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Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 11 May 1954

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Fishing Industry (Grants)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is yet in a position to make a further statement on the number of applications for grants which have been received and acceded to or refused under the two schemes, made by his Department last July, under the enabling powers in the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1953, especially the 19 applications to the White Fish Authority and the six applications to the Herring Board which were under consideration on 2nd February last and, of applications refused, the reacon in each case why each was refused.

As the reply involves a table of figures, I shall, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Does the Secretary of State realise that the purpose of the Act mentioned in the Question was to help the fishing industry and not to frustrate it? As the present administration of the Act is not at all satisfactory to the fishing industry, will the right hon. Gentleman alter it?

I agree that the Act is intended to help the industry, and a large percentage of applications has been approved. Under the White Fish Scheme, out of 84 applications 51 have been approved and 19 are under consideration, and the Herring Industry Board has had 60 applications, 45 of which have been approved and six of which are under consideration.

Following is the reply:

White Fish AuthorityHerring Industry Board
Applications (i.e. number of new boats and new engines)8460
Under consideration.196

White Fish AuthorityHerring Industry Board
Still under consideration21

I am informed that of the 15 applications refused 14 were refused because the applicants were unable to fulfil the requirements of paragraph 5 of the statutory schemes and one was refused under paragraph 9.

Legal Aid Fund (Grant In Aid)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the grant in aid of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Fund re quires £147,000 in 1954–55 as compared with £140,000 in 1953–54 and why pro vision is made in the Estimates that any balance of the sum issued which may remain unexpended at 31st March, 1955, will not be liable to surrender to the Exchequer.

The increase of £7,000 is due to the prospect of increased expenditure on solicitors' fees and outlays and, to a lesser extent, to an increase in administrative costs. As this is a grant in aid, it is exempt from the normal rule that balances of grants unspent at the end of the year must be surrendered to the Exchequer.

Can my right hon. Friend prophesy that if the expenditure does not increase next year he will be able to dispense with this additional Vote?

I cannot say whether it is likely to increase. That depends on how much use is made of the scheme.

House Purchase Facilities (Discussions)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what new arrangements he is making to assist per sons of small resources to purchase houses; and how far these arrangements will apply to old houses as well as new ones.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his plans for introducing a house-purchase plan for Scotland.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give an assurance that the Scottish scheme for house-purchase will be no less favourable to prospective purchasers than that announced for England and Wales.

My right hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary discussed the adoption of a scheme of this kind, concerning both new and existing houses, with representatives of the three local authority associations, on 2nd April, and negotiations with the building societies operating in Scotland are now proceeding. I shall make a statement on the outcome as soon as possible.

Is the Minister not aware that when the Minister of Housing and Local Government makes an important statement of this kind it throws the Press and other people in Scotland into confusion, because they do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will make a similar pronouncement in regard to Scotland? Cannot the Minister arrange at least for simultaneous statements to clear up the question of what is to be done in one country and what is to be done in the other?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would have been advantageous to do this, but owing to the negotiations which are now going on with the building societies in Scotland—where a large number of English building societies also operate—I was not in a position to make a statement. I hope to be able to do so shortly.

Will my right hon. Friend, specifically in answer to my Question No. 61, reassure the House that the scheme will be no less favourable to prospective house purchasers in Scotland than it is to those in England and Wales?

I trust that will be the case. So far as I possibly can give my hon. and gallant Friend an assurance to that effect, I am glad to do so, but, as he knows, there are differences in law and rating between Scotland and England.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he was not taken by surprise when the Minister made this statement last week and that the Government as a whole, not Ministers on their own, have been considering the problem?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, for the very good reason that I stated in my original answer that the Joint Under-Secretary of State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"]—my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) —started discussions on 2nd April, and the Minister of Housing and Local Government made his statement on 4th May.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is a report on his files from the Central Advisory Committee set up by one of his predecessors on the whole subject of house purchase in Scotland? Will he make himself familiar with the recommendations of that Committee, and will he further take into consideration the difference between Scotland and England in regard to rating, so that Scottish houseowners will not be prejudiced?

I have just referred to the difference between Scotland and England in regard to rating. As to the general principle, it would help me a great deal to know that the party opposite did welcome house ownership.

School-Crossing Patrols (Cost)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the estimate for school-crossing patrols of £20,000 for 1953–54 has risen to £35,000 for 1954–55; and if he will make it a condition that grants will only be paid when persons employed in this service are partially in capacitated or over 65 years of age.

The increase is mainly due to a transfer of responsibility for this service in a number of areas from the education authorities, who were assisted by education grant, to the authorities under the School Crossing Patrols Act, 1953, who receive grant from the Scottish Home Department. As regards the second part of the Question, I think that appointments are best left to the discretion of the local authorities.

Scottish Estimates (Miscellaneous Services)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the estimate for 1953–54 for miscellaneous services arising out of the war of £15,000 is estimated for 1954–55 at the same amount; and if this item will disappear from the Estimate after the current year.

This provision is required to enable me to meet claims for reimbursement of the cost of removing temporary defence works where that course is essential in the public interest. Such claims are still being received, and I expect a further sum will be required next year.

Glasgow Development Plan


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland on what date Glasgow development plan was submitted; what are the outstanding obstacles to his approving the plan; and when it is anticipated that the plan will be approved.

The Glasgow Development Plan was submitted on 1st January, 1952, and was approved with modifications on 7th May, 1954. Consideration of the plan took considerable time in view of the many objections received, the length of the public inquiry and the need to consult other Government Departments on the important issues involved.

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate that he approved the plan subject to extensive alterations or minor alterations, as has been suggested?

It is difficult for me to deal now with all these objections and how they were handled, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it has not taken an unduly long time. There were a very great number of objections to be considered—233 in all.

Since the important feature of this development plan is the construction of the Whiteinch—Linthouse Tunnel, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation and urge him to make a start with that important project?

I hope that it will be started very shortly. I am aware of the Minister's recent statement on the subject. We are very anxious to proceed.

Thermo-Nuclear Explosions (Shipping Restrictions)


asked the Prime Minister to what extent the present practice of sealing-off an area of sea for the purpose of a thermo-nuclear explosion conflicts with Her Majesty's Government's policy of preserving the freedom of the seas; and what action is proposed to be taken to restore freedom of navigation.

Only the area of territorial waters round the atolls and islands where the United States thermo-nuclear explosions took place is closed to shipping. A wider area of sea is notified as dangerous to shipping for a limited period, but not closed. It has never been considered a violation of the freedom of the seas to use areas outside territorial waters temporarily for gunnery and bombing practice, but when shipping is about to enter a danger area it has been warned off, and, if necessary, escorted to safe waters. For the British test in Australia a danger area of about 25,000 square miles was prescribed. The United States action does not run contrary, therefore, to our own policy, or with the principle on which we notify areas as dangerous to shipping. No action by Her Majesty's Government is, therefore, contemplated.

Yes, but in view of the erection of this thermo-nuclear curtain in the once Pacific Ocean, the exclusion of Britain from the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, the decision of America to finance a new Japanese fleet, and the closing of the seas around the Bahamas for bacteriological warfare research, would the right hon. Gentleman now consider adopting the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and issue a White Paper containing a new and annotated edition of "Rule Britannia" indicating with precision in which way Her Majesty's Government now rule the waves?

Ministries Of Food And Agriculture (Future)


asked the Prime Minister if he will now state when he hopes to close down the Ministries of Food and Agriculture.

As I have several times stated, I am not yet prepared to make a final statement about the future of the Ministry of Food. I know of no intention and I certainly cherish no hope of closing down the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

—will my right hon. Friend, in the interests of national economy, close them both down as soon as possible?

I really doubt very much whether my hon. Friend carries the whole House with him in that suggestion.

Public Servants (Oath Of Allegiance)


asked the Prime Minister if he will introduce legislation to require all persons engaged in the public services to take an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty similar to that taken by hon. Members when they take their seats for the first time.

I am not aware of any sufficient reason for this change in long-established custom.

Would not the suggestion in this Question be some protection against Communist activities, which are much greater than anyone realises?

Geneva Conference (India, Ceylon And Pakistan)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the message sent by the Foreign Secretary regarding the problem of Indo-China to the Prime Ministers of India. Pakistan and Ceylon during their recent meeting at Colombo; and whether he will also indicate the nature of the reply received.

I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the reply given to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) yesterday.

Would the Prime Minister say whether the message of the Foreign Secretary to the Asian Prime Ministers was confined to the under- writing of a settlement of Indo-China or also related to the wider issue of some collective security arrangements in South-East Asia?

No, Sir, I am afraid I could not undertake to do that without careful and specific examination of the message.

Would the right hon Gentleman, perhaps, give it careful and specific examination, and would he also appreciate that many rumours are being published in the Press about this and the reply? Would it not be desirable to clear up the matter by a statement at the earliest possible moment?

Se Asia (Defence)


asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made towards forming an alliance of, and with. South-East Asian countries.

I have nothing to add to the reply given yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to Questions on this subject.

Surely the Prime Minister can do something to clear up the confusion which now exists? Does he not know that in Washington they think that considerable progress has been made and that in London they think that none whatever has been made? Can he not say something about this?

No, Sir. I was not aware of any confusion on the subject. If that is my impression, I might only do harm by entering into the discussion.

Yesterday the Minister of State said in the House that discussions were not taking place on this matter, but he said that conversations were taking place. This morning "The Times" reports that discussions have taken place with the New Zealand, Australian, British and Siam ambassadors in Washington. Will the right hon. Gentleman issue a glossary of international diplomatic terms to enable us to decide what is the difference between conversations, discussions, negotiations and talks?

After all, a Government lasts only for the period of a quinquennial Parliament, and the glossary of diplomatic terms has grown up by usage and practice, and Parliamentary practice, over a very long period. We should think very carefully before we attempt to tie our hands in a rigid fashion in these matters.

Is the Prime Minister aware that on 28th April the acting Minister of External Affairs in New Zealand said that, in addition, 10 countries, including the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, had agreed to take part in talks aimed at establishing an effective defence of that region, namely, South-East Asia? Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether what the acting Minister of External Affairs in Australia said was true or untrue?

Was it the acting Minister of External Affairs of New Zealand or Australia?

National Service (Period)


asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Belgian Government are proposing to reduce the period of conscription to 18 months and that the United States Government are considering a reduction to six months; and, as both these governments are associated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, whether he will now consider an early reduction in the length of National Service.

I am aware of the proposals of the Belgian Government to effect a reduction in their period of whole-time national service from 21 to 18 months. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in suggesting that the United States Government are considering a reduction to six months' whole-time service. I would refer him to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence on 4th May on this point. Our own period of National Service must be determined by our own requirements, but, as was said in this year's statement on Defence, the Government are keeping the question under review.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's regard for standardisation in military matters, how does he continue to justify this variation among the N.A.T.O. countries? In view of the decision of the Belgian Government, which arises out of a general election, why does he delay putting into operation the change in the conditions of National Service which, he must know very well, are inevitable?

The reason for the delay is that we did not think that it was desirable at the present time and we did not think that we could conduct the many varied overseas commitments which have fallen upon us for one cause and another with a shorter period of service and the consequent increased difficulty in making the reliefs.

Is the Prime Minister aware that it is reported that the Belgian Minister of Defence stated that the reduction of the period to 18 months would not prejudice the strength and effectiveness of the Belgian Armed Forces? In those circumstances, will he instruct his Minister of Defence to find out something about the Belgian proposals and submit them to us so that we can see whether the British Armed Forces can be so reduced?

I can give an answer to that at once. It would certainly cause us the very greatest inconvenience and difficulty in the maintenance of our existing responsibilities and would do great injury to the quality and character of our Armed Forces.

Would the Prime Minister please take note of one of the leaders in "The Times" yesterday which indicated a change of opinion on the part of that very reputable newspaper? Why is he so sticky about this matter? Why does he not reconsider the whole position, or hold an inquiry into it?

I hardly think it would be possible to do anything more unwise or ill-judged than to reduce the period of service at the present moment. It is not a case of all countries being standardised. All countries are not standardised in their commitments. In fact, there are as many different commitments per country as individuals have different qualities.

Hydrogen Bomb (Resolution)


asked the Prime Minister what steps he proposes to take to implement the unanimous request of the House of Commons that the Government should take immediately the initiative in arranging a meeting of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the purpose of removing from the peoples of the world the fear that now oppresses them.

I presume the hon. Member is referring to the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition moved on 5th April. We accepted that Motion on the express understanding that the word "immediate" did not commit us to action at an unsuitable time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, while speakers on his side attempted to make that reservation before the vote was taken, the reservation was specifically rejected by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Friends of mine, and that, although the reservation had been rejected, the House unanimously adopted the Motion? Will he also bear in mind that the main proposal of my right hon. Friend, that the heads of these three nations should meet, was his own proposal almost a year ago? Has he abandoned his faith in an idea which is shared very largely in this country and very largely throughout the world?

What I said about "immediate" was this:

"We shall not divide against this Motion provided that it is clearly understood that the word 'immediate' does not commit us to action at an unsuitable time or lead only to courting a polite deadlock or even providing a refusal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 58.]
I believe I said "procuring a refusal."

Can the Prime Minister give any reasons for thinking that the present is not a suitable time for making that proposal having regard to all the events which have happened since he first made the proposal 12 months ago?

Nothing would be easier than to make the proposal and have it rejected. I have not at all changed my opinion. I remain of exactly the same opinion.

Government Departments (Honorary Pros)


asked the Prime Minister in which Government Departments persons engaged on public relations are serving in an honorary capacity; and to what extent his authority is required before such appointments are made.

The authority of the Prime Minister has not hitherto been specifically required for individual appointments, whether paid or honorary, on public relations work. They fall within the sphere of Departmental administration. I have had inquiries made of the major Departments and understand that two of them, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation and the War Office, have persons serving full-time in an honorary capacity on public relations work. The Colonial Office has two part-time honorary officers on this work.

Can the Prime Minister state why it has been necessary particularly to pick out the Ministry of Transport to appoint a public relations man to serve in an honorary capacity? What is the reason why that Ministry should be so treated?

I have been more concerned in my life with paid than honorary appointments. I am bound to say that I think this raises a point of interest. I will see that it is generally considered.

While I follow the point about the saving of public money, is the Prime Minister aware that it may be open to objection and abuse that persons in an honorary capacity, possibly political friends of the Minister concerned, should be brought in to do public relations work which ought to be impartial? Would he at any rate be good enough to circulate with the reply the names and particulars of these temporary officers who are being employed in the Department to which he has referred?

Yes, Sir. I think the House has every right to all information about all appointments, whether they are paid or honorary.

Atomic Energy (Quebec Agreement)


asked the Prime Minister if he will consult the United States Government with a view to the publication of the terms of the 1948 agreement between our two countries.

I have nothing to add to the replies I gave on Tuesday, 27th April, and Tuesday, 4th May. Perhaps I ought to warn my hon. and gallant Friend that he is treading on dangerous ground in his supplementary questions and that there is a highly sensitive state of feeling on this topic on the benches opposite.

How can the people of this country ever find out the way in which Great Britain may have been sold down the river by the Socialist Government in return for American aid? Is that the reason why the Leader of the Opposition does not ask my right hon. Friend to publish the terms of this treaty?