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Commons Chamber

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 13th May, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

DUNDEE CORPORATION (WATER TRANSPORT FINANCE &C.) ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

FORTH ROAD BRIDGE ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

GLASGOW CORPORATION ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

Considered; to be read the Third time tomorrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Employment

Factory Inspectors (Qualifications)

1.

asked the Minister of Labour how many of the factory inspectors in the entry grade have science qualifications; and how many are arts graduates.

Of the 83 factory inspectors in the entry grade, seven have science qualifications and 61 are arts graduates. Two inspectors have engineering qualifications and 13 have considerable works experience.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman remember that there was a different picture in this connection before the war, when most of the people in the entry grade had technical and scientific qualifications? It he aware that the change may be due, in part at least, to the fact that such graduates are now taken over by other Ministries which are able to offer higher financial incentives? Will the Minister do something about this?

The answer to the last part—which is perhaps the most important part of the hon. Member's question—is that a claim for an increase in the salaries of the chief inspector, deputy chief inspectors and superintending inspectors is at present under consideration.

Is the Minister aware that we are all very happy to hear that, not because we have any interest in any particular person but because if the grades are lifted in this way for the chiefs it means that the whole status of the service is raised as well?

Workers, Tullos (Dismissal)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that about 60 men have just been dismissed from Tullos factory, Aberdeen, owing to a recession in the industry there; and what steps he is taking to provide employment for these men.

Yes, Sir; 53 men and 10 women were paid off from Tullos factory with wages until 7th May. The Employment Exchange Service will assist those who register to find other work.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he hold out any prospect that this unemployment will cease and alternative employment will be offered? Does he realise that, from the national point of view, this loss in productivity is very serious?

Of the men mentioned in the answer, 13 are fully skilled and there will be no difficulty in placing them. What is causing this redundancy is a temporary slowing down in subcontracting work which, it is hoped, will be resumed at the former rate by the autumn.

Aircraft Industry, Scotland

3.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that a recession in the aeroplane industry in Scotland is increasing unemployment there; how many workers in this industry in Scotland are now unemployed, and in which factories; and what steps he is taking to find them work.

No, Sir. The number of persons employed in the aircraft industry in Scotland in March, 1954, was nearly 16,000. This was over 2,000 higher than the previous year. Less than 1 per cent, were unemployed in April, and the Employment Exchange Service will continue to assist them to get work.

Could the Minister say how it is that though there is no general unemployment in this industry in Scotland there is unemployment in Aberdeen? Why Aberdeen?

One must begin with the satisfactory news that, in the aircraft industry in general in Scotland, there is no or very little unemployment. From time to time there are places where the position is more difficult than in others, but I do not apprehend any serious unemployment in this industry.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman also give consideration to the difficult position arising in Northern Ireland as a result of redundancy in this aircraft work?

That is quite a different area, but it is the same kind of question and I am already giving it such consideration as I can.

Tobacco Factory, Stirling (Closing)

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the British-American Tobacco Company employ over 200 workers at their factory in Stirling; and what steps he is taking to ensure that other work is available for these workers when this factory closes down.

I am aware that the British-American Tobacco Company is dosing its factory at Stirling next month, and that this will cause about 200 workers to become redundant. My local officers are taking steps to find other employment for them and I am glad to say that 77 have already secured other jobs.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that about three-quarters of these workers are girls and young women, for whom it is already very difficult to find employment in the area?

Yes, but I can assure the hon. Member that in addition to the 77 who are to become redundant next month and have already got other jobs I have firm hopes for another 30, and I shall pursue my endeavours for the rest.

Hospitals

Ambulance Service, Oldham (Expenditure)

6.

asked the Minister of Health the saving in public funds estimated to be achieved in the area of the Oldham Hospital Management Committee and in England and Wales, respectively, as a result of his recent circular advocating limited use of ambulance services.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health
(Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

The object of the circular is to ensure that any extravagance which may exist is eliminated. Until action under the circular is well advanced my right hon. Friend has no means of estimating what saving there may be.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that it is the essence of an ambulance service that it should be ambulatory and not static? A static ambulance with a static driver is not economical. Is it not a fact that this precious circular lists 19 separate ways in which it is suggested that a few odd coppers' worth of service can be saved in dealing with the maimed, the halt, the sick and the dying?

That is an entirely false interpretation of my right hon. Friend's circular. The aim is to eliminate extravagance and not to limit proper demands.

Harlow New Town

18.

asked the Minister of Health when it is anticipated that a hospital will be built and made available at Harlow New Town; and whether the plans include provision for a special children's ward and a modern health clinic.

The scheme will begin as soon as it can be fitted into the capital programme. I am informed that the Regional Hospital Board's plans include a children's department and consultative clinics, and that a health centre is to be provided on an adjoining site by the responsible authorities.

Can the Minister say exactly when these two very important departments are likely to be opened?

No, I cannot. It is a question of priorities and essentially one for the regional hospital board. There are a great many other similar problems, perhaps even more urgent, in, for example, the Hatfield-Welwyn area, that have to be taken into account.

Children's Nurses (Recruitment)

19.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the special requirements for child nursing in hospitals and the need for specialised training of nurses for this purpose, to what extent special wards or departments have been, and are being, opened in hospitals; and what efforts are being made to secure recruits for this type of nursing.

At the end of 1952, the latest date for which figures are available, there were in England and Wales some 24,000 hospital beds for short-stay sick children, about 10,000 of them being in hospitals devoted entirely to children.

My right hon. Friend is not aware of any need for special recruitment measures in this field, which is a very popular one.

Ministry Of Health

Tuberculosis, Tyneside

7.

asked the Minister of Health if he will investigate the relationship between the incidence of tuberculosis on Tyneside and the pollution of the tidal part of the river.

Is the Minister aware that in spite of the very great improvements since the war the proportion of tuberculosis on Tyneside is still almost twice the national one? Is he further aware that the pollution of the tidal waters of the Tyne is really shocking? It is one of the most heavily-polluted rivers in the country. May there not be some connection between these facts? Will he not at least look into the problem?

It was as a result of doing so that I gave the answer. It is certainly true that the incidence of tuberculosis in this area is much higher than in the rest of the country, but I am advised that of the one or two cases mentioned in medical literature there was only one on the North-East coast, in 1949, which might be linked up with polluted water. Infection is normally passed in the air through the medium of a droplet or of dust and, therefore, would not normally be connected with water pollution.

Is the Minister aware of the proud and important status of the Tyne in the life of the people of the North-East? Is he also aware that we all regret its continued use as an open sewer? It is- having a very detrimental effect in that area. Will he endeavour to influence local authorities to try to introduce a comprehensive sewerage scheme in the area, so as to prevent the Tyne being used as it is at present?

That is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but if any evidence came to me from that area that there was a link between what is admittedly a still high, though a dropping, incidence of tuberculosis and any pollution, I should be very glad to go into the matter.

Mental Nurses (Shortage)

8.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the shortage of mental nurses, he will approve the establishment of a separate Whitley Council for mental nurses.

Is the Minister aware that his reply will disappoint many people who believe that so long as pay and conditions in the nursing services for the mental and mentally defective are subject to the same conditions as those of the nursing service as a whole there will be very little prospect of attracting new recruits to this extremely exacting branch of the profession?

Although this problem causes us all concern, the solution must be a matter of opinion. It is a much wider affair than a mere change of Whitley machinery. I have given the House figures showing that we are tackling this problem on a much wider front, and I look to results from this rather than from the suggestion contained in the hon. Member's Question.

Does the Minister agree that, in general, the introduction of individual Whitley Councils for individual grades is a retrograde step, and that the larger the Council and the greater the number of grades included the easier it is to make a comparison of the duties performed?

That is a very wide generalisation. I think that the present procedure is right in this respect. There is a special standing committee for mental nurses on the Staff Side of the Whitley Council.

17.

asked the Minister of Health the present shortage of nursing staff in hospitals for mental defectives; whether this is an improvement or otherwise compared with preceding years; how many beds are not used because of the shortage; how many are now waiting admission; what further steps have been taken or considered in order to secure additional trainees and nurses in these hospitals; and what percentage of student nurses do not complete their training.

Estimates in this field vary and are not very reliable. The latest is about 2,300 for December, 1952. The nursing staff of mental deficiency hospitals was, at 30th September, 1953, 6,600 full-time and 2,200 part-time, an increase of 480 full-time and 740 part-time over the figures at 31st December, 1948. At 31st December, 1952, there were 1,587 unstaffed beds. The waiting list at 31st December, 1953, was 8,521.

I will send the hon. Member a copy of the memorandum to hospital authorities dealing with measures taken to improve recruitment. Between 60 per cent, and 70 per cent, of student nurses in this field fail to complete training.

While thanking the hon. Lady for her reply, and being gratified that there has been some slight progress, may I ask whether any extra special efforts are being made to recruit nurses for this very important branch of the nursing service, particularly in view of the large number who give up the work after a short time?

The hon. Member will be aware that my right hon. Friend is concentrating on the recruiting of nurses for this work this year. Experiments are taking place under the aegis of the General Nursing Council. We have recommended various measures that are outlined in the memorandum that I will send to the hon. Member.

Ophthalmic Examinations

12.

asked the Minister of Health how often a person may have his sight examined under the supplementary ophthalmic service.

As often as necessary, but ophthalmic medical practitioners and ophthalmic opticians were asked in 1950 not to repeat a test within a year except where there was special reason for doing so.

Is the hon. Lady aware that one large executive council on the South Coast is telling its doctors not to examine patients more than once in 12 months? Will she take action in this matter if I give her particulars of the case?

The general instructions were that practitioners should secure the permission of the Ophthalmic Services Committee where there had been a previous sight test within the year, except in urgent cases, or cases notified to the patient's doctor as subject to further examination. If the cases which the hon. Member has in mind come into that second category I shall be only too happy to look into the matter.

Inoculated Children (Health Effects)

14.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction felt by Mr. Bradshaw, particulars of whose case have been submitted to his Department, about the treatment given to his child Jane, who is suffering from speech deformity following the last of a series of four inoculations for diphtheria and whooping cough; that, as Mr. Bradshaw could see no improvement in his child's health following attendance at a public clinic as such attendance affected the nerves of both mother and child, he sent her to a speech therapist with beneficial results; and whether, in view of the special circumstances, he will make some payment to Mr. Bradshaw for the treatment the child is now receiving.

On a point of order. Before the Question is answered I want to emphasise that it relates to the combined inoculations against diphtheria and whooping cough, and not against diphtheria alone. There has been some misunderstanding on the subject.

I have carefully examined the facts of this distressing case, but I do not consider the circumstances are such as would justify a contribution towards the cost of private treatment.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that two doctors have testified that they considered that the defective speech of this child is due to these injections? Is he further aware that teachers under the National Health Service simply have not the time to give proper treatment to this child? Why should these unfortunate parents have to pay large sums of money to try to save this child's life because of what they and certain doctors consider to be the bad treatment of the National Health Service?

I cannot accept that statement. It is certainly a possibility, but it is not certain that this speech defect is due to the inoculations. As far as treatment for Jane is concerned, it has (been suggested—and I make the offer again—that we should, if necessary, give extra time out of ordinary clinic hours, in the babies' hospital, to this very difficult case. I do not think we can do more than that. If the parents accept that offer, or my hon. and gallant Friend will consult me on the matter, I shall see what I can do, but all the conditions of treatment are available for use within the National Health Service.

Will the Minister confirm that his answer means that full facilities for speech therapy treatment are available in the National Health Service for this child?

Yes, Sir. It is fair to say that the parents were rather dissatisfied with the amount of time which could be given to any one child, and, therefore, wanted to have private treatment outside the scheme, which they are quite entitled to do.

15.

asked the Minister of Health the number of children during the last five years whose health was affected by inoculation for diphtheria and whooping cough; how many of these cases received treatment under the National Health Service; in how many cases the children regained their full health; and in how many cases there is permanent injury or deep-seated injury.

I regret that the detailed information asked for is not available, but serious illness attributable to inoculation is known to be extremely rare.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since I tabled this Question I have received evidence from parents all over the country on this subject? One poor woman has three children out of four whose speech has been affected. If I send him particulars of these cases will my right hon. Friend promise to look into them very carefully and, if necessary, inquire into the whole matter?

It is true that there is a minimal hazard attached to immunisation. We all know that. But it is equally true that the importance which has been attached to such immunisation in recent years has done an enormous amount to lessen the incidence of these diseases.

Can the Minister say what proportion of cases were affected by paralysis of the palate when they suffered from diphtheria before inoculation was invented? Was it not much higher then than it is now?

I have not those figures with me, but I will see whether they are available. Certainly, the number, in relation to the total number of diphtheria inoculations carried out each year—which is more than a million—is tiny.

My right hon. Friend has missed my point. We all admit that these inoculations do a tremendous amount of good. I am complaining that there are cases where the wretched parents are hit very hard. This poor woman has three children out of four—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Speech my foot. My right hon. Friend cannot explain that away.

I am not trying to explain anything away. This is a very distressing case. I have read all the papers with great care, and I shall be happy to discuss the matter with my hon. and gallant Friend. It still remains true that medicine is not an exact science, and that risks are attached to immunisation or any other form of treatment.

16.

asked the Minister of Health whether, under his regulations, special treatment, outside the National Health Service, is ever given to children in cases where a deterioration in a child's health may be the result of treatment or action by a National Health Service doctor or hospital.

Day Nurseries, Harrogate

20.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the proposal to close down one of the two day nurseries in Harrogate; and whether he is satisfied that adequate extra provision will be made in the other for health cases before this proposal is put into effect.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) on 6th May.

21.

asked the Minister of Health how many places there are in each of the two day nurseries in Harrogate; and how many of those who now use them fall into the category of health cases.

Forty in each. The latest available figures show a total of 69 health cases, including cases of housing difficulties.

In view of the preponderance of health cases over industrial cases, can my hon. Friend say what her further policy will be for the accommodation of the health cases?

There is a period of two months after the local health authority has given notice during which interested bodies may lay their considerations or objections before my right hon. Friend, and the closing time is not until 19th May. I think it would be premature now to anticipate what they may be, or my right hon. Friend's decision.

Education

Schools Television Service

22.

asked the Minister of Education whether, in view of the long delay before a school television service can be started by the British Broadcasting Corporation, she will invite commercial television interests to undertake this service.

May I thank the right hon. Lady for agreeing with us that commercial television interests cannot be trusted to look after the children?

Wokingham Secondary School (Cost)

23.

asked the Minister of Education to state the all-in cost of the Wokingham Secondary School.

I regret that the final accounts for this school are not yet settled, but negotiations are being pressed on so as to get a final figure with the least possible delay.

As this school has been in occupation by children for educational purposes for over a year, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this information will be speedily obtained?

Yes, it certainly will be, but I think my hon. Friend will realise that even when the children are in a new school there is generally a certain amount of work still to be done. Very often 18 months and sometimes slightly more are required before the final account can be approved.

Grammar And Modern Secondary Schools (Differentiation)

24.

asked the Minister of Education the difference between a grammar school and a modern secondary school.

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of Ministry of Education pamphlet No. 9. This describes both the similarities and the differences, and remains a useful survey of secondary education, although more experience has been gained since it was published in 1947.

Will the right hon. Lady also send to her hon. Friend a copy of the kind of tests which are imposed to tell to which of these schools children of 11 should go?

That is entirely a matter for the local education authority, and I do not interfere.

Nursery Schools

28.

asked the Minister of Education if, in view of present and future needs, she will consider lifting the ban on the building of nursery schools, by the removal of Circular 155, issued in 1947.

27.

asked the Minister of Education whether she will now withdraw Circular No. 155 and thus enable education authorities to proceed with the provision of nursery schools.

I would refer the hon. Members to the answer which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on 15th April last.

Will the right hon. Lady go very carefully into this matter to see whether the Government can in some part carry out their programme that they enunciated at the last Election? If the Government want to help the people they would do well to make it possible for these nursery schools to be built.

I quite agree, but I think the hon. Gentleman realises that our first duty must be to the children of compulsory school age. There has been a slight increase since 1951 in the number of nursery schools, and in the number of children at them, but I cannot say that we can reverse the policy laid down in 1947 until we have got ahead with the building programme for the children of compulsory school age.

Grammar Schools

25 and 26.

asked the Minister of Education (1) in which local education authority areas the percentage of children aged 13 receiving grammar school education to the total of children aged 13 in maintained and assisted schools in the area is less than 10 per cent, and between 10 and 15 per cent., respectively;

(2) in which local education authority areas the percentage of children receiving grammar school education to the total of children aged 13 in maintained and assisted schools in the area is between 25 and 35 per cent, and above 35 per cent., respectively.

In January, 1953, the numbers of local education authorities concerned in the four categories mentioned in the Questions were 7, 27, 23, and 10, respectively. This answer takes no account of children for whose grammar school education each authority provides in schools outside its own jurisdiction, but it includes places available to children from other areas. It does not, therefore, give an accurate picture of the degree of opportunity open to children in each area to obtain a grammar school education.

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the areas concerned.

What action is the right hon. Lady taking in the case of local authorities that have not many grammar school places to offer to ensure that they should have grammar school courses in their modern secondary schools?

I am hoping to have before long fuller information about the degree of opportunity there is for children in each area. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that a good many things have to be taken into consideration, such as the need for other types of secondary education and the availability of places at schools not maintained or assisted by the local education authority.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is some disquiet about the allocation of grammar school places not merely within the area of a local education authority, but within the divisional area as a whole? It seems to be the case, certainly in Staffordshire, that where there is a grammar school the greater is the number of places allotted within the immediate vicinity, and that places where there is not a grammar school have a much smaller share of the available places. Would the right hon. Lady look into that?

Yes. I have already looked into some cases that have been brought to my notice. I think it would be better if the hon. Gentleman took the matter up with the local education authority.

Less than10 per cent.

Between 10per cent, and15 per cent.

Between25 per cent, and 35 per cent.

35 per cent, and over
BlackburnBarnsleyENGLANDENGLAND
BoltonBedfordshireBradfordGloucester
GatesheadBirminghamCanterburyWestmorland
Isles of ScillyBristolCornwall
RutlandCoventryDarlingtonWALES
SalfordDudleyDevonBreconshire
West BromwichDurhamDorsetCaernarvonshire
EssexEastbourneCardiganshire
Isle of WightGloucestershireCarmarthenshire
LiverpoolHuntingdonshireDenbighshire
ManchesterIsle of ElyMerionethshire
Newcastle-upon-TyneLincolnMontgomeryshire
NorfolkPeterborough Joint BoardPembrokeshire.
NorthumberlandSouthend-on-Sea
NottinghamWallasey
NottinghamshireYork
Preston
ReadingWALES
St. HelensCardiff
SheffieldFlintshire
StaffordshireGlamorgan
Stoke-on-TrentMerthyr Tydfil
Suffolk WestMonmouthshire
SunderlandNewport (Mon.)
WakefieldRadnorshire
WarringtonSwansea
West Hartlepool

Eltham Hill Grammar School Pupils (Transfer)

29.

asked the Minister of Education whether she will make a statement on her refusal to approve the transfer of Eltham Hill Secondary School for girls to Kidbrooke Comprehensive School.

I considered the London County Council's arguments in support of their proposal to cease to maintain the Eltham Hill Grammar School and to transfer the pupils to Kidbrooke Comprehensive School on its opening. I studied the many objections received, the grounds on which they were made, and the authority's observations on these objections. After taking into account the reputation of the Eltham Hill school, and the success with which it has served its purpose as a grammar school, I concluded that it would not be educationally advantageous to close it.

Is the Minister aware of the widespread anxiety that Kidbrooke Comprehensive School should be a

Would my right hon. Friend tell parents that if they were to come to live in Wales their children would have a better chance of grammar school education?

Following is the statement:

success? Is she aware that the whole future of this promising school is being jeopardised by prejudice and by hostility towards it on her part?

The Kidbrooke School will open as a comprehensive school exactly as was planned under the London Development Plan. There was no thought then of closing Eltham Hill and transferring the children from Eltham to Kidbrooke. As to the popularity of the decision, I think we must leave the choice to parents and teachers themselves to decide where they wish to be, as far as possible. I am glad to hear that the London County Council has given full opportunity to both teachers and children to transfer, if they wish, from Eltham to Kidbrooke.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statutory requirement to which she refers is upon not only her but also all local education authorities—the requirement that children are to be educated as far as possible in accordance with the wishes of their parents? Is she further aware that the overwhelming majority of the parents of girls at Eltham Hill School are grateful to her for her decision and applaud her courage?

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the facts which have been asserted are disputed? Secondly, can she assure the House that in coming to her conclusion upon this matter—and we agree that she should come to a conclusion on the weight of the arguments and evidence on both sides—she has not been actuated by party political considerations? Did she or did she not encourage the London Conservative Party organisation to involve themselves in this matter and give them some impression that she would support their efforts to oppose the closure?

Under the 1944 Act it is the Minister who takes the decision. Under that Act, too, it is the duty of the local authority to publish notices informing the electors of their rights, which are that, in connection with the closing or opening of a school, 10 or more local government electors may object to the Minister. I have said, and I am glad to have the opportunity of saying it again today, that one change has taken place since the Miscellaneous Provisions Act was passed; the local government electors now have that opportunity for only two months instead of the three months open to them before. Local government electors have their opportunity and their rights. The local authority has its rights. But the final decision is the responsibility of the Minister under the 1944 Act.

If I may say so, I was quite aware of that. I knew that the Minister has the final decision. Would the right hon. Lady be good enough to answer the body of my question? [An HON. MEMBER: "It was insulting."] It was not insulting. Will she say whether there was political partiality in conjunction with the London Conservative Party?

I thought that 1 should not have to believe that the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting to me that, when taking a decision which lies upon me as Minister of Education, I took political consideration into account. 1 have said at Conservative meetings, at Labour meetings, and at educational meetings throughout the country that local government electors have certain rights. I have added, over and over again, that when that time is up it is no use their complaining. They have their rights now for two months to send in their objections, instead of for three months. That is the information which I have given and which I will continue to give.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her decision strikes not only at the Kidbrooke School but at the whole of the London County Council plan for comprehensive schools? Can she explain how there can be, in an area, both a comprehensive school and a grammar school; because obviously, if the grammar school is there, children have been creamed off? The right hon. Lady spoke of the rights of parents under the Education Act. Do I take it that any parent whose child is at a modern school can automatically ask for the child to be transferred to a grammar school?

The point which the hon. Lady put in the first part of her question does not arise. There are grammar schools in that area already, as well as a comprehensive school, and the London County Council made it clear that if the Eltham Hill School were closed there were about 80 places at other grammar schools to which children could have been transferred if their parents so wished. As the hon. Lady knows, in the London Development Plan Kidbrooke was to open without Eltham Hill being closed.

As for the transfer between a modern school and a grammar school, it is for the local education authorities to try as far as possible to meet the wishes of the parent, if they think the education is suitable for the child's age, aptitude and ability.

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Bechuanaland (Lobatsi Abattoir)

30.

asked the Undersecretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement regarding the future of the colonial development abattoir at Lobatsi, Bechuanaland.

31.

asked the Undersecretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, whether he will make a statement regarding the future plans for the Lobatsi abattoir of Bechuanaland.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) on 29th April, 1954.

Have there not been certain developments since that date, and has not Mr. William Rendell, the General Manager of the Colonial Development Corporation, met the European Advisory Council? Also, should there not fee discussions on this issue with the African farmers who are concerned?

I do not think there has been any development since 29th April. The local Administration and Her Majesty's Government will of course consider all the interests involved. The issues are very complex and I quite agree with the hon. Member that they must be seriously considered.

Can the Minister confirm or deny the suggestion that neither the Union of South Africa nor Southern Rhodesia will be taking meat in future from this abattoir at Lobatsi and that this is leading to uncertainty about the future of the scheme? Is he prepared to do anything about that in the future, if it is a fact?

If it is a fact something would have to be done, but I do not think it is so. I believe that the Union will continue to take the meat. That is a matter which will be very seriously looked at.

Trade And Commerce

Imported Goods (Marking)

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has now reached a decision about the withdrawal of the option under the Merchandise Marks Act, 1926, which allows imported goods, which are required to be marked, to bear the words "Foreign" or "Empire" instead of the name of the country of origin.

No, Sir: the matter is still under consideration.

As this matter has been under consideration for several months, can my right hon. Friend say when his conclusion will be reached? Is he taking into consideration the desire of many consumers on this point?

I am taking into consideration the diverse and sometimes conflicting views of quite a number of organisations, but I hope to reach a decision before long.

International Trade Barriers (Removal)

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of official statements of policy made in discussions with the Federal German Government and elsewhere that Britain is trying to encourage more freedom in international trade, when he hopes to remove all barriers to the international movement of goods.

Substantial progress has been made by a number of countries, including ourselves, in the reduction of barriers to trade, but I cannot predict the speed and extent to which further progress may prove possible.

Do the Government realise that the expression of pious hopes at international conferences does no good? What we want is deeds, not words. Do the Government also realise that a policy of free trade, freely convertible currency and no coercion is the only policy to save Britain and the world?

I think Her Majesty's Government can point to a good deal more than pious hopes in the achievements of their commercial policy.

Income Tax And Surtax (Statistics)

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much revenue was produced by Income Tax and Surtax in the years ended April, 1910, 1921, 1935 and 1954, respectively; and what percentage this represented of the total revenue of the year in each case.

As the answer to this Question contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the amount which is being produced by direct taxation has been falling in the last period, and whether he expects that this tendency will continue in the future?

In the four years which my hon. Friend selected, the figures which I give in the answer which I will circulate show an increase.

Following is the information:

The table below shows in thousands of pounds the total Exchequer receipt from Income Tax and Surtax compared with the total ordinary revenue in the four selected financial years.

Financial YearIncome Tax and SurtaxTotal Ordinary RevenuePercentage
£'000£'000
1909–1013,295131,69610·1
1920–21394,1461,425,98527·6
1934–35280,042804,62934·8
1953–541,863,3914,368,13042·7

Government Officials (Cost)

36.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (how many officials, clerks and industrial workers, respectively, are employed by Her Majesty's Government; and what is the cost to the taxpayer of their salaries and other expenses.

On 1st January, 1954, there were 657,385 non-industrial civil servants, of whom about 226,000 were in the clerical, sub-clerical and typing grades; these figures include 248,338 Post Office staff. There were also 434,604 industrial civil servants.

For the year ended 30th September, 1953, the salaries and wages bill for the non-industrial staff was £349.6 million. I regret that similar information for the industrial staff is not readily available.

Will the Treasury do all in their power to reduce the number of the civil servants who are non-producers and who do not help the trade of the country?

Without accepting the implication in my hon. Friend's question against officials whose duty it is to carry out the duties which this House imposes on them, I would remind him that since the change of Government there has been a substantial reduction in the total.

Agriculture

Fatstock Marketing Scheme (Objections)

38.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will agree to hold regional inquiries into objections to the proposed Fatstock Marketing Scheme, in view of the large number of livestock producers who are concerned at the penal clauses contained therein.

The last date for objections to the proposed Fatstock Marketing Scheme was yesterday, 12th May. I am now considering, with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland, whether a public inquiry should be held and at what place or places.

Can my right hon. Friend say, in relation to this and other cases, what is the good of removing one control and imposing another one equally vicious?

I do not think that my hon. Friend has any idea of the procedure over the producer marketing boards. They are producer boards, and at this stage of the procedure my right hon. Friends and I decide whether there is to be a public inquiry or not.

Food Production (Policy)

39.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the uncertainty of farmers throughout the country in connection with the development of their production of food, the Government's future agricultural policy is for an expansion or for a controlled contraction of home production in this country.

I would direct my hon. Friend's attention to paragraph 11 of the recent White Paper on the 1954 Annual Review and Determination of Guarantees, which clearly states that the expansion of net output to 60 per cent, above pre-war is still a major objective.

May I ask my right hon. Friend how he thinks, in view of the quantifying and many other matters which the Chancellor has alluded to, it is possible to relate them to any possible form of expansion? Does he realise that the matter cannot be lightly dismissed? I shall continue to ask questions about this.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will remember that I suggested that he should read the White Paper. May I also suggest that, as well as reading the White Paper, he should read the answer to a Question which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member foe New-bury (Mr. Hurd) the day before yesterday, which shows a remarkable expansion in production.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also advise his hon. Friend to read paragraph 13 of Command Paper No. 9104—the latest White Paper —and inform his hon. Friend exactly what the Chancellor meant when he said "They might start to quantify production."

I do not think it would be appropriate to reply by way of question and answer, but I have a note to remind my hon. Friend of paragraph 13 of the White Paper. So far as this year is concerned, the only arrangements that provide for any kind of limitation are those for milk.

Does the Minister think that that answer will be regarded by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir R. De la Bèere) as "thoroughly unsatisfactory"?

Myxomatosis

42.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how far north the rabbit disease of myxomatosis has spread up to date.

The most northerly outbreaks reported so far are on the Suffolk-Norfolk border, near Southwold and Mendham.

In addition to the answer to the question which I have given, I think that the House might like to know that there has been a notable spread, during the last three weeks or so, in East and South-East England. Isolated outbreaks have been confirmed in the Isle of Wight and during the last few days in Gloucestershire, Radnorshire and Cornwall.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it was reported in the Press recently that some Cumberland butchers took rabbits from an infected area which were taken back to Cumberland? Can he say whether there has been any myxomatosis in Cumberland since then?

Not so far as has been reported to me. So far as I can ascertain, there is no justification for these rumours.

Home Department

Prisoners (Preventive Detention)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the methods employed for the provision of work for preventive detention prisoners on their discharge.

Preventive detention prisoners are released on licence to the supervision of the Central After-Care Association, who arrange for every prisoner to have the opportunity of a personal interview with an officer of the Ministry of Labour prior to his release, so that his registration for suitable employment can be completed in advance. The Association arranges also for the prisoner to be personally advised and assisted on release by one of its Associates, who will usually be a probation officer.

There is also an experimental scheme now in operation whereby a small number of prisoners in the third stage of a sentence of preventive detention are enabled to take up outside employment for some months prior to their discharge.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is some confusion about this matter in the minds of the prisoners and apparently in the minds of certain of the staff as to whether it is the responsibility of the prisoner nearing discharge to try to find a post for himself; or does he leave that to the Association?

I was not aware of any such confusion. If the hon. Member will give me particulars, I will, of course, have the matter looked into.

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many men have been refused and granted one-third remission of their prison sentences by the Board for Licence on Preventive Detention; how far the Board at Parkhurst is assisted by an advisory committee in London; and who are the members and by whom they are appointed; and what reports the Board receive of the men's records from the police, the welfare officer and the governor.

A prisoner serving a sentence of preventive detention is not eligible for release on licence when two-thirds of the sentence have been served unless he has been admitted to the third stage of the sentence. Admission to the third stage is decided by an advisory board, which sits at Parkhurst and is not assisted or controlled by any other body in London.

The prison rules provide that the advisory board shall consist of three members of the prison's Board of Visitors approved by the Secretary of State, and such other persons not exceeding four as the Secretary of State may appoint; and that the chairman shall be appointed by the Secretary of State.

The Chairman is Mr. Bertram Reece, a Metropolitan magistrate. The members representing the Board of Visitors are Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Brannon, Mr. G. C. Russell, and Lieut.-Colonel F. C. R. Britten. The other members are Mr. Duncan Fairn, Director of Prison Administration; Mr. J. C. V. Lovatt, a principal probation officer; and Captain R. C. Williams, a retired prison commissioner.

The Board is assisted by the Director of the Men's Section of the Central After-Care Association, and has before it all the information about the prisoner that is available in his record and also special reports by the prison governor and his principal subordinates, the medical officer and the chaplain or prison minister.

The number of prisoners who have been released after serving two-thirds of the sentence is 36; the number who were eligible for admission to the third stage but were not selected for it is 207.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that very full reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that a great deal of the unrest at Parkhurst is due to uncertainty about remission of sentences as men approach their discharge? Will he consult the Governor as to whether there is not some procedure by which this unrest can be removed?

If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind and will let me have the particulars, I will see that it is looked into.

Mechanically-Propelled Vehicles (Children Under 16)

53.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps to make it illegal for children under the age of 16 years to drive tractors or other mechanically-propelled vehicles, in view of the fatal accidents recently reported.

While my right hon. and learned Friend shares my hon. Friend's concern about these accidents, he can hold out no hope that time could be found in the near future for legislation.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the problem that arises as a result of these youngsters driving tractors? As these are capable and ambitious lads, whom we cannot afford to lose from the agricultural industry, can he give the matter further consideration?

My right hon. and learned Friend is consulting the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland to see whether anything can be done.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind what has been said by his hon. Friend? Is he aware that mechanisation in the agricultural industry has increased enormously in recent years and that we have reached the stage when measures are necessary to prevent young people under 16 from driving tractors?

No doubt these considerations will be present to the minds of my right hon. Friends in the consultations

Foster Parents (Payments)

54.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many councils deduct family allowances when making payments to foster parents.

Minister Of Defence (Statement)

45.

asked the Prime Minister if the recent statement made by Field Marshal Alexander at Copenhagen regarding the conduct of operations in a possible future war involving Great Britain represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

My noble and gallant Friend made no statement of policy whilst in Copenhagen. In private conversations he referred to what might happen in a possible future war—in a spirit which should command agreement and certainly spread confidence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a report of this statement which appeared in the "Scotsman" said that this country would bear the heaviest atomic attack in the event of war with Russia, that this country would be knocked out, and would be liberated by Canada and the other Dominions? Is that the sort of thing which inspires confidence in the civilian population in this country?

My noble Friend was indicating that even if the worst that people imagine were to come to pass, we should not give in.

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether a report is to be made to Parliament of a meeting this week between the Danish Minister of Defence and the Minister of Defence of Her Majesty's Government?

Asia (Uk-Us Policy)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement on the points of agreement and difference with the United States of America which have arisen over policy in Asia before and during the Geneva Conference.

The relations of Great Britain with other countries are a matter of constant thought and study and statements upon them are made to Parliament whenever it is thought that the public interest will be served thereby.

Why is the Prime Minister so secretive about all these matters? Why does he never give the House any information?

Why have we to learn what is going on in Indo-China and Geneva from Mr. Dulles and from President Eisenhower's Press conferences? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman told the House something, so that we can have an influence on the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

I am always glad when it falls to my lot and to my duty to make general statements to the House.

Hydrogen And Atom Bomb Tests

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether information has now been received from the United States Government with regard to the hydrogen test series of explosions which took place during March and April; and whether he will make a statement.

I am not prepared as at present advised to give any information beyond that which has appeared in the Press.

In view of the great public concern over the development of the hydrogen bomb, would the Prime Minister consider proposing that there should be a suspension of all hydrogen tests and explosions pending the outcome of the Disarmament Commission, which began its deliberations this morning?

I think we dealt with that at an early stage in the experiments. I have no power to give directions on the subject to the United States or to the Soviet Union.

I did not ask the Prime Minister to give directions. What I asked him was whether he will consider proposing the suspension of these tests?

I do not think it would be much use deciding to propose such a course without some consideration of whether it was likely to be adopted or not.

49.

asked the Prime Minister how many underwater atomic or hydrogen explosions have been recorded by the scientific instruments at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government; and which of them appear to have been connected with experimental explosions by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The answer to this Question would reveal the degree of efficiency of our apparatus for the detection of atomic explosions and this would not be in the public interest.

South-East Asia (Defence)

48.

asked the Prime Minister which are the countries with which Her Majesty's Government are having conversations with regard to a security pact for South-East Asia.

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement regarding the progress of the conversations regarding a South-East Asia security arrangement.

I should be very ready to make a statement on this subject, but the situations at Geneva and in Paris are, at the present time, so uncertain that I think it would be better to wait till next Monday. If the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member will repeat their Questions then, I will give them the fullest answers which are possible.

In view of the fact that the Portuguese have a colony very near Australia, can the Prime Minister say whether anything can be done about that colony in the conversations that will deal with that area?

I should like to make detailed inquiries into these matters before I attempt a public answer.

Indo-China (Diplomatic Exchanges)

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement regarding the consultations which have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Burma regarding the future of Indo-China.

No, Sir. These diplomatic exchanges are confidential. If this confidence were not respected the exchanges would be seriously impaired.

Is it not a fact that the attitude of Burma to a proposed alliance on Asia is vitally important? How can the right hon. Gentleman expect this House to make any assessment of the future policy of the Government unless we are in possession of this vital fact?

I was speaking about our duty to preserve the confidence of those with whom we have had confidential discussions. It is not our business to make them public to the people of Burma over the heads of the Governments concerned.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the visit to this country recently of the Burmese Foreign Minister was extremely welcome to the many people who had the opportunity of meeting him?

52.

asked the Prime Minister what answer Her Majesty's Government has received from the Prime Minister of India in reply to the request for his views on any future guarantees affecting Indo-China.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 10th May on this point.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answers he has just given to Questions Nos. 50 and 52 and consult the Governments concerned to see that we have the maximum amount of information available compatible with the ordinary diplomatic confidences?

Yes, Sir, I am very anxious that the House should be carried along with the Government in any matters of foreign policy, especially as there is such a large measure of agreement on important issues. I do not think we can begin by loosely and curtly publishing documents which were considered to be private and confidential by the Prime Ministers and the Governments to whom we had addressed them.

As the Government of India have just published the essence of their views on this question, why is Her Majesty's Government suppressing the Indian view? Is it because they do not like the views of India on this matter?

Anything the Indian Government have declared publicly is published and might even be read by Members of the House.

The Prime Minister has promised that he will answer Questions Nos. 48 and 51 next Monday. Can we take it for granted that Her Majesty's Government will not commit themselves to any proposal until we in this House have had an opportunity to discuss it?

No, Sir. I certainly would not give any such undertaking. The responsibility in these matters always rests with the Government of the day, and the House can do as it likes with them when all the facts are before it.

As there has been prolonged and what one might describe as hesitant negotiations, discussions, consultations and conversations on this matter, ought we not to be allowed to express our views about the outcome before we are faced with a fait accompli?

I think a statement can be made on Monday which will say all that there is to say on these difficult matters, which are in a very indeterminate position at the present time.

Business Of The House

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 17TH MAY—At the beginning of business my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will move a Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen on her return from her Commonwealth Tour.

Report and Third Reading: Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Bill.

TUESDAY, 18TH MAY—Motion to approve: Report from the Business Committee on the Committee stage of the Television Bill, which is a formal proceeding.

Beginning of Committee stage: Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 19TH MAY—Committee stage>: Television Bill (1st allotted day).

Motion relating to: National Service (Adaptation of Enactments) (Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves) Order.

THURSDAY, 20TH MAY—Committee stage: Television Bill (2nd allotted day).

FRIDAY, 21ST MAY—Private Members' Bills.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there has been a conversation through the usual channels about a further debate on Members' payments in the near future?

I think we had better have today's debate before we start talking about other debates.

I thought it was understood that there was to be a debate today at which we shall have merely expressions of opinion, and that a further debate would take place after that, for which arrangements would be made in due course?

Arrangements can be made in due course, but I hope it is quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman that this is the day which the Government have given for that purpose.

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the third special Report of the Estimates Committee? If so, can he find an opportunity at an early date for the House to discuss the extremely important recommendations set out in the Report?

I have seen a Motion on the Order Paper, but I do not see any chance of finding any time for a debate.

[That Mr. Yates, Mr. Norman Cole, Mr. Horobin, Mr. W. T. Jones, Mr. J. T. Price, Mr. Tomney and Miss Ward have leave of absence to make inquiries on behalf of the House into certain expenditure in connection with the Office of the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Germany and the Embassies in Paris and Rome.]

I take it that the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman about Monday's business is a hope, rather than a decision, that it will be all accomplished in one day? The Secretary of State has a large number of Amendments to the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Bill, and it would seem unlikely that the Report stage and Third Reading will be finished in one day.

I cannot assess the likelihood or unlikelihood of that, but it is certainly not an unreasonable thing to hope will happen.

On the question put by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house) about the Estimates Committee, the Leader of the House referred to a Motion, but I want to ask him why he cannot find time for the Report itself to be considered, which has implications in regard to how this House can have control over expenditure abroad?

The hon. Gentleman probably knows that Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates can be discussed on Supply days.

The question of my hon. Friend raises a point of principle. This is a Report of a Committee of the House and, as I understand, the issue involved is whether or not, respecting certain foreign embassies as to which there is agreement in the Foreign Office, they can take a Commitee Clerk with them, without whom they cannot prepare a proper Report. There is disagreement between some authorities and my hon. Friends. This is a sub-committee of the Estimates Committee over which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman presides, and surely it is right that the House of Commons should seek to resolve this point. It would not take very long.

The only point I was making was that, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Standing Orders, he will see that Supply days are available for Supply business, and also for discussion of any Report from the Select Committee which the House might wish to discuss. When the right hon. Gentleman says that there is some dispute between the authorities of this matter, I can assure him that there is no dispute whatsoever.

I know that a Supply day can be used for anything and that the Government are anxious that it should be used, but since this is a report to the House, and there is a difficulty involved which I think the Estimates Committee would like to see resolved, it is not unreasonable that the Government should supply, say, half a day for the discussion of this business?

Does not my right hon. Friend think it is quite unreasonable to ask the Opposition to give up a Supply day for a discussion of this most important matter, namely, what control the House of Commons has over its own expenditure abroad? It has nothing to do with either the Government or the Opposition; it is a House of Commons matter. Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am extremely surprised at the line he has taken?

I did not quite hear the final words of my hon. Friend. Did she express surprise? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes‡"] It is nothing like the surprise I express at her.

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government have finally jettisoned the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill? Will he perhaps tell us something about that next week at this time?

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the point about the Estimates Committee? Will he bear in mind that this is the second time that the Estimates Committee has drawn attention to the need of this House to discuss the matter, and that it is of considerable importance to the House?

These matters can, of course, be discussed if there is a real desire to discuss them. I was merely pointing out that it is within the power of the Committee of Supply to discuss it on a Supply day, but that does not affect the position that all authorities are quite satisfied that it would be unconstitutional to send abroad any such Committee as an official sub-committee—

That is the point which has been put to me. If the hon. Lady has another point, that is another matter, but all the authorities are agreed that to send abroad a sub-committee of any Committee of this House, formally as such, would be unconstitutional procedure.

But is not the hon. Lady correct in reminding the Lord Privy Seal that as Leader of the House he is concerned with the privileges and rights of this House as a whole? Quite apart from whether it is Government or Opposition or anything else, this is a very important matter which has been raised by a responsible Committee, as to what are the rights of this House in relation to expenditure. It is one of our oldest privileges. Surely it is right that time should be given for discussion.

I really have not anything more to say. I said that these matters could be discussed if the House really felt it wanted them debated. I merely said that it would be rather a fruitless debate when all authorities who can have any information on this matter take the view that such action is unconstitutional.

In relation to the Motion for which my right hon. Friend said it might be difficult to find time, would he make inquiries through the usual channels, because it might be found that it was not a controversial matter and could be taken in an extremely short time, which would give what the Estimates Committee wants and not take up the time of the House?

Members' Expenses

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]

3.39 p.m.

I desire to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Select Committee on Members' Expenses, which was published on 2nd February of this year. I think it right at the beginning of my speech to remind the House of the terms of reference, which were:

"to consider and report upon the extent to which the Members' Fund fulfils, under present conditions, the purposes for which it was set up, and upon the nature and extent of the expenditure incurred by Members of this House in the performance of their duties and also upon the practice of Commonwealth and Foreign Parliaments for meeting comparable expenditure incurred by their Members in this field."
I am sure that I am expressing the feelings of the whole House when I say to the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) how grateful we are to him as Chairman of the Select Committee and to all his colleagues for doing a very difficult job extremely well and with very great efficiency. We note with very great pleasure that the Report which they issued on this very difficult matter of Members' expenses was a unanimous Report, and for that we are very much obliged.

I am sure that the House will bear with me in the difficult task that lies ahead of me for the next 20 minutes or so. My job is to refer to a matter which is personal to us all. When I knew that I was to open this debate, I did some research. I found that of the three major debates that have taken place on this subject, the first, in 1911, was initiated by Mr. David Lloyd George, the second, in 1937, by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, and the third, in 1946, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). This knowledge is not very helpful to me.

I ask the House to bear with me because this is a House of Commons matter. It is not a party matter. It concerns every one of us in one way or another. At the start, I assure every hon. Member that I do not want to say anything that is offensive to anyone, and that I do not want to introduce a partisan note into my speech. I hope that in that respect others who take part in the debate will follow my example.

The first part of the Report concerns the Members' Fund. As a Member who is young in years, I am not one who will benefit from the recommendations contained in paragraph 38 (c) of the Committee's Report. The Committee recommends that service below the age of 40 ought not to be reckoned for pension and that no Member should qualify unless he has at least 10 years' service beyond the age of 45. I am 41 and I have been a Member of this House for the past eight years. If this part of the Report were to be accepted, I should lose seven years' membership and only my last year's service would qualify, but I would willingly sacrifice that if I felt that the adoption of this part of the Report would bring benefit to some of the older Members of this House.

It is surely a scandal that there are hon. Members who have given the best years of the latter part of their lives to the service of the House and who probably sacrificed pension rights when they came here but who, when they leave this House because of ill-health or because of the fortunes of a General Election or the action of a Boundary Commission, have to prove what is tantamount to abject poverty before they can apply for benefit from the Fund. I say, very modestly, that I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not here, because I feel that I could appeal to him in this matter. He is perhaps our greatest House of Commons man. He loves this House and all that it means and all its traditions. Whether one differs from him politically or not, one acknowledges that fact. He must be grieved to think that some hon. Members are in this plight. I hope very much that he will use his important influence in this matter.

I say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House as a whole that if we dismiss this part of the Report and say that we shall not deal with the Members' Fund, the problem will come back again and again until it is finally resolved. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is here. I am sure that he would agree, and that all parties would say, that it is right and proper that industry should provide good pension rights to employees. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour would do all that they could to encourage that trend in industry, but what a poor example we set in this House in dealing with the problem of older Members when we make certain that they are in abject poverty before they can apply for a grant from the Members' Fund. As a young Member who cannot hope to benefit from this part of the Report at this stage, and in fact would lose by it, I welcome the recommendation very much. I hope that we shall not adopt the attitude that this is not very important. It is important, and the least that we can do is to support our older Members.

The next part of the Report relates to expenses that are paid to Members. It can be rightly said that this Report was a best-seller when it was published. There can be very few Members who have not read it. I say quite frankly that Roger Bannister had nothing on me when it came to obtaining a copy of this Report, because I was so anxious to know what it had done and why. The Report has had a great deal of Press publicity. That is as it should be, because this is a matter that concerns the country as much as it concerns us. In addition, the Report has been mentioned on the radio and on television, and there can hardly be a man or woman in this country who is not informed on the subject.

As to Press reaction, I shall not quarrel with any part of the Press. It has every right to say what it likes. A free Press is one of the essentials of democracy. We have a free Press at liberty to say whatever it wants. Some parts of the Press thought that the Report was very good indeed and that it was high time that what it recommended was carried out. Other parts of the Press did not think very much of it. It thought that these were very poor recommendations.

In spite of the enormous publicity given to this Report, I, and I understand the vast majority of hon. Members, never received a single letter from a constituent expressing an opinion one way or the other. I was told that one hon. Member had received a large postbag on the subject. I approached him and he told me that his total postbag was three, one in favour and two against. Perhaps that would be a large postbag in comparison with what other hon. Members received. I also attended some public meetings, two of which were of the "Any Questions" type, and I was not asked a single question on the subject. I want to be perfectly fair on this matter, but 1 do make the point that it is usual, when there is great disagreement over a subject among the public, to find it reflected in our postbags.

After the publication of the Report, I took it upon myself to discuss it with many hon. Members on both sides of the House. I propose to deal with what I regard as the four major objections to the Report that I have heard. The first, made by some hon. Members, was that we should not have had a Committee composed of our fellow Members to make these proposals and that the job should have been done by an outside body. Speaking purely for myself, I would have preferred it to have gone to an outside body. The Members of the Select Committee had a very difficult task. Speaking as a trade unionist, and one familiar with trade union negotiations since the age of 14, I feel that one of the things that would have impressed an outside body when considering this matter would have been that part of the terms of reference relating to the practice of Commonwealth and foreign Parliaments. What I think would have impressed an outside body is what is paid to members of other Parliaments.

Comparing like with like, as I think any outside body would have done, and certainly as is done in the trade union movement in trying to arrive at a fair rate for the job, I am convinced that an outside body would have recommended very much higher expenses payments to hon. Members than have been suggested by our Committee. That is only a personal opinion and I may be wrong, but I would remind the House that even if we had had an outside body discussing this matter and coming to conclusions, its report would have come back for consideration on the Floor of this House. We would still have had this debate on the report of an outside committee because, as the Keeper of the Queen's Purse, we would have had to decide whether extra money should be paid to hon. Members for expenses.

The second point is that this is a matter which should not be decided now but should be deferred until after the next General Election. It is said that this Government and this House have no mandate and, therefore, should not implement any increase for hon. Members until the electorate has had a chance of discussing the matter and expressing its views. I can quite understand hon. Members saying that, and I want to call in aid the words of Mr. Neville Chamberlain, when he was Prime Minister in 1937. I shall not bore the House with a long quotation. He was introducing a Motion to increase hon. Members' expenses payments from £400 to £600. At that time there was an Amendment which asked that the matter should be deferred until after the next General Election. I think the House would agree that Mr. Chamberlain's words are pertinent today. He said:
"… I notice on the Order Paper an Amendment the effect of which w