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Commons Chamber

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1954

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 27th July, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Hartlepool Port And Harbour Bill

Newport Corporation Bill

Lords Amendments considered, pursuant to Order [26th July], and agreed to.


As amended, considered.

Standing Order 205 (Notice of Third Reading) suspended.

Bill to be read the Third time forthwith.[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.


Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.

Petition (Southampton Housing Estate)

I desire to exercise the most ancient right of British citizens and of hon. Members of this House and present a Petition on behalf of more than 300 fathers and mothers in the housing estate of Millbrook, Southampton. Southampton Education Committee has not only the ordinary bulge in child population to deal with, but damage caused by the blitz, and its schools are overcrowded. On the Mill-brook housing estate this autumn already schools built there will be overcrowded and junior children will have to be moved from the present overcrowded junior school to other parts of the town. Infants will have to be sent long distances to receive education at school, having to cross dangerous roads, because there is no infant school on the estate. The petitioners call attention to these hardships and ask that the Minister increase the building allocation for schools in Southampton, major and minor, at the earliest possible moment.

The Petition ends,
"And your petitioners, in duty bound, will ever humbly pray."
To lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Works

Tower Of London (Crown Jewels)


asked the Minister of Works the average numbers of those who view the Crown Jewels on weekdays and on Sundays during the tourist season.

During the tourist season the Crown Jewels are viewed by an average of about 2,900 people on a weekday and 1,500 people on a Sunday.

Can my right hon. Friend give any estimate of how many people are turned away on weekdays and on Sundays?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are Crown Jewels in Edinburgh Castle about which there is no difficulty in viewing?


asked the Minister of Works if he is aware of the disappointment felt by overseas visitors, especially those from the Commonwealth countries, when they are unable to see the Crown Jewels owing to the present inadequate arrangements in the Tower of London; if he will remove the Crown Jewels to a new jewel room, possibly in the White Tower; what would be the estimated cost of such a move; and what would be the estimated increased revenue.

Visitors are sometimes disappointed by not being able to see the Crown Jewels. However, the jewels cannot be housed elsewhere in the Tower because of problems of display, security, and public access. The only satisfactory solution would be a new building. This would cost about £100,000. It is difficult to estimate the increased revenue which might be obtained if a new building were erected.

Does my right hon. Friend not think that the goodwill engendered by Her Majesty's citizens who come from all over the world to see these jewels would justify the expenditure? Does he not think that if a new building were constructed it would not be long before it would be a profitable business? The important point is that people are very distressed at not being able to see the Crown Jewels when they come here.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman the warden of all the ancient monuments and the Tower one of the greatest of them?

I quite agree, but there is no suitable place in the Tower where the Crown Jewels can be kept in security unless we build a new Jewel House.

Royal Parks (Revised Regulations)


asked the Minister of Works what action he proposes to take to bring the Regulations governing the Royal Parks more in keeping with modern standards.

Revised Regulations for St. James's and the Green Parks have been laid before the House today. My aim has been to reduce the number of prohibitions and to make the Regulations as clear and simple as possible. I shall now revise the Regulations for the other Royal Parks and will lay these before the House as drafting is completed.

For a second time, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the way he has tackled these antiquated Regulations. Does he not appreciate that if he continues on his successful way he may yet reach the high standard of Labour Ministers in previous Governments?

Dover House, Whitehall


asked the Minister of Works whether he is now in a position to name a date by which Dover House, Whitehall, will be ready for re-occupation by the Scottish Office.



asked the Minister of Works how many increases in the price of bricks there have been in the past three years; the amounts of these increases; and how far all types of building bricks have been similarly affected.

Hundreds of firms produce bricks and many varieties of bricks are produced. Without lengthy inquiries the information desired by the hon. Member could not be obtained.

Is the Minister not aware that some bricks are more popular for mass building than others? I was not really concerned with the specialist bricks so much as those in popular demand, say Fletton bricks. Could the right hon. Gentleman not obtain some information about those?

If the hon. Member will ask me about a particular brick, I will try to find out the price ranges.


asked the Minister of Works the present production of building bricks; and how it compares with production in 1938.

The monthly average production of bricks this year is 603 million. No strictly comparable figure is available for 1938.

The Monthly Digest of Statistics gave the monthly average for 1938 as 650 million. It was the accuracy of that which I was inclined to query. Is it only a tentative figure of 650?

That is my own view —that the figure for 1938 is not based on adequate examination.

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what the comparable figure for 1951 was?


asked the Minister of Works how many different varieties of building bricks are in current use; and the number of each kind being produced.

I believe there are some 2,000 varieties. Of these, Flettons account for one-third of the nation's output of about 7,500 million bricks. The hon. Member will not expect me to give figures for the other 1,999 varieties.

Cement Supplies, Newport


asked the Minister of Works whether he, is aware of the continued shortage of cement for urgent building requirements in Newport, particularly for certain contracts and contractors of whom he has been informed; and what action he is taking in the matter.

I am aware that complaints of shortage of cement are still being made in Newport. The cement industry is arranging to increase deliveries in South Wales and Monmouthshire.

Is the Minister aware that this matter has already been raised five or six times in the House this year and that every time we have been told that improvements would be made, and that meanwhile the situation steadily deteriorates? Could the Minister take some more effective action to ensure 10 or 12 contractors getting on with the work of building houses and institutions in Newport and other parts of South Wales?

I very much hope that these increased deliveries will be sufficient. For example, in the first three weeks of July 38,800 tons were delivered against 34,000 tons in the same period last year. If deliveries go on like that I think the shortage will be cured.

Palace Of Westminster (Pictures)


asked the Minister of Works if, in view of the fact that this is the 50th anniversary of theEntente Cordiale, he will consider removing from the Palace of Westminster unsightly pictures depicting battles between the English and the French.

No, Sir; both the British and the French can be proud of their military history and, since France was our enemy and is now our friend, there is all the more reason to rejoice at the friendship.

Is the Minister aware that it is a peculiar way of showing friendship that on the last occasion the French President was here he addressed a meeting in the Royal Gallery where there was a huge picture of Trafalgar on one side and another of Waterloo on the other? Does the Minister not agree that these pictures are awful monstrosities and should be removed to the nearest municipal slaughterhouse?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in any case the French claim Waterloo as a victory?

Is the Minister aware that there might well be some Scots depicted in these pictures?

Would the Minister consider having some French pictures depicting the same battles and indicating that a different result was achieved than that usually recorded in history books?

My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is about to ask for more pictures, and if we can get some of these French pictures we will certainly look at them. In reply to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I would point out that I used the word "British" whereas the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) used the word "English."

Leaving aside historical considerations, is the Minister aware that these are not the only unsightly pictures in the Palace of Westminster and that, generally speaking, the pictures in this building are a disgrace to a great national assembly? Will he try to do something about that?

I have set up a committee to look into this matter. I am in sympathy with what the hon. Member has just said.

Department Of Scientific And Industrial Research



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, why only £578,000 is included in the Civil Estimates for the Directorate of Scientific and Industrial Research when a figure of £900,000 was officially forecast by a spokesman of his Ministry on 8th December, 1953.

This is a misunderstanding here. In my reply of 8th December 1953, I stated that the annual net Vote would be increased by £900,000 over a period of five years. I have every reason to suppose this will happen. In the present financial year the published estimate for the Department is £6¼ million, an increase of £578,000 over last year of which £230,000 is part of the projected expansion.

Is not a great deal of the figure to which I have referred in the Question already being spent on European nuclear physics and, therefore, does not come within this particular expenditure forecast at all, which was supposed to be for research projects in this country? Is not the sum totally inadequate?

No, Sir. The figure of £578,000 of course includes certain grants-in-aid such as the hon. Member refers to, but there has, in fact been a substantial net increase quite apart from these.

Staff (Recruitment)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works as representing the Lord President of the Council, how far the proposals announced in 1946 for the recruitment of additional persons to the Directorate of Scientific and Industrial Research have exceeded or fallen short of that objective.

The 1946 plans for the eventual expansion of the staff of the Department contemplated an increase in non-industrial staff to about 4,000. The total on 1st July, 1954, was 3,108. It is intended to increase this staff to 3,900 by 1959.

Would the hon. Gentleman tell us what active steps he is taking to get personnel now so that the Department can get on with this important work?

The non-industrial staff of the D.S.I.R. is increasing all the time. The number of non-industrial staff employed in 1949 was 2,500; today it is 3,100.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether there is likely to be any slowing down in the provision of the laboratories as a result of Treasury interference?

Sulphate-Reducing Bacteria


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, how many staff are employed, and what is the expenditure of the Directorate of Scientific and Industrial Research, on work on the effects of sulphate-reducing bacteria.

About 12 people are working at the Chemical Research Laboratory on the effects of sulphate-reducing bacteria. The total cost of the research is about £13,000 a year.

Programme And Activities


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, what activities of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are included in the 5 per cent. of its programme for which no resources are to be made available between now and 1959.

On 8th December last, I stated that by 1959 the total resources of the Department should be adequate to cover some 95 per cent. of the activities projected in the plans covered by its 1947–48 Report. This statement did not imply that any specific activity would be omitted but only that the general level of activity would be about 5 per cent. less.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that does not alter the position at all, that what he has said simply confirms that some part of the programme of the Department which was considered to be essential will not be done, whether it be 5 per cent. of one section or 5 per cent. of another? What my Question sought to elicit is what is it that was projected which will not be done? Surely the hon. Member can tell me that.

Yes, but the 5 per cent. is not one project or another; it is spread over the general activities of the D.S.I.R. I might add that the gross expenditure on the D.S.I.R. has increased from £5–8 million in 1952 to £7 million in the current year.

But is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is no increase in real expenditure? Why does he evade a simple question which seeks to find out what it is that is being dropped?

I have already said that no specific project has been dropped. As to the former part of the Question, I have already given an answer and do not wish to repeat myself.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the loss in efficiency that is indicated by the decrease in expenditure might have been made up if money had not been spent so readily on Lord Vansittart's house, of which we have had no notice?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a little apprehension, especially in East Kilbride, about the slowing down of this work, and is he aware that there is not any real economy in holding up scientific and industrial research, because our future depends on our efficiency?

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Since the planned expansion was agreed by the Treasury some months ago, progress has been made and will continue to be made.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, whether he is now in a position to state what are the non-permanent and additional functions which were envisaged for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in his statement of 8th December last.

My statement referred to provision for certain services which are not a permanent part of the Department's activities. The only existing service of any size in this category is the making of grants to universities for nuclear physics research. My reference to additional liabilities was to cover any new responsibilities which the Department might have to assume. Cases in point relate to the grant-in-aid for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, for which additional funds are provided in the Department's current Estimates, and activities in the field of industrial productivity financed under Conditional Aid.

Whilst thanking the hon. Gentleman for that information, might I ask him whether these additional and non-permanent activities are not being financed to some extent at the cost of the regular functions of the Department, since, although there is a separate allocation of money, that allocation is used to pretend that there is an increase in the budget of the Department whereas, in fact, there is not?

No, Sir, that is not so. In fact, the money for the financing of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research was financed initially by a Supplementary Estimate which was put before the House. The research on industrial productivity is financed by Conditional Aid, and the grants for the universities are an integral part of the financial backing of D.S.I.R.

Corrosion (Buried Pipes)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, how many persons are engaged, and what sum is being spent in the current year, on Government-sponsored research into the problems of the corrosion of buried pipes.

About six people are employed. The annual cost of the research is about £6,000.

Is the Minister aware that the cost of this underground pipe corrosion in the country has been estimated at about £5 million a year? Is he further aware that this work is progressing very slowly because there is not sufficient staff, and is he satisfied with this situation?

Of course, this work at the Chemical Research Laboratory on the corrosion of pipes is part of a very large programme of research into corrosion generally. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman when he says it is very important economically, and it is not a matter which will be lost sight of.


Factory Inspectors (Recruitment)


asked the Minister of Labour how many graduates in engineering, chemistry and metallurgy, respectively, or their technical equivalents, accepted appointments as factory inspectors in response to his advertisements for such applicants during the latter end of 1953.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service(Mr. Harold Watkinson)

One graduate in chemistry. No other candidates were qualified for appointment.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that this is not a very satisfactory state of affairs and, in view of the response made, that it would be better if the scales of remuneration for factory inspectors were as high as those in other Departments, such as Education and the Treasury? Lastly, will he say if there is any likelihood of improvement now?

I do not think it would be proper for me to express an opinion other than to say that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the pay scale is under consideration at the present moment.



asked the Minister of Labour to make a statement on the general employment position in Wales, compared with a convenient date 12 months ago and in 1951.

In June, 1954, the number of persons unemployed in Wales was 19,600, which was the lowest June figure in any year since the war. It was 6,000 fewer than in June, 1953, and 1,000 less than in June, 1951. Statistics to show the number of persons in employment in Wales at mid-1954 are not yet available. Between June, 1951, and June, 1953, the total in employment rose by 12,000, and all the indications are that employment has continued to expand this year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the maintenance of such a high level of employment in Wales is giving satisfaction to people in all walks of life, and will he pay some particular attention to one or two spots in the North which, I believe, have particular difficulties?

Yes. I think it is only fair to say that there are still difficulties ahead and that the level of employment in Wales is not as high as the level in the best areas in England. Nevertheless, progress has been remarkable, and I think we shall maintain it.

Would the hon. Gentleman say what are the prospects for the better employment of shipbuilding repair workers and wet dockers in Wales?

United Kingdom


asked the Minister of Labour how the present employment position in the United Kingdom as a whole compares with that of a year ago; and how far he anticipates that full employment can be maintained during the rest of this year.

The number of persons in employment in Great Britain at the end of May was the highest ever recorded in peace-time and over 200,000 more than at the end of May last year. Unemployment in June was 58,000 less than a year ago. There are at present no indications that employment is likely to fall below a satisfactory level in the second half of this year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there will be widespread satisfaction that under a Conservative Government the principles of full employment are being so magnificently upheld, and will he do his utmost to ensure that this happy state of affairs continues?

Can the hon. Gentleman say to what extent this wonderful full employment situation is due to the large number of factories built during the period when the Labour Party were in office?

If the right hon. Gentleman wants the right answer as to why we have achieved full employment, it is because the Government have provided the right kind of economic background which enables people in this country to be competitive and productive in the export market.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that for over 10 years between the wars when the Conservative Party was in power there were over two million unemployed and South Wales was a distressed area?

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in fact, he has not answered the Question fully, because it refers to the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland? Will he bear in mind the high level of unemployment there?

I think my hon. and gallant Friend would be the first to object if my right hon. and learned Friend were to undertake the direct responsibility for this problem, which properly belongs to the Northern Ireland Government.

Are we to take it that the Government take credit for full employment but refuse to take responsibility for unemployment?

The hon. Gentleman has not kept himself up to date, or he would have known that last week my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary had a meeting on this very matter of Northern Ireland unemployment with their corresponding colleagues from the Government of Northern Ireland.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a good deal of the improvement is due to the fact that the trade unions have encouraged their members to develop human relations in industry?

Certainly, and, if this is my last word at this Box on this subject, I would say that this is surely something about which the whole country—[Laughter.] I know the Opposition find great amusement in the fact that this country is more prosperous than it has been at any time since the war.

Human Relations In Industry (Exhibition)


asked the Minister of Labour what efforts have been made through the National Joint Advisory Council with the object of improving human relations in industry.

The National Joint Advisory Council appointed a special sub-committee to consider what measures should be taken to improve human relations in industry which made a report to the Council earlier this year. A leaflet giving the conclusions and recommendations of that report was published on Thursday last. In addition, a small mobile exhibition giving examples of good industrial practice in works information has been produced by my Department. This is now on view at the end of the Ministers' corridor on the Ministerial floor and will later be made available to the British Productivity Council, who hope to make use of it at exhibitions and conferences organised by their local productivity committees.

May I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and ask him if he will give an assurance that every encouragement will continue to be given by his Department to this vitally important subject of the improvement of relations?

Yes, Sir. This is part of the job mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) of improving human relations in industry as a proper basis for permanent prosperity.

Older Persons


asked the Minister of Labour how many of his staff throughout the country during the year 1953 were compulsorily retired on reaching the age of 60 years; how many between the ages of 61 and 65 years; and how many of his present staff are over the age of 65 years.

Seventy-three were retired on reaching 60; of these 70 were retired because they were not fully fit and efficient and three because of redundancy. Three hundred and six were retired between the ages of 61 and 65; of these 57 were not fully fit and efficient, and 249 were redundant owing to the contraction of the Department's work. Six hundred and six members of the present staff are over the age of 65.


asked the Minister of Labour what instructions have been issued to his staff in connection with impressing on employers in industry the desirability of offering to continue in employment fit men and women of pensionable age.

The staff of the Ministry have standing instructions to encourage employers to follow the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee that all men and women, irrespective of age, who can give effective service, and for whom work is available, should be allowed to continue at work if they so wish. The local employment committees, which represent employers, workpeople, and other local interests, are also giving valuable help in promoting the continued employment of older men and women.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the advice he is giving to employers is in fact being followed in his own Department, because only recently I heard of an apparently perfectly fit employee who was a member of his staff, aged only 62, who was going round to employers encouraging them to keep on their staff after pensionable age and who, in the next week, was found to be redundant himself?

If the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to give me details,I will look into that matter. No doubt it was covered by the figures I gave in my previous answer.

Do not the figures show a considerable improvement on those of two years ago when managers of labour exchanges were being retired almost automatically at the age of 60?

How can the Minister consistently encourage people to stay on in industry when in his own Department, not only in the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt), he is preventing men who are able and willing to stay on from carrying on after the age of 61 or 62?

That is not correct. My committee on older workers recommended that the test for employment must be that the job is there and that the man has the capacity to do it. That is the test that we apply in my Department.



asked the Minister of Labour how many people in the Borough of Barry had been unemployed for periods of more than six months at the latest convenient date; and how this figure compares with the figure for a year previously.

Ninety-eight at 14th June, 1954, compared with 96 at 15th June, 1953.

May I thank my hon. Friend for the remarkable figures he has been able to give?

Redundant Workers, Stirling


asked the Minister of Labour how many of the male and female workers, respectively, who were rendered redundant by the recent closing of the British-American Tobacco Company's factory in Stirling have now been placed in employment; and how many are still without employment.

Forty-one men and 127 women have now been placed or have found work. Twenty-four women are still registered for employment, and no men.

Will the hon. Gentleman continue in his efforts to find work for these women and also take note of the fact that the general situation illustrates the difficulty of finding work for women in this neighbourhood?

New Towns (Registrations)


asked the Minister of Labour if his regulations permit managers of all employment exchanges to arrange with employment exchanges or employers in new towns for the employment of those who apply locally for employment in the new towns; and whether the managers of employment exchanges in the new towns are permitted to register for employment and secure employment for those not living in the new towns who nevertheless apply at those new towns for employment.

Anyone may register at any employment exchange for employment in any part of the country. Persons registering for employment in the new towns, however, are considered in the following order when vacancies arise:

  • (1) Suitable local unemployed persons.
  • (2) Suitable persons who are on the housing list of one of the exporting authorities in Greater London, who have indicated their desire to move to a new or expanded town, and who are nominated by the authority.
  • (3) Other suitable persons who have applied.
  • Is the Minister aware that a certain amount of confusion exists in the minds of those who would like to work in the new towns? Can something be done to clarify this matter and also to publicise it?

    National Service



    asked the Minister of Labour in what trades or occupations continuing deferments can be obtained from National Service; and what are the general reasons on which decisions are made.

    Underground coal-miners, merchant seamen and seagoing fishermen have their call-up deferred for so long as they remain in those occupations. Agricultural workers born before 1933, whose call-up was deferred under the old arrangements in force until 1951 remain indefinitely deferred so long as they stay in agriculture. The need to maintain the labour force of coalmining and the need of keeping merchant seamen at sea are self-evident. There are also a few hundred highly qualified scientists indefinitely deferred for certain special defence projects.

    Will the hon. Gentleman tell me in what category racing motorists are deferred or exempted?

    As far as I know, racing motorists are not in any special category. They are treated just like anybody else.

    Why, then, is the gentleman so often referred to still allowed to be exempt when we cannot get deferment for men with distressed families?

    I do not know why we should refer to personal cases, but it is only fair to say that the man referred to has carried out the proper drill. He has been examined by my Department and at the moment is not fit enough to be called up.

    Emigrants (Commonwealth Countries)


    asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the system of allotting assisted passages to Australia to persons liable for National Service.

    Yes, Sir. The general arrangement with the Australian authorities until recently was that an assisted passage would not be granted to young men after the age at which they were due to be called up. This has now been modified to allow an assisted passage to be granted where the young man is a junior member of a family which is about to emigrate. Similarly, in the case of emigration to other Commonwealth countries, for which there is no assisted passage scheme, junior members of a family will not be prevented from emigrating with the family.

    As far as I could hear the answer, it sounded to me to be the characteristic commonsense which we would expect from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but which is rather exceptional from his side of the House. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take steps to have his answer publicised as far as possible, as it may reduce a great deal of the distress felt by some families?

    That was the reason why I answered the Question today before the House rose—so that it will be reported.

    Does what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said about assisted passages apply also to those emigrants who pay their own fares?

    As I pointed out in regard to Commonwealth countries other than Australia, the concession I was making would apply, and it would apply to Australia too.

    Overseas Residence


    asked the Minister of Labour what steps are taken to ensure that men who have been abroad and are liable to call-up for National Service on return to this country are, in fact, called-up.

    We keep a record of all such men and when any of them return to this country action is taken to test their liability for call-up.

    Will the Minister bear in mind that as long as National Service is an unfortunate necessity it is of fundamental importance to see that there is no sense of grievance between one section of the community and another?

    I am very glad that the hon. Member has raised this question. I assure him that we try to apply that principle.

    The Minister gave a previous answer which bears on this Question and the answer to it—an answer referring to a racing motorist whom, he said, had been examined but had been found to be unfit. Is he aware that many men are called up although they are not as fit as they would like to be and that they are not included in Category I or Category II but are included in Category III? What is the position of this man?

    The right hon. Gentleman has not the complete facts, and I will now give them to him. This man has had a proper examination under the Act. At that time he was found not to be fit and his examination was deferred for three months. At the end of the three months he will be further examined and, if he is found fit, he will be called up.

    Is the Minister satisfied that some of these people who go abroad do not stop abroad until just after the age of 26 and then come back having avoided National Service altogether? Should not some attention be given to catching those people who go abroad in order to dodge Service?

    The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. My right hon. and learned Friend indicated some time ago that we were considering this matter.

    Cost Of Living


    asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the concern caused by the fact that the cost-of-living index has again risen in June; and what action is being taken to reduce the cost of living.

    The Retail Prices Index in June stood at the same level as in April, after a temporary reduction of one point in May. The index has been relatively stable for over a year and is only one point above the figure for June, 1953. The Government will continue to pursue the policies which have been responsible for this satisfactory change from the years of rapidly rising prices.

    Does the hon. Gentleman disagree with the statement that in June the index was two points higher than it was on 1st January, 1954, four points higher than on 1st January, 1953, and 13 points higher than it was on 1st November, 1951, when the Government took office? As a Minister in a Government that won power on the promise to reduce the cost of living, how can he be so complacent?

    I also agree that from June, 1947, to June, 1951, the index rose by 25 points.

    Would the hon. Gentleman tell us why it is that at a time when throughout Europe for the last three years prices have been stationary or falling, in this country prices have gone up so much?

    That is not quite correct. Once the economy had won clear of the backlash of the previous Government's administration prices remained stable, as accurately measured by the index.

    Owing to the unsatisfactory answer, I give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.


    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.

    Consolidated Fund Bill (Debate Arrangements)

    May I raise a matter in connection with Thursday's business, Mr. Speaker, as it affects all back benchers on both sides of the House? For the first time in the history of the House, I believe, there has appeared on the notice board in the Lobby a notice giving the subjects for debate on Thursday evening. Never before has such a notice appeared in connection with a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and I think the House ought to be given some explanation whether this constitutes a precedent and whether in future Members have to submit their names and subjects to you, or through the usual channels, in connection with such a debate.

    I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that one of the historic rights of back benchers is to raise any subject that they choose on this occasion. Whether so intended or not, it is an infringement of the rights of back-bench Members that such a notice should be put on the notice board. I hope that, having considered the matter —I gave you notice that I intended to raise it at this hour—you will give your attention to it and perhaps, in your wisdom, you may find that in future it would be far better that such a notice should not be put on the notice board, particularly when it is in juxtaposition to a similar notice relating to the Adjournment. The two kinds of debate are of a quite different character. I hope that you will be able to guide us in this matter.

    I am glad that the hon. Member has brought the matter to my attention. The incident, of course, arose out of what I understood was the wish of the Opposition, to devote more time than usual to the claims of back benchers in these debates, rather than the absorption of all the time by a regular Front Bench Motion. That is a motive with which I sympathise. Hon. Members have written to me asking that I might notice them when the latter part of the debate takes place on Thursday, and these things were posted up.

    Of course, I must make it clear—and I am glad of this opportunity to do so—that the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill enables any hon. Member to speak on any matter which touches the administrative responsibility of any Minister who is in receipt of any of the grants comprised in the Appropriation Bill, and the publication of the fact that notice has been given by hon. Members that they intend to raise certain subjects in no way limits the scope of the debate. I will take into account what the hon. Member says, and I am sorry if it was misleading in any way. I am glad of the opportunity of putting it right, but I want to make it quite clear that the rights of hon. Members are in no way affected.

    Further to that point of order. Is it not unusual, Mr. Speaker, for the official Opposition to use the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill in order to have a debate on a matter which is disclosed beforehand? It is most unusual to organise such a debate for back benchers because that has the effect of depriving other back benchers of raising the subjects which they may wish to raise, especially in view of the fact that, most unusually, in my respectful submission, the vote was taken on a Motion from the Government benches in a recent discussion on the Consolidated Fund itself. Therefore, if we have three or four back benchers organised by the official Opposition beforehand, the vote might easily be taken in that case before any back bencher has the opportunity of raising his grievances.

    On that I should say two things. First of all, I have no knowledge of any organised effort on the part of these hon. Members. They wrote to me individually requesting that I might, if I could, give them a chance to speak on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and, as I thought that it would be for the general convenience of all hon. Members to know what subjects were likely to be raised, I agreed, because more than one hon. Member is interested in a particular subject. As regards this procedure having any effect on the rights of hon. Members, I am sure that is not so, because hon. Members, as I have said, are entitled to speak on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

    May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that there has been no organised attempt to arrange subjects by back benchers? The suggestion that we made to you, Sir, was that this time should be allocated from seven o'clock onwards to back benchers, not only on the Opposition side of the House, but also on the Government side. There has been no organisation of any kind. It was simply suggested to you, Mr. Speaker, that you might make the arrangement.

    Perhaps I ought to say that I do not think that the misapprehension to which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has given voice is generally shared, because, since the publication of the list, I have had further requests from hon. Members who wish to raise their own subjects, so I think that disposes of that.

    Further to the point of order. The period to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is referring is the period after seven o'clock on Thursday. Up till then, arrangements have been made through the usual channels, and no one has dissented from them. But now, contrary to all procedure and practice, there appears in the Lobby a list of subjects, starting with Brazil, for debate at seven o'clock on Thursday. What is a back bencher to do? I have not been in the habit of communicating with the Chair on these matters, because it was never the practice to do so. It was the practice on the last day, the Friday, when it was a matter for the Chair to allocate the time.

    I want to write to the Home Secretary and tell him that I propose to raise the question of the hydrogen bomb, which appears to be a matter of importance. How do I do it? Do I write, or am I to pop in during Brazil or during Suez, or during someone else's one and a half hours, or do I say that I am going to assert, on the one day in the year that I am entitled to do so, my privilege as a back bencher to act like a back bencher, to speak like a back bencher, and to say precisely what I think? This is the one day on which that privilege is there, and we are very reluctant to let it go without at least a little argument about it.

    I have not in any way let it go. It is still open to hon. Members under the Standing Order to do as they please, but my experience of debates on the Consolidated Fund Bill is that the general convenience of the House is achieved if we take one subject after another continuously rather than fly from China to Peru, or from Brazil to somewhere else.

    Further to the point of order. I was going to seek your guidance tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, because I wanted to know, as a matter of constitutional interest, whether I should be entitled to speak before the formal Motion was put on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I gather that it is the privilege of hon. Members, if they so desire, to speak on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I notice that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who is very cognisant of constitutional matters, decided that there was going to be a debate on iron and steel. As a back bencher on this side of the House, I have much more important things to raise than iron and steel, and I have no desire to sell my heritage for a mess of pottage. I was going to seek your guidance tomorrow, Sir, as to whether, if I so desired, I might assert my constitutional right to speak on the