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Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1954

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Mental Patients (After-Care)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the numbers and percentages of mental patients released from mental homes under his control in Scotland during each of the last five years; what provision was made for their after-care; and what records were kept of their lives after their release and with what results.

The total number of patients discharged from mental hospitals in Scotland rose from 4,443 in 1949 to 5,888 in 1953. With permission, I will circulate details and percentages in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The care of patients discharged to guardianship in private houses remains the responsibility of hospital authorities. In other cases, where a discharged patient's own doctor needs help in providing any necessary aftercare, this can be obtained by attendance at an out-patient clinic, by seeking the co-operation of a psychiatric social worker, or by enlisting the aid of a voluntary organisation.

YearTotal DischargesCertified PatientsVoluntary Patients
19494 4431,313 (40)8483,13011485
19504,7441,324 (33)8503,42012086
19514,9291,280 (30)8503,64911582
19525,5321,270 (21)8504,26211984
19535,8881,271 (23)8494,61711786


(1) The figures in brackets are the numbers of patients (included in the total) placed under guardianship.
(2) Number of patients discharged expressed as a percentage of the number of patients in the appropriate class in hospital at the end of the year.
(3) Number of patients discharged expressed as a percentage of the number of patients in the appropriate class admitted during the year.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many homes there are in Scotland under his control for the after-care of mental patients; where they are situate; what is their accommodation; how many patients they accommodate; and how many they now contain and of what type.

If the hon. and learned Member has in mind a form of care distinct from that afforded by a hospital or under guardianship, the provision of accommodation for the purpose, so far as appropriate to public authorities, would rest with local authorities rather than with me. There are at present no such homes in Scotland, nor has any provision been made by voluntary organisations.

As the Secretary of State's reply seems to be rather vague, may I ask whether he realises the therapeutic value of such after-care work? Will he give some attention to it, in the interests of the patients and of the community at large.

ment is often essential to complete the cure as well as being of great scientific importance, if records are kept? Are records kept?

I am afraid that I have no comprehensive information to give in reply to the last part of the question.

Following is the information:

I agree about its importance. I said that it was a matter for the local authorities or voluntary effort.

Prisons (Accommodation)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of inmates of Scottish prisons who are at present being detained in cells containing more than two persons.

Oil Depot, Dundee (Planning Decision)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now state his decision on the report of Sir John Handford regarding planning permission for an oil depot in Dundee.

I have sustained this appeal and this will allow the development to proceed. My decision was intimated to the parties on 21st July.

Isle Of Arran (Tourist Trade)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he is taking in consultation with the Scottish Tourist Board to popularise the island of Arran as a tourist centre.

The Scottish Tourist Board have been active in furthering the interests of Arran in common with other tourist centres. In co-operation with the Island of Arran Publicity Association, they have promoted the Arran Welcome Week. The Board give worldwide distribution to the Association's publicity material and include this and other material in their own publications.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if only he used his imagination and arranged for some experimental helicopter flights from Edinburgh to the island of Arran he would get some wonderful publicity? If it is a question of cost, is he aware that I have had a helicopter placed at my disposal for the month of September and that if he would like to use it for this purpose I will see that it is passed on to him?

I have been to Arran by boat, but I must thank the hon. Member for his offer.

Welfare Foods, Dundee


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from Dundee Corporation regarding the transfer to local authorities of the Welfare Foods Scheme; and what reply he has made.

The corporation drew attention to the cost that would fall on local authorities as a result of this transfer, and to the shortness of the period allowed for completing the necessary arrangements. I am sending to the hon. Member a copy of my reply.

Is the right hon. Gentleman's Department taking any steps in the first place to reduce the cost to the local authority and to the ratepayers, and in the second place to give the local authority more time to make adequate arrangements for this important service?

No further time is necessary because all the authorities have now made their returns. Only three authorities in the whole of Scotland, not including Dundee, were a little late.

Royal Commission On Scottish Affairs (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has yet received the Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs; and whether he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. I have received the Report, which is being presented to Parliament today. The recommendations contained in the Report will have immediate consideration. I have conveyed to Lord Balfour and the members of the Commission the warm thanks of Her Majesty's Government for the thorough and expeditious way in which they have carried out their inquiry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also publish the evidence placed before the Royal Commission on which this Report was based, as clearly that will be of extreme interest to those of us who want to study the Report in greater detail.

I think that a great deal of the evidence has already been published. It was published while the Commission was sitting in open session, but I will look into that point.

Will the evidence be made available to Members of Parliament in conjunction with the Report?

I will do my best in the matter. I thought that the evidence had already been published.

I hope that an opportunity will be found a little later, but for the moment I think it would perhaps be better to read the Report.

Early Potatoes


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has for encouraging the production of new potatoes in Scotland.

I presume that the Question refers to early potatoes. The estimated acreage of first early potatoes planted in Scotland for this year's crop is the highest since 1950. It would seem that present market conditions are encouraging.

Is the Minister aware that farmers who grow early potatoes think he has been rather late in his action in dealing with the big importation of Cyprus potatoes? Is he aware that it is not encouraging farmers to grow potatoes if the potatoes are then left to rot in the soil? What answers are we to give to indignant farmers about his action?

Only about 8 per cent. of the total supply of early potatoes is imported, so that it is not a very large figure.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this question of early seed potatoes in Scotland is of very great importance? What steps is he taking to see that we do not lose further orders for seed potatoes in Scotland, because we certainly are losing orders for seed potatoes which we used to have.

Civil Defence


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to make a statement on the position of Civil Defence in Scotland.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave the House a very full account of the position of Civil Defence in the country as a whole in the course of the debate on the Civil Defence Estimates on 5th July. If the hon. Member wishes information on any matters specifically affecting Civil Defence in Scotland, I shall be glad to supply it.

Does the Minister suggest that the Home Secretary is a substitute for the Secretary of State for Scotland on Scottish affairs? Is he aware that in this debate no statement was made about Civil Defence in Scotland, although one H-bomb would kill one-third of the population of Scotland, according to estimates? Is it not time that we bad a Scottish statement?

The policy is the same both for Scotland and England. I am afraid that if I had made a long statement like that of my right hon. and learned Friend it would have been rather boring to the House.

Leith Town Hall (Rebuilding)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from Edinburgh Town Council regarding the rebuilding of Leith Town Hall; and if he will now announce his decision.

The town council were informed last year that I was unable in the circumstances then existing to authorise the reinstatement of Leith Town Hall. They have recently renewed their application for authority to proceed with this work, and I am considering it sympathetically.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this hall was one of the first casualties of the war, that it is now very many years since its destruction took place, and that it was the only decent-sized hall in the town? May we not expect a very early answer to this Question?

I hope to be able to give it soon. The town council has been asked for details of the work which it wishes to carry out, and I will do my best to see that the matter is expedited.

Acquired Land (Disposal)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to set up a Select Committee, with wider terms of reference than the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, to investigate the methods of acquisition and disposal of land by Government Departments, and to recommend where necessary that public inquiries be held.

No, Sir. The Government have just announced a new policy on the disposal of compulsorily acquired land, and there is to be a comprehensive inquiry into the Ministry of Agriculture's methods of dealing with transactions in agricultural land. We must await the result of the inquiry and see the effect of these measures before instituting wider investigations.

:Is the Prime Minister aware that the revelations in the Crichel Down and Woollett cases now show that the Crichel Down disease is spreading to other Departments, and will he take drastic action to protect the rights of Her Majesty's subjects, to stop this Communist technique of trying to govern by bureaucracy and to set the people free?

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister's letter addressed to the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries and published in the Press makes it quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman does not share the opinion that there was any grievous offence caused over Crichel Down—[HON. MEMBERS:"No."]—and since the Prime Minister said he does not think there was an offence, will he please take no notice of the hon. Gentleman opposite?

European Defence Community (British Contribution)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will now arrange for Her Majesty's Government to dedicate a further two divisions to the European Defence Community.

Does the Prime Minister remember that, in the last foreign affairs debate, he said that the dedication of one division had not made any difference to that division, but had given a great deal of pleasure to the French? Would not the dedication of three divisions give three times as much pleasure, or was the original dedication of the first division a very poor joke at the expense of the French, being meaningless?

International Relations


asked the Prime Minister in view of the result of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China and the effective participation by the Foreign Secretary, what steps Her Majesty's Government now intend to take directly and through the United Nations to explore the possibility of a general pacific settlement of outstanding matters causing international tension in the Middle and Far East.


asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to make a further statement regarding his meeting with Mr. Malenkov.


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the success of the Geneva Conference in arranging a ceasefire in Indo-China and the proof that negotiations can succeed, he will now attempt to arrange a big three conference to discuss international difficulties.

I have nothing to add to my previous statements on the subject of a top level conference. Her Majesty's Government intend to take all possible steps to decrease tension, whether through established bodies or by special methods.

On a point of order. Do I understand that repetition is not permitted in this House, and that, when the Prime Minister says he has nothing to add, that is repetition?

Does not the Prime Minister consider a hard negative rather disappointing, and, in the circumstances, seeing that the omens are rather encouraging at this time, cannot he give us a more definite assurance on what he might do in the near future?

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House what he has done to the official Opposition, who now regard him as the world's great apostle of peace when three years ago they were accusing him of being the warmonger?

In view of the fact that in subject-matter Questions Nos. 45, 48 and 49 may be said to have been partly covered by the recent Note from Russia, will the House be told the Government's answer before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

I cannot guarantee that the complexities of the situation will be cleared away within the next few days. The recent proposal which has been made by the Soviet Government raises important questions connected with conferences, all of which must be discussed between the three allies.

Would it not be extremely undesirable for the House to disperse for the Summer Recess without knowing what the answer will be on a matter of this sort?

The House does disperse at different seasons of the year, and I understood that the right hon. Gentleman himself had made his plans for distant journeys. We should not wish to interfere with them.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he really believes that he and the other nations concerned cannot make up their minds on this very important matter before 9th August?

The Soviet answer to our message of May took over two months to prepare, and was delivered only two days ago. I really think that we must have an opportunity of considering it.

Electoral Reform


asked the Prime Minister whether, since he informed a Liberal Party deputation on 3rd February, 1953, that a factual inquiry into the subject of electoral reform was not excluded, he will advise Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into systems of election, with terms of reference similar to those of the commission which reported in 1910.

Having regard to the great dissatisfaction which has been voiced somewhat volubly in a distant quarter in the party opposite with regard to the Boundary Commission and its redistribution Report, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this is a suitable moment at which to have this and kindred electoral matters discussed, and would it not be best for him to meet his enemies in the gates before they have a chance of worsting him again?

I do not think I need the aid of a Royal Commission for the discussions to which the hon. and learned Member draws my attention.

Putting aside all party considerations in this matter, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that under the existing system a majority of Members of this House may be elected by a minority of votes in the country, in view of the fact that a small transfer of votes may so affect the constitution of the House that it may alter the whole course of events for a period of five years, and also in view of the anomalies and injustices to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred on 7th March, 1950, whether he will now consider setting up an impartial inquiry into the electoral system?

The question of proportional representation is not a novel one at all. It has been repeatedly inquired into and considered from this point and from that, both on a party and a non-party basis. I think the general opinion is that logically there is a lot to be said for it but, in fact and in practice, it has brought to a standstill and to futility almost every Parliament in which it has ever been tried.

Whilst not disagreeing with the Prime Minister on the merits of the case, which we are not discussing, may I draw attention to the fact that this is a Question asking for an inquiry? It is not a Question on the merits of the matter. Does the Prime Minister not remember that when he was Leader of the Opposition he asked the Labour Government to institute an inquiry, and that when I declined he attacked me with great vigour. Is he not therefore guilty of misleading and deceiving this poor Liberal Party then, and ever since? Why does he not be straight for once and say "Yes" or "No," instead of deceiving and misleading them?

I certainly say, in these electoral matters, that I have never held an absolutely immovable attitude with regard to the accidental play of particular circumstances and conditions.

Does the Prime Minister expect anybody to understand that answer? Is it his hope that nobody will understand it? Is it not the case that when he was in opposition he demanded this very inquiry and denounced us for refusing it, and now, with all the—I had better not say what I think—confidence in the world he gets up and refuses us the very thing which he demanded in opposition and promised to the Liberal Party?

As a matter of fact, the outcome of four years thoroughly justifies reconsideration of the matter by any responsible Minister.

British Airliner, Hainan (Shooting Down)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make a statement about the latest incidents connected with the shooting down of a British aircraft off Hainan.

Yes, Sir. On 24th July the United States Secretary of State announced that two United States aircraft carriers had been ordered to proceed to the scene of the Chinese attack upon the Cathay Pacific airliner as a result of which three United States nationals were injured and three were still missing. The task of these ships and their aircraft was to conduct and protect further search and rescue operations in the vicinity of the crash.

I have been informed by the United States Government that on 26th July at approximately 10.05 a.m., local time, two of these carrier-based aircraft, while on rescue operations seeking possible survivors, were attacked over the high seas approximately 13 miles from Hainan by two Chinese fighter aircraft, apparently of the same type as shot down our airliner. A Chinese gunboat also opened fire upon these United States planes. The United States aircraft returned the fire from the planes and two Chinese aircraft were shot down.

I have been requested to instruct Her Majesty Chargé d'Affaires in Peking to convey a protest to the Chinese Government on behalf of the United States Government, both in respect of the six United States citizens killed and wounded in the attack on our British airliner, and the wanton interference with search and rescue operations in the area of the incident. Instructions have been sent accordingly to Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires.

I should add that on 23rd July, on being informed of the Cathay Pacific crash, the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department communicated with White Cloud airfield, Canton, by radio, stating that there had been a crash off Hainan and that search aircraft, of which details and markings were given, were taking off. About an hour later a message was received from Canton air traffic control that a Sunderland aircraft already in the area would be permitted to remain but that any other war planes sent to search would be fired on without warning if they approached land. This message was against all international custom and behaviour. Her Majesty's Representative has been instructed to make a protest at Peking in respect of the nature of this message.

The House will be obliged to the Foreign Secretary. I am sure we all hope that there will be no further incidents in connection with this most unhappy matter. If any further factual information or any other information should arrive, will the Foreign Secretary do his best to inform the House about it?

Yes, Sir. Perhaps I should add this information, which has reached me. It is that Hong Kong has reported that four fighter aircraft circled over a French Constellation aircraft about 75 miles off Hainan Island. According to the pilot of the French aircraft, the purpose of the fighters appeared to be identification. The pilot has been interrogated by the Royal Air Force authorities in Hong Kong, who are satisfied that the fighters were M.I.G.s. The House will note the distinction between a search for identification and the action previously taken. I thought the House ought to know about this, in view of the Press reports.

Would the right hon. Gentleman make it quite clear that there is nothing unusual in aircraft searching the vicinity of an accident, or after an incident of this nature, for anything up to two days?

That is why I instructed our Chargé d'Affaires to make this further representation to the Chinese Government about their refusal to allow the aeroplanes to make the search.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the United States Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet is reported in today's British Press as saying that his forces have standing instructions to be quick on the trigger, and whilst in no way—

Order. I do not think that matter comes within the Minister's responsibility.

I was just coming to the point, Mr. Speaker. Whilst in no way dissenting from what the Foreign Secretary had to say yesterday, or condoning Chinese action, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the grave implication and involvement in which this may land British forces in the Far East if it is pursued to its logical conclusion? Can he give the House an assurance that he is in close touch with the United States Government, warning them of the extreme tenseness of the situation which may be created by American action?

I really am very reluctant to make any more comment on this matter. I do not think it would be helpful. The Question of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was fully justified, in that these later incidents arose out of what happened to a British aircraft; but we ought not to pursue in this House what happens between two foreign countries. Everybody knows that the object of Her Majesty's Government, if they possibly can, is to prevent incidents recurring. I do not think we can help by commenting, either in a friendly way or adversely.

Will the right hon. Gentleman add information on one point? Is it clear that the American aircraft concerned were actually outside Chinese territorial waters at the time? The report is that they were.

The report which I have received—I was not there—is that they were 13 miles outside territorial waters. I think I gave this information to the House just now.