funds that will go into the commercial television service?

Royal Air Force (Used Lubricating Oils)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the purpose of his Department in asking tenderers for used lubricating oil to state whether it is the tenderer's intention to re-refine the used oil for which he is tendering.

Because, other things being equal, we give preference to re-refiners.

In view of the fact that much of this oil is not being used by my hon. Friend's Department, will he ascertain the ultimate destination of the oil and whether, from a national point of view, it should not be re-refined rather than wasted?

I told my hon. Friend last week that all the oil we had sold this year was to be re-refined.


Road Safety (Poster)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that advice which he gave to motorists concerning the use of alcoholic beverages has, on the advice of a national advertisers' association, been forbidden from being displayed by poster; and if, in the interest of the further advertisement of plans and conduct to secure road safety, he will make representations to all parties concerned that it is essential that his advice should receive the widest publicity.

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

I am aware of the circumstances to which the hon. Member refers, but the advice in question has already received wide publicity. It will in any case be repeated when the new Highway Code is published.

On a point of order. While I appreciate the humour of the situation—[Hon. MEMBERS: "It is not humorous."]—is it in order and in accordance with the rules of the House to have posters displayed here?

I have previously ruled on this matter. It is desirable that hon. Members should not introduce into the Chamber any exhibit that they do not find necessary to their case. But I have not yet heard what the hon. Member has to say.

In view of the fact that the posters complained about were forbidden to be displayed in Birmingham, New Street, Station as a result of the intervention of the brewers, Messrs. Butler, Mitchell & Butler, will the Minister consider the necessity for his Department to submit to the British Poster Advertising Association, whom Messrs. Butler, Mitchell & Butler approached, that they should not interfere with the important job of bringing home the danger of alcohol on the roads, which this poster illustrates?

I am inclined to think that in raising this matter in the form of a Parliamentary Question the hon. Member has done as much as can be done to draw attention to this undoubted danger.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable public feeling on the question of censorship by an advertising organisation? Is he also aware that there is deep concern about accidents caused through drink by motorists? Will the hon. Gentleman not regard it as his duty not to make appeals about road safety unless he is prepared to take action?

The hon. Member must draw a distinction between what my right hon. Friend is doing to draw attention to this undoubted danger and any question of interfering with the code of conduct of the advertising profession. My right hon. Friend has already drawn attention to the great danger of alcohol in causing road accidents. In a message issued last year, the Minister of Transport said:

"Remember that alcohol blurs your judgment and slows your reactions."
This advice will be repeated in the new Highway Code, which is already available to hon. Members, but it is an entirely different matter to suggest that my right hon. Friend should interfere with the advertising profession, which has a rule that while it is proper to advertise certain products it is improper to criticise others.

On a point of order. That statement made by the Minister is precisely the statement which was forbidden from being shown on New Street Station.

That is not a point of order for me. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue it further, he ought to give notice to raise it in some other form.

Is the Minister aware that the distillers, brewers and the wine merchants are as anxious as anybody else that alcohol should never be a contributing factor to accidents?

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that he is chairman of the Road Safety Committee, a job that many of us have held, and does he not think it would be within his powers to see the national advertisers' association to discuss this matter with them, as public opinion is overwhelmingly against those who drink and then drive? Should he not be pursuing that end?

I entirely agree that public opinion is much disturbed about the matter of accidents in which drink may be a contributory cause, but anything we can do properly to reduce accidents caused in this way we shall certainly do. I do not think, however, that it is my job to interfere or attempt to interfere with the rules of the advertising profession which have been applied in this case as they have been applied in every other case.

I beg to give notice that, on the first occasion that I can, I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Accident, Auchterarder

27 and 28.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) if his attention has been called to the road accident which took place near Auchterarder on 24th April when five people lost their lives; and if he will hold an inquiry;

(2) what was the width of the road at the spot where the accident took place near Auchterarder on 24th April resulting in the loss of five lives; if the roadway at this point had white or black coping stones; and if the roadway had reflector studs.

The width of the carriageway at the scene of the accident was 27 ft. and there were reflecting studs down the centre. There were no black and white coping stones but a well defined turf verge. Investigations so far made suggest that no useful purpose would be served by an inquiry. I do not however exclude the possibility of holding one later.

Does the Minister propose to find out exactly what the cause of the accident was?

We are carrying out an informal investigation at the present time, but the hon. Member asked for an inquiry, and if it is shown that there is any need for it after our investigations have been concluded, then it will be held.

Does not the Minister recognise that a well-defined turf verge is not as suitable as well-defined coping stones?

I entirely disagree. There may frequently be cases where it is possible for a vehicle in order to avoid an accident to go on to the grass verge, whereas it would not be possible if there were a coping stone.

Surely the purpose of a white coping stone is to aid the driver during night driving? Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that with a dark verge the driver is sometimes unaware whether he is or is not on the road?

Yes, but this accident was not due to the driver going over the side of the road. The driver himself says that he saw the car draw out of the approaching line of traffic and he then flashed his fog light as a warning but the car came on and struck his off-side. Obviously, in those circumstances, a coping stone would not have had any bearing on the accident.

Whiteinch Linthouse Tunnel


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he can now say if new shields will be required for the Whiteinch Linthouse Tunnel; and how many.

No, Sir. We are awaiting a reply from the Dartford Tunnel Committee as to the possibility of transferring one shield, and up-to-date itemised estimates from Glasgow Corporation.

How long is the Minister going to play about with this issue which is of such urgency to the city of Glasgow? It is six months since he promised that the Whiteinch Linthouse Tunnel would go ahead, and he knows perfectly well that the tunnel cannot be constructed without the shields. I am asking when are we going to get the shields. Has he not been in touch with Dartford for more than six months, and surely he has reached some conclusion by this?

I thought the hon. Gentleman was more familiar with this subject than he appears to be.

We asked the Glasgow Corporation for an itemised estimate of the cost, and we are still waiting for that.

In view of the vital necessity for completing the Dartford—Purfleet tunnel at the earliest possible moment, will the Minister give an undertaking that no shield will be withdrawn from Dart-ford that is needed for the tunnel?

It is because the shields are the property of the Dartford Tunnel Committee that my right hon. Friend has no power to take them away. What we are trying to ascertain is whether the Committee will surrender the shields voluntarily, having no use for them themselves.

Would it not be more appropriate if these shields were used at Shields and then we could get on with the Tyne Tunnel?

Tyne Tunnel


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement on the proposed Tyne Tunnel.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he can now state what priority is to be afforded to the construction of the Tyne Tunnel.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has now further considered the Tyne Tunnel project; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give an assurance in accordance with his verbal undertaking that the Tyne Tunnel will have third place in the construction programme.

I fully recognise the importance of this project, and it is my present intention, subject to any unforeseen development, that the Tyne Tunnel should be the next tunnel to be approved in the road programme after the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement will be warmly welcomed in the North-East? Is he further aware that my colleagues and myself, who met him recently, are deeply grateful to him for confirming the undertaking which he then gave to us, and that, if it will aid him in getting this scheme through if we help him to get the money for his Department from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we will gladly give him all the help we can?

Can my right hon. Friend explain to me why the Tyne Tunnel has now become the third priority, instead of the second priority, which was the undertaking given by Lord Leathers under the Coalition Government? Does he appreciate, therefore, that the North-East Coast is not quite so pleased as the hon. Gentleman apposite seems to think?

I am always glad to have bouquets, from whichever side of the House they may come. In reply to the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward), the reasons why authority has been given straight away for the Glasgow Tunnel have been repeatedly explained by me in the House of Commons. I hope the fact that the Tyne Tunnel now ranks as the next major project after the Dartford Tunnel, subject to what I have said, will bring some measure of comfort to the North-East?

Will the right hon. Gentleman understand that all the nice things which have just been said about him do not mean that we are satisfied with him?

In welcoming this improvement on the position as it was before we met the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to indicate when this project is to be resumed?

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I would never anticipate what I shall find at the other end of any tunnel. On the second question, I am afraid that I cannot give any answer other than giving the tunnel a priority place in the programme.

Whilst appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the Tyne Tunnel, having regard to the fact that there are approach roads which will serve purposes other than this tunnel when it is constructed, will the Minister consider constructing the approach roads in advance of the tunnel itself?

I could not do that. However, the approach road which the hon. Gentleman may have in mind could certainly be carried out to completion long before the tunnel itself was completed.

Would the Minister tell us what is meant by "authority" and "approval"? Is he aware that he gave his approval and authority to the reconstruction of the Glasgow-Stirling Road, and that so far nothing has been done by his Ministry about it?

Authority means that the local authorities can proceed with the necessary preliminary work before work can start on the tunnel. In putting forward our programme of road construction, I have been at pains to limit it to those measures which we feel fairly confident we can carry from authority to fruition.

So that the employment standards of the North-East can be maintained, will my right hon. Friend press even further the cause of the Tyne Tunnel, and for the money for it, because there is great need that this tunnel should come to the North-East in the relatively near future?

I sympathise fully with the feeling of hon. Members on both sides of the House on the great importance of this project. It will be a great deal more expensive than the original estimate suggested, but its importance cannot be exaggerated.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that although there is already a railway bridge and a new road bridge over the Tyne, there is neither a road bridge nor even a tunnel over the Forth?

Sunderland By-Pass


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the need for safer and more efficient industrial communications, he will make a statement on the construction of a Sunderland by-pass road.

The proposed Sunderland by-pass would involve about 8½ miles of new road at a cost of over £1 million, and I regret I cannot say when it will be possible to fit this scheme into the road programme.

Can my right hon. Friend make a statement about any future programme and any major development of a road scheme in the North-East?

Sunderland—Gateshead Road


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now give a date on which work of improvement on the Sunderland—Gateshead road will be started.

No major improvements on the Sunderland—Gateshead road are included in the programme for the current year, and the detailed programme for future years has not yet been settled.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are a number of railway lines crossing this road which prevent efficient communications, and that there is at least one place which, if used regularly, will break the springs of any lorry or car in about six months? Can something not be done for the Boldon railway crossing?

As I think my hon. Friend knows, the Trunk Road Order for the East and West Boldon By-pass has been made, but it would be a costly scheme and, in face of all the other demands on our money, I could not claim that this would have very high priority.

In order that the Minister may appreciate just how urgent this project is, will he some time make the journey from Gateshead to Sunderland, leaving Gateshead at 4.30 p.m.?

Trunk Roads, North-East Division


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what sum of money he now proposes to allocate to the northern region for road construction in the next three years, having regard to the representations he has received from the Northern Conservative Members against the discrimination against the region.

On trunk roads in the North-Eastern Division I have decided to commence work this year on schemes costing over £650,000. Schemes on classified roads are still being selected in consultation with local highway authorities. I have well in mind the representations to which my hon. Friend refers, but I cannot agree that there has been any unfair discrimination.

Can I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will come up to the North-East coast and allow me to drive him around?

I will gladly pay my hon. Friend a visit at any time, and when I gladly go up and see her some time, I shall find that in the Division there are 10 per cent, of our population but that 12 per cent, of the amount available for general distribution on major improvements is being spent there—12 per cent. spent in the area which has 10 per cent. of the population.

Pedestrian Crossings


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many urban authorities have not yet installed zebra crossings; and what action he takes in such cases.

About 300. As regards the latter part of the Question, it is our policy to leave the initiative to the responsible local authorities. We are following the policy of the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) in persuading local authorities to reduce the number of pedestrian crossings to one-third of the previous number.

Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that Dundee has no zebra crossings and no flashing beacons and has only had one fatal road accident in four months, which is a much better record than that of other towns which are littered with these dubious aids to road safety? Has not the time come for this zebra crossing policy to be reconsidered as over 50 per cent. of all pedestrian accidents last year occurred on these so-called safety crossings which the Minister has asked local authorities to set up?

I understand that someone in the Ministry of Transport has also read the "Sunday Express" last Sunday and I am consequently informed that we are preparing casualty figures for selected local authority areas which have no zebra crossings and selected areas in which crossings have been provided, in accordance with the suggestion of that Sunday newspaper.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what representations he has received from the local authority concerned regarding the danger to pedestrians who have to cross the Bath Road between London Airport and the Colnbrook By-pass; and what steps he proposes to take to alleviate the present position.

The local authority originally asked for two pedestrian crossings, but we did not consider these would be suitable on this particular stretch of road. We arranged for the erection of traffic lights, which were installed in November, 1953.

Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that this is a very special case of one of the busiest arterial roads in the country which exceptional numbers of people have to cross? Is not the real answer a dual carriage-way? Will the hon. Gentleman look into that question?

Since we put up these lights there has been no further representation from the local authority, but in view of what the hon. Member has just said, I will gladly look into the matter.

Can I assure the hon. Gentleman that there have been further representations to the regional office?

Bus Accident, Hyde Park Corner


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has considered the letter from the hon. Member for West Ham, North, concerning the case of Mr. Sam Cook, Mark Street, Stratford, E.15, the driver of the motor-bus that was recently involved in an accident at Hyde Park Corner; and whether he will make a statement in connection with this matter.

Yes, Sir. On 28th April, I replied to a supplementary question regarding the accident at Hyde Park Corner on 17th December, 1953, when an omnibus turning into Knightsbridge mounted the kerb and knocked down some people standing in a queue. The implication of the supplementary question was that the accident was due to the dangerous character of Hyde Park Corner. I replied that the accident was not due to the corner, which it is not at present proposed to alter, but was due to the driver's negligence. I find that evidence was given at the inquest that the steering gear of the bus locked just before the incident and the verdict was one of accidental death. In these circumstances, I wish unreservedly to withdraw the statement I made regarding the driver's negligence and to express my regret for an unprepared statement which I am afraid must have caused pain to the driver.

May I thank the Minister most sincerely for that statement and say that I fully understand how, in the heat of the moment in replying to a supplementary question without being briefed, any Minister is liable to make a slip? We can all accept that. But may I say in addition that the driver has received, very fortunately and thankfully, a letter from the Commissioner of Police stating that he was in no way responsible for this unfortunate accident? On behalf of the driver, and I am sure of his trade union, I should like to thank the Minister sincerely for making that statement.

As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's answer was given in reply to a supplementary question of mine, may I add to what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) that I much appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has made a frank statement about this matter? I am sure that the whole House will appreciate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's frankness.


Headlamps (Dazzle)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the total number of accidents in Britain during 1951, 1952 and 1953 which were attributed to dazzle by headlamps.

In 1953, 1,593 accidents or 0·9 per cent. of all accidents involving personal injury were regarded by the police as being primarily caused by dazzle from vehicle lights. The corresponding figures for 1952 were 1,272, 0·7 per cent., and for 1951, 1,602, 0·9 per cent.

But surely the Parliamentary Secretary would agree that the question of percentages is rather misleading, as one describes the percentage of accidents which has taken place after dark and the other a percentage of all accidents? Is the Parliamentary Secretary taking any steps to carry out any research in this matter with a view to avoiding dazzle and bringing an amber light of some other description?

Yes, Sir. There was a Press release from the Road Research Laboratory covering a report which it issued which went at length into the research undertaken in regard to dazzle. As I have informed the House previously, some international tests will take place later this year in the United States of America. We intend to await the outcome of these tests before altering the present regulations.

Rear Lamps (Wattage)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make regulations to establish what capacity of electric lamp bulb should be used in rear lights of vehicles to give the brightness now considered necessary, assuming that the bulb is behind non-magnifying red glass.

My right hon. Friend has announced his intention to make Regulations requiring rear lamps to be fitted, as an interim measure, with bulbs of not less than six watts. For rear lamps fitted after some future date still to be decided, we consider it preferable to lay down the required minimum luminous intensity, for Which we have already recommended a specification to manufacturers.

Public Relations Staff


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many full-time staff in his Department are engaged on public relations work in connection with surface transport.

Is it because the Minister's record is so bad in this that, in addition to this large number, he has had to import a private advertising agent to whitewash himself?

No, Sir. It actually represents a reduction in the size of that branch since we took over from the Socialist Government.

Can the Minister tell us what these six people are doing? Are they employed in explaining the failure to sell off the lorries under the 1953 Act?

They are doing even more useful work than they did when they were appointed by the last Government.

Is this honorary officer a permanent appointment? Is it the Minister's appointment to look after the Minister's public relations or has it something to do with the Ministry?

I was very glad to avail myself of the services of a gentleman who gave distinguished service in the Ministry of Transport during the war.

That does not answer the question. Is this the Minister's personal appointment to safeguard his own public relations or has it to do with the Ministry's public relations? If the latter, why does the Minister depart from the normal, ordinary method of having full-time public relations officers?

It may be difficult for the hon. Member to understand, but a great deal of voluntary and unpaid work is still at the service of Governments of either complexion.

Road Haulage Disposal Board (Reports)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when he expects to receive the second six-monthly report of the Road Haulage Disposal Board.

Civil Aviation

Customs Facilities


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take in those cases where the Air Transport Advisory Council have granted licences to private operators to operate air services between this country and the Continent, and he has approved of the decision, but where the operators find that, in consequence of the refusal of the customs authorities to grant facilities for Customs clearance, the additional burden imposed upon them makes the operation of the proposed service uneconomic.

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

Before such services are approved, companies are told where they will have to clear Customs and are asked whether they are prepared to operate on these terms. Services are approved only when companies accept these arrangements.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Air Transport Advisory Council granted this licence for five years, and that that was subsequently approved by the Minister? Having regard to the fact that the initiative in determining the pattern of this country's air services has passed to the Treasury, will the hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend that the Air Transport Advisory Council ought to be abandoned and he ought to resign?

No, Sir, I could not possibly accept either of those suggestions. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to correct what I know is a misapprehension. The sequence of events is as follows. If the Air Transport Advisory Council submit to the Minister a service which is accepted by the Minister, provisional agreement is then made in a letter which lays down perfectly clearly what the conditions are, and only if the company accepts them does the Minister finally approve. In the case of the company which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, it was told that it would have to clear the Customs at Newcastle, and it was on those terms that the company finally agreed,

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the licence was granted for a period of five years and that in the year which has passed Customs facilities were available at Greatham; and that apparently without very much consultation with anyone the Treasury authorities decided to withdraw the Customs, imposing an additional burden on this private charter company compared with last year?

No, Sir. The agreement which was approved was conditional on the company accepting the fact that it would have to clear the Customs at Newcastle, and it was on those conditions that it accepted in the first place.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take in those cases where local authorities have, with the active encouragement of his Department, spent large sums of money on the development of airports but now find themselves, in consequence of the refusal of the Customs authorities to grant Customs facilities, with airports that cannot become economically self-supporting, and threaten to cut their losses by closing them down.

The question of granting Customs facilities at any aerodrome is always, and always must be, judged on the merits of each case, and is bound to be related to the volume of traffic using, and expected to use, the aerodrome.

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that for several years since 1938 his Ministry has encouraged the local authority at West Hartlepool as strongly as possible to develop this airport at Greatham; that it has spent over £50,000; and that now as a result of the action of the Customs officials it is not likely in any circumstances to be an economic proposition?

I cannot accept those implications. No undue encouragement has been given by my Department since the war for money to be spent by this or any other local authority on aerodromes. The chief encouragement in this case rendered by the Government has been the granting of Customs facilities on an experimental basis for a trial period, the conditions of which were made clear to the local authority concerned.

Pacific Services


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has now any statement to make about an extension of British Overseas Airways Corporation services westward from New York and/or Montreal.

Under the existing Air Services agreement between the United Kingdom and United States of America, B.O.A.C. have traffic rights from New York through San Francisco to the Far East. It is for the Corporation to decide when they will take advantage of this. I have recently approved a recommendation of the Air Transport Advisory Council that B.O.A.C. should extend their Montreal service to Chicago. Subject to the issue of a permit by the United States Civil Aeronautics Board, this service will start on 18th May. A service to the Far East via Montreal and other points in Canada requires the agreement of the Canadian Government with whom I had discussions last month in Ottawa. A number of proposals then discussed are now being considered by our two Governments.

Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he can also say what progress is being made with linking up the Australian services at San Francisco with the B.O.A.C. services from the east?

The Qantas services from Australia and New Zealand to San Francisco via Hawaii is now operating. The proposed B.O.A.C. service through Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo does not at the moment extend beyond Tokyo, It is not proposed to extend it until we are in the position to take advantage of rights either existing or which we hope to obtain across the North Atlantic.

Railway Reorganisation Scheme


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the White Paper on the Railway Reorganisation Scheme will be available to hon. Members.

I received the scheme from the British Transport Comsion on 15th April and, in accordance with the provisions of Section 17 (1) of the Transport Act, 1953, I am consulting the interests specially concerned. When I have done this, I must consider, after consultation with the British Transport Commission, whether any modification of the scheme is desirable. I shall then present a White Paper to the House.

I am sure that the Minister will give an assurance that he is consulting the trade unions concerned as well as other interested parties, but is the position that when the White Paper is presented to Parliament there will be a debate and in the light of the debate a scheme will be amended, if desired, and then a Statutory Instrument presented? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea how long he expects these consultations to take?

As I have said on other occasions, the answer to both questions is "Yes." The trade unions, of course, will be consulted. The purpose of preparing a White Paper is to secure a debate in Parliament before I formally present the scheme. I do not know how long all this will take. We are pressing on as fast as we can and I should like to thank the Commission for the care and speed with which they have handed their proposals to me.

South-East Asia (Defence)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the 10 countries who have agreed to discuss the possibility of collective defence in South-East Asia.

I am not aware that 10 countries have agreed to discuss the possibility of securing a collective defence in South-East Asia. Following Mr. Dulles' visits to London and Paris, a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France and the United States, announced their willingness to examine this possibility. Other countries which have signified their willingness to examine it are Siam, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

Does the reply of the Minister mean that India, Pakistan and Ceylon are to take part in these discussions? If not, is it because they have not been invited?

No discussions have been arranged at all. What I referred to in my answer was announcements by certain countries that they are willing to examine the proposals. No arrangements have been made for discussions. As was said before, the Commonwealth Asian countries are being kept closely informed of the course of events.

In view of the Minister's answer to me on the same subject recently, may I ask if he is now in a position to state whether the report of "The Times" correspondent on Thursday last from Canberra as to a statement by Sir Philip McBride that 10 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have agreed to these talks, is correct or incorrect?

Under those circumstances, will the Minister tell the House whether Australia informed Her Majesty's Government of the names of the countries on their undertaking to go into talks before they were started?

I have told the House the actual facts of the situation. I am not responsible for what Ministers in other Governments may say.

Mine Accident, Cleveland

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement on the explosion at Kilton Ironstone Mine, near Broughton, Cleveland, on Monday.

Yes, Sir. I deeply regret that an explosion occurred at this mine on 3rd May in which one man was killed and another injured. I am sure the House will wish to express sympathy to the relatives. After the explosion 15 men engaged on rescue operations were overcome by gas and were taken to hospital, but I am glad to say that all have now recovered. The cause of the explosion and of the subsequent accident are under investigation.

While thanking the Minister for his expression of sympathy, which will be appreciated in my constituency, may I ask if he is aware that this was the second serious occurrence of this character in the Cleveland ironstone mines in the last few months? Is he satisfied that adequate precautions are taken to prevent explosions and that proper attention is being paid to the danger of gas?

After the explosion last year the mine went over from naked lights to safety lamps. Now, of course, it has become a statutory requirement; but they went over voluntarily. I cannot express, and it would not be right for me to express, any opinion about the cause of the accident until the investigations have been completed, but I should say that I think the direction in which we need progress in these matters is not in further regulations but in the proper carrying out of the safety lamp regulations.