Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 529: debated on Wednesday 7 July 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Wednesday, 7th July, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Transport Commission Order Confirmation Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Telephone Service

Residential Subscribers (Changes Of Address)

1.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if, in view of the increased availability of all kinds of telephone equipment, he will take steps to ensure that all persons moving into a house where there is an existing line shall be permitted to retain the telephone if they so require; if he will also take steps to provide telephones for all present subscribers who move to a new residence; and if he will make a statement.

A removing residential subscriber is given priority over a new residential application, but not over a business applicant. When anyone moves to a house where a telephone already exists, he is allowed to keep it save in exceptional circumstances.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him, with reference to his last sentence, to bear in mind that when a person is obliged to move to a new residence where there is no telephone he can understand the need for waiting for one, but that if there is a telephone there it is difficult for him to understand the need to dismantle it and take it away and to put him on some waiting list and to keep him waiting for a considerable time? Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind how much this feeling is aggravated in the case of a person who has been a subscriber at another address for many years?

There has been a change in policy. In all but the most exceptional circumstances, when a person goes to a new house where there is a telephone he is now allowed to keep it.

Do I understand from that announcement that if there is a shortage of exchange equipment the rule is abrogated, or is it still carried out? Where there is a shortage of exchange equipment does the right to the telephone pass to the newcomer?

There is no hard and fast rule. The new rule is that if there is a telephone the newcomer may keep it, but in exceptional circumstances, where, for instance, there is a very long waiting list, the telephone would have to be taken away.

Does the rule mean that a subscriber moving to a new address will have a preferential right in regard to the installation of a telephone? If that is so, would the hon. Gentleman look again at the cases I have put to him for so many months?

What I said was that if there is a telephone in the house to which a person goes he is normally allowed to keep it.

Leyton

14.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many applicants for telephones have had these installed in Leyton during the past 12 months; and how many are still awaiting installation.

Five hundred and eighty-nine telephones were connected in the last 12 months, and 1,369 are outstanding.

Could the Assistant Postmaster-General say how long applicants now have to wait before they are likely to get an installation?

There is no definite time, but I am sure the hon. Member will be pleased to know that since he last put down a Question to me in May we have effected a reduction of the waiting list in his constituency of no fewer than 294.

Northern Ireland

15.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the number of applications for telephones outstanding in Northern Ireland; how many new applications have been made and how many telephones provided since 1st January, 1953; and what proportion of the total demand in Northern Ireland was met, as compared with the rest of the country.

Eight thousand and ninety-nine applications are outstanding. Nine thousand six hundred and twenty- four telephones have been supplied since 1st January, 1953, and 9,835 new applications received. Taking these into account 54 per cent. of the total effective demand was met in Northern Ireland and about 59 per cent. in the rest of the country.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a very marked improvement? Can he say whether or not the extra capital which he has allocated is now making up the leeway, and how long he reckons it will be before the provision of telephones there compares favourably with the rest of the Kingdom?

I cannot give a definite time when we shall catch up, but as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, there has been quite a considerable increase in the allocation of capital to Northern Ireland because it was getting a little behind as compared with the rest of the country.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the ban on the building of new telephone exchanges by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been removed?

Oh, yes. Quite a number of new telephone exchanges are going up all over the country.

Political Broadcast (Telephone Delays)

24.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will make a statement on the inconvenience and delay caused to telephone users as a consequence of a television programme organised by the Conservative Central Office on Thursday, 1st July; and what steps are being taken to prevent a repetition.

25.

asked the Assistant Post- master-General the reason for the almost complete hold up of trunk line telephone services from many principal towns in the United Kingdom and London at about 8.45 on the evening of Thursday, 1st July, 1954; and what steps he proposes to prevent similar breakdowns in an essential public service.

26.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what prior arrangements were made by his Department to cope with the additional burden imposed on the telephone services by the party political television broadcast last Thursday.

My noble Friend always regrets any inconvenience which may be caused to telephone users. In this particular case, the number of calls forecast by the Conservative Central Office was 200; this number could have been met without any difficulty. The actual number of calls was at least 10,000 and may have been as high as 20,000; this caused delay mainly for about 15 minutes, especially on some trunk circuits.

It is the duty of the Post Office to give the best possible service our equipment will permit, but the practical difficulties of carrying such a concentration of traffic and the inconvenience to the public would, I hope, enable us to dissuade anyone contemplating repeating the experiment in this particular form.

Was it not obvious that there would be thousands of people ringing up complaining about high rents, high prices and other things, and that something must be done about it? May I make one suggestion, that, in view of the dangers and difficulties which for centuries have attended the practice of allowing Tory Ministers to speak in public, he should consider advising in the next television programme the presentation of, say, the Minister of Works as a silent film?

Can my hon. Friend say if the Post Office had been put in similar embarrassment in the time of any Labour Party broadcast?

The only parallel case we have had was an offer from Radio Luxembourg with regard to give-away programmes, and that completely jammed the Mayfair telephone service.

Was it consistent with the proper discharge of his duties for the Postmaster-General to be junketing with the smart-alec tacticians of the Tory Party Headquarters while the telephone service was being submerged, and would it not have been better if he had been at the exchange helping out the unfortunate operators?

Has the Assistant Postmaster-General any power to stop any person from advertising their telephone number and offering to pay the reversed charge? Might there not possibly be a slight element of sour grapes in these complaints

In view of the Radio Luxembourg precedent to which the hon. Gentleman called attention this afternoon, why was the Post Office so naive as to accept without question the Conservative Central Office estimate of only 200 calls, if the nature of the programme was disclosed to them? Is this the result of political pressure through the hon. Gentleman himself?

The Conservative Central Office informed us that there was to be a broadcast which would make demands on the telephone exchange. Strictly speaking, they need not have done so. They estimated that it would cause 200 telephone calls. I think that they were wrong in their estimate.

Can the Assistant Postmaster-General say whether on this occasion any local calls were dislocated?

No. It had hardly any effect on local calls, but it had an effect on the trunk services for about 15 minutes.

Can the Assistant Postmaster-General say what good purpose is served by 20,000 members of the British public ringing up the Conservative Central Office for answers to questions when Tory Ministers at that Box cannot answer simple questions at 2.30 in the afternoon?

Would not perhaps the best solution of this serious inconvenience to the public be for the hon. Gentleman, through channels with which he is very familiar, to make representation to the Conservative Central Office that they might consider the convenience of their fellow citizens and not make these schemes, which have the purpose of stopping other people from using the telephone? I understand that the purpose is to get votes. Will he put it to them that they may lose votes by this anti-social practice?

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman heard my original answer. I pointed out the practical difficulties of such an operation and the impossibility of it fulfilling its purpose in the sense of people getting through which would, I should have thought, deter the promoters of such a scheme from repeating it in its present form.

Is it not gratifying that this most successful experiment has received so much publicity today from hon. Members opposite?

The hon. Gentleman did not answer my supplementary question. Can he say why the Post Office expert advisers accepted uncritically the estimate of 200 calls, in view of the precedent which he has quoted of Radio Luxembourg?

The Conservative Central Office told the Post Office that it was going to do a party political broadcast, which would entail a certain amount of telephoning. The Conservative Central Office was under no obligation whatever to tell that to the Post Office, but they did so. Therefore, the Post Office accepted the estimate of the traffic that the broadcast would entail.

In view of the most unsatisfactory nature of the replies in this matter, I shall endeavour on the Adjournment to explore further this public nuisance.

Post Office

Crown Office, North Chingford

3.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will now sanction the establishment of a Crown post office in North Chingford.

My noble Friend would like to be able to authorise a new building now, but while the need for strict economy continues he regrets that he must give priority to more urgent cases. I am sorry that our search for alternative premises offering better accommodation than that available at Station Road has not been successful.

Is my hon. Friend aware that for three years his Department has condemned the existing premises as sub-Crown standard, and as they are in the middle of an expanded population, will he do all he can to accelerate the provision of proper Crown offices?

I am afraid that a number of our post offices are sub-Crown office standard. I only wish I could accede to my hon. Friend's wishes, but there are some offices that are worse than that of which he is speaking, and, therefore, I am afraid we have to give priority to the others.

What is a Crown post office? In view of the rise in the cost of living, would it be possible to have half-crown post offices?

Printed Papers (Reduced Postage Rate)

11.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that many post offices charge a minimum postage rate of 1½d. for packets marked "Printed Papers—Reduced Rate"; and whether he will take steps to ensure that the correct charge of 1d. for the first 2 oz. is made known to Post Office officials, clerks and the general public.

I am sorry to learn that in some instances incorrect information has been given in this matter, and all counter officers are being reminded of the reduced rate.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when that reminder was given to them? Is he aware that I hold in my hand a publication weighing less than 2 oz., marked correctly "Printed Paper—Reduced Rate," and that in the past week a charge of 1½d. has been demanded in no fewer than five London Crown post offices, and that an inquiry at the General Post Office headquarters also elicited a request for a minimum payment of 1½d.? Will the hon. Gentleman see that the fact is made known to the general public and to his staff that we still have a form of 1d. post in this country?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for having pointed this matter out to me. We have issued a notice, in the ordinary weekly circular which goes out today, to all post offices throughout the Kingdom.

Christ Church Green, Victoria Street

12.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General, in connection with his proposal to build a new post office on the site of the bombed church at Christ Church Green, Victoria Street, S.W.1, whether he will preserve the footpath connecting Caxton Street and Victoria Street; and if, in view of the car parking problems in Caxton Street and adjoining thoroughfares, he will provide for a car park adjacent to the new post office for the use of General Post Office vehicles, and, on a fee-paying basis, for motor cars owned by persons working in nearby business premises.

The footpath is outside the site the Post Office is buying. The whole site will be used for a telephone exchange, a public post office, and a small yard to accommodate such post office vehicles as may call. We have considered the possibility of an underground garage for general public use, but I regret that the basement and sub-basement must be used to lead in telephone cables and for other Post Office purposes.

Does my hon. Friend anticipate that the acute traffic congestion which already exists in the streets adjoining the site is likely to be made any worse by the erection of this large Government building?

No. We shall not make it any better but we shall not make it any worse.

I should require notice of that question. Off hand, I think it is to be a three-storey building.

13.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will furnish the hon. Members for Croydon, East and Kidderminster with a plan of the proposed new post office on the site of the bombed church at Christ Church Green, Victoria Street, S.W.1, showing arrangements for incoming and outgoing persons and vehicles, and proposals for dealing with General Post Office vehicles in congested thoroughfares.

I will gladly send copies of the plans to the hon. Members when they have been agreed. Meantime, I can say that the public entrances will be on Broadway and that, as the few Post Office vehicles calling at the building will use a yard entrance in Caxton Street, they will not need to park in the streets.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that Caxton Hall is rather a popular spot for matrimonial purposes? There is often a complete blockage of traffic in Caxton Street, and is it not a fact that this post office, notwithstanding the yard, will make it nearly impossible for persons intending matrimonial ventures to get in or out of Caxton Hall?

I hope that it will never be a charge made against the Post Office that we prevent people from getting married. There will be a yard into which Post Office vehicles using the building can go.

Has my hon. Friend received representations from either the Minister of Transport or any other Government authority to make sure that the proposed new building does not extend as near to the public roadway and pavement as its predecessor? It is highly desirable that all buildings in the Metropolitan area today should be withdrawn a certain distance from the footpath and roadway.

Speaking from memory, I think we have consulted the Ministry of Transport, but if my hon. Friend wants a definite reply perhaps he will put down a Question.

Will the Assistant Postmaster-General take great care to ensure that nothing done on this site will adversely affect the interests of the people of Kidderminster?

Sub-Office, Enfield

16.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what economies it is anticipated will result from the closure of the sub-post office, Green Street, Enfield, and the transfer of its business to the Crown office in Hertford Road.

Since writing to the hon. Member on this subject on 31st May, I have been reviewing the whole of the circumstances and have decided that, when the new Crown office in Hertford Road is opened, the sub-post office at Green Street will be retained for the time being.

Wireless And Television

Vhf Stations

4.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will make a statement about the proposals of the British Broadcasting Corporation for the development of very high frequency broadcasting, and particularly with regard to a very high frequency service for Cornwall.

7.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General approximately when very high frequency broadcasting will be practicable as a solution of the difficulty of receiving British Broadcasting Corporation programmes in various parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Wales.

My noble Friend hopes to make a statement shortly about the development of very high frequency broadcasting.

Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that when that statement is made Cornwall will be given a high priority for the very high frequency service? Can he also say whether, when that service is brought into being, it will give full coverage for Cornwall?

I am afraid I cannot disclose now where the new stations are to be located, but I think it will be possible for my noble Friend to make a statement before the House rises.

In view of the fact that on his own admission very high frequency modulation is still a long-term prospect, and that in Wales the position is deteriorating month by month, may I once more ask the Assistant Postmaster-General to treat the Welsh position as a special case, requiring special action?

I would not agree that it is a long-term proposition. My noble Friend hopes to make a statement shortly on the stations for very high frequency broadcasting.

23.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will make a statement with regard to the installation of three new very high frequency transmitters at the Pontop Pike station and, in particular, on the improvement in reception of the Scottish Regional programme which this is expected to effect in Berwickshire.

My noble Friend hopes to make a statement shortly about the development of very high frequency broadcasting. I should add, however, that any very high frequency service from Pontop Pike would not carry the Scottish Regional service; such a service is not transmitted by that station at the present time.

Is there any station from which we can look forward to an improvement in the Scottish Regional Service?

I think that my hon. and gallant Friend had better wait until the general statement on V.H.F. transmitters is made by my noble Friend.

Can my hon. Friend say whether a decision has been finally taken as to the form of modulation to be used?

Commercial Television Stations (Programme Contractors)

6.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what advice the Government will give to the proposed Independent Television Authority on the number of programme companies to be allocated to each commercial television station.

The hon. Member is anticipating events. The I.T.A. will undoubtedly wish to have discussions on this subject with my noble Friend, but under the Bill it will be for the Authority to conduct negotiations with potential programme contractors and to reach its own decision in the matter.

As the Government profess to be opposed to monopoly, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that we should not set up a monopoly for each new television programme unit?

If the hon. Member reads Clause 5 (2) of the Television Bill, he will see the charge laid upon the Authority in that particular connection.

Surely the Government have now made up their mind what advice they will give to the I.T.A.? Is there to be one programme contractor at one station or not?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have not made up their mind.

Bbc Development Plan

8.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the date on which the British Broadcasting Corporation submitted its 10-year development plan to the Government.

April, 1953, but I should make it clear that it was not submitted for specific approval but as an outline of the Corporation's long-term plans.

As the Government have given many repeated assurances about not hamstringing the B.B.C., why has it taken all this time to give consent for this programme.

Because the B.B.C. has an enormous programme development on hand. In any case, it would not be able to start a second programme until 1957, even if it were approved.

9.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when a decision can be expected from the Government as to the date on which the British Broadcasting Corporation can be permitted to start on its television expansion programme.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is already fully engaged on the substantial expansion of its television service in Band I. As regards a second B.B.C. programme, in Band III, I cannot at present add to my reply to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) on 30th June.

Surely the B.B.C. has made its application, the matter was fixed, as I thought, at the Stockholm Conference, after the hon. Gentleman took office, and I should have thought that it should have been given permission long before this. How long are the Government to take even yet to let the B.B.C. start on a second programme?

The B.B.C. is at present developing stations at Aberdeen, Belfast, the Isle of Wight, Plymouth, Pontop Pike, Crystal Palace, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Dover, Inverness, Londonderry, Towyn and Carlisle. I would suggest that the B.B.C. has quite enough on at the moment.

Do I now understand that the hon. Gentleman takes it upon himself to decide how much the B.B.C. can tackle? It has made application for these frequencies. When are the Government going to give the B.B.C. an answer?

All the B.B.C. has done is to say that it would like certain frequencies reserved for it if and when the Government are prepared to sanction a second programme.

Frequencies

10.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how far the British Broadcasting Corporation will be allowed to use the frequencies reserved for commercial television in areas in which the Independent Television Authority is not expected to operate.

I have taken note of the point, but it is too soon to make any statement.

Band Iii (Test Transmissions)

19.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how soon actual test transmissions on Band III will provide pictures or test patterns so as to allow manufacturers to proceed with the production of reliable receivers.

I understand that several manufacturers are already in production of Band III television receivers. Apart from the tests referred to in my reply to the hon. Member of 30th June last, I have little doubt that the carrying out of further tests will be one of the first responsibilities of the Independent Television Authority.

Does the hon. Gentleman's reply mean that actual sets are going into production to receive signals in the Band III channels allocated to the I.T.A. without provision being made for the companies to test these transmissions?

I do not know what steps the companies who make these sets have taken before putting them on the market. Five firms have been granted experimental facilities, and I believe that they are producing the sets now.

Independent Television Authority Transmitters (Links)

20 and 21.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) what arrangements the Post Office are making to provide co-axial cables or radio links between the main stations of the proposed Independent Television Authority network;

(2) how long it will take to complete the cable or links to allow the same programmes to be broadcast from all Independent Television Authority stations.

No decision has yet been reached on the actual sites of the I.T.A. transmitters, but on the assumption that they will be near the existing B.B.C. transmitters in London, the Midlands and Lancashire, the Post Office is satisfied that the links will be ready by the time the I.T.A. stations are completed. The link between London and the Midlands will probably be by radio, and from the Midlands to Lancashire by spare co-axial cable.

Can the Assistant Postmaster-General say, with regard to the cost of running these co-axial cables which are to be installed by the Post Office, whether the same terms will be charged to the I.T.A. as are already charged to the B.B.C.?

Royal Air Force

Helicopter Pilots

27.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what provision is being made to increase the numbers of helicopter pilots.

Arrangements have been made to ensure that our plans for increasing the Royal Air Force's helicopter strength are matched by a corresponding output of qualified pilots. Helicopter pilots will continue to be trained under civil contract and, in addition, a small Royal Air Force training unit will shortly be set up.

As it is inevitable that the Army will be requiring many helicopters in the immediate future, will the hon. Gentleman state whether his Department is making preparations for the necessary helicopter pilots?

As I told the hon. Member on 19th May, we have outstanding orders for about 100 helicopters, of which about a half should be delivered by the middle of next year. We shall, of course, train pilots to keep pace with these deliveries.

Low Flying Aircraft (Church Services)

28.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will give instructions to restrict as far as practicable the low flying of aircraft on Sundays during the hours when church services are normally held.

Some training at weekends is inevitable, particularly for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Observer Corps, but every effort is made to restrict low flying during the normal hours of church services on Sundays.

Can my hon. Friend pass on any instructions or suggestions which he may send out to our Allies in the United States and Canadian Air Forces?

Requisitioned Properties

29.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will direct that prior consideration be given to the original owner, or owners, whenever a sale is contemplated.

Thirty-four buildings and 36,500 acres of land are still held on requisition by the Air Ministry. These requisitions are kept under constant review and we hope to eliminate them completely within the next few years. Since requisitioning does not affect ownership, the last part of the Question does not arise.

In view of the size of the figure relating to the amount of land that is held, can my hon. Friend say whether any progress has been made in de-requisitioning? Secondly, will he pay particular attention to cases like that of Tarrant Rushton Airfield, owned by Commander Marten, on which it is alleged that my hon. Friend proposes to use compulsory powers merely to confirm a letting to a private company? Will he take into account the general public feeling against the principle of this kind of thing?

The Question deals with de-requisition. Since the war we have reduced the number of premises held on requisition from about 6,000 down to 34, and the amount of land from 250,000 acres to 36,500 acres.

National Service Men (Prison Duties)

30.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether instructions have now been issued that National Service men shall not be employed on prison duties at Royal Air Force detention units.

No, Sir. The basis of selection will be a man's aptitude and not the type of engagement on which he happens to be serving. As, however, we are in general choosing older men with previous experience of this type of work, it will be unusual for National Service men to be employed.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that his reply will be received with some satisfaction, because the nasty affair at Wahnerheide has shown quite clearly that it was undesirable that National Service men should be employed on this kind of duty?

Roads

London—Norwich (Harlow Diversion)

31.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the growth of the new town of Harlow along the A.11, London to Norwich trunk road, and the additional congestion and consequential danger to road traffic and pedestrians, he will now sanction the proposed diversion of this road at Potter Street.

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

My right hon. Friend expects to publish soon a draft Order under the Trunk Roads Act, 1946, for the purpose of fixing the line of the diversion of the trunk road at Potter Street. I regret that I cannot at present forecast when it will be possible to put the construction of the diversion in hand.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that if an entirely new town of 80,000 inhabitants is built along this road, on which there is already a serious accident record, this diversion ought to be accelerated if things are not to go from bad to worse?

My predecessor received a deputation led by my hon. Friend on 17th June last year, when he made it plain that it was not possible for us to give any high degree of priority to this scheme.

Barton Bridge, Eccles

32.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will engage a reputable firm of engineers to report upon Barton Bridge, Eccles, with special reference to the construction of a footpath outside the present structure of the bridge, on the side of the bridge or seven feet above the present footpaths.

No, Sir. As has been explained to the hon. Member, this is a private bridge and my right hon. Friend has no power to intervene in its operation or to make a Road Fund grant for it.

Does the Minister realise that in giving such a low priority to the Barton Bridge—the new bridge and the improvement of the old—he and his advisers have made a big mistake? Does he realise that the statement made to the National Production Advisory Council and now passed on to the T.U.C.—which states that:

"The Minister acknowledges the importance of this project but owing to the fact that there are many more schemes which are more urgently needed, there is little prospect of the Barton Bridge scheme, which would cost £2 million, being considered for a considerable number of years."
—will cause great resentment over a wide area in Lancashire? Are we to conclude that in the Ministry of Transport the interests of working men and industry take second place to the interests of pleasure motoring?

No, Sir. As was made quite plain in my right hon. Friend's statement on 8th December last year, very high priority is given to industrial areas and Lancashire has received its fair allocation out of the present programme.

33.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the responsibilities of his Department regarding the safety arrangements at Barton Swing Bridge, Eccles; and what are the responsibilities falling on the Manchester Ship Canal Company regarding the safety of pedestrians crossing the bridge.

My Department has no direct responsibility for safety arrangements at Barton Swing Bridge. Although there is no specific provision on the matter in the Manchester Ship Canal Act, 1885, I am advised that the Manchester Ship Canal Company might be held to have a measure of responsibility for the safety of pedestrians crossing the bridge, in so far as the Act requires the company to maintain the bridge and in so far as the company are at common law under a duty to exercise care in the opening of the bridge so as not to endanger pedestrians using it.

Will the hon. Gentleman undertake to look into this whole matter and have an inquiry with representatives of the T.U.C. and industry on the whole project of Barton Bridge and the transport arrangements there, which are causing grave dislocation to workers, industrialists and the general community?

The hon. Member has brought this matter specially to the attention of the Department. He persuaded my right hon. Friend to visit the bridge himself, and he can be assured that we have the greatest sympathy with the representations that he is making and that we will include Barton Bridge in the programme as soon as it is possible to do so.

Old Shoreham Bridge

37.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many accidents to persons and vehicles have occurred since 1st November, 1951, on the South Coast trunk road TR37-A27, where it passes over the Old Shoreham Bridge, and its traffic is subjected to toll imposition.

Four, Sir, all during the hours of darkness and one only resulting in serious injury.

38.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in his capacity as the responsible highway authority for the South Coast trunk road, TR37-A27, and, in view of the fact that the present toll imposition is 6d. for two journeys on the same day, he will now consult with the British Transport Commission and seek agreement to the following concession, namely, that the 6d, toll on the Old Shoreham Bridge should, in future, permit of two journeys without regard to date.

The British Transport Commission are not prepared to suffer the appreciable loss of revenue which the adoption of this suggestion would involve. The level of charges to be made for the use of this bridge is a matter for the Commission to determine.

Queensferry

39.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is satisfied that the dredging operations which he has authorised in connection with the improvement of the ferry service at Queensferry are proceeding according to plan.

I am informed by the British Transport Commission that the contractors are already on the site, but dredging has not yet started as it has to be phased in with the constructional work at the piers which has already started.

Traffic Congestion, Jermyn Street

42.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what steps he proposes to take to prevent congestion bringing traffic to a standstill in Jermyn Street, W.1, before the "no-waiting" regulations come into force at 11.30 a.m.

The Commissioner of Police informs me that there are always police on duty in Jermyn Street before 11.30 a.m. We should not at present feel justified in making an exception here to the general rule that "no-waiting" regulations come into force at 11.30 a.m.

Can my hon. Friend say what action is taken by the police when vehicles are parked on both sides of the road and two lines of traffic try to go where there is only room for one?

The police take action in two ways. As far as possible they move on the traffic which is obstructing, and if they find there is a persistent obstruction taking place they warn the driver of the vehicle concerned.

In view of the increasing congestion of London traffic, would it not be a good idea to make the hour at which no waiting is enforceable earlier, say, 10.30 in the morning?

I said that at present we do not feel justified in altering the general rule in the case of "no-waiting" street, but it is intended, as a result of representations made by the Fire Brigade, to introduce "no waiting" at all in six streets in Soho where congestion is such as greatly to increase the danger of fire.

Clyde Tunnel (Shields)

49.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will now name the date for starting the Lint-house-Whiteinch Tunnel.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave him on 30th June.

Is the Minister aware that the answer is quite unsatisfactory and insufficient? Can he tell us why he is still holding up the ratification of permission to proceed now that he has the estimate? What prevents him from giving the Glasgow Corporation permission to proceed with the tunnel?

My right hon. Friend intimated last week that he would not be in a position to make any further statement on this matter until he had discussed it with the Glasgow Corporation, and the hon. Member will not obtain any further information until my right hon. Friend has had that discussion.

On a point of order. Questions are put to the Minister in the House on matters for which the House is responsible financially to the extent of 75 per cent. Is it not right, therefore, that we should have an answer and that the answer should not be referred to an outside body?

The Minister said that he would give an answer and told the hon. Member that there was no information until then. The hon. Member asked a very long supplementary question.

The Minister previously told me that he would give an answer when he had the estimates from Glasgow, but now that he has them he still does not give an answer.

London Airport (Traffic)

52.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what estimates have been prepared of the additional road traffic which will be generated by the operation of London Airport at full scale.

It has been estimated that in 1960, with the Airport in operation at full scale in peak hours, some 2,000 to 2,500 vehicles per hour will enter or leave the airport. About 1,600 vehicles will use the Bath Road, 1,200 to the east and 400 to the west of the Airport entrances. Actual counts made in 1951 showed 620 vehicles per peak hour, of which 390 used the Bath Road, 280 to the east and 110 to the west.

Can the Minister say what plans are therefore being made to improve the road approaches to this Airport?

As I said in reply to a Question on 21st June, we believe that for the immediate future the Bath Road will be adequate to carry the additional traffic.

Can the Minister say what progress has been made with the extension of tube railway facilities to give passengers access to the Airport and thus avoid road approaches?

Leyton

56.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what modifications have been made in respect of a new main road running through the Borough of Leyton.

The lines of the two trunk roads in Leyton are still under consideration, and I cannot yet say what modifications may be made.

Am I to take it from that reply that some drastic modifications are to be made in the plan?

The Leyton Borough Council is finding some difficulty at present in recruiting technical staff to carry out the necessary survey. That is what is delaying matters at the present time.

Transport

Passenger Charges Schemes (Objections)

34.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will introduce legislation to amend Section 78 of the Transport Act, 1947, in order to ensure more effective publicity in connection with the lodging of objections with the Transport Tribunal to any new British Transport Commission (Passenger) Charges Scheme.

Is the Minister aware of the circumstances in which the objection of the London Passenger Association to the recent fares increase by the London Transport Board was not heard by the Tribunal? Does this not indicate that the publicity arrangements are not satisfactory? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider urging the Tribunal to improve them and, possibly, to use the same kind of arrangements as are used by licensing authorities in similar circumstances in the provinces?

The association concerned, whose late application was rejected by the Transport Tribunal, is, I think, well aware of the procedure, having lodged objections on previous occasions and having been heard. The requirements are laid down in the Transport Act, 1947, and the Transport Tribunal Rules, 1949, and, I think, are working quite smoothly.

Would the Minister not agree that, in view of the fact that this transport undertaking has a monopoly, it is most important that everything is done to ensure that travellers have the fullest opportunity of making objections when fares increases are contemplated?

Is the Minister aware that many of the public representations that are made to the Transport Tribunal are simply nonsense? Will he be behind the B.T.C. with a view to enabling the railways to have a square deal as far as their charges are concerned, in order that they may undertake capital development and provide decent wages and conditions for their employees? They are about the only section of people who are subject to so much public scrutiny before fares can be adjusted to meet increase in costs.

Is the Minister aware that the London County Council is very effectively appearing before the tribunal on behalf of the travelling public and that there may be others as well? Would he agree that it would be unfortunate if the idea were spread abroad that the travelling public's case was not being heard by the Tribunal?

I think the travelling public's case is being heard and the Tribunal have made several suggestions.

Scottish Airfields (Passengers And Freight)

40.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give figures to show the increased use, both passenger and goods, made of East of Scotland airfields during the last six months, as compared with 1953; and what further expansion he anticipates in the immediate future.

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

In the six months ending May, 1954, 62,300 passengers and 232 tons of freight were handled at aerodromes in the eastern half of Scotland. This compares with 56,800 passengers and 233 tons of freight in the six months ending May, 1953. So far as I can foresee, the annual increase of about 10 per cent. in passenger traffic over 1953 will continue into the immediate future.

Anything which helps to increase the movements of civil aviation will always have tributes paid to it by my right hon. Friend.

Can my hon. Friend say how much of this traffic figure passes through the airport of Errol?

Requisitioned Properties

41.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many properties are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of each case; and if he will take steps to ensure that the rights of the original owner, or owners, are safeguarded whenever a sale is contemplated.

Seventy-seven, of which 67 are bombed sites used temporarily as car parks which would otherwise be put to no useful purpose. These will be restored to their owners as soon as they obtain building licences. In addition, the Air Ministry holds on requisition on my behalf 70 properties used for aerodrome purposes and 57 small sites for navigational aids. The position is under continual review so that these properties, if not to be purchased or leased, are returned as soon as possible to their owners or the requisitioning authority. I have no power to sell property held on requisition.

Will my right hon. Friend not relax his efforts to divest himself of these properties in spite of the fact that his Department is in a much more favourable position than some other Departments?

I keep a constant watch on this, but a large number of these properties are round about most important aerodromes which are used by the general public of the country.

Smoke Pollution (Chalk Farm)

44.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation why he has refused to receive a deputation from St. Pancras Borough Council, including the hon. Members for Holborn and St. Pancras, South, and for St. Pancras, North, to discuss the question of authorisation of additional capital required by the British Transport Commission to deal with smoke pollution at Chalk Farm.

I am sorry about conditions at Chalk Farm. I know that the St. Pancras Public Health Committee have had a very full discussion of the problem with a senior railway officer and the British Transport Commission have promised to do all they can to reduce the smoke and grit. But what the council raised with me was the electrification of the whole railway system out of Euston. This is clearly a far wider question, and I do not think it would help for me to receive a deputation from them about this. But I would be very ready to meet the hon. Members concerned and discuss the problem with them.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that it was arising out of a meeting with the British Railway representatives that the council were told that only major capital which the Minister could authorise would solve this intolerable nuisance at Chalk Farm, that a request for the deputation was then made, and will he not reconsider asking not only my hon. Friend and myself but representatives of the borough council as well to see him and so try to redeem his earlier discourtesy in this matter?

There is no discourtesy, but the question of the electrification of the whole of the former London, Midland and Scottish system is not one that can properly be discussed by the Minister with a local authority, however important. I am very ready to see the Members of Parliament concerned and explain the difficulties to them, also my constitutional position, and listen to what they have to say.

Traffic Receipts

50 and 51.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) if he will give the net traffic receipts for British Railways for the year 1953;

(2) if he will give the net traffic receipts for British Road Services for the year 1953.

These and other figures which, taken together, represent the financial results of the British Transport Commission for the year 1953 will be contained in the Commission's annual report which will be laid before the House as soon as it is printed. I do not think it would be right to extract isolated figures, such as the net traffic receipts of particular sections of the undertaking, in advance of the report and accounts as a whole.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when this report will be available to hon. Members for study?

The British Transport Commission informed me that, owing to its preoccupation with the railway re-organisation scheme and the merchandise charges scheme, it regretted that the report will be issued a little later this year than in the last few years. I hope that it will come along fairly soon.

Passenger Service Vehicles (Private Hire)

53.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when he proposes to introduce legislation to amend the existing law, in view of the uncertainty which exists throughout the road passenger industry at the present time concerning the operation of passenger service vehicles on private hire work in consideration of the payment of separate fares.

I hope to introduce such legislation at the earliest opportunity that the Parliamentary time-table permits.

Public Transport (Section 72 Prosecutions)

54.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will furnish particulars of prosecutions instigated by his Department during the last two years for alleged contraventions of the provision of Section 72 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, against companies owned or controlled by the British Transport Commission, companies owned or controlled by the British Electric Traction Company Limited, and other operators, respectively.

One thousand and seventy-four prosecutions were undertaken by the licensing authorities for public service vehicles in the two years ended 31st March, 1954, for contraventions of Section 72 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930. I am afraid it would not be possible to break down this total in the manner desired by the hon. Member without considerable research.

Transport Commission (Pensions Scheme)

57.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now make a statement about the establishment of a pension scheme for wages grades employed by the British Transport Commission.

58.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether the details of the new pension scheme for railway wage grades have yet been agreed by the British Transport Commission and the trade unions; and whether he will make the full scheme available to hon. Members at the earliest possible moment.

I am very glad to inform the House that, following complete agreement between the British Transport Commission and the trade unions upon the terms of a pension scheme for male wages grades, I have made Regulations establishing this scheme as from 1st October next. These Regulations have been laid before Parliament today and copies will be available to hon. Members. The scheme provides a pension of 30s. a week at 65 after 40 years' membership, with a further 10s. for certain senior grades. With permission, I will circulate a summary of the main provisions in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will give great satisfaction to all those concerned?

Will the Minister take note of the fact that it is not until we get public ownership of the transport industry that it is possible to get a pensions scheme for wages grades?

I take notice of the fact that nothing happened in the six years of Socialist Government.

Following is the Summary:

The Scheme applies to British Transport Commission male wages grade staff in the service of British Railways, the Docks and Inland Waterways, the Hotels and Catering Services, the London Transport Executive, and at Headquarters.

The Scheme, which commences on 1st October, 1954, is in two parts: Section A—the main scheme—and Section B—additional pension for certain senior grades.

Membership: Compulsory for new entrants to the service; optional for existing employees.

Persons eligible: Section A—new entrants—appointed whole-time employees aged 21 to 45 after 12 months' service. Existing staff will have a six-months' option to join, if they have completed or can complete 20 years' service by age 65. Section B—persons joining Section A who are employed in the senior grades listed in the First Schedule to the Scheme.

Members' Contributions: Section A—1s. 8d. a week for entrant at age 21 rising to 2s. 5d. for entrant at age 54 or over. Section B—additional contribution from 8d. to 11d. a week according to age at entry.

Minimum pensionable age: 65.

Pension at minimum pensionable age: Section A—30s. a week after 40 years' membership, diminished proportionately for shorter membership. Section B—additional 10s. a week after 35 years' membership of Section B, diminished proportionately for shorter membership.

Back-service credit: Existing employees aged 52 and over joining Section A will be given credit (at the cost of the Commission) to secure a minimum pension of 9s. 9d. a week at age 65.

Deferred retirement: Normal pension increased by 1/15th of Section A pension and 1/10th of Section B pension for each year's service after 65 up to a maximum of 5 increases.

Ill-health retirement: After 10 years' membership, proportionate pension based on years of membership; under 10 years' membership, return of contributions with interest.

Death benefit: Lump sum payment representing approximately return of member's contributions with compound interest.

Transfers: A transfer value will be paid to the salaried staff scheme when a member of the wages grade scheme is promoted and enters the salaried staff scheme. A transfer value will also be paid where a member with 10 years' membership leaves the Commission's service and enters other employment in respect of which there are reciprocal arrangements for transfer of pension rights. There is provision for acceptance of transfer values from other schemes and for the employees concerned to enter the Commission's scheme with waiver of age limit.

Administration: The Scheme will be administered by a Central Committee of 20 persons, 10 appointed by the Commission and 10 nominated by the Trade Unions.

Review: In the event of changes in National Insurance pension conditions the Commission are to review the Scheme and if necessary request the Minister to amend the rules.

Set-off of Existing Wages Grades Pension Rights: Any benefits which the Commission are at present liable to provide under existing wages grade schemes or customary practice for existing staff who join the new Scheme will be set off against the Commission's share of the benefits due to those persons under the new Scheme.

Division of Cost: Apart from the cost of back service credit, which is borne by the Commission, benefits are provided as to one-half by the employee's contributions and as to one-half by the Commission. The cost of administration will be borne by the Commission.

Anglo-American Talks

47.

asked the Prime Minister at what level it is proposed to continue political consultations with the United States of America on future relations with South-East Asia, on the future of the European Defence Community and on atomic energy co-operation.

I have been asked to reply.

Ministerial consultations regarding Indo-China may be resumed at Geneva shortly.

A working group on South-East Asia composed of British and United States officials has been set up in Washington to study in detail particular problems arising from the Washington conversations. It will report to the two Governments.

As regards European questions, a working group of officials has been set up in London to consider the implications of the Washington Statement in respect of Europe. The group will be mainly concerned with the international status of the German Federal Republic, and is working on the assumption that the German contribution to Western Defence will be made through the European Defence Community.

On atomic energy co-operation, no working group has been set up. This matter will be dealt with through normal diplomatic channels.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is proposed that the political consultations should cover economic matters?

Not in the first instance. The immediate task is to deal with matters of a military and political character.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether it is proposed to restrict the study groups mainly to the officials of the two Governments mentioned, or is it intended to include the representatives of other Governments interested in this project?

With regard to the European aspect, the French Government were informed in advance of this study group and will be informed of its conclusions, which I hope will be speedily reached, probably this week. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know from his experience that this study group is entirely without committing the Government, and the other Governments will be informed. The same procedure will be followed in the case of South-East Asia, although conditions are slightly different. Several countries are concerned at about an equal level of significance.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us if he himself proposes to return to Geneva?

The Foreign Secretary is hardly master of his own movements. As far as I understand it, there is a fresh gathering about to take place in Geneva and, as I assured the House before, if there is any service I can render I will go to it.

In view of the fact that France is the country in the West most directly affected by any granting of sovereignty to Western Germany, is it not shocking that that country should have been left out of these discussions and that Britain and the United States should, in effect, join with Dr. Adenauer in dragooning and blackmailing them into ratifying E.D.C.?

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, his statement is a travesty of what has been done. There is no question, of course, of Dr. Adenauer or the German Federal Government being brought into this study group. It is an Anglo-American study group arising out of Anglo-American discussions, and I was careful to explain that the French Government were informed in advance of its setting-up.

They are being informed, and if the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to study what the French Prime Minister said only last week he would have seen that the Prime Minister said it was his intention first to tackle the Indo-China question and the E.D.C. question later. I cannot believe that our French friends have so little confidence in us that they would mind us having a study group, the work of which they were told about before, the results of which they will be told about afterwards and the outcome of which we shall work out together.

48.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give a list of the former sovereign States who are now enslaved, referred to in the joint declaration made after his meeting with President Eisenhower.

When President Eisenhower and I drew up our statement we were very conscious that some nations would be offended by being included in a list, and some by being excluded. There was a maxim which I was taught, when I was a young officer some years ago, which occurs to me now: "No names, no pack drill."

Does the Prime Minister really think it desirable to leave the world indefinitely in an unsettled state by refusing to recognise certain realities which emerged from the post-war world? Does he not think that to leave the list of countries unspecified makes it even worse and contributes to even greater unsettlement? Does the declaration mean, for example, that this country could not enter into a treaty with the Soviet Union because the United States refuses to recognise the incorporation of the Baltic States into that country?

I think that illustrates how undesirable it is to state a list of names and for two countries meeting together, as we did, in discussion to do more than express a general opinion and not deliberately pick and choose who are in and who are out of a particular list.

Can the Prime Minister assure the House that in fact this rather vague phrase represents a real agreement between the United States and ourselves as to what is meant by it? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that this is not going to be another occasion in which, through using a very loose formula, we find the United States giving one interpretation and the British Government another?

I do not think so. We are both so firmly based on fundamental principles.

Would not the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey) benefit from a study group?

Is the Prime Minister aware that there are some hon. Members who look at the present fate of the Czech people, the Poles and the Hungarians as typical examples covered by this declaration?

May I ask the Prime Minister, whom we are all very glad to see back again with the Foreign Secretary, when he will be able to make any statement to this House on the result of his talks in Washington and Ottawa?

I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister intends to make a statement on this subject on Monday.

Bill Presented

Isle Of Man (Customs)

"to amend the law with respect to customs in the Isle of Man"; presented by Mr. Boyd-Carpenter; read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 140.]

Business Of The House

Resolved:

That the Finance Bill, as amended, may be considered immediately after the re-committal of the Bill and Report thereof, notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the interval between the various stages of such a Bill.—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]

Orders Of The Day

Finance Bill

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

3.33 p.m.

I beg to move,

That the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Schedule 2, page 43, lines 7, 30 and 36, and page 44, line 39, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I move this Motion formally in order to enable us to fulfil, not exactly undertakings, but what we said in Committee, with a view to making certain Amendments to the Second Schedule. Hon. Members will remember that certain points were put to us with a view to making the Second Schedule a little clearer and perhaps a little tighter. The Second Schedule refers to the withholding and withdrawal of investment allowances. It is to enable us to discuss the Government's proposals and to meet the points put forward that I move this Motion.

I do not propose to select the two Amendments to the Motion since these matters have recently been discussed in Committee of the whole House and decided on Divisions.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Second Schedule—(Provisions Supple Mentary To S 16 (New Provision For "Investment Allowances"))

I beg to move, in page 43, line 7, to leave out from "occurs," to "no," in line 9, and to insert "within the relevant period."

This Amendment is linked with the Amendment proposed in page 43, line 36, at the end, to insert:
(3) The relevant period in relation to any such event as aforesaid shall be three years, except that in relation to a sale or transfer falling within paragraph (d), or a sale, transfer or other dealing falling within paragraph (e), of the last foregoing sub-paragraph the relevant period shall be five years.
These two Amendments, which it might be convenient to discuss together if the Committee agree, extend the time-limit in relation to sales or transfers of property coming within sub-paragraph (2) (d) of paragraph 1 of the Second Schedule or other transfers and other dealings under sub-paragraph (2) (e) which is the subject of the next Amendment in page 43, line 30. On the Committee stage the Economic Secretary, in response to requests made by the Opposition, undertook to consider extending the period of three

(e) any sale, transfer or other dealing with the property representing the expenditure by the person incurring the expenditure or an associate of his, being a case where it appears either—
5(i) that the expenditure was incurred in contemplation of the property being so dealt with; or
(ii) that the sole or main benefit which accrued from that person's incurring the expenditure and the property being so dealt with was or derived from the investment and other allowances in respect of the property;
10and not being a case where it is shown either that the purpose of obtaining tax allowances was not the sole or main purpose of that person's incurring the expenditure or of the property being so dealt with, or that his incurring the expenditure and the property being so dealt with were bona fide business transactions and were not designed for the purpose of obtaining tax allowances.

This is a somewhat complicated Amendment, which I shall endeavour to explain as shortly and clearly as I can. The object is to tighten up the Schedule against possible abuse and at the same time to permit genuine business transactions. If the Committee look at subparagraph (2) ( d) of paragraph 1 of the Schedule, they will see that it applies to a sale or transfer to a person not acquiring for a qualifying purpose, that is to say, not for a business use, and that it applies where a sale or transfer was in contemplation when the expenditure was incurred.

That sub-paragraph was the subject of considerable consideration in Committee and this proposed new sub-paragraph ( e) in this Amendment goes considerably further than sub-paragraph ( d). Subparagraph ( e) applies to a sale or transfer whether for a business or for private use or "other dealings"—that is to say, any event which gives rise to a balancing allowance, such as, for instance, the scrapping or destruction of the property—if any of those kinds of transaction were in contemplation when the property was so dealt with. That is one limb.

The second part of the Amendment makes it apply where

"…the sole or main benefit…"

years mentioned in the Schedule to a longer period in relation to what one might call collusive transactions. These Amendments are the result of that consideration. Their effect would be considerably to extend the possibilities of checking collusive sales, transfers and other dealings for the purpose of getting investment allowances and so they would considerably strengthen the Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

of the transaction was the investment and other allowances in respect of the property dealt with. I would point out that for sub-paragraph (2) ( e) to apply, one does not have to show that the result was contemplated. All one has to show is that that is the result. If this Amendment is accepted, the Revenue will be able to disallow an investment allowance under this new sub-paragraph (2) ( e) where there is a prima facie case that the property, and the expenditure upon that property, comes within one of these two provisions to which I have referred.

If the Revenue can show that, then the taxpayer will still get the investment allowance if he can show one of two things; either that the tax allowance was not the sole or main purpose of the expenditure, or, alternatively, that it was a bona fide business transaction not designed for the purpose of obtaining a tax allowance. It is the bogus, collusive arrangement to secure investment allowance that we want to stop. We do not want to stop the genuine business transaction. It is because we do not desire to stop the genuine business transaction that one finds the last few lines inserted in this Amendment. This Amendment, if accepted, will considerably strengthen the provision.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out lines 9 to 13.

One must concede that the Government have made a very serious effort to meet the objections we made in Committee to the inadequacies of the Second Schedule as it stood. We pointed out—and I think that the Chancellor himself recognised—that the possibility of abuse was inherent in the whole system of investment allowance. I am moving this Amendment to the proposed Amendment because, while we appreciate that the Chancellor has made an effort to redeem his promise by tightening this up to some extent, we do not yet feel that he has gone far enough.

We return to the matter for two reasons at least. As the Committee will remember, we were very disturbed by certain remarks of the Financial Secretary which seemed to show that there was a difference of opinion between us as to what might constitute an abuse. We are, therefore, anxious that everything which we regard as an abuse should be excluded from the benefit of an investment allowance. I listened very carefully to what the Solicitor-General said in explaining this Amendment. In some senses it is linked with his earlier Amendment which the Committee has just adopted.

In approaching this problem, one must bear in mind that there are two different kinds of cases which have to be dealt with. First, there is the collusive case. Secondly, there is the transaction which, though not collusive—because it does not involve any collusion of any kind—is a transaction whereby the taxpayer may buy plant and machinery for the purpose, not of genuine investment, but of getting tax remission.

The Solicitor-General was careful to say that he had put down the Amendment with a view to trying to stop the bogus or collusive transaction. By extending from three years to five years the period within which the conditions in subparagraphs (2) (d) and (2) (e) operate, I should have thought that the Chancellor had gone a long way towards eliminating the possibility of a collusive transaction in that sense. I imagine that the people who enter into collusive transactions which are to take effect after five years must be very few and far between, and the calculations which they might have to make must render any such scheme very difficult. We therefore welcome the extent to which the Chancellor has met us so far.

There remains the second type of possibility of avoiding tax, namely, the person who buys some plant and machinery, not for a bona fide purpose, and not collusively, but merely for the purpose of getting a remission of taxation. As the Chancellor recognised during the Committee stage, that was a real possibility. I thought, however, that he was rather inclined to minimise the number of cases in which it might occur, because he did not think that there were many Surtax payers paying more than 16s. 6d. in the £, and he gave some figures as to the extent to which it might occur.

Would the hon. Member suggest that the case of the purchase for the single purpose, as he said, of getting remission of taxation or getting allowances is not dealt with by subparagraph (2) (e) (ii)?

There is nothing in the Solicitor-General's speech which led me to that conclusion. That was one reason why we put down this Amendment to his Amendment. If that is the objective, I think it is achieved with much greater certainty if he omits, as we suggest, the provisos at the end of sub-paragraph (2) (e), because, in my view, they contradict what has gone before.

3.45 p.m.

I was saying that we have to deal with the persons who may invest in plant and machinery for the chief object of earning a remission of taxation. The Chancellor concedes that, if they do that, then they are not persons to whom he wishes to give an incentive by this investment allowance and that it is proper to exclude them from those benefits. Therefore, what we really have to examine is whether by this Amendment the Chancellor has gone as far as he reasonably can to secure his objective.

The first question I should like to ask the Solicitor-General is what he conceives to be comprehended in the words "other dealing." The most significant distinction between the language in sub-paragraphs (2) (d) and (2) (e), which at first sight appear to cover a good many identical transactions—as I think they do—is that sub-paragraph (2) (e) for the first time uses the words "or other dealing." In the hypothetical case referred to in Committee of a person buying some plant and machinery and not using it, there would obviously be neither a sale nor a transfer. In a sense, there would be no dealing but a complete absence of dealing. We want to make quite sure that the language:
…any sale, transfer or other dealing…"
is calculated to cover the case where there has been no dealing in the property at all. That is the case about which my hon. Friends were talking. I should have thought at first glance that "dealing" meant "no dealing," but perhaps the Solicitor-General may be able to reassure us on that point.

I am afraid that it is necessary to look at the language of the sub-paragraph a little closely. It is calculated to exclude from the benefit of an investment allowance a person who incurs expenditure with a view to obtaining the allowance and for no other purpose. It also covers the case of a person whose primary purpose in incurring the expenditure is not that of investment. I should be happy with the Government Amendment if my Amendment to it were accepted. I find it difficult to understand why it is necessary to add words which appear either to contradict what has gone before or to be surplus.

If the Amendment were to stop at the end of sub-paragraph (2) (e) (ii) that would meet precisely the case which we are trying to put. We should exclude from the benefit of the allowance any transaction
"…with the property representing the expenditure by the person incurring the expenditure…"
when the
"…expenditure was incurred in contemplation of the property being so dealt with."
I am assuming that that covers the case of persons buying plant and machinery and not using it at all. Then the next provision deals precisely with a person whose chief object is to get the benefit of the investment allowance. It seems to me that that result is negatived if the taxpayer is then allowed to show that he has some other purpose. If it is not negatived, I find it impossible to understand why it is necessary that the words should be inserted.

If one takes the case of a person who could show that he had some legitimate bona fide object in incurring the expenditure, then he would not come within the scope of sub-paragraph (2) (e) as it stands in any circumstances. It is odd that, having defined circumstances in affirmative language, it should then be necessary to define in a negative form the exact opposite. I should have thought that if the provision were left in this con,- fused and unusual form, it would produce considerable doubts and would not be neatly as satisfactory from our point of view. It would not achieve what I understood was the Chancellor's object nearly as satisfactorily as if my Amendment to the proposed Amendment were accepted. In the knowledge that it is the Chancellor's object to make the provisions of the Schedule as stiff and as tight as possible, we hope that he will accept our suggestion.

Should I be in order, Sir Charles, in referring to the next two Amendments which are in my name?

Yes. Both these Amendments deal with part of the words proposed to be left out by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher).

On that basis, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) that far the simplest thing would be to omit these lines and in that way to leave two alternative tests, one a subjective one of intention and the other an objective one of result. However, if that is not to be done, I take objection to the lines as they stand. I propose to state my objections and, having done so, to suggest that the Amendments in my name would provide a much simpler and easier method of doing what is apparently intended by these lines.

I want to make it clear that I can see no real objection to omitting the lines altogether. I imagine that the Government take no serious objection as far as the subjective test is concerned. Where in fact
"…the expenditure was incurred in contemplation of the property being so dealt with…"
surely there can be no question that the investment allowance ought not to be given, because that is the case where the man was contemplating it and intended to do it, and that is exactly what it is desired to exclude.

Turning to the objective test, which is simply the way in which it works out, the Chancellor has sought to limit that and perhaps to some extent to limit the other test also by a most peculiar form of words. I agree entirely with the Solicitor-General that this is a complicated provision, but it is made infinitely more complicated 'by these lines. If they were not there, the Amendment at least would have the merit of being very much plainer.

If we are to have them in, it is open to the taxpayer to show either that the purpose of obtaining tax allowance was not the sole or the main purpose of incurring the expenditure or of the property being so dealt with. There are two separate transactions. The first is incurring the expenditure. The second is dealing with the property. Dealing with the property means, in the most obvious case, reselling it. The statute is to be strictly construed in favour of the subject. It seems to me that if the taxpayer is able to show that either the one or the other of these two separate transactions fell within that exception, he will be entitled to escape from the consequences of the provision notwithstanding that either the main objective or the main subjective test would otherwise have applied it to him.

I cannot believe that that can be the intention of the Government. If one reads the Amendment, one finds the word "or" and in the next half of the provision one finds the word "and". I am certain that attention would have to be given to the distinction.

The next point is that the taxpayer is supposed to prove a negative. This discussion shows how very complicated the matter is for the purpose of debate and how complicated it will be for the purpose of administration. The taxpayer has to show that it was not the sole or the main purpose. Surely, by far the simplest thing to do, and what he would do in practice, is to show that there was some other main purpose or perhaps some other sole purpose. It would only be a sole purpose if he had never considered this as anything at which he was aiming and if he was so completely disinterested that investment allowances did not enter into the picture. He might be able to show that he had a main purpose. If, for instance, he had bought a new farm tractor every year and said that he found it economical and wise to run his farm and to buy his farm machinery in that way, I should imagine that he would have gone a very long way towards establishing that he had another definite purpose. Of course, some business purposes are far less obvious than that. One would have to search for some time to find any example that would be so clear.

4.0 p.m.

Surely the simplest thing is to say that and leave it at that, that is to say, where we are considering the subjective, not the objective, test. If a man can show positively that he has some other purpose in mind as his sole or main purpose, then, if the exception is persisted in, he may be allowed to avail himself of it and to treat the transaction as one that ought to attract investment allowance. To go beyond that seems to me unnecessary and difficult.

I come to the second alternative. The second thing he must show is that he incurred the expenditure and dealt with the property—both things this time—as a bona fide business transaction, and that they were not designed for the purpose of obtaining tax allowances. I do not know what the difference between something in contemplation and something that is "designed for" is in this kind of matter, but let us assume there is some difference or other. What exactly has one to show?

I should say that this kind of inquiry is an inappropriate one. I agree that we have gone quite a long way from the time—in the Middle Ages, I think—when we were told that the mind of man was not triable, but we are now allowing the Inland Revenue to try it. Surely the trial that is contemplated in this case will be a fantastically complicated one? Take the second alternative. He may apparently incur the expenditure in contemplation of a resale, but if that was a bona fide business transaction and was not designed for the purpose of obtaining an investment allowance, then this lack of an investment allowance will not apply to that case.

I find that a subtlety that ought not to be introduced into a taxing statute, if only on the ground that it involves not merely a trial of a man's mind but a trial of a subtlety more suitable to the days of the Inquisition than to modern Treasury practice. I should think it much better left out altogether. For these reasons, I should prefer the simple course of leaving this out altogether.

I see no real reason why a man who gets the sole or the main benefit out of these two transactions should be allowed to get an investment allowance out of them, but even if it is persisted in and we are to have some limiting words, then they should be much simpler than the words here.

Surely the substantial point is that once we have a sort of subjective limitation of what was the sole or main purpose, then, if he can show that it was some other purpose, well and good, and then, subject to what I have already said, one could let that pass; but if we apply the proposed Amendment, what we do in fact is to stop up one loophole, which was recognised in Committee before, and stop it up with a piece of mesh wire containing a mass of other loopholes.

Therefore, in the name of simplicity, in the name of justice, I believe, and certainly in order to prevent such appallingly difficult psychological questions being posed to the Revenue and becoming a test of the taxpayer's liability, I suggest that we should either leave out the lines, as proposed, or put in some simpler form as suggested in my Amendments to the proposed Amendment.

I think we all agree that, so far as the proposed Amendment goes, we welcome it—all of us, that is, with the possible exception of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, because the proposed Amendment is a substantial departure from the attitude that he took when he replied to an Amendment of ours in Committee on this subject. Then the Financial Secretary scoffed at any arguments we put forward; implied that there was no problem here, that it did not matter if a few people did a certain amount of dealing in this way and made a profit out of this arrangement; that it was not a matter of great concern, and that we had all enormously exaggerated the problem. We are very glad his views have not prevailed, that the Chancellor's rather more moderate views have prevailed, and that we have this proposed Amendment to this Schedule, even though it did not appear from what the Financial Secretary said that we were very likely to get it.

We should recognise just how far the proposed Amendment goes and how far it does not go. It is clear that, while it will stop certain abuses, it does not deal with what is, perhaps, the major problem—that, for the first time, under this investment allowance provision it will remain possible to make an actual cash profit out of the installation of a piece of machinery, and that, therefore, for the, first time in our taxation history, it will in certain circumstances pay individuals t