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Ministry Of Works

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 20 July 1954

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Atomic Research (Commercial Exploitation)


asked the Minister of Works if the paper which was given by Dr. A. Charlesby, of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, on the cross-linking of polythene by pile radiation, and on the effect of high-energy radiation on long-chain polymers, was delivered with his approval; on what terms a licence was granted to the General Electric Corporation of America for the manufacturing rights in this project; who will get the income which is the result of Harwell research: and how many applications have been made by or on behalf of German concerns to benefit from this British research.

Yes, Sir; publication of these papers was approved by the responsible authorities. No licence for manufacturing rights has been granted and no application has been received in this connection from any foreign firm. From 1st August, the Atomic Energy Authority will receive any income derived from commercial exploitation of the invention.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the procedure by which processes developed originally by Harwell are made available to private firms?

When an invention is thought worthy of patenting, an application is lodged for the patent and the information is distributed, and those who wish to take advantage of the invention can do so by paying a royalty to Harwell.

Does the right hon. Gentleman's original answer mean that no concern in this country which has benefited from the research carried out at Harwell is collaborating in any way with any other company in Germany, Japan or America?

I am not sure that I can answer that question without notice. A firm in this country is collaborating with Harwell on this invention, and one of its scientists is working there now.

Electricity (Nuclear Energy Generation)


asked the Minister of Works if he has now concluded a satisfactory arrangement with the manufacturers of atomically driven electric plant, with a view to ensuring that this country remains in the forefront of world development, that new ideas are immediately applied and that the needs of customers are met.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power on 28th June.

Things have moved a little in this respect since then. Is the right hon. Gentleman now satisfied that this country will not be left behind in this development as it has been in hydro-electrification? Can he give an assurance that the closest possible co-operation exists between the Ministries and the concerns responsible for manufacturing this kind of plant?

Yes, Sir. Discussions are continually taking place with both the British Electricity Authority and the manufacturers of this type of plant. We believe that we are ahead of other countries.

Did not the Minister of Fuel and Power recently announce that a special department of the British Electricity Authority was being established to deal with the application of nucleonics to the generation of electric power, and is not that adequate in all the circumstances?

Are we at present negotiating, like the Americans are, with Canadian uranium interests? Is there any possibility of keeping the basic price of uranium round about 7·2 dollars per lb.? The present price is about 11·5 dollars. Can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that there will be control of the uranium ore in the interests of productivity for the people?

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is connected with the previous Question.

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, is not my question not only connected with the previous Question but also very relevant to the Question which has just been answered?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the subject on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Uranium Ore And Cobalt Supplies


asked the Minister of Works if he will make a statement on our present position for the supply of uranium ore and cobalt under the 1940 Anglo-Belgian-United States Agreement; and if he is satisfied that this country will have the required supply of uranium, cobalt, etc., to enable us to keep pace with developments and manufacturing needs.

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies I gave to the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) on 16th March last. The agreement does not cover the supply of cobalt. I am informed by the Minister of Materials that supplies of cobalt are adequate.

Adastral House (Requisitioning)


asked the Minister of Works when his Department proposes to release Adastral House from requisition.

I expect to release Adastral House by 30th June, 1955. If I can do so earlier, I will.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that any uncertainty about the date of release, added to the shortness of the proposed notice, makes it very difficult to relet a vast building like this, which has been in Air Ministry occupation for 35 years and was requisitioned only in 1946 when the lease ran out?

I am advised that the notice of almost a year is adequate for the purpose of successfully negotiating about the future of the building.

Tower Of London (School Parties)

38 and 39.

asked the Minister of Works (1) what arrangements or regulations are made by his Department to control the admission to the Tower of London of parties of school children from the provinces, when organised from the schools: and

(2) under what conditions parties of school children are admitted, without charge, to visit the Tower of London; and what facilities there are to encourage the visit of school children from the provinces.

By agreement with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, my Department allows free admission for up to 500 school children a day coming in organised parties from any part of the country, provided not more than 100 children are from the same school. Applications must be made in advance, and are granted automatically until the daily quota is full. My right hon. Friend has no reason to think that these arrangements are not generally known.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there are only 500 free places available for school children visiting the Tower, which is now very popular with children in the provinces? Will he at least ensure that those in the provinces get their share of the 500 free places, because I am not satisfied that they do, and would he have a look at the question of increasing the number, now that the Tower has become so popular?

More than a million people pay for admission to the Tower every year, and it is becoming overcrowded. The more free places we grant, the more we disappoint some of those who come and are willing to pay. It is a very difficult question, because the Tower has become so popular.

Is the Minister aware that, while there are one million visitors a year to the Tower, he is allowing only 500 free places a day for school children, and will he increase the number of parties of school children to be admitted free, not only in the case of London schools, but those in the provinces also?

I will do my best to see that the provinces get their share, but it is very unfair to visitors, particularly those from overseas, who come to the Tower ready to pay for admission and find they cannot be admitted. It is now a very severe problem, because, when they have got inside the Tower, they also wish to see the Crown Jewels, and we can only get 3,000 people a day through the Jewel House. If I were to cut the number of these visitors down by increasing the free places, there would be much distress among those who come specially to see the Jewels.

Requisitioned Properties


asked the Minister of Works 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.

Some 1,350 properties are held under requisition by my Department under Defence Regulation 51. Continued efforts are being made to end these requisitions. Ownership is not affected by requisition, and no question of sale arises.

In view of the fact that it is now nearly 10 years since the end of the war, will my right hon. Friend look into this matter again?

I am giving constant personal attention to this matter. There were 1,700 properties under requisition last September; we have now got the figure down to 1,350, and I hope that by the end of the year it will be down to 800.

Brick Supplies, Hornchurch


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that the Hornchurch Urban District Council, together with contractors to the council, have orders for 2 million bricks outstanding for 18 months; that neither the council nor the contractors thereto can obtain delivery; and whether, in these circumstances, he will take steps to see that adequate supplies of bricks are provided for Hornchurch housing.

This appears to be an unusual case where special difficulties have held up deliveries. I am expecting further information and will communicate with the hon. and learned Member.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Hornchurch housing programme, now administered by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, is completely held up by a failure to deliver bricks, and cannot he at least give some assurance to the House that some steps will be taken, and as soon as possible, to secure a supply of bricks being made available to the contractors, because they are being supplied to private builders?

This is the only instance this year in the whole of the Eastern Region of a shortage of bricks being reported to my Department. As far as I understand the position, the council and the brickmaking firm got into some disagreement, but a meeting was held yesterday between the two sides, and I hope the matter is now settled.

Carlton House Terrace


asked the Minister of Works when the reconstruction of Carlton House Terrace will start.

No decision has been reached. The matter will be reviewed later in the year.

Can the Minister say whether plans have now been finally approved, and, if so, whether it is simply a matter of the expenditure that is holding it up? If not, what are the reasons for the delay?

Plans are about 50 per cent. completed. Certainly it is a question of finance as to when any building can start.