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Written Answers

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1954

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday, 5th May, 1954

Post Office

Light Programme Relay, Dundee


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will arrange for the Light Programme to be relayed through Dundee in order to improve the unsatisfactory medium wave reception in this area of Scotland.

No. There is no separate wavelength that could be used by a Light Programme transmitter in Dundee, and sharing a wavelength would make reception worse for many people.

Commercial Television, Scotland


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how soon he estimates commercial television will be available in Scotland.

Food Parcels (Transport To Korea)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that food parcels sent to Korea by sea route take six to seven weeks to reach their destination; and whether he will consider making available an air service for the convenience of friends and relatives wishing to send food parcels to troops in that theatre.

Letter packets up to 4 lb. in weight, and small packets up to 2 lb. can already be sent by air to troops in Korea at concessionary postage rates. I am writing to my hon. Friend about the case that he has brought to my notice.

Telephone Service



asked the Assistant Postmaster-General approximately how many applications for telephones in the borough of Leyton are now outstanding; how many have been installed in the last year; and what now is the average time elapsing between an application and installation.

275 telephones were connected in the 12 months ended 31st March, 1954, and 1,663 are outstanding. When plant and equipment is available, the average waiting time is about one month for priority applicants and varies from two to four months in other cases. I might add that it is hoped to connect some 1,000 additional lines in Leyton during the current financial year.

Stockport Area


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many are on the waiting list for telephones on the Stockport, Heaton Moor and Stepping Hill Exchanges, as at 30th April, 1954.

The following are the figures for 31st March. 1953, which are the most recent available:

Heaton Moor744
Stepping Hill562
Six hundred and fifty-seven telephones have been connected in the past 12 months and hope to maintain this rate of provision in the current year.

Greenham Common Airfield (Compensation Claims)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the reasons for the delay in settling compensation claims arising from the requisitioning of land for the purposes of Greenham Common Airfield, including the by-pass road; and if all outstanding claims have now been settled.

Of the claims made in connection with land requisitioned for the airfield, all but one have been settled. In the outstanding case, an offer was made by the Air Ministry some time ago but is still being considered by the claimant.As I explained to my hon. Friend in my letter of 22nd April, the negotiations over compensation for land taken for the new diversion road are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation.


Coal Lorry (Accident)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether his attention has been drawn to the fatal accident last week when Eric George Payers was killed when he fell from the back of a coal lorry; and whether this accident will be included in the figures of road casualties for the month of April.

Car-Parking, Wood Green


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of the annoyance caused to residents in the Noel Park Estate, Wood Green, N.22, he will review the car-parking regulations.

The London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee has recommended that the period for which vehicles may wait in the official street parking places in Gladstone Avenue, Dovecot Avenue and West Beech Road, should be extended from 8 p.m. to midnight with a four-hour limit after 6 p.m. My right hon. Friend is now considering the objections which have been received to this proposal.

Tyne Tunnel

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a further statement with regard to the priority to be given to the construction of the Tyne Tunnel.

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.

Maintenance And Improvement, Staffordshire (Grant)

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the percentage increase in the estimated grant for road maintenance, improvement, and new construction to Staffordshire for 1954–55 compared with 1953–54; and how this compares with the highest percentage increase in grant to any county or county borough in the country.

It is too early to estimate what grants will be made to individual authorities for major improvements and new construction in the current financial year. The estimated grant to Staffordshire for the maintenance and minor improvement of classified roads in 1954–55 exceeds the grant made in the previous year by 31·9 per cent., which is the highest percentage increase in the country.

Sea Pollution (Plastic Drift Cards)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make a statement on the results of the dropping of plastic drift cards, in connection with the collection of information on sea pollution by oil.

The experiment that is being undertaken necessarily comprises several droppings of plastic drift cards throughout the year and it would be premature to make a statement now. I understand that it will be some time before the results of even the first dropping in January last can be assessed.


Snow Ploughs, Staffordshire

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will state the number of snow plough units maintained in Staffordshire by his Department; the capital sum therein invested; the cost of maintenance and staffing of these vehicles; the number of times these vehicles were used in the winter of 1953–54; and whether, in view of the number of similar vehicles maintained by the county council, he is satisfied that there is no duplication of service.

My Department maintains five snow plough units and 13 additional ploughs in Staffordshire. They cost a total of approximately £4,000. Maintenance cost £375 in 1953–54. Three ploughs were used for 45 hours and one plough for 29 hours in 1953–54, a year when the snow in Staffordshire was unusually light.

Experience has shown that when there are heavy snowfalls all of this equipment and that of the county council are needed to keep the roads clear. The county council operate the Ministry's equipment as well as their own, and there is no duplication of service.

Railway Superannuitants (Benefits)

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many British Railways superannuitants have received benefit from the scheme announced by him on 17th March, 1953; and the total additional sum being paid out per annum.

Under the British Transport Commission's scheme for supplementing the pensions of certain British Railways superannuitants, approximately 2,650 persons are receiving supplements at an approximate annual cost to the Commission of £33,900.

Railway Authority, Scotland

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the British Transport Commission is likely to submit a scheme for the reorganisation and for the appointment of an authority for the railway undertaking in Scotland in accordance with Section 16, subsection (9), of the Transport Act, 1953.

The Commission submitted their scheme to me on 15th April and, in accordance with the provisions of Section 17 (1) of the Transport Act, 1953, I am now consulting the interests likely to be specially affected by it. The scheme includes provision for an authority for Scotland.

Missing Diplomats (Mr Petrov's Information)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information Her Majesty's Government has about the disappearance of the Foreign Office officials Burgess and Maclean and other matters made available as a result of information given by the Soviet diplomat Petrov and his wife to the Australian authorities.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 3rd May to Questions on this subject. I have at present nothing to add to that reply, but I am still considering the possibility of making a further statement in due course.

Meat Derationing, South Wales (Butchers' Representations)


asked the Minister of Food what representations he has received from South Wales butchers concerning the derationing of meat in July next.

Kenya (Mau Mau Terrorists' Surrender)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the conflicting accounts which have been published concerning the failure to secure the surrender of the Mau Mau terrorists who had gathered with a view to surrender on 7th April, he will publish a White Paper giving an authoritative report on what occurred.

I have seen one account in a recent periodical which was particularly inaccurate. For an authoritative report I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a supplementary question by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on 14th April and to the Kenya Government's statement of 11th April which is available in the Library, and of which copies have also been given to the Press. In these circumstances, I do not think that a White Paper is necessary.

Colonial Territories

Military Forces


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many colonial battalions were raised in 1953 in West Africa, East Africa, West Indies and Malaya, respectively.

One battalion of the Malay Regiment completed formation and became operational in 1953. No new battalions were raised in West Africa, East Africa or the West Indies.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the cost of military forces required for the internal security of Colonies, and the extent to which these forces should be controlled by the colonial Governments; and if he will publish a list of Colonies and other dependencies showing how much each proposes to spend on military forces in 1954–55 and what cash subventions Her Majesty's Government proposes to make to each in 1954–55 and the total sum so pledged.

pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 14th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 1128] supplied the following information:The following table shows proposed expenditure in 1954–55 on the maintenance of colonial military forces.

TerritoryTerritorial ExpenditureSubventions by Her Majesty's Government (from Colonial Services Vote)
Hong Kong167,500
Federation of Malaya3,800,000
Somaliland Protectorate300,000
Northern Rhodesia150,000
Gold Coast990,000
Sierra Leone100,000
British Guiana27,000 (1953)
British Honduras3,356
The above figures exclude certain expenditure on the local forces of the East and West African territories which is met from Army Votes, and the financial assistance by H.M.G. towards the cost of the emergency in Kenya, some of which will be spent on the local forces. The figures also exclude financial assistance by H.M.G. to the Federation of Malaya (£1,009,000 in 1954–55) in respect of the capital costs of the expansion of the Federation's forces, and expenditure by other territories on capital works for the forces.

Dependent Territories (Development)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consideration he has given regarding the future constitutional development of dependent territories which, because of geographical position or small size, are unlikely to achieve full self-governing status; and what recommendations he has put forward.

The general policy for such territories is that which all parties agree applies to all the dependent territories irrespective of geographical position, size, and economic resources, namely, that it is our aim to promote, in each, the fullest degree of self-government within the Commonwealth which is practicable in the particular local circumstances.

Nyasaland (Husbandry And Marketing)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how much of the 300,000 acres of the land bought by the Nyasaland Government, following the recommendations of the Abrahams Commission, has been so far allocated to Africans; the terms of this allocation; and what steps the Agricultural Department are taking to ensure good husbandry and co-operative marketing.

All the land to which the hon. Member refers is available for Africans and most of it was, in fact, already heavily settled at the time of its acquisition. In most areas the land acquired is treated as public land, but it is intended that when areas are fully occupied and developed they should revert to African trust land. As regards agricultural measures on the land acquired, concentration of huts permitting economic land usage and contour bunding has been completed or is under way; planting of useful trees is being encouraged; 35 successful boreholes have been sunk; hillside and stream banks are being protected; land is being demarcated to allow of alternate cultivation and fallow; and many miles of track have been made or improved to permit easy access and extraction of produce.No steps have been taken to introduce co-operative marketing since adequate alternative co-operative arrangements already exist through the Produce Co-operative Board and the African Tobacco Board.


Offices (Police Searches)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the raids made by local police on the offices of the Jamaican Federation of Trade Unions and the People's Education Organisation on 22nd March, and on the office of the Jamaican Women's Assembly on 1st April.

The searches were for publications whose importation is prohibited under the Jamaica Undesirable Publications Law. In the premises which include the offices of the Jamaica Federation of Trade Unions and the People's Education Organisation the police found a considerable volume of Communist literature but no prohibited publications.While there has been no separate search of the offices of the Jamaican Women's Assembly (which are believed to be in the same building) the home of its President was searched on 27th March and a prosecution for being in possession of prohibited documents is pending against her.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will give the reason for the raid on 22nd March on the offices of the People's Educational Organisation of Jamaica; what evidence was found of Communist propaganda; and how far this organisation is connected with the Extra-Mural Department of the University of the West Indies.

The offices of this organisation were searched under a search warrant for publications whose import is prohibited under the Jamaica Undesirable Publications Law. A considerable volume of Communist literature was found, but no prohibited publications. There is no connection between the People's Education Organisation and the Extra-Mural Department of the University College of the West Indies.

Legislative Council Members (Prosecutions)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many prosecutions have taken place in Jamaica in the past five years of members of the Legislative Council on charges of bribery and corruption; and in how many cases the charges have been sustained in the courts.

One member of the Jamaica Legislature has been prosecuted on such charges. He was convicted for conspiracy to effect a public mischief and conspiracy to defraud. In addition, there is a case at present pending in the courts under the Official Secrets Act against a member of the House of Representatives who was formerly a member of the Executive Council.

Wood Workers (Protection)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far there is a statutory obligation on the part of the employers in the wood-working industry in Jamaica to provide the workers with protection, by means of goggles and respirators, from dust and shavings thrown round by the operation of the machines.

The law requires that all practicable measures shall be taken to protect persons employed in factories against inhalation of dust or other impurities and to prevent such impurities accumulating in any workroom. In applying this regulation, factory inspectors require provision of respirators for workers in the woodworking industry who are exposed to the risk of inhaling dust or shavings. The provision of goggles is recommended in certain circumstances but is not enforceable by law.

Singapore (Shipping Dispute)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the strike of Malay deck hands now in progress in Singapore and that inexperienced seamen are being signed on the ships in dispute and are given seamen's registration cards; what steps are being taken to bring this dispute to an end; and if he will take steps, through the Labour Department, to have this dispute submitted to an arbitrator.

I understand that this dispute has arisen from rivalry between two unions. A local shipping company declined to negotiate with the Indo-Malay-Pakistani Seamen's Union on matters already covered by its recent agreement with the Malay Seamen's Union, and the former union in consequence called a strike. It is estimated that of the new deck-hands recruited to replace those on strike 70 per cent, have had previous sea-faring experience. The Seamen's Registration Bureau has continued to carry out its legal obligation to register all persons seeking employment as seamen. The good offices of the Labour Department are always available to help in settling such disputes, and an adviser on seamen's unions has just been selected for appointment to the Department. The dispute cannot be referred to arbitration without the agreement of both parties.

British Honduras (Election)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement in respect of the Honduras election; and if he is satisfied that it was conducted in strict accordance with legal and constitutional requirements.

My right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement shortly after his return from Africa. Neither the Governor nor my right hon. Friend has heard any suggestion that the election was not conducted in strict accordance with legal and constitutional requirements.

West Indies

Shipping Services


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress is being made in improving shipping services in the British West Indies.

Last October, the Governments of the British Caribbean territories issued a public invitation to shipping operators to tender for the pro-vision of regular inter-island services. The tenders received are now under detailed examination by the colonial Governments concerned.

Cotton Industry, Antigua

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction being expressed by the workers of Antigua at the price being received in the territory just now for Sea Island cotton; and what steps are being taken to protect the interest of the islanders in a new agreement when the present agreement comes to an end in August of this year.

I understand that there has been some dissatisfaction with the current price. In future, sales will be made through ordinary trade channels and I understand that the West Indian Sea Island Cotton Association is taking measures to ensure orderly marketing.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what protection is afforded the workers in the cotton-ginning factories in Antigua against the inhaling of cotton dust; and how far, under the colony's ordinances, there is a statutory obligation on the part of the employers to provide the workers with such protection.

Gauze masks are provided to workers in cotton ginneries, when stained cotton is being ginned. There is at present no statutory obligation requiring employers to provide workers with such protection, but factories legislation which would oblige employers to provide for the safety, health and welfare of their workers is now under consideration.

Aircraft, Swindon (Supersonic Tests)


asked the Minister of Supply if he will take steps to prevent aircraft breaking the sound barrier in the vicinity of Swindon, especially near the home for the aged blind in Westlecott Road.

I much regret that distress should have been caused to the residents of the Home for the Blind in Swindon. This complaint had already been mentioned to me by other hon. Members and I have brought it to the attention of all concerned. Ministry of Supply contractors are instructed to limit supersonic flying to essential tests and as far as possible to confine such flying to sparsely populated areas. The same instructions apply to Ministry of Supply Research Establishments. Unfortunately, the bangs may sometimes be heard over a wide area. These supersonic tests of new types of aircraft are essential and they must, I am afraid, continue.

Fuel And Power, Scotland (Capital Investment)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the total new capital investment of the nationalised coal, electricity and gas industries since vesting date in each case in Scotland.

About £27 million for the National Coal Board, £48 million for the British Electricity Authority, and £14 million for the Scottish Gas Board. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland that the figure for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is about £78 million.