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Commons Chamber

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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House Of Commons

Monday, 17th May, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Falmouth Docks Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.

British Transport Commission Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

London County Council (Money) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Nato And Ussr Armed Forces

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how the strength of the armed forces under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation compares with that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

It is not the practice of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to disclose the detailed strength of its armed forces, but I would remind my hon. Friend of recent statements by the Supreme Allied Commander that our military effectiveness in Europe is about three times as strong today as it was in 1951. If my hon. Friend will compare this estimate with the figures given to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) on 10th May, he will find this is not an unsatisfactory increase, though much remains to be done.

Soviet Embassy Attachés (Espionage)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement concerning the decision to expel two Soviet Embassy personnel from this country.

I informed the Soviet Ambassador on 7th May that two Assistant Military Air Attachés at the Soviet Embassy, Major Pupyshev and Major Gudkov, had abused their diplomatic status in the United Kingdom by attempting to engage in espionage and that Major Pupyshev had been delected in a blatant attempt to suborn a serving officer of Her Majesty's Forces. I am glad to add that Major Pupyshev's attempt was unsuccessful and that the British officer whom he tried to suborn behaved in an exemplary manner. Major Gudkov made at least three attempts to recruit agents.

While complimenting my right hon. and learned Friend on the promptness and the expedition with which this problem was handled by the Foreign Office, may I ask whether he is aware that a powerful fifth column exists in the shop stewards movement of this country? Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that our security measures are such that Communist shop stewards in this country have not access to secret processes or information which would be of value to the Soviet Union?

I think that the question of what Communists in this country have or have not access to is not a matter for the Foreign Office. As to the category of persons referred to in the Question and answer, I think that the security services did a very good job of work.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any evidence that shop stewards are predominantly Communists?

South-East Asia (Defence)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received from the Indian Government to his communication regarding Indian support for a settlement in Indo-China.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 10th May and to replies given to him and other hon. Members on this point on 13th May by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

How much longer is this matter going to be kept secret by the Government? In view of the fact that the Indian Government themselves have issued a statement on this question and have made it quite clear that they are not prepared to underwrite any settlement in Indo-China which is not agreed by all the parties, what is the reason for keeping it dark?

If the Indian Government have already stated that position publicly, nothing is being kept dark. What Her Majesty's Government object to is that when we are being constantly urged to engage in consultations particularly with the Asian members of the Commonwealth, we should be expected to make public the nature of the conversations.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he has received from the Governments of India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and Indonesia regarding the formation of a regional security organisation for South-East Asia.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has informed the House, these diplomatic exchanges are confidential and if the confidence were not respected the exchanges would be seriously impaired. Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to maintaining a full and frank exchange of views with the Asian countries concerned, especially on matters concerning the security of South-East Asia, and I am sure that hon. Members would not wish Her Majesty's Government to remove the necessary basis of confidence which makes such an exchange of views possible.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman capable at all of giving a plain answer to a plain question? Will he tell the House whether any of these countries have made any proposal for the formation of a South-East Asia military security organisation?

I am not prepared to tell the House what confidential proposals have or have not been made.

It is certainly untrue that these countries have failed to answer with regard to the question of South-East Asia security.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the informal discussions with the Governments of the United States of America and other countries concerning an interim collective security arrangement for South-East Asia.

I would ask the hon. Member to await the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making to Questions Nos. 40 and 44.

Suez Canal (Shipping Restrictions)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the Security Council of the United Nations has completed its consideration of the complaint by the Israeli Government in regard to the illegal stopping of ships by Egypt in the Suez Canal; and if he will make a statement.

It became clear during the course of the debate in the Security Council that Egypt was not prepared to comply with the Council's 1951 Resolution calling upon her to terminate her restrictions on the passage of international shipping and goods through the Suez Canal. A further draft Resolution calling upon her to comply with the 1951 Resolution was accordingly introduced by New Zealand and put to the vote on 29th March. Voting was eight to two in favour of the Resolution (with one abstention) but as the Soviet Union voted against, the Resolution failed to carry.

Although the use of the veto in these circumstances is to be deplored, it in no way affects the validity of the 1951 Resolution, and I trust that the Egyptian Government will not remain indifferent to the weight of feeling expressed against them on this issue during the recent debate.

If the Egyptian Government refuse to carry out the 1951 Resolution and defy the United Nations Organisation in this respect, is no action of any kind to be taken against them?

I quite agree that the refusal to comply with the Resolution of the United Nations in this question is a very serious matter. When the blockade appeared likely to be extended before Christmas last year the matter was again taken before the United Nations, and it is a fact that the extensions have not since been carried out.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that the question is based not so much on the Israeli position as on the fact that the Suez Canal is an international highway and has been recognised as such for a long time?

Is it not the case that the Egyptian Government had obligations in this matter long before U.N.O. came into being? Are not they in breach of their solemn contract?

In the view of Her Majesty's Government they have no legal right to take this action.

Is the House to take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman implies that the Egyptian Government took a different view of their legal obligations prior to the inception of the United Nations? If there is a dispute as to the proper interpretation of the treaties, are not steps open to us to have the dispute resolved?

It is quite correct that the Egyptian Government adopt a legal view of the position quite irrespective of that of the United Nations. The matter to which the hon. Member refers certainly bears consideration.

Genocide Convention (Ratifications)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many nations have now ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; and whether Her Majesty's Government will now ratify the covenant.

Forty-three States have now ratified or acceded to the Convention on Genocide. As regards Her Majesty's Government's position, I have nothing to add to the statement which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary made in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) on 11th November.

Is the right hon. and: learned Gentleman aware of the fact that our attitude in this matter is regarded as an unsatisfactory one and is, in effect, delaying the carrying into effect of a convention of which we approved? Will he say when he proposes to consider the legal' position, so that, even if technical reservations have to be introduced, we can accept the Convention with such reservations?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's question, I think that we have made our attitude towards the crime of genocide perfectly clear by performance as well as words. So far as the legal aspect is concerned, we do not believe in adhering to a convention unless we are prepared to bring in all the necessary legislation to define precisely the crimes which are referred to. That legislation is somewhat complicated, and there is also the question of finding time for it in the legislative programme.

But the right hon. and learned Gentleman said a year ago, and several years ago, that this matter was under consideration. Is it not time that this terrible crime was banned officially by us? Why does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduce the necessary legislation?

There are many difficulties involved. One is that it extends the number of crimes to which the death penalty applies, and it is a question whether it is desirable to do that when steps are being taken to consider the whole question of the death penalty. The matter is one of considerable complication.

Saudi Arabian Oil (Shipping Agreement)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the agreement entered into between the Saudi Arabian Government and Mr. Aristotle Socratis Onassis with regard to the transport of oil which will debar British shipping from participation in this trade; and, in view of the unfair discrimination against British interests, whether he will make representations to protect British shipping.

I understand that an agreement has been made, but the text has not yet been published. If it is confirmed that the agreement will result in discrimination against British shipping, I will certainly consider what steps can usefully be taken.

In taking this matter into consideration, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also bear in mind that if discrimination does result it is likely to cost Great Britain £10 million in invisible exports, in addition to the considerable work which might be lost to British shipyards?

Her Majesty's Government absolutely agree, and wish to make it quite clear that flag discrimination in peace-time is contrary to the best interests of international commerce and to the long-established practice of traditional maritime nations.

Is it not surprising—not only in regard to this but to other matters which have already been raised at Question time today—that the Government appear to be doing nothing? Why this inactivity? What would have happened if a Labour Government had been in power?

I imagine that if a Labour Government had been in power they would have been prodded by the Opposition. That is the duty of an Opposition. This is a serious matter, and there are many ways in which we can seek to bring pressure to bear upon other nations. I do not imagine that many hon. Members opposite would be in favour of going to war on an issue of this sort.

Germany (Occupation Costs)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the monthly quota of occupation costs to which Her Majesty's Government are entitled from the Federal German Re public; and how much of this quota has been taken up in recent months.

Occupation costs, which are provided for all the Allied Powers, amount to DM. 600 million— about £50 million—a month. Within this total the allocations made by the Allied High Commission to the various Powers are confidential. In the case of Her Majesty's Government, they meet British requirements and are fully taken up.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say to what extent the 600 million marks monthly is not being taken up jointly by the Allied Powers?

So far as I know, it is being fully taken up. Certainly the British quota is being fully taken up.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what negotiations are being conducted with the Federal German Republic with a view to ending the payment of occupation costs in respect of British troops in Germany.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the present arrangement comes to an end in a few weeks' time? What is being done to provide for the future and to ensure that the British taxpayer shall not find himself saddled with an obligation of another £100 million a year as from 1st July next?

That is a rather different question from the precise form of words in the Question on the Order Paper, which I have answered. Negotiations are proceeding with regard to the total de-fence contribution after the coming into force of the E.D.C. agreement.

May we take it from what the Minister of State has said that there will be no reduction in the German contribution to British Government costs until the Bonn Treaties have been ratified by all the necessary countries?

How soon can the Minister give the House some information about the way in which this very large item of expenditure is to be borne?

The first question is to see whether there is another period after 30th June this year.

Mr Roger Bannister (Visit To United States)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements were made by the British Information Service in New York for the appearance of Mr. Roger Bannister in a television programme sponsored by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

The British Information Services, New York, were asked by a producer of programmes to transmit an invitation to Mr. Bannister to appear on television. The Foreign Office were glad to ask Mr. Bannister to accept this invitation as it was felt that nothing but good to Anglo-American relations would result. At the time it was thought that no difficulties over Mr. Bannister's amateur status would arise from his undertaking a visit from which he himself would receive no personal gain.

After arrangements had been made for Mr. Bannister's journey, some doubt arose on the ground that his appearance was to be on a sponsored programme. The rules on status vary from sport to sport (and appear about as complicated as those relating to offices of profit under the Crown). In the circumstances, it was decided that it would be wiser for him not to appear in that particular programme. Her Majesty's Government have assumed full financial responsibility for his visit.

The visit has been an outstanding success. I have a long list with me of the various radio and television appearances which he made, and his other public engagements. He received a great welcome in New York and says he thoroughly enjoyed his visit, and I am sure that it has been a very good thing for Anglo-American relations.

Did the Foreign Office know at the time that Mr. Bannister's reputation was going to be exploited by sponsored television to make money for a tobacco company, although the gentleman is not a smoker? Does not that show the dangers of sponsored television, and will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us an assurance that when we have sponsored television he will not bring over here an American athlete to boost Scotch whisky although he may not be a whisky drinker?

Appearances on sponsored television are a recognised form of publicity in the United States. I am quite certain that many hon. Members have appeared on sponsored television without being contaminated thereby.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that this episode will increase the wish of the British public to have commercial TV foisted on them?

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should introduce his monopolistic feelings or his spleen against commercial television into a matter of this sort.

Ministry Of Food

Tinned Milk Stocks (Disposal)

15.

asked the Minister of Food if he can yet state the decision reached, following consultation with both sides of the milk industry, on the disposal of stocks of evaporated milk, full cream condensed milk and skimmed condensed milk.

The trade has agreed to take over a substantial part of these stocks but they will be disposed of gradually to avoid dislocating the home manufacturing and marketing programme.

Sausages (Meat Content)

16.

asked the Minister of Food if he will make a statement indicating the results of the inquiry into the meat content of sausages.

21.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make provision to ensure good standards of meat content in sausages.

The results of the inquiry are being examined in consultation with the appropriate trade organisations, and I hope to be able to make a statement in due course.

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciate that there is evidence that as more meat is available less is going into some sausages? There are many good manufacturers who resent the fact that there are backsliders. Will he, if he wants to go down in history as a great man, try to solve the sausage mystery?

If I were to solve the sausage mystery, I should go down in history as a great man. However, what, I think, the hon. Gentleman wants to know is this. All the public health authorities have been circulated to let us know what has happened since the decontrol of meat content, and we have had replies from about 260. The inquiries show that, on the average, the meat content is up since decontrol. There is, of course, a very great difference of opinion amongst public analysts. Some think 50 per cent, meat content is sufficient, and others that 65 per cent, is right. One goes so far as to think the content should be 75 per cent. However, I am looking into this matter, and will make a statement as soon as I can.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, if he solves the sausage mystery, he will lighten the work of the courts?

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend do something through the manufacturers or others to try to get them to make sausages that taste like sausages as well as look like sausages?

The trouble with sausages, of course, is that there are so many different tastes, even in one family, that I think that a standard sausage would be extremely unpopular. I am asking the manufacturers and other interests concerned to meet me as soon as possible to discuss the result of the inquiry with them.

Fruit And Vegetables (Distribution)

20.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to improve the distribution of fruit and vegetables.

As the hon. Member well knows, there is no quick or easy way of improving the present system, and I cannot usefully add to what I have already said on past occasions.

In view of the fact that the main difficulty was that of capital expenditure, and in view of the improved position now, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman energetically look at this matter?

I am always prepared to look at this question, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is an extremely difficult one. The capital expenditure involved is very considerable, as he knows.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consult the Minister of Agriculture, and consider whether the time is not opportune for setting up a Royal Commission to go into the whole question of horticultural marketing? There have been a number of Departmental investigations, but surely a Royal Commission might do some very useful work?

I am prepared to consider anything, for this is a matter of some importance, but over the last 30 years there have been a large number of inquiries into this extremely difficult question. There is a good deal of exaggeration in the matter, and there are also a tremendous number of interests to be consulted before I can go any further, but I will certainly have a look at it.

Long-Term Contracts

22.

asked the Minister of Food what representations have been made to him regarding the continuance of those long-term contracts for the procurement of foodstuffs still in force.

The only recent representations on long-term contracts still in force have been on West African vegetable oils and oilseeds, for which the marketing boards concerned have proposed, and we have agreed, the termination of the contracts at 30th June, 1954, and on New Zealand meat which the Ministry of Food will, by mutual agreement, cease to purchase 12 months earlier than the long-term contract provided. Discussions about the marketing under decontrol of Australian milk products during the last 12 months of the long-term contract are now proceeding, and parallel discussions about New Zealand milk products will open later this month.

Sikorsky S56 Helicopter

23.

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent he is assisting the progress made in the production of the Sikorsky S.56 30–40 seater helicopter, which could be made in this country, in view of the fact that there is an indication that it will meet the need of an economic proposition in the development of this form of air transport.

If the hon. Member will let me know what kind of assistance to production he has in mind, I shall be happy to consider it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not of the opinion that this S.56 is years ahead of any other type of helicopter capable of carrying from 30 to 40 passengers, and would he not consider as soon as practicable acquiring some of these helicopters and handing them over to B.E.A.C. for development and group flying experience before it is too late?

I think that is rather an involved proposal, but I shall be glad to consider it. A few days ago the hon. Gentleman gave notice that he proposed to raise the whole matter on the Adjournment. That would seem to me to be a more suitable occasion to go into detailed questions.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that, whereas there are six Ministers here now, on the Adjournment there would be only the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, and that I hope that other Ministers will not shelter under his umbrella?

The Question that the hon. Gentleman asked, on which he gave notice he would raise the matter on the Adjournment, was almost identical to this one.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind very valuable flying data in connection with helicopters has been obtained from the S.51 services operated by B.E.A.C. on such routes as Birmingham to Northolt and Liverpool to Cardiff? Why has there been a cessation in the last 12 months of those experimental flights? Could we not continue with the S.55, for instance, as a preliminary to the machine mentioned in this. Question?

Will my right hon. Friend ensure and give an undertaking that if the S.56 is to be used here it will be made in this country and not acquired from the United States?

Pensions And National Insurance

War Pensions

27.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if his attention has been drawn to the inadequacy of the war disablement pension, particularly for those who are in receipt of the 100 per cent, pension and for war widows; and what are now the prospects of raising such pensions.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Brigadier J. G. Smyth)

There is nothing I can usefully add to what I said on this subject in the debate on the Adjournment on 8th February and in reply to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) on 5th April.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that there is wide discontent amongst branches of the British Legion and generally among disabled ex-Service men, and does he not think it is time for action to be taken to raise the pension rates to increase the pensioners' purchasing power?

I am aware, of course, that a pensions campaign has been in progress. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said on 8th February:

"My right hon. Friend sincerely hopes that during the life of the present Government our national situation will improve to such an extent that it may become possible to do something more for war pensioners and their dependants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February. 1954; Vol. 523, c. 972.]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said on 12th April:
"It must not be thought that because a particular reform is not in the Budget it is therefore not in the mind of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 918.]

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that a few days ago the annual conference of B.L.E.S.M.A.—the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association—a moderate and modest body, expressed disappointment that the Government have not met the claims, which have received support from both sides of the House? Cannot the Minister do something now instead of waiting for the quinquennial review?

I am aware, of course, that the purchasing value of the 100 per cent, pension is only 4s. 6d. a week more now than it was when the Government took office in October, 1951. My right hon. Friend has that point very much in mind.

Will my hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind that there is a very considerable measure of support for this plea on both sides of the House, and will he once again look into the possibility of ensuring at least that the battle casualties receive complete priority over everybody else?

Widows' Pensions

29.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what consideration is his Department giving to the question of raising the standard rates of pensions for widows; and what possibilities there are for granting increases.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mr. R. H. Turton)

The standard rate of pensions for widows under the National Insurance Acts is included in the consideration to be given to the level of all pensions and benefits. With regard to the second part of the Question, I cannot add anything to the statement I made to the House on 19th March.

Is the Minister not aware that these widows, like old-age pensioners, are finding great difficulty in living on their present rates owing to the policy of the Government of seeking to ration by the purse? Is it not time that the Government got away from such a policy, in the interests of these unfortunate people?

I remind the hon. Member that, in my statement on 19th March, I said:

"It is indeed our aim that, should the finances and the economics of the country permit, the level of benefits and pensions should be restored without delay to the level which they had when the National Insurance Scheme was introduced."—(OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 816.]

Pneumoconiosis

30.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many applications have been made to the medical boards for death certificates in respect of pneumoconiosis during the past year; how many have been granted; and what are the numbers in respect of those who had been employed in the coal mining industry in Wales.

In 1953, the Silicosis Medical Board dealt with 537 applications for death certificates for the purposes of schemes made under the Workmen's Compensation Acts; in 397 cases the Board certified that death had been caused by the disease. Under the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Scheme of 1952, 394 awards of death benefit were made in 1953 for deaths from pneumoconiosis, and 159 applications were rejected because the Silicosis Medical Board certified that death was not due to the disease. Separate figures are not available for the coal-mining industry in Wales.

In view of the disparity between the figures of applications to medical boards in respect of death from pneumoconiosis and the number of certificates granted, and the large number of cases in which there has been a refusal to grant certificates and the differing views of medical men at inquests as to the cause of death, will the Minister cause an investigation to be made into this aspect of pneumoconiosis?

If the hon. Member studies the figures I have given, I think he will find that there is not that great difference between the numbers.

Is the Minister aware that, in the case of the Sheffield pneumoconiosis panel, there has been a fall in the proportion of claims for benefit accepted by the Board in 1953 compared with 1952, and that this has caused concern? May there not be a case for an inquiry into the methods of diagnosis?

I do not think the hon. Member is referring to the figures I have given in answer to the Question. Claims under the Industrial Injuries Act are dealt with not by boards, but by insurance officers.

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that, at inquests, when death has been thought to be due to pneumoconiosis, very frequently in South Wales the medical men have said that death has been caused by pneumoconiosis but the medical board has later said otherwise?

I am aware that dissatisfaction has been felt on the question of coroners' inquests and medical boards. My right hon. Friend is at present in discussions with the Home Secretary on this matter, and I understand that during the Committee proceedings on the Mines and Quarries Bill my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power also undertook to raise the matter with the Home Secretary. I think it had better be left there.

Fuel And Power

Trolley Buses, London (Replacement)

32.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what estimate he has formed of the additional fuel oil consumption that will be entailed in a full year consequent upon the decision to replace approximately 1,800 London electric trolley buses by diesel-powered vehicles, and of the effect upon the load-factor of power-houses in the Greater London area following diminution of the road traction electricity demand, notably at off-peak hours.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
(Mr. L. W. Joynson-Hicks)

About 28,000 tons of diesel oil, with negligible effect on the electricity load factor in Greater London.

In view of the fuel aspect of this matter, and in view of my right hon. Friend's responsibilities under Section 1 of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, does my hon. Friend consider it judicious to swing over from low-grade indigenous fuel burnt at power houses to imported fuel? In view of our very large investment at the present time in electric power houses, is not this decision by a nationalised authority inimical to the national interest?

No, I do not think it is at all inimical to the national interest.

Is not the overriding factor the easing of the flow of London traffic? If the experts take the view that by switching over in this way the traffic of London will be to some extent relieved, that should be the overriding consideration.

I would not say that that was the sole factor, but it certainly is an important factor.

Does my hon. Friend realise that whatever is done in London is likely also to have a considerable influence on the provinces? Is he aware that in Brighton, for instance, discussions are at present taking place because of what is happening in London? Will my hon. Friend bear this in mind with regard to the possible increase in fuel used over the whole country?

Yes, Sir, certainly. The situation in London is different from anywhere else in the country, because nearly 50 per cent, of the trolley bus electricity is drawn from the London Transport Executive's power houses. It is for that reason, owing to the demand on those generating plants for electricity for railway traction, that the load factor is actually improved by the removal of the trolley buses.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of this decision by a nationalised authority, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Oil (Industrial Power)

33.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent refining capacity for oil and oil producers has increased in the United Kingdom since 1945, expressed percentum and in tons per annum; to what extent fuel oil has increasingly, or otherwise, been employed since 1945 to date as a substitute for coal in furnishing the sources of industrial power; and what the policy of Her Majesty's Government is in relation to substitution of oil for coal, in the future.

Elevenfold, from 2½ million tons in 1945 to about 28 million today. The extent to which fuel oil has replaced coal for industrial purposes cannot be firmly estimated but total inland deliveries of fuel oil have increased from 0·2 to 3·8 million tons during the period and it may be assumed that this represents a current annual saving of about 6 million tons of coal. Her Majesty's Government offer loans to industrialists who can make worthwhile savings by changing from coal to oil burning.

What about domestic consumers? Can my hon. Friend undertake to give guidance to a large number of householders and commercial concerns who urgently want to know, in present circumstances and in view of the low quality of much of the coal that is available to them, whether it is likely to be successful for them to switch over to oil? Will he give an undertaking to investigate this aspect of the matter?

My right hon. Friend's fuel efficiency branch is always out to be helpful.

Does the Minister realise that the public need no help from the Government on this? They have already made up their minds and are burning oil just as fast as they can get the mechanism.

Coal Imports

34.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much coal was imported in the year to 30th April, 1954, and at what total cost; what were the countries of origin; how much of the coal imports came from East or West Germany or Poland; and how much more coal he proposes to import, or has already consented to import, during the period 1st May, 1954, to 30th April, 1955.

Approximately 792,000 tons at a landed cost of about £5 million, the main sources being Belgium, France and Western Germany. None came from Eastern Germany, 67,000 tons came from Western Germany and 2,300 tons from Poland. Under present arrangements approximately 200,000 tons have yet to come in. My right hon. Friend has not yet announced any future import programme.

In view of the fact that the whole of this imported coal is being sold by the National Coal Board at a substantial loss, can my hon. Friend say to what extent the losses, either already incurred or envisaged, have been taken into account by the Coal Board in its recent and latest increase in the price of domestic coal?

The losses on imported coal are part of the items which make up the budget which has recently been dealt with by the National Coal Board's rise in prices.

Is my hon. Friend really satisfied that the importation of this coal is necessary?

Yes, Sir. It is in pursuance of the policy announced by my right hon. Friend on 13th July.

Domestic Coal (Delivery Notes)

35.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in order to safeguard the interests of consumers, he will take steps to ensure that retail merchants of domestic fuel supply with each delivery of fuel a receipt showing clearly the grade and price per hundredweight.

Retail merchants are already required to supply delivery notes specifying the price and the grade of the coal when deliveries exceed 2 cwts.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some retailers are not doing that and that if the consumer has a grievance about the quality, price or quantity it will be difficult to get redress? Will he therefore inform retailers that it its an offence not to give a receipt?

As the hon. Gentleman has said, it is an offence not to supply delivery notes in those circumstances, and I have no doubt that his Question and my answer will call attention to the fact if it is not being carried out at present.

Polish Coal

36.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that 250,000 tons of coal are being imported from Poland; and if, in view of the effect of this on our trade balance and the fact that there is unlimited coal in Britain, ne will in future refuse to give his authority for such imports.

37.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much Polish coal is being imported this year; what is the total cost of such coal and by whom is it borne; and what proportion of those imports has to date been carried in British ships.

The National Coal Board have contracted to buy 100,000 tons of Polish coal. About 4,800 tons have so far arrived carried in two Polish ships. I am not prepared to state the terms of the contract, which was based on commercial considerations. My right hon. Friend considers applications for such imports in the light of the circumstances at the time.

Will the Minister inaugurate an educational campaign among miners to tell them that Britain is the one country that cannot become self-supporting, that our survival depends on our ability to export goods and services at competitive prices, of which coal could be a major factor, and that unless we can do that there will be no wages for the miner or anybody else?

I think the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers have already made the general sense of that observation quite plain throughout the coalfields.

Is the Minister aware that the miners need no education from hon. Members opposite? Would the hon. Gentleman indicate why, since it is a Government decision to import this coal, the National Coal Board should have to make good the loss, and that that should be used as an argument against further wage increases for the miners? Further, might I ask him why this coal is not being carried in British ships?

The reason why it is not being carried in British ships is because the quotations for these two shiploads were lower than any others, but I am happy to say that further charters have been entered into at competitive prices with some British ships.

My hon. Friend said in his reply that he could not state the terms, which were based on commercial reasons. Will he say what are the commercial reasons?

What I actually said was that the terms of the contract were based on commercial considerations. The contract has not yet been completed, and I do not think it would be desirable to make the terms public as yet.

Can the Minister state the difference in freightage charges operating now and those when coal was imported into this country under the late Administration?

Coal Prices (Transport Costs And Profits)

38.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power by how much the retail cost of domestic coal at Southampton, Plymouth and Brighton is due to transport charges;and by how much to retailers' profit margins.

Forty shillings and elevenpence, 42s. 7d. and 39s. 7d. per ton, respectively, for transport costs and 2s. 3d. in each case for profit margin.

War Surplus Stocks (Disposal)

39.

asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, when it is expected to complete the disposal of surplus stocks left over from the war and the subsequent period of shortages and valued at about £50 million; what is the present value of the stock; and what was the value of the stock disposed of during the 12 months ended 31st March, 1954.

Terminal stocks to the value of about £75 million were disposed of in the year ended 31st March last, and further disposals to the value of about £40 million are expected to take place during this financial year. There are also certain commitments to take up non-ferrous metals and raw cotton under continuing contracts. The work of disposal, on a much diminished scale, will extend into the next financial year but should virtually be completed in that year except for any fresh disposal liabilities that may arise in respect of jute and cotton. The figure quoted by my hon. Friend of the current value of residual trading stocks is the one I gave him on 10th May. I have no more up-to-date figure.

Can we take it that with the lowering of the stocks held the numbers of staff engaged in administering these stocks will also be reduced?

Yes, Sir, I can assure my hon. Friend that the staffs will be running down.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department made a profit or a loss on the stocks sold during the year ending 31st March?

Can the hon. Gentleman inform us whether all these stocks were in the empty cupboards left by the previous Administration?

Some of them have come in as a result of continuing contracts during the past 2½ years.

South-East Asia (Defence)

40.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the proposed security pact for South-East Asia.

41.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make his promised statement on the progress towards a South-East Asian defence pact.

42 and 43.

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will make a statement regarding the proposed Asian security pact;

(2) whether he will make a statement regarding the Geneva Conference.

44.

asked the Prime Minister to what extent it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to consider the Anzus Pact as the nucleus of the proposed South-East Asia Pact.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members for postponing these Questions until now.

The Geneva Conference is now entering on its fourth week. The immediate object of the discussions about Indo-China is to bring the fighting to an end on terms acceptable to both sides. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is doing all in his power to help in finding an agreed basis for this, and I am sure the House would not wish that anything should be said which might make his task more difficult. Moreover, the situation is in constant flux. As those who have put these Questions on the Paper have no doubt seen for themselves, it has undergone changes even since last Thursday. I certainly feel sympathy with the desire of many Members of the House to discuss more fully than is possible at Question time the whole foreign situation in all its bearings, but I cannot yet fix a suitable occasion. It certainly would be a great advantage—I think we should all agree to this—if the Foreign Secretary himself were present to give his own account of the events which have taken place and set his own proportion upon them.

All I will therefore say today is that until the outcome of the Conference is known, final decisions cannot be taken regarding the establishment of a collective defence in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. Meanwhile it will be clear from the statements already made that Her Majesty's Government have not embarked on any negotiation involving commitments.

These problems of future policy to which I have just referred are, of course, quite distinct from the question of the examinations undertaken without commitment by existing military agencies, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State referred in reply to a Question on 10th of May. They are equally distinct from the conversations which, as reported in the Press, have been in progress during the past few days between the United States and French Governments about the situation in Indo-China.

In our consideration of all these matters, we are maintaining the closest touch with the Governments of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and also with the Government of Burma. All these Governments are being kept fully informed from day to day of the development of events at the Geneva Conference, since we fully realise that they will be closely affected by its outcome and may feel willing to make a contribution towards it. There is, of course, also very intimate consultation with the Governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand through their Delegations at Geneva as well as through the usual channels of Commonwealth consultation.

It should not, however, be thought that the terms of this statement cast any doubt upon our readiness to examine, when the outcome of the Geneva Conference is clearer, the possibility of establishing a system of collective security and defence in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific within the framework of the United Nations. We shall certainly do so. But our immediate task is to do everything we can to reach an agreed settlement at Geneva for the restoration of peace in Indo-China. Her Majesty's Government are resolved to do their utmost to achieve this aim and to exercise their influence to ensure that any acceptable settlement shall be backed by effective international guarantees.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread appreciation of the difficulty of his answering in more detail while the Geneva Conference is on? At the same time, is he also aware that there will be general assent to any reinforcement of a settlement in South-East Asia in which India and China were taking part in order to bring about peace, but that there will be resentment about a collective peace designed to encircle China by any military entanglements?

Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify one point? He said that there was a distinction between the general talks which were taking place, and to which the Minister of State referred, and the talks which are taking place between the French and United States Governments; will the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that there is no contemplation on the part of Her Majesty's Government of any kind of military intervention in Indo-China before the outcome of the Geneva Conference is known?

Will the Prime Minister consider sending a message of encouragement from the House as a whole to the Foreign Secretary in his valiant and sustained exertions in the cause of peace in the Far East?

Will the Prime Minister say whether, in considering this pact for South-East Asia, the problem of economic aid to the countries concerned is being borne in mind, as that is the main reason why N.A.T.O. has been a success in Europe, that economic aid has been given to the countries concerned?

Would the Prime Minister agree that in any question of a pact guaranteeing the nations of South-East Asia a prerequisite is that those nations should desire to be so guaranteed, because surely it is a most doubtful policy to guarantee people who do not wish to be guaranteed?

That is a point which no doubt will be mentioned in the course of these discussions.

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up a point which the Minister of State was unable to clear up earlier, namely, can he say whether or not any initiative has come from the Governments of India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon or Indonesia for the formation of such a military pact in South-East Asia?

I think I would rather deal with that as a whole, not on that one particular point.

Tax Allowances (Entertainment Expenses)

45.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why he apologised to the Institute of Directors for the action of the Inland Revenue in asking for details about the entertainment expenses of company directors.

The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. I did not apologise because the Inland Revenue asked for details of entertainment expenses. I said that the Board of Inland Revenue regretted that an error of judgment had been made by a particular tax office in demanding in a particular case unnecessarily detailed information on matters which went far beyond entertainment expenses.

Could the Minister differentiate between an expression of regret and an apology, and was not that branch of the Inland Revenue Department carrying out its job in trying to prevent tax evasion, and was it necessary to make this humiliating and grovelling apology when his officers were only doing their duty and helping the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

As I tried to explain in my original answer, the expression of regret was because unnecessary particulars were asked for in this case. On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I always apologise when I am in error, though that does not often happen.

Yes, but does the Financial Secretary still stand by the undertaking given by the Chancellor on the Third Reading of the Finance Bill last year, that he would back the Inland Revenue in all steps it took to prevent tax evasion?

Nothing I have said in reply to this Question diminishes in any way what my right hon. Friend said on that or any other occasion. This matter, as I have tried to explain, relates solely to an individual case in which it seemed to me that inquisition was being carried definitely too far.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what were the excessive inquiries made in this case?

They were very long and detailed but, if they would interest the right hon. Gentleman, I will gladly send them to him.

Subject to any view that the authorities may have on the point, I should have no objection.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether this incident arose from an inquiry made by the Inland Revenue as to the number of haircuts a business executive had in New York?

There is nothing about haircuts in it, although I am bound to say it looks rather like a "close shave."

Will the Financial Secretary give an assurance that the Inland Revenue officer concerned, whose zeal the right hon. Gentleman has deprecated, is not being subjected to any disciplinary punishment; in other words, that he will not be penalised for acting in what he conceived to be in good faith in the public interest?

No officer is penalised for acting sensibly and in good faith, but it is a matter of judgment for which Ministers must take responsibility as to how far it is justifiable in this admittedly difficult and delicate matter to press precise details of inquiry and whether they are pressed to a point at which they may well become an undue burden.

The following is the questionnaire:

DIRECTORS' EXPENSES AND BENEFITS IN KIND

Information required:—
  • 1. Name of Director.
  • 2. Address of Director.
  • 3. Total expenses paid to each Director.
  • 4. Analysis into: —
  • (a) rail travel.
  • (b) subsistence.
  • (c) entertainment.
  • (d) any other items.
  • 5. Where Company's car used: —
  • (a) make, horsepower, cost and date of purchase.
  • (b) amounts charged in accounts for: —
  • (i) insurance, tax, repairs.
  • (ii) petrol and oil.
  • (c) total annual mileage.
  • (d) business mileage.
  • 6. Area covered by travel.
  • 7. Number of days on which travelling done.
  • 8. Number of nights spent away from home.
  • 9. Towns visited and number of journeys to each.
  • 10. Purpose of journeys and business done.
  • 11. Number of days spent at Company's offices.
  • 12. Entertainment: —
  • (a) type of people entertained.
  • (b) nature of entertainment.
  • (c)reason for entertainment.
  • 13. If any Company asset has been transferred to a Director, particulars should be given.
  • Korea (Situation)

    46.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he will make a statement on the military situation in Korea and say in what activities British troops are engaged.

    Both sides in Korea are disposed in accordance with the Armistice Agreement. The Communist strength has remained much the same since the Armistice but the North Korean army is being re-equipped. The main tasks of the Commonwealth Division are to repair and develop their positions and to keep up their standard of training.

    But, in view of the rather more favourable situation in Korea, is it not intended to return some of the men to this country?

    It is certainly our hope to get our men back from Korea as soon as we can, but that will obviously depend largely on the outcome of the Geneva Conference.

    Could the hon. Gentleman say whether replacements are being sent at the present time, or whether the Government are allowing the Forces to run down without replacements from this country?

    That is a very vague reply. Can the hon. Gentleman not say whether the Government are refraining from sending replacements?

    Can I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he knows who has re-equipped the North Koreans?

    Business Of The House

    Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).— [ The Prime Minister.]

    Her Majesty's Return From Her Commonwealth Tour

    I beg to move,

    That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, assuring Her Majesty, on the occasion of Her return from Her historic Commonwealth Tour, of the loyal and affectionate welcome of this House to Her Majesty and his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
    Mr. Speaker, there is no duty which the House of Commons could discharge with keener pleasure or deeper conviction than to approve the Motion it now falls to me to move.

    When the background of this formidable century rises in our minds with all its struggles and achievements; with all its increases in power and peril, with all its anxieties and unsolved problems, the gleaming episode of the Queen's journey among her peoples, their joy in welcoming her and the impact of her personality upon their vast numbers constitutes an event which stands forth without an equal in our records, and casts a light-clear, calm, gay and benignant upon the whole human scene.

    To the people of these islands, for whom we speak in this House, the Sovereign has rendered a service of lasting value—which could have sprung from no other source—a service involving not only tireless exertion but an element of danger—through air travel and other hazards—of which everyone concerned was conscious except herself. Sir, we thank God she is safe home again, and we in the Mother of Parliaments express our gratitude to her and to her husband the Duke of Edinburgh for the work that they have done together, which no one else could do.

    Let us survey and salute the service to which our Address of welcome bears testimony. Although we have grown and progressed in many ways since the great Victorian age, a gigantic world has come into being and into contact around us in which, if judged by material tests alone, we have been surpassed. The Queen's journey of nearly six months has reminded all the nations of the message we have brought and of the causes for which we stand.

    The Constitutional Monarchy surely founded in the hearts of its people; the Crown the servant not the master of the State; the harmonious reconciliation of the past with the present; the spirit of individual freedom, tolerance, fair play; the capacity at the same time to change and to endure: all these facts and themes have been presented as was never before possible, for all the world to see.

    From beginning to end this Royal pilgrimage has reasserted human values, and given a new pre-eminence to the grace and dignity of life. This has not been confined to those who participated in the ceremonies or belong to our wide and varied association. All over the globe there has been a sense of kindly feeling and of generous admiration. Even Envy wore a friendly smile: "How lucky they are to be able to personify the authority and symbolism of the State and combine tradition and modernity in so captivating a way." Indeed, I believe that far beyond her Realms men and women have gained an accession of moral strength and good humour at a time when these virtues were never more needed to help mankind to use their hearts as well as their brains and so find their way through the problems and perils which baffle intellect alone.

    Indeed, it may well be that the lively sense of universal brotherhood, and of the bright hopes of the future, may stir in all humanity these qualities which will enable it to control and survive the dread agencies which have fallen into its as yet untutored hands. I assign no limits to the reinforcement which this Royal journey may have brought to the health, the wisdom, the sanity and hopefulness of mankind. And we in the House of Commons welcome the opportunity of putting on record, in the most earnest and solemn manner open to us, our acknowledgment of the memorable benefits which we have received.

    I rise to support, on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, the Motion which has been so eloquently moved by the Prime Minister. We are speaking here for the House of Commons, and I think that we are all conscious that we are giving voice to the sentiments of the people. I think that Saturday showed a remarkable demonstration of the people's feelings, and I am quite sure that Her Majesty the Queen must have felt that, having had such a warm reception throughout all parts of her journey, she had come home to find a no less warm one in this country.

    I suppose that one could look back over the ages and imagine some stately progress by the rulers of a Realm with all the people looking up in distant awe. How different was this progress. The note that was struck everywhere was the personal, human, friendly note. People saw not only a ruler but a friend. They saw a young and beautiful woman and her husband symbolising the kind of family life that we all love and respect, and I am quite sure that this journey, which at times must have been very burdensome, has done a great service to the people of the British Commonwealth.

    There is something in personalities. It is all very well to have a formula or to have a constitution or even a flag, but people want to feel a loyalty and affection towards people and see those people and know those people. I feel that today, as perhaps never before, the people of the Commonwealth feel what is expressed in this Motion for an Address— not only loyalty but affection.

    It is a privilege to be permitted to support this Motion of welcome. Every Member of the House would like to express our delight at the return of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness.

    With full hearts, we acknowledge our deep gratitude to them for undertaking on behalf of all the peoples of the Commonwealth this great journey which, though so happy and giving so much pleasure, was certainly arduous, and must have imposed a heavy strain upon them. We desire to pay our tribute to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness for their ceaseless devotion to duty and for the evidence that each day brings forth of their dedication to the high service of the people.

    We acknowledge our recognition of the sacrifice they made in being parted for so long from their children. They are the happy and proud parents of two young children who, in themselves, bring joy to the hearts of millions throughout the Commonwealth, and indeed the world. I honestly and sincerely believe that we of the Commonwealth are, in our gracious Queen and the Royal Family, the envy of the rest of the world.

    We followed Her Majesty and His Royal Highness day by day throughout their triumphant tour We here knew the pleasure they would bring to all, the quick understanding, the happy manner in which they greet all everywhere, at all times and on all occasions. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness are the true ambassadors from the peoples of this old country to the peoples of all the other members of this great Commonwealth— ambassadors of good will, good fellowship and warm friendship. We welcome them home—for home is here—and at the same time express our deep and sincere gratitude.

    In expressing our gratitude to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, may I also be permitted to add our sincere thanks to Her Majesty the Queen Mother and Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret, who have so nobly undertaken very many and varied heavy duties during the absence of Her Majesty.

    Question put, and agreed to nemine contradicente.

    Resolved,

    That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, assuring Her Majesty, on the occasion of Her return from Her historic Commonwealth Tour, of the loyal and affectionate welcome of this House to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
    To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.

    Orders Of The Day

    Housing (Repairs And Rents) (Scotland) Bill

    Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

    3.41 p.m.

    Motion made, and Question proposed.

    That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 2, page 2, line 45; Clause 3, page 4, line 5; Clause 5, page 5, line 45; and of the new Clause (Limitation of liability of trustees, etc., for expenses of local authorities in certain cases) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. James Stuart. —[Mr.]. Stuart.]

    May I ask why it has been proposed that this Bill should be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House? Since it was dealt with by the Scottish Grand Committee, it seems to me that, if it has to be recommitted, it ought to be recommitted to that Committee.

    It is quite in order to move the Motion which has been moved, and I shall put it to the House.

    Could we have a reply from the Secretary of State for Scotland on this matter?

    I understand that it is necessary to recommit the Bill in connection with the Amendments set out on the Order Paper. The same procedure was followed on a Bill of the same nature relating to England. I was under the impression that this was a perfectly normal procedure.

    Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not run away from the point which has been put to him? We all agree that it is necessary to recommit the Bill to a Committee, but the point at issue is whether it should be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House or to the Scottish Grand Committee. We desire to know why the right hon. Gentleman has not suggested that, since the Bill has already been before the Scottish Grand Committee, it should be recommitted in respect of these Clauses to the Scottish Grand Committee.

    As someone who is not a member of the Scottish Grand Committee, may I point out how very inconvenient it seems that this Bill, which affects Scotland, should be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House instead of to the Scottish Grand Committee, which obviously is much more fitted to deal with it than is a Committee of the whole House. I am sure that you would admit, Mr. Speaker, that it places hon. Members like myself in a difficulty if a Committee of the whole House is to examine a Scottish Bill, and I should have thought that it would have been simpler to deal with it in the Scottish Grand Committee. We have heard nothing from the Secretary of State to justify what seems to me to be a most remarkable, unprecedented and inconvenient procedure.

    I wish to support the observations made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). It seems quite inconsistent and wrong that this Bill should be taken from one tribunal after being part heard and the hearing continued before another tribunal. It is as if a case in a court of law were partly heard by one learned judge and the rest of the hearing continued before another learned judge. The Scottish Grand Committee has dealt with the Bill up to the present and is fully qualified to deal with it. In my submission, it is not only illogical but entirely wrong to take the Bill from one jurisdiction and present it to another.

    It is all very well for the Secretary of State to say that it is necessary to do this, but he did not explain why it is necessary. Is it being done under any Standing Order, any rule, or under any rule of logic? I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will take this matter in hand and see that it is dealt with in a more logical way and a way more in accordance with reason.

    I wish to put two reasons for opposing the Motion which might appeal to the Secretary of State. The first is that this Bill contains many technical phrases and descriptions which English hon. Members do not understand. That also is the opinion of many English Members. I submit that it is a reason why the Bill should be recommitted to the Scottish Grand Committee. I see the Attorney-General present, but even he, with his vast knowledge of legal matters, would be rather diffident in trying to interpret technical Scottish terms.

    The other reason is that this is a day when there should be no party strife. In the atmosphere of the Resolution we have just passed, it would be fitting and appropriate for the House to adjourn. That would be achieved if the Secretary of State would agree to recommit this Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee. The people in all parts of Scotland are loyal constituents; they regard today as a day of rejoicing; but the Government are marring it by this Bill, which is designed to increase rents by 40 per cent. I suggest to the Secretary of State that the noble and generous thing for him to do would be to agree to recommit the Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee.

    No disrespect is meant or intended to the Scottish Grand Committee. All the Members of that Committee are Members of this House. It would have been possible—indeed it has happened with many Bills—to have taken this Bill in Committee of the whole House. If this Motion were agreed to, we would have a brief stage of recommittal followed by the Report stage and all hon. Members in the House would be entitled to take part in the proceedings. I cannot see that the fact that the Bill is dealt with in Committee of the whole House would exclude any hon. Member from Scotland from taking part in the proceedings.

    If that argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman is in any way applicable, it was applicable when the right hon. Gentleman, we think rightly, moved that this Bill be considered in the Scottish Grand Committee. The only reason he gives for following the proposed procedure is that this procedure was adopted in relation to the English Bill.

    May I suggest that this is common form when any Bill has been before a Standing Committee. It does not matter whether it happens to be the Scottish Grand Committee, but in the case of any Bill it is open to the Minister to move the recommittal of the Bill to a Committee of the whole House. The right hon. Member knows quite well that no Member of the Scottish Grand Committee is thereby debarred from putting a point in which his or her constituents are interested.

    If the hon. Member will listen, he will see that he is quite wrong in saying that it is the Minister who recommits a Bill; it is this House which recommits a Bill. This House has already committed an intricate Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee and that Committee, frequently with the help of the Government, has had lengthy and patient discussions on this Bill.

    The Bill will have tremendous effects for the Scottish people. Now, because the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) thinks it is common form—the Secretary of State was careful to say it was not common form—and because the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this would be the quickest way of disposing of the Bill—that is the only reason he has in his mind—we are asked to forgo all these complex discussions and to agree to very substantial changes in the Bill which, in the case of the Secretary of State's new Clause, is a very substantial Clause, closely related to the discussion which previously took place. In some part it is designed to meet the wishes of the Opposition, although I regret to say that it does not do so.

    The right hon. Gentleman may not have meant to be disrespectful to the Scottish Grand Committee, he may not have meant to be disrespectful to the Scottish people, but the Scottish people will inevitably conclude that this is discourteous to them. Here is an organisation set up by the House, an organisation which has been thought, for most times of the year, most nearly to meet the wishes of the Scottish people and the wishes of the House. Just because the Government are a little short of time, or perhaps because some right hon. Gentleman is a little lacking in judgment, we are now asked, without any apology or explanation to revoke that procedure. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the new Clause and these Amendments would get a much quieter, more reasonable— [Laughter]—if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary thinks that of the Scottish Grand Committee he had better tell his—

    No, I am laughing at you.

    Certainly not, Mr. Speaker. I should have said that I was laughing at the right hon. Gentleman.

    The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to be entertained by me at any time. I make no complaint if I entertain him, because it is quite plain that he has very little enter tainment in his present political office. But if the right hon. and gallant Gentle man is laughing at my conclusion, which I have offered to the House, that the Scottish Grand Committee would give this matter a more patient and more ex tended consideration, with a better under standing—

    Well, let the House judge. Our patience, our ability to discuss things quietly, and sometimes at some length, is well known to everyone, and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that that is a weakness in the Scottish Grand Committee, he had better tell his constituents so. They will deal with him very directly upon that point.

    It is because we feel so strongly, indeed so passionately, upon this point, that unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give some reason to us and to the Scottish people why he thinks the Scottish Grand Committee is an inappropriate body, or unable or lacking in competence to deal with this matter, we shall have to divide against the Government's Motion, which has been offered to cursorily and with so little explanation.

    lam still waiting for the Secretary of State to give some reason why this—

    The answer is that this is a perfectly normal process, and I shall certainly defend that to my constituents or to anybody else.

    It is a perfectly normal process coming from a perfectly abnormal Secretary of State. We were led to believe that we were getting one day, which is very little, for the Report stage and Third Reading, but we now find that most of our time is to be taken up with something which the right hon. Gentleman should have done in Committee. One noted in Committee the right hon. Gentleman's reluctance to deal with Amendments either in the way of accepting or explaining them.

    Here we are, at this stage, faced with four or five Amendments plus a complex new Clause, and we are told that they are to be dealt with by a Committee of the whole House. I want to know why the Bill is not to be committed once again to the Scottish Grand Committee. We have had no explanation at all from the Secretary of State, and I hope that we shall vote against the Motion.

    It seems to me that in following this procedure the Secretary of State has broken a promise which, through the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary, he made to me in Committee. If he will look at the proceedings of the sixth sitting in Committee, he will find, as recorded in column 239, that he made a definite promise to reconsider, on Report, the matter which is the subject of an Amendment I have put down to the right hon. Gentleman's proposed Amendment to Clause 2, namely, in line 2, at the end, to insert "without delay." Now we find, when we come to what we understood would be the Report stage, that the Secretary of State is recommitting this Clause, and we find ourselves being asked to deal with it again in Committee. It seems to me that it is violating a distinct understanding which the right hon. Gentleman gave in Committee, and I hope he will have something to say about that matter.

    If we had been given any valid reason for this action it could be understood, and, I think, appreciated and agreed to by hon. Members on this side of the House who sit for Scottish constituencies. If the Secretary of State had argued that the deliberations in the Standing Committee had been unduly protracted, that Members had been guilty of time wasting, there might have been some reason or some excuse for the Motion now before us.

    I would remind the House that the comparable Bill for England and Wales was subject to a Guillotine and a timetable. On this Bill we agreed to avoid that unwelcome process, by mutual and sensible consent and arrangement. We took it to Standing Committee, and although the Committee stage was a long one, occupying 24 sittings spread over nine and a half weeks, nevertheless that was permissible and understandable in view of the fact that it is one of the most controversial Measures, indeed the most controversial Scottish Measure, to have come before the House in this Parliament.

    We argued the matter out in Committee frankly and fully. I would again remind the Secretary of State that the Closure was formally moved on only six occasions, on four of which it was moved by the Opposition, in fact by myself, because I had cognisance of the arrangement, the tacit understanding, we had agreed upon, and I was anxious that we should adhere to the time-table to which we had agreed. In those circumstances we have co-operated as much as is reasonable on an unreasonable Bill of this description—as we regard it—and at this stage it is wrong that the Government should endeavour to force the Report and Third Reading stages through the whole House, which may involve a lengthy Sitting.

    It would be much better for the Bill itself, for the interests of the people of Scotland and the interests and convenience of other Members of the House, if we were to take it in a slightly more leisurely and detailed manner in the proper atmosphere, in these circumstances, of a Standing Committee.

    4.0 p.m.

    It must be clear to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and those associated with him who have had all the toil and moil of the preceding stages of the discussion on this Bill, that we are certainly not in agreement with what it is proposed to do today. When one considers that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his advisers at the Scottish Office have had to alter their attitude to the Bill in many respects, there is a case for saying that this stage of the proceedings ought to be continued in the Scottish Grand Committee. They have had to put many Amendments on the Order Paper, and because of those Amendments, one would assume that the discussion would continue in the Scottish Grand Committee.

    I was not able to be present in the Chamber all the time, because of another engagement, but so far as I have heard this discussion, it does not appear to me that the the Secretary of State has justified his course of action today. I heard him say that a similar procedure was adopted with regard to the English Bill, and, accordingly, he thinks that we should accept it for the Scottish Bill. Is that the only argument which the right hon. Gentleman can advance? Are Scottish Members placidly to accept it because the English Bill was hammered through in a certain way? I know the right hon. Gentleman has been in many ways divorced from Scotland and its beliefs for many years, but surely he should recognise that if he pursues the course he is now advocating he will not start the Report stage with the good will of the House.

    In the Scottish Grand Committee the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed a large measure of good will. Although we argued keenly, there was no real obstruction, as such, to this Measure. Even the Prime Minister, on one occasion, expressed his satisfaction at the pace at which the discussions were proceeding in the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope the Secretary of State will consider that, and recognise that this protest is a genuine one. We do not like the course we are pursuing. It appears to me that we are inevitably being shoved into an all-night Sitting in order to get Scottish business transacted in a reasonable manner.

    Will the Secretary of State tell my hon. and right hon. Friends why he is proposing to take this course? Is it because of shortage of time? Are the Government afraid that they will not get the Bill? Do not the Government wish to risk it again in the Scottish Grand Committee? We had intimate discussions in that Committee which were entered into by hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies. They voted for the Government on every occasion and I see that they are with us today. They will not enjoy the same sort of intimate ebb and flow of discussion as occurred in the Scottish Grand Committee.

    I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise their complete loyalty during the early stages of our discussions and realise that he is now throwing away so much voting fodder, which I consider to be a disgraceful action on his part. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us a more reasonable and logical argument in favour of pursuing the course he now proposes to take instead of leaving the matter to the Scottish Grand Committee.

    I sat through the meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee and experienced the great difficulty of securing definitions and explanations from the Lord Advocate on various matters. I now wish to ask whether we are to understand that if this Bill is committed to a Committee of the whole House we shall have to go through that process again for the benefit of English Members who may have little experience of Scottish law?

    Will hon. Members representing English constituencies have to call upon the Lord Advocate time and again for an explanation of the terms used in order that they may be better able to judge the Amendments and the new Clause now on the Order Paper? If that is so, and remembering the great difficulty we had in the Committee in securing fulsome explanations from the Secretary of State, or the Joint Under-Secretaries or—even worse still—from the Lord Advocate, I can forsee tremendous difficulties arising. It took a long time to secure the necessary degree of lucidity for Scottish Members, and if we are to secure the same degree of lucidity for English Members, who may know little or nothing of Scottish law, I am afraid that our discussions will extend until tomorrow mid-day.

    I think that it would be a great mistake to accept this Motion. I hope that hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies will resist it, and that the Bill will be recommitted to the Scottish Grand Committee. We could then have a Report stage in the House lasting for a day. We came here expecting that to happen, and I think we have been cheated. If hon. Members representing English constituencies are sufficiently interested to arrive at a decision upon these Amendments without full explanations of all the legal implications and effects of this Bill, I shall be very much surprised. If they do receive such explanations, the Scottish Members will have to sit quiet until all the English Members have been satisfied. We can then go on to debate the Amendments and the new Clause when the English Members feel themselves sufficiently equipped to come to a decision; but I cannot see that happening for a long time.

    In the hope that the House will then be prepared to proceed, perhaps I had better say that, with the exception of the new Clause, the Amendments on the Order Paper are designed to meet points raised by hon. Members opposite—

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did the Secretary of State ask your permission to speak?

    No, the right hon. Gentleman did not, but assumed that it would be granted. In any case, the right hon. Gentleman has moved a substantive Motion and he has a right to reply.

    The Amendments are designed to meet points raised by hon. Members opposite. I do not think that any Minister, or anyone who has been a Minister, would wish to recommit a Bill if he could avoid doing so. But it is done in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House. It was not due to a desire on my part to recommit the Bill. I hope that we may make progress and that the House will now agree to proceed.

    I am both shocked and disappointed at the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Government Amendments practically give us a new Bill altogether. I have considerable sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman for bringing the matter to the attention of the whole House, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said in the Scottish Grand Committee, the right hon. Gentleman is like a certain bird which was left during the week-end with the cat. As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said at the Dispatch Box earlier today, there were several "close shaves."

    We can visualise that what the Secretary of State wants to bring into play is not the one or two of a majority which was all he was able to scramble together in the Grand Committee; he wants to bring into full play all his manpower in order to take a short cut, like a certain figure in John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress"—a short cut to the heaven of the landlords. The Paper today tells us sufficient to enable us to say that the people of Scotland would be very pleased if the Government would take back all the Bill and let us start all over again.

    It is evident that the Government are afraid to send the Bill back to the Grand Committee. They are asking English, Welsh and Irish Members to discuss something which is particular to Scotland. I suggest that the Government should follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and recommit the Bill to the Grand Committee. We will go into the matter patiently. There is a hoodoo on the Bill, and it is doubtful whether it will become effective even though it be put on the Statute Book by force of votes. I appeal to the Government to give Scotland a fair deal and to send the Bill back to the Grand Committee where it can be discussed in detail.

    I protest on behalf of my constituents, thousands of whom are subject to this thoroughly bad Bill. It has been said that the Government are rushing through legislation with indecent haste. I join with my colleagues in asking the Secretary of State to tell us why the Bill cannot be recommitted to the Grand Committee. It is apparent to the whole country that the Bill was in such bad shape that many Amendments were necessary to make it decent and respectable.

    The situation today is that we are presented with new Clauses which it would take us the best part of two days to circumnavigate so that we could discover exactly what are the intentions of the Government. In addition, there are many Amendments in the name of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Therefore, I suggest to the Secretary of State that he would be well advised to submit the Bill once again to the Scottish Grand Committee to give us an opportunity to make an attempt to digest the meaning of many of the new phrases which are to be introduced.

    When we meet people in Scotland they want to know exactly what this legislation means and what the Government's intentions are. I plead with the Secretary of State to take, for once, some advice from the Opposition and to send the Bill back to the Grand Committee to give us the opportunity to consider the new Amendments so that we can assist the Government to make a bad Bill a little better. It is true that, on many occasions only because the Opposition brought forward good ideas, the Government have been able to put respectable legislation on the Statute Book. We ask the Government to recommit the Bill to the Grand Committee where it may be dealt with by people who understand Scottish legislation.

    4.15 p.m.

    I wish to support my right hon. and hon. Friends from Scotland in this matter. The new Clause—[Limitation of liability of trustees, &c, for expenses of local authorities in certain cases.]—is something quite beyond the comprehension of an Englishman. If we have to deal with it in Committee of the whole House, without the assurance that it has received the consideration of our Scottish colleagues, I must say that we shall take some time. I consulted my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. D. Johnston) about two of the words in the Clause. I regret to say that he told me that while I pronounced one of them correctly as an Englishman, that was not the way in which a Scot would pronounce it.

    There is a reference to "tutor" and to what I call "curator." They are people who, apparently, in Scotland in some way or other receive rents or are responsible for the receipt of rents. In view of my interpretation of the word "tutor," I should have liked to be able to consult the Educational Institute of Scotland to ascertain whether this is another way of imposing extraneous duties on members of the teaching profession—a matter which is greatly resented. I have not yet been able to get to the Scottish pronunciation of the word, but as far as "curator" is concerned I always thought that he was a person who looked after a museum, at any rate in England.

    This is, clearly, one of those pieces of legislation which was purposely brought before us in two separate Bills because of the difference of wording that Englishmen and Scotsmen employ in their legal enactments. We are now to forgo the whole of the advantage of having this new Clause first considered by our Scottish colleagues. When I am told that this is a normal process, I would say that, after all, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) was the first Secretary of State for Scotland to act under the revised Standing Orders of the House which referred Bills for their Second Reading or Committee stage to the Scottish Grand Committee.

    I should have thought that, after the experience we are having today, it would be worth while considering whether the normal procedure ought not to be that when a Bill has been to the Scottish Grand Committee it should go back there if it has to be recommitted, so that we could have a clean Bill which had been considered by Scottish Members, aided by a few Members from England and Northern Ireland. We could have the assurance that the Bill had received their attention and was at least the result of collective Scottish views. I sincerely hope that the course suggested will be followed.

    I wish to support what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The English Bill was referred to a Standing Committee. Despite the fact that many questions were asked—there was little filibustering, or none at all—when we got the Measure back to the Floor of the House we had to have a Guillotine to get rid of legislation that was ill-digested, ill-conceived and ill-considered upstairs.

    The Measure with which we are dealing today is a purely Scottish Bill which employs Scottish legal terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) is faced with many difficulties. He is a man of Welsh origin who became domiciled in Birmingham and was then chosen to represent a Scottish constituency. I understand that my hon. Friend almost had to learn the alphabet all over again. In order to represent the people of East Dunbartonshire, my hon. Friend felt it necessary for him to go and live in the constituency, and for him to have to live in that constituency is a very great hardship.

    If the Government do not take the line suggested by the Opposition, they are making lobby-fodder for the English Members. The English Members really cannot take an intelligent part in the debate. If they offer any observations, they will merely give away the fact that they know nothing about the subject, or else they will have had briefs handed to them by Scotsmen who want them to filibuster. The English Members will be kept here to do no more than walk into the Lobbies to vote in Divisions on subjects about which they know nothing. We do not want that type of consideration given to a matter on the Floor of the House. The subject ought to have the leisurely, well-informed consideration which is given to Bills in Standing Committees.

    I wonder whether the action which is being taken by the Government today might not be taken as a precedent in the case of the Town and Country Planning Bill which is now being considered by Standing Committee C. I am wondering whether, when the English Members on the Standing Committee have finished their deliberations on the Bill, Scottish hon. Members may not be reduced to lobby-fodder in the House on further proceedings of that Bill.

    If there is anything at all in having a Scottish Standing Committee, and if it can be intelligently used—I sometimes have reason to doubt it—it seems to me that this is the sort of matter which should be considered by the Scottish Standing Committee and that the Committee stage ought not to be taken on the Floor of the House. I do not know whether there is a constitutional point in what I have said. There is, at any rate, a strong political point in that any method which would enable Scotsmen to mind their own business would be popular among other hon. Members on both sides of the House.

    As an English Member representing an English constituency, I have been unimpressed by the arguments so far used by the Secretary of State. All that he has said is that it is normal to do what he is proposing to do. I do not know enough about these things to know whether it is normal or not, but I have formed the impression from the debate that it ought not to be normal to do what he is proposing to do. It is in conflict with the spirit of the Standing Order which set up the Standing Committee, and if it has been normal in the past, it should cease to be normal from now on. The whole purpose of the Standing Order is that Scotsmen should discuss their own business among themselves in their own curious jargon. At all events, it is curious jargon to Englishmen, Welshmen and Northern Irishmen.

    Commander Galbraith
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