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Commons Chamber

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 21 July 1954

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 21st July, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Channel Tunnel

1.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of the desirability of demonstrating the solidarity of the peoples of France and Great Britain in peace and in war, he will withdraw the objections which successive British Governments have raised to the construction of a tunnel under the Channel.

While there are so many useful and necessary transport projects in this country which have more pressing claims on the limited resources available, I am afraid the Channel Tunnel will have to wait.

While appreciating the reasons which have led the right hon. Gentleman to give that answer, may I ask whether he appreciates that he has not attempted to answer my Question, which was whether the old objections, and not the present-day objections had been withdrawn by the Minister? Does he realise that the cost of the tunnel would be negligible and that at least six Continental Governments would wish to contribute to this scheme? Can the right hon. Gentleman think of any scheme which would better or more cheaply demonstrate our desire to stand in with France, and is not this a particularly suitable year to make a demonstration in that direction having regard to the fact that this is the 50th year of the Entente Cordiale?

While desiring in every way that we should show our affection for the people of Europe, I could not say that the old objections have been all removed, while in addition there are new disadvantages, in that the development of air travel has strengthened the arguments against a tunnel which have, by themselves, prevailed with every Government for the last 50 years.

In view of the vital importance of maintaining good relations between Northumberland and Durham, will my right hon. Friend press on with the scheme to complete the Tyne tunnel?

Civil Aviation

Helicopters

3.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take to ensure that helicopter development and route flying experience is obtained in Scotland without undue delay to enable full use to be made of this form of transportation as soon as possible after the experimental period is over.

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

In view of the present relatively high cost of helicopter operations, the experimental programme cannot be extended without incurring unjustifiable expense to the taxpayer.

Is not the Minister aware that in Scotland there is great interest in helicopters? In order to stimulate development, which is always costly, would he not try a few experimental flights between Edinburgh or Glasgow and the more inaccessible parts, like the Western Isles, because many American tourists would pay a lot of money to go on one or two of them?

I am aware of the very widespread interest in helicopters all over the British Isles, but the problems of helicopter flying in particular areas, once the basic problems have been resolved, will probably be overcome in the course of operation and will not of themselves require a separate experimental programme?

Air Terminal, Glasgow

5.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the cost of the Glasgow air terminal.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while the air terminal provides very attractive new facilities for air travel in Scotland, it completely fails, despite the considerable sum of money expended on it, to provide left-luggage facilities? Will the Minister draw the attention of the B.E.A. to this omission?

I am informed that there are facilities for leaving luggage at this terminal. This is not as widely known as it might be. I am sure that the B.E.A. would be glad to consider any suggestion that the hon. Member might like to put to them in this matter.

Internal Air Services (Speke And Hawarden)

11.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what safety considerations preclude the inauguration of a Viscount or Pionair passenger air service between London and the North-West, notably Liverpool, Merseyside, Wrexham and North Wales areas; and to what extent Speke and Hawarden Airports are safe for such facilities.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "None, Sir." Speke is safe for Pionairs, but its runways would need strengthening for regular use by Viscounts, while Hawarden, although safe for Pionairs, is unsuitable for Viscounts.

Can my hon. Friend say, since he has now exhausted every possible excuse for not having an air service to the North-West, what initiative he is prepared to take to bring together all the interested parties with a view to ending the discrimination that exists in this part of the country, in view of the fact that it is the only important industrial area in England which has no form of air service at all?

I know that my hon. Friend appreciates that this is not entirely a matter for my right hon. Friend who has no power to order B.E.A. to run a route which, in its commercial judgment, would not be profitable. However, I feel sure that the Chairman of B.E.A. would be prepared to receive the deputation of interested hon. Members and to discuss the subject with them.

Is the Minister aware that aircraft on the London-Belfast air service pass directly over North Wales, and particularly over the airport at Hawarden? Could not arrangements be made for certain of these aircraft to stop at Hawarden?

I do not imagine that that would make the operation any more profitable.

19.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what objections he has raised to the use of Speke Airport, Liverpool, for scheduled passenger air services between that airport and London.

Having regard to my hon. Friend's answer to previous Questions on this subject, will he really ask his right hon. Friend to give sympathetic consideration to the considerable demand for an air service between London and Liverpool?

I do not think that I can add to what I have already suggested, which is that hon. Friends who are particularly interested might go and see Lord Douglas on this very important matter.

20.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what representations he has received concerning helicopter landing sites, in the centre or docks of Liverpool, for a feeder-service in the event of Speke Airport being used for a scheduled London—Liverpool air service.

The hon. Member has himself drawn my attention to the possibility of developing vacant land in the Liverpool Docks area for use by helicopters. The Liverpool Corporation has also consulted my Department on a proposal for a combined bus station and helicopter site in the central area of the city.

May I ask my hon. Friend what his right hon. Friend's views are in regard to these representations—whether he is encouraging as regards them or not?

As I informed the hon. Member, we feel that it is much too early to come to any definite conclusion as to the size of helicopter landing sites. We also feel that we should warn local authorities that it may be too early for them to go into very considerable expenditure. At the same time we are passing on to interested local authorities any information we glean to try to help them in this important matter.

Helicopter Services

12.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what discussions he has had, and with what results, in regard to the inauguration of experimental helicopter services between Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester with a branch link to London; what objections on grounds of noise he has considered from persons or bodies in these cities or others and whether he will now make a statement upon proposed experimental fare-paying helicopter passenger services between any or all of the cities named.

My right hon. Friend has no proposals for increasing the number of experimental helicopter services undertaken at public expense beyond the one allotted to the Helicopter Experimental Unit of British European Airways. Consequently, he has had no discussions on the experimental network to which the Question refers. Nor has he received any objections on the grounds of noise.

Reverting to the question of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, is this not the most fruitful area of the country for experiments in helicopter services, notably in view of the rather unsatisfactory train service and the much too great a length of time it takes to get from Birmingham or Liverpool or Manchester by rail?

We think that the experiments which are going to be carried out between the centre of London and London Airport will give us the basic information now required in order to speed up the development of helicopters, and we believe that the cost of additional helicopter experimental services would be extremely high and out of all proportion to any value they might have in supplementing the national development programme now being undertaken.

Will the Minister bear in mind that, whatever arguments may be adduced in favour of a helicopter service, those of us who have to use the railway service between London and Birmingham find it extremely satisfactory?

Greatham Aerodrome

21.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the deputation from Tees-side organisations, which met him on 1st June last in connection with Greatham Aerodrome, can expect a reply to their representations.

22.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what reply he has made to the letter sent to him on 15th July by the secretary of the Tees-side Industrial Development Board concerning the suspension of overseas air services from Greatham Aerodrome.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have been fully into the representations made to me on 1st June, and I regret to say that the Government must now reaffirm that they cannot see their way to altering their decision that Customs facilities at Greatham Aerodrome cannot be renewed. We have only just reached this conclusion, after giving every consideration to the weighty arguments advanced by the important delegation that came to see me, and I am replying in these terms to the letter from the Tees-side Development Board.

Does the Minister realise that that reply will cause dismay and despondency on both sides of the Tees? Already a number of services have been withdrawn completely, and the proposal that Greatham Aerodrome will now have to close down completely means that there will be no facilities for air services from this very heavily industrialised part of the country.

The Government have felt obliged to reaffirm the view that Customs facilities can be provided only where the traffic is sufficient to justify the full-time occupation of Customs officers, or where there is no other Customs airport in the area. Although I recognise the great importance of Teesside in the aviation field, I am afraid that this aerodrome does not qualify.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now announcing a new Government policy—that the question of whether or not there are to be overseas services from an important industrial area is to be determined by the convenience of the Board of Customs and Excise and not by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation?

No, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there have been Customs facilities for some experimental years. Had the traffic offering been such as to justify the full-time employment of Customs officers a very different decision would have been arrived at. The traffic offering has not justified it, and in view of the need for strict scrutiny of all public expenditure the Government have arrived at this conclusion.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this decision will limit the possibilities of civil aviation on Tees-side very severely indeed, and has he not a special responsibility to see that it is maintained and expanded?

My right hon. Friend will know that I am deeply interested in this question as it affects the Ramsgate Airport at Thanet. Could he not stretch that test slightly further and say that it will not only be whether the Customs is sufficient but whether there is a reasonable expectation of such Customs being sufficient, and that if one can say that one can succeed in getting the necessary Customs facilities? I thought that was the position.

That is, in fact, the principle which has been applied in this particular case.

26.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement about the future use of Greatham Aerodrome.

The future use of the aerodrome at Greatham can only be decided by the county borough of West Hartlepool, to whom it belongs.

Has not the action taken by the Ministry and the Treasury already struck a fatal blow to the use of this aerodrome, and is not this another case where the needs of his Department have been subordinated to the needs of the Treasury, and should not the Parliamentary Secretary resign in protest?

No, Sir. In this, as in all other decisions, Her Majesty's present Government are at one.

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that the experiment conducted at Greatham Aerodrome in relation to the provision of Customs facilities over the last two years has not cost the Treasury a single penny because it has been paid for by the operators?

Roads

Pedestrian Crossings

6.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what additional facilities he has advised local authorities to provide for the safety of old people and children crossing the roads.

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

Local authorities are encouraged to appoint school crossing patrols at suitable places; motorists should show particular care when they see old people about to cross the road, whether at zebra crossings or not.

Is the Minister aware that his recent admission that the Ministry had never considered zebra crossings particularly suitable for young people and children dealt a further damaging blow at public confidence in these devices? Will he say what a child going to school and an old person should do when they want to cross the road at a place officially described as not being particularly suitable for the purpose?

I find it a little difficult to understand the motive of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in carrying on this campaign against zebra crossings. I was at pains to say in that speech that zebra crossings are not entirely safe. I meant to emphasise that because a certain road sense is necessary in using zebra crossings they could not be relied upon as being entirely safe for old people and young children who are sometimes lacking in road sense. That is all I meant.

23.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether his new regulations for zebra crossings require the alteration of established tram stops as well as of omnibus stops.

Yes, Sir, if a stop is between a crossing and the pattern of studs on the approach side. Sometimes it might be simpler to move the zebra.

Manor Road, West Ham

7.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has completed his investigations into the road dangers at Manor Road, West Ham. E.15; what was the nature of these investigations; what was the result; and whether he will make a statement.

As a result of our investigations, we have asked the West Ham Borough Council to provide guardrails and to erect warning signs at the approaches to the double bend in Manor Road. We are also asking the Commissioner of Police to give special attention to this area.

While thanking the Minister most sincerely for that reply, and while appreciating that this will be a big help, may I point out to him that this is a veritable death trap and make the suggestion that he should consider introducing a system of traffic control either way under the bridge? Were that to be done, and were traffic lights to be installed on either side of the bridge, it would have the effect of slowing down and stopping traffic, thus doing away with some of the dangers.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the kind things he has said, and I will certainly look carefully into the further suggestion he has made

North Wales

8.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give details of the length of unclassified roads which have been classified in the six North Wales counties in each of the last three financial years.

As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

As the percentage of classified roads in Wales is higher than in any other part of the country, cannot the Minister see his way to relax the regulations so that in future a greater number of roads can be classified?

I am afraid that I do not quite follow the hon. Gentleman's supplementary. It is the case that in the six North Wales counties to which the hon. Gentleman refers, 54 per cent. of all the roads are trunk or classified roads compared with only 50·4 per cent. in England. That tends to show that we are already taking into account the special needs of North Wales.

Following is the answer:

The following lengths of unclassified road were accepted for classification during the financial years indicated and formally classified on the 1st April following:

County1951–521952–531953–54
MilesMilesMiles
Anglesey5·650·56Nil
Denbighshire3·480·38Nil
Flintshire1·17NilNil
MontgomeryNil19·11Nil
Totals10·320·05Nil

The above mileage was classified as Class III (except 0·61 mile which was raised to Class II).

The mileages classified in Class III were partly in substitution for the following mileages of Class III roads which were declassified:

Denbighshire3·69 miles declassified at the end of 1951–52.
Montogomery19·11 miles declassified at the end of 1952–53.

No roads in Caernarvonshire or Merionethshire were either classified or declassified during the period.

9.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what criteria of traffic value and what other factors he takes into consideration when deciding whether a road should be brought into a classified category.

The decision whether and how a road should be classified depends on its importance as a through traffic route.

Is the Minister aware that his Department recently agreed to classify a short distance of road in my division on condition that a similar distance in the same county was de-classified? Is that the policy of his Department?

In both cases, the decision was justified because it was found that the length of road which was classified had a greater value to through traffic than the road which was declassified.

Can the Minister say how many through roads there are in the Isle of Anglesey?

Traffic Congestion, London (Parades And Processions)

15.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will appoint a committee to inquire into the dislocation of London traffic caused by parades and processions of an official character, and to make recommendations to reduce inconvenience to the general public.

I do not think this could usefully be studied by a committee; I am assured by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department that the police do everything possible to ensure that diversions of traffic arising out of parades and processions are kept to a minimum.

Is it not ridiculous that so many big parades should take place on busy week days, and at the busiest times of the day? Why could not the big police review of last week have been held on Saturday afternoon? That would have avoided the necessity of messing up the traffic all round Hyde Park for five hours.

I think it is generally agreed that most of these great occasions bring welcome colour into people's lives, and that many of them provide opportunities for showing pride and loyalty and are deeply valued by millions of people.

Improvements And New Constructions

17 and 18.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) the authorised expenditure for new road works in each region under his control for the current financial year;

(2) the authorised expenditure for new road works in each county in Wales for the current financial year.

My right hon. Friend does not authorise expenditure on new road works for particular financial years; his authorisations are for the Road Fund share of the total cost of schemes, some of which will be spread over several years. I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table, which at this stage can only be very provisional, showing the possible distribution between the highway divisions this year of Road Fund commitments for works of major improvement and new construction. We cannot yet estimate the distribution of commitments by counties.

Following is the table:

DivisionApproximate estimate of Road Fund commitments for major improvements and new construction to be authorised in 1954–55
£ million
Metropolitan4·3
South Eastern1·0
South Western1·1
Midland1·0
Wales and Monmouth1·3
North Western0·9
Scotland5·1
North Eastern1·1
North Midland1·2
Eastern0·6

Railways (Automatic Train Control)

10.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what progress has been made by the nationalised railways since the Harrow train disaster nearly two years ago in the installation of appropriate track, signalling and locomotive equipment of new improved design, in addition to the experimental stretch between London and Huntingdon, for automatic train control in regions other than Western Region, which is already fully equipped and whether he will make a statement.

The working of the British Railways automatic train control apparatus now under trial has shown an appreciable improvement during recent months. Though the very high standard of reliability which is necessary in safety equipment of this kind has not yet been attained, the British Transport Commission are proposing to extend the trial stretch for a considerable additional mileage.

Will my right hon. Friend take note of the fact that the recent White Paper on the railways reorganisation scheme made no reference to the matter of safety on the railways and to the introduction of a comprehensive and standardised form of automatic train control and signalling? Will my right hon. Friend have regard to this very important matter when the subject is debated?

Yes, Sir. Of course, the White Paper, quite properly, did not go into detail about important matters of this kind. It was concerned with the structure of the railway system. The British Transport Commission has made its position perfectly plain, and the Government is supporting it in the view that a widespread extension of automatic train control is highly desirable, but the introduction of a system not wholly reliable would increase and not decrease the danger.

Can the Minister say whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making a special allocation of money in order to encourage the British Transport Commission to go on with this scheme with greater expedition than is now possible?

The British Transport Commission has the requisite powers, but, quite rightly, it is proceeding by trial and error in this vital field where over-hasty improvisation may lead to disastrous results.

Would not the Minister agree that railway traffic in this country today is one of the safest forms of travel we have got, and that, therefore, any apprehension regarding any danger that exists must be considered in relation to the danger that exists elsewhere?

Transport

Goods Vehicles, Central London (Representations)

13.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what protests he has received on the proposed restriction of loading and unloading goods vehicles in Central London.

My right hon. Friend has received representations from the Westminster Chamber of Commerce, the National Road Transport Federation and the National Association of Furniture Warehousemen and Removers.

What is the Minister doing about these recommendations? Is he not aware that these new proposed regulations are the fourth lot in 18 months, and does he now propose, for the first time, to deny to traders the principle to have reasonable access to their premises? Would it not be far better to concentrate on the problem created by the parking of private cars in unilateral streets? If he did that, and if he provided parking meters, he would do more good.

These proposals, which are likely to be put into force in the autumn, are the result of recommendations from the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. They have been discussed with the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and with the Commissioner of Police for the City of London, both of whom are in favour of trying these new methods of restriction for an experimental period.

For a period of six months, with a review after three months. It really does not follow that because the hon. and gallant Gentleman disagrees with all the experts on traffic problems, they are necessarily wrong.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the main problem in regard to London traffic is one of flow, that a lorry takes up just as much room as, or more room than a private car, and that many people in this House and in the country will welcome any experiment—this and others?

Commercial Vehicles, Coventry

16.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware of local fears that the position of commercial transport is being jeopardised in Coventry by the basing of British Road Services vehicles outside their former district; how many of the 29 already sold under the disposal scheme will be based outside Coventry, and at what distance from their former district; and what arrangements are proposed to avoid disturbance of the commercial transport system in the area.

I have received no representations that road transport in Coventry has suffered from the sale of British Road Services vehicles. I am afraid I cannot undertake to give particulars of the location of every vehicle after disposal, but I have full confidence in the licensing authority to discharge their responsibilities in dealing with licence applications involving change of base. I am also satisfied that the British Transport Commission is effectively carrying on its road haulage services so that there shall be no avoidable disturbance of the transport system during the disposal period.

Is the Minister aware that in that very lengthy answer he has not dealt at all with the point I raised? Is it not possible for him to say how many of these vehicles are to be based outside the area of Coventry? Is it not further true that in the British Road Services area of Coventry Leamington is included and the figure of 29 vehicles should be 50?

As I said, it would be clearly quite impossible for me or any Minister to undertake to give the exact location of every vehicle disposed off. I am satisfied that the licensing authority recognise their responsibility under the relevant Section of the Act—Section 9, I believe—and can be relied upon to see that it is carried out.

Abnormal Loads

24.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the increasing number of abnormally bulky and slow-moving loads, such as ships' propellors, railway carriages and industrial plants which are transported by road, causing congestion and delay to other road users; and if he will consult with industry with a view to discouraging this traffic until the road system can be made adequate to carry it.

The number of abnormal indivisible loads has increased since the war. I regret the inconvenience which they can cause, but such traffic is usually of high national importance. The whole procedure for carrying heavy loads by road is now under review, and I am proposing to bring representatives of industry into consultation.

While appreciating what my right hon. Friend has said about this traffic being of national importance, may I ask whether it would not be possible for some of this traffic to go by sea, as it presumably did in the days before heavy road vehicles were used for this purpose?

Yes, Sir. I know that manufacturers are conscious of that fact. I am always ready to draw their attention to that means of transport, but I could not direct traffic to go by any one particular form of transport. I am, however, bringing representatives of industry into consultation on what, I recognise, is a considerable problem.

Is it not a fact that this problem is getting worse because the Minister, under the Transport Act, removed any equalisation of charges between coastwise shipping and road transport? Does he not agree that if only he would go back to the previous system this problem would become much less?

No, Sir. The problem is getting more difficult because of the growing industrial prosperity under this Government.

Road Haulage Assets (Disposal)

25.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of Section 3 (6) of the Transport Act, 1953, he will take steps to find out to what extent the practice is widespread of transferring vehicles from the original purchaser to other owners within, say, three months of their original sale.

I am informed that the general effect of the limited number of such transfers which have been made has been to put the vehicles into a greater rather than a smaller number of hands.

I am very glad to hear that, but may I ask whether the Minister is conscious that what is happening is that a number of people are buying these vehicles, not for the purpose of going into transport, but in order immediately to re-sell them at a profit, and that in some cases—it is no use hon. Members shaking their heads—this is really getting near a financial racket?

No. I am conscious of the fact that all that the hon. Gentleman has said is quite untrue. A large proportion of these assignments are pure formalities—the assignment, for example, by a successful tenderer to a partnership or a company which he has himself formed; others are assignments to other small men; others again are assignments by a finance house to the proposed operator. There is no sign whatever of a "ganging up"—to use one of the hon. Gentleman's happy phrases during the proceedings on the Transport Bill, which he is now attempting to revise.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman make some detailed inquiries into the matter and not try to evade the point in this way? Does he not know that there is considerable concern among transport workers that people are making substantial profits out of tendering for lorries and then immediately re-selling them without any intention of going into the industry?

I am prepared constantly to watch the development of this Act. The charges so loosely volunteered by the hon. Gentleman really do not bear scrutiny.

27.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the avoidable disturbance of the transport industry caused by the failure of intending purchasers to pay the agreed purchase price by the due date, with the result that vehicles are standing idle; and if he will issue a general direction to the British Transport Commission that such vehicles shall be used meantime to carry on the existing road haulage undertaking.

I am informed by the British Transport Commission that while there has been no significant disturbance from this cause, they have already issued instructions for dealing with any cases that may arise. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Can the Minister tell us what the instructions are, because traffic in South Wales during the last 10 days has been held up by so-called purchasers failing to produce the purchase money, with the result that British Road Services have had to refuse traffic while vehicles stand idle in their yards?

No, Sir, that is not so. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that in these transactions, compared with the nationalisation transactions, the Commission and the Disposal Board are asking for cash on the spot. In order to deal with any repetitions of the one or two cases that they have had, the Commission tell me they have already issued an instruction that where the purchase is not completed by the due date and it seems likely that it will not be completed within an extra day or two, the vehicles in question are to be put back into service as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that during the Committee stage of the Transport Bill he told me that vehicles would not be withdrawn from traffic before being put up for sale, and that while I disagreed with that point of view he insisted on it? Will he now take steps to make certain that the flow-off to private enterprise is not being assisted by him by more of these vehicles being kept out of traffic than there ought to be?

I gave an assurance that we would do all we could to limit the period between ownership by British Road Services and the transfer to private ownership. That has been scrupulously observed, and the absence of any nationwide complaint has justified that action.

Germany

Nazi Victims (Compensation)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in seeing that there is no discrimination in the payment of compensation to victims of Nazi concentration camps on grounds of nationality.

I would refer to the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend on 1st February. Since then, an answer has been received from the German Federal Chancellor and discussions are continuing between representatives of the High Commission and the Federal Government.

Would my hon. Friend point out to the West German Government that this is one of the ways in which they could win esteem in this country by seeing that the payment of compensation is fairly administered?

As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, we are trying to get a satisfactory conclusion in this matter together with our partners in the Allied High Commission.

Can the hon. Gentleman give any idea how long it will be before all these victims receive the compensation to which they are entitled?

That raises a rather broader question, but there is a compensation law. The existing dispute is as to the application of that law to various categories of claimants.

Spandau Gaol (Security Arrangements)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now state when he expects to give the result of his investigations into the security arrangements at Spandau Gaol.

The inquiries which have been made show that some time ago there was a certain laxity in applying the Four Power security regulations, but the British Commandant in Berlin has instructions to take for his part appropriate steps to guard against a repetition of any irregularities.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, which substantiates the charges that I have been making for some years, may I ask whether this will mean that Admiral Doenitz will not now be allowed to keep the agreement which he signed with a German publishing company to publish his continuation of Hitler's "Mein Kampf"?

That raises a completely different question from the one on the Order Paper, which deals with irregularities in the administration of the present regulations at Spandau. That question I have answered.

In view of the fact that Spandau is in the hands of four Powers, and not ourselves alone, has the Under-Secretary any information as to whether there has been laxity whilst any of the other Powers have been in control during the months when they have taken over from us?

I should need a little notice to ascertain what Government was responsible at the time when any irregularities were committed, but a fortnight ago, I think I should inform the House—I think it was during the Russian term of control—a bar of chocolate was found in Neurath's cell.

In view of the fact that Admiral Raeder was convicted solely of planning the invasion of Norway, and the Prime Minister's book has since disclosed that this planning started a fortnight after our own, will the hon. Gentleman take steps to secure the release of this unfortunate man?

Frontier Control

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has yet been informed of the decision of the Federal Republic of Germany to extend its removal of frontier restrictions; and what reciprocal action Her Majesty's Government intend to initiate.

The answer to the first part of the Question is: Yes, Sir. As regards the second part, the present system of aliens control in the United Kingdom does not permit us to reciprocate the action of the Federal Government.

Would the Minister consider this matter carefully, to see if the United Kingdom cannot play a full part in easing travel restrictions and allowing citizens of different countries to move freely from one part of Europe to another?

We are considering that issue and we have done a great deal to that effect. As the hon. Member will realise, however, the case of Germany is a rather special one, and involves the question of aliens control in this country.

Anglo-Iraq Treaty

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to replace the Anglo-Iraq 25-year treaty of 1930 by a new treaty. as provided by Article 11, in view of the interests of both countries now protected by the treaty.

Although this is a matter which Her Majesty's Government have constantly in mind, I have no statement to make to the House at the present time.

May I ask if Iraq has a policy of neutralism, and, if so, how can a treaty of mutual security be signed by us?

I do not think it is true at all to say that Iraq has a policy of neutralism.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the bedevilling influence of the Egyptian Government in this situation, in that Colonel Nasser, the Egyptian Premier, opening his Government's "Voice of the Arabs" broadcast programme from Cairo the other day, called upon all Arab States to repudiate their alliances with the West?

Middle East Security

33, 34 and 35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what negotiations or discussions have taken place with the Israeli Government concerning the security of the Middle East;

(2) what consultations have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Israel concerning the negotiations with Egypt;

(3) what discussions have taken place with the Israeli Government concerning defensive arrangements for the Middle East following the evacuation of British troops from Egyptian territory.

No formal negotiations or discussions have taken place on these subjects with the Israel Government, but Her Majesty's Government have kept interested Governments, including the Israel Government, generally informed of the progress of our discussions with Egypt.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that if the defence of the Suez Canal area had to be moved further east, as seems logical, all lines of communication would of necessity pass through Israel? Is it not therefore absolutely vital that Israel should be considered? Secondly, will he bear in mind that it is a trifle illogical to treat those who dislike us intensely with greater consideration than those who are prepared to like us?

As I stated during the foreign affairs debate, relations between Israel and the Arab States are one of the factors which we have taken into account in this matter.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that the obligations we undertook in our joint guarantee in 1950, with respect to Israel's frontiers, will be carried out irrespective of what may or may not happen to our base in Suez?

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that Israel is one of our best friends in the Middle East and has a very valuable contribution to make to the defence of that area?

Our object is to seek to achieve good relations with all countries in the Middle East.

In view of the fact that we, with others in the United Nations, are parties to the Resolution for the cessation of hostilities between the Arab States and Israel earlier on, is it not time that we took an active part in trying to get proper discussions between the Arab States and Israel, with a view to effecting peace, instead of continuing this armistice, which has existed for five or six years?

There is a difference between an active part and a public part. Her Majesty's Government are certainly seeking to get an alleviation of the situation in the area.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether he has any information that the Israeli Government would be or are prepared to take a closer interest in the defence of the Middle East than he has indicated today?

I am generally in sympathy with the negotiations which are now going on with Egypt, and am hopeful of a satisfactory and constructive result, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman nevertheless bear in mind that they will apparently involve leaving in Egyptian hands very powerful military installations at strategic points? Are any precautions being taken to see that those military installations are not used for mischievous purposes after we leave them?

The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to deal with details of the negotiations, but I can assure him that that is a matter which we have very much in mind.

Saudi Arabia (Bur Aimi Dispute)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of negotiations with the Saudi Arabian Government regarding the dispute in Buraimi.

Our latest proposals for bringing about conditions in which a fair arbitration of this dispute can take place are now under discussion with the Saudi Government. Good progress has been made, and I am hopeful that agreement will shortly be reached. I trust the House will not press me to say anything further at this stage.

I welcome that reply, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman pay particular attention to the allegations of hunger, especially among children, in some of the villages which are said to be suffering from a blockade? Will he take immediate action to relieve those in necessity.

We have had very careful regard to that matter, and I can tell the House and the hon. Member that, according to our information, those allegations are quite untrue.

Tunisia (War Damage Compensation)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that British subjects in Tunisia, including all Maltese, have not been paid any war damage compensation nine years after the war, but that the French have been so paid; what reason has been given by the French authorities, in the course of his discussions with them, for this discrimination; and what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken and are intending to take to remedy this.

The British subjects an question are not entitled to payment pending the extension to overeas territories of the Anglo-French War Damage Agreement of 1946. Negotiations to this end have been in progress for some years, but difficulties over the status of the French territories have caused serious delays. It now seems that these difficulties have at last been overcome, and I hope that we shall be able to sign the necessary supplementary agreement with the French Government in the near future.

Can my hon. Friend give me any idea when that "near future" is likely to be? Many Maltese subjects who have no Member of Parliament in this House are suffering quite a lot—they are very poor people—and are considerably aggrieved because they seem to have been left out of consideration.

I cannot say when we hope to sign this agreement, but the main difficulties have now been overcome. I can say that the Maltese are covered by the terms of the settlement and will be included.

Anglo-Egyptian Negotiations

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will name those Commonwealth Governments which have informed Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that they approve of the total evacuation of British fighting troops from the Suez Canal zone.

I have nothing to add to what I said during the debate on 14th July.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether it is true that the Government of Ceylon are greatly concerned that the neutrality of the Suez Canal should be maintained; that the Government of South Africa are greatly alarmed at the possibility of total evacuation, and that in Australia and New Zealand the possibility has been canvassed of withdrawing air force units from the Mediterranean if we leave Suez altogether?

As I told my hon. Friend, I have nothing to add in this matter to what I said in the debate on 14th July. I really think that it is not in the public interest to press for the revelation of any communications there may have been upon this sort of matter between Commonwealth Governments and Her Majesty's Government. I would direct my hon. Friend's attention to a statement which the former Prime Minister—the present Leader of the Opposition—made upon this matter on 8th May, 1946. This statement seems to me to contain in a short compass an admirable definition of the relationship which should exist between Commonwealth Governments and Her Majesty's Government in matters of this sort.

I am not asking the Minister to reveal anything he does not want to reveal in the public interest, but can he say whether it is a fact that the great bulk of Commonwealth opinion is in support of the policy which the Government are now pursuing?

I would direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention, as I have that of my hon. Friend, to what I said in the debate on 14th July.

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will, during the Anglo-Egyptian negotiations, reaffirm that it is the intention of the signatories to the Tripartite Agreement that any act of aggression by any of the countries in the Middle East on any of their neighbours will be resisted.

It is, of course, the intention of Her Majesty's Government, as I have already stated, to stand by the Tripartite Declaration of 25th May. 1950. Her Majesty's Government are considering the advisability of reaffirming this intention in connection with the present negotiations.

I welcome the statement which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just made, but is it not also vital that in the process of these important negotiations it should be made clear beyond any possibility of doubt that the terms of the Tripartite Agreement will be applied?

Does the Minister's reply mean that the other two signatories would be invited to re-affirm it, together with the United Kingdom Government?

I shall, for the time being, confine myself to the answer which I have given.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman taken into fullest consideration the statement recently made by the Egyptian Minister of National Guidance to the effect that as soon as the troops have been removed from Egypt the Egyptian Army will be in a position to attack Israel? Will he see to it that arrangements for arms supply, or the relinquishing of military installations in Egypt, are not made until some definite understanding is received upon that point?

I have no responsibility for what the Egyptian Minister of National Guidance says. I am not at all certain whether it is admitted that he did say what it is reported he said. However that may be, I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in an earlier reply, that that is a matter which we certainly have very much in mind.

Egyptian Broadcasts, Africa (Protest)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to a new series of Egyptian Government broadcasts in Swahili, which were inaugurated by Major Saleh Salem, designed to encourage African, including Mau Mau, hostility to British colonial government; and whether, in particular, his attention has been called to a Swahili broadcast in this series on 10th July which attributed to Kenya spokesmen the fact that British injustice was aiming at breaking the morale of the people of Kenya and of those of all Africa; and whether he will protest to the Egyptian Government which is responsible for that broadcast.

Yes, Sir. Her Majesty's Ambassador in Cairo has been instructed to protest to the Egyptian Government.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is he aware that on 18th July this offensive and gross libel against our Government in Africa was repeated?

Broadcast programmes are very often repeated. I should have thought that my hon. Friend would have been satisfied to hear that a protest was to be made to the Egyptian Government.

Can the hon. Member tell us the proportion of Swahili-speaking Africans with receiving sets capable of picking up Egyptian broadcasts?

That is another question. I think it can be better answered by the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

In view of the possibility of broadcasts being re-broadcast, is there any possibility of a protest being re-protested?

Egypt (Anglo-American Strategic Interest)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish details of how far strategic interest in the Suez Canal zone is now shared with us by the United States Government.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister, in his speech in the foreign affairs debate, made specific reference to joint strategic interests involved in the Suez Canal zone? Is it possible to have details? Have the Government now abandoned the conception of the Middle East defence organisation?

That is quite another question. My right hon. Friend has got nothing to add to what he said on the subject in that debate, of which I am aware.

I am aware that the Prime Minister always has nothing to add to any question that is put to him. What I want to know is what is meant by the reference the right hon. Gentleman made during the foreign affairs debate to joint strategic interests. That is what I am asking. Have the Government abandoned the conception of the Middle East defence organisation, which is related to strategic interests?

If my right hon. Friend has nothing to add on this subject, I certainly have not.

Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman has nothing to add to any of the Prime Minister's answers on this question because he knows nothing about the subject at all?

Cyprus (Future)

46.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the effect on the security of the Eastern Mediterranean of the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to discuss the future of Cyprus with our allies the Greeks; and if he will therefore reconsider his decision.

The security of the Eastern Mediterranean is naturally one of the factors which Her Majesty's Government have taken into account in their consideration of this matter. As regards the second part of the Question, I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. and learned Member on 19th July.

Is it not a fact that British prestige in Greece is rapidly falling—[HON. MEMBERS: No."]—as a result of the failure of Her Majesty's Government to deal with the Cyprus question? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Does not the hon. Gentleman remember what Gladstone said in 1897? If he does not, may I remind him that he said that he hoped that Cyprus would very soon become a Greek island.

We are now living in 1954, not 1897, and so far as the hon. and learned Gentleman's allegation that British prestige in Greece is falling is concerned, it is completely untrue.

Would not the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, as it is intended to expand the base in Cyprus as a result of removal from Suez, it would be as well to ensure in advance that the same political conditions which made an end of the base in Egypt do not occur in Cyprus? Is it not a good idea, instead of evading questions in this rather inane way, to give some thought to the future of Cyprus?

The hon. Gentleman has entirely missed the point. Cyprus is British territory.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his saying that this is 1954 is the most direct and accurate answer that we have had from the Government today?

Ministry Of Food

Food Standards

47.

asked the Minister of Food when he will be in a position to introduce further orders relating to food standards.

This must depend in the first instance on the findings of the Food Standards Committee as and when it submits reports to me.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman powerless to do very much unless and until the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill [Lords] becomes law?

No. From time to time the Food Standards Committee submits reports to me. There is one coming forward shortly. Much can be done without the Bill's becoming law.

48.

asked the Minister of Food on what date the Report of the Food Standards Committee about lead contamination will be published.

In view of the very proper public interest in this matter and of the widespread production of iced lollies, which is causing some concern, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman expedite action on this Report when he receives it?

Food Prices

49.

asked the Minister of Food the price of the various cuts of beef, lamb and pork on 1st October, 1951, and on the first of each month since that date, until the latest convenient date.

With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the Statutory Instruments from which this information may be obtained. Under control, some 230 separate maximum retail prices were prescribed for cuts of beef, mutton, lamb, and pork, and a list of monthly prices for all of these would be too long for the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is not the Minister giving that advice because he does not want to reveal the facts, which are all well known, that the prices of these cuts have all gone up since this Government have been in power, directly contrary to the policy the Government announced at the General Election? That is the reason why the old-age pensioners are asking for increased pensions today.

As the hon. Gentleman says he knows the answers, he confirms me in the wisdom of my own.

Following is the list:

  • 1951 Nos. 1313 and 1314.
  • 1952 Nos. 1122 and 1123.
  • 1953 Nos. 1095, 1096; 1409, 1410.
  • 1954 Nos. 631 and 632.

52 and 53.

asked the Minister of Food (1) what representations he has had from the Scottish Housewives League and from English housewives associations asking for the reimposition of price control on butcher meat, butter and tea; and what reply he has sent;

(2) what representations he has had from the Housewives League and associations asking for the reimposition of price control on bacon, eggs, Belfast smoked ham and gammon; and what reply he has sent.

None from the Scottish Housewives League; one recently from the Dundee Women's Labour Party about meat; and two, in 1953, from women's associations referring to the price of eggs. The reply to the first letter referred to the answers my hon. Friend gave to Questions by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) on 12th July; the reply to the second pointed out that the price of eggs was falling; and the reply to the third referred to the Government's general policy on food subsidies and removal of controls.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, may I take twice the time in asking my supplementary? May I inform the right hon. and gallant Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] This noise and laughter amongst hon. Gentlemen opposite indicates vacant minds. May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman if he is aware that I knew perfectly well that he had had no representations from the Housewives' League—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why ask, then?"]—which stands exposed for what it is? Is he aware that the prices of the items I have mentioned have increased by 50 per cent.? Is not that altogether contrary to his own prognostications? Does he not think, therefore, that they should be controlled again?

As far as I can follow the hon. Lady, I gather that she said that the prices of some of the commodities referred to have gone up by 50 per cent. That is not true of meat. It certainly is not true of eggs, because they are at lower prices than when they were under control. It certainly is not true of some classes of bacon. I do not understand what the hon. Lady is saying.

Meat (Inspection)

50.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will place the inspection of all meat under the control of veterinary surgeons as recommended by the recent report, a copy of which has been sent to him, of the committee formed to investigate this matter particularly in view of the fact that this is the custom in most other cases in Western Europe.

The inspection of meat and the appointment of the necessary officers are matters within the responsibility of local authorities under the Food and Drugs Act.

In view of the fact that nine-tenths of the cases of food poisoning are traceable to meat, would it not be better to have meat inspection under the control of people trained in the matter, rather than under that of sanitary inspectors who are not?

That is a matter of opinion. The veterinary people naturally think that they are the best at the job. Curiously enough, the sanitary inspection people think they are. On the whole, the best thing to do is to have a compromise and to permit such arrangements as are carried out by the city of Manchester, for instance, where they work side by side with great proficiency.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the report was issued without having any proper inspection of slaughterhouses? Is he aware that for the veterinary profession to get this matter into their hands is wrong, and that sanitary inspectors, generally speaking, are trained in the inspection of meat, and that it would be better to leave the work to the sanitary inspectors?

Ministry Of Food (Future)

51.

asked the Minister of Food what representations he has received from the Wholesale Grocers' Association of Scotland concerning the future of his Department; and what reply he has sent.

In May of last year the association sent me a copy of a resolution passed at its annual conference and it has recently written to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about it. The association has been told that its views will be carefully considered along with representations received from other interested parties.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the association deplored any prospect of his Ministry's being transferred to some other Ministry. Has he given any assurance that it will not?

I have nothing to add to what the Prime Minister said in reply to a similar Question. The association also referred to another matter. It welcomed in the most wholehearted way the end of control and rationing.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has any statement to make about business?

Yes, Sir.

We do not propose to proceed with the Pests Bill [Lords] on Friday, but we shall take the Second Reading of the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill [Lords] already announced for that day.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether any statement is to be made about Geneva? Can he tell me how far Geneva is from Munich?

When are we to get the Pests Bill, in which there is a great deal of interest?

I could not give a date now. I announced that two Bills would be Liken on Friday and all I am saying now is that the Food and Drugs Bill will be the first Order.

Is not the delay in introducing the Pests Bill due to the filibustering attitude adopted by the Opposition?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say that the Pests Bill will definitely be taken next week or before we rise for the Recess?

I shall deal with that when I announce the business for next week. I do that tomorrow.

Ordered,

"That this day Business other than the Business of Supply may be taken before Ten o'clock."—[Mr. Crookshank.]

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

Transfer Of Houses

I beg to move.

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the transfer, 10 years after construction or acquisition, of houses, buildings or land provided under the Housing Acts, 1936 to 1952, by the London County Council or other local authority outside its own area to the local authority for the area in which the houses, buildings or land are situated.
The Bill is an attempt to meet the needs arising from a very acute problem in my constituency, Dagenham, but this problem is also serious in a number of other areas, and will be of growing importance in many districts in the early future.

At present more than half of the houses in my constituency belong to an outside municipal authority, the London County Council, for whom the ratepayers in Dagenham do not vote and over whose policy they have no control. When 17,000 out of a total of 30,000 houses belong to an outside authority it creates a very serious problem for the people living in that district. In addition to the 17,000 belonging to the London County Council, there are 3,000 belonging to the local council, there is an estate belonging to West Ham Council, and there are about 10,000 privately-owned houses. There is very little room in the area to build more houses; at most, there is room for perhaps 3,000 more, whether municipally or privately owned. The number on the housing list is about 4,400. This means that there is very little prospect of a large part of the population being rehoused in the area.

The London County Council are reasonably good landlords and maintain property in good repair, but the fact remains that most of the houses on the Becontree Estate, which forms the greater part of the L.C.C. housing in Dagenham, were built between 1925 and 1933, some 20 or 30 years ago. When that estate was built, the people who moved in were newly-married couples or people who already had small families. We thus have a large population growing up in the area.

At present we have a partial solution to the problem of finding houses for this population. When people grow old or die, the London County Council usually give the tenancy of the house to the eldest grown-up child living in the house. That is frequently done, but it meets the needs of only a small part of the population which is growing up in Dagenham, and a large number of people cannot be found houses in that way. Out of the 17,000 L.C.C. houses, quite a number fall vacant each year, but those vacancies are not given to local inhabitants; they are given to new people who come in from the London County Council area. That is producing a real grievance among the inhabitants of the district.

Immediately after the war the London County Council made arrangements by which sons and daughters of tenants were allowed to go on to the L.C.C. housing list and were found houses on different new housing estates built by the L.C.C. But the L.C.C.'s own lists in London grew so large that that privilege was cancelled. At present the L.C.C. allot 50 houses a year to be filled by the Dagenham Council and the Dagenham Council make a financial contribution in return for that concession. When these houses are allocated, they are not allocated in Dagenham, however; they are allocated on other L.C.C. estates very much further out. The result is that Londoners are allocated houses in Dagenham and frequently have to travel a long way to and from their work, whereas the people from Dagenham may be allocated houses in some other L.C.C. estate, such as Aveley, and may have to travel a long way to and from their places of work. That is not at all a satisfactory solution.

The fact is that council estates grow up as individuals do, and when an estate is 20 or 30 years old it should be considered to be adult and arrangements should be made, I believe, for it to be transferred, if the people wish, to the local authority within whose boundaries it happens to be. We have already made such arrangements for new towns. When the new towns corporations have completed their job and when the new towns are going concerns, they will hand over the houses and all their properties to the local authority on the spot. That is a very useful precedent which I suggest we should now follow in the case of estates built by councils outside their own boundaries, when these estates become mature.

In Dagenham such a large part of the property belongs to an outside council that it is a very acute problem, but it is also serious in neighbouring areas, such as Barking and Ilford, where many houses are also L.C.C. owned, although in those areas the L.C.C. houses form a very much smaller part of the total housing available.

I suggest that after 10 years, when an estate has settled down, the local authority on the spot should have the option of approaching the Ministry of Housing and the owning authority—the L.C.C. or any other owning council—and of making proposals to take over the estate with, of course, all outstanding financial liabilities. Certain problems may arise. One might concern the question of repairs. I suggest that if the owning council has not maintained the estate in proper repair, then that should be borne in mind from the financial point of view when the estate is taken over and some arbitration should be arranged by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to settle how far the repairs have been done.

This problem is already becoming important in many areas around London where estates were built by the L.C.C. before the war. Many new estates have been constructed since the war or are under construction now, so that this problem will grow as estates in other authorities, such as those at Harold Hill, Ockendon and Slough, mature in the years to come. I suggest that we should take steps now to enable a local authority to take over an estate after ten years if it wants to do so.

This is mainly a problem of greater London, and even if we have a reform of local government, as the Government have proposed, it is unlikely that the boundaries of London will be extended so as to cover all the estates which the L.C.C. have built in every part of southern England. Even in the north and the Midlands, many estates have been built by local authorities outside their boundaries, and if these estates are not subsequently brought inside their boundaries, a similar problem will arise.

We ought to pass a Bill of this kind so as to enable any authority which finds an outside authority owning an estate which is growing up within its boundaries to take it over. This is a serious problem that is likely to grow in the years to come; a solution on these lines is the right way to deal with it.

I rise to oppose this Bill. My first point is that I think that it would have been good manners, to put it politely, if, before a matter of this kind was raised, affecting the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), some discussions had taken place with the people likely to be affected. So far as I know, there is no demand in that part of Greater London for this Bill. I know of one area close to my hon. Friend's constituency which is not supporting the Bill, and I think that it would have been well if talks had gone on, particularly with the authorities which my hon. Friend mentioned or with the London County Council, before such a proposition was put forward.

The fact is that in Dagenham and Barking, and all the areas round that side of London, a great deal of additional housing for the local inhabitants has been provided with the co-operation of the L.C.C. In one case, co-operation is now going on in the building of a new estate, and it is quite false, therefore, to give the impression to the House and to the country that there is friction between the local authorities in that part of Essex and the L.C.C.

There are also some practical difficulties. Even if the House decided that this Bill should be put through—and that in itself would be very difficult to do at this late stage of the Session—the fact is that none of the local authorities immediately concerned could possibly stand the financial loss to them if they had to take over these estates. The Becontree Estate of the L.C.C. has cost London many millions of pounds.

An enormous sum is spent each year in maintaining the houses on this estate in decent condition and providing social facilities for the people living in the area which. if they had to depend on the financial ability of the local authorities, probably would not be provided. If the estates were taken over by the authorities in whose areas they are, then those authorities would also have to take over the balance of the capital cost and all the deficits each year, because there are large financial losses on all these estates year by year. It seems to me that my hon. Friend has not given very much thought to what this Bill might mean to the authorities on behalf of whom he seemed to be speaking.

The only reason the London County Council have ever gone outside the county is because of the enormous housing list which they have.

I agree that it applies to many other large areas in the country. The L.C.C. had special powers to enable it to go outside the county because of the enormous overcrowding in London. I know that my hon. Friend has taken some part in preaching the need for the proper town planning of London and all our other great cities, but in the case of London we should have to decant at least 500,000 Londoners to somewhere outside London. [An HON. MEMBER: "To Scotland."] If Scotland would be prepared to bear the cost of taking 500,000 Londoners and providing them with jobs as good as they have in London, with as good housing accommodation and all the social facilities, I have no doubt that a good many London Scotsmen would be willing to go home.

I think that proper consideration should be given to the enormous financial implications and to the way in which the staff run and maintain these estates. I believe that the Bill, if passed, would lead to unnecessary trouble and friction in these areas, and would be bad for housing and bad for the people of London who have spent so many millions of pounds on this project. I hope the House will refuse leave to introduce the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12, and negatived.

Orders Of The Day

Supply

[24TH ALLOTTED DAY]

Considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Civil Estimates, 1954–55

Class X

Vote 2 Ministry Of Pensions And National Insurance

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a sum, not exceeding £2,790,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1955, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, including certain expenses in connection with national insurance, industrial injuries insurance, family allowances, workmen's compensation, war pensions and sundry other services.—[£1,650,000 has been voted on account.]

Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again "[ Mr. Buchan-Hepburn]—put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.

Pensions And Benefits (Increase)

3.47 p.m.

I beg to move.

That this House expresses its deep concern at the failure of Her Majesty's Government to increase the rates of benefit of old-age pensions and other National Insurance and war-disabled benefits, and calls upon the Government to take immediate action to raise these benefits.
A few weeks before the Budget we would have considered a Motion similar to the one on the Order Paper today to be entirely unnecessary, because, as the House will recall, we had a debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) when it seemed to be proved conclusively that the cost of living called for an immediate increase in National Insurance benefits.

On that occasion, we listened to a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance, who, I thought, was extremely sympathetic. Indeed, harmony prevailed. I think that the only charge made by the Parliamentary Secretary was that I alone struck a contentious note. He explained on that occasion that his presence at the Box was because representatives of the Treasury had hidden behind a kind of pre-Budget purdah. This rather led us to believe that the Treasury would provide an increase in the National Insurance benefits, and that the Treasury representatives had deliberately absented themselves for fear of committing some verbal indiscretion.

It was with this preliminary survey in our minds that we listened to a Budget which proved to be such a great disappointment to the very poorest in the community. It was profoundly disappointing to this side of the House. I suspect that it had the same effect on many Members opposite. Whether my surmise is correct or not, we shall discover in the Division Lobbies tonight.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech and on subsequent occasions, appeared to have an inexhaustible fund of sympathy for the aged, which he pours out on every conceivable occasion. The aged people cannot be fed on crocodile tears. They ask for some immediate assurance that their needs are uppermost in the Chancellor's mind.

The Chancellor conveyed the impression that he was waiting for certain reports before he took any action. This view is embodied in the Amendment to the Motion. I understand—and my source of information is a Government spokesman—that the reports for which the Government are waiting are, (1) that of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, set up in 1952; (2) that of the Phillips Committee, which is reviewing the economic and financial problems of providing for old age, having regard to the prospective increase in the number of old people in our midst; (3) the quinquennial review by the Government Actuary.

I contend that not one of those reports is necessary in order to meet the immediate need of the old-age pensioners. If the Government adopted this procedure on the receipt of wage claims, there would be stoppages in every part of the country. I do not recall that when the judges were given their increase a committee was set up to inquire into their way of life. Let me examine these Committees, and their relationship to old-age pensions.

The Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women is clearly not concerned with this matter, and I do not think that the Minister can support the argument that it is. The Phillips Committee is an excellent one. The chairman of it is Sir Thomas Phillips, the First Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance. The Committee is ranging over a very wide field, including considerations of retirement age and retirement conditions, which, while they will provide very interesting food for thought, are not related to the immediate problem of an increase for the aged.

The quinquennial review is a statutory obligation. When it was embodied in the Act, nobody suggested that the day-to-day business of the Ministry of National Insurance should be held up pending this inquiry. I understand that the review started at the end of March and will take many months to complete. To call these committees in aid at this stage is a shabby expedient which will deceive no one. Meanwhile, the old people must wait. The Chancellor has not realised that old age is the only age which cannot afford to wait. Dangling an increase of pension before an old-age pensioner to whom a year or even a few months represents a large proportion of his expectation of life is heartless.

I will now refer to the cost of living, which will no doubt provoke a reply from the Minister. In assessing the cost of living, we should be increasingly critical of the validity of the cost of living index. [Interruption.] I know that that sounds like heresy, but this is not a party matter. The Minister of Labour has a very high reputation. In examining wage claims, he has shown that he is not satisfied with the Cost-of-Living Index which has been presented to him and he has asked for certain household budgets to be furnished to him so that he can institute a survey and, I hope, eventually make representations on the matter. It was clear to me from the interruption just now that hon. Members on the Government benches will charge me with using the same index. I am not going to run away from that charge. We have never claimed infallibility, but this vast insurance scheme is still in its initial stages, and pensioners, who must limit their expenditure in the main to purchases of food, occupy a very special position.

It is estimated by some people that the old-age pensioner spends 70 per cent. of his income on food, in spite of the fact that the Cost-of-Living Index gives the average position as based on 40 per cent. of food. If the Minister reads "The Times" today, he will see that I have the support of that newspaper. Since October, 1951, the food component—and I apologise for giving these figures to the House, but they are inevitable—of the Interim Index of Retail Prices has risen by 17 per cent., and the fuel and light component by 18 per cent., yet the vast majority of retirement pensioners have received only 2s. 6d. increase in benefit, that is, 8½ per cent. Furthermore, the pensioner contends that relatively he is worse off than any other section of the community. I should like to examine that point.

When the basic pension of 26s. was fixed in the National Insurance Act, 1946, the average weekly wage of all workers was £5 1s. per week, so the retirement pension was almost exactly 26percent.of the average weekly wage. The average weekly wage of all workers in 1953 was £8 0s. 1d. The 32s. 6d. retirement pension is thus only 20·43 per cent. of the average weekly wage. It is clear that the relative position of the pensioner has got very much worse. The National Assistance Board Report reflects the fact that pensioners have had to resort to the Board in increasingly large numbers. I hope that the Minister realises that all this means that National Insurance benefits and National Assistance are very closely related.

It is inevitable that if insurance benefits are increased National Assistance must follow. The National Assistance Board Report tells only half the story. Pensioners who are in need seek help from a variety of sources, all of which helps the Treasury in some respects to defer an increase in pensions. I must apologise for constantly mentioning the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury, but finally they have to make the decision.

I should like to give examples of the help which pensioners have today. Local authorities, through their old people's welfare committees, recognise that it is absolutely essential to give help, so in most urban areas there is a scheme for cheap meals. The charge for the meals is usually not economic, in consequence of which voluntary help has to be sought, and it is not always available. I shall give details of how the pension is supplemented in another way, and how that supplementary aid is increasing. I asked the representative of the London County Council to give me some details as to the kind of help which is available in the London County Council area. It is interesting to observe that, of the 2,000 home helps in the London County Council area, 80 per cent. work for the aged, and that of the 450 home nurses in the same area, 60 per cent. care for the aged. It seems to me that an increase of pensions in these households is urgently needed.

The Treasury is pursuing a shortsighted policy in not recognising that it is cheaper and more humane to keep the old people in their homes. I present this aspect of the case to the Minister in the hope of an eleventh-hour conversion. For the first time in London, we have this week an international conference on gerontology, which is the modern terminology for the state of senescence, the process of ageing, and something in which most of us in this House have a lively interest.

The fact that an international conference has been called for the first time in London, and no doubt as the years go on such conferences will be held in other capitals as well, is an indication that the care and treatment of the aged has assumed a new importance. We are all familiar, at least from the outside, with geriatric clinics designed for the rehabilitation of old people who have deteriorated physically and mentally, often through neglect and under-nourishment. These clinics, which were unknown a few years ago, are now a familiar part of the medical scene.

The Minister, and indeed all Government representatives who are concerned with providing services for old people, should recognise that this new service, a service to rehabilitate the aged, together with a demand for institutional treatment for the aged, is an expensive process. It cost four times the amount of the old-age pension to keep an old person in a home, and the demand for accommodation is far from satisfied. Unfortunately, there are certain families who regard the aged as a burden which should be borne by others. I think it should be said that the Welfare State does not absolve sons and daughters from the moral obligation of giving their parents comfort and care in their old age.

In my opinion, and I believe that I am supported in this by many eminent medical officers of health, wherever possible the right place for an aged person is in his or her own home surrounded by familiar things accumulated over a lifetime. Of course, there should be available in every locality domiciliary services, nursing services, meals on wheels, and so on. But these must be supplemented by an increase in the pension. Unless the old people are given a greater sense of financial independence, their conditions will deteriorate, and they will meekly consent to go into an institution of some kind.

This is the aspect of the problem which I think the Chancellor should face. If he continues this cheeseparing policy, it is inevitable that more and more people will demand to go into institutions. The extra benefit for which we are asking today should not be regarded by the Minister solely as an increase in expenditure, but as an addition to an inadequate pension, and one which may well be the means of relieving the pressure on geriatric units, hospitals and other institutions catering for the aged. Indeed, I believe that the Treasury should now develop an entirely new approach. It should regard such an increase in pensions as an investment which will give it profitable returns in terms of money, and certainly in terms of human happiness.

4.5 p.m.

This Motion, which the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham. West (Dr. Summer-skill) has moved in a speech which I think is commendable for its moderation as well as for its brevity, deals with three matters—old-age pensions, other National Insurance benefits, and war disability pensions. It speaks of the failure of the Government to increase the rates, and calls for immediate action to raise them.

I want, first, to deal quite shortly with war disability pensions. In recent years, by a considerable act of self-denial on both sides of the House, we have succeeded in keeping the position of war pensioners very largely out of party politics. Therefore, I rather regret that they should be mentioned in the Motion. The Motion deals with the rates of pension and of benefit. It is not concerned with the many trimmings in the form of special allowances and supplements for the seriously disabled which both the War Disability Code and the Industrial Injury Code have provided in increasing measure in recent years.

So far as the war disability rate of pension is concerned, the facts speak for themselves. They need no comment from me. In 1946, the basic rate for the unmarried private soldier was fixed at 45s. In 1951, six years later, when right hon. Gentlemen opposite declared their innings closed and retired, the basic rate stood at exactly the same figure, 45s. Its actual value, of course, had fallen during those six years from 45s. to 35s.

Our first action on taking over responsibility in 1951 was, in accordance with our election promise, to survey the whole pensions field. Despite the financial difficulties which we inherited, we raised the basic rate to 55s. and the war widows' rate, which had also remained unaltered for six years, from 35s. to 42s. We recognise, of course, that the increases made in 1952 did not fully make good the whole of the loss of value which had taken place in the six preceding years. We are determined, before we leave office, to see that their value is restored to what Parliament intended it should be when the post-war rates were settled in 1946.

The question outstanding is, at what time can a further increase be made? An increase in the basic rate of war pension is a costly matter. All the money comes from the Exchequer, and Is. a week on the pension costs round about £1 million. It would be ridiculous to suppose that war disability pensions can be dealt with, as some people claim, in splendid isolation. Therefore, it is not surprising that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer should wish to get some idea of what his other commitments may be as a result of the quinquennial review, now in progress, of the National Insurance scheme. But war disability pensioners may be assured that in any upward movement of pension rates they will automatically get priority. Fortunately for them, changes in their case can be made by Royal Warrant, and can be made effective more quickly than other changes in pension which require legislation.

I now turn to that part of the Motion which deals with National Insurance benefits and pensions. It has been suggested, both inside and outside the House, that poverty is widespread and that poverty is the reason which calls for an urgent and immediate increase in insurance pension rates. But it is to be observed—and this is a matter of great importance—that the Motion does not refer to National Assistance scales. I am sure that the omission has not been made by mistake. The omission is deliberate. Two and a half million people cannot have been overlooked by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. And I believe this omission is made because hon. Members not only know that the National Assistance Board is doing a good job of work but, I hope, also because they realise that the assistance scales, which were raised to their present level in 1952, provide a better standard of living than at any earlier period. The 1952 scales, 35s. plus rent allowance for a single per- son, and 59s. plus rent allowance for a married couple, are no less than 75 per cent. above the 1946 level for a single person, and about 70 per cent. above that level for a married couple.