House Of Commons
Thursday, 1st March, 1956
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
British Transport Commission (No 2) Bill (By Order)
Second Reading deferred till Thursday next.
I have been asked by the Trustees of the British Museum to present a Petition, which they have to submit to this House each year, explaining their financial position and praying for aid.The Petition recites the funded income of the Trustees, and points out that the establishment is, necessarily attended with an expense far beyond the annual production of the funds, and the Trust cannot, with benefit to the public, be carried on without the aid of Parliament. It concludes with this Prayer:
Petition referred to the Committee of Supply.Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House to grant them such further support towards enabling them to carry on the execution of the Trust reposed in them by Parliament, for the general benefit of learning and useful knowledge, as to your House shall seem meet.—[Queen's Recommendation signified.]
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the expressed opinion, clerical and lay, in favour of the abolition of capital punishment in Britain and if he will now take steps to abolish it.
I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 23rd February when he announced that the Government had decided to find time for a Second Reading of the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill.
As Parliament has very recently, on a free vote of the House, called for the abolition of capital punishment, does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not realise that his refusal to implement the expressed view of Parliament amounts not only to a denial of democracy, but to a breach of faith by the Government?
I would remind the hon. and learned Member that we cannot abolish anything by Resolution of this House, and that we must have legislation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the terms of the reply which he is sending to warders who have protested to him against the abolition of the death penalty.
The Prison Officers' Association has drawn my attention to the fact that if capital punishment were abolished a convicted murderer may commit a further murder in prison without materially altering his sentence and have suggested that there should be special legislation to deal with this situation and special provision for the widow and dependants of any officers killed in such circumstances. I am causing the association to be informed that the considerations to which they have drawn my attention were among those which were before the Government when they decided to advise the House that capital punishment must be retained. I have undertaken to bear the association's representations in mind and to consider any specific proposals which the association may care to make for giving effect to their two suggestions.
Foreign Students (Residence Conditions)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the rules at present in force governing the temporary admission of foreign students, particularly United States citizens, to study in Britain and the conditions under which they are allowed to do so, particularly conditions relating to their taking temporary employment while in Britain, and the meaning of the terms "employment" and "temporary employment" in this context.
A foreigner who wants to come here as a student should have a place definitely reserved for him for full-time study in a university, technical college, school of art or other institution of comparable standard, and have made satisfactory arrangements for his accommodation and maintenance. Students are required to have the means to meet their expenses without taking employment, but temporary permission may be given to take a job during the long vacation provided that the work is of a kind for which the Ministry of Labour and National Service are prepared to issue a permit for the employment of foreign labour.
Does not the Home Secretary think that the words "employment" and "temporary employment" are construed too narrowly? Would it not be an advantage, both culturally and industrially, to construe them more widely?
I do not think so. As I said in my Answer, permission can be given for temporary employment during the long vacation. As the hon. and learned Member knows, we are anxious to help every student concerned. We cannot do more than that.
Is there, in fact, any distinction, such as might be inferred from the wording of the Question, between students from the United States and those from other countries?
No, Sir. There are no different rules for any students.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the fact that money has depreciated by so much of its pre-war value, he will consider legislation to treble the maximum fines that can be imposed by courts in order that these monetary punishments may more nearly fit the crimes.
The question whether the maximum penalty for any particular offence should be changed is always considered if the relevant Statute is being amended, but it would be a formidable task to review the penalty provisions in all Statutes. I have no information to suggest that the courts generally regard the maximum fines as inadequate and are thereby deprived of awarding condign punishment by this method of treatment. But in any event I do not think that it would be appropriate to treble all existing maximum penalties; it would be necessary to consider each offence separately on its merits.
May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend if he does not think, even though it might not be wise to treble the maximum penalty, that magistrates often feel disinclined to send men to prison and are just as disinclined to impose a maximum fine, but that they would impose a heavier fine if the maximum were increased? Since money has depreciated so much, surely this should be considered.
If magistrates were in the habit of imposing a maximum penalty without regard to the means of the offender, one might be led to think that the maximum was not sufficient, but there is no evidence to show that this is so.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman consider particularly the maximum fines that can be imposed under the Vagrancy Act of 1824?
All special cases like that will be examined.
State Security (Hostile Acts)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if Her Majesty's Government will introduce legislation to outlaw those who are deemed to have committed a hostile act against the security of the State outside and in addition to the Official Secrets Acts.
I am not sure what my hon. Friend has in mind, but I do not think that the revival of this ancient procedure would serve a useful purpose today.
Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that if Burgess or Maclean claimed political asylum, and returned to this country, the law provides three months' imprisonment or a fine and nothing else? Is this satisfactory, in view of the cold war competition?
I think my hon. Friend will agree that this is an extraordinarily complicated matter to be dealt with by Question and Answer. Cases have been raised with regard to two other people. The whole question is under consideration, but it is not an easy matter.
Can we have an assurance from the Home Secretary that irrespective of any particular case which may happen to be of current interest, he will think carefully before introducing any new, and rather vaguely expressed, criminal offences, particularly if they have political implications?
I think I can do that easily because, although the crime of outlawry was abolished in 1938, the last case was in 1855.
Mothers (Child Neglect)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many mothers with children under school-leaving age have been sent to prison during 1955 for neglecting such children.
One hundred and twenty-five, Sir.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that there is a growing volume of opinion which believes that this type of punishment is completely unsuitable in these cases? Is he aware that some voluntary homes have been established where mothers found guilty of neglecting their children can go? Those homes are doing excellent work in bringing about reform. Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bring them to the attention of the magistrates courts? Further, will he consider making these homes a Government grant in order that this humanitarian work can be extended?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are other places where these courses can be taken, and they are being used now. Also, in Birmingham Prison a course is given in parenthood and housekeeping for this type of case. However, I shall be happy to look into his suggestion.
Remand Homes And Approved Schools (Corporal Punishment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent corporal punishment has increased or decreased in remand homes and approved schools in England and Wales during the last available twelve months' record.
The number of occasions on which corporal punishment was administered in remand homes and approved schools in 1955 was about 7 per cent. less than in 1954.
May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman if he himself has given any attention to the question of corporal punishment in these institutions; and when last was any consideration paid to the larger question of the punishment of those in remand homes and approved schools?
The Franklin Committee reported in 1951 and it considered, both in approved schools and in remand homes, that the existing powers to give corporal punishment were necessary, and that the safeguards against the excessive use of this form of punishment were generally satisfactory.
Hackney Carriages Working Party's Report
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now reached decisions on recommendations of the Working Party on Hackney carriages, and particularly the recommendation that station taxi-ranks should be open to all licensed taxicab drivers when they can be served from a supplementary nearby rank.
As the Answer is rather long, I will with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether this is not a simple request to him to say whether he is accepting recommendations? Does his reply indicate that he is giving us some indication of recommendations which he accepts and others which he rejects?
The Answer is long and deals with the full scope of the Working Party, which had to deal with many other things in addition to those referred to by the hon. Gentleman. If he will be good enough to look at the Answer, I shall be glad to reply to any further Question he puts down.
In, view of the fact that Mr. Benn Levy before me, and myself for five years, have been pressing this matter, may I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he would be prepared to receive a deputation of Members of Parliament concerned about this issue?
I am always ready to receive any requests from hon. Members of this House. On this issue, which I think the hon. Gentleman has particularly in mind, namely, Hackney carriages in station taxi-ranks, the difficulty is that no evidence has been produced of great public interest, but I am prepared to listen to what hon. Gentlemen have to say.
Following is the Answer:
The Working Party was appointed in 1949 to examine the law relating to hackney carriages, with special reference to the need for modernising those provisions which were obsolete and for making recommendations. The Working Party, which was at first constituted of representatives of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the London Motor-Cab Proprietors' Association, the Taxi Fleet Operators' Federation and the Motor Cab Owner-Driver Association, with a Home Office Chairman, made two Interim Reports relating to London hackney carriage law. The First Interim Report dealt with the question of the limitation of the number of cabs and cab drivers in London, on which the Government declared their policy at the time. The Second Interim Report dealt generally with the law relating to hackney carriages in the Metropolitan Police District. On a number of major points, and some minor ones, the Working Party, whilst suggesting that changes in the law were desirable, were unable to reach agreed recommendations. I regret that this Report therefore does not provide any basis on which legislation could be framed.
The Working Party was then reconstituted to include representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Urban District Councils' Association, and the National Taxi-car Association in place of the representatives of London interests, and presented a Final Report dealing with provincial hackney carriage law. This Report was unanimous except on a few minor points, and, although changes in the law were recommended, it has produced no evidence that the existing law, which, unlike the London law, is contained in a single statute, gives rise to any substantial practical difficulty.
In view of these conclusions, I can hold out no hope of the introduction of legislation on this subject at an early date.
House, Brixton (Police Visit)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the police called at the home of Mr. Henry Charles Hanks at Grove-way, Brixton, on 22nd February last.
Normally, the reasons for police action in the course of their duty are not given, but in the circumstances of this case I am willing to state that I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that on the evening of 22nd February the police received information purporting to come from this address about a black magic circle proposed to be held there that evening. As the practice of black magic is an offence at common law the police called to inquire whether there were any grounds for police action.
A Labour Party committee?
This is a serious matter for my constituent. Is the Home Secretary aware that my constituent, a man of good character and a spiritualist for over 30 years, justifiably resents the unwarrantable intrusion of the police, who alleged black magic and witchcraft, and who stayed on his premises almost a quarter of an hour? Is he not, in all the circumstances, entitled to something in the nature of a public apology?
I am not sure that I agree. As I have mentioned, black magic is an offence at common law. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is it?"] It is the opposite of white magic. I cannot go further than to say that this is magic performed without the aid of the devil; therefore, I assume that the other kind is with his aid. In any case, it would not be under that, I should have thought, that action would be taken, but under the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951. The fact is that there was a 999 call sent to the police—[An HON. MEMBER: "Black magic?"] It nearly turned out to be so. Obviously, they had to respond to that call and they went there. After interviewing a lady they came away perfectly satisfied that nothing wrong was going on.
Court Cases (Transcripts Of Evidence)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in which cases a copy of the transcript of evidence taken under Section 16 of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907, has been placed in the Library of the House of Commons.
A transcript of the proceedings in the case of R. v. Lapper and Newey and the Yorkshire Electricity Board was put in the Library of the House in 1952, and a transcript in the case of R. v. Timothy Evans was put in the Library in 1953.
While thanking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for his reply, may I ask whether he is aware that it is difficult to discover what consistent principle governs this practice? Will he endeavour to implement the intention he has already announced of clarifying this matter as soon as he can?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the difficulty arises from one Section of the Criminal Appeal Act. I did say that I was prepared to look at this, and in a Standing Committee this morning a new Clause was accepted which will make it possible to do this.
I was about to draw the attention of the House to the new Clause which was introduced this morning.
If the Home Secretary is to amend the law, will he consider whether it should be amended even more widely than he has suggested? Is there any ground of principle why a written account of proceedings held in public should not be made available more widely than by merely making it available in the Library of the House?
I should like to consider that. The Criminal Appeal Act, 1907, says that the report should be made available to the Home Secretary "for his use," and it was thought that that provision might preclude him from having it for other purposes. With the acceptance of the new Clause in the Criminal Justice Administration Bill (Lords), the difficulty about the Library of the House will be obviated. I will look at the other point. I believe that the original objection was purely on grounds of expense, but I will investigate the position.
Convicted Persons (Free Pardons)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the grounds upon which he decides, in the case of a person wrongly convicted of, and sentenced for, the alleged commission of a criminal offence, to grant a pardon instead of expunging from the record the wrong conviction; and the grounds on which he awards to such a person an ex gratia payment arrived at arbitrarily instead of compensation assessed on evidence adduced by, or on behalf of, such person before a judicial tribunal.
The only power I have to undo a conviction and its effects is to recommend the exercise of the Royal Prerogative by way of a free pardon which has the effect of treating the conviction as if it had never been made and of remitting the consequences. The grant of a free pardon is entered in the records of the court and of the police.With regard to the second part of the Question, compensation is a payment made in discharge of a legal liability for neglect or default and, where this is alleged, it is for the courts to determine liability and to settle the amount of the damages. Where legal liability has not been accepted and has not been established by a court any payment made is discretionary and is not appropriate for assessment by a judicial tribunal.
While thanking the Home Secretary for that very full reply, may I ask him whether he realises that such a payment to an innocent person should be regarded not as an ex gratia payment, but as compensation or damages for a wrong inflicted on the innocent person? Therefore, does not he think that it should be assessed by a tribunal on evidence adduced publicly?
Of course, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows much better than I, it is open to anybody who thinks that he has ground to take action in these matters, but there is a difference between compensation and ex gratia payments.
West Indians (Residence)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many West Indians are now resident in this country; and how many were admitted in 1955.
British subjects are free to enter the United Kingdom and there is no power to require them on arrival to provide the information necessary for the compilation of complete statistics; but some 17,000 persons born in the West Indies were enumerated in the 1951 Census as being usually resident in the United Kingdom and it is estimated that since then some 40,000 have come here in substantial parties with the intention of remaining, of whom some 26,000 arrived in 1955.
In view of the large numbers involved, is the Home Secretary taking steps to ensure that these people are being properly looked after, lest they get into the hands of undesirable people in this country?
We look after them, as we look after any other citizen, to the best of our ability. I have no information to show that there is any particular problem as far as these people are concerned.
Will the Home Secretary consider helping West Indians, who are making a bigger contribution to British industry than any other section of recent immigrants, by giving advice on arrival concerning jobs, industrial re-training and housing problems, rather than leaving it to charitable organisations, as at present?
I will certainly look into that suggestion. I am sure that the hon. Member will appreciate that housing is probably the most difficult of all the problems. There are certain areas which have even more difficulty than others, but I will certainly look into what he has said.
Can the Home Secretary say whether the flow of West Indians to this country is increasing, or lessening?
The flow has been steadily increasing. About two years ago it was about 3,000, it increased to 10,000 and is now just over 20,000.
Prison Welfare Officers
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many full-time trained prison welfare officers, as recommended by the Maxwell Committee, are at present employed.
Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the Maxwell Committee recommended the appointment of at least one welfare officer in every prison and several in the larger prisons? Will he give an undertaking that this important recommendation, which would greatly strengthen the after-care system, will be fully implemented?
As I indicated some time ago, the first four appointments were in the nature of a pilot scheme, based on the recommendations of the Maxwell Committee. The appointees have been in post only a very short time and, of course, everything that happens afterwards will depend on the effect of their appointments in these prisons.
Constitutional And Administrative Arrangements Report
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to receive the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouth on the constitutional and administrative arrangements for Wales.
I am informed that the Council is not yet in a position to forecast when its report will be ready for submission to me.
asked the Minister of Education if he can yet make a statement on the detailed discussions which have been taking place between his Department and the Cheshire Education Authority on the improvement of technical education in Cheshire.
These discussions have been concerned with the provision of accommodation for technical courses in secondary school buildings and I have told the authority on what basis I am prepared to consider specific proposals of this kind.
asked the Minister of Education what plans he has for increasing facilities for advanced technical education in Wales; and if he will make a statement.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the White Paper on Technical Education which was presented to Parliament yesterday, and in particular to paragraphs 41 to 46.
As my right hon. Friend has been able, in reply to a Question, to indicate approximately the amount to be spent in Scotland, can he similarly indicate the approximate amount to be spent in Wales?
No, Sir; not at present. I am going to discuss all this with the Welsh authorities, but I assure my hon. Friend that the progress which is described in paragraphs 43 and 44 will be continued.
School Milk Supplies
asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware that the provision of milk in schools in England and Wales now costs the Exchequer about £10 million per annum in England and Wales; that the position in May, 1955, was that only about 25 per cent. of all school milk supplies was bought at some discount below the maximum retail price representing a saving of about £90,000 per annum; and whether, as lower prices were enjoyed on contract by hospitals and other similar large users, he will make a statement on the present position.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes." My right hon. Friend is anxious that the local authorities which are still paying the maximum retail price regardless of local circumstances should take firm action to secure better terms. I am glad to say many of them have recently done so, and the position is now substantially better than it was last May.
Can the hon. Member say whether the position is any better in the densely populated area of London'? Is he aware that only 2½per cent. of school milk supplies in London last year were sold at any reduction?
There is nothing I can add to my Answer about London at the moment, except to say that I hope that discounts will be forthcoming in the near future.
asked the Minister of Education if he has completed the review of his policy on the future pattern of the youth service; and if he will make a statement.
No, Sir. My right hon. Friend is still considering the many problems involved, with particular reference to the Report of the King George Jubilee Trust, published recently.
Does my hon. Friend recall that at the end of last July he told me that his right hon. Friend was to review this policy? Is there any hope that this admirable intention will be fulfilled in the near future? Is there any improvement in the supply of youth leaders?
In answer to the first part of the Question, several things have happened since last July, the most important of which was publication of the Report "Citizens of Tomorrow," to which I have referred. My right hon. Friend considers it essential to discuss that Report with the members of the Trust and he is doing so this month.On the last part of the Question, I cannot add anything, except to say that this was one of the topics raised in the Report and it will be discussed.
Has the hon. Member considered the suggestion that education authorities should make a contribution to youth organisations for children before school leaving age as well as afterwards?
Certainly. That suggestion is contained in the report "Citizens of Tomorrow." It is one of the things which will be discussed, but I do not wish to comment on it at the moment.
Maladjusted Children (Committee's Report)
24 and 25.
asked the Minister of Education (1) if he will give an estimate of the cost of the implementation, in their entirety, of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee's Report on maladjusted children;(2) what steps he proposes to take to secure the implementation of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee's Report on maladjusted children.
My right hon. Friend is still considering this Report. Because of the general nature of many of the recommendations, it is not possible to give a useful estimate of the cost of their complete implementation.
While thanking the hon. Member for that Answer, may I ask him, in view of the fact that a number of the recommendations are already being implemented by progressive authorities, whether he will urge on less progressive authorities the adoption of these recommendations?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, this Report took five years to complete. It contains 97 recommendations, and it is not unreasonable that my right hon. Friend should have slightly longer than three months before coming to a final conclusion.
Welsh Language Graduates (Teaching Appointments)
asked the Minister of Education how many Welsh language graduates obtained teaching appointments outside Wales in each of the last five years; and what steps he will take to en- sure that the services of a larger proportion of these graduates may be retained inside Wales.
I regret that I have not the information required to answer the first part of the Question. I cannot see that the Welsh local education authorities require my help in obtaining the teachers with qualifications in Welsh that they need for their schools.
Teachers' Widows, Orphans And Dependants (Pensions)
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
To ask the Minister of Education, whether he will issue a White Paper concerning the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to a widows', orphans' and dependents' pension scheme for teachers.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before I ask the Question, may I ask for your guidance? This Question was in the first instance addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who decided that it would be better if the Minister of Education answered it. I then withdrew the Question and addressed it to the Prime Minister, who thought that it would be better if the Minister of Education answered. I then decided that perhaps it would be better if the Minister of Education answered the Question; but in view of the fact that it is the vagaries of the Minister involving other Departments that I desire to question, what recourse is open to me in order to get this Question put to the Prime Minister?
It is for Ministers themselves to say which Minister should answer Questions addressed to them. The best advice I can give to the hon. Member is that he should ask his Question and listen to the Answer.
The Answer is, No, Sir. I made a full statement on this subject during the discussions on the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. The Government consider, and I fully agree with the decision, that the financial repercussions of a scheme additional to that provided for in Clause 8 of the Bill and to which employers would contribute, cannot be accepted at present.
Is the Minister aware that the statement which he made during the Committee stage was completely different from the statement he made during the Second Reading debate? In view of the fact that the statement he made during the Committee stage has been thoroughly denied by the National Union of Teachers in a statement it has issued, does not the Minister think that he owes it both to himself and to the teachers to clear up the whole question?
The hon. Gentleman and, I regret to say, the National Union of Teachers have misrepresented very seriously what I said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes. On Second Reading I made it perfectly clear that there were four circumstances: first, the local authorities objected to such a scheme, secondly, the Government sympathise with the local authorities; thirdly, my personal view was that a more generous scheme would have to come, but could not be got into the Bill; fourthly, I was prepared to try to negotiate an advance towards that scheme. When we came to the Standing Committee—if the hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory by looking in column 413 of the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see this—I was completely convinced that the financial repercussions of introducing such a scheme right across local authority employees were greater than could be borne at present.
In view of the complaint of misrepresentation by the right hon. Gentleman, would it not help to clear up the matter if he adopted the suggestion of my hon. Friend, and published a White Paper containing in parallel columns his own view on this subject a few weeks ago and in December last, and the view of the Government on those two dates?
Any hon. Gentleman who chooses to study the OFFICIAL REPORT will see that there is no confusion at all. The confusion has arisen mainly because the National Union of Teachers saw fit to publish only part of my Second Reading speech, cutting out very important words.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
Youth Club, Dunsville
asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware of the destruction by fire of the youth club at Dunsville, near Doncaster; and whether he will make a grant available immediately for its restoration.
Yes. The local education authority is now considering how best to provide a new home for this club. Any reasonable expenditure which it incurs over and above what it receives by way of insurance will rank for grant from my Department in the usual way.
Will the Minister give favourable consideration to the application, as, of course, a youth club in a mining village is most desirable?
School Building Programme
asked the Minister of Education how many proposed new school buildings in the 1955 and 1956 programmes are being deferred; and what will be the effect of this on the programme for 1957.
The hon. Member will see from the Circular to Local Authorities of which I am sending him a copy that I cannot say how many projects it will be necessary for me to defer, nor for how long I shall have to defer them. This will largely depend on the progress which authorities can make with their programmes.
Is the Minister aware that many projects are being deferred because essential building labour is being attracted into more profitable pursuits? Is it not the fact that the provision of many desirable school buildings is being pushed into the remote future as a result of this policy?
There is another Question on the Order Paper, Question No. 34, on this subject and if the hon. Gentleman will wait I will try to give the answer then.
asked the Minister of Education by how much the school building programmes of local authorities were in arrears for each year from 1951–52 to 1955–56.
With permission, I will circulate the Answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say in which of the years the greatest volume of arrears arose?
Yes, Sir; in the year 1951–52. As at 31st January, 1952, the volume of arreas was £36·7 million. With a larger programme today, at the corresponding date, 31st January, 1956, the table shows that the figure was £38·2 million.
Following is the Answer:
|MAJOR PROJECTS FOR PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS|
|VALUE OF PROJECTS WHICH HAD NOT RECEIVED FINAL APPROVAL|
|—||—at end often months i.e. by 31st January||—at end of programme year i.e. by 31st March|
|£ million||£ million|
|—1956||38·2||not yet known|
* Estimated: as a part of the moratorium on school building no further approvals were given for the time being after February 5th, 1952.
asked the Minister of Education why the school building programmes of local authorities are in arrears for 1955–56.
The chief reasons are a shortage of professional staff in local authority offices to carry out the necessary preparatory work before building starts, and the heavy demand by all types of building upon available resources of labour and materials.
Is not the most important reason for the deferment of these programmes the policy of postponement exercised by the Government since 1951?
It is that the programme has been enlarged at the same time as there has been a large expansion of work generally. I am sure that if we can space out the programme of the overloaded authorities, we shall get better results.
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the reasons advanced for these arrears by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), and what steps is he taking to deal with those causes?
I am hopeful, as a result of the wise measures taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there will, in fact, not be such a load, particularly on architects and draughtsmen.
Teachers (Voluntary Service)
asked the Minister of Education approximately how many teachers and schools have refused to collect contributions from their pupils for National Savings; how many have refused temporarily to perform other tasks outside their specific professional duties; and what are the estimated hours per week per teacher devoted normally to other than pedagogic functions.
I have not got the information to answer the first and second parts of the Question, nor have I formed any estimate that would enable me to answer the third part.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that that is a most disappointing reply which gives me no information at all? Surely, he must have some estimate in his Department about each of these questions. May I ask him, therefore, to be so good as to look at the matter again, in order to give me at least a rough idea?
To give the hon. Gentleman an answer I should have to keep records of just how teachers spend their time, and I do not think that that would be a good idea.
If the right hon. Gentleman has no official knowledge on this matter, could he favour us with his personal opinion?
Is the Minister aware that there are few people who give so much voluntary service as teachers, and that the Question of my hon. Friend will serve to remind this House and the country of their debt to the teaching profession?
I know that teachers give voluntary service, and all credit to them; but so do members of other professions. I was brought up in the house of a doctor.
Bamangwato Tribe (Court Representation)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations on what grounds Mr. Fleischack, a solicitor of Johannesburg, was refused permission to represent in the district commissioner's court, at Serowe, members of the Bamangwato tribe, who had been convicted by the native court on charges of holding prohibited meetings.
The laws of the Bechuanaland Protectorate provide that no legal practitioner may appear before a subordinate court in an appeal case from a native court except with the special leave of the Resident Commissioner. Special leave is not normally granted except in cases where it is shown that legal representation of the parties is necessary, such as when the appeal depends on a point of law other than native law and custom, or when the facts were unusually complicated or difficult.In proceedings before the subordinate court at Serowe, Mr. Fleischack gave no reasons why special leave should be granted.
In view of the situation in Bechuanaland, where a large section of the Bamangwato tribe is uneasy, and in a condition of discontent—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] yes—because of what has happened to Seretse Khama—would it not be wise to enable them to be represented on these occasions by a lawyer in the way requested, and for the Resident Commissioner to give consent?
It is quite irrelevant whether or not these people were supporters of Seretse, because the action taken was a perfectly normal one, which was quite impartial and well understood in the area.
Trade And Commerce
Cotton Goods (Imports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what change he contemplates in his policy in relation to the duty-free quota-free imports of cotton cloth and yarns, consequent upon the representations made to him on 20th February, 1956, by the Lancashire cotton trade delegation.
I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer which I gave to the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) on Tuesday last.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that will give very cold comfort to Lancashire—in fact, colder than last month's weather? Is he further aware that since May, 1954, a hundred mills in Lancashire have closed, never to open again, and 37,000 operatives have left the industry?
I am aware of the reduction in employment in the industry, and also that a number of mills have closed. All these matters were very fully discussed with the Cotton Board delegation by my right hon. Friend and, as the hon. Member will see from the Answer to which I have referred, he asked that they should keep him in touch with affairs.
Does that mean that although the Minister knows exactly what is the feeling in Lancashire, and how serious the situation is there, he is not proposing to do anything about it?
For the reasons which were given on Tuesday in the Answer to the hon. Lady, to which I have referred, we are not altering our policy at present. These reasons are very considerable and important ones to industry as a whole, as well as to the cotton industry, which in 1955 exported about £51 million worth of cotton piece goods under preferential rates to various countries in the Commonwealth, whereas we retained in this country only about £7½ million worth of Commonwealth cotton piece goods.
Hire Purchase (Motor-Assisted Pedal Cycles)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will reconsider the hire-purchase conditions for motor-assisted pedal cycles with engines of less than 100 cubic centimetres capacity and treat them at least as favourably as pedal cycles fitted with auxiliary units for propulsion.
The same hire-purchase conditions apply to both motor-assisted pedal cycles and pedal cycles fitted with auxiliary units for propulsion.
Is the hon. and learned Member quite certain that that is correct? I understand that a cycle can be purchased with a 20 per cent. down payment; an auxiliary unit requires a 50 per cent. down payment, while a motor-assisted bicycle also requires a 50 per cent. down payment. There is, therefore, a considerable difference, although there is no difference in principle between these two types of locomotion, which are of very great assistance to ordinary people going to work.
Yes, if the auxiliary unit is purchased with the bicycle or even separately with the purpose of going with it, it attracts the higher minimum deposit.
Emigration (Air Travel Statistics)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that no check is made of the number of people emigrating by air from the United Kingdom to the Dominions and Colonial Territories, unlike those who go by sea; and if he will take action in the matter.
My right hon. Friend is aware that no check is made. The possibility of remedying this gap in our information is being explored, but the problem is how to collect the figures without disproportionate cost and inconvenience.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the figures given us in official publications such as this are completely bogus, and have been for years? There can be an error to the extent of 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. of people leaving the United Kingdom for the Colonies and Dominions. I thank him for the action that he will take in this matter.
I think that the word "bogus" is rather harsh. The figures are complete in so far as they go, that is to say, for emigrants going direct by sea to non-European ports. It would be rather difficult to collect figures of persons going by air, but the matter is being pursued.
Is it not a fact that these figures are collected by Dominions and Colonial Territories overseas? If they can do that, in regard to their air systems, why cannot we?
The hon. Member is asking for statistics of people leaving this country. If that were done it would mean more form-filling and other formalities at the airports. There are two views upon this matter, as I am sure the hon. Member appreciates.
Sweden And Denmark
asked the President of the Board of Trade why British car exports have fallen in January, 1956, compared with January, 1955, from 3,325 to 802 in Sweden, and from 1,327 to 66 in Denmark; and, since Sweden's exports to the United Kingdom exceeded her imports from the United Kingdom in 1955 by £42 million, and Denmark's by £45 million, what steps he proposes to take to increase British exports to those two countries.
Foreign cars, in particular German cars, made substantial gains last year on our exports in both these markets, but the figures quoted by my hon. Friend exaggerate the decline in our exports because British car sales in both markets were exceptionally heavy in January, 1955. One factor which partly explains the large increase of German car exports to Sweden was the removal in mid-1954 by the Swedish Government of a quota restriction, thus enabling German cars to compete in this traditional market on equal terms with British cars.As to the second part of the Question, the measures which the Government have taken to curb inflation at home are designed to increase our exports to these and other countries.
In view of these alarming figures, and the fact that unless we can export more cars there must be considerable unemployment in Birmingham and Coventry, cannot the Government use our great buying power to insist that more British exports are taken by those people if we are to continue to buy from them?
There are no restrictions upon exports of our cars into Sweden. We have a quota for exports of our cars into Denmark, and we try to get as large a quota as we can.
In view of the fact that British cars are the best in the world, surely we ought not to rely upon quotas or tariffs to enable us to sell in those countries. The reason for German and Russian cars getting into Sweden is that our own manufacturers are not energetic enough in selling.
I do not accept that our manufacturers have not been energetic enough in selling. Last year was an extremely good one for exports of British motor cars, and the House would be wrong to overlook that fact. The British motor car industry remains the largest motor car exporting industry in the world, but we should welcome a substantial increase in exports.
That is all very well, but is not there something to be said for the principle—although some people may disagree with it—that we should buy from people who are ready to buy from us?
We are trying to free the markets of the world for our exports and, as a result of the steps taken, in particular by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in the last few years, we have substantially increased our exports to O.E.E.C. countries.
Imported Colonial Goods
asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the recent rapid increase in imports of cheap goods from the Colonies, especially of rainwear from Hong Kong, whether he will now take steps to protect British manufacturers.
I am aware that some United Kingdom manufacturers are concerned about competition from low-priced goods from certain Colonies, but it would be contrary to the present policy of Her Majesty's Government to impose tariff or quota restrictions on imports from Hong Kong or any other Colonial Territories.
Is the Minister aware that the British Rainwear Manufacturers' Federation has obtained possession of a gent's cotton gabardine raincoat which is landed in this country at 31s. 6d., and that the lowest price at which one like it can be produced here is 53s. 6d.? Will he take steps to deal with the situation by insisting upon the marking of goods according to their country of origin? Furthermore, if it is necessary to protect British industry, will he impose a quota?
I have already answered the second part of that question. As to that part relating to the marking of goods, I would refer the hon. Member to an answer given recently by my right hon. Friend, who said that it would not be in our interests as a major exporter of manufactured goods to require imports to be marked specifically with the country of origin.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the problem is one not only of "macks" but also of tax?
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satisfied that the factory space on the Pallion Trading Estate is being fully used; and if he will make a statement.
There are no vacant factories on the Pallion Estate, and the firms there in general provide a good volume of employment. I understand that one firm, for reasons beyond its control, may have difficulty in using its factory space fully and the Department is in touch with it. We are, of course, anxious that the estate factories should continue to make their full contribution to employment in the area.
Exports (United States Import Duties)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, under existing tariff arrangements as regards exports from this country, the 15 per cent. by which the United States Government is empowered to reduce import duties in cases where the present rate is under 50 per cent. can all be granted in one year or whether it is spread over several years; and whether such reduction is on the value of the article or a percentage reduction of the duty itself.
I understand that the maximum reduction permitted in these cases in any one year is 5 per cent. and that no part of any reduction may be made after 30th June, 1958. The reductions are calculated as percentages of the rates of duty in force on 1st January, 1955.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the maximum reduction for an article worth £100 with the duty at 40 per cent. would reduce its duty-paid price from £140 to £138? What advantage does the United Kingdom get in recompense for this change in the United States regulations?
We shall take account of these limitations during negotiations, but it is worth while remembering that even a few pounds may be of importance in competitive markets.
Government Stores (Purchase And Disposal)
asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the concern arising from the frequency with which substantial quantities of Government surplus stocks are disposed of at auction sales; and if he will cause an investigation to be made to ascertain if reasonable care is taken when ordering supplies and whether suitable administrative machinery is in existence to ensure other Government Departments and public bodies make the best possible use of any surplus stocks in order to protect the taxpayer's interest before resorting to public auctions.
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of losses incurred in selling surplus stocks, he will set up a central purchasing agency to act for all Government Departments in order to avoid similar losses in future.
Central purchasing arrangements exist for many common service stores, but a central purchasing agency to act for all Government Departments would not be practicable or desirable. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply informed the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) last Monday of the machinery for ensuring that Government Departments know when surplus stores are available. The Departmental Ministers concerned are investigating the various transactions which have been mentioned in this House, where it has been suggested that the machinery is not working.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the only machinery that has been in operation is the sending of a sixpenny catalogue to a Government Department when a sale has been arranged, so that the Government Department could take part in the auction sale? In view of the evidence of the waste that has been taking place up to now is not the Prime Minister proposing, in our difficult economic circumstances, to take this matter a lot more seriously than he has suggested in answering the Question?
I have been into this matter since the Questions were asked. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that that is the only step that is taken. There are many preliminary steps taken among Government Departments themselves. Let me give the House one example of the difficulties of this matter. A great many Questions have been asked about paint. I found, on inquiry, that stores of paint ordered in 1953 were largely for our troops fighting in Korea: it was bituminous paint to protect tents against weather conditions during the fighting in Korea. Happily, that fighting is over. There are no other uses for that kind of paint anywhere else, except where there are hostilities. That being so, it is inevitable that some of the paint should be sold.
As I understand it, the Prime Minister has caused an investigation to be made, though it is by the Departmental Ministers. Will he let us know when the investigations will be completed, and will he consider making a further statement to inform the House of the outcome of the investigations?
I asked Ministers to look into the various points raised—I thought that was only courteous to the House—and they will give full information. I have been looking into the machinery which controls this matter and I am convinced that it is satisfactory, all things considered. It has been in operation for some time. We get this kind of circumstance when an order has been placed some time ahead, and rightly so. At that time we had 30,000 troops in Korea and it was right to get bituminous paint to protect their tents in case the fighting had gone on. Fortunately, the fighting did not go on, so we have to get rid of the paint.
As there are several Departmental Ministers involved, would it not be for the convenience of the House if the Prime Minister put the results of their investigations together and made a statement himself?
I have considered that, but I will consider it again. These are mostly very detailed questions. I have looked into the general machinery, and I am satisfied that it will work. I will consider the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
Does not the evidence already provided show that the co-ordination that at present exists in purchasing is woefully inadequate? What is the use of asking citizens to economise if the Government go on, like modern Pharaohs building up vast pyramids of costly junk?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong in his assumption. There has been a considerable reduction in the use by the Services of some of these materials, reductions caused by the end of the Korean War, the withdrawal of troops from Austria and Trieste and so on. All these reductions were very welcome to this House, but the result is that there are surpluses which the Government think it is right to get rid of.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the paint industry is very seriously concerned about the method by which this vast quantity of paint has been disposed of, at prices substantially below the current cost of production, and that it has had a serious effect upon the industry as a whole? It distorts the production programme of very large numbers of firms. It is generally felt that better, more efficient and up-to-date methods could have been found to dispose of this quantity of paint.
I am not quite sure that I can accept what my hon. and gallant Friend says, and I am surprised that it was cheered from below the Gangway. If surplus quantities of paint are sold, and the result is to reduce the price, that does not seem to me to be a very terrible event.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Answer I will appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to allocate Adjournment time for a debate at an early date.
Nationalised Industries (Wages)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will now call a conference of the heads of the nationalised boards, to be presided over by himself, with a view to obtaining agreement on a common wage policy to be followed by all nationalised industries, both during the present phase of economic restraint and subsequently.
The nationalised industries, like other industries, are responsible for dealing with their own wages questions. It is, however, of the greatest importance that all concerned with these questions should exercise their responsibility with a full knowledge of economic considerations affecting the national interest. That is one of the reasons why with my colleagues I am having meetings with representative leaders of industry. One of these will be with the nationalised industries.
May I express the hope—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] that—
Question Time is not the time for expressing hopes.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this meeting with the nationalised industries will command a great deal of approval in the country? Is he also aware that there is a section of trade union opinion which thinks that the nationalised industries should pay better wages than industry generally? Would he express the view to the heads of the industries that that opinion is wrong?
The whole matter is governed, of course, by the nationalisation Acts, which arranged for the establishment of negotiating machinery for the settlement of the terms and conditions of employment in the industries. I do not think that I want to comment upon that.
Pakistan (Pashtu-Speaking Areas)
asked the Prime Minister in view of the official claims advanced in certain quarters on behalf of Pashtunistan, if he will give a formal assurance that Her Majesty's Government acknowledge Pakistan as the successors to the responsibilities which Her Majesty's Government previously exercised in the Pashtu-speaking areas of undivided India.
The view of Her Majesty's Government, which was also the view of our predecessors in office, is as follows. In 1947, Pakistan came into existence as a new, sovereign, independent member of the Commonwealth. Her Majesty's Government regard her as having, with the full consent of the overwhelming majority of the Pashtu-speaking peoples concerned, both in the administered and non-administered areas, succeeded to the exercise of the powers formerly exercised by the Crown in India on the North-West Frontier of the sub-Continent. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom fully support the Government of Pakistan in maintaining their sovereignty over the areas East of the Durand Line and in regarding this Line as the international frontier with Afghanistan. Her Majesty's Government are confident that there is no outstanding question between Pakistan and Afghanistan which cannot be settled by peaceful means on the basis of the legal position as I have now stated it. They have throughout been in close consultation with the Government of Pakistan and are convinced that Pakistan is determined to seek a peaceful solution.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not a fact that after the transfer of power in 1947 the majority of the tribal leaders in this area openly expressed the wish to be regarded as part and parcel of Pakistan, and to be administered, in a loose sense, by Pakistan?
I do not know about the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, but according to my information there are no significant sections of the population of these areas which are in any way dissatisfied with the present status as Pakistan citizens. Indeed, all the evidence that we have is the other way.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it would be the desire of my right hon. and hon. Friends to be associated with his statement, which, as he said, accords with the policy of the Labour Government?
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he will state the business for next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 5TH MARCH—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Air Estimates, 1956–57, and to consider Vote A in Committee.
TUESDAY, 6TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill.
Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.
Committee stage of the Money (No. 2) Resolution relating to Teachers (Superannuation).
WEDNESDAY, 7TH MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill.
THURSDAY, 8TH MARCH-Supply [6th Allotted Day]: It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Navy Estimates, 1956–57, and to Consider Vote A in Committee.
FRIDAY, 9TH MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.
May I ask the Lord Privy Seal when we may expect from the Colonial Secretary a statement on the position in Cyprus?
My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, as I think the right hon. Gentleman is aware, has not yet returned to this country. Therefore, it would be impossible to have a statement this week, but we would hope to have a statement as early next week as can possibly be managed.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after hearing this statement we may wish to have an early debate on the subject?
Yes, Sir. Being singularly well informed, I was aware that that was the wish of the right hon. Gentleman and of his friends, and I think that we had better discuss that matter through the usual channels.
In view of the very interesting, far-reaching and important discussions that have been going on recently on atomic energy in Western Europe, does my right hon. Friend propose to give the House any opportunity to discuss the matter, or will he issue a White Paper?
It is important that this matter should be discussed with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will arrive back today from Paris and has been discussing that in Paris. When I have had an opportunity of discussing it with my right hon. Friend, I could acquaint the House of the possibility of letting the House know the latest information on this subject.
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the Money (No. 2) Resolution relating to Teachers (Superannuation), and has he examined it to see how narrowly it is drawn? The No. 1 Resolution actually precluded the moving in Committee of Government Amendments on the Bill. In view of the general feeling in the country about this matter, will the Lord Privy Seal examine this to see if something rather broader cannot be put down?
I have examined the Resolution in question. It relates, of course, to the three particular Government Amendments which were made in the course of the Bill, and it is designed to cover those three particular Amendments and is drawn in that sense. I will look at it again in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but that is the object of the Resolution.
In view of the rather remarkable performance of the Secretary of State for Air in winding-up the debate last night, will the right hon. Gentleman say who will be presenting the Air Estimates?
I am very glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air will present the Air Estimates, as the hon. Member well knows.
In view of the undesirability of prolonging unduly the present anomolous position, can the right hon. Gentleman make any statement about early facilities for the Second Reading of the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill?
Yes, Sir. We propose to take this at the earliest possible opportunity. This next week we are dealing with the outstanding business on the two Votes for Air and Navy, and I hope that the week after we shall be able to take the Second Reading of the Bill in question in the name of the hon. Member.
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the very important White Paper on Technical Education? May we have a very early debate on that, and may I suggest to him that, as this is a matter of vital importance to the future of the nation, he might perhaps consider allotting two days to that debate?
I must say at once that I think it would be misleading the House if I suggested that we should be able to allot two days. The difficulty will be to find one day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The difficulty will be owing to the pressure of business. But I shall certainly investigate the request which has been made to me, because I realise that it is a matter which indicates the forward-looking policy of the Government and is one well worth discussion by the House.
Can the Lord Privy Seal now say when he proposes to allot time to discuss the Report on the National Health Service, all hon. Members having now had fully adequate time to consider and absorb that Report?
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has himself been able fully to absorb this document. There are other hon. Members who are still in process of absorption. I would therefore suggest that we take a little more time before I actually allot a day.
In view of the frequency of the Budget statements which we have had this year, can the Lord Privy Seal indicate the date of the annual Budget?
I think it would be a wise precaution were I to discuss this with my right hon. Friend on his return from Paris.
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that I and a number of my colleagues have tabled a Motion relating to the 10s. widows. I wonder whether he could allot a day to debate it?
[ That this House deplores the decision of the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on the matter of making more equitable provision for the 10s. widows; and calls upon him to give favourable reconsideration to this urgent question.]
This is a very human subject which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance only recently. I am afraid that I could not at present allot a day. We have to give time for the consideration of this matter, and all I can do is to bear in mind the hon. Member's suggestion.
May I ask if we can also expect next week a statement from the Colonial Secretary on Malta?
I can give no undertaking on that subject at present.
In view of the statements in the Press, particularly in the Sunday newspapers, may I ask if we can have a debate fairly soon on the Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries?
If we were to follow all that we read in the Sunday newspapers, we should be very much occupied with debate the whole time, but I cannot give a date at present. I did tell the House previously that the question of how to follow up the break-down of the procedure of the present Select Committee on Nationalised Industries was exercising my mind and that of my hon. Friends. I am still in process of negotiating, and I have further negotiations to undertake with those who are specially interested. When those negotiations are concluded, I can give some indication of the line which the Government propose to take in relation to further procedure with regard to the nationalised industries.
In view of that, would it not be wise for the Government to refrain from taking any decisions until we have had a debate and they have heard the views of the House?
One of the reasons for my caution in answering was that I have not, for example, discussed this matter with the right hon. Gentleman or with any of his hon. or right hon. Friends opposite. Whether the right hon. Gentleman prefers the procedure of a debate or of a discussion I do not know, but I think that we should certainly take a little time before we decide.
With regard to the Government's White Paper on Technical Education, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that hon. Member's on this side are anxious to have a debate at an early date?
I must say that I am glad to know of the interest which this very remarkable pronouncement has raised in the House as a whole.
Would the Leader of the House take into consideration the importance of longer periods for debating such matters as technical education? We have just concluded a two-day debate in which there were only 25 speakers, of whom 12 were either Privy Counsellors or ex-Ministers. Have we not reached the time when the Government should seriously consider allowing the House a better opportunity to express itself, especially on such a matter as technical education?
I realise that on one day, especially when Privy Counsellors intervene, it leaves very little time on this matter. I will leave that to the Chair and also to the discretion of hon. Members, and I will bear in mind the hon. Member's wish that technological education shall be fully discussed.
Can the Leader of the House indicate when we are likely to take the Report stage of the Road Traffic Bill, which we considered in Committee for three months? Will he have regard to the urgency of this Measure, bearing in mind the growing figures of road deaths, which may make him consider it is even more urgent if we are to have anyone left to deal with technological education?
One of the problems with which I am faced is that the traffic which is expected to pass through the House of Commons is almost as congested as that on the roads. I could, therefore, give no undertaking as to the exact date when the Report stage can be taken, but I will make a statement when we are ready to do so.
Business Of The House (Supply)
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after 10 o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. I (Sittings of the House).—[The Prime Minister.]
Orders Of The Day
[4TH ALLOTTED DAY]
Army Estimates, 1956–57
Order for Committee read.
MR. ANTONY HEAD'S STATEMENT
I beg to move, That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.For this next financial year the total net sum for the Army Estimates is £472 million and the total strength put down for the Army is 485,000 men and women, which includes 80,000 from the Commonwealth. I think that in considering the financial aspect of the Estimates the best way for the House to compare the expenditure this year is to give to the House the sums spent on the Army during the last four years excluding American Aid. In 1953–54 we spent £581 million: in 1954–55, £561 million; and in the following year, £484 million. In this coming year we shall spend £479 million. That—I know from previous debates that the House is interested particularly in reduction of expenditure—shows a very marked reduction in the expenditure on the Army. It is a drop of about £100 million since 1953 out of a total of £500 million. It is also £5 million less than last year, despite the fact that it includes £26 million for the pay rises recently announced and £15 million towards local costs in Germany. This reduction has been made during the past four years despite a steady increase in prices and wages.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the total local cost in Germany will be on the assumption that there is no payment from the West German Government?
It would be about £60 million to £65 million.As I was saying when the hon. Gentleman interrupted me, I think that any hon. Gentleman, however prejudiced, will appreciate that this is a very marked reduction in expenditure over a period of three years, and it has not been achieved without a very drastic pruning, retaining only those items essential for an up-to-date Army. I hope to develop that later on in my speech. It is my job to try to explain to the House as clearly and frankly as I can the main problems which confront the Army. I am indeed sorry that I did not have an opportunity of listening to the defence debate, which unfortunately I was unable to do because of indisposition, but I was able to read something of the debate this morning. There seems to be a widespread feeling, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who opened for the Opposition, and other hon. Gentlemen, that where the Minister of Defence and the Service Departments are concerned the Minister of Defence is up against two clubs.
I thought it was two. I will develop what I am going to say and, if the right hon. Gentleman wants me to comment on the third, I will. It is suggested that the Chiefs of Staff as one club gang up against the Minister of Defence and, that the Service Ministers as another do the same. I had over three years during the war at the Ministry of Defence, and I have had over four years in this job, and I have seen quite a lot of its working. What the right hon. Gentleman says is really not true. I cannot answer what it was like when right hon. Gentlemen opposite were running the business. It is just not true. There is the most intimate co-operation between the Chiefs of Staff and myself. We discuss these matters frequently, and we have frequent meetings together over them. It is quite wrong to suggest, as I am sure the Minister of Defence and any previous Minister of Defence will agree, that the picture is of the Service Departments hanging on for dear life to everything that they have got and only having it taken away over their dead bodies.Most of these reductions—the abolition of Anti-aircraft Command and the coastal artillery and the reorganisation of the Territorial Army—have initially been volunteered by the Chiefs of Staffs or the Service Departments themselves. It is an absolute injustice to suggest that they gang up to increase expenditure in manpower and money.
I will explain the point I was making. It was nothing whatever to do with what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. It is that the Minister of Defence is not so equipped in the technical and expert staff of his Department as to enable him to take overall decisions against the opinions of the Departmental Ministers and Chiefs of Staff. It has nothing whatever to do with ganging up.
I did not mean to enter into this too deeply. There is only one answer to what the right hon. Gentleman suggests, and that is an organisation like the German O.K.W.One cannot have an intimate knowledge of submarine warfare or other technicalities without a large staff like O.K.W. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman recommends that, but the Germans will never do it again. That would be a duplication of vast size of the Service Departments within the Ministry of Defence.
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. It may be that he is a hard-headed businessman, but he has had very little experience of defence and I have had a great deal. I will tell him this—that the whole point of the Minister of Defence has been and always will be to look at things in large size and back his opinions even if the Service Departments advice may be conflicting.
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear," but if he were ever Minister of Defence and had to decide whether to reduce submarines or corvettes he would be taking a big responsibility. He has the right to decide, but he cannot get in his Department experts who will take part of the responsibility off his shoulders.
I do not want to.
The right hon. Gentleman said to me quite clearly that what we want is more experts to give expert advice in the Ministry of Defence. Expert advice can come only by the Minister of Defence cross-questioning, reaching opinions and using his judgment. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that it rests on experts, he is under a sore illusion, and it only shows that a hard-headed businessman may be an ignoramous about defence. I am sorry that I have departed from my theme a little, but the right hon. Gentleman is good-natured about these things. I hope he will not keep up too much of a running fire, because he made a speech yesterday and I do not see why he should not make another on the Army Estimates if he wishes.