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Commons Chamber

Volume 579: debated on Tuesday 3 December 1957

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 3rd December, 1957

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Nigeria

Labour Officer, Fernando Po

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what reply has been given by the Government of Nigeria to the suggestion of Mr. M. E. Ogon that a Nigerian labour officer should be posted at the Nigeria office in Fernando Po and should be assisted by a team of labour inspectors stationed at different parts of the island.

A Nigerian labour officer has been stationed in Fernando Po since September, 1956. There is also an assistant labour inspector there. The Governor-General has recently visited the island and so has a combined Federal and Eastern Region Parliamentary delegation. The Delegation's report will no doubt touch on the question of labour staff.

Are Her Majesty's Government satisfied that conditions are now adequate to allow Nigerian labour to come into the small territory? Is not in the case that even in a small territory like this one it is possible to have tucked away pockets of bad conditions which would be intolerable to anyone in this House?

I think that would be possible, but the hon. and learned Member might like to know that of the 25,000 to 30,000 Nigerians employed there a large number return for a second or even a third contract.

Passports

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will accelerate the process of granting pass ports to Nigerians by arranging that the Federal Commissioner in London may give the necessary authorisation, instead of reference being made to Lagos.

The primary responsibility for authorising passport facilities to Nigerians rests with the Federal Government, and it is for that Government to decide to what extent authority should be devolved on their Commissioner in London.

Eastern Region Development Corporation

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Eastern Region of Nigeria Development Corporation will be published.

I am asking the Regional Government, which is self-governing in this sphere, for this information and will write to the hon. Member when I receive it.

Slave Dealing

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far the matter of slave dealing and child stealing into Fernando Po from Nigeria was discussed at the London Nigerian Conference; whether the matter has been reconsidered; what further action has been taken; if he is aware that thirty children aged between four and ten years have been recovered in a campaign against slavery in the Abakaliki district; and if he will make a statement.

This was not discussed at the Conference itself but my hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary of State, discussed it at length at that time with the Governor-General, who is satisfied that all possible steps are being taken by the Nigerian authorities to combat this evil. The recent cases in the Abakaliki district are sub judice, so that I cannot comment on them.

Does not that seem to indicate that there is a great deal of slave raiding and child stealing in that area and, under those circumstances, how does that fit in with the assertion that conditions are improving in this respect?

This is indeed a revolting traffic, but I am confident that the Government are anxious to stamp it out. Any apparent increase in numbers may really be due to the increasing efficiency of counter-measures.

Cyprus

Deep-Water Port

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the progress being made for providing a deep-water port in Cyprus.

The plans and specifications for extension of Famagusta harbour are now well advanced, but substantial details have still to be settled before tenders can be invited.

In view of the increased strategic importance to Britain in the Eastern Mediterranean of both the island of Cyprus and the port facilities which are to be developed, is my hon. Friend able to say now whether the facilities will be capable of taking both civil and military traffic?

As has already been explained in the House, the project is of prime importance for the trade and tourist traffic of the island, and that is what it is really for. However, the new facilities, when completed, will be a very considerable advance on what there is at present.

Archbishop Makarios

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will now permit the return of Archbishop Makarios to Cyprus.

As part of the welcome given to the new Governor of Cyprus, Sir Hugh Foot, upon his arrival in Cyprus a few hours ago, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would help him to open a new chapter in this unhappy story of relations in the island of Cyprus if a gesture such as this were made, in view of the fact that sooner or later the Archbishop will have to be allowed to return to the island? Why should not it be sooner rather than later?

I think that a new chapter could well be opened if the Archbishop himself would take the lead in calling for an end of the terrorism for which, in the past, his utterances have been largely responsible.

Is not the Minister aware that for seven months there was no violence whatsoever in the island, and that Her Majesty's Government did nothing whatsoever to start negotiations with representatives of the Cypriot people?

The hon. Member must not count upon the credulity of some people outside and be allowed to get away with any such statement. During these seven months the most active attempts have been made to get together the parties concerned in the international field—the Greek, Turkish and British Governments—to discuss this matter, which everybody who has followed it carefully knows is a highly desirable prerequisite to a settlement. It is in no part the fault of Her Majesty's Government that those talks have not taken place, nor has the task been made easier by the irresponsible statements which were made at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a very large number of people in Cyprus would not consider the return of the Archbishop as opening a new chapter but as reopening an old one, and a bad one at that?

If that is the right hon. Gentleman's view, can he tell us in what circumstances he proposes to start negotiating with the people of Cyprus? Is he saying that in no circumstances will the Archbishop be permitted to take part? If not, will he tell us in what circumstances the Archbishop—who is clearly the chosen representative of 75 per cent. of the people of Cyprus—will be able to take part in these discussions?

As the hon. Member should well know, I have made it clear that the prior need for the restoration of tranquillity is the unequivocal denouncement by the Archbishop of the violence in Cyprus. As to the way in which the talks with representative Cypriots, or international talks, may take place, I naturally feel that in this matter I should be influenced by the views which the Governor may put forward.

Can the Minister make himself quite clear about this? Is he saying that, despite the existence of a period of tranquillity which has lasted since last March, he is still not ready to enter into discussions which would include the Archbishop until the Archbishop has denounced violence which ceased eight months ago? If so, does he think that that is the basis of a realistic policy?

I am afraid that the hon. Member is very mistaken. Violence has not ceased. There is every indication that the intervening period of so-called truce has been used by E.O.K.A. to try to consolidate its position.

New Mental Hospital

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when construction of the new mental hospital in Cyprus, plans for which have existed for many years, is likely to start.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the prospects for a new mental hospital in Cyprus.

Detailed plans were drawn up in 1956, but other more urgent building work has hitherto prevented a start being made. The Cyprus Government have not yet made final decisions on the development projects to be undertaken next year.

Is the hon. Member aware that the existing mental hospital in Cyprus is a disgrace to the Commonwealth? Is he aware that the patients are living there in physical conditions which are quite intolerable anywhere in the world in the twentieth century? Further, is he aware that the island has been promised a new mental hospital for very many years? As an earnest of Her Majesty's Government's desire to promote social development in the island, will the hon. Member see that an early start is made?

Certainly. It is intended to make as early a start as possible. I agree that it is disappointing that it has not been possible to get ahead earlier with improvements, but the hon. Member may care to know that the Cyprus Government intend to spend £5,000 early in 1958 to improve conditions in the existing hospital.

Is not that a retrograde step? Surely it would be much better to use this money in building a new hospital. Secondly, can the hon. Member tell the House anything about the report of a distinguished specialist who visited this hospital at the request of the World Health Organisation and inform us what were his views about the state of affairs that he found?

I agree with the hon. Lady that a start on the new hospital must be made as soon as possible. I was merely letting the hon. Member know what might be done in the interim. Preliminary plans have been prepared for Phase One of the new project, which will cost £100,000, and it is hoped to provide for Phase One in 1958.

Documents

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of his statement on 31st October that he would consider placing in the Library documents C604/R/54 and 12014/56 circulated by the Government of Cyprus, when he now proposes to do so.

After careful consideration, I have concluded that it would not be appropriate to do so.

Can the Minister, in the first place, tell the House why he is making this extraordinary decision? Secondly, is he aware that the extracts which have already been published from these documents indicate that a civil servant in Cyprus has used his position to disseminate what can only be regarded as party propaganda among Government servants? Is he aware that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South, among others, is referred to in this document as having her head buried in the sand? Is it now the Government's policy that self-determination can never apply in Cyprus?

My reason—and I think that on reflection most hon. Members would agree with me—is that civil servants in Cyprus and elsewhere should be able to express themselves quite freely and frankly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—

in minutes and confidential documents without fearing repercussions outside the public service. As for the suggestion that these documents—every word of which I have read very carefully—reflected only upon the party opposite, I would remind the hon. Lady that they could be held to have reflected upon me, for not having made the best possible reply to some of the arguments put forward from the other side.

Is not this rather an unusual circumstance? Part of these documents have been published, I understand, and part of them at any rate in some way reflect upon my hon. Friends. If these partial documents are allowed to pass in this way, does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this colonial civil servant will be regarded as having made it difficult for himself to serve both parties in the State? In fairness to him, ought not the documents to be published, so that we can see whether in fact they were an impartial summary of events?

No, Sir. I am here the custodian of a very important tradition, namely, that documents of this kind must be regarded as privileged. The fact that through some improper means part of these documents reached the outside public is no reason why the whole of the documents should be published. I am confident that if the hon. Member were in my position he would take exactly the same line. As to Mr. Reddaway himself, he has never spared himself in working fearlessly and in the best interests of the people of Cyprus over the last few years, despite the vilification by Athens Radio and the Press, and I am glad to have this opportunity of affirming my confidence in him, which confidence was wholly shared by Sir John Harding.

Since the documents have been published in part in Cyprus, they are known to other people and therefore have ceased to be private documents. In those circumstances, should not they be published in full?

No, Sir. If I said that they should I should be putting a premium upon parts of documents finding their way into the public Press and then there being a demand for publication of the whole documents. I must stand by my statement that these documents should not be given wider publicity than they have already received.

On a point of order. May I ask your guidance on this point, Mr. Speaker? A civil servant has issued documents which contained derogatory comments upon Members of this House. Are Members to be denied the opportunity to see documents of that character?

I am afraid that that is not a point for me. It is a matter entirely between the House and the Minister.

If perchance the documents are referred to at all in this House cannot we claim to have the whole of them laid upon the Table? This civil servant of Her Majesty's Government, serving in an overseas territory, has circulated documents which have gone outside official circles. In those circumstances, are not we entitled to ask that the documents should be laid upon the Table of the House?

I had not heard anything about these documents until this moment. I do not know what is in them. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman tells me about the matter. Even so, I have not heard them quoted so as to bring the matter within the ordinary custom of laying a document that has been quoted in the House. I do not think that, in general, the same rule applies to inter-Departmental documents as applies to other documents.

May I ask, with respect, whether you would consider giving further thought to this matter in the light of information which may be revealed, and giving us your considered judgment in due time? I should be obliged, Sir, if you would consider doing that.

I will certainly consider anything which the right hon. Gentleman asks me to consider. I am merely acting on the rule. It is really a question of procuring the best evidence. If a document has been quoted or cited, the idea is that the original should be made available to hon. Members so that they may see whether the citation or quotation was right or gave the truth of the document. I have not heard a word about the document up to the moment.

May I ask whether this is a Cabinet document? Has it at any time been submitted to the Cabinet? If so, by the rules of this House Cabinet documents, if mentioned and quoted, ought to be laid on the Table.

The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has asked me, on a point of order, a question of fact which I cannot answer. I have no idea what the document is. I have never seen it or heard of it before.

Did I understand you to say, Mi. Speaker, that, as you are not certain what was actually in the document, you will consider the matter further and will be in a position to make a statement tomorrow or the next day?

The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) asked me to consider the matter and, naturally, I shall do so in the response to his request.

I understood you to say, Mr. Speaker, that you had riot heard a quotation from the document. May I repeat the quotation which I made earlier, that this document stated that hon. Members on the Labour benches were

"guilty of burying their heads in the sand of self-determination."
I asked the Minister whether he wished to take this opportunity of informing the House that self-determination at any time was now no part of Her Majesty's Government's policy in Cyprus. I submit to you that that has not been answered.

On the rules of procedure. I quote again from the Manual of Procedure:

"If a Minister of the Crown quotes in the House a despatch or other state paper which has not been presented to the House, he ought to lay it on the Table."
That is the rule. From the citation which the hon. Lady quotes, it does not seem to be like a dispatch or State paper, although of course I have no knowledge about that. I have not heard it quoted from.

The Colonial Secretary says that he wishes to defend this colonial civil servant, extracts from whose dispatches I may say have left a very bad taste in the mouths of hon. Members on this side of the House. Would not it be the best defence of this colonial civil servant if the whole of the dispatch were put in the Library where it would not get publication, and hon. Members could see what in fact has been said? Otherwise the impression will be left in the minds of hon. Members on this side of the House that the Colonial Secretary—as usual—is playing party politics with this problem.

Order. Does the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) rise on a point of order?

Yes, Sir. In view of the fact that the Colonial Secretary himself introduced the issue and said that he would place a copy of the document in the Library, does not that make a difference to your Ruling?

Further to that point of order. May I say that the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) is mistaken? The Under-Secretary said, in reply to a Question, that he would consider placing it in the Library. It was considered and the decision was taken not to place it in the Library.

Order. We are getting behind with Questions, which is unfair to those hon. Members who have put down Questions to be answered.

Zanzibar

Town Areas (Land)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the acquisition of land in the town areas of the Protectorate of Zanzibar.

No, Sir. I have no evidence of any need for the appointment of such a Commission.

Has not the Afro-Shirazi Party, which won the last elections led by Sheik Karume, alleged that there has been forcible acquisition, there being no sale deeds, by foreigners? Was the matter raised with the Minister on 30th October, and, if so, what was his answer?

Yes, it certainly was raised at the meeting. I found no evidence whatever that there had been any forcible acquisitions. Discussions with the party revealed that the reference in the memorandum to "foreigners" meant Arabs and Indians in Zanzibar, the suggestion being that those people, being latecomers to Zanzibar in comparison with the Africans, could properly be called foreigners. I made it clear, to put it mildly, that I did not accept that view.

Is not the accusation about forcible acquisition without sale deeds, and not so much about foreigners?

I took great exception to the word "foreigner" being employed in Zanzibar, and this was taken in good part, but I had no evidence whatever of any forcible acquisition.

Secretary Of State's Visit

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement regarding his visit to Zanzibar and particularly with reference to his meeting with the delegation of the Afro-Shirazi Party on Wednesday, 30th October.

I spent one day in Zanzibar and was delighted to meet again His Highness the Sultan; I received eight delegations from various organisations including the Afro-Shirazi Party.

This party submitted a memorandum containing twelve points, but in the time available it was possible to discuss only four of them briefly. Representatives of the party are to discuss the memorandum with the British Resident as soon as the present session of Legislative Council is over. I was also able to see something of the excellent work being carried on at the Kizimbani Agricultural Experimental Station, and at the East African Marine Fisheries Research Organisation which operates under the. East Africa High Commission and has its headquarters in the island.

Is not it a fact that the Minister could give the Afro-Shirazi Party, which won the last elections, only 20 minutes, from, I think, 10.20 a.m. to 10.40 a.m. on 30th October? Was not that shabby in the light of the fact that the memorandum dealt with the common roll, secondary education, the economic development of Pemba and other important matters?

When all but about one hour of my day was spent indoors seeing delegations, I think "shabby" is hardly an accurate description.

British Honduras

Delegation

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has concluded his discussions with a delegation from British Honduras; and whether he will make a statement.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a further statement in regard to the breakdown of negotiations with the representatives from British Honduras.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) on 27th November. The actions of Mr. George Price which caused the breakdown of the discussions with the British Honduras delegation were taken on his own responsibility, and not in furtherance of the programme of the People's United Party. Neither the Governor nor I has any quarrel with that party which, although strongly opposed to British Honduras entering the West Indian Federation, looks to developing self-government and in due course to British Honduras controlling its own destiny. While anxious to foster economic contacts with Central American States it has never advocated any form of joint association in government with Guatemala, still less subordination to that country. Her Majesty's Government regard the Guatemala claim to sovereignty over British Honduras as completely without foundation but as Mr. Price was informed some months ago we have told the Guatemalan Government that we are very ready to discuss with them and the British Honduras Government any other questions concerning their relations with British Honduras. The principles underlying the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards dependent territories have been made clear on many occasions and, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State explained to the delegation at his first meeting with it, those principles are, in fact, reflected in Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations. Our aim is, in British Honduras as elsewhere, to build up, is rapidly as possible economic and social foundations on which political development can proceed as far and as fast as its circumstances permit.

As regards British Honduras joining the West Indies Federation, it is for the people themselves, through their representatives in their Legislature, to decide this. Her Majesty's Government have given many assurances, which I now repeat, that we have no intention of dictating to them on the matter.

While welcoming that very full Answer to my Question, particularly the right hon. Gentleman's reiteration of the position of this country and that there is no intention of forcing British Honduras into a West Indian federation, and the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman draws between the action of Mr. Price and the policy of his party, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is taking any special steps to acquaint the people of British Honduras with his feeling that the People's United Party has a perfectly legitimate right to express its views to him and that he has no objection whatever to receiving those views, although he makes the distinction between that and the improper action which Mr. Price undoubtedly took in London? Further, is it still the policy of Her Majesty's Government to give British Honduras all the economic aid which they can possibly provide?

I am very glad of the opportunity to assure them, through the House and through my Answer to the right hon. Gentleman's Question, that that is so and that I am always glad to receive the points of view of the party. Neither I nor the Governor has any quarrel with that. It is the Government's intention to do all we can, within the obvious limits imposed by current economic difficulties, to give economic aid to British Honduras.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what proposals for closer association between Guatemala and British Honduras were put forward by the delegation from British Honduras which recently visited London.

The delegation put forward no such proposals. When the unofficial members of the delegation saw the Guatemalan Minister in London the proposals he explained are understood to have been, chiefly:

That British Honduras should sever its connection with the British Commonwealth.
The Government should be carried on "in association with Guatemala".
After a period of years there should be a plebiscite to determine whether the people of British Honduras wished to continue with this arrangement.
Meanwhile Guatemala would assist British Honduras by some form of financial subvention.
There is some dispute as to whether part of the plan was that British Honduras should be administered, in some manner, under the auspices of the United Nations.
These proposals, which were completely unacceptable to at least two of the four delegates—but which Mr. Price was still considering ten days later—bear, as Mr. Price well knew, no relation to the matters which Her Majesty's Government have offered to discuss with the Guatemalan Government.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my personal assurance—and I believe that hon. Members on this side of the House share my view—that we have no sympathy whatever with the improper approaches in England to the Guatemalan Government? Will he reiterate that he himself feels that there can be no objection to the People's United Party putting forward proposals to him in a proper manner?

Certainly, Sir, the proper manner being through the Governor. I am glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, because no hon. Member on either side of the House personally knows more about British Honduras than he does.

East African Territories

Common Market

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what decisions were taken during his recent conference with the Governors of East African territories concerning the development of a common market in that area and the readjustments which such a development would render necessary.

None, Sir. The East African territories already enjoy a common tariff. No duties are levied on inter-territorial trade.

Kenya

Proposed Council Of State

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the powers, functions and composition of the proposed Council of State in Kenya.

I cannot add at present to the replies which I gave on 14th November.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his proposal for a Council of State has caused widespread alarm among the African community in Kenya and among liberal European opinion and that there is grave fear that such a Council of State, with powers of reference, revision and delay, could act as a stumbling block to the development of multi-racialism? Will he make a statement very quickly to allay those fears?

Far from acting as a stumbling block, I hope that the Council will assist the development of multiracialism. I ask the hon. Lady to wait until we formulate the proposals which I shall then be very glad to discuss.

Employment, Kiambu District

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many men are estimated to be unemployed in the Kiambu district in Kenya; and what proportion they are of the estimated adult male population.

About 5,000 which is 8 per cent. of the estimated adult male population of the district.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have had most disturbing reports of malnutrition and other social difficulties in the Kiambu district? Will he place in the Library a fuller statement than he has now given about the position there, because we are very worried by some reports from the Kiambu district?

I had a number of discussions with the Governor about the situation in Kiambu when I was in Kenya recently, and I will be very ready to do what the hon. Lady asks.

Legislative Council Elections (Loyalty Certificates)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent it is proposed to dispense with loyalty tests in the forthcoming elections for additional African members of the Legislative Council in Kenya.

The question of loyalty certificates in relation to the forthcoming elections is at present being examined by the Kenya Government.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was very much dissatisfaction in Kenya, not only among Africans but among religious bodies and other organisations, about the operation of the loyalty tests in the previous election? Is he aware that it would give general satisfaction if the loyalty tests were now dropped, as they are liable to abuse and misrepresentation?

I cannot anticipate the decision and recommendations of the Government of Kenya, but in this regard we must also remember the very strong representations about the need for some such security made by loyalist Africans to Mr. Coutts during his wide tour of Kenya. As I said, the matter is now under examination.

Achieng Oneko (Detention)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why Achieng Oneko, who was acquitted by the Kenya Supreme Court in 1953 of all charges brought against him and has since been detained at the Takwa Special Detention Camp without a fresh trial, has been refused permission to receive a visit from his wife, whom he has not seen for several years.

The authorities have so far found it impracticable to allow all the detainees at Takwa to be visited by their wives, and are not prepared to grant special facilities to Oneko.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this reply will be widely regarded as a very depressing commentary indeed on the administration of these detention camps? When is it proposed that this administration shall be improved to enable a man who was acquitted by the highest court in Kenya of all charges brought against him to receive a visit from his wife?

As the hon. Gentleman knows. Takwa is a very remote place and in Takwa are many of the real leaders of the Mau Mau movement. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that visits are now allowed in all but four of the camps and that these four are either particularly remote or contain the hard core of Mau Mau. The Governor has this matter under constant review.

Why is a man who was acquitted of all charges kept in a very remote place?

That is altogether another question. There was an Adjournment debate on this matter. I must remind the House that this case was considered by the Appeal Court, which recommended that the man should not be released.

Constitutional Changes

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what agreement has now been reached by the racial groups in the Legislative Council of Kenya regarding the constitutional changes he has announced.

I understand that a large section of European opinion, and Asian opinion generally, have expressed satisfaction at the proposals in Cmnd. 309. I am sorry that the African Elected Members have not felt able to give them their support. As the hon. Member will know, since the termination of the arrangements made by my predecessor, constitutional change no longer depends on the agreement of all groups in the Legislature, though I should of course much prefer it if this agreement existed.

In view of the fact that the African representatives represented the view of 6 million people against 200,000 of the other races, will not the right hon. Gentleman make a new effort, by a conference of the groups, to reach not an imposition but a settlement to which they can all agree?

The solution arrived at, as announced by me when I was in Kenya, is in the best interests of all sections of the community, and I hope that the hon. Member's influence will be brought to bear to that end.

Gibraltar

Table Of Precedence

12 and 13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) if he is aware of the resentment felt by Gibraltarians that, despite the representations made by the city council, the Table of Precedence still requires that city councillors rank lower than the heads of Her Majesty's Government Departments; and, in view of the importance of this to the people of Gibraltar, and the relative unimportance to Government employees, if he will explain the reason for the undue delay in dealing with the matter;

(2) on what date representations were first made to His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar and to himself by the city council that councillors should have precedence before the heads of Government Departments in the Table of Precedence and on suitable occasions in the life of the community.

Representations were first made to the Governor by the city council on 20th May, 1950, and further representations have been made from time to time since then. Each was carefully considered, without undue delay The mayor and city council were accorded positions in the Table of Precedence which was approved by Her Majesty in August, 1954. During the Governor's visit to London this summer, the matter was discussed with him, and my right hon. Friend has concurred in his proposal that the mayor should accorded courtesy precedence in his discretion.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am asking about city councillors? I ask the hon. Member and his right hon. Friend, who on so many occasions in the past have shown deep interest in the welfare of the people of Gibraltar, not to under-estimate the deep feeling of these extremely loyal and intelligent people. Does not this savour very much of the days of the conqueror and the conquered? Will not the Government use some common sense in 1957 and please these people by doing something which will not cost us any money, but which will show that we respect them much more than seems to be the case from these circumstances?

I am not sure that I can go as far as the hon. Member. I went to Gibraltar earlier this year and I am bound to tell the hon. Member that, although we had very close and frank consultations on every subject which appeared of interest, this matter was not raised. I also saw the Mayor of Gibraltar in London the other day. The Governor does not consider that there has been any change in the functions of the council, since the existing Table was agreed in 1954, sufficient to justify alterations in it.

Is the hon. Member saying that, because it has not been mentioned in correspondence with his Department recently and because it was not mentioned when he was in Gibraltar, this matter has not been raised very many times? If he is not aware of the deep feeling, the Answer he has given will bring a reaction which will show that this is deeply resented.

I was saying only that I thought that through inadvertence the hon. Member was overstating the position and I was acquainting him with the fact that this matter was not raised when I was in Gibraltar. I have said that the problem has been carefully considered and there is no question of the people in Gibraltar feeling that my right hon. Friend and all of us concerned do not give very close consideration to problems which affect them.

Mauritius

Electoral Boundaries Commission (Report)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the anxieties of the Muslim minorities in Mauritius; and whether he will now say when the report of the Trustram Eve Boundary Commission will be published.

My right hon. Friend is aware of the views which have been expressed by the representatives of the Muslim community in Mauritius. I am afraid that I cannot yet say when the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission will be published.

Does the Under-Secretary confirm the Muslim view that their only hope of a fair deal lies in having single-member geographical constituencies—40 as the Commissioner said? Is he aware that the Labour Party of Mauritius has backed that, but that the Parti Mauritien is opposing it, and can he tell the House whether there is an unofficial delegation here from the Parti Mauritien who are lobbying against that recommendation?

No, Sir. It would be wholly wrong for the hon. Member or anyone else to draw that conclusion. The report is not yet even submitted to my right hon. Friend. I ask hon. Members to await the report of Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve on an extremely difficult matter which my right hon. Friend will consider the moment he gets it.

Seychelles

Fiscal System (Report)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he expects to receive a report from the special commissioner appointed to examine the fiscal system in the Seychelles.

May I ask the Under-Secretary of State whether this report will be published? Is he aware that it is eagerly awaited by those hon. Members who take an interest in the affairs of the Seychelles? While we welcome the improvements which have been made, we are aware from recent official documents that there are many grave deficiencies still in existence. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the report will be immediately published?

Chief Justice

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is now in a position to announce the appointment of a new Chief Justice for the Seychelles.

No, Sir. Careful consideration is being given to the selection of a suitable candidate and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Can the right hon. Gentleman speed up this matter? Is not it months since the last Chief Justice departed? While we welcome an opportunity of appointing a Chief Justice who may have the confidence of the people, are not cases piling up in the courts?

It is true that some cases are being held up, but I understand that only one has been described as a case of urgency, and a judge has been appointed by the Acting Governor to deal with it. There are other cases which, so far as I know, have not been described as urgent, where it is not possible for the acting Chief Justice to sit, either because he was formerly a member of the Executive Council, or because he acted as a lawyer in the case. I am very conscious of the need to hurry up this appointment.

West Indies

Colonial Development Corporation Loans

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the nature of representations he has received from the West Indies Standing Federation Committee regarding the rate of interest charged on loans by the Colonial Development Corporation and what reply has been given.

The Standing Federation Committee has asked that the rates of interest charged on Exchequer advances to the Colonial Development Corporation should be reduced so as to enable the Corporation to provide finance for development projects at rates of interest not greater than those prevailing before the recent increase in the Bank Rate. The Committee's request has only recently been forwarded to my right hon. Friend and he has not as yet given a reply.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. May I ask him and his right hon. Friend to bear in mind that many worth-while long-term projects in the Caribbean and elsewhere will be held up if the Colonial Development Corporation is not enabled to make loans at a reasonable rate of interest?

I can assure the hon. Member that there is little direct evidence that colonial development as a whole has been seriously prejudiced by high rates of interest.

Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the work of colonial development will not be confined in future by an excessively high Bank Rate in this country? Is it possible to carry on colonial development on the basis of charging extremely high rates of interest which may be justified in the London money market but have no justification whatever in relation to colonial development?

I think it would he better if my right hon. Friend were permitted to examine this application and make a reply before I say any more.

Bahamas (Racial Discrimination)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken by the Government of the Bahamas to end racial discrimination in hotels, clubs, and places of entertainment.

There is no discrimination in hotels and public places of entertainment in the Bahamas. What is done in private clubs is a matter for the members.

Could not the proprietors of these private clubs be encouraged to behave in a more civilised way, as, for example, in the highly successful tourist industry in Jamaica, and, in particular, could not this be undertaken by the Rock Sound, the Half Sound and Cotton Bay Clubs now, pending extensions?

I think that is really a matter for the gradual education of public opinion, perhaps by members of the clubs themselves.

Antigua (Guided-Missile Range)

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the cost of constructing the guided-missile range in Antigua; and to what extent the people of Antigua were consulted.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the stage of completion of the guided-missile range and test centre at the deactivated United States Army base in Antigua; and what arrangements have been made with the United States authorities for its operation.

With the agreement of the Government of Antigua, who were consulted by Her Majesty's Government throughout the negotiations, the United States Government were granted permission to establish tracking facilities for guided missiles in Antigua on the understanding that they would enter into a formal agreement similar to those already signed in respect of tracking stations along other sections of the Long Range Proving Ground. I understand that construction is well advanced and that the United States, who are meeting the entire cost of the station, expect to spend some $400,000 during the construction period.

Does effective control of the range lie solely in the hands of the American Army? Were the people of Antigua informed in advance?

The Government were informed in advance and the Government represent the people. Arrangements in regard to the use of this range are satisfactory to the Government of Antigua and Her Majesty's Government.

Singapore

Citizenship Ordinance

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what agreement has been reached on the Singapore Citizens' Bill; what are now the chief qualifications for inclusion in the new electorate; and to what extent the present register will be increased.

The Singapore Citizenship Ordinance became law on 21st October, 1957. I am sending the hon. Member a copy and will have copies placed in the Library. The chief qualifications for the franchise are that a person should be a Singapore citizen and over 21. If all those eligible apply for citizenship the register of voters will be increased from about 350,000 to about 600,000.

Can the Minister inform us whether Chinese who are born in Singapore and the Malays and Indians are put on the same basis?

Yes, Sir. It is very complicated. I advise the hon. Gentleman to read the Ordinance carefully. The Singapore Government cannot refuse citizenship to anyone born in Singapore or whose father was born there. These people become Singapore citizens by the operation of law.

Hong Kong

Naval Dockyard (Redundant Employees)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what proposals have been made by the Government of Honk Kong to provide alternative employment for the 40 electricians declared redundant in the Royal Naval dockyard.

The Hong Kong Government has offered to help put these electricians in touch with possible employers. Several weeks ago the dockyard management made a similar offer, but only five of the men availed themselves of it. Another ten found new jobs before they were due for discharge.

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that since this Question was tabled a most serious position has grown up? In view of the fact that the 40 has become 4,700 and that unemployment is already widespread in Hong Kong, can the right hon. Gentleman say what planned attempt is being made by the Government of Hong Kong, in association with Her Majesty's Government, to deal with this very serious position? Can the right hon. Gentleman also say whether or not consultations are being held, or have been held, with the trade unions concerned, and whether these organisations have been asked to cooperate in the matter?

I am fully conscious of the very grave effect that this closure is bound to have on Hong Kong and we are anxious to do all we can to alleviate it. It will, of course, be spread over two years and every effort will be made by the Hong Kong Government and by Her Majesty's Government to help in this matter. Although we cannot accept any obligation to find alternative employment, we are arranging for the appointment of an employment advisory committee. Consideration is being given to the matter by the Employment Liaison Office and an officer has been seconded for full-time duty in the dockyard to give what help is possible. I am personally interested in this matter, which is the result of a decision for which I share full responsibility and which, as Colonial Secretary, I deeply regret.

If, as I gather from the right hon. Gentleman, the Governments will not accept any responsibility for providing alternative employment, is not the situation in Hong Kong very serious? I understand that the Government themselves will not give aid and help?

It certainly does not follow very much the reverse. It is very much more frank to say that we cannot accept responsibility, but that does not mean that we shall not do everything we possibly can to supplement the efforts of individuals to obtain alternative employment.

Uganda

Special Branch (African Informers)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many African informers are employed by the Special Branch in Uganda; at what rate they are paid for their services; and what use is made of the reports they provide.

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that the activities of some of these African informers are purely to stir up trouble between political organisations in Uganda and the Administration, and that in view of the great improvement in the political situation in Uganda it would be beneficial if the activities of these informers were curbed?

I could not accept the hon. Gentleman's description of the work of the African members of the Special Branch. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular complaint, I hope that he will let roe know.

Is not this a rather wretched Question, which can do nothing but harm to Uganda and is completely unjustified?

Colonial Territories

Contracts Of Employment (Penal Sanctions)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to have abolished penal sanctions for breach of contracts of employment in those dependent territories where such sanctions still exist.

Will the right hon. Gentleman expedite the ending of penal sanctions throughout the whole of our dependencies? Are not these workers completely defenceless economically, and does not the responsibility lie directly with the Secretary of State? if we could ratify the Convention it would do a power of good.

I would certainly be glad to see such restrictions go, but it is essential if that is done that civil sanctions should be effective. It could not be said that civil sanctions alone would be effective in Northern Rhodesia and the South African High Commission Territories, where the penal sanctions still remain. I have this matter under observation all the time.

Forced Labour

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Convention 105 concerning the abolition of forced labour adopted in the 1957 International Labour Conference has been brought to the attention of the Governments of all dependent Territories; and whether they have been urged to base their law and practice on the principles and terms of the Convention.

I propose to address overseas Governments on the subject of Convention No. 105 as soon as ratification by Her Majesty's Government has been completed. I should prefer not to anticipate the outcome of these consultations.

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT or in some other form a list of the Territories in which forced labour is still operating?

I will consider that suggestion, but I would ask the hon. Gentleman to wait until I have had discussions with the Governors concerned, when I hope I may be able to make a rather more profitable statement than before.

African Foremen And Supervisors (Training)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent the Governments of Colonial Territories in Africa are taking steps to provide training facilities for potential African foremen and supervisors in industry, as recommended by the Inter-African Labour Conference recently held in Lusaka.

I have not yet received the Governments' comments on this recommendation, but I have no doubt that they will give it sympathetic consideration.

May we take it that the last phrase in the reply of the hon. Gentleman represents the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom?

The hon. Member had better take it in any way he feels. I cannot change my Answer.

Malta

Integration

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a further statement on the present position of the negotiations with the Prime Minister of Malta regarding the integration of the Colony with the United Kingdom.

I have nothing to add at this moment to my reply to my hon. Friend, the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) on 14th November.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman clarify the position? Is he aware that the Prime Minister of Malta has made statements which suggest that the progress of integration will depend largely upon the decision about the use of the dockyard and that the Government have now said that there will be provision of work at the dockyard for three years? Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether that is the case?

These are separate issues. Very good progress is being made with the proposals for closer union and integration with Malta on the political plane. I have made the statement, and I repeat it, that there is no question of the dockyard being closed overnight. That statement was repeated by Mr. Mintoff a day or two ago.

As we have not had that information in the House, would the right hon. Gentleman confirm the statement that there is to be at least three years' work in the dockyard at the present level?

The statement which Mr. Mintoff attributed to me he was entitled to do. The statement was made by me.

There were a number of other phrases in it. It is better that the statement should be read as a whole.

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish the statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT so that the House can see it?

Nyasaland

Police And Agriculture (Expenditure)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the amounts to be spent from recurrent revenue by the Government of Nyasaland for the year 1957–58 on police and agriculture, respectively.

The amount for police is £447,757. The amount for agriculture in its narrowest sense, excluding animal husbandry, forestry, and conservation and improvement of water supplies, is £414,245.

Does not the Under-Secretary consider these expenditure figures totally out of balance, having regard to the extreme poverty in Nyasaland and the urgent need for agricultural improvement? if we can afford to spend this amount of money on the police, why cannot we afford to spend more on agriculture?

It is not unreasonable, having regard to the size of the population and the size of the territory.

Sierra Leone

School Children

41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many children between the ages of five and 12 years, in Sierra Leone, are now attending school.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on 19th July, to which I cannot add.

The hon. Gentleman will realise that that reply referred to last Session. Can he give some assurance that the proportion of children attending school is now more than it was then, namely, one child in nine of the children under five years of age?

The figures which were given to the hon. Member were, of course, for 1956 and we have not yet reached the end of 1957.

Northern Rhodesia And Nyasaland

Doctors

42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many African doctors are in the public service in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, respectively; and to what extent their salaries differ from those of similarly qualified European doctors.

None, Sir. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to the statement of the Minister for Public Services in the Federation to the effect that doctors and other public servants in some circumstances would be raised to equal status with Europeans in the higher branches of the service? Does not a statement of that sort rather make nonsense of the statement made by the Minister?

I am not responsible for the Federal Government nor for statements made by Ministers there.

National Health Service Employees

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the resentment felt by the trade union movement at the action taken by the Minister of Health with regard to the three per cent. award unanimously agreed by the Administrative and Clerical Workers (Hospital Staffs) Whitley Council; and what action he proposes to take to ensure that the good will of the trade unions is maintained in future negotiations on the various Whitley councils.

As was said last Tuesday, good will can best be secured by a real understanding by all concerned of the purposes of the measures which the Government have had to take.

That is no answer. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Whitley Council machinery, which has been in existence for 50 years, is now in very great danger, and that means the whole position of the country is in great danger? This is not a matter to be pushed back to the Minister of Health, who started it anyway, but for the Prime Minister, who should use his initiative to repair some of the damage that has been done.

On the general question, I think my Answer is correct and the more the whole problem with which the Government are trying to deal is understood, the better it will be. In regard to this particular Question, there is to be a meeting tomorrow between the Minister of Health and some of the representatives of this Council.

May I repeat to the Prime Minister the question I put to the Minister of Health about the meeting tomorrow and ask whether the Prime Minister and the Government will be open to reconsider their previous decision after that meeting?

I think I could do no better than to answer in the same terms as my right hon. and learned Friend, which are that those who come to see him will put forward their point of view and whatever points they wish to make. My right hon. and learned Friend will, no doubt, consider them in conjunction with his colleagues after he has received the deputation.

The deputation asked first to see the Prime Minister and he referred them to the Minister of Health. If they are not satisfied after the meeting on Wednesday with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health, will the Prime Minister be willing to see them after that?

Perhaps I had better read what I wrote to them, and which was published. I said that I would prefer them to see the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health and that it would be right if in the first instance the staff side would address its requests to them. I said:

"I am, therefore, bringing your letter to their notice. I shall be prepared to reconsider your request that I should receive a deputation if, after any meetings you may have had with the Ministers concerned, there remain further considerations which you would wish to put to me."
They accepted that and I think it was a proper decision.

Does not the Prime Minister realise that this action of the Minister of Health has raised a first-class issue of industrial relationships of the greatest importance, and that the recommendation about salaries and wages was quite modest in relation to recent developments? In the circumstances, in view of the very big issue involved, could not the Prime Minister respond to the request of my hon. Friend and receive a deputation himself, recognising that this is a really first-class issue for the Government in industrial policy?

No. I think the Whitley Council representatives concerned were quite satisfied with the decision which I took. On this matter of the deputation, this is a Council which deals particularly with the employees who come under the Secretary of State and the Minister of Health. I think it, therefore right in the first instance, at any rate, that it should have its meeting with them If, after that, it is thought wise and helpful, as I made perfectly clear in my letter. I should be very willing to receive it.

Minister Of State, Scottish Office (Duties)

47.

asked the Prime Minister what are the duties of the Minister of State, Scottish Office.

The Minister of State in general acts as the Secretary of State's deputy, operating mainly in Scotland, and as such has oversight of all the Secretary of State's Departments. The Minister of State is also generally responsible for Scottish business in another place.

Can the Prime Minister say if one of the duties of the Minister of State is to explain Government policy in Scotland? Is he aware that recently the Minister of State said that housing subsidies were not only wrong but immoral? Does not he think the word "immoral" gives great offence to a number of people in Scotland, including farmers and landlords who benefit from the subsidy and also the Minister himself?

The hon. Member, not for the first time, has pursued his well-known practice of putting down a Question to which I try to give the correct Answer, in order to cover a supplementary question of which he has not given notice. If the hon. Member will send me any quotation of the speech of the noble Lord to which he objects, I shall try to deal with it.

United States Aircraft, United Kingdom (Hydrogen Bombs)

48.

asked the Prime Minister what specific undertaking he has received from the United States Government that Her Majesty's Government would be consulted if the United States Government thought it urgently necessary to signal bombers carrying hydrogen bombs, already in the air, operating from British bases to bomb enemy territory.

49.

asked the Prime Minister what agreement he reached with the President of the United States of America as to the procedure by which British-based United States planes carrying hydrogen bombs on patrol will obtain a joint decision from the two Governments before dropping their bombs in an emergency; and whether he will make a statement.

51.

asked the Prime Minister what specific undertakings the United States Government have given to Her Majesty's Government that they will not signal bombers carrying hydrogen bombs already in the air, operating from British bases, to bomb enemy territory, without first consulting Her Majesty's Government; and whether these undertakings apply to so-called tactical atomic weapons as well as to hydrogen bombs of strategic calibre.

60.

asked the Prime Minister what joint decisions have already been made by the British and the United States Governments regarding the circumstances in which United States bombers, operating from bases in this country, may take instant retaliatory action and what those circumstances are.

I would refer to the Answers I gave on this subject on Thursday, 28th November, to which I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to add.

I would only repeat that all these cases are covered by the Attlee-Churchill understandings.

Does the Prime Minister realise that the House and indeed the country is perturbed as to the extent we are already committed by an act of the American Government without any more consultation? Will he assure the House that, no matter what the circumstances, British-based American bombers will not be given a signal to bomb enemy territory without the prior approval of Her Majesty's Government having been sought?

Yes, Sir. The hon. Member has correctly stated the situation. These machines, whether standing upon the runway or actually in the air, are covered by the understanding which was first entered into by Mr. Attlee when he was Prime Minister and afterwards confirmed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). They are covered completely by that understanding.

Does not the Prime Minister agree that these arrangements are subject to errors of judgment or other human frailties by the pilots and that peace hangs on a hair-trigger with these arrangements? Would he explain why it is necessary to have bombers on patrol with nuclear bombs on board and others ready to take off at fifteen minutes' notice, in view of the fact that the Leader of the House explained to me in reply to my Question on 31st October that the Government's civil defence plans are based on the expectation of getting sufficiently advanced notice of the outbreak of hostilities to evacuate 12 million people?

Yes, Sir. It is clearly necessary for all the forces concerned, whether American or British, for patrol and training purposes to operate with their weapons on board. [HON MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is the only way to learn to handle them and to use them and to make them effective They have to be loaded. There is a very elaborate arrangement for loading them in and taking them out again. If they are to be use at all they must be carried for training purposes, and I think it is right that they should be carried for patrol purposes, but, as I have explained, there were very careful arrangements by which these weapons were technically called "not armed." The process of arming them is quite an operation and cannot be carried out except upon the direct instructions which, as I have said, under the Attlee-Churchill understandings would be given only by the two Governments in agreement.

Is the Prime Minister aware that he has not answered the specific point raised in my Question, No. 60? Is he aware that his replies so far today and on previous days have related to the question of joint decision at a time when military action was taking place or was imminent? Will he give an assurance that no joint decision ha already been taken under these agreements which will affect the possibility of instant retaliatory action being taken in the event of a possible false report of ballistic missiles heading for this country or for American bases?

Of course the joint decision will be taken by the Governments of the day when the time comes, if ever; and I hope it will never come.

May I make two points which are causing much worry in the House and outside? First of all, the Prime Minister continues to rest on arrangements made by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Mr. Attlee and is now Lord Attlee—arrangements made at a time when the H-bomb as we now understand it did not exist. Can the Prime Minister say whether he has brought that agreement up to de to in the light of the new scientific discoveries which have taken place since that day and since the speeded-up tempo? The additional possibilities inherent in the present-day H-bomb may, for all that we know, make an agreement entered into in those days less relevant now than it was then. Secondly, whatever the danger may be of a crash setting off an explosion—and I am sorry if I am going too fast—can the Prime Minister assure us that the crash cannot cause a fall-out of radioactive material caused by the breaking of the container in which the bomb is kept?

Replying to the first question, it seems to me that if under those conditions it was right to have the agreement as to the use of American bombers placed on British bases in days when, admittedly, the weapons were not so powerful, although very formidable, it is all the more important that that agreement should be maintained in its full strength today; and so it is. I could, of course, answer the second part of the question, but it is perhaps a little wrong for me to do so. There are four Questions on this subject. Although I could give the answer, I think it would be fairer to those hon. Members who have put down this specific question if I were to leave it until Thursday. I am entirely in the hands of the House, but it is rather unusual to answer Questions in this way. If the House wishes, I will answer it.

As I explained last week—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House—there is no danger of an explosion. In the event of a crash in this or in any other country of a machine carrying atomic or hydrogen bombs, or indeed of a machine in transit carrying nuclear material in any form, whether by air or on the land, it is, of course, possible that there may be an oxidisation of any plutonium concerned. Plutonium oxidises fairly easily. The danger would be of a very limited kind and would be dealt with at once under the established precautionary procedures. The hazards of uranium 235 are far less than from plutonium because it neither burns nor oxidises easily. I do not therefore think that the risks referred to—there is none from an explosion—are sufficient to justify any action which would seriously reduce the state of readiness or the training of bomber aircraft, whether British or American.

On a point of order. In view of the fact that, with your permission and the permission of the House, the Prime Minister has answered my Question No. 56, may I please have the usual privilege of asking a supplementary question?

I think the proper procedure, if the hon. Lady is not satisfied with what she has heard, is for her to put down another Question. The Prime Minister did not say that he was replying to the hon. Lady's Question.

Will the Prime Minister make it clear whether he did or did not answer the four Questions concerned, or did he just quote from one of the Answers?

No, Sir. I had prepared an Answer and I was asked to give at any rate that part of it which appeared to cover the question asked by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I hope that in the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, you would be ready to waive whatever rule of privilege is involved. If I did wrong, I did it only to try to satisfy the House. If the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) put the Question down again perhaps you would feel, in the circumstances, that it was not incorrect that it should appear again and be answered in due course either in the same or perhaps in longer terms.

I think that is the best course. I would point out to the hon. Lady that if in fact the Prime Minister purported to answer her Question specifically, he was out of order, because he had not previously asked my permission to do so, and Question Time was over.

West Indies (Gift Of Mace)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

106.

To ask the Lord Privy Seal in what manner Her Majesty's Government propose to mark the inauguration of the West Indies and the opening of the new Federal Legislature in April next.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal
(Mr. R. A. Butler)

Mr. Speaker, with your permission and that of the House, I should like to answer Question No. 106.

Her Majesty's Government have authorised me to propose to you, Mr. Speaker, that you should, on behalf of this House, offer to the West Indies the gift of a Mace for use in the House of Representatives. The gift would be a token of our good will and welcome to the new Legislature, and it would carry with it our warm congratulations to the peoples of the West Indies and our best wishes for their future happiness and prosperity.

May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with that suggestion and commend it to you, Sir? The gift will carry with it our very best wishes to all the West Indian people and our hopes for the success of this very interesting and great venture in the West Indies?

I shall, of course, be happy to do as the House desires in this matter. The matter will have to be made regular later on, of course, by the usual Resolution.

Personal Statement

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, 21st November, in the course of the debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, I stated that the Minister of Health, before becoming Minister, had advised the National and Local Government Officers Association, and had received a fee for so doing. In fact, although the right hon. and learned Gentleman did, some years ago, help this Association with advice from time to time, he did not receive any fee for so doing. I did not consult the National Association before making my remarks, which were impromptu.

I am sorry that I gave a wrong impression to the House, and I should like to express my regret to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I was not able to make this statement earlier, due to my unavoidable absence from the House last week.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting the record straight in this matter and I unreservedly accept his expression of regret.

Business Of The House

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

Orders Of The Day

The Earl Of Balfour (Monument)

Considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Resolved,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will give directions that a Monument be erected within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster at the public charge to the memory of the late Right Honourable The Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., with an inscription expressive of the high sense entertained by this House of the eminent services rendered by him to the Country and to the Commonwealth and Empire in Parliament, and in great Offices of State, and to assure Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.—[The Prime Minister.]

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.

Army Act (Continuation)

3.45 p.m.

I beg to move,

That the Draft Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th November, be approved.
This is the first time, Mr. Speaker, that such a Motion has been moved. I feel, therefore, that the House will expect a short summary of past events which have led me to put this Motion before the House today.

Nothing is more deeply rooted in the parliamentary tradition of this country than the will of the House of Commons to control the standing Army. The way in which the House has exercised this control over the centuries has fallen under two main heads. First, it has held the purse strings, and, secondly, it has required that its authority has to be sought annually for the continuance of the military code of discipline, without which a standing Army cannot exist.

Until 1879, this control of discipline was achieved by the passage of successive Mutiny Acts. In 1879, there was passed the Army Discipline and Regulation Act, which was succeeded two years later, in 1881, by the Army Act. Since then it has been the practice of Parliament to control the discipline of the Army by the passage of an Army (Annual) Act which has been known in more recent years as the Army and Air Force (Annual) Act.

In 1952, long and stormy debates accompanied the passage of the Army (Annual) Bill, and this controversy resulted, I think, in a general realisation on both sides of the House that the Army Act of 1881 was outmoded, and needed to be thoroughly revised. I have no doubt that they were right. The Acts contained no fewer than 920 Amendments to the original 1881 Act. But even with all these Amendments, nineteenth-century thinking prevailed right up to the day that the Act ceased to function in Parliament.

If we look at Section 104, it will be seen that the liability to provide billets excluded private houses, and also the houses, to use the language of the Section
"…of any distillers kept for distilling brandy and strong waters."
On the other hand, ale houses were all right so long as they were not off-licence, in which case they were excluded.

In the Second Schedule to the Act there is another example of this language and thought. Those who provided billets were responsible for providing 10 oz. of meat per soldier for the mid-day meal. If one remembers meat rationing, such a provision is rather laughable; and even with our improved rations of today the soldier nets only 8 oz. of meat. In other words, the Act talked in terms of a soldier's diet consisting of bread and "marge," meat and potatoes, and very, little else.

To put matters right, a Select Committee of the House, under the chairmanship of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), examined in detail the provisions of the old Army Act, and presented to the House the draft of a new Act which altered the existing law in many respects. I think that the debt which this House, the country and everyone concerned with the Army owes to this Select Committee was handsomely recognised on all sides two years ago. It produced in the Army Act, 1955, a piece of legislation which, subject to minor technical and drafting Amendments only, Parliament was able to accept, and which formed a vast improvement on the old Army Act.

The new Act came into force on 1st January this year. This Act, therefore—to use the words of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—was born from party controversy and was made possible by the hard work, the good sense and the good will of those who served on this Select Committee. I am glad to see some of them in the House today.

Few people realise the vast amount of work which the members of that Committee put into their job. The size of the task can be shown by the fact that the documents I am holding now represent a summary of the evidence and of the proceedings in which they engaged. They certainly undertook a Herculean task, and we owe them a very deep debt of gratitude.

One recommendation of the Committee, which is expressed in Section 226 of the new Act, is the reason behind this present Motion. The Committee first considered whether there should be a permanent Discipline Act for the Army similar to the Naval Discipline Act. They decided against this but, at the same time, felt that the new Act, unlike the old, should not be subject to amendment every year. That would merely have meant that in the course of time the new Act would have had incorporated in it the conglomeration of unco-ordinated amendments to which the old Act has been subject.

On the other hand, the Committee considered that the traditional control of Parliament over the Army's discipline should not be relaxed, and that the opportunities for hon. Members to ventilate questions affecting Army discipline should not be more restricted than they had been in the past. It therefore recommended what I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee. West (Mr. Strachey) described as an ingenious solution. In passing, may I say that I know that the House will join with me in expressing our very genuine regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not with us today. We wish him a speedy recovery, and we hope to see him with us soon, because we look forward to his experienced contributions in matters affecting the welfare of the Army, and also, of course, on all aspects of defence.

To return to Section 226 of the new Act, this provides that the Act shall expire twelve months after coming into operation, but that it may be continued in force for a year at a time by Order in Council, subject to the approval of the draft Order by Parliament. Unless Parliament otherwise determines, the Act may not be continued beyond the expiration of five years from the date when it came into operation. The consequence is that, as the Act now stands, it will be necessary to pass a new Act by 1st January, 1962.

Coupled with this procedure was the proposal made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley that there should be a Select Committee every five years. For a variety of reasons, it was agreed that this suggestion could not be embodied in legislation or in a Standing Order of the House, but the Government gave an undertaking on 17th March, 1955, that it was their intention to have a Select Committee at the five-year period to review the Act. So far as I know, this is a unique procedure, and I should like to pay tribute to the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Dudley for thus making what I believe to be parliamentary history.

We have your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, made a few days ago, that, for the purposes of this debate, Members will be competent to discuss anything which is in the Act and that a Third Reading speech on the Act would be in order.

The new Act has now been in force for almost a year. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the change from the old Act has taken place with remarkable smoothness. There are, I think, three reasons for this. First, the drafting of the new Act and the transitional provisions Act had been done with such skill and care by the Select Committee that the military officers and authorities whose duty it is to administer the new Act have found very little difficulty in switching from the old to the new code.

Secondly, adequate time was allowed between the passing of the new Act in May, 1955, and its coming into operation on 1st January, 1957. Time was given for the revision and publication of all the relevant regulations, as well as a new edition of Part I of the Manual of Military Law and a new Unit Guide, I believe that those responsible in the War Office deserve great credit for the efficiency and imagination they have used in all this very detailed preparatory work.

I am sure that to have tried to rush things faster would have been a great mistake. The Act itself required the making of no less than 100 different rules and authorisations ranging from a new set of procedures down to the instruments of delegation of powers from the Army Council to subordinate authorities.

In the third place, time was necessary, also, because the officers of the Army legal service had to make a success of a widespread series of lectures on the new Act to officers in the Army in 1956.

We have for almost a year now been administering a new Act far more fitted to present day conditions than its predecessor. I should like briefly to draw the attention of the House to some of the important changes in the new Act.

There are changes in the law relating to mutiny and the death penalty. There are now two categories of mutiny, and it is in the more serious category, involving only violence or refusal of service in operations against the enemy, that the death penalty is introduced. In other cases, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for life. Rather surprisingly, drunkenness has received a definition for the first time. In future, the prosecution will have to prove that an accused was drunk within the meaning of the definition laid down in the Act. There have been a good many changes also with regard to the punishment which can be awarded for particular offences. With minor exceptions, punishments for which officers and other ranks are liable for, offences under the Act have now been brought into line.

There have been far reaching procedural changes. Rules of procedure governing the conduct of courts-martial have been completely rewritten in line with modern requirements and, incidentally, in a much more logical fashion than hitherto. Instead of the old courts of inquiry, there will be boards of inquiry to deal with more important matters and regimental inquiries for the less important cases.

There have been several changes in the rules relating to forfeiture and reduction of pay. Two points in the soldier's favour are that, in future, there can be no forfeiture of pay unless it is authorised by Act of Parliament, and the anomaly whereby a soldier under arrest awaiting trial was liable to forfeiture of pay has been removed. Finally, I will mention that War Department civilians, with the full support of the Whitley Council, may now be tried by court-martial overseas instead of by the civil courts. I shall return to this later.

There have been, of course, no amendments to the Act so far, but I will remind the House that some of the provisions of the Act covering the enlistment of recruits have been altered. The new Army (Conditions of Enlistment) Act, 1957, which governs the enlistment of men on twenty-two year engagements from 1st October this year necessitated the making of further regulations by the Army Council. These were made on 27th August this year and were promulgated to the Army in September last. They are of first-class importance in that they lay down, as the House will remember, the minimum period of colour service which soldiers enlisting for twenty-two years must perform. It is now six years, with only a few exceptions, whereas it was formerly three years.

The Army Council can, by amending the Regulations, vary the terms of Colour and Reserve service during the first twelve years. Thereafter, the soldier has, under the Act, the right to break at any three-year period without reserve service. These regulations, of course, were made under the Army Act, 1955, which we are discussing, and the Army (Conditions of Enlistment) Act, 1957.

The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with recruitment or enlistment for varying periods. In view of all these Regulations which have now been embodied in the Act, can he explain why it was necessary to appoint a special Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir James Grigg, to consider precisely the matters which have been dealt with in the Act?

No, Sir; I think that these conditions are not contained within the Act. I was just saying that we have laid Regulations, which we were empowered to do under the Act and under the Army (Conditions of Enlistment) Act, 1957. I would have thought that, with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that was hardly a relevant interruption at this stage.

I am quite sure that it was a relevant interruption, otherwise I would not have made it. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am quite serious about this, and that my point is embodied in the Act. Apparently the War Office came to the conclusion that certain rules and regulations should be contained in the Act which relate to recruitment, the length of service and a variety of other matters affecting recruitment and conditions of service. If the War Office is competent to deal with those matters and regards itself as compe