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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1954

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Royal Air Force

Saltfleet Bombing Range (Re-Opening)


asked the Undersecretary of State for Air if he will make a statement on the results of the experiments at Saltfleet bombing by radar; how far bombing in future will be made away from land as a result of this revolutionary practice; and what future use he intends to make of the Saltfleet range.

My hon. Friend will recall that this range was closed on 1st December, 1953, after several irregular releases during high-level bombing practice. I am now satisfied, as a result of recent experiments in radar-plotting, that this type of bombing can in future be carried out efficiently three or four miles from the shore, so that there should be no risk of further incident. We therefore propose to re-open the range for all types of bombing practice as soon as the necessary equipment can be installed.

Will the range be used a great deal, and can my hon. Friend give me an assurance on behalf of my constituents that they will not be subject to the dangers that they suffered some six months ago?

A good deal will depend on the success with which we are able to achieve the introduction of this new method at other coastal ranges. I think it is unlikely that Saltfleet will be used less intensively than in the past, but I think that there is a very good chance indeed that we shall now completely overcome all these difficulties.

If by mischance the new method does not prove successful, will my hon. Friend give an undertaking to close down the range?

United States Bases (Civilian Employees)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many British subjects offered civilian employment at United States bases in the United Kingdom have been interviewed by officials of his Department; and how many have been certified as unsuitable on security grounds.

Is it not rather curious that hundreds of British subjects should be subjected to this examination by the hon. Gentleman's Department at the request of the American authorities? Will the hon. Gentleman say whether these applicants for employment are told at the Ministry of Labour exchange, or wherever they put in their applications, that they are going to be subjected to this examination before they are taken on?

About 4,700 civilians employed by the Air Ministry are working at United States Air Force bases in this country, and nearly all of them are engaged locally. There is no central record to show how many applicants for these jobs have been interviewed since the United States Air Force bases were opened in 1948. On the specific point of whether they are told, I am afraid that I shall have to check up, but I have no doubt that they are.

As the situation is unsatisfactory and uncertain, will the hon. Gentleman take steps to see that the applicants are told?

Us Manoeuvres (Raf Observers)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many of the Royal Air Force officers who attended the United States "Flash Burn" manoeuvres have now returned to this country in order to give a first-hand eyewitness account of the lessons learnt.

Has a programme of lectures been arranged for these officers to give to other Service officers so that the lessons may be promptly learnt?

These two officers will be reporting in the first place to the Commander-in-Chief Transport Command, to the School of Land/Air Warfare and to the Air Ministry. We shall study their reports very carefully and then they will be disseminated throughout the Service in the best possible way. There are various channels for doing so. There is a magazine, "Air Clues," which has a wide circulation, and we may also issue a special pamphlet. Then, on the medical side of the matter, there will be an article in the Quarterly Report of the Director-General of Medical Services.

Will my hon. Friend not overlook the value of a firsthand eye-witness account if the lecturer can give it properly?

Yes, I shall bear that in mind. Of course, the information which these officers will bring back is mainly of interest to Transport Command and to the School of Land Air Warfare, but I will certainly look into the point that my hon. and gallant Friend mentioned.

Haverigg Aerodrome


asked the Under secretary of State for Air the tender price for the repair and renovation of the Haverigg Aerodrome, the amount assessed for labour costs, the amount assessed for materials, the gross amount paid for the work when it was completed, when the aerodrome will be closed down, and how far the aerodrome buildings will be at the service of any other Department, respectively.

It would be contrary to well-established Government practice to disclose tender prices. The gross amount paid for the work was £317,000 and no separate assessment was made for labour and materials. The station will be closed down at the end of this month, and if we still have no further use for it, in about three months' time we shall offer it to other Government Departments for public letting.

May I ask why offers have not already been made to the respective Departments, seeing that it has now been definitely decided to close down this aerodrome, rather than to keep it on a care and maintenance basis for a matter of three months? Why have offers not been made to the Ministry of Education, the Cumberland Education Authority or other authorities dealing with mental cases and so on?

Only because we want to be absolutely certain by a thorough review of all our commitments that we do not have any further use for it. We shall be certain one way or the other in about three months' time, and then we shall take action.

Will offers be made to other Departments even at the expiry of the three months?

Yes. I said in my answer that we were going to offer it to other Government Departments if we did not want it ourselves.

Disused Sites, Orkney


asked the Under-secretary of State for Air the value of equipment and buildings in Orkney still held by the Air Ministry but unused; and what is the estimated loss on such buildings and equipment by deterioration since the end of the war.

I regret that this information is not readily available. I am having inquiries made and will write to the hon. Member as soon as I can.

While I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for offering to make inquiries, I find it rather alarming that there is a necessity for this. Is there no regular system of inspection and accounting of Air Ministry property wherever it is?

There is no point in regular detailed inspections of disused sites, and in order to get the value which the hon. Member wants it would be necessary to make a special inspection.

Northolt Airport (Use)


asked the Undersecretary of State for Air, in view of the fact that a definite date has now been given when civil flying will cease at Northolt Airport, if he can now state the nature and extent of the flying which will be done by the Royal Air Force from Northolt; and whether the United States Air Force also propose to extend their use of this airport.

When civil flying from Northolt comes to an end in October, the airfield will continue to be used by transport and communication aircraft of the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force. The total amount of flying from the airfield will, however, be considerably reduced.

While we hope that the total amount will be reduced, can the Minister give an undertaking that the amount of military flying will not be increased above that done at the moment, and having agreed to give up this airport largely on safety grounds because of its proximity to London Airport, does he not agree that it would be wholly wrong now to develop it for military flying?

I cannot give an undertaking that the amount of military flying which we shall do will be no greater than we do now. Of course, we are naturally very restricted at the moment by the amount of flying we can do by the operation of civil aircraft there, but the total amount of flying will be certainly reduced as compared with what goes on now, both civil and military. As I said, we have been working out details of the flying we are going to do there, but, of course, it will be limited—it is bound to be limited—by the need to avoid interference with aircraft using London Airport.

Will its use by the United States Air Force be confined to transport planes in the same way as Transport Command is using it?

It will be certainly confined to communications and transport aircraft, but as to how many aircraft we shall have there, I should not like to say.

Will the hon. Gentleman resist any development of the airport by the American Air Force, because it would be creating considerable difficulties in the area both in respect of accommodation and air safety?

I can certainly give the assurance that we shall not expand our activities on that airfield beyond the point at which we should be a danger to London Airport, or at which there would have to be new accommodation.



asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many helicopters and what type are in service with the Royal Air Force; and what orders have been placed to increase the helicopter strength.

There are some 20 helicopters in service in the Royal Air Force. These are of two types—Dragonflies and Sycamores. Outstanding orders amount to 100, of which about half should be delivered in the next 12 months.

Does the hon. Gentleman feel satisfied with these figures, and would he and his Department try to have some of the enthusiasm of the Navy which has led the way in the exploitation of this aeronautical development?

Yes, Sir. We are as keen as the hon. Member to get helicopters. As I said, we have 100 on order, and I think that there should be substantial improvement in deliveries over the next year.


Built-Up Areas (Speed Limits)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will introduce a speed limit of 25 miles per hour in a selected town for an experimental period.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

While I appreciate the motives underlying my hon. Friend's suggestion, I do not think that it would serve a useful purpose. A maximum speed of 30 miles per hour has been accepted for many years as reasonable in built-up areas, and pedestrians as well as motorists are accustomed to it.

May I ask my hon. Friend whether the Minister is prepared to carry out any experiments with a view to reviewing the present speed limits?

I do not think that there is any need for that. As recently as 1949, the Ministry of Transport asked the Committee on Road Safety to make a report on this matter. The Committee included representatives of the Police, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and also the Pedestrians' Association, of which my hon. Friend is the chairman. It expressed the view that the existing 30 miles per hour limit was reasonable and accepted as such by the public.

Surely if the motorist has become accustomed to a speed limit of 30 miles per hour there is no reason why he cannot become accustomed for an experimental period to a speed limit of 25 miles per hour?

For no fewer than 27 years 20 miles per hour was the maximum speed limit, and it was found to be unsatisfactory and was abolished in 1930.

Is the Minister aware that many towns are now concerned about the speed limit which is in existence, and is it not a fact that since the time he mentioned there has been an increasing number of accidents—and the faster they go the more accidents there are? Is there not a case for the reduction of the speed limit in the towns?

The majority of accidents in this country are in those areas where there is a speed limit.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation from which sections of the main Bristol road, within the boundaries of the city of Birmingham, he is considering removal of the 30 miles per hour speed limit; and when his decision can be expected.

My right hon. Friend has asked the Birmingham City Council to de-restrict the section of Bristol Road South which lies between Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, and St. Lawrence Road, Northfield, and is awaiting the council's reply.

When the Minister decides to de-restrict this area, will he hold a meeting locally so that full objections to his scheme can be properly heard?

My right hon. Friend has made a request to the Birmingham City Council, and to deal with what might happen if they decline to agree to what he proposes would be to answer a hypothetical question.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will list the causes of the 59 road accidents which occurred in the past three years on the section of Bristol Road South, Birmingham, between the Austin Motor Works and Rubery.

As the answer involves tabulated figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware that his figures relate to the three years ending December, 1952, and that the more recent figures to 30th April this year indicate that over a three years' period the figures have gone up by at least 25 per cent.? Will he, therefore, now revise or review his decision not to impose a 30 miles an hour speed limit? The chief constable of Birmingham states in a letter to me that he is in favour of such a speed limit. Why is the opinion of this chief official of the city disregarded?

I am aware that there has been an increase in the number of accidents since the figures I gave last week. I have, however, had some census figures on the road prepared, and it appears that the average number of accidents a year per thousand vehicles per day per mile on this stretch of road was only 1½ injury accidents as compared with an average for the whole country in similar circumstances of seven or eight. There is, therefore, no justification for introducing a speed limit.

Following are the figures:

Birmingham County Borough Council

Bristol Road South (A.38)

Road Accidents between Lickey Road (Austin Motor Works) and City Boundary (Rubery)

The prime causes of the road accidents on the above stretch of road, as determined by the Police, between 1st January, 1950, and 31st December, 1952, are as follows:

Drivers or Pedal Cyclists:

Inattentive or attention diverted10
Misjudging distance, clearance or speed (vehicles or objects)5
Turning right without due care5
Pulling out from near side without due care4
Turning to left without due care1
Stopping suddenly3
Proceeding at excessive speed having regard to conditions3
Reversing negligently2
Losing control1


Heedless of traffic—crossing road not masked by stationary vehicle3
Heedless of traffic—stepping, walking or running off footpath or verge3
Heedless of traffic—crossing road masked by stationary vehicle2
Heedless of traffic—playing in road2
Heedless of traffic—walking or standing in road1
Slipping or falling1

Passengers, etc.:

Negligence on part of conductor1


Ice, frost or snow2
Fog or mist1

Cause not traced



asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to what extent an area has to be built up, and how far the total of road accidents is taken into account before he imposes a 30 miles per hour speed limit on an urban road in a development area.

Each case is decided on the relevant facts. As was recognised by the Committee on Road Safety in their report on speed limits, published in 1949, no precise formulae can be applied generally.

The Minister knows that I am pressing him about this stretch of road. How far has the toll of life to go before we can get action?

The toll of life at present is so heavy that we are taking all steps that we can to reduce it. It is for this reason that the Government resisted the Prayer that was moved last night to annul the Regulations dealing with pedestrian crossings. We do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by imposing a speed limit restriction in areas where it is not likely to be observed by motorists. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Dartford—Purfleet Tunnel


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation on what date work will recommence on the Dart-ford—Purfleet Tunnel.

As the hon. Member knows, it is proposed to recommence work on this tunnel next year. I cannot at present be more precise than this as to dates.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that information has been given now for months? Can he not give some idea whether the work will be recommenced at the beginning or the end of the year? In view of the fact that many other districts want tunnels and are well behind in the queue, has a decision not yet been reached?

The fact that information was given some months ago does not make it less true today. This is an immensely expensive project—I think, the largest on our list of undertakings—and I am very glad it has been brought so far forward. This conflicts very vividly with the policy of the previous Administration.

While I support my hon. Friend entirely, did not the Minister state in the House in December that the Clyde Tunnel had first priority?

Certainly, but this project is even more expensive than the Clyde Tunnel.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now say how many shields will be required for the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel.

This is being considered by the Dartford Tunnel Committee, whose views we are awaiting.

Surely this matter has been now under consideration for a very long time? Has the Minister been doing anything to speed up a decision from Dartford, in view of the fact that he has just intimated that the Dartford Tunnel will be resumed next year? Further, is there any reason why, when Glasgow has been assigned first priority, he should have to wait any decision from Dartford at all?

My right hon. Friend always feels great hesitation about trying to hasten local authorities in these matters. We are awaiting detailed estimates from the Glasgow Corporation as well as from the Dartford Tunnel Committee, and therefore my right hon. Friend is in the position of being obliged to wait for the initiative to be taken locally.

High Wycombe

20 and 21.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) when he proposes to authorise the construction of the High Wycombe inner relief road;

(2) when he proposes to authorise the construction of the High Wycombe and West Wycombe by-pass between Loud-water and Stokenchurch on the A.40 road.

Early in June my right hon. Friend will publish a draft Order under the Trunk Roads Act for the inner relief road, and the project for the outer by-pass is under survey. I regret that I cannot say when it will be possible to fit either of these schemes into the road programme.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the considerable traffic congestion in High Wycombe is a source of grave inconvenience and loss to industry and causes considerable anxiety to the police in the area? Is he further aware that the seven miles' stretch of 30 miles an hour limit through the High Wycombe and Wycombe Valley slows down traffic on this important road to such an extent that it must cause considerable loss to industry? Cannot my hon. Friend bring this project forward?

We realise that there is great need of this road in High Wycombe, but the same applies to roads in many other parts of the country. It is unlikely that we could include this scheme in the road programme in the first few years.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this road is the main trunk road between London and South Wales and that South Wales is already very badly served with roads? Will he look into the matter with a view to its importance far beyond the implications of High Wycombe alone?

It is because the Government realised that Wales was badly served for roads that such a large proportion of the programme announced by my right hon. Friend on 8th December dealt with Wales.

Accidents, Leicester


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the county council of Leicester is concerned that certain places in the city and county of Leicester have such high accident records that improvements to reduce them are urgent; and what steps he will take to make speedy improvements to these places, a list of which has been supplied to him by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West.

I received the hon. Member's letter on Monday, and I am looking into the matter and will write to him.

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to keep in mind what he said a moment or two ago, that in cases where the initiative is taken by the locality he is prepared to deal with the matter, and will he see to it that these real danger spots, about which the Leicester and County Accident Prevention Council also communicated with his Department, are dealt with speedily, as a considerable number of accidents are taking place?

We will gladly look into the matter, but 48 hours is not really sufficient time in which to do it.


Traffic Signals (Right Turns)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will introduce legislation to make it a specific offence to turn a motor vehicle or a pedal cycle to the right on a public highway without giving an appropriate signal, either physically or by indicator-arm or by light, before doing so.

I am not satisfied that my hon. Friend's proposal is the best way of dealing with this matter; the new draft Highway Code says: "If you intend to turn right, signal in good time and take up a position just left of the middle of the road," and if this advice were universally followed we should see a substantial reduction in road accidents.

Trolleybuses, London (Replacement)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what reduction is brought about in total passenger carrying capacity by the decision to substitute diesel oil vehicles for electric trolleybuses in London.

I am informed that the passenger-carrying capacity of the new vehicles would be similar whether they were powered by oil or by electricity.

In view of the fact that it is a matter of ordinary calculation—remembering that a trolleybus carries 70 passengers and a diesel bus 64 passengers —that 200 extra vehicles would be required to give the same passenger-carrying capacity, and not the 30 which the right hon. Gentleman announced, is it not evident that the London public will have a reduced service, and would the Minister take action to restrain the London Transport Executive in their bias against this useful electrical vehicle?

That might be so if the calculations of the hon. Gentleman were correct, but London Transport are proposing—and were proposing anyhow—to replace the existing trolley vehicles—the 70 seater 3-axle trolleybuses—with 2-axle vehicles of about the same seating capacity, and that makes my answer and theirs absolutely correct.

Is it not a fact that there will be considerable economy as the result of this substitution, and is not that the overriding factor for it?

Is it not a fact that the new buses proposed by London Transport can be loaded and unloaded quicker than trolleybuses owing to their design?

I think so, and examination of all the facts suggests that this should lead to a speeding up and a smoother flowing of London traffic.

Civil Aviation



asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if consideration will now be given to reviewing the regulations governing helicopters in the air, with a view to reducing the stringency of the regulations as an incentive to develop and use this type of transport in this country.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. John Profumo)

The regulations governing helicopters, in common with all safety regulations, are constantly under review. I cannot agree that they are unnecessarily stringent at this stage of helicopter development or a disincentive to the use of the helicopter as a form of transport.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that people who are concerned with the manufacture of helicopters tell me that this should be discussed, particularly as the national Press has given details in the last day of a helicopter which has been made but which is not allowed to be flown until another one is built and supervised from first to last? Does he not think that it is time there should be another discussion on this point, because helicopters are much safer now than ever they were when the present regulations were introduced?

I have said that these regulations have been under review. I should add that my right hon. Friend is reinforced in his view about these Regulations, first, by the advice of the Air Safety Board and secondly, by the manufacturers themselves who agree—and I have spoken to them in person—that they are reasonable and necessary during the present development stage when only single-engined helicopters are available.

Is the Minister aware that this question of helicopters has been discussed in this House for years? Can he now say when we are likely to develop a twin-engined helicopter?

I think that is another question. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that every haste is being made to see that the twin-engined helicopter is brought in as speedily as possible.

Is not the difficulty not the regulations of the Department, but the dilatoriness of manufacturers in producing the necessary machines?

I cannot accept that statement, although I think that the hon. Gentleman wants to be helpful. That is not the case. The manufacturers are pressing ahead with all possible speed. The fact remains, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well himself, that we cannot develop any sort of aeroplane until we have had a chance of flying it for a sufficient time during the testing period, and that is being done with every possible speed.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the Central Post Office in Chicago has had 40,000 landings and take-offs on a roof approximately 240 feet from the street and not one single mishap in those 40,000 landings and take-offs with a single-engined helicopter?

I am speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, and that is what I am responsible for. It is not my right hon. Friend's policy or practice to prevent flights by helicopter into the Central London area, providing the flights are routed in such a manner that in the event of engine failure landings can be made without risk to persons on the ground. This, surely, cannot be regarded as a stringent regulation. To relax this precaution would be to endanger the public.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many applications he has received and granted to run regular passenger transport ser vices in the United Kingdom by helicopter; and when the first service is expected to start.

I am informed that the Air Transport Advisory Council have recently received one application from an independent company for permission to run regular helicopter services which, in the initial years, would be confined to the carriage of freight, but developed later as passenger services. I understand that B.E.A.C, as part of their helicopter development programme, also intend to apply shortly to the A.T.A.C. for authority to introduce an experimental scheduled passenger service on a new route this summer.

The applications are being submitted to the Air Transport Advisory Council.

Until the applications are advertised in the normal way by the Air Transport Advisory Council, it would be inappropriate for me to reveal any of the details.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what restrictions prevent or impede the purchase of suitable helicopters from overseas for regular passenger transport services in the United Kingdom.

If a helicopter is developed in an overseas country suitable for regular passenger transport services in the United Kingdom, there would be no restrictions preventing or impeding its purchase other than normal import licensing and currency regulations existing at that time.

Does my hon. Friend recall that when the experimental service between Birmingham and London was withdrawn last year, an undertaking was given by British European Airways that they would revive a similar service of an experimental character between other main provincial centres? As since that date we have heard no more of this, can my hon. Friend give any information?

The only information I can give is that that has nothing to do with the importation of foreign aircraft.

Far East Routes (Jewish Passengers)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware that the British Overseas Airways Corporation have issued instructions which put difficulty in the way of Jews of British or other nationality desiring to travel to Iraq or to the Far East on a route which stops in Bagdad in transit; and if he will consult with the Corporation with a view to giving a direction under Section 5 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949, to ensure that such discrimination is not permitted in future.

The Corporation's instructions to their staff are due to an Iraqi regulation of 1950 and have been in existence ever since.

Is the Minister aware that this is an extremely serious matter, that it is a shocking case of discrimination, and will he do something about remedying the position? Does he accept the position where the Iraqi Government is insisting upon British nationals not being allowed to travel on B.O.A.C. aero-planes?

So far as I am aware the Iraqi Government regulations require that members of the Jewish faith must have special visas when passing through Iraq. If they have the visas, B.O.A.C. will gladly carry them. These instructions were issued entirely in the interests of the Jewish passengers and to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that it is the considered policy and has been since 1950, as he says, to refuse any visa to any Jew in whatever kind of aeroplane he crosses their territory, and does not the refusal of our Government to take any steps in the matter mean connivance in discrimination against British subjects travelling in British aeroplanes?

I can only answer the Question that is put on the Paper, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that these regulations have been made in the interests of the Jewish passengers. I have no reason to suspect that any British Jew has so far been stopped in transit. Nothing of the sort has been brought to my notice, but the facts concerning this problem go far wider than my own responsibility.

Can my hon. Friend tell us whether this also applies to the staff of B.O.A.C. who might be flying that way? Can he assure us that in no circumstances will Jews be forbidden to join B.O.A.C. because they might have to work in that area?

These regulations apply to any member of the Jewish faith, but I must point out that there are two other ways whereby members of the Jewish faith may reach Far Eastern destinations. I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no discrimination in employing members of the Jewish faith in the B.O.A.C. organisation because of this.

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


Pullman Car Company


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission to discontinue their negotiations for the acquisition of the Pullman Car Company.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission not to purchase the Pullman Car Company.

I have no power to give such a direction, which I could not regard as one of a general character and, even if I had, I should not think it appropriate in this case. The proposal is the result of negotiations freely entered into between the British Transport Commission and the directors of the Pullman Car Company, on the initiative, I understand, of the latter. The directors have commended the proposal to their shareholders, and it is now awaiting the shareholders' decisions. The main reason which has weighed with the Commission in making their offer to acquire the company is that they consider that this is the best way of ensuring the continuance of the Pullman car service on a sound long-term basis.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that statement and recognising that he has no statutory power in this matter, may I ask him whether he is aware that the overwhelming majority of the general public will deplore the disappearance of the last vestige of private enterprise on the railways, and that we shall no longer anywhere be able to get a decent meal on long-distance trains?

Is the Minister aware that the overwhelming majority of the general public do not travel by Pullman?

In answer to both of these questions, this is now before the shareholders of the Pullman Car Company, the overwhelming majority of whom will now be called upon to make a decision.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Pullman Car Company during the whole period of the nationalisation of the railways before this Government took over was having considerable trouble, under considerable pressure, in carrying on its particular work, and am I to understand that my right hon. Friend, after all that was said during the General Election, has no power whatever to do anything to stop this ordinary private enterprise company being taken over? May I further add that the people in my constituency, to which most of these Pullman cars go, including the "Brighton Belle," will be horrified at this happening, because they do not wish to see nationalised railways taking over something that up to now has been so efficiently run?

My hon. Friend has asked me a number of questions. It is, of course, a fact, as is stated in the circular put out by the Pullman Car Company directors to their shareholders, that there are insuperable difficulties at the present time and in the foreseeable future for both parties to arrive at a worth-while solution. I do not believe that anyone on either side of the House seriously expects that the powers given to the Minister under the 1947 Act should be used in this way to interfere with the Commission's freedom to make commercial transactions freely entered into by both parties. If it is a fact that my hon. Friend's constituents fear that they will be prejudiced in this matter, I hope the advantages of the Pullman service, which are undeniable and which the Commission will continue in their present form, will be extended to other districts as well as to Brighton.

Is it not a fact that the company has said that it could not carry on in view of the very large capital expenditure which will be necessary to re-equip these Pullman cars, and is that not the reason why it is being taken over?

It is not being taken over. The question is now before the shareholders, who have to consider a freely negotiated offer. It is for them to consider the matter, but clearly the immense cost of re-equipping a fleet, which is getting old in parts and the franchise of which expires in 1962, must be ever present to the directors and the shareholders.

In view of the quite unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter as the subject of my Adjournment debate tomorrow week.

Level Crossing Keepers


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission to alter their present policy of dismissing level-crossing keepers and placing the responsibility of opening and closing gates on the engine fireman, in view of the unemployment caused and the fact that no economy is effected, since the extra consumption of fuel involved in stopping and starting trains outweighs the saving in wages.

No, Sir. This is a matter for the British Transport Commission. The cost of the slight increase in fuel consumption resulting from the stopping and starting of the locomotive is much less than the wages that would have to be paid if crossing keepers were employed.

Is the Minister aware that on one branch line alone from MacDuff to Inveramsay all three level-crossing keepers have been dismissed at a loss to British Railways of £1,965 12s. a year in order to save £450, that that is false economy, and will he now restore the three level-crossing keepers, who are on the spot waiting to resume their duties, and so save the nation money?

If I took any such step the hon. and learned Gentleman would be the first to point out that I would be acting unconstitutionally. I think that this is a matter which can be safely left to the commercial discretion of the Commission, which, in this and in other more important fields, is attempting to make the railways self-supporting.

On a point of order. The Minister has overlooked the fact that I merely asked him to give a direction to British Railways. I did not ask him to do anything unconstitutional.


Oil Pollution Convention


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement on the results of the International Conference on the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil; and when it is anticipated that the agreed Convention will come into force.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement about the results of the recent International Conference on the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil.

The Conference prepared a Convention providing for the establishment of zones within which certain oils should not be discharged. The Convention will come into force 12 months after acceptance by 10 Governments, including five with not less than 500,000 gross tons of tanker tonnage. A further Conference will be held within three years to consider the question of the complete avoidance of the discharge of certain oils anywhere at sea.

The texts of the Convention and the resolutions adopted by the Conference will be laid before the House as soon as possible. Her Majesty's Government will consider urgently formal acceptance of the Convention and the introduction of the necessary legislation. It will be some years before the effects of this Conference are fully apparent, but the adoption of the Convention will undoubtedly lead to considerable lessening of the evil of oil pollution of our coasts and waters.

In congratulating my right hon. Friend on the success of this Conference, may I ask him whether he can say if Her Majesty's Government will ratify the Convention?

I cannot at this moment add to what I have said, but I think I made it plain that we clearly envisage that legislation will be necessary after ratification.

I should like to add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend, not only because of the success of the Conference, but because of the energy he has devoted to this matter from the start. Might I ask him whether any country has yet signed the Convention, and whether there was any discussion at the Conference about the use of oil separators or any question of that policy being universally adopted by the countries concerned?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will await the fuller statement I shall make in regard to the need for 10 Governments signing the Convention within 12 months before it can come into force. I think the Conference has been successful, but clearly I would have liked it to result in a total prohibition. I think more education is necessary in this important field before we can reach that happy solution.

Missing Engineer (Disposal Of Property)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now authorise the payment of wages and transfer of the effects of Mr. T. G. Thorpe, late second engineer of s.s. "Teespool," who has been missing from the vessel since December, 1953.

I have no proof that Mr. Thorpe is dead. Unless I have this, I cannot authorise disposal of his property. In accordance with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, it is for Mrs. Thorpe or her legal representative to produce Probate or Letters of Administration.

What period must elapse in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman before death has been presumed, and -is the right hon. Gentleman aware that evidence has been produced to the effect that Mr. Thorpe was on the vessel when she sailed and presumably, if that is so, he must have disappeared when on the vessel? Will the Minister recognise that Mrs. Thorpe, who is now suffering inconvenience if not hardship, is finding difficulty in meeting the demands on her?

I have every sympathy in this and similar cases, and would gladly help, but the question of how death can be proved, or how quickly it can be assumed after disappearance, is a matter for the courts, and under the Act I cannot interfere. I hope that those concerned will read my answer and will take the necessary steps consequent upon that.

Ss "Sheldrake" (Arrested Seamen)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement regarding the recent arrest of the crew of the Liverpool ship, s.s. "Sheldrake," in Canada.

Reports from the Canadian authorities state that 18 deck and engine room ratings of the s.s. "Sheldrake" refused to carry out their duties on 7th May at Montreal. All efforts at a settlement failed and the men were duly charged with wilful disobedience to a lawful command and taken into custody on 8th May. After two adjournments the men were released on parole on 12th May for trial on 18th May, and were being cared for at the Sailors' Institute. Full reports and the result of the proceedings have not yet been received, but I understand that the 18 seamen have been sentenced to three weeks' imprisonment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, unfortunately, I have received reports that this crew received unsatisfactory treatment whilst under arrest, and as one is aware that any such reports will cause concern to the Canadian authorities, will the Minister investigate that aspect of the matter?

I will certainly look at that if the information is given. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the circumstances were fully explained to the men before sailing, namely, that they would be subject to receiving British National Maritime Board wages. However, I will at once look into any suggestion which the hon. Gentleman makes.

China (Diplomatic Mission)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has ever received any reply to Her Majesty's Government's representations that this country and the People's Government of China should exchange diplomatic missions; and if he will state briefly the steps which Her Majesty's Government has taken to this end since according de facto recognition on 7th January, 1950.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) on 22nd February.

I am aware of that. Can I assume from that reply that it still remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to try to exchange diplomatic missions with China, and that if the Chinese Government now makes a move in this matter and suggests sending a diplomatic mission to this country, it would be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government?

Our attitude has been made clear many times by actions as well as by words. It is clearly not for us to raise the matter. As to the second part of the question, I think we had better wait and see if it happens.

Surely the hon. Gentleman can go a good deal further than that? All I am asking him to say is that there is no change in the policy and that such a mission would be acceptable to the Government. Surely his brief will enable him to say that?

I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the policy is clearly stated in the reply of 22nd February.

In view of the fact that we recognised the present Government in China some years ago, and that Her Majesty's present Government have continued recognition, surely they would welcome reciprocity in the form of the arrival of a Chinese Ambassador in London?

Will the hon. Gentleman make it quite clear that this country has given full recognition to China and not merely de facto recognition?

If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the reply of my right hon. Friend of 22nd February, he will find that, as my right hon. Friend said, the situation is far from satisfactory as regards this country.

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

Suez Canal (Incidents)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what attacks there have been on British Service personnel in the Suez Canal zone during the past six weeks.

The total number of attacks during the period 2nd April to 13th May was 52. As a result of these attacks one British Service man was killed and four seriously injured. The total also includes two attempts at abduction which were, however, prevented by the Egyptian police.

Are protests made? Is any action of any kind taken, or do the Government just sit down and wait to see what happens?

Not this Government. On 18th April Her Majesty's Government's Consul at Port Said protested strongly, and the Ambassador reminded the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs on 22nd April and again on 13th May that we expect the Egyptian Government to maintain law and order in the Canal Zone.

Can the hon. Gentleman ever recall in British history any Government which remained so quiescent and inactive as the present Government?

Saudi Arabian Oil (Shipping Agreement)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to the Saudi Arabian Government over their grant of a monopoly for the transport of oil in view of the discrimination against British interests; and if he will make a statement.

I have nothing to add to the answer which my right hon. and learned Friend gave to the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) on 17th May, when he said that he understood 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, we will certainly consider what steps can usefully be taken.

Is the Minister aware that since then there have been very good indications of the type of agreement that is being entered into, including a statement by the Saudi Arabian Minister in Cairo, and it is clearly discriminatory against British shipping? Will he take action to make sure that some effective protest is made before it is too late?

We cannot do that until we get the terms of the agreement, which we are doing our best to obtain.

Slavery (United Nations Reports)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further reports he has received from the United Nations in respect of slavery; and to what extent Her Majesty's Government are participating in measures to secure its elimination.

Two reports of the Secretary General were considered by the Economic and Social Council at its last session which ended on 30th April. One recorded the results of his consultation with Governments concerning the desirability of a Supplementary Convention to extend the application of the 1926 Convention on Slavery. The other provided a collation of recent information on slavery received from Governments, the Specialised Agencies and non-Governmental organisations. The United Kingdom delegation took the lead in the discussion at the Council Session and, as a result, a United Kingdom draft Supplementary Convention has been circulated to Governments and the International Labour Organisation for their comments. The draft and the comments will be considered by the Council at its 19th Session early next year.

Have any Governments refused to accept this Convention, Governments in whose territory it is suspected that slavery still continues?

I could not say definitely without notice, but as far as I know none have refused.

Usa Butter


asked the Minister of Food whether any decision has yet been reached about the purchase of surplus butter from the United States of America; what price is to be paid; and what dollar payment is involved.

The question whether butter could be supplied to the United Kingdom under Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act is being considered in consultation with the United States Government. I cannot yet forecast what prices would be paid if any business took place, but no dollar payment would, in any case, be involved since goods obtained under the provisions of Section 550 of the Mutual Security Act are paid for in sterling, which would be applied in relief of the United Kingdom defence budget.

Will the hon. Gentleman keep in mind the question of the price at which this butter will be sold here? The position is extremely bad already and if he does not regulate the price this butter will only be available to those who can afford it and not to those who ought to have it.

I assure the hon. Member that in these discussions the point of the price is being carefully considered.

Nigeria (Ex-Indian Government Servants)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many ex-Indian Government servants have been taken into the employment of the Nigerian Government, either in the Civil Service or public corporations, respectively.

Forty-seven ex-Indian Government servants, including six ex-members of the regular Indian Armed Services, are employed by the Nigerian Government. None is employed by any public corporation in Nigeria.

Is the Minister aware that numbers of ex-Indian civil servants have been appointed to senior posts on the Nigerian railways and it is alleged that many of them have not even the qualifications to be assistant locomotive superintendents? This is obviously causing dissatisfaction among English employees. Will he look into the matter, and can he give us more details?

Twenty-seven out of the total of 47 are employed by the Nigerian railways, but this is the first complaint that I have heard about their qualifications.

Kikuyu, Dagoreti


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Kikuyu men, women and children who were ordered to leave Dagoreti before midnight on Sunday, 25th April, have been sent into the Kikuyu Reserve; and what is the total number of Kikuyu who have been sent, or been obliged to go back to, the Kikuyu Reserve since November, 1953.

Yes, Sir. The reply to the second part of the Question is not readily available, but I am consulting the Acting Governor and will write to the hon. Member.

Will the Minister assure the House that large numbers, or indeed any numbers, of Africans in Nairobi will not be sent back to the already congested Kikuyu Reserve? Will he also assure us that those who have been sent back are adequately looked after and catered for in respect of food, accommodation and the like?

As regards the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I have already told the House in reply to a previous Question that such care, welfare and relief is being given in the Reserves As to the second part, my right hon. Friend duly took note of several questions asked by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and he has asked the Government of Kenya to furnish a report. They have promised to send one, but they cannot send one immediately.

As this is a very urgent matter, and as the information which we have is that the numbers of people sent back to the Reserves are leading to chronic overcrowding and all that follows from that, may I press for an early report? When presenting the report, will the Minister also consider whether some other method could not be adopted which would avoid the present distress?

The Government of Kenya have promised to send a report as soon as possible and I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that we can deal with this problem only by measures to decrease the difficulties within the Reserves themselves.

Colonial British Subjects (Uk Entry)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that substantial numbers of people, mainly without adequate means of support, are arriving in Britain from abroad in search of work; that this is causing public concern; and what steps he is taking to deal humanely with this social problem and, in particular, to ensure that those who fail to find work are enabled to return home.

I understand that some of those who arrive from Colonial Territories either go straight to jobs, or to friends and relatives. Most of them have some means of support. Officers of my Department, in consultation with other Government Departments, do their best to put the remainder in touch with organisations which can help them. Arrangements can usually be made for the repatriation of British subjects from the Colonies who are unlikely to be able to support themselves.

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether territories which impose restrictions on British nationals should have their nationals subject to the same restrictions when they visit this country, so that these matters are dealt with on a reciprocal basis in the meantime?

My hon. Friend is certainly aware of the old tradition that British subjects from any Colonial Territory can come freely to this country. To change from that would be to take a very drastic step, but I assure him that we are aware of the public concern that this matter is causing and that it is receiving very careful consideration.

In view of the fact that many of these men are coming to London, Liverpool and other ports and then drifting throughout the country with no information as to where they are likely to find jobs, could not the Minister set up some sub-department to ensure that at these central points there will be co-ordination of information about jobs suitable for them, so as to enable them to be directed to appropriate places?

This matter involves other Departments than the Colonial Office, but I assure the hon. Member that it is receiving the most careful attention.

Malaya Federation Elections


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has yet received intimation of the decision of the Rulers of the Malaya Federation on the subject of federal elections; and if he will now make a statement on the matter.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will now make a statement on the new constitutional arrangements for Malaya.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement regarding the proposed new constitution for Malaya with particular reference to the elected and nominated seats proposed.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) on 30th April.

Is the Minister aware that both the United Malay National Organisation and the Malaya Chinese Organisation have expressed dissatisfaction with the small elected majority which is afforded under the new Constitution? In view of that, will he consider assigning to the Alliance four out of the seven of the nominated seats, which I understand he proposes to hold in reserve?

That is a separate question which should be placed separately on the Order Paper. The present arrangements, which are known to the House, are that the majority of elected members of six has been arrived at after very full consultation and lengthy discussions with all concerned, including the Rulers. My right hon. Friend thinks that no useful purpose will be served by upsetting the arrangement.

On a point of order. Surely my Question deals with elections which arise from the Constitution?

Is the Minister aware that both sides of the House have had opportunities of consultation with the delegations which recently visited this country from the two organisations which represent the two main communities, the Malaya to work the Constitution satis-utmost importance that we should keep the support and co-operation of these communities since the future of Malaya depends on racial unity. Would it be possible, within the terms of the constitution now promulgated, for consideration to be given to these seven nominated members at the discretion of the High Commissioner being used in such a way as to go at any rate part of the way to meet their point that they should have an effective elected majority in Malaya and responsibility in the Government?

I would not dissent in any way from what the right hon. Member has said about the necessity of getting the assent of all the people in Malaya to work the constitution satisfactorily. My right hon. Friend has seen this delegation and had a very friendly talk with them the other day. He is still in correspondence with them. The divergences of view are not, I think, so great as sometimes has been thought, and the field of disagreement is really very small. My right hon. Friend is writing a letter to them, which I think will be published in due course, but the obligation clearly is on them to consider it themselves. They have to refer it to their friends in the Federation, and I do not think it would be useful for me to pursue any further detailed points today at Question time.

May I ask whether there is any chance of settling this point by the method I have suggested, or any other method?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, one of these Questions was mine, but you did not call me and I was not allowed to say anything.

Locomotive Drivers And Firemen (Strike)

asked the Minister of Labour and National Service whether he has any statement to make about the strike of footplate men on the railways.

Yes, Sir. The strike of locomotive drivers and fire- men is in protest against the introduction of additional lodging turns. It is Wholly unofficial and is confined, so far, to Paddington, Bristol and Newton Abbot in the Western Region of British Railways. According to my latest information at these places, 906 men have failed to report for duty today out of a total of 1,008. This has of course resulted in substantial interference with passenger and freight traffic.

The lodging turns now in dispute had already been agreed between the British Transport Commission and the trade unions concerned through the established machinery. The unions have urged their members to honour their obligations.

I much regret the inconvenience which has been caused to the public, and I earnestly hope that the men taking part in this unofficial stoppage will, on reflection realise the importance of loyally carrying out agreements entered into by their union.

Whilst recognising the difficulty of the Minister in intervening in this type of dispute, may I assure him that all of us who have had experience of trade union negotiation will support his plea that the men shall return to proper trade union rules?

In supplementation of what has been said by the two right hon. Gentlemen, may I join in expressing the hope that the men will respond to the appeal of their organisation by a return to work? I want to direct attention to what I regard as a complete distortion of fact by certain organs of the Press in a very delicate situation, and I plead that they may cease. Having regard to the policy pursued by the trade unions in respect of the matter, may I say that only a minimum of sacrifice is called for by any man as a result of the arrangements which have been arrived at between the respective trade unions and the Transport Commission?

I wish to say how grateful I am to the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) and the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) for what they have said. The latter hon. Member has had long experience in carrying out the sort of duties which are here in dispute and has had a long and honourable experience in the trade union principally concerned. ft is a great comfort to me to know that I have the support of the right hon. Member and the hon. Member in urging these men to go back and follow the advice of their trade union.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend publish the details of the matter in dispute? What are the lodging turns?

I think it is sufficient for me to say that lodging turns have been a problem with us over the years, well understood by the union, by the men, and the British Transport Commission.