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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 27 October 1954

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

Royal Navy

Boys (Engagement Option)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of young sailors who, at the age of 18 years, have opted to continue their service in the Royal Navy for a further period; and the total number who became eligible to exercise such an option, during the last 12 months to the most recent convenient date.

There is no engagement with such an option. Presumably the hon. Member has in mind the boys of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who enter between 15 and 16¼ years of age to serve for 12 years after reaching the age of 18. These boys have the option, on attaining the age of 18, to transfer to a shorter engagement of seven years only. The proportion who do so transfer is between 75 and 80 per cent. The total number who became eligible to transfer ender this option in the past 12 months was approximately 2,000.

Discharge By Purchase


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many naval officers and ratings have been allowed to retire or buy their discharge; and how this figure compares with the applications received, between February, 1954, and 1st October, 1954.

One thousand and sixteen applications have been received from ratings of which 830 have been approved. One hundred and seven have been received from officers; of these, 70 have been approved.

May I thank my hon. Friend for those figures? I think there has been a great improvement, and many officers and ratings will be very pleased.

Hm Dockyards (Staggered Holidays)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will now consider reverting to staggered holidays in Her Majesty's dockyards.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will now authorise staggered holidays to be restored in Her Majesty's Dockyards for 1955.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will make a statement about the annual holiday period in Her Majesty's dockyards.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will make known the Admiralty's policy concerning holidays in Her Majesty's dockyards for next year.

Future arrangements for holidays in Admiralty industrial establishments are now being reviewed in the light of the experience of 1954.

Does my hon. Friend realise that staggered holidays were very unpopular from the point of view of the dockyard and of the city and have put everybody out of gear?

I realise that staggered holidays have been unpopular with some people, but I do not think the information I have been given shows that they were universally unpopular. Many other things have to be taken into account, notably the efficiency of the dockyards.

While recognising the necessity for consultations between the -trade unions and the Admiralty, may I ask if it is not a fact that Government policy calls for staggered holidays? Has not the officially-sponsored British Travel and Holidays Association made representations to the Admiralty suggesting a return to staggered holidays?

There are real difficulties for us here. We are under an obligation to run Admiralty establishments efficiently. Since the additional week's holiday has been granted it is more difficult to do this with staggered holidays, as double the number would be away at any one time. We are taking all the various factors into consideration in reviewing this matter.

Will my hon. Friend consider the position of the Medway towns quite separately from other dockyards because there is a great deal of resentment? In view of the fact that in wartime the dockyards could not be closed a whole fortnight but would have to be open, is it not wise to carry on now with staggered holidays there in such a way as they would have to do in war?

I could not anticipate what would be necessary in war, but we have to have regard to the efficiency of the dockyards and other industrial establishments. It would be very difficult to treat Chatham differently from other dockyard towns.

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that his statement that the Admiralty is under an obligation to run the dockyards efficiently will create lively interest and even surprise in the dockyards? Can he say when an announcement about staggered holidays will be made? Can we have an assurance that the trade unions will be fully consulted?

Certainly the trade unions will be fully consulted. We shall make an announcement as soon as we can, but not before the meeting of the Admiralty industrial Council, which takes place on the 18th of next month.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, whatever the decision of the Admiralty may be, it is more likely to be received favourably if announced as soon as possible? Is he aware that last year's announcement was somewhat late for people to make holiday arrangements?

I am fully aware of that, but, as I have said, I want to have the opportunity of discussing the matter fully with the trade unions on the 18th, when we have the Admiralty Industrial Council meeting.

Wrns (Meal Complaints)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to give details of the inquiry which he has ordered into the diet of the Women's Royal Naval Service.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to reports in the Press concerning meals of ratings of the Women's Royal Naval Service at Lee-on-Solent. I have ascertained that the complaints made were exaggerated, and could have been dealt with earlier had they been represented by the ratings in the proper Service manner. They certainly do not call for any general inquiry into the messing of these ratings, which is, I am glad to say, on a high standard.

May I ask the Minister whether there are not catering officers employed in the Navy, in the same way as in the Army and Air Force, and is it not their duty to study the diets provided for the various personnel? May I ask whether it is not just as easy to employ women cooks as well as men cooks to serve women personnel? Are there not mess committee meetings held at various intervals in the same way as meetings were held before the war and at home stations during the war, at which such complaints as the one under discussion could be dealt with?

In answer to my hon. Friend's first point, I would say that we do attach great importance to catering in the Navy. We have a Supply captain on the Council of the Hotel and Catering Institute, and other officers are members. The matter is treated very seriously. With regard to men cooks and women cooks, there are certain establishments in the Royal Navy where there are female cooks, but that is not the case at the place that was mentioned in the Press. There are, of course, mess committees which deal with such complaints, and that is what I meant when I said that representations should have been made in the proper Service manner. As a matter of fact, the complaints from this particular place were extremely varied and sometimes very contradictory.

British And Foreign Naval Strengths


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of British and Soviet cruisers, destroyers and submarines at present in commission and in reserve.

Details of the strength of the Royal Navy in these classes of ships are given in the First Lord's statement explanatory of the Navy Estimates for the financial year 1954–55. The Soviet Navy has approximately 23 cruisers, 125 destroyers and 400 submarines in commission. The entire Soviet Fleet is maintained in full commission, and there is no reserve fleet.

Did not the Admiralty during the Recess discover some more Soviet warships, and was this part of the propaganda put up by the Admiralty and the naval vested interests against the efforts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce expenditure?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman there was no question of propaganda. There had been a leakage in another quarter on that occasion and we wished to make the position quite clear.

In view of the lessons of the last war, especially with regard to surface raiders, does not my hon. and gallant Friend feel anxiety at the figures quoted? While congratulating him on the recently announced completion of three ships of the Tiger class may I ask whether that represents a decision to have a progressive programme of replacement of surface ships?

I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend approves of the recent decision to complete the three Tiger class cruisers with the most up-to-date equipment. As my right hon. Friend said a few days ago with regard to the building programme of the future, we have a guided-weapon trial ship under construction and further progress will, of course, be based on that experience.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of British and German cruisers, destroyers and submarines available for service at the start of World War II.

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

When the Minister circulates those figures, can he put them in four columns: first, the ships built under the letter and the spirit of the Anglo-German Naval Treaty: second, those built according to the letter but not the spirit of the Treaty, like the pocket battleships; third, those built outside the terms of the Treaty and with our connivance; and fourth, those built outside the terms of the Treaty and without our knowledge?

If the hon. Gentleman desires that information he had better put down a Question.

The particulars are as follows:

Royal NavyGerman Navy
Available for service — September, 1939
Cruisers (including battle-cruisers)618
Destroyers and escort vessels20717


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of British and United States cruisers, destroyers, submarines and aircraft carriers at present in commission and reserve.

Details of the strength of the Royal Navy in these classes of ships are given in my right hon. Friend's explanatory statement presented with the Navy Estimates for the financial year 1954–55. Broadly comparable information in respect of the United States Fleet is given in the Report of the Secretary of the Navy, and I am arranging to lend the hon. Member a copy of the latest edition available.

While expressing my gratitude to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and promising that I will peruse this document, may I ask, in view of the criticism of naval strategy made by Lord Montgomery last Friday, how many of these ships are likely to be obsolete by the time they are finished?

I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman will peruse the document which I will lend him. I hope that he will peruse it as carefully as I perused the little yellow book which he sent to me the other day. I think that the statement by Lord Montgomery very much bears out what my right hon. Friend said the other day, and That we must watch for future developments to see what type of ship we require in the Navy.

Collingwood Sea Cadets Unit


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what protests he has received about the closing of the Coiling-wood Sea Cadets Unit, Glasgow; and when it is intended to reopen this unit.

None, Sir. The administration of Sea Cadet units is the responsibility of the Sea Cadet Council and not of the Admiralty. I understand, however, that it is the intention to reopen the unit as soon as questions of accommodation and local administration can be solved.

If I submit a document of evidence about the closing of this unit would it be submitted to the proper quarter and be considered before it is reopened?

Yes, I will certainly be prepared to do that if the hon. Lady would care to send me any communication. The Sea Cadets are run by the Sea Cadet Council, on which the Admiralty has a representative.

Recruitment (National Service)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will dispense with compulsory National Service for naval recruitment.

In view of the comparatively small number of National Service men who are posted to the Royal Navy by the Ministry of Labour and National Service, is not it possible to have at least one branch of the Armed Services based entirely upon voluntary recruitment; and would not it be a very good thing for morale, too? In any event, why has not the Navy tried out the system of short-term engagements, which would probably enable the voluntary principle to he fully implemented?

National Service men are essential to the Royal Navy at the moment. They have an extremely good reputation in the Navy and in the Fleet Air Arm. They do an extremely good job.

Base, Simonstown


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why he has acceded to negotiations that involve giving up the naval base at Simonstown, South Africa; and how he proposes to ensure that ships of the Royal Navy patrolling South Atlantic waters will continue to enjoy a safe and well-equipped anchorage.

Following upon the talks on defence matters of mutual interest that were held in September with the Minister of Defence of the Union of South Africa, a small Admiralty mission is at present in South Africa to discuss naval co-operation. No decision has been taken about the future of the naval base at Simonstown. Any decision on this, as on other questions of policy, would have to be subject to agreement between the two Governments.

May we take it from that statement that the Admiralty mission which is out there is not empowered to negotiate about any alteration in the present arrangements for the holding of Simonstown?

Yes. I would certainly say that the mission out there has no power of negotiation. The discussions cover a variety of issues and, of course, the Government are not committed in any way.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman make it quite clear that the South African Navy has full use of the base under present arrangements?

Yes. We try to give the South African Navy all the facilities it requires at Simonstown.




asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that the shipping tonnage orders cancelled during the past nine months are equal to the new orders received; what is the cause of this recession; how many of these orders were transferred abroad; and what steps he proposes to prevent a further deterioration in shipbuilding and to maintain a steady flow of output of tonnage from our shipyards during the next few years.

Yes, Sir. Most of the tonnage cancelled was licensed in 1951 and 1952 at a time of unprecedented demand for shipping. So far as I am aware, none of these cancelled orders has been transferred abroad and I can only assume that the ships are not now required. The order book amounts to 4·4 million gross tons of shipping, or about two years of work without making any allowance for future orders. As my right hon. Friend informed the hon. Member on 11th May, 1954, a careful watch is being kept on the shipbuilding situation.

Is the Minister aware that if the withdrawal of orders proceeds in the same proportion as during the past nine months, in four years there will be nothing on the stocks except tugs and barges; and will he look into this matter.

I think that is most unlikely. After all, the industry has two years' work ahead, which is a lot better than some other industries.

Does the Minister know that ships for Russia are being built at the moment by Finland. Sweden, Holland, Belgium, I believe by Norway and certainly by West Germany, and will he take a more forthcoming view about the orders that the Soviet Minister of Trade was willing to place in this country?

I am aware that some foreign countries are building for Russia, and that there have been some inquiries here, but I do not think that there is any action which I can take. It is a matter between the firms and the trade delegation.



asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many ships, and of what total tonnage, have been hooked as orders for Tyneside shipyards; and how many were cancelled during the first nine months of 1954.

In the first nine months of 1954, licences to build four ships totalling 28,000 gross tons were issued to Tyneside shipyards and, in the same period, licences for five ships totalling 68,450 gross tons were cancelled.

Does not this reveal a very dangerous position? Is it not time that the Admiralty took a more lively interest in this and gave greater support, particularly to the question of securing orders from other parts of the world, including Russia?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we do take a lively interest in this question. As I have already said, we still have a large number of orders on the order books and I think that it would be a mistake to be unduly alarmed at this stage. We have had cancellations., but we have also got some new orders, many of which are for smaller ships, and this is helping the small yards, whose order books are shortest.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a good deal of anxiety, and that the Admiralty is showing a great deal of complacency in giving the same sort of reply as it has now given over the last year or two? Is it not time to take a much more active line?

I can assure the hon. Member that there is no complacency on our side. We have our Shipbuilding Advisory Committee which we can consult in this matter, and we have conversations with the Shipbuilding Conference.

Is there anything to stop our shipyards from tendering for Russian orders and accepting orders, if their tenders are right, for ships of a cargo nature and vessels other than warships?

There is nothing to stop our ship-builders provided that the ships are within the security limits. In fact one large order has already been obtained.

Telephone Service



asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the number of applicants for telephone connections on the waiting list of the Reading area for a convenient and comparable date in 1950, 1952 and 1954.

The following are the figures for 30th September of each year, excluding applications in course of provision or under inquiry:


This improvement has been made in spite of 5,000 new applications during the past 12 months.

While it is pleasant to receive information about such an improvement, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that there still remain on the waiting list a number of people who have been waiting for seven years or more?

Yes, I am aware of that. I must inform my hon. Friend, however, that the percentage of people who are waiting in the Reading area is considerably less than the national average.


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the sum sanctioned for capital expenditure in the Reading area for the years 1951–52, 1952–53, 1953–54 and 1954–55.

Capital investment in the Reading telephone area in 1951–52 to 1953–54 was £370,000, £472,000 and £618,000 respectively. In the present year it will be of the order of £630,000.

Can my hon. Friend give me an assurance that this will enable the labour employed there to work overtime without exceeding the Estimates?

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that there is a good deal of complaint among people who are rehoused when they find that they are unable to be supplied with a telephone although they have had the advantage of such a service in their former homes?

Much depends on the local position in the area to which they move, but we try to help these people in every possible way.

Is not the Assistant Postmaster-General of the opinion that it is about time that a little more capital was allowed the Post Office to enable it to get on with the job of providing telephones, because at the present rate some people will not get telephones for five years?

If the right hon. Gentleman studies the Estimates he will see that the amount allocated for the provision of telephones has been very considerably increased during the present year.

Will the hon. Gentleman suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that before the Government allow the export of capital for holiday purposes he should be given more for the purpose of installing telephones?

New Towns (Capital Allocations)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General to what extent particular allocations for capital expenditure on telephone services for new towns are made annually; and what steps are taken to ensure that such allocations are not diverted to other work.

The needs of the new towns are fully taken into account when the annual allocations of funds to telephone managers are decided, and telephone managers give priority to works in new towns. Funds so allocated are not diverted elsewhere.

Can I, then, give an assurance to my constituents that there is no danger of moneys allocated for the normal work in the new towns being diverted to work elsewhere?

Possil And Maryhill, Glasgow


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many applications for telephone service are on the waiting list, at a recent convenient date, for the Possilpark and Maryhill Exchanges of Glasgow; and how many of these have been on the list for a period of three years and over.

One hundred and forty-two applications are outstanding at Possil and 363 at Maryhill. Three applicants at Possil have been waiting over three years and 14 at Maryhill. In these two areas over 250 lines have been connected in the past 12 months.

What capital expenditure has been allocated for these areas? Will the hon. Gentleman pursue his inquiries, because I am not satisfied about the attention given to these areas according to the complaints which I get? As evidence of that, will he consider a letter which I sent him yesterday about an application made about three years nine months ago?

I am afraid that the subject of capital expenditure is outside the Question on the Order Paper, but if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to address another Question to me, I will certainly provide him with the information.

Will my hon. Friend say whether the delay in this case is due to shortage of money or shortage of labour?

I gather that the area is a widely scattered residential one, and, therefore, it is more expensive to instal telephones there than in a congested area. Another complication, which will probably please the hon. Gentleman who represents the area, is that the number of applications there has almost doubled during the last two years.

Will the hon. Gentleman pay attention to my request to him to pursue his inquiries, because recent answers show a great need for that? This is not a residential area but a very thickly populated industrial part of Clasgow.

If the hon. Gentleman is worried about the amount of money allocated, I said that if he will put a Question on the Order Paper I will certainly give him the answer.

Wireless And Television

Reception, Morecambe And Lonsdale


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that in Morecambe and Lonsdale the Home Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation is weak and variable; and if he will take steps to remedy this.

I understand from the B.B.C., that generally speaking, satisfactory reception of the North Home Service programme from Moorside Edge should be obtained in Morecambe and Lonsdale on receiving sets in good condition and using outdoor aerials. There is some interference after dark from a station in the Soviet Zone of Germany. The first list of V.H.F. stations, recently authorised, includes one at Holme Moss, and this will help the service in Morecambe and Lonsdale.

As this is a hilly district, as my hon. Friend knows, will he see that some booster is provided or that the area comes high on the list for a V.H.F. station? Will he accept my assurance, I having spent seven or eight weeks there this summer, that reception of the Home Service is variable?

Yes, I agree. The main trouble is the station in the Soviet Zone of Germany which interferes with the reception in the area mentioned by my hon. Friend. The B.B.C. programme is to have the V.H.F. station working by the end of 1956.

May I ask my hon. Friend to make some more local inquiries, when I think that he will find that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction—and with good ground? Is not his answer just a little too complacent?

I had not meant to be complacent. I accept that the service is had and that there is interference, but with the limited number of medium wavelengths available the only sensible and real way in which to deal with the matter is to introduce V.H.F.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when we are likely to have a further international review of these wavelengths, because some of the home services are suffering very badly indeed—especially the Welsh Home Service?

I agree that in parts of Wales reception of the Welsh Home Service is extremely bad. That, I think, is generally accepted. I should like notice of the question about a further conference. I cannot remember off-hand the date when the next one is due.

Motor Vehicle Interference (Suppressors)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will make a further appeal to motor vehicle operators and owners to fit suppressors on their engines and windscreen wipers so as to diminish interference with television reception especially having regard to the effect that arises in fringe areas.

Appeals are being made all the time through the B.B.C., the motoring organisations and the radio industry, and by displays in post offices. The Press has also co-operated. I am informed that possibly as a result of all this there is still a steady demand for suppressors to be fitted to older cars.

Has my hon. Friend any figures which would show what proportion of all vehicles in Britain have suppressors and what have not? Will my hon. Friend consider broadcasting on this question?

With regard to broadcasting myself, that is a matter outside my control. I cannot give my hon. Friend any figures. I do not think that they are known. All I can say is that this campaign has gone on very thoroughly for a considerable time, and I think that it is producing results.

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, as from now on, it would be appropriate and accurate if he makes it clear that on television matters he speaks by kind permission of Mr. Maurice Winnick and his associates?

Why is it not made compulsory to fit suppressors? Silencers are compulsory, and lately reflectors have been made compulsory, and yet it is not made compulsory to fit suppressors when in their absence television programmes are impaired for many people.

We have considered the matter, but it is no use having a regulation to make something compulsory unless one can enforce it. It is comparatively easy to enforce the regulation about silencers because one can hear if there is not a silencer. The proposal to make the fitting of suppressors compulsory would entail recruiting a corps of inspectors to go round looking at every motor car, and we do not believe that that is desirable or necessary, in view of the success which the present campaign is having.

Ita (Young People's Representation)


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what arrangements have been made for the views of young people to be represented on the Independent Television Authority.

This is a matter for the Independent Television Authority under the powers vested in them under Section 8 of the Television Act, 1954.

As the Authority was appointed by the Minister, will the hon. Gentleman say whether it would not be desirable to have direct representation of young people's opinions on it in view of the general agreement in countries where there is commercial television that its most harmful effects are upon young pepole?

If the hon. Gentleman is thinking of a committee of young people, then the Authority has power, if it thinks desirable, to set up such a committee. If he is thinking of matters which concern young people, it is mandatory under the Act that such a committee shall be set up.

In view of the outrageous proposals that we have read today in the Press, is not the Assistant Postmaster-General of the opinion that the Independent Television Authority ought to be brought more closely under the control of this House?

The right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question has nothing whatever to do with the Question on the Order Paper.

To return to the Question and the first supplementary question, if the proposal were carried to its logical conclusion, would it not mean that young people's views should also be represented in, say, the Ministry of Education?

Post Office

Postal Area, Poole


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he proposes that the decision to include Branksome Park, Canford Cliffs, Sandbanks and Parkstone in Poole postal district will become effective.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given to him on 20th October.

According to the elected representatives of the area, there is a majority in favour of the proposal. When the Postmaster-General received a deputation about two years ago, he said that the change would be made as soon as facilities were available. Am I not right in thinking that facilities are now available?

We have had so many complaints from the public about what we propose to do that we have asked the local authorities in the area to co-operate with us in trying to find out exactly what the people want, and they have agreed to do so. I hope that that will satisfactorily solve the problem.

Crown Office, Wickford


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will now make provision for a Crown post office in the expanding town of Wickford.

The new Crown post office at Wickford will be started in 1956. We cannot make an earlier start because there are other even more urgent building requirements.

While that answer is very satisfactory so far as it goes, will my hon. Friend say on what principle a Crown post office is to be authorised for the Barstaple neighbourhood unit of Basildon, which has a population of only 4,000 now, whereas Wickford, which has a population of 8,000 at the moment. must wait until 1956?

I would remind my hon. Friend that it is only in comparatively recent years that we have been able to allocate money for post offices at all, and, therefore, there must be some priority list.

Royal Air Force

Retired Officers (Air Ministry Letter)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the number of officers who have responded to the letter A520210/43/AR4 which has been sent to men who have completed their engagements.

Five hundred and twenty-five, so far.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the letter has given a great deal of offence to its recipients? Does he seriously expect experienced pilots who have had many thousands of hours of flying time to go, on the completion of their engagements, into the territorial side of the R.A.F. as non-commissioned officers and, in the event of war, have to work up to the rank which they previously held? Ought he not to withdraw the letter and send a wiser one?

No, Sir. The letter does not invite officers to take non-commissioned rank. It invites them either to relinquish their commissions or to extend their service on the understanding that they will be given no flying training.

Atc Cadets (Flying Time)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will increase the flying time allowed to cadets in the Air Training Corps.

Yes, Sir. By employing capacity available in aircraft used for training fighter control units we hope to give cadets in the Air Training Corps appreciably more air experience.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I am certain that he will agree that flying time is a great incentive to the young lads. Is he aware that Southampton Air Cadets are at present getting only 20 minutes' flying time per year?

That is not quite true. Over last year the squadron averaged about 30 minutes, which was all that we had undertaken to give until the recent concession, which should add about 7,000 flying hours a year for cadets.

In view of the hair-splitting disagreement about the figures, will the hon. Gentleman assure us that he will raise the flying time not by another five minutes but by a considerable amount?

Night Flying, Abingdon (Complaints)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he has considered the complaints submitted to him of noise and low flying by aircraft of Transport Command stationed at Abingdon; and whether he will take all reasonable steps to reduce such noise and disturbance to people living near the aerodrome, particularly during hours of darkness.

We are doing all we can to reduce disturbance to local residents at night while the north-south runway at Abingdon is being repaired. For the time being, there will be flying on fewer nights in the week, and one exercise about which there has been particular complaint will be carried out only in the daytime. I much regret any inconvenience that has been caused, but, as my hon. Friend knows, the continuation training done at Abingdon is absolutely essential for the safety of those who fly in these transport aircraft.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he say when the expects the repairs to the north-south runway to be completed?


Cars (Direction Indicators)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will consider making it compulsory for all new cars to he fitted with self-adjusting trafficators.

I have invited the views of organisations chiefly concerned on whether the fitting of direction indicators should be made compulsory on motor vehicles generally, and I shall review the whole question in the light of the replies received.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that accidents may be caused if trafficators have to be put down again by hand after use? Is he aware that very often, when one is used to the self-adjusting type, they are forgotten, and as a result get broken and are then in no way satisfactory? Is he further aware that the self-adjusting trafficators cost only £1 or so more per car?

That is just one of the points which it will be necessary to consider. I think the feature in this particular device to which my hon. Friend refers is what is rather agreeably called self-cancellation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition to the ordinary kind of trafficators, which do not always operate satisfactorily, we now have blinking trafficators as well, and that these, together with double-dipping headlights which do not indicate to an approaching driver whether they are dipped or not, are just making confusion worse confounded? Will he consider having a standard system of lights for front, rear and side lights?

The question of standardised headlights is a different one, but I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's views on blinking trafficators.

Driving Examiners (Increase)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what plans he has to increase the staff of examiners for learner drivers.

I have asked the Civil Service Commission to recruit by open competition sufficient new examiners to increase their number from the present level of 510 to a total of 682.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that satisfactory reply, will he bear in mind that the sooner he does it the better, because there is a long period of waiting in many districts?

I agree that the delay in testing, which is due to the increased number of applicants, is unfortunate, and it is for that reason that I am attempting to recruit more examiners.

Night Parking


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the fact that reflectors are now compulsory on all cars and that many are allowed to remain on the highway at night without additional lights and that no serious difficulties have been experienced, he will take steps to permit all cars to do so provided that they are not left in positions considered by the police as unsuitable for such purpose.

I am going into this question, but I have nothing that I can say about it today.

In view of the fact that there is only about 5 per cent. of the traffic on the roads at night as compared with daytime, and of the very great expense and inconvenience to motorists in having to purchase batteries and recharge them, will the Minister give the matter immediate and sympathetic consideration?

Could the right hon. Gentleman circulate as a White Paper the number of things which he is going into and upon which he has not yet reached a decision?

It would be very much shorter than a list of those of the right hon. Gentleman after six years of his Administration.

Passenger Service Vehicles (Private Hire)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the recommendations of the Thesiger Committee in November, 1953, which would allow coach proprietors to run their omnibuses to outlying districts on certain special occasions, he will take steps to restore such facilities for the public benefit.

So far as legislation is concerned, I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary said on this subject on 7th July. The present position is unsatisfactory, but it is not at all clear in which direction the hon. Member seeks to have it improved.

Is it not a fact that many residents outside the ordinary urban areas and off bus routes often have great difficulty with transport, and would it not be of great benefit to them if facilities were provided whereby coach proprietors could extend their routes on special occasions when this was demanded by the public?

I have little doubt that a difficult situation now exists in this respect, but the committee to which the hon. Member refers in his Question suggested a tightening up of licences. I am not at all sure that that would achieve the object which he has in mind.

Drivers (Defective Sight)

54 and 55.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) if he will set up a committee of inquiry into the need for laying down a code of rules affecting motorists who need glasses for driving;

(2) if he is aware that motorists with defective sight needing glasses are driving cars without glasses and are consequently a danger to the public; and if he will take steps to have endorsed where necessary on motor driving licences any need for glasses by the holder, and to make the wearing of them compulsory while driving a car.

I am at present reviewing the question of standards of vision necessary for safe driving, following reports I have received from various expert bodies. Any question of compulsion would involve legislation.

Is the Minister aware of the great danger to the public from men driving motor cars who are half blind? Is he aware that if a man can read a figure at 25 yards he is able to get a licence? Will not the Minister have examined every man who applies for a licence and, if it is necessary for the applicant to have glasses, endorse that fact on his licence to ensure that he wears glasses when driving his car?

The difficulty is that, under the present law, if a man passes a driving test wearing glasses I have no power to compel him to wear them when driving. That is the position under the law.

Is not the Minister aware that some countries compel people who use glasses to wear them when driving?

Port And Railway Charges, Cardiff


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to what extent the trade of the port of Cardiff has been adversely affected by the present port charges and railway rates; and if he will consult with the British Transport Commission with a view to removing these handicaps.

Questions of such charges are for the British Transport Commission, and I understand that the hon. Member has already written to the Chairman of the Commission on this subject.

It is quite true. I hope to get the Minister interested, too. Is the Minister aware that Cardiff dockers are working a smaller number of turns per week than the national average, and that unemployment is resulting there? As the Minister is partly responsible for port charges, if not for railway charges, will he at least look into this aspect of the matter?

It is difficult to say what proportion of the difficulty in Cardiff, which I admit, is caused by these charges. One major fact is that coal exports are much less than they were before the war, but the trade in non-coal imports and exports through Cardiff was bigger last year than it was in 1938.

Is it not a fact that the port charges relate not merely to coal but to the general cargo, and that that is the trouble at the present time? Will the right hon. Genlteman reconsider whether Cardiff's port charges are not above those of other ports?

The hon. Gentleman has put that point to the Chairman of the Commission. The point is that although non-coal exports through the port could be better, they are higher than they were before the war.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this matter is causing far more anxiety in Cardiff and throughout Wales than almost any other industrial problem, and that it has been hanging on for years? Will he try to get the British Transport Commission to get a move on?

The British Transport Commission is looking into the matter. I would not like to agree that this is a very significant factor in the general problem.


Kerbing (Rural Areas)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will consider allocating less money to the supplying of kerb stones along main roads and more money towards the widening of the said roads.

There is no separate allocation of funds for kerbing, but I am now considering the whole question of kerbing on roads in rural areas with regard both to economy and safety.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it would be far better to set about widening the roads which need widening, and to do less kerbing?

It is for that reason that I am looking into this matter, but my hon. and gallant Friend will no doubt be aware that, in certain districts and on certain ground, the kerb serves an important purpose in preventing water from getting under the road and undermining the foundations.

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that the upright kerbstone is a very great source of danger, and will he not agree that these stones should be laid flat?

I think there is a good deal to be said for the flat or flush kerb, rather than the upright one, from that point of view, but, as I have said, I am looking into the whole matter, and I would rather not commit myself at the moment.

Crossroads, Poole


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has now considered the various proposals made to him concerning the dangerous crossroads, Dorchester Road—Wimborne Road—Vicarage Road, in the Borough of Poole; and what action he is proposing to take.

The county council, as highway authority, has suggested that traffic light signals should be installed at this junction, and the borough council is taking a traffic count. When I have received full details of this, I will see what can be done.

By-Pass, Medway Towns


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has a further statement to make about the proposed Rochester by-pass road.

The necessary survey work for the Medway towns bypass, of which the Rochester by-pass forms part, is virtually completed, but before I can decide whether to publish the scheme on the line of route proposed I must consult further with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture because of the considerable agricultural interests involved. Whatever line is proposed for this difficult route will be open to objections, and a public inquiry may be needed. It will, therefore, be some time before the line is fixed, and I can only say that I am fully aware of the importance of this project and shall hope to fit it into an early year of the road programme after the scheme is made.

Can the Minister explain in what circumstances he met an unofficial deputation which included the Conservative prospective Parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Chatham? Would not a responsible Minister agree this is a procedure which should not be encouraged?

I must reserve to myself my judgment as to who comes to see me, if they wish to see me. I was influenced in respect of this particular deputation—

Wait for it—by the fact that it included the mayors of two of the boroughs concerned.

I should like your protection, Mr. Speaker, in this matter. As an elected Member of this House, I extracted from the local Press a leading article and other Press comments and sent them to the Minister, asking for his observations. It was three months before I got a reply. As a Member of this House, I consider that I have not been treated properly.

No one would regret more than I any discourtesy to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will take it from me that none was intended. I will certainly look into the point which he has now made, because any personal discourtesy to him would be a thing I should regret.

Would not the Minister agree that, generally speaking, Members of Parliament on both sides of the House are the people who ought to have preferential consideration in making representations of this sort? Is it not open to abuse if prospective Parliamentary candidates are brought into competition with the elected representatives of the people?

I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman that hon. Members on both sides of the House are generally understood to have very special rights in this matter, but I cannot refuse to receive a deputation which includes the civic heads of two of the boroughs concerned simply because a prospective Parliamentary candidate is included in it.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, quite apart from the parochial irritation shown in this Question, he will have the support of industry, local authorities and road safety committees throughout the country in giving a higher priority to improvements such as the Rochester by-pass than appears to be given at the moment?

If my hon. Friend will study the terms of my original answer he will see that I acknowledge the importance of this very valuable scheme.

Construction And Improvement Schemes

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is now in a position to provide a complete list of the major uncompleted road schemes which will be approved for completion within the first three years of the new road programme.

When the Minister is thinking about what he is going to do in this matter, will he take into consideration the fact that we are paying a very much smaller percentage from taxes imposed on road users towards the improvement of the roads than is the case in any other country in the world? Will he see that something is done as speedily as possible about making the arrangements referred to in my Question?

I will bear in mind the main fact to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, and which is clearly set out in the document which most hon. Members received recently.

Is it not a fact that, notwithstanding the present congestion of the roads, we are likely to have an increasing number of motor cars using them in future?

Pedestrian Crossing, Hatfield Peverel


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of the renewed representations made to him on behalf of the parish council, he will reconsider his decision not to allow a pedestrian crossing on the main road at Hatfield Peverel, Essex.

For reasons which have been fully explained in letters to the hon. Member, I am afraid I cannot accede to the parish council's request.

But would the right hon. Gentleman agree with what seems rather an arrogant suggestion by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport in a letter to me, on 30th April last, in which he said:

"I do not think it is right to suggest that the local people know their needs better than the Divisional Road Engineer?"
Why should not the local people know their own needs best?

My hon. Friend is rarely, if ever, arrogant. The explanation must be that he has been associating with the right hon. Member for Battersea. North (Mr. Jay).

High-Level Bridge, Barton


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is now able to authorise the commencement of work upon a high-level bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal at Barton.

As my right hon. Friend seems not to be convinced by his recent visit to Barton Bridge by canal, when the bridge was open for his convenience, will he now agree to visit it by road, when it will probably be open for his inconvenience? Then perhaps he might be convinced.

As my hon. Friend recalls, I saw this bridge from the water a little time ago. There is a good case for it, but there is a good case for a great many other schemes which have to be fitted into the programme.

This is the only case where the whole effect is against trade and the workers. There is no recreational suggestion, as there is in many other schemes that have been passed.

I should not like to say that this is by any manner of means the only case where this important factor applies.

Channel Cables (Magnetic Interference)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what steps are being taken to prevent cross-channel electric cables from interfering with ships' compasses.

Experiments on the magnetic disturbances caused by submarine cables have been carried out by the British Electricity Authority together with the Departments concerned. The results of these experiments are now being studied, and the need to protect ships' compasses will be carefully borne in mind in considering any scheme for laying cross-channel electric cables.

Will my right hon Friend do more than bear this important matter in mind?

It is very important, for obvious reasons, that ships' compasses should not be adversely affected, and my hon. and gallant Friend may be reassured if he reflects that no cables can be laid below high water mark without my permission, under Section 34 of the Coast Protection Act, 1949.

Civil Aviation Passenger Aircraft (Dinghies)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation why he has put forward proposals to interested bodies that passenger aircraft should be permitted to fly further over the sea before being under any obligation to carry lifebelts.

No proposals relating to lifebelts have been made, but the regulations on the carriage of dinghies are under review.

Is it not an extraordinary suggestion even to be considered, especially coming so soon after the Swissair tragedy?

With regard to dinghies, the standard laid down in this country is a good deal higher than that laid down by the international civil aviation organisation. In the circumstances, I think it is right to look at it, but I have come to no decision on the matter.

Is not the Minister aware that a lot of these tragedies affect children, and that it is not easy to get children to wear lifebelts? Is it not, therefore, absolutely essential to have dinghies on these overseas flights?

That is one of the points which will have to be considered, but as our standards are appreciably above those of the international body, one of whose main duties is to set standards of safety, we must look into the matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the point he has mentioned will be given due weight.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look up the report of the Italian inquiry into the Hermes air crash off Sicily in 1952, in which five young children died because dinghies were not carried? Will he also look at the recommendations of that Report, which his predecessor accepted, and which included a reference to the necessity for carrying dinghies, even for short distance flights from the coast?

River Tamar Crossing (Report)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has any further statement to make on the proposal to bridge the River Tamar.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make a statement on the Report of the Technical Panel which was set up to inquire into the proposed new bridge over the River Tamar.

I would refer both hon. Members to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) on 25th October.

May I ask the Minister to bear in mind that all southbound traffic into Cornwall and all traffic from Plymouth must negotiate the Torpoint Ferry, which is a real bottleneck and holds up traffic for hours at a time? Is he also aware that the whole of Cornwall regards the proposal for a bridge over the Tamar as being one of urgent priority?

As I said in the Answer to which I referred, I have now to consider this Panel's recommendations in consultation with the local authorities concerned.

As a representative of the West Country, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he can give the House any idea when he is likely to come to a conclusion on this matter, because there is a feeling in the West Country that nothing is to be done at all?

My hon. Friend knows that I have only just received the Report, and that the next step must be to consult the local authorities in the West Country about it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this proposal for a high level bridge has been supported by the Plymouth City Council for many years, and that his Department has had all the details as to how the job can be done? Will he not give us some date on which he actually proposes action in the matter?

Apart from anything else, it would be most disrespectful to the local authorities concerned to do any such thing before I even start the discussions with them.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether there is a possibility within the next 12 months of starting to implement the recommendations referred to by the Panel?

I take it that what my hon. Friend has in mind are the major recommendations with respect to construction, rather than the minor ones with respect to the amelioration of traffic conditions. I can say nothing on the major ones at present.