House Of Commons
Thursday, 5th December, 1957
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Messages From The Queen
Parliamentary Privilege Act, 1770
The VICE-CHAMBERLAIN OF THE HOUSEHOLD reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:
I have received your humble Address praying that I will refer to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, for hearing and consideration, the question of law, whether the House of Commons would be acting contrary to the Parliamentary Privilege Act, 1770, if it treated the issue of a Writ against a Member of Parliament in respect of a Speech or Proceeding by him in Parliament, as a breach of its privileges, in order that the said Judicial Committee may, after hearing argument on both sides ( if necessary), advise me thereon: and further praying that I will, upon receiving the advice of the said Judicial Committee, be pleased to communicate such advice to the House of Commons, in order that the House may take such action as seems to it proper in the circumstances.
I shall give directions accordingly.
Monument To The Earl Of Balfour
The VICE-CHAMBERLAIN OF THE HOUSEHOLD reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:
I have received your Address praying that I 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 the House of Commons 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 assuring
Me that you will make good the expenses attending the same.
I will gladly give directions for carrying into effect your proposal to do honour to the memory of that illustrious Statesman and devoted servant of his country.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Minister of Education what is the fall in the number of children taking school dinners since the latest increase of 2d. per meal, both nationally and for Salford in particular, including the autumn figures.
The autumn figures are 9,717 for Salford and 2,815,307 for England and Wales, excluding Nottinghamshire, for which the return is not yet available. These figures show a fall of about 1,050 and about 210,200 on those for 1956.
Does not the Minister think these figures are very serious? Does not he agree that a good meal is as vital to a child's education as a good school teacher, and that this miserable financial economy cannot justify the damage to the health of so many children?
One has to remember that the fall in numbers is, in part, the result of fewer children being present at school as a result of the 'flu epidemic. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly there were nearly 1,000 fewer children at school at Salford, and nearly 170,000 fewer in England and Wales, which is a big difference.
Is not the Minister aware that five weeks ago he told me that the delay in introducing the figures was due to the 'flu epidemic, and that clearly the epidemic has gone since the hon. Gentleman has produced the figures?
The hon. Gentleman asked for the autumn figures, and the 'flu epidemic is relevant to those figures.
asked the Minister of Education the number of children taking school meals in Wales during October in the years 1957, 1956 and 1951, respectively.
172,864 this year, 189,450 last year and 187,170 in 1951.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the teaching profession, without whom he could not carry on the school meals, are thoroughly fed up with his failure to honour the promises made by the Department right through the year? When will he give teachers a fair deal in connection with the school meals service?
Do not let us be too gloomy about the school meals service. The meal is still extremely good value at a shilling. At the start of the war, in 1940, one in thirty children were having the meals, whereas it was one in three in 1945, and today is very nearly half.
In view of the fact that the Minister has completely misunderstood me and I should like to have a satisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
I did not mean to be discourteous to the hon. Member. I thought his Question—
My supplementary question—
—related to the number of children taking school meals.
Institute Of Almoners (Grant)
asked the Minister of Education if he will take steps to arrange for a grant to be made to the Institute of Almoners to assist students to undertake training as almoners.
Assistance to students for this purpose is already available either from local education authorities or under a scheme of bursaries administered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.
I am aware of that, but is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that these grants are made on a means test basis? Could he not follow the example of the Home Office which, in the case of training for child care and probation, does not insist upon these limits?
I know the hon. Gentleman's concern in this matter. I am aware of the burden on local education authorities of making awards for the training of medical auxiliaries generally. Assistance to this institute is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.
asked the Minister of Education what proposals Her Majesty's Government have for increasing the estimated expenditure on education during the present financial year.
The Ministry's Vote for the current year is £33 million larger than last year's.
Is not that a very insignificant sum? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, very insignificant, compared with the absolute importance of developing education in this country not only of a classical character but of a technical kind. How in the world can this country keep its position if we do not spend more upon education than is indicated in the Parliamentary Secretary's Answer?
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of education. The proportion of the national income devoted to the service has gone up substantially under the present Government.
asked the Minister of Education what estimate he has formed of how educational expenditure is likely to vary over the next few years.
I expect educational expenditure to continue to increase over the next few years.
If this is so, is the Minister certain that the proportion that the local education authority will receive from the proposed general grant will be not less than the amount it would receive if the percentage grant continued?
The expansion which we must expect can be allowed for just as well under the proposed general grant as under the percentage grant but we shall, of course, be debating this matter fully next week.
The hon. Gentleman has said that he expects educational expenditure to increase over the next few years. Can he say also that the amount of the block grant will increase over the next few years?
I ask the hon. Member to have a careful look at Clause 2 (1) and (4) of the Local Government Bill.
National Association Of Schoolmasters (Representation)
asked the Minister of Education if he will now invite a member of the National Association of Schoolmasters to join the Teachers' Panel of the Burnham Committee so that the Association's views on the question of salaries may be fully presented thereon.
No, Sir. As my right hon. Friend stated in his reply on 14th November to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), he sees no reason to dissent from the view taken by his predecessors on this matter.
Would my hon. Friend not agree that, although there are already six organisations on the Burnham Committee, the National Association of Schoolmasters, the second largest organisation of teachers, is unrepresented on the Committee? Is my hon. Friend aware that the Association has 17,000 members and is the voice of the men at the primary and secondary-modern level? As there are three women on the Committee, ought not the voice of these men be heard?
I hope my hon. Friend will remember that representation on the Burnham Committee is not determined solely by the size of the organisation concerned. The smaller associations on the Committee represent teachers with a distinct interest in certain types of school with which the Burnham Committee is concerned. There is value in having the Committee constituted according to the pattern of our maintained schools, and in not introducing representatives primarily concerned with the special interests of either men or women teachers.
Primary School Admissions (Circular)
asked the Minister of Education to what extent he has considered the effect of Circular 313 upon infant and other schools; and what is his conclusion.
The effect has been to improve conditions for the children and to make better use of the available staff.
While thanking the Minister for his courtesy in having written to me about the position in the County of Warwick, may I ask if I am to understand that the Warwickshire Education Authority is free to admit children to infants' schools if they reach their fifth birthday in the term, provided there are reception classes? Did the Parliamentary Secretary inform the county education officer of the contents of the letter which the hon. Gentleman sent to me?
There was certainly nothing private in the letter I sent to the hon. Gentleman. The local education authority has discretion under the circular to treat each school on its merits. The circular does not affect the admission of children in the term in which they will become five. If there are further points, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correspond with me again.
asked the Minister of Education what is now the proportion of the eligible school population selected for education at grammar schools and at technical schools, respectively; and what proportion of the remainder has the opportunity to take the General Certificate of Education in other schools.
In January, 1957, 20·3 per cent. of the 13-year old pupils for whom local education authorities were responsible were in grammar schools or the grammar streams of other secondary schools. Five per cent. of the 14-year old pupils were in technical schools or streams. More than a quarter of the remaining pupils were in secondary schools that normally enter candidates for the General Certificate of Education.
Has the Parliamentary Secretary seen the advertisement accepted for the 4s. 6d. book of stamps by the Post Office and which reads:
Does not that indicate that it is easy for people of average intelligence to get the General Certificate of Education? Is not the percentage which the Parliamentary Secretary has mentioned lower than the average, and has the hon. Gentleman allowed for the fact that in some areas the percentage is much lower than the average which he has given?"If you have average intelligence, no matter what your previous education you can quickly qualify for success with our help."
There are bound to be differences of some degree between one area and another. My right hon. Friend's Department does not prescribe which secondary-modern schools may enter for the General Certificate of Education. I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that as time goes on more and more secondary schools are rapidly becoming first-class, respected educational institutions in their areas.
Training Colleges (Students And Grants)
asked the Minister of Education to what extent he plans to improve the maintenance grants, both in amount and in duration, so that mature applicants may be willing to become students at the three training colleges for technical teachers and the target of 700 per annum recommended by the Dr. Willis Jackson Committee attained.
My right hon. Friend intends very shortly to put to the local authorities' associations proposals for improving these grants, and also to discuss with the authorities concerned the provision of new accommodation for the three colleges. This should enable them to take 500 students, which was the number recommended as an immediate aim by the Willis Jackson Committee.
I am sure that the House and the nation will be very grateful for that news. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the need to cover the period between the end of training and the taking of the new post in the autumn? These candidates for teaching find it very expensive to live with no income between those points. I hope that the maintenance grants may cover that period as well as the period of training at college.
We shall certainly bear my hon. Friend's point in mind.
asked the Minister of Education by how many the students admitted this autumn fell short of the numbers recommended by the Dr. Willis Jackson Committee.
360 students were admitted this year to the three training colleges for technical teachers. As my hon. Friend will recall, the Willis Jackson Committee recommended that the number of students should be raised to 500 in the first instance.
Technical Colleges (Sandwich Courses)
asked the Minister of Education how many sandwich courses have been started at technical colleges this year; and how many students have been enrolled at these courses.
Eleven new sandwich courses, with an enrolment of 89 students, were approved and started at the beginning of 1957. Forty-seven more courses were approved to start this autumn, but I do not yet know how many students have enrolled for them.
While thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply, may I ask him to do his utmost to encourage and promote more of these sandwich courses, which are absolutely necessary in view of the demands being made on technical manpower?
I am going up to the North-East this evening and I shall be making a speech about it tomorrow.
Will the hon. Gentleman be able to say, after an appropriate period of time, how many of the students satisfactorily completed the course? Will it not be important to know that?
Yes, I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman.
On a point of order. I have had a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary referring to some extra-Parliamentary activity of his, but I have had no invitation to this activity. It is hardly in order to refer me by way of reply to a statement he is going to make in the future when I shall not have the pleasure of hearing it.
I will see that the hon. Gentleman receives a copy.
Building Programme (Secondary Modern Schools)
asked the Minister of education which are the 49 county educational authorities which will be unable to complete their building programme of secondary modern schools by 1960; and what other date has been fixed for the completion of this important programme.
With permission, I will circulate the list in the OFFICIAL REPORT cannot say by what date it will be possible to complete the rural reorganisation programme.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary remember that the original statement with regard to the completion of this reorganisation programme was made a month or two before the last General Election? Can he say whether another statement will be made a month or two before the next General Election? Do we not want to know from what date this is postponed?
Under reorganisation schemes 33 schools have been already built and 147 have been already started. That is not too bad. My right hon. Friend agrees that the replacing of these old schools in rural areas is badly needed and certainly greatly regrets that the economic situation has made it necessary to slow down the programme. I cannot say more at the moment, but, naturally, as soon as there is further news I will see that the hon. Member is informed.
Following is the list of authorities:
List of counties not likely to be wholly reorganised for secondary education by1960.
Bedfordshire. Berkshire. Buckinghamshire. Cambridgeshire. Cheshire. Cornwall. Cumberland. Derbyshire. Devon. Dorset. Durham. Essex. Gloucestershire. Hampshire. Herefordshire. Huntingdonshire. Isles of Scilly. Kent. Lancashire. Lines—Holland. Lincs—Kesteven. Lines—Lindsey. Middlesex. Norfolk. Northamptonshire. Northumberland. Nottinghamshire. Oxfordshire. Shropshire. Somerset Staffordshire. Suffolk. East. Suffolk, West. Surrey. Sussex. West. Westmorland. Wiltshire. Worcestershire. Yorks, East Riding. Yorks, North Riding. Yorks. West Riding. London. Breconshire. Caernarvonshire. Carmarthenshire. Denbighshire. Glamorgan. Merionethshire. Pembrokeshire.
asked the Minister of Education when he expects to set a date by which all the 2,200 senior children in Norfolk who will be without secondary modern education will be adequately provided for.
I cannot say at present.
Is it not necessary to make a statement on this matter as early as possible so that the local education authority can make its plans accordingly?
All I can tell the hon. Member is that the figure of 2,200 senior pupils in unreorganised schools will be reduced to 1,900 when Reepham Secondary Modern School, which is to be started next year, is finished. I cannot go into that at the moment because it involves future rebuilding programmes.
New Schools (Rural Areas)
asked the Minister of Education the number of new schools he estimates is required to complete the reorganisation of education in rural areas; and what is their estimated cost on present building prices.
142, at an estimated cost of about £15 million.
Teachers' Training Colleges
asked the Minister of Education what local education authorities have, in the last 12 months, made proposals to him for the establishment of teachers' training colleges; and what reply he has made.
The only firm proposal was one made in November, 1956, by the West Bromwich Local Education Authority. The authority was told that the Minister could not agree to it.
Could the hon. Gentleman say why that proposal was refused? Is it not the case that if we are to make any educational progress with smaller classes and the raising of the school-leaving age we are bound to need a bigger intake of teachers than we are getting at present?
I know the concern of the hon. Member in this matter, which we have debated before. At the moment, we do not think that a heavy expenditure now in starting new colleges would be justified. If we want to increase the supply of teachers from training colleges, it would be more economical to expand existing colleges than to establish new ones. If circumstances and policies change and larger plant is needed, we shall look at this again in consultation with the National Advisory Council. I am glad to say that we are now getting more graduates each year into teaching, which is naturally something of which we must take account.
asked the Minister of Education how many associations representing educational interests have written to him commending the Government's block-grant proposals.
Is it not therefore absolutely clear that never before have all the people connected with our educational service been so unanimous and inflexibly opposed to the menace of the proposals of the present Government? Does the hon. Gentleman want his right hon. Friend to be the first Minister of Education who has not a single supporter for his policy in the educational service of this country?
I am not sure that an austere logician would think the hon. Member's supplementary quite followed from my original Answer, but I think we had better await the debate on this subject next week.
Could not the hon. Gentleman arrange for the Association of Conservative Teachers to send him just a word of comfort?
We have had some very happy discussions on this topic—I certainly have—with the Association of Conservative Teachers and many other bodies, but I do not want to anticipate next week's debate.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many people welcome the proposals of the Government to give greater freedom to democratic local authorities by giving them the opportunity, if they are so minded, to devote more of their resources to education than is at present permitted?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There have been some excellent salvoes fired on each side in the Press and there has been a thoroughly healthy debate so far.
Old Schools (Demolition)
asked the Minister of Education how many schools there are in this country which are scheduled for demolition because of the age of the structure; and if he will set out in the OFFICIAL REPORT the areas so affected, distinguishing State and denominational schools, respectively.
This information is not available.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the desire for more urgent action to be taken to get rid of these substandard buildings in which a great percentage of our young people are having to congregate to receive education? Is he satisfied with the progress being made to rid this country of such places?
Since the war we have had to concentrate first on beating the bulge and seeing that we do not have children out of school, but I wholly agree with the hon. Member that when that process is completed there will remain the questions of replacing old schools and also of urban reorganisation.
Trade And Commerce
Cinematograph Films (Levy)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is his present estimate of the yield of the cinematograph levy based on current attendance figures.
asked the President of the Board of Trade how much he estimates will be produced during the next 12 months by the statutory levy now being imposed on cinemas; and whether he proposes to amend the regulations as a result of his recent interview with representatives of cinema proprietors.
If attendance figures continue well below last year's there may be some shortfall, but it is too early to revise the estimate of £3¾ million given for the year which began on 20th October, 1957. For the same reasons, it is too early to consider amending the regulations.
While it may be too early to give any precise reply, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that if there is a really serious shortfall which becomes apparent during the first six months he will take steps, or at least review the situation, so that producers for whom the statutory levy is being made will have some idea of where they stand?
If there is a serious and continuing short-fall, of course we shall look at the situation again.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement by the Association of Independent Cinemas in which it is claimed that they will be about £1 million out of pocket as a result of this? Does he agree with that estimate, or can he give his own estimate?
Estimates of cinema attendances are very difficult to make. I think we must wait and see what actually happens.
Retail Sales (Weights, Measures And Prices)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the difficulty of protecting customers against over-charging unless shopkeepers state the price per lb. of their goods; and if, therefore, he will set up a committee to inquire into the advisability of initiating legislation to compel butchers, poulterers, and fishmongers to sell their goods by weight and declare the price per lb.
The Hodgson Committee on Weights and Measures Legislation made recommendations about sale by weight, but it did not make any recommendations about declaring the price per lb. Its recommendations about the retail sale of fish and poultry by weight are likely to be implemented by regulations after the necessary trade consultations have taken place. Butcher's meat is already required to be sold by weight. My right hon. Friend does not consider that a requirement to state the price per lb. is a suitable subject for legislation.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that obviously we on this side of the House are in advance of the Hodgson Committee, which is a long way in advance of the Board of Trade? Is his statement that butchers are compelled to state the price per lb. of meat correct, because I am not sure of that? Is he aware that many people in the lower income groups suffer very much from this form of overcharging of 2d. or 3d. on various fractions of a pound? Could he not look at the matter again?
I can assure the hon. Lady that meat must be weighed in front of the customer, or the weight declared by delivery note or label, whether the meat is pre-packed or not.
asked the President of the Board of Trade how many non-food household commodities are now sold without statutory obligation to state weight, or number of contents per packet, or per box.
All non-food household commodities except coal.
I am told that all are now without an obligation to state the number of contents per packet and so on. In that case, how is it possible accurately to assess the cost of living if these fluctuations are taking place every day?
Questions about the assessment necessary to compile the cost-of-living index should he addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that since the end of controls fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, sugar and flour confectionery are being sold in self-service stores and super-markets without any declaration of weight; and if he will take steps by Statutory Instrument to protect consumers from short weight in these commodities.
It is an offence to give short weight of any foodstuffs. Meat, sugar and potatoes must be sold by weight, which, except in the case of sugar and potatoes pre-packed by the retailer, must be indicated to the retail purchaser. The Hodgson Committee on Weights and Measures Legislation recommended that fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, but not flour confectionery, should also be sold by weight. This and the Committee's recommendations about marking are being considered in connection with the regulations which my right hon. Friend proposes to make.
How can the hon. Member stand there, tall, bland, urbane and with his tongue in his cheek, and give a reply which shows that he is not familiar with the recommendations of the Hodgson Committee? It is the second time today he has given this reply. The Hodgson Committee Report revealed the growth of the self-service store and pointed out the dangers. The hon. Member surely knows that all these items which I have mentioned are sold without any necessity to state the weight and that our weights and measures inspectors are puzzled in the extreme to know how they can protect the consumer.
If the hon. Lady studies the answer, which had to be rather long because her Question was rather long, I think she will see not only that I understand the recommendations of the Hodgson Committee but also that we are taking steps to implement some of the recommendations by regulation. If she would like a more elaborate explanation than I can give in answer to a supplementary question, I should be glad to see her at any time to explain matters in more detail.
Overseas Visitors, Wales
asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the approximate number of tourists and visitors from overseas who came to Wales last year; how this number compared with the previous year; and what steps he will take, in conjunction with the Welsh Tourist Board, to increase these numbers.
The British Travel and Holidays Association has estimated that the number of overseas visitors who came to Wales in 1955 was about 100,000. There were 70,000 more visitors from overseas to the United Kingdom last year than in 1955, and I am sure Wales shared in this increase. The Association will continue to meet the cost of the Welsh Tourist Board's overseas publicity on an agreed basis and will also advertise the attractions of Wales in their own publicity programme.
Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he is aware that the Welsh Tourist Board, out of somewhat inadequate resources, is making great efforts to increase this form of currency earning from abroad? Will he take account of the fact that far too many visitors to this country limit their visits to London and Stratford-on-Avon and thereby get a most inadequate impression of the British Isles?
I agree that the Welsh Tourist Board is doing a very good job, and I should like to see visitors from overseas spending a little more time in the United Kingdom. If they could do that by going to Wales they would be well advised.
Motor Cars (Deliveries)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that many new cars delivered to the docks for the export trade and to distributors for the home trade are damaged mechanically by conditions arising from the car-delivery business, and that the trade would welcome an inquiry; and whether his Department would be prepared to hold one.
No, Sir. If the hon. Lady has any evidence of damage I should be glad to bring it to the notice of the motor manufacturers and others concerned.
That is not the question. Is the Minister aware that both the Transport and General Workers' Union and the industry itself are convinced that mechanical damage is done by the overdriving of these cars, and that furthermore it is due to inefficient managements causing too many journeys to be made each day? In view of that, is he not prepared to reconsider the question of an inquiry, which we all feel should have very wide terms of reference and would therefore be better conducted by the Board of Trade?
No, Sir. I have made inquiries from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which says that it has no evidence of any damage. I think it is a matter which the manufacturers and their drivers should settle between them.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that West Germany have signed a trade agreement with East Germany for an exchange of goods during 1958–59 of $260 million; that more than $47 million worth of iron and steel, in addition to $2,400,000 worth of non-ferrous metals are to be supplied to East Germany by West Germany; and whether he will investigate the possibility of Great Britain arriving at a similar trade agreement with East Germany.
Yes, Sir. But these are unofficial arrangements between neighbours. So far as we are concerned, any trade agreement must be a matter for representative trade organisations, not for the Government.
Whether it is official or not, or whatever the arrangements are, is it not unfair to British manufacturers that East and West Germany are doing an enormous trade, while British manufacturers who want to do import-export business are barred, or at least not helped, by the board of Trade? Will not the right hon. Gentleman take steps at least to put the British manufacturers on the same footing as West German manufacturers?
The point is that we do not recognise the East German Government.
Nor does Western Germany.
It is therefore a matter for our manufacturers, if they wish, to make private arrangements. That is how the matter rests at present.
Canadian Trade Mission Talks (Tourists)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, while the Canadian trade delegation is in this country, he will discuss with its members the possibility of developing the tourist traffic so that more Canadian visitors may be received at our holiday and health resorts.
Yes, Sir; as soon as the Canadian Minister for Trade and Commerce arrived I suggested that we should have such a talk during the last week of the Mission's stay.
Has my right hon. Friend had that talk?
We have not yet reached the last week of the Mission's stay, but when it comes round, next week, we shall have that talk.
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that, since 1951, there has been an increase of approximately 200 to 400 bankruptcies in each year; what is the reason for these continued increases; and what action he proposes to take to reduce bankruptcies to their pre-1951 level.
There has been no such regular increase. In fact, since 1953, the annual totals show a small decrease as compared with each preceding year.
Will the Minister look again at the figures? The figures which he gave me previously show an increase of between 200 and 400 in the years which I have quoted. If those figures from him are correct, as I assume they are, will he explain the reason for this increase?
I suspect that the hon. Member has failed to see that the figures referred to receiving orders and not bankruptcies.
asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent British exports to Egypt and the countries of the Middle East have increased since 1955.
Total exports (including re-exports) to Egypt have declined from £29 million in 1955 to £1·3 million in the first ten months of this year, but total exports to the countries of the Middle East excluding Egypt have risen from £131 million in the full year, 1955 to £152·1 million in the first ten months of 1957.
Could the Minister say what steps are being taken to increase our trade with Egypt?
That is another Question.
Bagdad Pact Region (Free Trade Area)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what conclusions have been reached by the Working Party which is considering the advisability of establishing a Customs Union, Common Market and Free Trade Area in the Bagdad Pact region.
The Working Party recommended that for the present the study of a Customs Union or Common Market should not be proceeded with, but that the possibility of a Free Trade Area should be examined.
May I ask the hon. Member whether his Department, in association with other Departments of the Government, will take great care before proceeding with this scheme and will take into consideration the danger of making a further division of the nations in the Middle East, which may be very serious for the cause of peace?
This Report has to be considered by the Economic Committee of the Bagdad Pact early next year. Pending that, I think it would be wise to make no comment.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give consideration to the possibility of replacing the present system of varying Purchase Taxes by a general sales tax.
I cannot add to my right hon. Friend's reply on this subject to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) on 12th November.
Does not my hon. Friend think that it is rather a good idea?
Gold And Dollar Reserves
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the increase in the gold and dollar reserves since he raised the Bank Rate to 7 per cent. in September has been brought about by the influx into the United Kingdom of short-term capital funds from abroad.
On the best judgment that can be made, and apart from the drawing on the Export Import Bank, the increase has arisen mainly from commercial requirements for sterling.
Does not the hon. Member appreciate that, now that speculation against sterling has largely ceased, any further improvement in the gold reserves brought about by the 7 per cent. Bank Rate will be by the inflow by short-term funds—that is, hot money—which will flow out as soon as the Bank Rate is lowered? Is a 7 per cent. Bank Rate therefore worth it?
I told the hon. Member that the best evidence that I have is that this increase has been due to commercial requirements.
Does not the hon. Member mean by "commercial requirements" short-term funds flowing into the country?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will arrange for the Board of Customs and Excise to collect Purchase Tax monthly from wholesalers instead of quarterly as at present.
No, Sir. Monthly collection would be unduly burdensome to wholesalers and would greatly increase the cost of collection.
Does the hon. Gentleman not appreciate that at present wholesalers of taxable commodities are holding very large sums of public money while these are awaiting collection? Has not the time at least arrived for a stop to be put to irregular perquisites, such as interest on public money?
No, Sir. In general, the credit which the wholesalers have in respect of tax is no longer than the credit which they give to their customers in respect of the tax which they have to recover from them.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in his Budget next year, he will consider the claim of the owners and operators of hotels and boarding houses that the manufactured goods of all kinds used in their establishments are the tools of their trade and relieve them of Purchase Tax, subject to proper safeguards.
I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget statement.
Will my hon. Friend observe that I did not ask him to anticipate but merely to consider? Will he do that?
Yes, my right hon. Friend will consider all relevant matters in arriving at his Budget decisions.
Wages And Salaries
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that, since 1948, the percentage share of the national income per worker accruing to industrial workers has fallen by nearly 10 per cent. whilst, over the same period, the share of salary earners, directly comparable to wage earners, including managers, shows a substantial percentage increase; and if, in view of the importance of increased production, he will lay stress on this fact in all official discussions with outside bodies which bear upon the relationship between wages and productivity.
No, Sir; in manufacturing industry between 1948 and 1956 wages per head increased much more than salaries per head.
Is the hon. Member aware that the figures quoted and many of the words used in the Question were used by his right hon. Friend in reply to me two weeks ago, and, therefore, any inaccuracies are his and not mine? in any case, will he say whether he accepts and will try to implement the policy that when wage earners increase productivity they are entitled to share both actually and relatively in the increase in national wealth?
The hon. Member is mistaken in his recollection. The allegation was in the hon. Member's supplementary question and not in my right hon. Friend's reply. The figures show that the wage earners have shared in the increased production over those years.
Tactical Atomic Weapons
45 and 46.
asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will give an assurance that he will, at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Conference on 15th December, oppose the use by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces of so-called tactical atomic weapons and insist that the use in any situation of atomic weapons of any description must he subject to prior Government approval in the same way as the use of the hydrogen bomb; (2) why the Government have assented to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's forces being armed with tactical atomic weapons to be used on the immediate decision of their commanders in the same way as conventional arms; and what is the Government's definition, in terms of power, of a tactical atomic weapon that may be so used, as distinct from a strategic nuclear weapon that may be used only with the express approval of the Government.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday about responsibility for the use of tactical atomic weapons by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces.
May I draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that the Questions asked for two things: first, an assurance that the Government will not commit the country to the use of tactical atomic weapons by N.A.T.O., of which we are a member, without bringing the matter before Parliament or consulting the electorate, and, secondly, what is the definition in N.A.T.O., with the assent of our Government, of a tactical atomic weapon?Is it not a fact that the N.A.T.O. generals have declared that a tactical atomic weapon is any nuclear weapon up to two and a half times the power of the Hiroshima bomb and that such weapons, according to the N.A.T.O. generals, may be used on their own immediate decision by commanders in the field?
My right hon. and learned Friend tried his best to answer those questions, and I thought his answers were very clear. I thought the Questions themselves a little difficult to understand. In a sense, the first Question is contradictory. It wishes me to oppose any suggestion of our having tactical atomic weapons at all and at the same time to make conditions about their use. I can only repeat the fact as stated by the Foreign Secretary, that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commanders have no authority to order the use of tactical atomic weapons on their own immediate decision.
asked the Prime Minister what consultations he proposes to have with Dr. Adenauer on the question of the use of atomic tactical weapons by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers on German territory.
As the hon. Member is aware, Dr. Adenauer was unfortunately unable to visit this country owing to ill health. These conversations are only just finishing. A communiqué will be issued.
Is the Prime Minister aware that we all regret the illness of Dr. Adenauer? Is he also aware that a very large number of people in Germany are horrified at the thought that these deadly atomic weapons are to be used on German territory again?
That is not a matter for me. That is a matter for the Chancellor of the West German Republic.
Nuclear Stock Piles
asked the Prime Minister what agreement has been reached with the United States of America regarding the setting up of nuclear stock piles by the United States in this country; and under whose control they will be.
Stocks of nuclear weapons are held in this country for the bomber aircraft of the United States Air Force that are based here. The use of the bases and aircraft is governed by the understanding reached in 1948 and reaffirmed in 1952.
Does not the Prime Minister realise that this more or less complete alignment with the United States weakens the influence of this country as a moderating factor in easing the tension between Russia and the United States? Will he not think over this matter again to see if he cannot find some better solution?
The close co-operation between this country and the United States in this matter was initiated by the Government of which Lord Attlee was head and was followed by the Government on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was head, and I think that those are two very good examples for me to follow.
Secretary Of State For Foreign Affairs (Speech)
asked the Prime Minister whether the statement on British foreign policy in relation to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics contained in the broadcast speech delivered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on 30th November represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
Does the Prime Minister really listen to the Foreign Secretary's broadcasts, or does he switch off before the right hon. and learned Gentleman finishes? Is the Prime Minister aware that his chief Conservative supporter in Scotland, The Scotsman, said of the Foreign Secretary:
and that his platitudes were repellent; also that it contrasted his broadcast very unfavourably with that of Mr. George Kennan who followed the next night?"… it is hard to say what he is thinking about,"
The Question asked whether the broadcast made by my right hon. and learned Friend represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The answer is "Yes". I thought that it stated that with great clarity, with great force and with great wisdom.
asked the Prime Minister whether the broadcast on 30th November by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which he insisted that the Soviet Union must agree to a reunited Germany entering the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation before there could be an end to the nuclear arms race and a European settlement, and referred to this country's victories over Phillip II of Spain. Napoleon and Hitler as historic precedents for Britain's dealings with the Soviet Union today, represented the Government's policy.
My right hon. and learned Friend made no such statement about Germany. He reaffirmed that a solution to the problem of German reunification was one of the issues over which a positive move by the Soviet Union was desirable. My right hon. and learned Friend's valid historical references were in order to indicate that it is never wise to regard Great Britain as a spent force.
Does the first part of the Prime Minister's reply mean that the Government are prepared to consider solutions alternative to that of the Soviet Government allowing a united Germany to enter N.A.T.O. and, if so, what alternative solution? Is not the Prime Minister aware, on the second half of the Question, that great alarm and apprehension was conveyed by the apparent historic parallel to the effect that the Government were seriously thinking of singeing the beard of the King of Spain with hydrogen bombs in the Kremlin?
The hon. Member asked the Question in two parts, and I have answered both of them. He has now merely restated the Question.
Electrical Trades Union
asked the Prime Minister if he will move for the appointment of a tribunal under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, to inquire into the recent conduct of the affairs of the Electrical Trades Union.
I have seen reports of some recent elections in this union which are bound to cause public concern. Nevertheless, I do not think that on the facts before me the appointment of a tribunal under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, would be appropriate.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the grave and deep anxiety expressed from every part of the country and every section of the community? Is he also aware that there are millions of proud citizens in this country who do not necessarily seek to interfere with the affairs of the trade unions but who will not tolerate Communist domination in any of our traditional institutions?
Yes, Sir, but on the particular form of dealing with this problem, after much thought I think that the reply I have given is the right one. I believe that this is a problem which is taken very seriously in all parts of the country and in all parts of the House. It is intolerable that great unions should become dominated by Communist leaders, especially as we believe it—as, I think, they do themselves—to be against the wishes of the members of the union. But there are appropriate methods which should be given a full chance to operate before more drastic action can be considered.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no matter how undesirable we may feel the appointment of Communist officials to be, when all is said and done it is a matter for the members of the union concerned? Is he further aware that we do not believe that the machinery of the 1921 Act, or, indeed, legislation of any type, can be appropriate to this type of case, that the Trades Union Congress already has the necessary powers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not use them?"]—to make investigations on its own, and that in any event all trade union rules must be submitted to the Registrar-General?
What the hon. Member has said merely shows that this is a matter which it is primarily the duty of the members of the union to cure, but for which other bodies have a responsibility which, I feel sure, they will not shirk.
While agreeing with my right hon. Friend, does he agree with me that a point is reached where members have their powers so reduced that they are completely impotent? Will he further agree that, as the only member of this union in the House, I have every right to ask a supplementary question? As I am the only member of the union in the House, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend does not agree that there is danger in the fact that I may be the only member of that union not likely to risk his livelihood by indulging in just criticism? Therefore, would it not be a good thing for the T.U.C. to use its good offices to investigate this matter to make certain that members of that trade union can a least be assured that they have an opportunity to express themselves in a proper manner?
Yes, Sir. I think that the whole House has much sympathy with the view put forward by my hon. Friend. A great responsibility lies upon the men of the union to do their best to eradicate anything wrong or improperly done. It is up to organised labour in the first instance, at any rate, to take the necessary steps.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that if, as the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) alleges, the rights of the members of this union are being reduced or in any way curtailed, those rights being enshrined in the rules of the union which have to be submitted to and approved by the Registrar-General, he has the duty and responsibility to report the matter not only to the House but to the Registrar-General? Is not that the advice which should be given to members of this union if the rules are being broken?
Yes, Sir. That is the formal and legal position, but no doubt the right hon. Gentleman himself is somewhat disturbed about what has been revealed. I believe that he and his friends can be most useful in getting the trade union movement in general to try to put right anything that is wrong.
Is the Prime Minister aware that we are concerned about the trade union movement but, from our experience, we believe that these matters are better dealt with by the trade unions themselves?
Yes, Sir. That is true, if they are dealt with.
When the right hon. Gentleman referred to public concern about this matter, was that statement based on newspaper reports or because he had previously sought to make investigations into this matter and ascertain all the facts? Is it not a little unwise and premature to pronounce on a matter of this sort before ascertaining all the facts and even attempting to find out what the union officials have to say?
I do not think that when I said that this matter caused concern I was going beyond what would, I know, be the views of very responsible leaders of the trade union movement.
Aircraft (Nuclear Bombs)
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the danger of radioactive fall-out from crashed aircraft carrying hydrogen bombs, he will take steps to ensure that bombers of the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force engaged in training flights, as distinct from operational flights in times of emergency, in the United Kingdom do not carry nuclear bombs.
asked the Prime Minister what is his estimate of the risk of escape of dangerous radioactive material, without nuclear explosion, in the event of fire following the crashing of an aircraft carrying a nuclear bomb.
I explained on Tuesday that there is no danger of the hydrogen bomb exploding in the event of a crash of the aeroplane. In the event of a crash there would be a danger, but of a very limited kind. The risks are certainly not sufficient to justify any action which would seriously reduce the state of readiness of bomber aircraft.It is on taking off and landing that aircraft accidents most commonly occur. All the special safety precautions which have been devised are available on the spot at these times. A crash elsewhere than at the base is a possible but an improbable contingency.
May I ask the Prime Minister, first, whether his attention has been drawn to a report in the Daily Telegraph recently to the effect that, in addition to the danger from oxidisation, there is a serious danger from alpha-rays, and, secondly, whether it is not a fact that, apart from special exercises, most bombers when taking off do not have their bomb racks loaded with nuclear bombs? Would he not seek to allay public anxiety by confirming that statement?
With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, the technical information which I gave is the best that I have been able to obtain, and I sincerely believe that the degree of danger is very limited indeed. I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman, who has great experience of these matters, for the second part of his supplementary question. It is not to be supposed that all the time there are bombers loaded with nuclear bombs, whether of our own Air Force or of the American Air Force, flying over these islands. These are occasional training flights and patrol flights, and by far the greater part of them are probably taken out to sea.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain in this connection his very curious statement that special tankers are available to refuel a hydrogen bomber in the air so that it can return to America if unable to land in Britain? Why should it be unable to land in Britain?
If the hon. Gentleman had come to this House by any normal method of approach, I think that he could have found the answer to that.
asked the Prime Minister to what extent the agreement that nuclear weapons should not be used by United States aeroplanes based on this country without prior consent by Her Majesty's Government applies also to such weapons carried by aeroplanes on patrol over this country or over near-shore waters but not based on this country.
The understanding reached by Mr. Attlee and confirmed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) refers to bases in this country and aeroplanes stationed upon them. United States aeroplanes based on other bases do not normally fly over Britain or British territorial waters.
Does this not lead to the rather odd situation in which, apparently, who takes the decision about dropping the bomb depends on which aerodrome the plane has come from? I appreciate that it is difficult to deal with this in question and answer for security reasons and so forth, but has the Prime Minister considered what was said yesterday about the possibility of producing a White Paper to clear up this anomaly? Otherwise, this is extremely disturbing.
I do not know why it should be more disturbing. The fact that they are based in this country gives us a say which we should not have in the case of machines based in any country under their own control. I will go further and say that the principle that underlay this agreement of close co-operation, not only of Britain and the United States but of all the allies in the N.A.T.O. countries, makes it clear that some decision of this kind would not be taken rashly or foolishly or except upon general consultation with those concerned. I will look again at the possibility of trying to draw up perhaps a more full account. I have tried to give as full an account as I can in reply to Questions and supplementary questions, and I will see whether now, or perhaps more usefully after the N.A.T.O. meeting, a complete picture can be given.
asked the Prime Minister if he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will not consent to the use of thermo-nuclear weapons by British aircraft or aircraft based on British soil without the prior approval of Parliament.
No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the replies which I gave on Tuesday.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this? I am asking the Prime Minister what power, if any, is left to Parliament to exercise control over events or control over the armed forces in this field. Should it not be for Parliament to discuss and decide whether, for example, a plane on patrol should carry thermo-nuclear weapons, and is it not a matter for Parliament to decide the conditions under which catastrophic consequences may take place from a decision over which we have no influence?
That is not the question on the Order Paper. I think that we must try to look at this in the balanced way. If the deterrent is to fulfil its purpose, it is to prevent the horrors of war coming; it is to deter; but if it is bound up with so many difficult problems before it can ever actually become a deterrent, then it loses that power. We have to try to hold the balance reasonably between too loose a control and too tight a control so that there shall be a deterrent and these terrible things will never happen to the world.
Will the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Foreign Secretary, give full consideration to the suggestion made yesterday in which the Foreign Secretary promised to consider that we should have very shortly a White Paper or a full statement setting out the agreement and the circumstances in which hydrogen bombs are carried from this country, particularly on patrol flights? Will he give serious consideration to this, which, I think, met with the approval of most hon. Members of this House?
I did answer that question at some length in reply to another Question.
Ballistic Missiles (Launching Sites)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that, at the forthcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Paris, he will not agree to provide launching sites in Great Britain for intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
No, Sir. I have no doubt that these, and other similar questions, will be discussed at the conference.
Can the Prime Minister deny that the United States are seeking permission to establish intermediate rocket sites with their appropriate weapons in this country because they will not have, for three or four years, any direct means of reply to the Soviet intercontinental missiles, and will he say whether the Government are prepared to sacrifice the whole of the population of this country in order to protect the United States?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman attended the defence debates we had this year, but after the discussion in Bermuda it was agreed that these weapons should be supplied and sites provided in this country. Negotiations are in progress for finishing this agreement. We will provide sites, and afterwards the weapons will be transferred to the R.A.F. after a due course of training.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, unlike the hon. Gentleman opposite who asked this Question, most of us are more concerned about the weapons in the hands of our enemies than those in the hands of our allies and friends?
Railway Accident, Lewisham
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has any statement to make concerning the rail crash last night at Lewisham.
Yes, Sir. At about 6.20 p.m. last night at the country end of St. Johns Station on the South-Eastern down main line, the 4.56 p.m. 11-coach steam passenger train from Cannon Street to Ramsgate collided heavily with the rear of the 5.18 p.m. 10-coach electric passenger train from Charing Cross to Hayes, which was standing at a signal with the brakes on. Both trains were running late because of fog, and they were crowded with passengers.The collision occurred underneath the bridge which carries the railway from Nunhead to Lewisham over the main line. The leading coach of the steam train left the line of the track and knocked away a supporting column, dropping two of the steel girders of the bridge on to the first two coaches of the steam train, which was still moving. The engine of the steam train was not derailed and there was not much damage to the rear coach of the electric train, but the two coaches ahead of it were telescoped together and the body of one of them was swept away. The three leading coaches of the steam train were practically demolished by the fallen bridge. An electric train which was moving slowly on to the bridge was stopped by its driver when he saw the trouble below, and it was neither derailed nor damaged. I deeply regret to say that the casualty roll in the crowded trains was very heavy. So far as it is known at present, 76 people have been killed, including the guard of the electric train, and 193 injured, I am sorry to say, 116 of them seriously. I have appointed the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways to hold an inquiry into this accident, and I visited the site with him this morning. I am sure that the House will understand that I cannot make any further statement on this matter at present. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the outstanding work done not only by the emergency services and the voluntary organisations, but also by those living near the scene who so unselfishly put their houses and their belongings at the disposal of the rescuers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The conditions in the dense fog and darkness were appallingly difficult and distressing, and there can be nothing but praise for all concerned who worked with such efficiency and determination throughout. The House will, I know, wish to express its deep sympathy with the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in this accident and with those who were injured. Sir Brian Robertson has also asked me to express his sympathy and that of the British Transport Commission, and to say that the Commission will accept full legal liability for compensation in connection with the accident and that all such claims will receive full and early consideration.
I am sure that I speak for all my right hon. and hon. Friends in saying that we would wish to be associated with the expression of sympathy for the relatives of the bereaved and injured in this terrible disaster. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Equally, we would wish to be associated with the tributes paid to the heroism and devotion of the rescue workers and all those who live nearby who helped so tremendously. I know that the place where this accident occurred was, in fact, one of the poorer quarters of Lewisham, and there was, no doubt, great sacrifice on the part of many of the local inhabitants. Will the Minister give an assurance that the inquiry which is to be held will be a public inquiry?
Oh, yes, certainly.
Obviously, one cannot address questions about the general causes of this accident, but it was suggested quite definitely in one of the newspapers this morning that the fog alarm system was not in operation in this area when it should have been. In view of the fact that the fog conditions may continue, will the right hon. Gentleman consider making a statement, or will he ask the British Transport Commission to issue a statement, quite shortly on that aspect of the problem so as to reassure the public who travel in foggy weather?
That is entirely a matter which is absolutely relevant to the inquiry. The inquiry, I hope, will be held soon. It will certainly be held as quickly as humanly possible, and that is exactly the kind of consideration that my Chief Inspecting Officer will have to investigate.
The Minister has not quite appreciated my point, which is that it is desirable for those who are travelling now and during the next few days to have some assurance—which I am sure will be forthcoming, but I think I should ask that it should be given—that the fog alarm system, or whatever it is called, is properly in operation in all areas where there is dense fog.
Perhaps I did misunderstand the right hon. Gentleman. The specific instance of this accident must, of course, be left entirely to the inquiry. I did discuss the point which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, with Sir Brian Robertson this morning, and he assured me that all the proper drill and arrangements for fog services will be properly carried out.
Speaking for some of those who had a very large number of constituents in the train involved in the crash, may we be associated with the Minister's expression of gratitude to the heroism of the rescue workers?
As one who has lost quite a number of constituents as well as having others injured, as have some other hon. Members, I should like to join with the Minister, as well as with my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) and the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), in expressing sympathy to the relative's of the bereaved and injured, and admiration of the initiative and pluck of the people who came forward in a spirit of public service to help in the situation.I presume that the report of the inquiry will be published in as adequate a form as possible in due course, together with any recommendations that may be made. There is one other point; whether it bears on the matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) I do not know. It has been reported by a constituent to my office in the constituency that there was a notice at Charing Cross at about the relevant time saying, "Fog service suspended", it being understood by my constituent that that meant that things were better and that normal service would be resumed. I do not know whether this is accurate or not, nor whether the notice may possibly have been misread, but I would like the Minister's assurance that that point, among others, will be considered, to see whether there is anything in it.
Yes, Sir. I will certainly see that that is drawn to the attention of my Chief Inspecting Officer. As I think the House knows, there is not only a public and searching inquiry by my Chief Inspecting Officer, but that is preceded by a full technical inquiry by the railways themselves, so this matter will undoubtedly be searched to the bottom.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 9TH DECEMBER, and TUESDAY, 10TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Local Government Bill.
Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.
At the end of business on Tuesday, we propose to take the Committee stage of the Money Resolution relating to Land Drainage (Scotland).
WEDNESDAY, 11TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Park Lane Improvement Bill.
Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution, which it is hoped to obtain by about 7 o'clock;
Committee and remaining stages of the Milford Haven Conservancy Bill.
Report and Third Reading of the Trustee Savings Banks Bill.
THURSDAY, 12TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Defence Contracts Bill.
Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution, which it is hoped to obtain by about 6 o'clock;
Second Reading of the Maintenance Orders Bill.
Consideration of the Motion to approve the Draft Lace Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment No. 2) Order.
FRIDAY, 13TH DECEMBER—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider withdrawing the Second Reading of the Defence Contracts Bill on Thursday, because we believe that the Maintenance Orders Bill will, perhaps, require a full day's discussion in the House? Further, can he now make a statement as to when we may expect time to be provided for a debate on foreign affairs?
I am not sure that the Defence Contracts Bill need take a very long time; but we ourselves will certainly have a discussion as to what to do about it. We should like to try to obtain if it we can.As regards a debate on foreign affairs, it would be the Government's wish, if we can manage it, to fit one in in the last week before we adjourn. I cannot give an exact date. That also might be arranged not only with the Opposition, but with other hon. Members who have raised the matter previously.
I take it that the debate will be arranged? I think that that is the general desire of hon. Members. Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and arrange that a White Paper shall be published dealing with the circumstances of agreements regarding the use of nuclear weapons on patrol or otherwise? This is certainly one of the subjects that ought to be raised in the foreign affairs debate, and it would be for the convenience of the House if we had a White Paper before that debate took place.
Yes, Sir. It may well be for the convenience of the House, but I have checked with my right hon. Friends to whom the right hon. Gentleman refers, and no actual undertaking was given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. If we can, we will; but there was no absolute undertaking. I will take note of the right hon. Gentleman's statement.
I agree that there is no absolute undertaking, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman did promise to consider it, and there was general approval for that promise to consider it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will take it up with his right hon. and learned Friend in that spirit.
Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by over 120 right hon. and hon. Members of the House, asking for early Government initiative in the establishment of the United Nations Force, individually recruited, as a permanent force? Can he say whether he proposes to give any time to discuss it?
[ That this House, noting the withdrawal of the Indonesian contingent from the United Nations Emergency Force and the announcement that the Finnish contingent has also decided to withdraw, calls on Her Majesty's Government to support the creation of an individually recruited and permanent force of 20,000 men, operating under the control and direction of a specially constituted council set up by the United Nations, the prime task of such a force being to take up a position between opposing national armies and to garrison areas of potential conflict]
I have a copy of the Motion here. I should have thought that one opportunity for debating this would be in the debate on foreign affairs. In any case, I do not think that it would be a subject which would be kept out of such a debate. That is as far as I can go at the moment.
Will the debate on foreign affairs be kept narrow in relation to our obligations or agreements within N.A.T.O. so that we can ascertain exactly what is the Government's policy? Further, can the House be assured that a Minister will be able to attend, because, during that week, the N.A.T.O. conference will be proceeding? The House should have a senior responsible Minister on the Front Bench when the debate takes place.
Our idea was to try to arrange the debate in the last week, with the idea, also, that the responsible Ministers could be present. The reason I have not named a date is that it rather depends upon the progress of the discussions at N.A.T.O. I think that it would be wrong to fix a time absolutely until we see when the Ministers can be present. We want to try to arrange a time which suits the convenience of the House and enables the Ministers to be present.I do not think that the House would wish the debate to be limited, although, of course, coming in the same week as N.A.T.O., it would, naturally, concentrate to a large extent on that subject.
Will my right hon. Friend reject completely out of hand the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies)? Many of us here, on both sides, are acutely worried about the economic implications of the declaration of interdependence of the Western allies, and we should like, in the general context of a debate on foreign affairs and the future of the Western Alliance, to consider economic arrangements and their effect upon trade.
Certainly, provided that the debate is described as a foreign affairs debate, and not purely an economic debate, I am sure that we should welcome any interventions by any hon. Members which bring out their anxieties, because the more their anxieties are brought out the more are Her Majesty's Ministers able to dispel them.
Is the House to infer from the answer given by the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) that what is planned is a foreign affairs debate after the conclusion of the N.A.T.O. discussions? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind? If so, would it not be very much better if, even at this late stage, an effort could be made to have a Parliamentary debate before the country has been committed to agreements which it would then have an opportunity of no more than commenting on?
In the circumstances, I think that it would really be better if the debate took place after the discussions at N.A.T.O. The hon. Gentleman has perceived that it is unlikely to take place before, and I can give no undertaking that we could alter the business to make it possible to have the debate before. We have discussed this matter with the Opposition, and I think that it is very difficult to find a mutually convenient date before; and it is for that reason that we have been obliged to have the debate in the next week when Ministers return.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the appearance of two very important Motions on the Order Paper today dealing with the desirability of marking the bi-centenary of the birth of Robert Burns, the world's poet, by the issue of special commemorative postage stamps?
[ That this House is of the opinion that the bi-centenary in 1959 of the birth of Robert Burns, the National Bard of Scotland, should be marked by the issue of a commemorative postage stamp.]
[ That this House, desiring to commemorate on 25th January, 1959, the bi-centenary of the birth of Robert Burns, urges the Postmaster-General to authorise a special issue of postage stamps for that occasion.]
Will the right hon. Gentleman note that those Motions have the support of both sides of the House and that they also have the support of English, Welsh and Scottish Members, betokening, therefore, a general desire on the part of the House to note this important occasion? Will he consider, in the New Year, trying to provide a day so that we might have a friendly discussion with the Postmaster-General on this matter?
It so happens, by good fortune, that the Bill we are about to discuss, the Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill, might give "Rabbie" Burns an opportunity of enlivening and poetising our debates on this occasion. I think that that would be to the general advantage of the House.
May I ask the Leader of the House whether, for the convenience of hon. Members, he will state what are the dates of the Christmas Recess?
I think that it is likely that we shall adjourn for the Christmas Recess on Friday, 20th December. I cannot at present give the date for resumption, but I will do so at the earliest opportunity.
To assist the right hon. Gentleman in his avowed objective of dispelling the doubts of hon. Members, can he give a date on which he would be willing to permit the House to debate the Motion standing on the Order Paper, in the names of about 80 hon. Members, which condemns the Government's policy towards wage negotiations?
[ That this House condemns the actions of Her Majesty's Government in abusing its political power by destructive interference with the established processes of collective bargaining in nationalised industries, and attempting to condition the minds of those who serve on Arbitration Tribunals to refuse applications for increases in wages, irrespective of the merits of such claims; and that it is convinced that a continuation of these policies will result in the breaking down of the negotiating machinery in these industries.]
I think that we have had a good deal of discussion about this at Question Time, and in the course of debates. I have not at present anything more to add to the enlightening replies already given by Her Majesty's Government.Proceedings on the New Towns Bill exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]
Orders Of The Day
Post Office And Telegraph (Money) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.The first thing that I did when I knew that the Post Office had to submit the Bill to the House was to look at the previous debates. I found that there were two features of those debates. First, the Postmaster-General who opened each debate always spoke for a very long time, and a disproportionately large amount of that time was spent upon the accounts and the relationship of the Post Office with the Treasury. I hope that as we have introduced new accounts that difficulty will he minimised upon this occasion. The second thing that I found about each of these debates was that the Postmaster-Gen