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Written Answers

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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Written Answers To Questions

Monday, 17th May, 1954

War Prisoners, Spandau (Treatment)

1

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what approaches have been made to the four controlling Powers for the release or transfer of one or more of the Spandau prisoners for hospital treatment; which prisoners are involved; and what major operation is contemplated in each case.

I am not clear whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to appeals before or after the agreement of 29th April. Since that date there has been no appeal, to the knowledge ofHer Majesty's Government. As to the past, appeals have been made from time to time but, as my right hon. Friend said on 31st March, he is not prepared to give particulars.

British Citizens (Us Television Shows)

9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of occasions on which his Department have arranged for British citizens to undertake visits to the United States of America to take part in sponsored television shows; and if he will name the persons concerned.

The British Information Services do not normally undertake to arrange visits of British citizens to the United States purely for the purpose of their taking part in television shows, whether sponsored or not. Television is, however, an accepted part of publicity arrangements in the United States, and the British Information Services have on many occasions introduced distinguished British visitors to television networks.

Ministry Of Food

Slaughterhouse, Bolton (Construction)

17

asked the Minister of Food whether he will approve the site for a new slaughterhouse at Chew Moor suggested by the Bolton Corporation, and authorise the corporation to proceed with the construction of the slaughterhouse.

This must await a decision on the report of the inter-Departmental committee now sitting to consider the general question of the future siting of slaughterhouses.

Cold Storage Plant

18 and 19.

asked the Minister of Food (1) the exact nature of the undertaking given by the Government to the cold storage industry in 1940, to the effect that Government-owned cold storage plant then being erected would not be used to compete with privately-owned cold stores; and if he still adheres to this pledge;(2) his policy with regard to the employment of cold-storage plant owned by the Government, now that his Department will shortly cease to be responsible for purchasing food.

I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the specific undertakings given to the industry. Briefly, the Government undertook among other things not to use these cold stores in unfair competition with the industry. I am anxious that the best use should be made of them consistently with these assurances and discussions on this basis are about to be opened with the industry.

Helicopters (Research Expenditure And Development)

24

asked the Minister of Supply how much money his Department has spent on rotary wing research in each year since 1945.

It is a well-established practice not to publish detailed figures showing how the total sum voted for research and development is subdivided among various projects.However, I recognise that there is considerable public interest in helicopters at this time and, since I am satisfied that security in other fields would not be prejudiced thereby, I propose to make an exception on this occasion.

The sums paid by the Ministry of Supply to industry for research and development work on helicopters are as follow:

Financial year

£
1945–46nil
1946–47115,000
1947–48180,000
1948–49127,000
1949–50280,000
1950–51192,000
1951–52289,000
1952–53573,000
1953–54(estimated)1,256,000

In the year 1954–55 expenditure is likely to increase to more than £2½ million.

From these figures it will be seen that the amount spent by the Government on helicopter development was doubled in 1952, doubled again in 1953 and is being doubled once again this year.

In addition, substantial research work is being undertaken in Ministry of Supply establishments.

25

asked the Minister of Supply what progress is being made with the development of a helicopter for regular United Kingdom passenger services.

Two prototypes of the Bristol 173 helicopter, which has twin piston engines are undergoing development trials. Further prototypes are in course of construction. A production order has been placed for about 100 of the military version of this aircraft.The Bristol Aeroplane Company is planning a larger type with gas turbine engines, capable of carrying up to 27 passengers.In addition, the Fairey Company are developing a 40-seater helicopter of entirely novel design. The forward propulsion is to be provided by propellers, while the vertical lift is provided by rotors powered by jet units at the tips. A small research helicopter incorporating these principles has been flying successfully for several months. A large-scale prototype is under construction.A third type of research helicopter is under construction by the Percival Aircraft Company. This embodies another form of torqueless drive which might be applicable for civil passenger aircraft.

Work on helicopters at all three firms is being extensively supported by development contracts from the Ministry of Supply.

Pensions And National Insurance

Japanese Assets (Prisoner Of War)

26

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will ensure that all former British prisoners of war, irrespective of their place of residence, will have their share of any second distribution of the proceeds of Japanese assets in the United Kingdom.

The qualification of residence in the United Kingdom was laid down by the last Government and followed by the present Government. My right hon. Friend is not at present convinced that any alteration is necessary

Old-Age Pensioners

28

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what factors he bore in mind when he last assessed the needs of old-age pensioners; and whether his assessment of the pension adequate to meet the needs of old-age pensioners included possible expenditure on butter.

All relevant factors, including movements of the Interim Index of Retail Prices, were taken into consideration when the rates of retirement pension were increased in 1952; butter is one of the items in the Index.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many people in the borough of Barry were in receipt of old-age pensions, and what number of them were in receipt of National Assistance supplements, at the latest convenient date.

I regret that separate figures for the borough of Barry are not available.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what number of people in the county of Glamorgan were in receipt of old-age pensions, and what number of them were in receipt of National Assistance supplements at the latest convenient date.

I regret that information about the number of retirement pensioners is not available for particular localities.I am informed by the National Assistance Board that at 30th March, 1954, the Board's offices in Glamorgan, which cover some territory outside the county, were paying about 7,000 non-contributory pensions, of which nearly 4,000 were being supplemented by regular weekly payments of National Assistance, and that nearly 38,000 retirement pensioners were also receiving regular weekly grants of National Assistance.

Ageing Ex-Service Men (Report)

31

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether the expert medical committee under the chairmanship of Sir Ernest Rock Carling considering matters relating to ageing ex-Service men has yet made its report; what report the committee has made on the relationship between arterial diseases and amputations; and what action is to be taken on the matter.

National Finance

Exports To Belgian Congo (Foreign Currency)

asked the Economic Secretary to the Treasury what action the Government intend taking to prevent loss of foreign currency resulting from exports to the Belgian Congo which have not been paid for.

I am not aware of any such loss, but I shall be glad to look into any case which my hon. Friend may bring to my notice.

Inland Revenue Activities (Apologies)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how many apologies he has made recently to com- panies and individuals for the activities of the Board of Inland Revenue.

None. If the hon. Member has in mind the correspondence with the Institute of Directors, to which he refers in his Oral Question No. 45 today I would point out that my letter said that the Board of Inland Revenue regretted the action taken by a particular tax office in a particular case, relating to matters which went far beyond entertainment expenses, and involving a request for information already in the possession of the Board.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (Directors' Obligations)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the duties and responsibilities of the directors appointed by Her Majesty's Government to the board of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

In addition to the ordinary functions of company directors, they have a general obligation to report on all matters, financial or general, which they consider should be referred to, or brought to the notice of, Her Majesty's Government.

Ministry Of Health

Gynaecological Treatment, Birmingham

asked the Minister of Health how many women are on waiting lists for gynaecological treatment at hospitals in the Birmingham Region; how many of these are on waiting lists and what is the average waiting period at hospitals in north Staffordshire.

On 31st March, 1954, the latest date for which complete figures are available, 4,512 patients were awaiting admission for gynaecological treatment at hospitals in the Birmingham Region, and of these 581 were awaiting admission to the hospitals in the Stoke-on-Trent Group. The average waiting period during 1953 was 2½ months at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary and 5 months at the City General Hospital. Stoke.

Dentists

asked the Minister of Health how many dentists engage in private practice only; and what proportion this is of the total number of dentists in the country.

I regret that exact information is not available. The proportion is believed to be very small.

British Army

Other Ranks (Manual Of Military Law)

asked the Secretary of State for War what are the present arrangements for making it possible for an other rank in the Army to consult the Manual of Military Law; and whether information as to how to see a copy is made available in regimental orders.

The Manual of Military Law is distributed down to company level and soldiers wishing to refer to it should ask to do so at their company office. If requested, their platoon or company officer would assist them. Information on this point is not, therefore, included in regimental orders nor is this considered necessary.

Orders To Soldiers (Obeyance)

asked the Secretary of State for War the appropriate procedure to be adopted by an other rank in the Army who receives orders from a senior non-commissioned officer or commissioned officer to do an act which he deems to be illegal; and what steps are taken to inform the other rank of his rights and dailies in such circumstances.

Under military law, the duty of a soldier is to obey any order that is not unlawful. If the order is manifestly unlawful, the soldier is justified in questioning the order or in refusing to obey it. Otherwise, if the order requires immediate compliance, he should obey it and, if he thinks fit, complain afterwards; if the order does not necessitate immediate compliance, he can make a formal complaint in the interim period. The soldier does, however, refuse to obey any order at his peril; if he is brought to trial, it is no defence that he thought unlawful an order which is subsequently decided to be lawful.Since the giving of unlawful orders is of rare occurrence and it is obviously undesirable in a disciplined force to encourage the questioning of orders received, no instructions are given which might suggest to a soldier that he would be likely to receive unlawful orders. In accordance with Queen's Regulations, paragraph 531, the soldier is ordinarily instructed as to the purport of Sections 4 to 44 of the Army Act.

Troops' Next-Of-Kin (Death)

asked the Secretary of State for War if, upon the death of a parent or near relative of a soldier serving overseas a request is made that the military authorities should notify the soldier of such death, it is the custom of his Department to accede to such a request; and what charge is made in respect of any signal or other communication.

Normally the family in-form the soldier and may use the special C.S.N. telegrams which next-of-kin can send at United Kingdon inland rates to a soldier wherever he is serving. If exceptionally, for example, where compassionate leave is also involved, the military authorities send a signal, no charge is made.

Public Nuisance, Portishead

asked the Attorney-General if he will now take action against Messrs. Albright and Wilson to stop certain nuisances at Portishead, in view of the long-standing nature of the complaints, and repeated assurances that such nuisances would not take place; and what information his Department has to show that the fumes concerned are dangerous to the health of the people.

I have now under consideration an application by the Portishead Urban District Council that I should institute civil proceedings against this company in respect of a public nuisance. I do not think it would be proper for me to disclose at this stage the nature of the evidence which has been submitted to me.

Roads (Wet Weather Accidents)

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what statistics he has of road accidents during wet weather on the various types of road surfaces used on the main and minor roads in this country; and if he will publish them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.