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Commons Chamber

Volume 581: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1958

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 29th January, 1958

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Forth Road Bridge Confirmation Money

Considered in Committee.


That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to confirm an Order to authorise the Forth Road Bridge Joint Board to acquire additional lands and to construct further works, to repeal the provisions of the Forth Road Bridge Orders 1947 to 1954 relative to the financing of the undertaking of the said Board and to enact new provisions with respect thereto, and for other purposes, it is expedient to authorise—
  • (a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any grant or other payment made or sum provided by the Secretary of State under the said Act; and
  • (b) the payment into the Exchequer of any receipts of the Secretary of State under the said Act.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
  • Resolution to be reported.

    Report to be received Tomorrow.

    Oral Answers To Questions

    Royal Air Force

    Education Branch (Officers)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent under his regulations an officer in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force, whose application to be considered as a volunteer for premature retirement under the terms of the White Paper, Command Paper No. 231 has not been approved, can apply again for early retirement without prejudice to his pension rights and without forfeiting the benefits provided under Command Paper No. 231.

    An officer whose application to retire prematurely is not approved in any one phase of the redundancy scheme is free to apply in a later phase if he is within the age and seniority groups to which it relates.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that a good deal of anxiety is felt by those officers who applied for premature retirement and whose application was refused in view of the terms of Air Ministry Order No. 555, paragraph 10, which reads:

    "When an application has been rejected and an officer persists in a further application for premature retirement the Air Ministry may decide to approve the application without grant of benefits provided in Command Paper No. 231."
    Could my right hon. Friend please clarify that point?

    The people who applied were not, in fact, redundant. They were comparatively junior officers whom we want to keep because they are valuable to us and who, I think, have good career prospects. We could not let them go.


    asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the proposed future establishment of officers, by ranks, in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force and if he will make a statement about the future of that branch.

    As the Royal Air Force contracts, the reduction in establishment of the Education Branch will, as far as we can foresee, fall mostly, though not entirely, on the junior posts now mainly occupied by short service and National Service officers. I realise that my hon. Friend has been anxiously awaiting the results of the examination into the future structure of the branch, and I am sorry that I am not yet able to be precise about it. However, I have this morning satisfied myself that the delay has been unavoidable and that the report is now in the final stage. I will let my hon. Friend know as soon as I am able to make a full statement. This cannot, however, be in the immediate future, as there will have to be discussions about the report with Departments other than my own.

    Is it not a fact that at a recent conference at Cranfield it was suggested that this establishment should consist of 950 officers, including, among others, 450 squadron leaders and 450 officers below that rank? Can my right hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of junior officers in the future.

    I am quite sure that there will be an adequate supply provided they are certain that they are going to get a good career. If I may say so, with respect, this series of Questions which my hon. Friend is asking is not in fact helping recruitment to the Education Branch.


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if, in order to end the block in promotion affecting squadron leaders in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force, he will offer suitable inducements to those officers who are now entitled to serve until they are 60 years of age, to retire before that age.

    So far, we have maintained a reasonable flow of promotion from squadron leader to wing commander. As my hon. Friend knows, we are considering what can be done to preserve this position.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite what he has said and despite the somewhat unjustified comments he made on my previous Question, everyone in the Education Branch knows perfectly well that there is a serious block in promotion, and, furthermore, there is a very real grievance and sense of injustice because a number of extremely highly qualified people were induced to join this branch on the promise of a promising career, and are now finding that they have no prospect of promotion whatever beyond the rank of squadron leader?

    I immediately apologise to my hon. Friend if I showed impatience or discourtesy, but the point I was trying to make was simply this, that he has been saying and is now saying that there are no promotion prospects and have been no promotion prospects in the Education Branch. This is not so. Promotion prospects—this has been said more than once—have up to now been comparable with those in any other branch of the Royal Air Force. We are aware that this may not be so in the future, and it is for this reason that our Committee is looking into the methods we can adopt to prevent a blockage.

    In view of the fact that people in the Education Branch holding commissioned rank are very highly qualified, and in view of the fact that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the present rate of promotion, can the Minister give the House an assurance that he will expedite the new policy so that men may know exactly where they stand in this matter?

    Yes. I should like to make it quite clear that promotion in the Education Branch is according to the planned career. I have already said that the report which will show us what we ought to do in the future is in its final stages.

    Dyce Station Headquarters, Aberdeen


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will make a statement on the headquarters and personnel at Dyce Airfield and at the city headquarters of the Royal Air Force, Aberdeen, indicating, in particular, why the change in location was effected, the effect on the number of employees employed there, the amount of redundancy thereby caused, and the steps which he is taking to provide employment for those made redundant.

    The station headquarters at Dyce is no longer needed because the Fighter Control Unit which was formerly located at Dyce now has its administrative centre, and carries out synthetic training, at its town headquarters in Aberdeen. Operational training is still carried out at Buchan. Nineteen posts have become redundant, but two of the men affected, including the one established employee, have been transferred to similar posts elsewhere. The redundancies were reported to the Ministry of Labour immediately they occurred.

    Does this change mean that Aberdeen must give up all hope of a direct air service with the South, particularly London? If not, what prospects are there, now that this change has taken place, of such a direct service being effected in the near future?

    That is a matter which I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to take up with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation.

    Helicopters (Rescue Operations)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air on how many occasions last summer bathers and others in danger of drowning were rescued by Royal Air Force helicopters.

    Between May and September last year, R.A.F. helicopters rescued twenty-eight people in danger of drowning off the coasts of Great Britain. This was, of course, in addition to their primary task of rescuing crews of aircraft forced down over the sea and to the assistance they gave in mountain rescue operations.

    This rescue work being entirely outside the scope of the normal duties of the Royal Air Force, does my right hon. Friend not agree that the record is a very impressive one? Can he say how many of those rescues took place in Cornwall, and, in particular, how many took place from St. Mawgan Airfield?

    Christmas Island (Service Conditions)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will institute an inquiry about the conditions in which Royal Air Force personnel are serving on Christmas Island; how long these unsatisfactory conditions have been in existence, despite complaints; and if he will give the House an assurance that a report on these conditions will be made available to all Members.

    No, Sir. I recognise that Christmas Island has a very difficult climate and that conditions have not been what we should have liked. But we know the problems; specialist medical and catering officers have visited the island; and many improvements are in hand.

    New tentage and furniture have recently arrived; temporary buildings, including a dining hall, are under construction. A special leave scheme has been introduced. These and other measures will, I am confident, improve conditions for the officers and men who have done such a magnificent job on the island. In the meantime, we are restricting the tour of duty to a normal maximum of twelve months, but allowing it to count as a full tour when planning subsequent postings.

    Does the Minister understand that I am not trying to attack either him or his Ministry for what has taken place since he first received a report about Christmas Island, but is he aware that, before that time, for 18 months there was near-revolt amongst the troops, to the extent that food was thrown at the commanding officer?

    Is he further aware that the dilapidated lavatories caused men even to dig holes in the ground, that tents have blown down, and that, altogether, conditions have been atrocious? Will he institute an inquiry to ascertain why there was not a report submitted to his Ministry before October of last year, eighteen months after the troops were there in conditions not greatly dissimilar from the infamous Burma Road?

    To take the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question first, I have had a look at this allegation of throwing food at the commanding officer, and I find that the facts are these. Two airmen quarrelled in the N.A.A.F.I. on a Saturday evening in October and started throwing beer tins at each other, and the rest joined in. The orderly sergeant and the service police, not the commanding officer, arrived, and, before order was restored, the police had taken their turn as a target—all of which, at least, shows that there was beer there. On the second point, I was last night talking to an N.C.O. who has recently returned from Christmas Island, and, from my talk with him, I am satisfied that many of these reports have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, he himself has volunteered to go back for another tour.

    In view of the conditions on Christmas Island and the grave anxiety felt by many of the parents of boys now serving there, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

    United States Aircraft, United Kingdom


    asked the Secretary of State for Air why, on 19th January, eight more United States aircraft with nuclear carrying capacity were added to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air forces in Great Britain.

    The B.66 aircraft which recently arrived at Sculthorpe replace a similar number of other bombers as part of a normal programme of re-equipment.

    Has the Minister been given an assurance that these planes will not carry hydrogen bombs on patrol? Secondly, does not every additional plane of this type in Britain increase the danger of a physical or military accident at a time when hopes are centred on peace talks?

    I have pointed out in my Answer that these are not additional aircraft but are replacements.

    Personal Case


    asked the Secretary of State for Air what was the purpose of the visit of the Royal Air Force police to the home of 5012857 Leading Aircraftman T. A. Davis, stationed at Wharton.

    The airman had been absent without leave for six days. He returned to his unit on 19th November, but, unfortunately, there was delay in informing the police district headquarters to which he had been reported as an absentee. Two policemen, in civilian clothes, called at his home on 24th November. I regret that this should have occurred, but I am looking into the methods of informing police districts of an absentee's return.

    Is the Minister aware that great distress was caused to this man's family by the S.I.B. visiting them in the early hours of the morning and that, during the interview, the S.I.B. obtained the addresses of personal friends of the airman and proceeded to make inquiries, also getting these people out of bed? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is about time that these Gestapo methods of the S.I.B. ceased?

    Secondly, is he aware that, on their making further inquiries at the station, the parents were informed that there were no records of the man ever being stationed at that particular station and that, during the whole time that the S.I.B. was searching for the man up and down London, the man was already confined to barracks? Does he not think that this is a hell of a way to run an air force?

    There are several points there. I have already expressed my regret that the Service police should have called at this airman's home after he had already returned to duty, and I have already said that I am looking into methods whereby the return of absentees may be more quickly reported. But let us be quite clear that none of this need have happened if the airman had not been an absentee. We do all we can in these cases to avoid embarrassment to the parents. For this reason, the policemen were in civilian clothes and their car carried a civilian registration number. I am told that they were very cordially received by the man's parents.

    Aircraft (Nuclear Weapons)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air what instructions have been given to crews of aeroplanes carrying hydrogen or atom bombs in case of emergency involving the danger of crashing.

    On the infrequent occasions referred to yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in his reply to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hall) aircrew are given comprehensive instructions about action to be taken in emergency.

    Would it not dispel some of the anxiety if details of those instructions could be given so that people could know that in the rare event of an accident they would have the maximum of protection?

    These are verbal instructions which would vary with the nature of the flight.


    asked the Secretary of State for Air why the latest edition of his Department's publication entitled "Rescue from Crashed Aircraft" does not give instructions for dealing with nuclear weapons carried in aircraft.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that many people found that reply most unsatisfactory? Surely, the Service and civilian first-aid and civil defence authorities must be told what they should do in the event of a crashed aircraft and a rescue from it.

    There are already comprehensive instructions dealing with crashed aircraft generally, and these are kept under review and amended from time to time in the light of developments.

    Is it not the fact that there is no instruction which covers an aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon?

    As the hon. Member was informed yesterday, in view of the slight nature of the radiation risk, it has not been considered necessary to issue any special instructions.

    Raf Stations (Closures)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air how many Royal Air Force stations were closed in 1957; and how many will be closed in 1958.

    Thirty-six stations of all types closed during 1957. I cannot at present give a comprehensive figure for 1958, but the number will certainly be smaller.

    Will the Secretary of State make sure that ample notice is given to the local authorities in the area of the intention to close these stations, and also, in view of civilian redundancies, give notice to the Ministry of Labour?

    Yes, certainly. We recognise the need to give the people affected as much notice as we possibly can, and we are doing so. It would be wrong to create uncertainty by announcing plans before they were absolutely firm, but as soon as they are firm, we shall, of course, announce them.

    Rocket Sites And Missile Bases (Scotland)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air what airfields in Scotland have been surveyed for the purpose of using them for new rocket and missile bases.

    Does that mean that there need be no more anxiety in Scotland about the possibility of missile bases and that the public opinion which has been already expressed has had its effect on the Air Ministry?


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if, before coming to any decision on the establishment of rocket bases in Scotland, he will give consideration to the objections made to him by the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

    I will certainly consider any representations made to me, but as the hon. Member knows from the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 22nd January, the location of rocket sites will be determined in accordance with operational considerations.

    Could the Minister give some assurance that Scotland is not to be the priority target?


    Car Delivery Vehicles (Licences)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that owners of vehicles which are plying for hire must be covered by A or B licences while car delivery agents doing so are allowed to operate on a C licence; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with this anomaly.

    I think the hon. Lady may have in mind the operation of car delivery vehicles under general trade licences, when carriers' A or B licences are not required. There is a possible anomaly here, which I am looking into. I will write to the hon. Lady when my inquiries are complete.

    Is the Minister aware how pleased I am by that wholly unexpected reply? Does he realise that the unions and the industry feel very strongly about this anomaly and that I hope he may be able to give the answer as soon as possible?

    Station Taxicab Ranks


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has now received reports from the transport consultative committees for England, Wales and Scotland on the proposal that the privilege system at station taxi-cab ranks should be ended.

    No, Sir. I understand that it will be some time before the committees can complete the extensive inquiries which they are making into this system.

    Is the Minister aware of the impatience among taxi drivers in very many of our towns? Is he aware that unless some just settlement of this issue is made quickly there may be a great danger of an extension of the defiance of the law which has already taken place in many places?

    I am also aware that on 18th December the hon. Gentleman gave evidence to the Committee, asking it to make inquiries at ten other stations, which, I am sure, is quite right. There is a great deal of work to be done, and the Committee must be allowed to carry out its task in a thorough and practical way, which is what it is doing.

    New Car Deliveries (Driving Speeds)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware of the danger to road safety measures caused by excessive speeding of new cars on delivery from the factory; what reports he has received on this matter; and if he will make a statement.

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
    (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

    We have received no reports on this subject. If the hon. Lady can send me detailed information, I shall be willing to consider it.

    While thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for that reply, may I ask if his attention has been called to an article in the Oxford Mail on 13th January, where a car driver said that a speed of 50—and 60—miles an hour was normal with these new cars? If I Send him those details, will he look into the matter?

    No, my attention has not been called to that article, but the speed of driving of these new cars is rather a matter for the manufacturers. Unless some speed limit had been disobeyed, it really is not a matter for me.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that manufacturers have at present no evidence of the over-driving alleged by the hon. Lady opposite, and that although these cars are run on very visible trade plates and members of the public can report the drivers for overdriving—and have done so in the past—there have been no reports recently of over-driving?

    Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware, as I hope the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) will be aware, that the unions in Coventry have just concluded an agreement with the manufacturers to sweep away these disreputable practices?

    Bristol Commercial Vehicles Company


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the growing redundancy in the Bristol Commercial Vehicles Company, which is precluded from contracting for work other than Government work, while others can contract for Government work in addition to other work; and, as this restriction is a contributing factor to the present redundancy, if he will take steps to remove this restriction and give the company a fair opportunity in the competitive market.

    There is some redundancy at this works, but I understand that a considerable number of the men involved have already found alternative employment. The restrictions to which the hon. Member refers are, of course, contained in the Transport Act, 1947, and I have no power to remove them.

    Could the Minister do something to remove the restrictions? Inquiries are reaching this company from abroad for the purchase of their goods, but it cannot bid in the market because there is a restriction under the Act; so will he remove the restriction?

    Have not the Bristol Commercial Vehicles Company and Eastern Coach Works been in a privileged monopoly position for ten years under the 1947 Act? Is it not true that they alone have been able to get orders from the nationalised concerns? Would not the real answer to the problems of the Bristol Commercial Vehicles Company be that this company and Eastern Coach Works should now be denationalised?

    It may be that the Minister has no power at the moment to change the provisions of the 1947 Act, although that could be done by legislation. Does he not recall that it was his right hon. and hon. Friends who pressed for the insertion of these restrictions to the 1947 Act, and that far from the concern having a monopoly, there are restrictions on the number of vehicles which can be manufactured in these factories, both in the case of the two referred to and in the case of Pickfords' works at Enfield?

    There are obviously divergent views about this factory on both sides of the House. I think that this House has quite enough legislation before it, and I do not propose to add to that.

    Public Service Vehicles (Regulations)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when he intends to publish the amendments to the Regulations for public service vehicles in order to extend their application to certain vehicles of utility type and low seating capacity.

    I have decided to relax the Conditions of Fitness Regulations for vehicles with not more than twelve seats on the lines proposed in the circular letter issued on 24th May last. The necessary changes in the revised consolidated Regulations are now being made, and I hope to issue them next month.

    Will my right hon. Friend do all he can to ensure that there is no more delay? This has been under consideration for about eighteen months, and it would be a good thing if the Ministry of Transport would move more rapidly in a worth-while job.

    I have just said to my hon. Friend that there will be no more delay. The delay which has taken place is due to the fact that, if we are to get this right, we must obviously have long consultations with the motor trade.

    Road Accidents


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to what extent the parking of cars without lights has been a significant cause of traffic accidents in fog.

    An analysis of accidents in fog during November and December, 1957, is now being made, and I will write to my hon. Friend when it is finished.

    I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he undertake to keep the matter under review and, if necessary, introduce regulations.

    Special A Licences


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will arrange that A special licences, issued in respect of former British Road Services operated vehicles, are not automatically renewed on their expiry, but that their holders may be entitled to apply for ordinary A licences, and, where they do so, will be subject to the procedure applicable to those making an initial application for such licences.

    When special A licences expire applications for ordinary A licences to replace them must be dealt with under the provisions of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933. In this matter holders of special and ordinary A licences are in the same position.

    In view of the fact that a large number of A special licences and their vehicles have been transferred since they were sold from the British Road Services fleet, and therefore are operating in areas far away from their original bases, contrary to the 1953 Act, will the Minister see that these facts and any illegal operation are taken into consideration when applications are made for new licences?

    I have stated the position clearly. It makes it quite plain that special A licences and ordinary A licences are dealt with in exactly the same manner.


    Watford By-Pass (Roundabout)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when work is to begin on building the roundabout planned for the junction of the Aldenham—Bushey road with the Watford Bypass at Cox's Corner.

    Road Junction, Stanmore


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will have traffic signals installed at the junction of London Road, Stanmore, with Marsh Lane and Lennis Lane.

    No, Sir: neither the layout nor the traffic distribution makes this junction suitable for traffic lights.

    Can my hon. Friend say what he proposes to do there? Is there to be a roundabout? If so, what are the prospects of having the work started early?

    No, Sir, I do not think the traffic would justify a roundabout there. I think the crossing and turning traffic, particularly into Marsh Lane, can manage well enough as it is now.

    Allesley—Meriden Road (A45)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether his attention has been drawn to the dangers incurred by workers at the Triumph Company's works when leaving work on the A.45 road between Allesley and Meriden; and what action he is taking in order to improve the safety conditions of the road.

    Yes, Sir. Conditions on this length of road will be greatly improved when the road works now in progress are completed. As a temporary measure, suitable warning notices have been erected.

    While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he will bear in mind that 47 people were killed or injured on this stretch of road during the last year and that during December more people were killed on the roads in the Coventry area than in any month in the ten previous years? Whilst I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the emergency measures he has taken, may I ask whether he will take special and extraordinary measures in this area which has caused the greatest concern in the whole district?

    I am aware that there is a bad accident record on this road, and that is why we are now pushing on with the road works.

    Tyne Tunnel


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now state when work will be commenced on the Tyne Tunnel.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) on 18th December.

    Is it necessary for me to tell the right hon. Gentleman that that reply is thoroughly unsatisfactory to everyone on the North-East Coast? Would he at any rate undertake to meet representatives of the Tyne Tunnel Committee to see what work could be profitably undertaken?

    I am always willing to do what I can to help, but as I have explained before, within the scope of the road programme, which is going on well, there are some very large engineering projects, of which the Tyne Tunnel is one, which really need some special consideration, not only from the point of view of what we are doing here at home, but also from the point of view of the load it puts on the civil engineering industry in relation to exports. As soon as we have completed this consideration, which I hope will be quite soon, we shall be in a better position to see how we stand.

    Road Signs (Report)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will widen the terms of reference of the Committee on Road Signs to include consideration of all road signs, and not only road signs on new motor roads.

    No, Sir. The immediate task is to consider what signs should be provided for the new motor roads, and we should prefer to await the Committee's recommendations before considering whether a more general review is justified.

    In expressing my regret at that answer, may I ask whether my hon. Friend can explain what the Minister meant when he said on 24th October that he had decided to set up a new committee to advise him on traffic signs required for motor roads and to review road signs generally?

    This Committee is bound to consider to some extent the design of existing road signs when it is deciding what is suitable for the motor roads.

    Lombard Street


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation why Lombard Street has not been made a one-way street.

    We have not made Lombard Street a one-way street because the resulting traffic difficulties in neighbouring streets would outweigh any advantages in Lombard Street itself.

    Should my hon. Friend therefore not consider providing for unilateral parking, or are we to be committed indefinitely to daily traffic jams?

    This is a difficult, narrow street. I am afraid there is no simple solution.

    Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that with Bank Rate at 7 per cent. Lombard Street is a one-way street?

    Cromwell Road Extension


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation why, contrary to the declared policy of his Department, perpendicular kerbs are being laid along the Cromwell Road Extension main road to the west, even where there is no pavement.

    As footpaths are being provided on both sides of this road for the whole of its length, vertical kerbs are a necessary safeguard. This is not contrary to the policy I have announced for the use of kerbing in rural areas.

    Is the Minister aware that there are no pavements along the division in the middle of this road? As his Department has said that it is opposed to perpendicular kerbs, cannot he arrange for sloping kerbs to be erected where there are no pavements, as the perpendicular kerbs are dangerous?

    I do not think that that is the answer at all. A vertical kerb is used as a safety precaution on the edge of a road to stop cars getting on to the pavement rather than to encourage them to do so, as would happen if a kerb of that kind were provided.

    Improvements, Dartford


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how long the road improvements on the A.2 within the Dartford borough boundary will take to complete; and what landscaping and planting he proposes to carry out in this area.

    I hope that the improvements at Heath Lane Junction will be completed in the next few months. To the east of the junction and on the north side of the road, a privet hedge has been planted and we intend to replace the existing diseased poplar trees there by replanting.

    While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that the unkempt appearance of this road has for long been no credit to his Department, and that merely replacing a few poplar trees and one hedge will not do anything to improve the situation? Will he look at the mater?

    I think that this will greatly improve the situation. On the south side, we are not proceeding with planting because in due course it is intended to have a second carriageway.

    Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what progress has been made in the construction of the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel; when the work is likely to be completed; and what alterations have been made in respect of the proposed toll charges.

    Tunnelling is progressing from both sides of the river, and the shields have been driven for about 180 yards. The work is up to schedule and should be completed in 1962. The maximum tolls prescribed in 1937 were increased threefold by the Dartford Tunnel Act, 1957, but the actual tolls will not be fixed until just before the tunnel is completed.

    Whilst, like my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving), thanking the Minister for his statement, may I ask whether he will bear in mind that there is deep concern at the toll charges which are being proposed? Is he aware that it is felt that by the time the tunnel is open it will be a costly business to go through it? If the tunnel is to help industry in the way that has been suggested, will the hon. Gentleman see that this aspect is considered and the charges kept down to a minimum?

    I think there have been rumours and reports of far greater increases than have taken place. The increase in the cost of the work—a job which will cost £11 million—is only £500,000 over two years, and not the very much larger figure mentioned in the Press. We shall certainly have well in mind the necessity to keep these tolls at a reasonable level.

    A35–A36 Junction (Fly-Over)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he can yet say when it is intended to build a fly-over at the junction of A.35 and A.36 lying between Totton and Millbrook, in view of the dangerous nature of this crossing and the increasing volume of traffic leading to a high accident rate.

    No, Sir. Analysis of traffic counts has taken longer than expected, but I hope we shall be able to reach a decision shortly on the best way to deal with this junction.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that this junction is not only inefficient but could not be designed more dangerously if all the engineers in my hon. Friend's Department put their minds to it? This matter has dragged on for a long time and has been causing considerable concern lately, not only to pedestrians and motorists but also to industry.

    Yes, I know the junction needs to be improved, and we hope shortly to decide what that improvement should be.

    Will the Minister bear in mind that this is a fork on one of the most heavily used roads in the South, and will he treat this matter as one of urgency?

    I have tried to make it plain that we hope to decide shortly on the right solution. After all, we shall have to decide on the priorities of the work to be done.

    Parking Meters


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is prepared to have comparative experiments to determine the merits of parking meters over the employment of parking attendants collecting fees.

    Under the Road Traffic Act, 1956, responsibility for proposing schemes for charging for parking on the highway rests with the local authorities. I am prepared to consider schemes of either kind.

    Is the Minister aware that it is a frightful prospect to envisage many of our beautiful towns cluttered up by parking meters in all the streets? Would it not be much more advisable to adopt the more flexible method of giving employment to people who would otherwise not be capable of finding occupation in their own work?

    I do not quite agree with the first part of that supplementary question, but I would be willing to examine schemes put forward for any type of parking, because I am more worried about seeing our beautiful streets' cluttered up with cars parked three deep.

    Cowbridge Road, Cardiff (Lighting)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware of the inadequate street lighting in Cowbridge Road, Cardiff; and, in view of the heavy toll of accidents in this road, whether he will give priority this matter.

    The lighting of this road is the responsibility of the Cardiff City Corporation.

    That may well be, but it is still inadequate. Is the Minister aware that his Department needs to probe someone into activity, because it is a veritable nightmare for motorists travelling along this important road, on which there is a consistently heavy toll of accidents?

    I hope the hon. Gentleman will use his influence with the City Corporation.

    Westminster Parking Scheme


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take on the Westminster parking scheme which has been the subject of public inquiry.

    As required by the Road Traffic Act, 1956, I have referred the scheme and the formal objections to it, together with the report of the public inquiry to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. I expect to receive their report by the end of this week.

    Is not this another matter where it is regrettable that there is such long delay? It is now nearly two years since the Road Traffic Act received the Royal Assent, and this scheme was put forward over a year ago. Will the Minister see whether he cannot speed the procedure for bringing the parking schemes into effect, in view of the growing difficulties and traffic congestion in London?

    I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman on this matter. There has been very long delay, which I much regret. On the other hand, it is right that frontagers and other people interested should have the constitutional right of putting their case before a public inquiry. That has been one of the main reasons for the delay, but I hope to have the report at the end of this week and I hope the House will agree that I shall then act on it.


    Accidents (Road Vehicles)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what are his conclusions from investigation into the collision between the Manchester—Euston express and a lorry on 5th November, 1957; whether he is now investigating three subsequent incidents of vehicles running down embankments and on to railway lines, namely, at Maesycwmmer, Monmouthshire, on 18th December, 1957, at White Hill, Wylye, Wiltshire, on 20th December, 1957, and at Rabbits Bridge Road, Ilford, on 6th January, 1958; and what proposals he has for preventing such accidents.

    Following investigations at the site of the first accident referred to, at Kilsby, Northamptonshire, arrangements have been made to provide special "Black Spot" warning signs, which will be erected as soon as the manufacturers deliver them. It has also been decided to erect substantial guard fenders on the bridge approaches, to prevent vehicles out of control from falling into the railway cutting. I am planning to supersede this section of trunk road A.5 as the main through traffic route by constructing in the next two or three years a short extension of the London—Birmingham Motorway from the Watford Gap to Crick. The three incidents at other sites are being investigated to deter mine whether additional protective measures are necessary.

    While thanking my right hon. Friend for that satisfactory reply relating to the first part of my Question, may I ask if he is aware that this type of accident—cars and lorries running down railway embankments on to the railway line—is on the increase and that, since this Question was tabled, two more such accidents have been reported in the newspapers in addition to the three mentioned in the Question? Will my right hon. Friend treat these as railway accidents into which public inquiry is made, rather than as road accidents in respect of which his Department obstinately refuses to hold any public inquiry?

    No, I cannot agree to that. I have said that we will look carefully into these incidents, and if my hon. Friend likes to give me any more particulars I will have them looked at, too.

    Automatic Warning Control


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation for how long the question of extending to other railway regions the automatic warning system of the Western Region has been under consideration.

    The standardisation of the Great Western system of automatic warning control was fully considered by the British Transport Commission when it decided in 1948 that warning control should be widely extended, but it was not found suitable for electrified lines. The Commission then decided to develop an improved system, which after extensive trials I approved at the end of 1956. Since then the Commission has been engaged in the preliminary work for its introduction on all the main routes.

    Would my right hon. Friend recall that he gave a somewhat similar answer to me over two years ago? Is not this a matter of the utmost urgency?

    I think that the answer I gave my hon. Friend at that time was that I had just approved that we should press on with this system as a proper system of A.T.C. for British Railways. Since then work has started on well over 1,000 miles of control equipment, and installation will go forward as quickly as possible.

    Area Boards (Salaries)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, under the powers conferred upon him by Section 94 of the Transport Act, 1947, he will require the British Transport Commission to include in its annual accounts the emoluments of the chairmen, vice-chairmen, and members, respectively, of the railway area boards.

    No, Sir. Under the railway re-organisation Scheme which was authorised by Parliament in 1954, the B.T.C. was made wholly responsible for appointing members of the area boards and for determining their remuneration. These boards are thus in a quite different category from area public boards whose members are appointed by the responsible Minister and whose salaries and allowances are published periodically by the Government. The Commission is in line with public companies by publishing in its annual accounts the total amount paid in fees to members of area boards, which in 1956 was just under £20,000. This figure relates to 40 members of area boards who had served the Commission in a part-time capacity for all or part of the year.

    Yes, but why is the Minister and the Commission so secretive about this? The views expressed in the House at Question Time last week indicated that hon. Members felt they had the right to know the fees the members of these boards were receiving. Is it not most unfortunate that at this time when there is an attempted restriction on increases in the wages of railwaymen the members of these boards should have their fees doubled, as is believed by the men in the industry to be the case? Can the Minister state whether these fees have been doubled within the last few months?

    Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question. The figures I have quoted show clearly that the average remuneration is £500 a year, which, on a part-time basis, is the lowest of any of the nationalised industries.

    In view of the fact that from time to time the British Transport Commission discloses the wages and the salaries of lower-paid workers in the transport industry, why should there be so much secrecy about the salaries paid to these people? What is the reason for it?

    There is a whole range of salaries and incomes which are not disclosed, and quite properly so.

    Is not the Minister, perhaps unintentionally, misleading the House when he suggests that the figures in the Report of the B.T.C. show that the members receive only about £500 a year? Is it not the fact that these figures relate to the year 1956 and that the accounts for 1957 have not yet been published? Is it not a fact that there has been a change since 1956?

    As I said, if the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question about that I will answer it. The figures I gave are based on the answer to a supplementary question last week and are quite correct.

    Civil Aviation

    Scheduled Flights (Diversions And Interruptions)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation in what circumstances, other than for operational reasons, he authorises diversions or interruptions of scheduled flights in aircraft under his control.

    None, Sir; these matters are wholly within the discretion of the airline concerned.

    Is it not the fact that, in the case of at least one authority operating under the Minister, there has been a diversion of a flight for a non-operational reason, and as the good name of British civil aviation depends on the reliability and punctuality of scheduled flights, will he give instructions to the authorities operating under him that no flight will be diverted except for operational reasons, or for reasons of the highest public interest?

    Perhaps it will help the House if I say that British European Airways—which, I think, is the main airline concerned—tries to be as helpful as possible to hon. Members of this House—and, indeed, to other persons who have some very urgent business; but the Corporation does not normally divert services for them, and I must make it plain that it is not under any statutory obligation to do so.

    London Airport—Central London (Monorail Link)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to what extent he is examining the possible use of monorails between London Airport and Central London and also in other congested areas; and if he will make a statement.

    So far as London Airport is concerned, I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave to the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) last week. I will certainly consider other proposals for the use of monorails, but I have not received any so far.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are immense possibilities in this system in a congested country like ours for saving both time and money? Could he give it some real priority in his consideration?

    Would the right hon. Gentleman consider providing some form of quicker transport from the nearest underground station? The underground provides a very quick form of transport from London and it would be much more economical, as a short-term policy, to provide some efficient form of transport from the nearest underground station.


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how much it will cost to construct a monorail between London Airport and central London.

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
    (Mr. Airey Neave)

    Costs cannot be estimated until a scheme has been worked out.

    Does that mean that in the traditions of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation we shall have to wait several years before any rapid, non-stop communication will be provided between London Airport and Central London? Is it not beginning to appear that the monorail system is likely to prove the cheapest and quickest method of communication?

    What the hon. Gentleman says is not in the tradition of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, and never has been. In the debate on the Airways Corporations on 27th January, my right hon. Friend said:

    "We are examining the fascinating project of a monorail, but I cannot give any views about that until the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways has pronounced on whether he feels that it is a safe form of passenger carrying at the very high speeds which we shall require."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 42.]
    Therefore, the economics of that will have to be worked out later.

    About a year ago, the right hon. Gentleman told me that he was referring the technical reports on a rail link between Victoria and London Airport to the British Transport Commission. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether anything has come out of the consideration of the B.T.C.?

    If the hon. Member is referring to a rail link as distinct from the monorail, we have just received a report and we are examining it.

    Charter Flights


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will state the number of charter flights, other than those authorised by the Air Transport Advisory Council, for holiday purposes in 1957, and the number of passengers carried by them; and whether, in order to avoid irregularities, he will consider referring any application by an organisation for two or more similar flights to the Advisory Council.

    No separate statistics are available of particular classes of charter flights, nor are United Kingdom operators required to obtain my permission for such flights.

    But is the Minister aware that it is alleged that a number of travel agencies, who have had their applications for charter flights turned down by the A.T.A.C., in fact carry out those flights through some club which they either form themselves or with which they are associated, and that therefore the review of the A.T.A.C. is avoided? Will the Minister look into that point and consider some evidence which can be put before him to show that these irregularities are going on?

    Yes, Sir. If the right hon. Gentleman has some facts which he would like to give me, I will look at them with great care.

    Foreign Currency (Exchange)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will give a general direction to the British European Airways Corporation to ensure that all its officials who are called upon to accept Commonwealth currency for services whose value is computed in sterling observe the current rate of exchange.

    No, Sir, this is a matter of commercial management and is not a suitable subject for a general direction.

    Does my hon. Friend realise that when people arrive at London Airport, unlike most airports abroad, there is no indication as to where they can change money, especially if it is after hours? Is he further aware that only last week, when I was returning on a B.E.A. bus to London, a gentleman tendered a Maltese pound note and was informed by the B.E.A. official that he was only allowed to give 17s. 6d. for it, and that in the previous week he had been allowed to give 19s. 6d.? Surely there should be some kind of official arrangement in respect of money tendered, because most foreigners are unable to exchange their currency into English money at the last minute?

    I will look into the first point, that there is no place at London Airport where money can be exchanged easily. I should point out to the House that B.E.A. is bound by certain rules prescribed by the International Air Transport Association as to the rates of exchange. If there has been any divergence from those rates of exchange on the Malta route, I would like to receive more details.


    Sales And Registrations


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many of our discarded ships have been sold to companies flying flags of convenience during the past five years; and, in view of the unfair competition with our merchant navy of those who have tax-free and unregulated operations, if he will take steps by introducing legislation or otherwise to prevent our discarded vessels from being sold for transfer abroad.

    During the past five years, 180 merchant ships of 500 gross tons and over were transferred from the United Kingdom or colonial registers to registry in Liberia, Panama, Costa Rica or Honduras. On the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer given to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) on 18th December, 1957.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it would be far cheaper for us to send these ships to the ship-breaking yard and use the scrap for rebuilding than sell the ships to people who are competing against us in an unfair market? At the same time, will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries as to whether firms which operate from the City of London purchase the ships and sail them under the flags of Panama and Costa Rica?

    The hon. Member would be interested if he made inquiries about this in the shipping industry, because if we deprive the British shipping industry of its foreign market for selling second-hand ships we deprive it of large sums of money applied to buying new ships.

    Laid-Up Vessels


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many vessels are laid up in our ports and estuaries; how many of these are tankers; what tonnage they represent; and how the position today compares with the same period last year.

    According to the information available in my Department, there are 66 ships registered in the United Kingdom, amounting to 333,650 gross tons, which are now laid up in ports and estuaries of the United Kingdom. Of these, 24 are tankers, totalling 203,576 gross tons or 297,256 deadweight tons. In addition, there are 29 ships of foreign flags amounting to 183,705 gross tons; none of these are tankers. In January, 1957, four ships, all registered in the United Kingdom, totalling 9,800 gross tons, were laid up in the United King-dam. These figures exclude ships under repair.

    Is the Minister aware that for eighteen years there have been very few ships laid up in our ports and estuaries, and that it is only during the last twelve months or so that the number has increased considerably? What is the use of calling for increased production for our export trade when our ships are lying up in our ports with nothing to do?

    I am sure the hon. Gentleman will share my hope that the decline in the past few months in the oil and dry cargo trade rates, which has a great deal to do with this, is a temporary one.

    Aircraft (Nuclear Weapons)


    asked the Prime Minister what special instructions in the rendering safe of unfused airborne nuclear weapons have been given to the appropriate Service and civilian first-aid and civil defence units in areas of the country which are regularly flown over by Royal Air Force and United States aircraft carrying nuclear weapons.

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

    I have been asked to reply.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave yesterday.

    Is the Home Secretary aware that it is because of the answer he gave yesterday that I kept this Question on the Order Paper? When the right hon. Gentleman makes a full statement covering the precautions and conditions under which nuclear weapons are carried, will he cover this point?

    Yes, Sir. I promised to give consideration to that matter. I notice that the difference between the Question yesterday and today is that today the Question refers to "unfused" weapons and yesterday it referred to "fused" weapons. I have noticed that and I am considering it.

    Ministry Of Defence

    Local Overseas Allowance (Christmas Island And Germany)


    asked the Minister of Defence if National Service men engaged at Christmas Island in the year ending July, 1957, will receive a local overseas allowance in view of the fact that those serving there subsequently now receive it.

    No, Sir. Local overseas allowance is payable only in places where the cost of living is higher than at home. This is not the case in Christmas Island, where life is simple and inexpensive. The reason why overseas allowance has now been introduced is to help our troops to avail themselves of the new leave scheme to Honolulu.

    Were not such men, including Salford National Service men, deprived of the leave now granted to Honolulu, because of the shocking conditions on Christmas Island, and also of their allowance as well? Did not they suffer the worst of both worlds, and will the Minister reconsider this considerable anomaly?

    The men to whom the hon. Member refers are probably home again and enjoying conditions at home. The purpose of this allowance is to help men avail themselves of a holiday in Honolulu, which I understand is agreeable but expensive.

    How far will the overseas allowance provided for these men go in Honolulu?

    I have never been to Honolulu, but I have seen pictures of hula-hula girls.


    asked the Minister of Defence what would be the approximate cost of granting to single Service men stationed in Germany the overseas allowance now paid to married personnel who are unaccompanied.

    The right hon. Gentleman has just said that the overseas allowance is paid wherever the cost of living is higher than at home. It is obvious that it must be higher in Germany because it has been admitted that we pay it to married personnel. Why does the right hon. Gentleman therefore withhold it from single personnel if, on his own admission, the cost of living is already higher in Germany than at home? Would not he agree that if he spent this £2 million in this way, that small amount would remedy a large number of grievances?

    There is a procedure for estimating costs and deciding where overseas allowance should be paid. I cannot go into it in reply to a supplementary question. A full statement was made late last year on this subject. I understand the idea behind the question of the hon. Member, but I can think of quite a number of claims which I should regard as more urgent on which to spend £2 million.



    asked the Minister of Defence to what extent the current rate of defence expenditure is within the estimate given at the beginning of the financial year.

    I expect that expenditure during the current year will be slightly in excess of Estimates. Supplementary Estimates for the Admiralty and Ministry of Supply will be presented to the House shortly.

    Does not the Minister recall that when he was appointed he was boosted as the man who was to achieve drastic economies in expenditure? What has happened to that policy?

    I do not know to what the hon. Member is referring. We achieved very big economies last year. The greater part of this excess is due to increased wages and prices over which the Service Departments have no control, and the hon. Member will find that the excess of defence expenditure over present Estimates looks like being about 2 per cent.

    London Busmen (Wage Application)

    asked the Minister of Labour and National Service whether he will make a statement about his rejection of the proposal to set up a committee of inquiry in connection with the. London busmen's wage application.

    Yes, Sir. I first received a formal request for such a committee on 21st January in a letter from the Transport and General Workers' Union in which it was stated that the London Transport Executive did not dissent from this course. I considered this, and a reply was sent on 24th January in the terms of a letter which has since been made public.

    This letter explained my inability to agree to the request and referred to the possibility of a more general inquiry into the wages situation in the whole of the road passenger transport industry, as well as to the fact that the normal process of arbitration still remains available for dealing with the London dispute.

    On receipt of this letter the union asked for an interview with me and I saw them yesterday when I confirmed my decision and expressed the hope that the union would consider the alternatives set out in the letter.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the very dangerous industrial situation into which the country is now slowly drifting as a result of this decision by him and other decisions taken previously by the Government? Does he not also realise that he is making the task of responsible trade union officers, who wish to maintain industrial peace, well-nigh impossible?

    Does he not appreciate that, when his chief conciliation officer, in an attempt at mediation, makes a proposal which is accepted by both sides, both sides then proceeding to make arrangements to carry out that proposal, and the right hon. Gentleman then rejects the very proposal which his chief conciliation officer has made, he debases the currency of the Ministry of Labour and weakens his chief conciliation officer's efforts not only in this but in every other industrial matter on which he is asked to mediate?

    Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to consider, once again, a formula far better than the one he has proposed in his statement, arbitration, which he himself destroyed by what he said in the House about railwaymen's wages? Unless he wants a direct conflict in industry, does he not think that it would be wise for him, at this stage, to call both sides together to have an informal talk about the whole situation and try to preserve peace? Is he not aware that if industrial war breaks out, the consequences, not only in this but in all other industries, will be disastrous for the nation? Is he not aware that he has responsibility?

    The right hon. Member has raised some important matters with which I will try to deal one by one. The first was the question whether this was the right thing to do. That is something which must be a matter of judgment and that judgment must be exercised by the Minister of Labour.

    How this proposal emerged was made plain in a statement issued after the talks I had yesterday, that is to say, that at all these meetings a great number of proposals were discussed. This one, as a matter of fact, did not emanate in the first place from my Chief Industrial Commissioner. It was one of a number brought up. As he at all times made clear, because he is a very wise and experienced civil servant, the final decision in this roust be a matter for the Minister. It was in the light of those discussions that I took my final decision as soon as I could when the formal application came to me.

    On the Question whether this is the right form of inquiry, I believe that we will not have a satisfactory settlement of this issue if we try to isolate one part of the case—and that is what the letter of 24th January, in the first place, points out. In the second place, it points to arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman said that I and the Government had destroyed the railwaymen's faith in arbitration. It is a very odd thing, in view of that, that today the railway unions have announced their intention to go to arbitration.

    Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is not aware that the railwaymen are prepared to go through the machinery but that that does not mean to say that they have any faith in the arbitration proposals at all. We are not out of the wood when we know beforehand that any decision by the arbitration tribunal is to be negatived by the Government, because the right hon. Gentleman has already said so in the House. The fact that the railwaymen have been prepared to go through the machinery is a clear indication that the trade union leaders are doing all they can to preserve industrial peace and that the right hon. Gentleman is doing nothing to help them.

    Reverting to the bus dispute, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is much concern among the general fare-paying public about this continual leap-frogging of wage claims by provincial and London busmen, and that he will have considerable public support for insisting that any inquiry shall embrace the whole subject and not be confined to the London dispute?

    It is true that I have had that consideration very much in the forefront of my mind, as have many other people, including, at least at one stage in the discussions, the leaders of the unions themselves.

    Is it not the case that the Minister's Chief Industrial Commissioner supported the proposal which the Minister himself has now rejected? Why has it been necessary for this matter to have consideration at Cabinet level? Is not the Minister aware that the Prime Minister himself told us in the House that, in the light of the new policy, it was not intended that all wage applications should have to be considered by the Government? Why, therefore, has that been done and why has this been regarded as an industrial problem quite distinct from the rest?

    No, it is not. It is not as the hon. Member suggests. The position is as I have made plain and, if I may say so, Sir Wilfred Neden also made plain to the Press, that at all times—and, of course, rightly—he reserved, and made it clear that he was reserving, the Minister's decision. Whatever view the House may take about whether I was right or wrong, no one, I hope, will assume that the Minister's decision in this case is a formality. He must examine it and make his judgment as he thinks best, and that is exactly what I have done.

    It would be kinder not to take up that interruption.

    On the second question, I was asked, at the beginning of a very forthright talk that I had yesterday with Mr. Cousins, Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Townsend, whether this was my own decision or somebody else's. I replied in words which mean precisely what they say—although some people have read more into them than I meant—namely, that this was my own decision and my own responsibility, and I believe in it. But naturally, in an issue like this, one consults some of one's senior colleagues.

    I should like to refer to the first sentence of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, in which he said that this request for a committee of inquiry which was put forward by the union carried with it the consent of the employers, or, at any rate, was not dissented from by them. May we therefore take it that this was a request from both sides of the industry to the Ministry of Labour to set up a committee of inquiry to deal with a specific dispute?

    Am I not right in assuming that this is the first case in which the Ministry of Labour has taken up this attitude? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that when trade union leaders and employers, negotiating round a table, reach a stage where they cannot carry their negotiations any further, and have to consider what stops to take, they go to the Ministry of Labour and very often the suggestion of a committee of this kind comes from the Minister's officials, and is very often accepted by the men?

    When the proposal is put forward by both sides and the Minister, with the support of the Government, rejects it, does the Minister realise that he is taking away from every trade union officer—and here I speak with experience—one of his strongest arguments for pleading with the men that constitutional steps should be taken? Does he not realise that what he is doing is to make certain of industrial trouble?

    The right hon. Gentleman has raised the very important point of precedents in this matter. As far as the approach is concerned, the position needs stating with some little care. It should not be assumed that it was a joint approach, in the sense that, as both the Press notices and the letter from the union made clear, it was an approach from the union from which the London Transport Executive did not dissent.

    On the question of precedents, in most cases the suggestion that a court of inquiry should be set up comes from the Minister himself, and he invites the two sides to co-operate with him. There are certainly precedents for suggestions made to me for setting up a court of inquiry being rejected, the most recent example being the Covent Garden dispute. The precedents are quite clear. In this case, what the right hon. Gentleman forgets is that this proposal for a committee of investigation to report to the parties—as it finally emerged—is unprecedented, as far as I know, and as far as my Ministry know. It is, therefore, perfectly true that a refusal would be unprecedented; so, for that matter, would an acceptance.

    I want to put this strongly: Does not the Minister agree—and I speak with some experience in this matter—that where both sides are agreeable to a certain procedure, for his Ministry to destroy it is to take away from them perhaps the only opportunity of a peaceful settlement? Therefore, the whole reputation and influence of the Ministry of Labour in the matter of instituting peaceful negotiation is seriously impaired by the action that he has taken.

    I gladly go as far as this with the right hon. Gentleman. It was a very serious decision of mine to turn down this suggestion for a committee of investigation. I knew that when I turned it down. If I may use in the House the words that I used to Mr. Cousins and Mr. Nicholas yesterday, one of the arguments that weighed most heavily in favour of adopting the procedure of a committee of investigation was the very hard and successful moderating work that Mr. Nicholas, in particular, put in, but I decided, in the exercise of my judgment, that it was not possible to take in isolation this part of what everybody knows is a much wider problem. I believe that the solution that I have put before the country is the wisest one.

    Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the House that there are three and not two parties to this wage claim? There is the public, as well as the employers and the employees. Is not there a danger that those who work in industry may gang up to increase their earnings at the expense of the third party—the public?

    Does the Minister appreciate that his decision to turn down the suggestion of an inquiry into the claims of London busmen will be interpreted by the men concerned as a political interference with what should have been the operation of a conciliatory policy through the Ministry of Labour? In view of the fact that the responsible trade union leaders of these men have taken every possible step to avoid a conflict and a strike, does the Minister think that he is acting in the best interests of peace in the industry by refusing what was agreed by both sides—an inquiry into this problem? Further, does not he agree that to try to extend the scope of inquiry is not in the best interests of all transport workers?

    I have taken what I believe to be the right decision in the interests of the people in the transport industry, among others. I think that this is the right answer. As for conciliation, it was clear—and I think that it was agreed between all parties at an early stage—that in view of the attitude of the London Transport Executive—which was a quite proper one for it to take—conciliation in the normal sense was not of any particular value. We therefore came down to the two issues of arbitration or some form of inquiry.

    I have reminded those responsible that the arbitration provisions, whether for a compulsory or a voluntary arbitration, remain. As for the committee of inquiry, the real issue between Mr. Cousins and myself—I do not put this in a personal sense—is that I should consider this dispute by itself. I take the view that that would be an unreal thing to do, and that it is in the interests of everybody that the matter should be considered in a wider setting.

    Ballot For Notices Of Motions

    Teachers (Recruitment And Training)

    I beg to give notice that on Friday, 14th February, I shall call attention to the recruitment and training of teachers, and move a Resolution.

    Road Transport

    I beg to give notice that on Friday, 14th February, I shall call attention to road accidents, road regulations and other matters connected with road transport, and move a Resolution.

    Schools And Colleges (Commonwealth History)

    I beg to give notice that on Friday, 14th February, I shall call attention to the desirability of teaching Commonwealth history in schools and colleges in the United Kingdom, and move a Resolution.

    Business Of The House

    Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. R. A. Butler.]

    Thermal Insulation (Dwellings)

    3.50 p.m.

    I beg to move,

    That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the thermal insulation of dwellings, and for purposes connected therewith.
    Twelve months ago to this day, leave was given by the House for the introduction of my Bill, which is the complement to my Motion today, for the thermal insulation of new factories and industrial buildings. That Bill made good progress and reached the Statute Book on 17th July last as the Thermal Insulation (Industrial Buildings) Act, 1957. Three years ago, I was privileged to bring to the House, as a Private Member's Measure, the Clean Air Bill, which subsequently reached the Statue Book in 1956. My purpose today is to achieve a trinity of fuel efficiency and conservation Measures by providing for the thermal insulation of all new dwelling-houses built in the United Kingdom after 1959.

    Many of us may be deceived today, and the general public as well, by the extraordinarily large coal stocks on the surface, the largest stocks that we have had in this country at any time since the end of the war. I regard the presence of those stocks as a reflex of our failure to export any substantial quantities of coal during last year, and as deriving also from the fact that we have been blessed in the last year or two with exceptionally mild winters. The position could change very rapidly.

    The fact is—and I believe that this is supported in every part of the House—that over the next few years we shall have a continuous shortage of energy resources. In capital investment terms, the means of providing the additional energy resources that we need is immensely expensive. This is not a party political issue. It is a problem of finding hundreds of millions of pounds each year for new capital investment for the nationalised fuel and power industries and for the new atomic energy industries.

    I contend—it has been the first tenet of my belief in these matters—that it is far more productive and economic to invest money in securing greater efficiency in the use of our fuel and energy resources than in investment in the counterpart, that is, mining more coal and furnishing more energy resources. That is a view which was graphically underlined by the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service in its third Annual Report, published last year, and it was confirmed by the Economist, last December, in words similar to those I have uttered today.

    We have not only to consider the continuing shortage of energy resources. We must also consider Government policy in this sphere during the last few years. I do not think that what I am advocating today—it is, in the longer term, legislation to give effect to the thermal insulation of dwellings—is in any way out of step with Government policy.

    There has been in existence during the last few years what is known as a model byelaw which suggests to local authorities, should they adopt it, that they require a minimum standard of heat retention by thermal insulation in newly-built houses. Most local authorities subscribe to the model byelaw, but sadly the standards prescribed by the model byelaw are so pitifully low as to provide no real conservation of fuel and, in addition, no real raising of comfort standards in our homes.

    I seek to replace this model byelaw, though it is largely supported by local authorities, by central Government legislation not affiecting existing houses, but requiring much higher standards of thermal insulation for all houses built after next year.

    In this connection, it is instructive to consider what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works—and he did not do it with an eye upon my Motion today—wrote in a Government publication entitled "Warmth Without Waste", Advisory Leaflet, No. 45. I hope that the House will bear with me for a moment while I read the opening paragraph, because it states the complete case for what I am seeking to achieve by my Motion today. The heading is:
    "Building houses for comfort and fuel economy"
    The paragraph reads:
    "Every householder today wants a higher standard of warmth than ever before, but all fuels are becoming dearer and reserves of some are dwindling. No longer can the ordinary householder or the nation afford to keep poorly designed houses warm by extravagant use of fuel, Everyone responsible for planning or building new houses should always build for warmth. This need not be in any way difficult or expensive if the design and construction of the houses is properly thought out before building is started."
    I should like to put this matter in its correct arithmetical perspective. Whichever political party forms the Government over, say, the next two decades, we shall probably average the construction of 250,000 new dwellings per annum. Over a 20-year period that is approximately 5 million new houses. Twenty years is not far to look ahead in this context, because we seek to build houses which will last in efficient form for a period of sixty years. I am looking only twenty years ahead.

    On average, we use five tons of coal or coal equivalent per dwelling per annum in this country. That is borne out by the evidence of Sir Alfred Egerton's Committee, which issued a technical Report in 1946, and again by the Ridley Committee's Report, in 1952. Out of that five tons of coal or coal equivalent used per annum, about one ton is accounted for by cooking and lighting. The other four tons are used for space and water heating services, generally.

    I claim—I shall not enunciate this afternoon all the reasons for my claim; that will be more appropriate to Second Reading if I can secure my Motion this afternoon—that at least 25 per cent. of the four tons will be saved by proper insulation of the house. There are technical agencies which claim that the saving would be as high as 50 per cent. I am putting forward the very modest figure of 25 per cent. saving. Thus, one ton of coal or coal equivalent would be saved per dwelling per annum in respect of all new house construction in future, if they are efficiently insulated against heat loss.

    It follows that in the first year, with 250,000 houses built, the economy in fuel would be 250,000 tons. The saving would rise in arithmetical progression by that tonnage until, at the end of twenty years, it would reach 5 million tons economy in coal or coal equivalent per annum. worth, at today's price, a minimum of £40 million per annum, but, on the evidence of the leaflet from which I quoted and the prospect of still dearer fuel supplies, the economy might be even greater.

    I wish to say, finally, a word upon thermal insulation costs. Only yesterday my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government issued a circular to all local authorities calling upon them for the greatest possible economy in financial expenditure during the next year. It may be felt, therefore, that what I am seeking to do today might add something to the capital cost of a new dwelling-house. I do not believe that that is a significant factor. Architects advise me that, provided that proper, efficient insulation is built into the structure of the dwelling during erection, the cost of the dwelling itself would be no higher, but even if it were added to the dwelling after completion it would cost no more than £8 to secure highly efficient thermal insulation in a council house with four bedrooms, costing, say, £1,600. That is an addition to the capital cost of one half of 1 per cent., or, say, 1¼d. in the £. Having regard to the large fuel economies which may be envisaged, that is a very worthwhile investment.

    The Motion is propitious. The proposal would be scientific in application. It is progressive and objective. It has wide technical, professional and public support outside the House. If I am granted leave to bring in a Bill today, it will be supported in proportion to the strength of the main political parties in this House by six Tory Members in addition to myself and five Socialist Members.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Nabarro, Mr. C. R. Hobson, Sir Lancelot Joynson-Hicks, Mr. Albu, Colonel Tufton Beamish, Mr. George Darling, Sir Albert Braithwaite, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Gilbert Longden, Mr. Philips Price, Mr. Russell, and Mr. Fort.


    Bill to make provision for the thermal insulation of dwellings; and for purposes connected therewith; presented accordingly and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 28th February, and to be printed. [Bill 61.]

    Orders Of The Day

    Cayman Islands And Turks And Caicos Islands Bill

    Considered in Committee.

    [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

    Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 2—(Provisions As To Government Of Cayman Islands And Turks And Caicos Islands)

    4.1 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 1, line 22, at the end to insert:

    "whose members are elected by adult suffrage".
    The purpose of this Clause is to provide that the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands shall have certain assemblies which will be able, to a limited degree, to legislate on behalf of those territories. At present, in the case of the Cayman Islands, where the population is less than 9,000, the administration is through a commissioner, justices of the peace and 27 elected vestrymen. Above that body, there are the powers of the Jamaican Government, which are very considerable indeed.

    In the case of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where the population is about 6,000, the administration is through a commissioner, three officials and eight persons nominated by the Governor of Jamaica, and here, also, the powers of the Jamaican Government are very considerable.

    The Clause seeks to extend certain autonomy in the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. When he introduced the Bill, the Under-Secretary was not able to give details of the alternative proposals, but he did say that it was suggested that the legislative bodies should consist of some ex-officio members, some nominated members and a number of members elected by universal adult suffrage.

    The purpose of my Amendment is to limit the membership of these bodies to persons elected by adult suffrage, and to remove from those bodies the membership of ex-officio officers and of nominated members. I should like to urge that course, because I very much doubt whether it is necessary in islands with a total population of less than 10,000 to establish all the eleborate machinery of legislatures, with elected persons, officers, nominated persons, a commissioner and an executive council, and all the machinery which the Minister himself has described as rather formal and ponderous. In effect, the population of these two groups of islands is no larger than that of a small market town in this country. It really would be pressing the formal machinery very far if these elaborate legislatures are set up.

    In my view, this is a reason, not for limiting democracy in these islands, but for extending it. Why should there not be in both groups of islands directly elected persons who would have administrative authority there? Why should they not act in conjunction with the commissioners for these groups of islands, instead of being supplemented by officials, by nominated members, by executive councils and all the other suggestions that are made in this Bill?

    I want to make the plea that if there is to be democracy in these islands it is desirable that the members of the administrative authority should be as close to the people as possible, should be dealing with their daily problems by direct contact, and that the total membership of these bodies which are to be set up shall be elected members, as is proposed in this Amendment.

    If no other hon. Members have any points to make on this Amendment, perhaps I may say a word or two to the Committee myself.

    I quite appreciate the point which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has made in moving his Amendment, but if I may deal with its wording to start with I must say that it would not be practicable to write into the Bill a positive requirement for adult suffrage itself. Although the meaning of that expression is generally well understood, considerable elaboration of it is necessary when we come to translate it into precise terms of law.

    Matters of detail, such as length of residence, as well as such things as disqualifications for special reasons, and so on have to be provided for, and details of this sort, which must be liable to variation as experience and circumstances show, could not be embodied in an Act of Parliament. It is for this reason that it has always been the custom that that should be enshrined in local electoral legislation, capable of amendment from time to time according to the wishes of the assembly.

    That is the intention in this case, but I want to give the Committee an undertaking that, whatever may have been the practice in the past in these territories, the new electoral laws, which would come into being following this Act being placed on the Statute Book, would provide for universal adult suffrage along the lines which I have described. I make that clear to the Committee because of the discussion we had on Second Reading, and I should perhaps also say that adult suffrage will apply to women to the same extent as to men.

    To come to the actual point of what the hon. Member is proposing, the effect of accepting the Amendment would be to exclude nominated members and ex-officio members from the legislative assembly. I must tell the Committee right away that the Government do not feel that they should accept such an Amendment. It is the intention that elected members shall have a majority in these assemblies. There will be a majority of elected members, but, in our opinion, nominated and ex-officio members do play a very valuable part in these small territories at this stage.

    I need not tell the hon. Member, who has been concerned with this matter far longer than I have, and whose experience is very wide indeed, that we are not departing from the custom in other Colonial Territories large and small, but, because I may have said on Second Reading that it might appear to be a rather top-heavy and cumbersome organisation, may I say I did so to point out that, in spite of that, Her Majesty's Government, in consultation with those in the territories concerned, believe that, however tiny these populations may be at this stage, and however remote, we should have in embryo the same sort of organisation which has worked for long periods of time in other Colonial Territories. I am convinced that ex-officio and nominated members will play no less a part in these territories than they have played in others.

    I hope that I have been able to explain to the satisfaction of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) why we could not accept the Amendment as it stands, and the reason which makes it impossible for me to accept it from the point of view of general principle.