House Of Commons
Tuesday, 18th May, 1954
The House met at half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Slum Clearance, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what specific schemes for slum clearance have been submitted to him by the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Corporation; what were the dates on which they were submitted; and what replies he has given.
The council has submitted no new schemes since the war but my right hon. Friend understands that it has the matter under immediate consideration.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in Newcastle-upon-Tyne scores of thousands of people are living in most appalling, decaying slum property? Does not he think that his reply is shocking? Will he use his good offices to see that this local authority does something to clear the slums in Newcastle?
I do not think it is a shocking reply. I think the fact that the Newcastle Health Committee passed a resolution on 10th May declaring a clearance area of 420 houses, with 1,872 occupants, shows that it is approaching my right hon. Friend's proposals in the right spirit.
Nine years after the war, scores of thousands in the city are living in slum property and not a single scheme has yet been submitted to the Minister. Is not that shocking?
Not really, because the rate of house building is 60 per cent, above that of the previous Administration. I think that a rate of over 300,000 houses a year is not unsatisfactory.
Ex-Regular Service Men
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what further approach he has made to local authorities to give special consideration to housing applications submitted by Regular soldiers who will be required to vacate Service accommodation at the end of their military service.
The Housing Management Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee is reviewing among other matters the whole question of residential qualifications required by certain local authorities, including the difficulties of regular Service men.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there are many cases in which the applications of Service men are not considered until they have come to the end of their service? As this is a matter of considerable urgency, would my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend at least to make representations to the local authorities on this matter?
The sub-committee is now considering the matter. It reported in 1949, and my right hon. Friend sent round a circular pointing out its recommendations to local authorities, but if any hon. Member has any point of view which he would like me to place before the sub-committee, I should be pleased to do so.
While I appreciate my hon. Friend's sympathetic answer, may I ask whether he realises that this is a serious matter, because frequently soldiers, sailors and airmen who come back after 10 or 20 years' service find themselves arriving back in their home land on no authority's housing list and not entitled to accommodation.
My right hon. Friend appreciates that it is a serious matter. That is why he amended the terms of reference of the sub-committee so that it could include this matter in its deliberations.
Improvement Grants, Wales
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many improvement grants have been made in Wales during the last three years, respectively; and how many applications from people in Wales have been refused in each of these years.
One hundred and twenty-four applications were approved in 1951, 141 in 1952, 265 in 1953, and 68 in 1954. My right hon. Friend has no information about the number of applications which local authorities have rejected.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that a substantial number of these applications are being granted? Does he expect that in future local authorities will be more forthcoming?
I think that two things will happen in the future. The first is that we shall get more information from the local authorities because, beginning with the month of June, local authorities will tell us the number of applications for improvement grants which they have received each month as well as the number which they have approved. In addition, we hope that the circular sent out as recently as 20th April will encourage them to carry out improvements and conversions.
Council Houses (Purchase Offers)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many requests he has received from local authorities to approve the sale of council houses to property-owning companies.
None, Sir. The position is still as stated in the answer given to the hon. and gallant Member on 16th March last.
Is it not now clear that even the Wanstead and Woodford Borough Council, which was playing with the idea, has come to the conclusion that this is an undesirable proposal to follow, in the public interest? Will not the hon. Gentleman also remind local authorities of a sentence in his own Departmental Circular No. 64 of 1952:
"There is no question of selling or leasing houses to individuals or organisations for investment or speculation "?
I have just had representations from the Opposition Front Bench to reduce the number of circulars sent to local authorities. In this instance, I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not wish me to send out a special letter reminding them of a circular which they already have on their files.
Could the hon. Gentleman not send out just one more circular, cancelling this preposterous suggestion about the sale of council houses?
Would the Minister make one point clear? Is it correct that the general policy towards the sale of council houses is to encourage owner-occupation?
Yes. That was my right hon. Friend's general purpose.
Gatwick Airport Inquiry (Report)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when the report of the inquiry into the proposed extension of Gatwick Airport will be published.
My right hon. Friend cannot yet say when the report will be published. It has not yet been received.
Ministry Of Works
Political Resident, Bahrein (New Compound)
asked the Minister of Works why it is necessary to spend £557,000 on the provision of a new compound for the Political Resident and his staff in Bahrein during the present financial year.
In 1946 the decision was taken to move the headquarters of the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf from the Persian side of the Gulf to Bahrein Island on the Arabian side. This has meant building a compound because no suitable permanent accommodation was available. The total cost is estimated at £557,000, spread over several years.
Does the hon. Gentleman remember that his right hon. Friend, before the Election, promised that a Conservative Government would make a saving of £600 million a year, and, as the present Government are spending £100 million more than the Labour Government were spending at that time, can he not make a modest saving here, if not of £600 million, of at least £600,000?
I presume that the decision which was taken in 1946 by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin was taken, for good reasons. The scheme approved by the previous Administration under-estimated the cost of building and other difficulties on the site.
The decision to spend this money in the present year was taken by the present Government.
No, Sir. The figure of £557,000 is spread over seven years. The right hon. Gentleman has misread the Estimates.
While not questioning the need for suitable premises for the Political Resident, may I ask my hon. Friend whether a sum of over £500,000 is really necessary?
That is a matter of opinion. The view of my right hon. Friend and of Her Majesty's Government is that British prestige and parsimony do not go together.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what makes this compound so exceedingly expensive? Its cost is about that of a whole housing estate.
Can my hon. Friend say whether the increase over the original Estimate is higher than the normal increase in building costs?
In answer to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I would point out that we are building on this site a house for the Political Resident himself, four for the senior staff, a block of flats, six bungalows, an office block and servants' quarters. The fact of the matter is that building in that particular area has proved to be much more expensive than was originally anticipated.
Will the hon. Gentleman read his own Estimates and note that £129,000 is to be spent in this financial year alone on the scheme?
High Commissioner, New Delhi (Accommodation)
asked the Minister of Works why it is necessary to spend £1,500,000 on residential and office accommodation for the High Commissioner in New Delhi in the present financial year.
The figure of £1,500,000 is a provisional total estimate of the cost of building offices and residential accommodation for the High Commissioner and his staff in Delhi. It is not the amount to be spent this year.
Even if that is so, are there no offices and residential accommodation in Delhi already, which have been occupied by British officials in the past, and why is it necessary to have this scheme, in addition?
I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have known that when India became an independent State it was necessary for us to start from scratch.
Does the hon. Gentleman really think that there were no officials already in residence and that there was no office accommodation before India became an independent State?
I did not say anything of the kind. When India became an independent State the accommodation which was occupied by the British authorities was taken over by the India Government.
Will my hon. Friend represent to his right hon. Friend that his Department should approach the Treasury with a view to putting some of these capital items below the line in the Government's accounts, as there would not be half the fuss about them that there is?
That is a very interesting suggestion.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the two large expenditures referred to in these Questions are only two of many which are giving serious concern to Members of this House, and that the recent decision of Her Majesty's Government with regard to another matter raised on the Floor of this House this week is making it even more difficult for this House to exercise proper control over the £200 million being spent abroad out of the Vote of Supply?
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to emphasise in fairness to Her Majesty's Government that all we are doing is to give effect to decisions which were taken before this Government came into office.
Was it not the basis of the present Government's attack on the last Government that they were spending far too much money? Why go on doing it?
It is a matter of spending money on the right things.
Lancaster House (Pictures)
asked the Minister of Works if he will make arrangements for Lancaster House to be used as an additional gallery, at suitable times, for the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery.
My right hon. Friend is discussing the possibilities with the Trustees of the National Gallery.
While I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, may I urge upon him the desirability of finding extra accommodation for some of the pictures of the national collection?
I will convey that suggestion to my right hon. Friend. As a matter of fact, the National Gallery Trustees have already offered to lend suitable pictures to Lancaster House under certain conditions which are under discussion now.
Hm Embassies (Expenditure)
asked the Minister of Works the total sum expended on improvements and additions to Her Majesty's Embassies and their surroundings last year.
It will take a little time to assemble this information. My right hon. Friend will write to the hon. Member when he has it.
Can the hon. Gentleman give some idea of the figure involved? The impression given is that while a great deal has been spent on some of the major embassies some of the lesser embassies and consulates have been allowed to fall into comparative disrepair.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be happy to give the hon. Member all the information he can, as soon as he has it. The difficulty is that there are still many accounts to come in for work done overseas in the last quarter of last year.
Would my hon. Friend give the figure of at least what was provided in this connection in last year's Estimates, because that has already been published, and might help us?
That is another Question, but I am sure that my hon. Friend knows the answer already.
Is it not a fact that the hon. Gentleman's Ministry carries out these works to the orders of the Foreign Office and would he remind his right hon. Friend, as I sought to do last week, that the Public Accounts Committee is also disturbed about this enormous expenditure on these embassies overseas, and would he consider having a conference with the Foreign Office on the whole matter?
What the hon. Member says is very largely true, and my right hon. Friend is critically examining these estimates all the time.
Public Records (Transfer)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to have brought into Scottish custody in Scotland such Scottish national archives and records as are at present outside Scotland.
Under Section 4 of the Public Records (Scotland) Act, 1937, nine major documents relating to Scotland which had been kept in the Public Record Office were in that year transferred to the Scottish Record Office. The transfer of other Scottish records in the Public Record Office was effected under Section 5 (1) of the Act in 1949 and 1950, with the consent of the Master of the Rolls. No further transfer is contemplated at the present time.
Is the Minister aware that the poets, historians, and other literati of Scotland require access to many of these archives, which are not now available, and these should now be made available to them in Scotland? What steps is he taking to that desirable end?
Those documents which are manifestly English documents are there. All documents are readily available, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows.
West Green Mental Hospital
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the proper complement of doctors at West Green Mental Hospital where there are over 600 patients; and the present number of doctors at the hospital.
Until recently the establishment of medical staff consisted of a whole-time consultant as medical superintendent, two junior hospital medical officers and three house officers. One of the junior hospital medical officer posts and the three house officer posts are vacant. The very general shortage of house officers has so far prevented the board from filling the three vacant posts in that grade. But it is taking steps to appoint a second consultant as deputy medical superintendent in place of the second junior hospital medical officer.
While I realise that there is a shortage of doctors and especially of consultants, may I ask whether my right hon. and gallant Friend realises that the medical superintendent did not have a clear holiday last year because of the shortage of medical staff? Will he see that arrangements are made for the medical superintendent to have a proper clear holiday this year?
I am sure that the regional hospital board will pay attention to what my hon. and gallant Friend has said.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the proper complement of nurses for West Green Mental Hospital; and the present number of whole-time and part-time nurses, respectively.
The female nursing staff of all grades consists of 23 whole-time and 47 part-time, and the male staff of 77, all whole-time. The hospital reports vacancies for some 48 female staff, including 39 qualified nurses, and 17 male staff, including five qualified nurses.
Can my right hon. and gallant Friend now announce the decision of the Whitley Council as to whether it accepts the arbiter's award, which once more gives the lead which was abolished by the last Government, and thus encourages student nurses to take up mental nursing?
Over the three years' period of training, the arbitration award gives the student mental nurses £175 more in pay and allowances than general student nurses. The situation regarding the Whitley Council is that the management side has accepted. The staff side has informally accepted but desires discussion on certain points.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that there is no proper admission block at West Green Mental Hospital; and whether he will instruct the Eastern Regional Hospital Board to reorganise the ward so as to make one.
Yes, Sir. But plans are in preparation for the development and improvement of this hospital. The first stage is the adaptation of existing accommodation to provide one admission ward for each sex, and that work is due to begin this year.
Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that a great deal of activity has been stimulated since my Question was put on the Order Paper? Will he stimulate the Eastern Regional Hospital Board to get on with the job?
Deer Poaching (Committee)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he in tends to proceed with the Deer Poaching (Scotland) Bill.
My right hon. Friend has not yet received the report of the committee which was set up to inquire into the question of a close season for deer in Scotland.
As the committee was appointed two years ago, in July, 1952, is it not a scandal that nothing has been done in the meantime? Is my hon. Friend aware that hinds that are due to calve in the next week or fortnight are being shot by poachers and the calf is being cut out and thrown away? When will the Government take steps to bring in legislation to stop this sort of thing?
I am aware of these distressing circumstances, but my hon. Friend will be glad to know that the committee has now completed its evidence and we expect its report before the end of the Session.
Does it deal with deer poaching on the farmer's ground, or with somebody poaching on the deer?
Is it not the case, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ton-bridge (Mr. G. Williams) has pointed out, that this annual slaughter of the hinds is becoming a very serious matter? In the view of many of my constituents, the Bill is much overdue, and I urge my hon. Friend to take steps to bring it in.
I agree with my hon. Friend, but, obviously, we cannot proceed until we have the report of the committee, which should be with us now quite soon.
If there are to be priorities for suggested legislation, what preference is to be given to the Teachers' (Superannuation) Bill and other suggested Measures? Will that Bill have precedence over deer-poaching legislation?
Old Persons (Mental Hospitals)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how far it is the practice, when there is a shortage of beds in general hospitals, for old persons to be given accommodation in mental hospitals; and to what extent they are required to be certified on refusing, in these circumstances, to enter voluntarily.
My right hon. Friend is not aware of any such practice. Some forms of senile mental illness can be cared for properly only in a mental hospital; and where admission as a voluntary patient is not accepted, certification may be the only way of securing that the patient gets the care and treatment which he needs.
Is the Under-Secretary aware that there is a widespread belief in and around the industrial areas that old people are being put into mental hospitals are given beds there because there are insufficient beds in general hospitals, and that when old people protest and do not go voluntarily they are certified? Will he look into this matter a little more closely?
If the hon. Lady will be good enough to give me any particulars. I shall be glad to look into them.
Would it not be far more economical to utilise hospitals and big old houses that have passed out of use to accommodate the old people?
I do not think they would be altogether suitable.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if it is now permissible under his regulations to certify elderly patients entering mental institutions as suffering from mental senility; and how far deviation from the words laid down by statute is permitted.
The conditions to be met before a person can be certified are laid down by statute, as also are the terms in which the relative certificates must be given. There is no power to permit any deviation, such as that suggested by the hon. Lady, from the terms and conditions laid down by statute.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that it will give satisfaction to know that there is no deviation, because many people are being fobbed off with the excuse that a deviation is permitted? Now we have the Joint Under-Secretary's affirmation that that is not so. Is he aware that the statute permits these old people to be certified only either as lunatics or as imbeciles, and as this position is grossly unfair, will he not give attention to amending the Act?
As my right hon. Friend announced recently, a White Paper dealing with this matter is probably to be expected within a reasonable time.
I am aware of that, but the terms of reference make no mention whatever to old people who are merely senile being stigmatised by certification as imbeciles. Could the terms of reference be extended to cover them also?
The hon. Lady should await the White Paper, which may deal with that matter.
House Of Lords (Appellate Jurisdiction)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing legislation to abolish the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords over cases from Scotland.
Since the answer is an emphatic "No," can the Joint Undersecretary say by what statute the Appellate Court overturned a decision of the Lord President of the Court of Session, who had based his decision on the generally accepted dictum that once a disposition of land has been made it cannot in any way be altered at a later date?
I could not answer that technical question without notice.
As I have already tried to get this information by other means than a Question in the House, as I usually do, and as I have been told that a decision taken in the House of Lords is almost sacred and that nothing can be done to alter it, I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will give me this information as soon as possible.
Does the Minister realise that the present system involves litigants in delay, uncertainty and expense, which could easily be obviated by making the Scottish Supreme Court supreme in Scotland? Will he consult the Lord Advocate with a view to adopting this course?
I remind the hon. and learned Member and the hon. Lady that both the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland made it clear in their published evidence to the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs that they were against this proposal.
What legal appeal does not cost a great deal, whether in Scotland or in England?
Group Medical Practices (Loan Applications)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications have been received from practitioners for an interest-free loan to establish group practices; and from which districts in Scotland they have originated.
Applications have been received from 18 groups of doctors in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayrshire, Fife, Lanarkshire, the Lothians and Stirlingshire.
How soon does the Joint Under-Secretary of State expect a reply to be given in these cases? As he has had so many applications in such a short time—I am glad that is so—does he think that this miserable £100,000 will be sufficient to meet all the cases?
These cases will have to be gone into before it can be decided which groups should get the first sums available. It may take some little time before a final decision is made.
House Purchase (Committee Report)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will circulate to Scottish Members of Parliament the Re port and recommendations of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee which, under the chairmanship of Sir George Laidlaw, was appointed to consider and report on house purchase in Scotland.
Further copies of this Report, which was published in 1946 as a Command Paper, are now available in the Vote Office.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this Committee sat over a good number of months and that its Report will be very valuable to hon. Members, especially in view of the legislation we are promised in regard to facilitating house purchase?
Hon. Members will now be able to get the Report in the Vote Office.
Rabbit-Gassing Machine (Demonstration)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement regarding a large-scale test of rabbit-gassing which officers of his Department attended in the east of Scotland recently; and whether he is in a position to pass on any lessons as the result of this experiment.
Officials of my right hon. Friend's Department recently attended a commercially-sponsored demonstration of a power gassing machine. They have reported favourably on the machine. The Department has for some years recommended gassing as a cheap and efficient method of destroying rabbits, and in future it will draw attention to the availability of power machines, which are in some locations more effective than the older techniques.
Can my hon. Friend give the House any idea of the cost of this gassing experiment? My impression is that it is very expensive. Could he consider making a grant towards the cost, under the Hill Farming Act or in some such way?
I am afraid I cannot give a figure in regard to the cost of the experiment, but the cost of the actual machine is about £75—which might be considered to be rather high.
How many rabbits are now again in the land which was the subject of the experiment?
Can the Joint Undersecretary say what is the exact scope of this machine; what area it can cover, and whether its range has extended to the Government Front Bench?
Orrin Hydro-Electric Project
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the anticipated load factor of the hydro-electric works embodied in the Orrin project No. 29 constructional scheme, installed capacity 18 megawatts, referred to in the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board (Constructional Scheme No. 29) Confirmation Order, 1954; and the anticipated coal economy equivalent based on that load factor and a conversion rate of 1.31 lb. of coal per unit of electricity generated, generally in accord with the average efficiency of British Electricity Authority power stations.
My right hon. Friend is informed by the Board that the expected load factor of hydro-electric works embodied in the Orrin project is approximately 48 per cent., and that the expected saving in coal at a conversion figure of 1.31 lb. of coal per unit of electricity generated is about 45.000 tons annually.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the cost, £/per megawatt installed respectively, including and excluding capital costs in respect of distribution facilities for the 18 mega watts installed capacity of the hydro electric works embodied in the Orrin project No. 29 constructional scheme, referred to in the North of Scotland Hydro- Electric Board (Constructional Scheme No. 29) Confirmation Order. 1954.
The capital cost per megawatt to be installed in the Orrin project, based on the estimates submitted to Parliament, is about £252,000. My right hon. Friend is informed by the Board that if the cost of transmitting the power to the Board's grid is added this figure will be increased to about £258,000.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the anticipated dates of commencement and completion for the hydro-electric works embodied in the Orrin project No. 29 constructional scheme referred to in the North of Scot land Hydro-Electric Board (Constructional Scheme No. 29) Confirmation Order, 1954; and what independent advice, as to the soundness of the Orrin project or otherwise, he has taken from bodies and persons other than those employed by, or contracting to, the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
The Board hopes to start preliminary works in connection with the scheme this year and the main works next year, and to produce electricity from it by 1960. The scheme was approved by the British Electricity Authority, which indicated that, on the information submitted by the Board, it appeared to it to be a sound technical scheme.
Can the Minister tell us if the load carried by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is anything like so heavy as the load carried by the electors of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of Section 5 pay-beds were unoccupied in the hospitals under his direction during each of the last three years.
Figures are at present available only for the year ended 31st March, 1953, during which, on the average, less than a quarter of the Section 5 pay-beds were unoccupied.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether steps are taken, at regular intervals, to review the proportion of these beds, so that the best use can be made of them for those on the general waiting list?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Section 5 pay-beds there are in all hospitals under his direction; and what percentage they constitute of the total.
There are 913 such beds in Scottish National Health Service hospitals, or 1½ per cent, of all staffed beds.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that patients on the ordinary list who are awaiting admission to hospital have to wait about six months, but if they are prepared to pay 11s. per day they can be accommodated immediately? If I send the Joint Undersecretary particulars of a case in my constituency will he look into it?
I can tell the hon. Member that the percentage occupancy of these beds is considered to be very high. It is about 75 per cent., as against 83½ per cent, for all the beds in hospitals. That is considered to be quite a high percentage, in view of the fact that there are so few of these beds, and that they are scattered all over the country.
Is not it the policy of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Department to use these beds for non-paying patients when they are not being occupied by paying patients?
Crofters Commission Report
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to take the first steps to implement the Crofters Commission Report.
My right hon. Friend is not in a position to make any further statement about the Report at present. The Highlands Advisory Panel will be considering it this week, and my right hon. Friend will consider the next steps to be taken when he has its views.
Is the Minister aware that there are many things in that report which the Highlands Advisory Panel and other bodies concerned in the Highlands have been urging for many years, some of which do not need legislation? Cannot he hold out some hope that some of these matters will be dealt with in the near future?
In a matter of this importance it is advisable to have the views of the Highlands Advisory Panel. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already accepted the main recommendation of the Report and is taking steps to implement this.
In the meantime, will my hon. Friend's Department neglect no opportunity which might arise for land settlement, which was clearly pointed to in the Report?
Is the Minister aware that this is one of the most difficult problems in agriculture, and will he arrange to take no definite steps until there has been time to discuss the matter, either in the Scottish Grand Committee or in the House?
Small Lobster Fishermen (Protection)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the decrease of people engaged in lobster creel fishing in recent years, he will take steps to afford protection to the small lobster fishermen.
The decrease in the number of creel fishermen in recent years may be due to a variety of causes, including the availability of other more remunerative employment. My right hon. Friend has no evidence that special measures for the protection of the small lobster fishermen are necessary.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the small lobster fisherman is an integral part of Highland life? Does not he think that proper control is advisable, particularly over the size of the vessel employed?
I agree that these men form a very important element in Highland life, but it is not very easy to know what protective measures can reasonably be taken.
Has my hon. Friend gone into the question I raised a few days ago, in connection with the subsidised lobster fishery in that part of the country, which is a great failure?
Island Agricultural Producers (Financial Aid)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how he proposes to assist the island farmers in the Western Highlands to help them overcome the disadvantages in which they will find themselves in regard to marketing arrangements following decontrol.
I would draw my noble Friend's attention to the answer given by my right hon. Friend on this subject to my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) on Wednesday, 12th May, 1954.
Yes, but is my hon. Friend aware that I want further elaboration of that answer, and will he bear in mind all the time that, while the land is often quite good in the Western Islands, a farmer there is always at a disadvantage because of freight rates?
It is impossible to define at this stage the precise methods of applying this assistance, because we must have some experience of decontrol in order to find the most satisfactory method.
South-East Asia (Defence)
asked the Prime Minister if an international meeting has yet been held for the purpose of promoting a security organisation in and for Eastern Asia; where, and when, it was held; what nations were represented at it; what was the result; and when the next such meeting will be held.
I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the statement I made in the House yesterday, and to which I have nothing to add.
I thank the Prime Minister for the statement he made in the House yesterday, but will he bear in mind that if he is assisting or promoting any such Far Eastern conference to deal either with the bringing about of peace or the problems arising as an aftermath of peace, he should see that the democratic Asiatic countries are invited to take part in it?
All these matters and other relevant incidents will be carefully borne in mind.
Atomic Energy (Us-Uk Agreement)
asked the Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to say what were the considerations for the then Government's surrender, in 1948, of this country's right of veto on the United States of America's unilateral use of the atomic bomb.
As I was not a Member of that Administration I fear I might not be qualified to do full justice to their case.
May I ask the Prime Minister if it is a matter of fact, and if he is not aware, that there was no such surrender, and that the position with regard to the atomic bomb rested first of all on an agreement made by the Prime Minister with President Roosevelt, and an agreement subsequently made by myself with President Truman? May I ask him further whether, in view of what he said the other week about the need for confidential talks between Governments and the inadvisability of discussing them, it would not be well if the Motion on the Paper in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) was withdrawn?
[ To call attention to certain agreements governing the control of atomic weapons; and to move a Resolution.]
I am afraid that I do not control the rights of hon. Members to put Motions on the Paper. So far as I am concerned, I confine myself to defending and vindicating the actions of my own Government, the Government of which I was the head, and actions which I was personally responsible for, and I had not desired myself to embark upon a process of attacking continually other Administrations.
Whether the action in question is called a surrender or a loss— and I have no wish to enter into a dispute with the Leader of the Opposition on that —is the Prime Minister not aware that, rightly or wrongly, a widespread impression now exists on both sides of the Atlantic that the inducement for the loss of this right of veto was, in fact, increased financial aid; and if this is so, are we not at least entitled in this House to know the price in dollars of the sell-out?
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is not aware that in the case of any requests for the publication of documents, one would only get a very partial view of the whole of these proceedings? What the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) has suggested is entirely untrue. A full discussion of this question would mean that one would have to go into confidential talks over a period and, like the right hon. Gentleman, I am prepared to defend the actions of my Government and also of the Government of which he and I were both Members.
I am entirely in the hands of the House. I am not myself pressing this Motion. Of course, circumstances change: what was valid in a moment of war, and so on, would not necessarily be valid otherwise. But I wish to make it quite clear that I have confined myself to defending what I was responsible for and the position as we left it, and that it was only because we found ourselves reproached with having, so to speak, no power to interfere or intervene in the developments of the new bomb, that, in order to defend oneself from very serious charges which were moving in the country, I referred to this matter at all.
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of what he has now said and what he has said previously, it would not be fair and reasonable in all the circumstances if he deprecated the misrepresentation implied by his hon. Friend?
Both in that last question and the preceding one from the Leader of the Opposition, the suggestion was made that what I had said was untrue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, if that is so—in which case I am quite willing to withdraw—surely the best way is for the Leader of the Opposition to ask for the documents in question to be published, as the Prime Minister recently offered?
I do not think that there is any point of order in that. The word "untrue" does not necessarily mean that what is referred to was untrue by design. It is a word that is often used here, and without offence. I do not think any point of order arises in the matter.
National Service (Period)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence if, in view of the relaxation in world tension, he will reduce the period of National Service to 12 months.
I am sorry that the Minister has not given an affirmative answer this time, but is he not aware that European countries, and also the Australian Government, have reduced the period of conscription recently, and surely it is time that this Government gave serious consideration to a considerable cut in the period of National Service?
I have previously assured the hon. Gentleman that if he asked me a question susceptible to an affirmative answer, I should be glad to give it, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with this question on 11th May, and I would refer the hon. Gentleman to what he said then.
Whilst appreciating the difficulty of reducing the period of National Service with present commitments, would not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that this is an additional reason for re-opening conversations with the Egyptian Government for the settlement in respect of the Canal Zone, which would really open the way to a reduction in the period of National Service?
That is rather a different question.
asked the Secretary of State for War why 22815879 Boy Hands, Infantry Boys' Battalion, Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, is having to do his detention in Colchester Military Prison; and if he will arrange to have separate detention barracks for boys.
Army boys are not sent to prisons and are only sent exceptionally, after a sentence by court-martial, to a military corrective establishment such as Colchester. Boys at Colchester are segregated and are specially treated.
Does the hon. Gentleman think that the "glasshouse" in Colchester is the right place for boys of 16 years of age? Is it not possible to have a separate detention barracks because, whilst I know that some of these boys commit offences, nevertheless they should not be put amongst men, and I should have thought that it would be in the interests of the parents of the boys to know that this is not the case in the "glasshouse" in Colchester or in any other place?
Boys under detention at Colchester are segregated, living in a separate room and messing at a separate table in the dining hall. At present there are only four of them at Colchester. Their room is close to the company office and they are specially watched by the company commander by day and by the N.C.O. in charge of the company watch by night. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that too close contact is undesirable, but he will probably agree that these arrangements avoid contact.
Are they exercised with the adult prisoners, and do they undergo the same punishment with the adult men prisoners?
They do one period of physical training and one period of drill daily, and the remainder of the day is devoted to education. They are separated in these activities.
Territorial Army (Out-Of-Camp Training)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many morning ceremonial parades for civic authorities or week-end attendances on firing-ranges would have to be carried out over three years by a National Service soldier in the Territorial Army to fulfil his statutory obligation of 15 days' out-of-camp training.
A National Service soldier in the Territorial Army carries out his 15 days' out-of-camp training by attending week-end camps or by single days of training or by hourly periods of instruction, four such periods counting as a day's training. Attendances at the rare ceremonial parades or for week-end firing count towards his obligation according to the time involved.
Whilst thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for that answer, may I ask if he is aware that in the little leaflet he sent me, entitled "Your Service in the Territorial Army," which is issued to all National Service men on finishing their two years' service and going into the Territorial Army, the information he has given me is not included, and would he consider including it in future?
I will look into that. I have not the pamphlet in front of me, but I should expect it to contain what I have said.
Could the hon. Gentleman say whether the ceremonial morning parades are compulsory?
I should like to have an example of ceremonial parades because, to my knowledge, they are extremely rare, and I should like to look into any example which the right hon. Gentleman can give me, because I believe they are also not compulsory.
Hospital Cases (Information To Next Of Kin)
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the perfunctory way in which, on the admission of a soldier to hospital, the next of kin are informed of the nature of the soldier's illness; and whether he will issue instructions to all those authorised to sign hospital redirection cards, Army Form A.2042A, to ensure that the nature of the soldier's illness or wounds is more clearly defined and the next of kin saved from undue anxiety.
Whenever a soldier is admitted to hospital as a battle casualty or suffering from a serious illness or injury his next of kin is informed by telegram followed by a letter. Great care is taken in the wording of these communications so as to give full and accurate information. In other cases it is, I think rightly, left to the man himself to decide whether to let his family know of his admission to hospital either by letter or by this special form, which is primarily a notification of his new postal address.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have in my possession an Army form A.2042A, which was sent in respect of a lad in the Middle East, which bears the information to the boy's parents that he has been admitted to hospital with multiple injuries? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the anxiety that was caused to those parents when it took four days to receive a reply, by prepaid telegram, from the War Office which stated:
Surely more details could be supplied to parents when a soldier is injured. Will the Minister see that the form is altered so as to provide the fullest details?"When we hear what has happened to the boy we will let you know."
I think that it will be generally agreed that it is right to leave to a man, unless he is seriously or dangerously ill, the decision as to what he should tell his parents. He may not want to tell them that he is in hospital, so as to avoid causing them anxiety. I have not seen the form which the hon. Member has quoted. I should like to look into the matter, but I imagine that the soldier himself filled in the form.
No, it was not in the soldier's handwriting. It was in the sister's handwriting.
Us Manoeuvres (British Army Observers)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the seven British Army officers who attended the United States Flash Burn manoeuvres have now returned to Europe in order to give a first-hand eye-witness account to British officers at regimental and battalion level.
The one Army officer who went from this country has returned and is preparing a report.
Will my hon. Friend see that this Army officer does not merely prepare a report which may be the foundation of a paper issued several months hence but, on the contrary, that he gives first-hand eye-witness lectures, because that is the best way to teach these things?
I should like to think about that, but it would be a little difficult, would it not, to ask one officer to give eye-witness lectures to the whole of the British Army. Somehow or other this information must be put out in writing as well
Is it not a fact that seven officers from the British Army were invited to attend? Why could not more than one come back to this country?
The others are members of the British Army staff in Washington. It is best to wait and see what is contained in the reports provided by this officer and other observers and consider then what more we can do.
Trade And Commerce
Light Industry, Stirling
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the intended closing of the British-American Tobacco Company's factory in Stirling; whether he is also aware that this will intensify the already existing need for light industry in the Stirling area; and what steps he intends to take.
Yes, Sir. I am aware that further industrial employment would be welcomed in the area, and the Board of Trade will be prepared to consider the issue of industrial development certificates in appropriate cases.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this is another case of a firm with headquarters in England closing down the Scottish end of its production? Will he take that into account in the policies which he and his Department carry out?
I think that in this case both the union concerned and the Stirling Town Council have accepted the decision as inevitable on economic grounds.
New Industries, Falkirk
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to attract new industries to the Falkirk area, in view of the recession in the ironfounding industry.
The Board of Trade recognise the need of the Falkirk area for new industry and will continue to encourage suitable enterprises to establish themselves there.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman recall that a year ago one of his colleagues in the Government put very emphatically the point which he is now putting that the area needs diversification of industry? Will he say what has been done in that respect in the course of that year?
The hon. Member is aware that Falkirk cannot be considered apart from Grangemouth and Bonny-bridge, and that there have been considerable developments there.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that industry in Falkirk is mainly one of supplying goods for fuel consumption, such as modern grates? Would he not ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would not make the introduction of fuel saving appliances free from Purchase Tax so that there might be some encouragement to this industry, and a saving in fuel?
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, that is a totally different question.
Is it not the case that there is now no restriction on industrial building even in areas where many thousands of vacancies cannot be filled? How can the hon. and learned Gentleman expect a proper redistribution of industry whilst such conditions exist?
Again, that is a different question.
China And Ussr (Export Licences)
59, 60 and 61.
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) the number of applications and the total value thereof for licences to export steel and other metals to Bulgaria, Hungary and China, respectively; the number of these applications which he has granted and refused respectively; and the total value thereof for the last six months;(2) how many applications for licences, and to what value, have been received by his Department for the export of electrical equipment to China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, respectively, during the last six months; the number and value of those refused; the number and value of those allowed; and the number and value of those still under consideration, respectively; (3) the number of applications and the value thereof for licences to export machine tools to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which have been received by his Department in the last six months; the number and value of the applications which have been allowed; the number and value of those which have been refused; and the number and value of those now awaiting decision, respectively.
The collation of the detailed information requested by the hon. and learned Member is taking a little time, and I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman already collected this information in order to put it before whatever is the appropriate committee discussing this matter?
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman under-estimates the amount of work that is involved in providing the detailed information for which he asks. I am anxious that he should have information which is as accurate as possible, and it will be provided as soon as possible. If he is not satisfied, I hope that he will put a further Question on the Order Paper.
Whilst appreciating the accuracy and enthusiasm with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with matters whilst he was at the Ministry of Pensions, may I suggest that surely he could give some general indication of how many applications for licences have been granted and how many have been refused?
That general information would not answer the specific Questions which the hon. and learned Gentleman has asked.
Inland Revenue Yield
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the yield to the Treasury would be during the current financial year from all sources, at the taxation level ruling during the financial year 1950–51.
The yield of Inland Revenue duties in 1954–55 at 1950–51 rates of tax would be about £2,565 million, compared with the Budget estimate of £2,385 million. The corresponding figures for Customs and Excise revenue would be approximately £1,715 million and £1,781.5 million respectively.
Bank Rate Reduction
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the reasons for reducing the Bank rate from 3½per cent, to 3 per cent.
The Bank of England took the view that this change was appropriate in present market conditions. I was, of course, consulted and concurred.
Was it the inflow of foreign temporary money into this country—the "hot money"—that caused the decision that has been taken? If so, can the Chancellor say to what extent that foreign "hot money" has been coming into the country over the past six months?
I have already answered this question once in debate, when I said that the greater part of the marked improvement in our reserves has been due to normal factors, and due to an increased confidence in sterling, which I think alt sections of the House would welcome at the present time. I said further that there had recently been a speculative element. My hon. Friend asked whether the Bank rate was changed specifically for that reason. The reason why it was changed, among others, was that money rates had eased in various centres since the last reduction in the Bank rate. This was one of the factors that were taken into account.
The local authorities are very anxious to know whether this reduction in the Bank rate will be reflected in the Public Works Loan Board's rates. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information about that?
Those rates are not governed by the Bank rate but are based on the general level of Government credit from time to time for loans for comparable periods. Therefore, I shall keep a watch on that matter.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when he first raised the Bank rate the building societies automatically raised their mortgage interest charges, and that although there have been two reductions in the Bank rate they have not followed the right hon. Gentleman's example? Will he do something about that?
Developments in that direction will depend upon movements in the market and upon decisions taken by the borrowers and lenders concerned. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should under-rate the importance of leaving these matters to the market.
Controlled Pedestrian Crossings (Cost)
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the comparative cost, in connection with pedestrian crossings for which local authorities are responsible of police control and press-button light control.
The cost of police control is about £1,200 a year on the basis of a 12-hour day. The cost of installing press-button traffic light signals varies between £850 and £350, depending on whether the lights are provided with vehicle-actuated pads or not. The annual maintenance cost of such signals is £50 to £70.
Will my hon. Friend encourage the use of press-button signals rather than police controls?
Yes, Sir It is our policy to do so in all suitable cases in the interests of economy.
Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary making good progress with the collection of statistics to show whether or not zebra crossings, are, in fact, resulting in a reduction in the number of accidents?
Yes, Sir, we are making good progress in that as in other respects, and there may be an opportunity of discussing that matter later.
Television Bill (Allocation Of Time)
Report [ 13th May] of the Business Committee to be considered forthwith.— [ Mr. Crookshank.]
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, surely this is a debatable Motion?
The settled practice on this Motion is that it has never been
|(a) the remaining proceedings in Committee on the Television Bill will be divided into the parts specified in the second column of the Table set out below;|
|(b) the days which under the Order [11th May] are given to the said proceedings and portions of those days shall be allotted in the manner shown in that Table; and|
|(c) subject to the provisions of the Order [11th May], each part of the proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the third column of that Table.|
|Allotted Day||Proceedings||Time for conclusion of Proceedings|
|First day||Clause 1 and First Schedule||6·30|
|Clause 2, to end of subsection (1)||7·30|
|Clause 2, so far as not previously disposed of, to second "the" in line 3 on page 4||9·00|
|Clause 2, so far as not previously disposed of||—|
|Second day||Clause 2, so far as not previously disposed of||10·30|
|Third day||Clause 3 to end of line 21 on page 5||5·00|
|Clause 3, so far as not previously disposed of, except the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"||8·00|
|Clause 3, so far as not previously disposed of||9·00|
|Fourth day||Second Schedule||9·00|
|Clause 5 and Third Schedule||—|
|Fifth day||Clause 5 and Third Schedule, so far as not previously disposed of||6·30|
|Clauses 6 to 17, new Clauses and new Schedules||10·30|
debated and to do so would be contrary to the spirit of the Standing Order, which says that the Question must be put forthwith.
I must so rule.
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Report," put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 41 (Business Committee), and agreed to.
The following is the Report of the Business Committee:
Orders Of The Day
Considered in Committee.
[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
Clause 1—(Reduction Of Entertainments Duty)
The first seven Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), from lines 16 to 20, are out of order.
As it would be convenient to the Committee, would you be good enough, Sir Charles, to explain why these Amendments are out of order?
The reason is that the hon. Member should have put down consequential Amendments to preserve the amateur entertainments, which he has not done. For that reason they are out of order.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, at the end, to insert:
(2) Entertainment duty shall not be charged in respect of admission to a cinematograph film exhibition given in premises the seating capacity of which does not exceed! two hundred and fifty persons:
As the Committee knows, there is a comparatively small number of operators known as mobile film exhibitors. These individuals, or sometimes firms, are equipped for the most part with 16 mm. projectors and are willing to give shows in almost any village hall and even in village schools. Thereby they hope to make a living, but in doing so they bring relaxation and entertainment to small communities which for the most part are denied this form of amusement. Although this Amendment has been tabled after consultation with the Mobile Cinema Association, I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not lose sight of the fact that its acceptance would cost him practically nothing. On the other hand, it would contribute towards counteracting the drift away from rural areas to the large towns—a movement which, we have often been told, is, to a large extent, caused by the lack of entertainment provided in the countryside. At the same time, mobile operators have a case on their own account. They are not having an easy time and I rather think that a tax concession on their behalf is overdue. It will be recalled that relief from Entertainments Duty has already been granted in the case of cinemas situated in parishes where the population is fewer than 2,000, or in the case of cinemas in areas where the density of population is fewer than 640 to the square mile. In addition to those two qualifications, exemption from tax is only granted at present in the case of halls with a seating capacity of fewer than 400. It may be asked why those concessions do not meet the case of the mobile operators. The answer is that those qualifications for exemption, although of course most acceptable, bring a number of anomalies as, for instance, where a small village is included in the boundaries of a much larger parish or perhaps is in the same parish as a quite sizeable town. In cases of that sort the nearest cinema may be four or five miles or more away. It may be suggested that the proper way in which to deal with the problem is to re-define, still on a territorial plus population basis, the qualifications for exemption from Entertainments Duty. In reply to that suggestion, if it is made, all I can say is that the whole ingenuity of the Treasury has been brought to bear on this possibility—and brought to bear, I think, with sympathy—but it has not led to the framing of a formula which would not bring as many anomalies and contradictions as it would eradicate. With all these considerations in mind, I have found it easier to propose, and I hope the Chancellor will find it easier to accept, the Amendment which grants exemption for Entertainments Duty to film shows given in halls in which film shows are not given more than once a week. I do not think shows given in halls not more frequently than once a week would seriously compete with the established static 35 mm. cinemas. I think the one day a week qualification is very definite and I do not think the acceptance of the Amendment would bring administrative difficulties. The concession would help a deserving little industry which is fairly hard hit at the moment and would also help to provide amenities in the countryside.Provided that such premises are used for the giving of cinematograph film exhibitions for which but for the provisions of this subsection entertainment duty would have been chargeable, not more often than one day in any one week.
I wish to support the Amendment. It is now many years since the late Sir Stafford Cripps, realising the importance of small mobile cinemas to those living in the outlying villages, decided to remove the Entertainments Duty under certain conditions. This decision was received with gratitude and acclamation, until it was discovered that, in spite of what the then Chancellor had done, there were still many villages which, for different reasons, did not benefit, and where the duty still had to be paid.Certain alterations were made in the next Finance Act and again, those of us with villages in our constituencies that were affected, hoped that they would benefit. But, to our great disappointment, for administrative reasons they did not. There are still villages where the population is small enough, and where the seating capacity of the hall complies with the regulations, but because they come into certain categories—I do not wish to weary the Committee with the technical reasons—Entertainments Duty has still to be paid. I have one village in my constituency which cannot be exempted and unless the Chancellor can do something now to exclude all these cinemas in certain outlying villages the promoters will be unable to continue to face the financial loss confronting them, which is due entirely to the need to pay Entertainments Duty. Many other hon. Members can quote similar cases relating to villages in their constituencies. I have received letters from different parts of the country confirming this. I have bombarded the Financial Secretary—I can use no other word— and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject, as I have bombarded previous Chancellors and Financial Secretaries. I have always maintained that it should not be beyond the wit of Treasury officials to find some means of helping all these villages. I need not say how thankful I shall be if the Chancellor is able to accept this Amendment, so that it will be unnecessary for me to make any further representations to him or to the Financial Secretary on behalf of some very hardly treated and well deserving people.
I do not think that this Amendment would cost very much. If it did I should not support it, because I do not think that there should be any decrease in taxation unless one brings about a decrease in expenditure. It is rather important that we should establish the fact that there is some connection between taxation and expenditure—something which seems to be ignored both in this Committee and outside.There is in my constituency a village— if one may so term it—with 17,000 inhabitants. It lies on the outskirts of my constituency. If two people living there wish to go to visit the cinema, because of the incompetence of the nationalised London Transport, it costs them Is. 6d. each, or a total of 3s. to get to the cinema and home again. I do not know why hon. Members opposite smile at my description of the nationalised London Transport. It is the most incompetent transport body in this country. Fares are raised on successive occasions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I am not out of order. I am talking about the cost of going to a film show if one happens to live in a certain part of my constituency. If this concession were granted many more entertainments would take place which do not take place now, and I doubt, therefore, whether the Chancellor would lose much revenue at all. There are small halls and schools with a seating capacity of fewer than 250 and if they were permitted to have one show a week it would be a great comfort to the people living in the area. My constituency is not a good example because theoretically it is an urban area, but there is a mile of agricultural land between the main body of my constituents and the village to which I am referring. I also have one or two farmers in my constituency. The people who live on the other side of the agricultural belt in my constituency are hardly treated and, therefore, I hope that the Chancellor will consider making this concession. As I say, it will cost but little, and give great comfort to a number of people in my constituency the majority of whom, I regret to say, do not apparently vote for me as is indicated by the result of the recent municipal elections. They are so disgruntled by the high cost of transport which has resulted from a Socialist transport administration that they vote Labour, not realising where the trouble comes from.