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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 583: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1958

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

Royal Navy

Hms "Ceres"


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, in view of the fact that the shore establishment, H.M.S. "Ceres", at present at Wetherby, Yorkshire, is shortly to move to Chatham and in two years' time be transferred to Portsmouth, why this establishment cannot remain at Wetherby until it moves to Portsmouth, thus reducing the cost of a double move.

The decision to move H.M.S. "Ceres" to Chatham was taken before it was decided to close, in 1961, the various naval establishments at Chatham and the work required to accommodate H.M.S. "Ceres" at Chatham is now almost complete.

The possibility of deferring the move of H.M.S. "Ceres" was very carefully considered; but it would cost more to keep the establishment at Wetherby open until it could move to Portsmouth. A decision now to move the establishment to Portsmouth would not, therefore, reduce the cost, but delay the closing of the establishment at Wetherby and the resulting saving on overheads.

Can my hon. Friend assure me that, bearing in mind what happened the last time hostilities broke out, H.M.S. "Ceres" will not be immediately decamped back to Wetherby as soon as hostilities do break out?

Royal Yacht "Britannia"

5, 6 and 7.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1) how much has been spent on refits of the Royal Yacht "Britannia" during the last five years;

  • (2) the cost of the recent refit of the Royal Yacht "Britannia";
  • (3) the estimated cost for the repairing of the propeller of the Royal Yacht "Britannia" which was damaged as she was entering Portsmouth harbour on 4th February.
  • The total amount spent on refits of the Royal Yacht "Britannia" so far is about £270,000, excluding the recent refit. The cost of her recent refit, which is her first major refit, is expected to be about £160,000. Repairs to the propeller are estimated to cost about £2,000.

    When the Government are wielding the economy axe so viciously in respect of many essential and desirable social services, how is it that this costly toy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—completely escapes? How is it that a ship which is operational for an average of only three months of the year should need refits so frequently? Furthermore, can the hon. Gentleman say how the damage to the propellor occurred? Was it a case of negligent navigation? If so, will any charge be preferred?

    The hon. Member has asked a number of supplementary questions. I do not resent that, but merely hope that I shall remember them. In the first place, I think that the Navy and the country largely would resent the implication that this is a costly toy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Secondly, the hon. Member said that the "Britannia" was used for only three months in the year. During the last twelve months immediately preceding this major refit—

    —she was used for over nine months in the year. The hon. Member spoke about the number of refits. This major refit, which was the "Britannia's" first major refit, was necessary because she is built and maintained according to Lloyd's specification and, consequently, a complete survey has to be carried out at the end of each fourth year. This was the end of her first four-year period. The "Britannia" has had only two other refits and they were smaller.

    Would not it be right to say that it is quite impossible to measure in terms of money the prestige value and the pride which the Royal Navy has in the "Britannia"? May I ask, further, whether my hon. Friend has heard the expression,

    "There, but for the grace of God, could I have gone"
    on several occasions whilst in command of H.M. ships in regard to that part of the supplementary question which relates to propellors?

    My hon. and learned Friend is perfectly right. The answer is emphatically "Yes". Concerning the second part of his question and the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), to which I forgot to reply in the first instance, while manœuvring in Portsmouth Harbour the yacht was caught by an unexpectedly strong gust of wind and she touched a buoy.

    While in no way seeking to deprive the Royal Family of any relaxation, which they thoroughly deserve from time to time, I should like to ask whether it is desirable, in time of financial stringency, that we should be burdened with excessive costs for this vessel. Could not a little prudence be employed in the matter?

    A great deal of prudence is employed in the matter. It is not right to refer to the use of the Royal Yacht in terms of relaxation only. In fact, she carries the Royal Family on official occasions all the time. For instance, next month she is to take the Queen on her State visit to Holland, and in each of the subsequent months she is taking the Royal Family on official visits.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that this very unpleasant Question has been put by a Tyneside Member, would not it be in order to call another Tyneside Member to ask a supplementary question?

    The hon. Lady may have what opinions she likes about the Question. It is a matter for the House. But, if the Question falls into the category she describes, the sooner we pass from it, the better.

    Further to that point of order. It was not my question which was going to be unpleasant. I wanted to ask whether it would be in order for me to say how much the Tyne wishes it could have had the "Britannia" to build.

    British Army

    Royal Hampshire Regiment And Oxford And Bucks Light Infantry


    asked the Secretary of State for War if he will reconsider his decision to move the Royal Hampshire Regiment from its traditional home at Winchester to Exeter, and the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry to Winchester.

    These two regiments will retain their regimental headquarters at Winchester and Oxford to look after regimental affairs and take part in recruiting in their county areas.

    The training of recruits, however, will in future be carried out at the infantry brigade depots as explained in the White Paper on the Future Organisation of the Army (Cmd. 230). The depot of the Wessex Brigade will be at Exeter, and the Green Jackets Brigade at Winchester.

    Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that the association of the Royal Hampshires with Winchester and of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry with Oxford dates back to the founding of these regiments? Would it not be a pity to hurt the traditions of them both and the will and wishes of the people of the three counties concerned by breaking that association?

    The hon. Gentleman will recall that the principle of training recruits at brigade depots was fundamental to the reorganisation announced last year, and I can assure him that the selection of the sites for the brigade depots was made unanimously by the regiments concerned.

    Is it at all possible for the regiments in some ways still to maintain their ties with their old depots and those towns with which they were formerly associated and have been associated for so long? Is it necessary to uproot them completely, lock, stock and barrel, just to enable brigade training of recruits to be carried on?

    As I said in my original Answer—to reassure my hon. Friend now, if I may—both regiments will retain their regimental headquarters, that is, a smaller form of depot, at both Winchester and Oxford.

    Post Office

    Cable And Wireless, Ltd


    asked the Postmaster-General since, during the financial year 1956–57, the standard 4 per cent. dividend collected by the Treasury from Cable and Wireless has not been covered by earnings, and there is a demand for substantial tariff increases, if he will consider setting up a special commission to consider what advantages have accrued to Cable and Wireless since nationalisation, and whether or not it would be advantageous to return this industry to private enterprise.

    I see no justification for a special commission, either in the financial record of Cable and Wireless Ltd. or on other grounds. It is believed that the tariffs which have been in operation since last October will result in a satisfactory out-turn to the company. These tariffs are on average only 80 per cent. above those of 1939, and few services can point to such a good record.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite the sharply increased charges, the profits before tax have never exceeded two-thirds, and often have fallen below a half, of the figures in the last year before nationalisation? Further, is he aware that there are complaints of delays and distortion of commercial messages? Does he realise that the company is about to be thrown out of various countries in Europe, and is not it time that a most searching investigation was made into the operation of the company?

    I can, I think, short-circuit a lot of questioning by referring my hon. Friend to the letter from the chairman of the company published in the Journal of the Institute of Directors.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the reply of the chairman of the directors, Sir Godfrey Ince, on this matter is a complete rebuttal of the charges made by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers), and shows conclusively that the financial results of Cable and Wireless, since nationalisation, are superior to what they were before?

    Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that his assessment of the situation is very much more accurate than that of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers), who asked the Question, who, obviously, has been in touch with certain dissatisfied people and, possibly, has based his Question on their information? Further, will the hon. Gentleman do everything possible, on the lines he has taken already for the development of internal telecommunications, to make this service the best in the world? It is so already, but I am sure that it is desired to maintain its improvement.

    I should be lacking in my duty if I did not say at once that we are constantly searching for ways of making sure that the efficiency of the company is maintained and that its services are improved wherever improvement can be introduced.

    Will my hon. Friend, if he will not set up a special commission, at least tell us what advantages have accrued from Cable and Wireless since nationalisation?

    Business Reply Service Envelopes (Welsh Language)

    14 and 15.

    asked the Postmaster-General (1) why he has recently rejected a design for a business reply service envelope in which the essential and prescribed information was set out in Welsh as well as in English, when the proposed service was intended primarily for the convenience of persons resident in Wales; and (2) the objections of his Department to the use of the Welsh language in connection with the business reply service: and if he will make a statement.

    The design was rejected because it did not comply with Post Office requirements. No licence was issued, although a number had been provisionally assigned to the applicants. I have arranged that, in order to avoid embarrassment and difficulty for the applicants, the envelopes will be treated as if the design had been agreed. I must emphasise that this special concession applies only to these envelopes, and all future designs must have the prior approval of the Post Office. I have also asked the Director of the Post Office in Wales to be prepared in future to accept designs incorporating the Welsh language as well as English, provided that they conform to the practical requirements of the Post Office.

    I thank my hon. Friend for this change of mind, which was certainly desirable, but will he consider also with sympathy the similar case of the Welsh National Folk Museum at St. Fagan's, Cardiff, which has submitted a design in Welsh which is intended for use in parts of Wales where the prospective recipients are primarily Welsh-speaking people?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his perhaps somewhat grudging acceptance of the arrangement we have made. I think that he will find that my Answer covers the sort of case he has in mind for the Welsh National Folk Museum, which I have seen and which I very much liked. If there is any further difficulty in that case, or in others, I have no doubt that hon. Members will very quickly bring it to my notice.

    Administration (Welsh Language)


    asked the Postmaster-General to what extent in the administration of his Department in Wales account is taken of the fact that the Welsh language is the chief language of many persons in Wales, and the only language of others; and if he will make a statement.

    We do all we can to make sure that anyone who wishes to transact his Post Office business in Welsh can do so. Fel mater o ffaith byddwn yn cymeryd

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you now ruling that it is out of order for any right hon. or hon. Gentleman to make a quotation in the Welsh language in this House? I beg to submit that hitherto the Chair has not frowned on quotations in Welsh.

    The Chair has not hitherto taken exception to hon. Members on either side making quotations in the Welsh language.

    I did not know whether it was a quotation or not. It seems to me out of order to address the House in any other language but English.

    Yes, Mr. Speaker. Would you kindly rule that it is, and will be, in order for a person to quote in Welsh in the same way as he might quote in Latin or Greek?

    Yes. All these other languages are allowed within reason in quotation, but in order to keep himself in order an hon. Member should state that the sounds he proposes to utter represents a quotation, otherwise the Chair is completely at a loss.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that you will not take advantage of this rule yourself and address us in Gaelic.

    I should not dream of doing such a thing. It is true that I speak another old language, but I would not use it in this place. There is very old authority for that. It was St. Paul who said something to the effect that if a man prophesy in a language not understanded of the people it were better that he should refrain from prophesying and hold his peace.

    Further to that point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that there is a precedent for an hon. Member from Wales addressing this House in the Welsh language? The Right Hon. William Abraham, who at one time represented the Rhondda Valley, once said the Lord's Prayer in Welsh, and all hon. Members laughed because they could not understand it.

    I was not Speaker then. Has the hon. Member for Barry asked Question No. 16?

    The Answer was that we do all we can to make sure that any one who wishes to transact his Post Office business in Welsh can do so. As a matter of fact, we take a great deal of trouble over this.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that I was not grudging in my recognition of the concession, but is not it advisable that Welsh should be treated in this country with even greater tolerance than, for example, French is treated in non-French parts of Canada? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]

    We have to arrange to conduct our business in a way which makes it possible for people who may or may not be exclusively Welsh-speaking to do business in post offices, and that we do.

    May I ask the Assistant Postmaster-General whether his Answer means that behind the counter in post offices in Welsh-speaking parts of Wales there will always be available an assistant who can conduct business in Welsh?

    It depends on what the hon. and learned Gentleman means by "Welsh-speaking parts of Wales", but broadly the answer is "Yes."

    Further to the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), may I ask the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that the comparison of Canada is not apt to this country? The French language is acceptable in Canada, as it is a bilingual country, whereas this country is not.

    Will the hon. Gentleman also ensure that similar facilities are available to English-speaking Welshmen in Wales?

    On a point of order. In view of the answers which have been given today, I beg to give notice that at the first opportunity I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

    Stamps (Commemorative Issues)


    asked the Postmaster-General if he will give an estimate of what it would cost to issue a special stamp on the occasion of the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Burns.

    Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that this £6,000 is a very small sum considering the amount of national sentiment that is behind this matter? Is he aware that the Burns Federation has recently received the support of the Royal Scots Clan of America? If the Scots do not appeal to him, will he reconsider this matter in view of the necessity of maintaining Anglo-American relationships?

    I do not think that we set any lower value on Anglo-American relationships than the hon. Gentleman or Scots generally. We have never at any time suggested that it was an estimate of the cost of producing a Burns stamp which was the obstacle that stood in our way.

    May I ask my hon. Friend if he is aware that a great many people think that it is a bad thing that too many opportunities are taken to issue special stamps? Their value may decrease, and many people do not want special stamps to be issued on too many occasions.

    I am glad that my right hon. Friend has supported the view that we take, which is that we should maintain the prestige of our stamps not only by limiting the number of them, but by maintaining the very high quality.

    On a point of order. As the poet Burns was born in my constituency and as you have quoted him on many an occasion, Mr. Speaker, would not it be appropriate if I were allowed to put a supplementary question?


    asked the Postmaster-General the loss to the Post Office of issuing special stamps to commemorate the International Boy Scout Rally and the Conference of the International Parliamentary Union.

    Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that there is the same justification for issuing a Burns postage stamp as there was for issuing special stamps to commemorate these two functions? Does he realise that if a Burns stamp were issued there would be far more stamps sold by the Post Office, and we should get an increased revenue as a result?

    The difference between the special stamps we have issued to which the hon. Gentleman refers in his Question and the proposed special stamp to commemorate Robert Burns is that these stamps commemorate other than individuals, whereas the Burns stamp would represent a significant departure from policy in representing an individual on a special stamp.

    If the Assistant Postmaster-General were ever considering issuing a stamp to celebrate the birth of a poet, would he give precedent to a poet who wrote in English? I refer to William Shakespeare.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are many of us who welcome this tribute to the spirit of internationalism? Will he, therefore, not be discouraged from any further proposals he may have in mind to support international bodies and authorities of the kind and character mentioned in the Question?

    I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman wants me to do, but I will bear it in mind.

    Though I am usually unwilling on general principles to associate myself with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), may I ask whether my hon. Friend does not think it rather short-sighted and perhaps a little stupid to offend the national sentiment of Scotland by remaining adamant on this question of the issue of commemorative stamps?

    I should like to avoid the appearance of being stupid to my hon. Friend or to the House generally. We have given a great deal of very prolonged and careful thought to this matter and have not reached this decision lightly. I hope that, in view of the arguments which have already been exchanged across the Floor on the subject, the House will at least give us the credit for having tried to be reasonable.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Robert Burns was not only a very great poet but is a great institution in Scotland and in Britain as a whole—indeed, all over the world? May I, as a Cockney, but nevertheless a great admirer and student of Robert Burns, beg of the hon. Gentleman to take this matter to the Postmaster-General and ask him to reconsider it?

    I am sure my right hon. Friend will consider these exchanges in the House today with great care. I should point out, however, that the Post Office is not called upon to decide what prominence should be given to Robert Burns in the calendar of the great. Our job is to decide how we can take this matter into account in relation to our postage stamp policy, and that is what we have done.

    Shipley Market Square (Postbox)


    asked the Postmaster-General whether a postbox may be provided in the new market square of Shipley, which is now the centre of the town's activities and its widespread omnibus services.

    There are two posting boxes, one of which is a pillar box, very near to the square, and an additional box in this area would not be justified. If the urban district council agreed to the pillar box in question being moved to the market square, this would be done.

    is my hon. Friend aware that this is a new market square of which the town is justifiably proud, that it replaces a built-up area of slum houses and has an enormous service of buses, 700 a day going through its centre? Does not he agree that it is reasonable that there should be proper facilities for those living in the town and, indeed, for those who visit it?

    We do not dissent from those considerations at all. There are two boxes within 220 yards of this square and we are quite willing to move one of these boxes to this market square if the urban district council will agree to us doing so.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that this is all bound up with the red tape regulation that a post box must be so many yards from another one? Cannot he justify the reputation of his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General for cutting red tape?

    It is bound up with the same consideration for the economic and efficient operation of the Post Office.


    Anglesey (Reception)


    asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware of the poor reception of television in Anglesey; and what steps he is taking in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corporation to improve it.

    Yes, Sir. This is due to the distance from the transmitter and, in some instances, to the screening effect of neighbouring hills. These, and similar difficulties elsewhere, are being considered by the B.B.C. but they cannot yet say what improvements will be practicable.

    Will the hon. Gentleman say what progress is being made with the new experimental transmitter at Folkestone? When that transmitter does come into general use, will the hon. Gentleman ensure that North Wales has some priority in the matter, because the situation at present is very bad?

    Of course, from the proposed transmitter in Folkestone we have not yet any results showing its success or otherwise in operation. When those results have been analysed, then will come the question of deciding where priority should be given for the use of similar stations elsewhere. There are many competing claims both between different districts in Wales itself and between parts of Wales and parts of England and Scotland.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that I asked a similar Question some six weeks ago in relation to Forfar, where reception is equally bad, and will he, therefore, bear in mind, in considering this matter, the priority which should be given to Forfar?

    Telephone Service

    Overseas Calls (Reverse Charge Facilities)


    asked the Postmaster-General what steps he will take to provide reverse charge facilities similar to those in operation in this country for telephone calls to the United Kingdom initiated upon the Continent.

    I am pleased to say that arrangements have been made to introduce the reverse charge facility in our telephone services with Belgium, Denmark, Faroe Islands, France, Luxembourgh, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden from 1st April. I hope that before long it will be extended to other European countries.

    May I thank my hon. Friend for this concession which will be extremely valuable in all business circles? May I ask him if, in his consideration of extending this concession to additional countries in Europe, he will give some thought also to Canada and the United States in due course?

    Can the hon. Gentleman state whether the countries which he has enumerated are reciprocating the arrangement?

    London Area


    asked the Postmaster-General if he will now state to what extent the new scale for telephone charges in the London area has led to increased calls; and to what extent revenue from such calls shows an increase over a corresponding six weeks' period from 1st January, 1957.

    From the best estimates that can be made, the number of calls appears to have increased by about 10 per cent. on the routes on which the charges were reduced to 3d. Figures showing the effect on revenue are not yet available.

    Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that this is at least encouraging? May we have an assurance that there will be no reversal of the policy, and, if possible, that it will be extended in other parts of the country and with respect to other parts of the service?

    I am sure my right hon. Friend will do his best to provide an economic and efficient telephone service for the country.

    Royal Air Force

    Welfare Services, Wittering (Petition)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the Royal Air Force Station Commander at Wittering has considered a petition signed by over 200 airmen asking for an extension of the welfare services provided by Malcolm Clubs; and what steps have been taken in the matter.

    Mobile canteen services on this station are now being provided by the Malcolm Club and the N.A.A.F.I. in alternate months.

    Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a general feeling among airmen in the United Kingdom, Germany and elsewhere that the Malcolm Clubs render rather better welfare services than does N.A.A.F.I.? Will he give an assurance that his Department will do everything possible to enable the Malcolm Clubs to maintain and extend the facilities which they provide for airmen?

    That is rather a wider question than the one on the Order Paper. Of course, a number of welfare organisations exist already and they are doing excellent work in supplementing the services which N.A.A.F.I. provides. I do not want in the least to under-estimate the work which these welfare organisations do, but I think it would be equally wrong to under-estimate the work which N.A.A.F.I. does.

    Personal Case


    asked the Secretary of State for Air whether a compassionate release will be allowed to Corporal K. Whittaker, 4034062, Royal Air Force, whose wife and twin children, aged 3 years, are suffering from tuberculosis and are in separate hospitals, details of which case have been provided by the hon. Member for Wednesbury.

    Corporal Whittaker has been posted to a station near to his home and to the hospitals in which his wife and children are patients, and his hours of work have been adjusted to allow him to visit them. I realise, however, that difficulties will arise when his family leaves hospital, and in the light of representations which he has made in a further interview with his commanding officer, I have decided that he shall be discharged.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his decision will be received with much satisfaction and appreciation?

    Ballistic Missile Bases


    asked the Secretary of State for Air the circumstances that decided him to concentrate the proposed American missile bases in the East Midland counties, in view of the previous declarations that these bases were to be dispersed along the whole eastern seaboard of England and Scotland.

    I know of no such declarations by Her Majesty's Government. The sites for the ballistic missile bases must be determined by operational considerations.

    In view of the declaration made by the Minister of Defence in the debate last week, when he indicated that most of these missile bases would be concentrated in this area, are we to understand that there has been another change of plan relating to the places where these bases are to be located? Has there been a change of plan recently?

    None whatever. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said that these bases would be dispersed throughout Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and East Anglia. That has always been the plan and it still remains so.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that if it is finally decided that a large number of these rocket bases have to be sited in the East Midlands area, and in particular in Lincolnshire, they will be accepted by the large body of the public who live there in the same spirit as the Air Force bases have already been accepted? In addition, is my right hon. Friend aware that, from a farming point of view, a rocket base takes up less land, that there is no noise from practice flying and that there is no more danger than from the present Air Force bases?

    Is this concentration entirely due to operational reasons or is it because there were objections from a neutral country, Sweden, which objected to rockets going over its territory if the bases were stationed further north?

    The criteria which determine the siting of these bases are entirely operational.

    Since we have our own V-bombers with the nuclear deterrent, since there is grave doubt as to the effectiveness of these missiles at all, and since they are to cost us £10 million, is not it time the Government reversed their policy and did not have these American missiles?

    I do not accept that there is grave doubt about the effectiveness of these missiles. On the other hand, I think they will greatly strengthen the effectiveness of the Western deterrent as a whole.

    On a point of order. In view of the disturbing and evasive Answer of the Secretary of State, when I specified deliberately the East Midland counties in my Question, I wish to give notice that I propose to raise the matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.

    Aircraft Crashes (Fire Brigade Notification)


    asked the Secretary of State for Air the policy governing the notification of local authority fire brigades of crashes of Royal Air Force and United States aircraft.

    R.A.F. and U.S.A.F. stations maintain close liaison with local fire brigades. Accidents to Service aircraft are always attended by representatives of the Service authorities. Aircraft accidents on airfields are normally dealt with exclusively by Service firemen but the civil fire brigades may be summoned if additional help is needed. If an aircraft crashes away from an airfield, civil fire brigades may be notified by the Service authorities, the civil police or the public, depending on the circumstances.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that present Government policy prevents local fire brigades being trained to deal with aircraft carrying nuclear weapons when they crash? Will not the Government reverse this policy, balancing public safety against the very natural considerations of security?

    This matter has been very fully dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is responsible. He dealt with it on 4th February and I have nothing to add to what he said.


    Trunk Road Schemes


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will provide a list of the major trunk road schemes each costing over £100,000 of which details have been given to local highway authorities as being schemes in which they will be involved up to the contract-letting stage during the years up to and including 1962.

    I have asked certain of my trunk road agent authorities if they can prepare a number of schemes, but this does not imply that constructional work will start at any particular time. I think therefore that to circulate such a list would only be misleading.

    Is not it unfortunate that Parliament is the last place to be informed of proposals for these road schemes? Is not it a fact that a very large number of proposed schemes were enumerated in lists issued by the Central Office of Information regional officers and that those lists have not been made available to the House? Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that hon. Members are interested in the roads which are to be built in their constituencies and that constituency matters are involved?

    I quite agree. I will look into that slightly different point. I am most anxious that hon. Members should know what road works are to be carried out in their constituencies, because I am glad to say that they will speedily increase in the next year or two.

    London Airport—Chiswick Fly-Over (New Road)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what estimate he has formed of the cost of the new road connecting London Airport to the Chiswick fly-over.

    It is not possible to be precise at this stage, but a rough estimate of the cost is £9½ million.

    As this projected road evidently goes through a very built-up area from the Chiswick fly-over to London Airport, could my right hon. Friend give further details? I do not think that any details of how it is intended to run have been published.

    That is because we have not yet finally established the line, but as soon as we can do that we shall publish all possible details about the line and about the construction.

    Whipps Cross, Leyton


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many pedestrian crossings will be installed and whether traffic lights will be erected on the thoroughfare now being reconstructed at Whipps Cross, Leyton.

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

    No zebra crossings or light signals should be necessary here. The central reservation between the new dual carriageways will help pedestrians to cross the road.

    Is the Minister aware that in the summer—especially after the road has been reconstructed—it will be difficult and highly dangerous to cross this road? Will he make some representations to those responsible for laying out the thoroughfare?

    The Leyton Borough Council is immediately responsible for making such proposals, and evidently it has not thought that they would be necessary.


    Public Service Vehicles (Annual Summary)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation why the Annual Summary of Annual Reports of the Licensing Authorities for Public Service Vehicles for the year ended 31st March, 1956, has only now been published; and whether he will take steps to expedite its publication in future so that this information is available earlier.

    I regret the delay in publishing this summary, which was caused by pressure of other work in my Department. The summary for 1956–57 will be ready shortly and future issues will be published as quickly as possible.

    Whilst thanking the Minister for speeding up the publication of these Reports, may I ask whether he realises that the last Report is now a matter of historical interest only? Is he aware that very valuable information can be gleaned from these Reports, particularly with reference to the servicing of rural areas?

    I agree that publication was very late. I hope to do better in the future.

    Passenger-Carrying Vehicles (Registration)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware that an increasing number of firms are registering passenger-carrying vehicles with twelve or more seats as private cars to transport their employees without charging fares and that thereby they can avoid the public safety provisions of Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, relating to hours of work and rest periods and also the Conditions of Fitness Regulations; and what steps he proposes to take to end this anomaly.

    I am aware that these vehicles are outside the statutory provisions to which the hon. Member refers. We have no power which would enable us to include them, nor have I any evidence that they constitute a danger.

    Is it a fact that these vehicles are not subject to the public service regulations and that it is desirable that conditions of safety should be no less stringent in these cases than in the case of public service vehicles? Cannot the Minister, by administrative or legislative action, bring this anomaly to an end?

    The conditions under which these vehicles operate are quite different from those which apply to public service vehicles that operate for reward or hire. I do not think that there is a case for extending regulations or legislation to cover these vehicles.

    Is it not a fact that they carry the same number of passengers as do ordinary public service vehicles, such as buses and coaches? Why should people be subject to more risk and greater danger on the road because of the poor condition of these vehicles, of which there is evidence in some cases? Why should not these people be subject to inspection under public service vehicle regulations?

    In a general way these vehicles ply for short distances for a short time in the mornings and evenings. If the hon. Member has any evidence to support the implications which he is making, I should be glad to have a look at it.

    Long-Distance Lorry Drivers


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is satisfied that his regulations governing the employment of long-distance lorry drivers are complied with by all employers; and if he will make a statement.

    I am well aware of the importance of securing compliance with these regulations and as I informed the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) on 18th December last, more enforcement staff are now being recruited.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable anxiety about pressure being brought to bear on lorry drivers to extend their hours of work in such a way as to cause them great difficulty and trouble? Can the right hon. Gentleman say definitely what kind of steps he is taking to bring home to these people that they must comply with the regulations?

    I told the House in my Answer what step we are taking. It is to increase the number of the enforcement staff.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a year ago I sent him evidence of how the law had been broken and men forced to work longer hours than the law required and that I was told that nothing could be done about it because the enforcement staff was engaged in administering petrol rationing? Is he aware that in only the last few weeks a firm has been heavily fined? Is he aware that the allegations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) are widespread and that lorry drivers are being forced to endanger public safety through being required to drive for longer periods than the law allows? Will the right hon. Gentleman's staff make active investigation into this matter and bring the offenders to book?

    I do not accept that the hon. Member's statement has general application. All laws are broken from time to time. If hon. Members on either side of the House will give my Department details, they will always be most carefully followed up. As to the general situation, I have said that a large increase will take place in the number of enforcement officers.

    Civil Aviation

    Prestwick Airport (Direct Rail Link)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will examine in the light of the further structural developments at Prestwick Airport, the feasibility of incorporating a railway station in the terminal, as has been done at Gatwick, so that a direct railway link would connect Glasgow with the airport.

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

    Yes, Sir. In planning the re-development of Prestwick Airport my right hon. Friend will examine the possibility of a direct rail link between Glasgow and the airport.

    Whilst thanking the hon. Gentleman for that statement, may I ask whether, in view of it, he will consider the possibility of making it clear that Prestwick Airport will be ready by 1960 to deal with the newer and bigger jet aircraft which will be on the North Atlantic routes?

    As I think the hon. Member knows, we are still in consultation with the operators about their requirements for the operation of jet aircraft. The jet era presents new problems to Prestwick and we are devising a new scheme and will present it as soon as possible.

    Will not my hon. Friend agree that it would be infinitely preferable and much less expensive to the taxpayer to establish a helicopter service between Prestwick, Glasgow, Perth and Aberdeen rather than establish this service?

    Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) would like to put that question on the Order Paper.

    Aircraft (Safety And Maintenance)


    asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what standards of skill are required for those responsible for safety and maintenance of civil aircraft; and whether he is satisfied that there is adequate supervision to ensure reliability in service.

    The Air Registration Board, under delegated powers, ensure the necessary standards of skill by licensing engineers and through the approval of firms' inspection organisations. I have no reason to doubt the adequacy of these arrangements.

    Has not the Minister seen the allegations made by some of the technical staffs that the standard of efficiency in this matter has fallen very greatly and that there are not enough people in the industry to ensure adequate safety? Could he give a reassuring answer to the public on this matter?

    I am grateful to the hon. Member. I must make it plain that I am not commenting on accidents on which I have not yet had reports, but the fact is that there is nothing in our Ministerial records, which go back to 1947, to indicate that any accident to public transport aircraft has been due to the failure of maintenance.

    Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a quite outstandingly efficient general council for this industry and that if anybody connected with the industry has any substantial criticism to make they should put it in the first place before that council?

    I entirely agree that that is the right thing to do, and I do not think that any such allegation has been made.

    Ministry Of Defence


    The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:


    To ask the Minister of Defence, if he will state the percentages of the national Budget expenditure and national gross product, respectively, devoted to defence in each of the last twelve years.

    On a point of order. This Question and Question No. 36, I believe, are of particular interest to half the party opposite. Would I be in order in asking whether the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), who are supposed to put the Questions, have been warned off by the Leader of the Opposition?

    My answer to the hon. Member's question is, "No, it would not be in order."

    Ballistic Missiles


    asked the Minister of Defence if he will now state how many squadrons, and the strength of each squadron, of American-made ballistic missiles will be stationed in Britain; where they will be based; what precise arrangements have been come to as to what power will decide when such missiles are to be fired; and to what extent Great Britain and the United States of America, respectively, will be responsible for the costs of building and maintaining such bases.


    asked the Minister of Defence on how many occasions the Thor missile has been tested.

    I cannot add anything to the information given on this subject by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air in the defence debate last week.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the statement made last week, to which he has referred, represents the considered judgment and decision of all the members of the Government?

    The hon. Gentleman's Question to me asked how many squadrons there were, the strength of each squadron and things of that kind. The considered judgment was that it would not be in the public interest to give that information.

    Can the Minister of Defence say if it is the case that this missile has been tested on ten occasions, but that on five of those occasions the test was completely unsuccessful? Is not it the case that the weapon has also been rejected by the American Army as being obsolescent, and, as far as they are concerned, in their view, far safer in Britain than in America? Has the right hon. Gentleman studied the debate yesterday, in which we were told that we have a missile project of our own, the Polaris, which is far more effective and efficient than the obsolete and unpredictable Thor?

    It seems that the hon. Gentleman has been reading the newspapers, and has not been reading HANSARD very carefully.

    Will the Minister reread HANSARD and see whether he can answer this question? Is not it a fact that everywhere outside this Government the Thor is regarded as a highly inefficient missile, and is not it ridiculous to waste £10 million on bringing it over here?

    Can the Minister assure the House that the criticisms of this weapon which have been published by the leading Conservative newspaper in this country are unjustified?

    It is a well accustomed rule in this House that Ministers are not expected to comment on newspaper reports.

    Disarmament Proposals


    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will specify the various disarmament proposals, nuclear and conventional, which have been accepted in principle by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the four Western Powers and those on which no agreement has yet been reached in principle.

    The differences of principle between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers relate to the entire nature of a partial disarmament agreement and to most of the elements to be included in it. In fact, I am not aware that the Soviet Government have ever admitted that there is agreement, in principle on any disarmament measure at all. Nevertheless, the Western Governments considered that in last year's negotiations they had achieved common ground with the Soviet Union on certain matters that could be included in a disarmament plan if general agreement were reached. As the list of these matters and of the points which remain disagreed is rather long, I will with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    Would not the Minister agree that agreement was reached in principle on proposals for safeguards against surprise attack? May I also ask him whether it is correct, as stated in The Times today, that a proposal was made for a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the disarmament deadlock? Are Her Majesty's Government in favour of such a meeting?

    With regard to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's first point, that is the issue in regard to which the nearest point of agreement has been reached, although not agreement in principle. On the second point, although it would not be correct to say that any definite decision with regard to a meeting of the Security Council has been made, the discussions are going on and we are very hopeful that measures can be taken to resolve this deadlock.

    Is it a fact that a large part of the delay in reaching further agreement on the matter of disarmament has been chiefly due to the obstructiveness of Soviet delegates in the past? Would not my hon. Friend emphasise the point that Her Majesty's Government have taken every opportunity to try to accept any reasonable proposals put before them, and that there is no possible hope of reaching any agreement on disarmament unless the Soviet delegates are prepared to do something more constructive than just talk about peace?

    I think there is a great deal in what my hon. Friend has said. The important thing is that we should work towards the future to achieve this very desirable result.

    Is not it fair to say that the Soviet Union has, in fact, put forward a large number of proposals with a view to securing a disarmament agreement?

    That is perfectly correct, and is the subject of a Question by the right hon. and learned Gentleman which is to be answered next week. At the same time, a great many of these proposals amount to the same thing, and over a long period there was no change whatever in their attitude.

    Following is the list:

    The list of matters on which the Western Governments considered that common ground was achieved in last year's negotiations is as follows:
  • (i) The principle that any suspension of nuclear tests should be subject to international inspection; the Soviet Union has, however, refused to discuss just what this inspection would involve and how it could be carried out.
  • (ii) The principle of aerial and ground inspection as a means of protection against surprise attack; but there is no agreement on the areas to be inspected and again the Soviet Union has refused to discuss inspection arrangements in detail.
  • (iii) The figures to which the armed forces of the major powers could be limited, in successive stages.
  • (iv) The principle, that, in a first-stage agreement, the participating states should draw up lists of conventional arms to be put into internationally supervised depots. However, Mr. Bulganin has now proposed that measures of conventional disarmament should not be discussed at the "Summit talks" but deferred till later.
  • There is no agreement of principle on the following Western proposals:
  • (a) for the cut-off in production of fissile material for nuclear weapons;
  • (b) for reduction of existing military stocks of fissile material after the cut-off;
  • (c) for a study of control over the use of outer space;
  • (d) for an undertaking that nuclear weapons should be used only in self-defence;
  • (e) for exchange of information on military expenditure;
  • (f) for international inspection and control generally.
  • Likewise, there is no agreement on Soviet proposals for an absolute ban on the use of nuclear weapons; for the elimination of nuclear weapons altogether; for a percentage cut in military budgets; for the elimination of foreign military bases; for reduction of the forces of the four major Powers stationed in Germany and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Warsaw Pact areas; and for measures to stop propaganda for war.
    Details of all the disarmament proposals mentioned will be found in the report on last year's proceedings of the Disarmament Sub-Committee, Command 333.

    National Service



    asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement clarifying the present position of young men born between 1st October and 31st December, 1939, under the National Service Acts.

    The White Paper on Call-up of Men to the Forces, 1957–60, explained that men born in the last three months of 1939 were unlikely to be called up. I have nothing to add to that statement at present.

    While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that statement, may I ask him if he could say if there is any fear that these men will have to be called up to the forces, because, as he will appreciate, the majority are now 18½ years of age, and if they have to wait another two years to be called up, few employers will give them a worth-while job?

    I would certainly like to resolve this uncertainty as soon as I can. I have said that implicit in the word "unlikely" there is a chance that they may be called up. The position at the moment is that it is unlikely that they will be needed, and when I can make the position absolutely clear, I will do so.


    Displaced Labour (Consultations)


    asked the Minister of Labour what consultations he has had with British industrialists, and the Trades Union Congress for the absorption of displaced labour.

    It is my practice at the regular meetings of the National Joint Advisory Council to review the employment situation in the country, and problems arising from the displacement of labour are discussed as necessary.

    Is the Minister aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House are fully aware of the importance of this machinery, but, in view of the increasing gravity of the problem, would the Minister consider the possibility of developing this consultation more at the local level so that the varied experience of local trade unions can be brought fully into play?

    I think this is the right forum at the national level. At the local level, there are such provisions as the local employment committees, which do excellent work. As far as consultations with trade unions and employers are concerned, the right way is to work through the National Joint Advisory Council.

    Birmingham Small Arms Factory, Cardiff


    asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to ensure alternative employment for the workpeople of the Cardiff Birmingham Small Arms factory when it closes on 31st March next; and whether he will make a statement.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) on 26th February.

    In view of the fact that that reply told us nothing of any value, the fact that the Minister has already told us that 3,400 people are signing the register at the employment exchange in Cardiff, and the further fact that the Llandaff North Engineering Company has announced that it is likely to close in April, when we will have another 800, counting that factory and B.S.A., on the employment register, cannot the Minister give some urgency to this matter?

    We always try to do what we can with each problem as it arises, but, of course, it does not follow that an announcement of redundancy is the same thing as an increase in the numbers on the employment register. As we have been able to show on a number of occasions in the past, that is not so. We will do everything we can through our local offices to help these people.

    Engineering Vacancies, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne


    asked the Minister of Labour how many engineers were unemployed, and how many engineering vacancies were available in the county borough of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 1st March, 1958.

    At 17th February, there were 204 men and boys on the register of employment exchanges in Newcastle-upon-Tyne whose last employment was in the engineering group of industries, and at 12th February there were 201 vacancies for men and boys in those industries notified to those employment exchanges and remaining unfilled. These figures include office staff, labourers and other ancillary workers as well as craftsmen.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the position has considerably worsened since then and that we now estimate that about 1,200 engineers of one sort or another are unemployed on Tyneside? Further, is he aware that a local newspaper today carries a report of another 200 men being paid off this week? May I ask the Minister two further questions? First, what steps is he taking with his right hon. Friend to ensure that the running down of arms orders in the big engineering works is synchronised with the provision of new ones? Secondly, what is he doing with his right hon. Friend to deal with the rapidly deteriorating position of the shipping and ship-repairing industry on the Tyne, because we are extremely perturbed about the whole problem?

    As regards the Question on the Order Paper, the figures I have given are recent ones, and I have no information that the position has deteriorated as the hon. Gentleman suggests, but I will look into the matter in the light of the figures he has suggested to the House. As regards the provision of new industries, that question should be put directly to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

    Night Bakeries (Women Workers)


    asked the Minister of Labour how many permissions have been granted, and are at present in operation, to night bakeries for the employment of part-time women workers under the Factories (Evening Employment) Order, 1950; how many work-people are affected; by whom they are employed; and in which bakeries.

    Permissions under the Factories (Evening Employment) Order may be granted by district inspectors of factories without reference to Headquarters and the information is not immediately available. I am asking inspectors to report and will write to the right hon. Member.

    May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he is aware of a growing practice in the bakery industry to take advantage of the Act by dismissing full-time employees and employing part-time female workers merely for the six to ten o'clock shift? Does not he agree that this was not the intention of the Order, and will he ask his inspectors to look into this practice?

    I will certainly keep that in mind, because it is our intention to make certain that the Act is operated as it should be.