House Of Commons
Monday, 7th March. 1960
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, now that the investigations of the Franco-British group into the practical and economic possibilities of a tunnel under the Channel have been carried out, if he will approach the French Government with a view to facilitating its construction.
The International Group who have commissioned the studies of the Tunnel project have not yet transmitted their report to Her Majesty's Government. We shall have to study it before taking any action.
Assuming that this report is favourable, both as to the engineering possibilities and as to the economic prospects, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that any action taken by the Government will at least help and not hinder this great project for peace?
Certainly, I can assure the hon. and learned Member that we shall study the report carefully and bear in mind the point which he has made.
Will the Foreign Secretary assure us that we shall not have the objections on defence grounds which have always been put forward since the 1880's?
That is certainly a consideration which is present to our minds.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent Her Majesty's Government still adhere to the principles set out in the Atlantic Charter; and, in particular, how far they still support Article 3 which enjoins respect for the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.
Her Majesty's Government adhere to the principles set out in the Atlantic Charter, including Article 3.
Do the Government regard the principle set out in Article 3 as being of universal validity? If they do, is there any reason why it should not apply in Nyasaland, the Rhodesias, South-West Africa and the Union of South Africa?
It is not for me to answer about those territories, but the hon. and learned Member will recollect that this principle was more precisely defined in the Charter of the United Nations, in particular, in Articles 73 and 76. We abide by those articles.
Did not the Prime Minister on 17th July, 1958, proclaim in the House, in justification for the Jordan policy, the right to intervene on behalf of any Government which asked Her Majesty's Government to help them out against their own subjects, and is not that a violation of this article?
I think that is getting some way away from the Question on the Order Paper. If the hon. Member will again study the provisions of the Charter dealing with non-self-governing territories, he will see that we certainly abide by what is said there.
World Refugee Year
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is yet able to say whether Her Majesty's Government will increase its contribution to the World Refugee Year Appeal, in view of the response of the general public, as exemplified by the information supplied by the Mayor of the Borough of Willesden and sent to him by the hon. Member for Willesden, West.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if Her Majesty's Government have yet decided to make a further contribution to the United Kingdom Appeal for World Refugee Year.
I warmly welcome the magnificent response of the public to the World Refugee Year and have noted the success of the appeal in many districts, including Willesden. The year ends on 31st May. These facts will be taken into account in deciding, towards the end of the period, whether or not a further contribution should be made by the Government.
While thanking the Secretary of State for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that if the present rate of public support continues it will make the Government's rate of contribution look rather niggardly? Will he tell me how much of the money has been given and when the remainder is likely to be given?
I should want notice of the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. Answering the first part, whether we subscribe as individuals or as taxpayers, it all comes out of the national wealth.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that hon. Members are receiving many communications from all over the country and that considerable pressure is being applied in this respect? Is he aware that so far we have not had a negative reply to the Questions which have been asked on this subject? May I ask that in the near future we shall be given a positive and agreeable reply to the representations which have been made?
I am glad that the hon. Member has noted that there has not been a negative reply, because that is indeed the case. We have warmly supported this great effort from the very beginning, and it has had a magnificent response. We hope that it will double its target. Whether one subscribes voluntarily as an individual or compulsorily as a taxpayer is a matter to be taken into consideration. We will, however, look again at the question of a further Government contribution towards the end of the year.
Victims Of Nazism (Compensation)
5 and 6.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what representations he has made to the Federal German Government, in the course of his current discussions concerning victims of Nazi persecution, as a result of their declaration that their proposed fund for compensating otherwise ineligible victims is to be a hardship fund;(2) what reply he has received to representations he has made to the Federal German Government as a result of their decision that stateless victims of Nazi persecution, rightly or wrongly suspected of sabotage in occupied countries, are to be ineligible for compensation from their proposed fund for otherwise ineligible victims.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what conclusions have now been reached in the negotiations concerning compensation for the victims of Nazi persecution; and what proposals have been made for the setting up of a fund by the German Federal Government.
As far as British subjects who were victims of Nazism are concerned, I am afraid I cannot yet add to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) on 10th February.With regard to compensation for stateless and other ineligible victims, I understand that the Federal Government are at present examining various proposals in this connection and are hoping shortly to come to a decision.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that decent opinion is shocked by the subterfuges of the Federal German Government in making it as difficult as possible for the victims to get proper compensation? In his conversations with the German Government, will he make it clear that we are not asking that allowances should be made on the basis of hardship, but that justice should be done to these people?
I do not accept what the hon. Member says about subterfuges. On previous occasions when I have answered him, I have said that I thought that ethical rather than legal considerations should prevail, and I have hopes that the matter will be regarded in that light.
Since the victims of Nazi persecution are the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that if such a fund is set up it would be better to have it placed under the responsibility of the High Commissioner for Refugees rather than under the responsibility of the Federal Government? Will he put forward that view in his further discussions on this matter?
That is a matter which I should like to consider. I could give a more precise answer to the question if I had more notice of it.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, for a period of twelve months, he will arrange for the original captured German documents, jointly owned by the United States and British Governments and presently kept in Washington, to be transferred to London and made available for study by English and European scholars, historians and research workers.
I understand from the Foreign Secretary's answer to an earlier Question that a sorting-out process is now taking place and that some of these documents are being retained for security reasons and the rest returned to Germany. Is it not desirable that before that return takes place British scholars and others should have an opportunity of examining these documents in view of present conditions in Germany, since the consequence of their return to Germany may merely be that they are conveniently pulped?
I do not accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's insinuation about the effect of their return to Germany, or what he indicated about conditions in Germany at present. What is happening is that the work of sorting out these documents is going on. About 15,000 cubic feet of documents still remain to be dealt with, about 9,000 cubic feet having been dealt with and returned. Microfilms are made of all the documents before they are returned. The precise purpose of this is to ensure that the material contained in them shall be available for suitable use.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements Her Majesty's Government have made with the United States Government for the original captured German documents to be available for responsible research to those wishing to examine them.
There are various collections of these documents. The collections in this country and in Washington are under joint British and United States control; and there is also the Berlin Documents Centre, which is under United States control. In so far as a general answer can be given about facilities for research, applications by qualified research workers are considered on their merits, in cases where access for this purpose is not already unrestricted.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman use his good offices, if he possibly can, to see to it that the Berlin Documents Centre, which contains official documents from Nazi official files, should be open to responsible people who want to examine the documents, in the interests of removing Nazi influence and ensuring that those who were responsible for Nazi crimes shall be properly brought to justice?
The Documents Centre is under United States control, and the United States authorities, as I told the House on 10th February, have stated that they will not provide information from the documents except in answer to requests made through official channels. It is for Her Majesty's Government to decide what applications they will sponsor from British subjects for access to such documents. That is where we stand in the matter.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the United States proposal for a plebiscite to settle the future of Germany, he will propose consultations with the United States Administration about the joint policy of the principal Allies in the war in deciding on the terms of the peace treaty and the framework of collective security and disarmament within which the unification of Germany is to take place.
Consultations on these matters are already taking place.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to refer to what he told the House on previous occasions, that Her Majesty's Government agree with the proposition that the reunification of Germany can take place only within a framework agreed and guaranteed by the Powers?
I am not sure that that is the Question on the Order Paper. If the hon. Gentleman will put it down, I will endeavour to answer it.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Her Majesty's Government agreed, in the revised 1954 Brussels Treaty, to the prohibition on the manufacture of atomic, biological and chemical weapons by the Federal Government of Germany being limited to German territory.
The prohibition to which the right hon. and learned Member refers was, in fact, a voluntary undertaking. It is true that it only refers specifically to the territory of the Federal Republic. There was no question then (nor is there now) of a German Government wanting to manufacture these weapons outside Germany.
Was not the British public led to understand at the time that the Federal Government of West Germany—voluntarily, as the right hon. Gentleman said, but absolutely— gave up its right to manufacture nuclear weapons? Is it intended to amend the Brussels Treaty so as to extend the prohibition to territories outside German territory?
I think the right hon. Gentleman must be satisfied with my answer. There was no question then and there is no question now of the German Government manufacturing these things either on German territory or outside.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there is a report that German soldiers are to be based on and to do certain exercises in this country? Is he aware that our germ factory at Porton is under the control of the War Office? Will he give an assurance that none of these German soldiers will be studying germ warfare in this country?
I cannot always follow the supplementaries of the hon. Member. Is this an invitation to an exercise in Ayrshire?
In view of that contemptible answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Berlin Air Corridors (High Altitude Flying)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what official discussions he has had with the Governments of the United States of America and France regarding the height at which Western aircraft should fly to Berlin.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if agreement has yet been reached with other Allied Governments about high-altitude flying into Berlin; and if he will make a statement.
I have had discussions with the United States and French Governments and I am aware of the reports which have appeared in the Press. As I said in the House on 20th April last year, Her Majesty's Government hold the view that Allied aircraft have the right to fly into Berlin along the air corridors at any altitude. The modern aircraft coming into service everywhere have higher operational altitudes than do the aircraft which have been in use hitherto. The question at issue is primarily a practical one, not a political one. I hope that it will so be regarded by all affected.
Can the Foreign Secretary assure us that he is now taking the same position as he took at the time when he answered the Question to which he now refers, namely, that while maintaining our right to fly at any height over Berlin, it would still be desirable for the Western Powers to avoid any provocative physical assertion of that right until the Summit Conference?
I think it would be desirable for both sides to avoid any physical assertion of any rights. I think it a technical problem and hope it can be dealt with in the spirit of commonsense as a technical problem.
Can the Foreign Secretary say whether or not there is an intention to fly now at over 10,000 feet? I sympathise with the view that if it can be postponed until after the Summit Conference it should be.
This has all arisen out of some leak somewhere. I hope it will be dealt with as a technical matter to be discussed between the air safety control authorities on both sides.
International Red Cross (Draft Rules)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why no official reply, other than an acknowledgement, has been sent to the memorandum of the International Committee of the Red Cross, received in May 1958, asking for Her Majesty's Government's views on the Draft Rules for the Limitation of the Dangers incurred by the Civilian Population in Times of War, designed to restrict the use of nuclear weapons, in view of the fact that the preparation and furtherance of the Draft Rules received the approval of the Government during the 19th International Red Cross Conference held at New Delhi in October 1957.
These Rules were transmitted for consideration, and we are considering them. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, we believe that the banning of the use of nuclear weapons should be discussed in the context of general disarmament.
As two years have elapsed since a Government representative supported these Rules in the International Red Cross Conference, is it not at the very least discourteous not to have given an answer to the memorandum in the meantime? Is the trouble due to the fact that the adoption of the proposed Article 14 would, in conditions of a European conflict, be tantamount to the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons, because of the inevitable injury to civilians that the use of such weapons would cause?
The point made in the second part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is precisely the purport of the second part of my original Answer. As for the first part of his question, as was pointed out at the time, there are many complicated legal matters to be examined. These Rules were sent to Governments in draft, not necessarily with the idea of getting a reply but for consideration. If the hon. and learned Member will read again the speech made by the United Kingdom representative at the time, he will see the accuracy of what I am saying.
Middle East (Tripartite Agreement)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what recent consultations he has had with the United States and French Governments regarding the implimentation of the Tripartite Agreement.
None, Sir. I have nothing to add to what I told the House on 17th February.
In view of the doubt about the interpretation of this agreement now, will the Foreign Secretary, if and when a suitable moment arises, consider making some proposals for a new agreement to guarantee peace in the Middle East?
That is a very wide proposition to deal with by way of an answer to a supplementary question. The realities of the present position are that, by reason of the United Nations' responsibilities and the part that the Secretary-General has been playing, we feel that the forum of the United Nations is the correct one in which consultation should take place at present.
In view of the fact that the Jordan Government have recently declared that they will fight on the side of the United Arab Republic if that Republic becomes involved in war with Israel in regard to the frontier problem east of Galilee, can the Foreign Secretary say whether the Government recognise any obligations for British intervention in such a situation?
The hon. Member knows that the more I say publicly about the Tripartite Declaration and any possible action under it the more difficulty it makes in the Middle East, and the more our statements and actions are open to suspicion. It is of no benefit to the interests of stability in the area to explore this matter further. I have stated our position previously, and I have repeated it to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I would ask him to leave the matter where it is.
I was not relating this question directly to the Tripartite Agreement, but it is a matter of importance not only to this country but to the peace of the world that the British Government should state whether or not they recognise any obligation to intervene in case of war in the Middle East.
I have stated on a previous occasion what I regard as our obligations. I have stated them both in terms of this Declaration and with regard to the Charter of the United Nations. That remains our position.
Has not the Foreign Secretary observed that Colonel Nasser has recently denied the validity of the Tripartite Agreement and said that it is merely an aspect of imperialism which he rejects in its entirety?
Certainly he has said that. He made a speech which was provoked by a statement made in this House in answer to Questions asked. We have stated our position, and we had much better leave it as we have stated it.
Since the interpretation of the Tripartite Agreement given by the Foreign Secretary is not in accord with its plain meaning, or with the interpretation given by the United States, would it not be far better to have further consultations?
I find it very difficult to please the Opposition in this matter. It was suggested by one hon. Member that because of what Colonel Nasser has said the Agreement has no effect, and by another that because of what I said we should have further consultations. It would be better to leave the matter exactly as I stated it the last time I was questioned.
Western European Union (Nuclear Weapons)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the outcome of the Western European Union meeting concerning the possession and joint control of nuclear weapons.
The Assembly of Western European Union, which met from 30th November to 3rd December, adopted a Recommendation a part of which proposed the establishment of a joint European Strategic Nuclear Force.
Although the stated aim was to avoid the spread of nuclear weapons to further countries, such as Western Germany, does not the Foreign Minister think that the probable result will be the exact opposite?
The hon. Member ought to argue that matter out with certain of his colleagues, such as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall) and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) who voted in favour of the Resolution.
United Nations (Israel And United Arab Republic)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct his representative at the United Nations Organisation to propose that the Security Council should consider the present situation on the Israel-United Arab Republic borders and the continued refusal of the Government of Egypt to allow Israeli ships and cargoes to pass through the Suez Canal.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the nature of the current action being taken by Her Majesty's Government within the United Nations to ensure for the ships of all nations the application of the right of free transit through the Suez Canal.
In the last few days tension on the Israel-United Arab Republic borders seems to have diminished in spite of the incidents to which there has been reference today. In the circumstances, the action suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to be necessary. As regards Suez Canal transit, this is still being handled by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Is it not time Chat the Security Council took some positive action to ensure that the Government of Egypt observe the provisions of the 1951 Resolution? Would it not be possible for United Nations observers to be placed on Israeli ships seeking to pass through the Suez Canal? Further, has not the time come for contingents of the United Nations Emergency Force to patrol the borders between Israel and the United Arab Republic?
The difficulty about what the right hon. and learned Member refers to as positive action by the United Nations is one of enforcement. One has to proceed in this matter by a process of consultation with all the people principally concerned, using the very great influence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in this matter. At present, I do not think that a meeting of the Security Council, to which the Question refers, would advance the causes which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also take into consideration the fact that the granting of moneys by the World Bank to a country which refuses absolutely to allow the Canal to be used for international purposes is entirely wrong and that some steps should be taken to prevent that money being utilised for the purpose of stopping international shipping from going through the Canal? Why cannot the Foreign Secretary do something in that direction in order to prevent instead of encouraging an abuse of the Canal facilities so far as international matters are concerned?
I do not want to relate an answer to a supplementary question to the events of some time ago. All I would say on the specific point of a loan by the International Bank is that I think the hon. Gentleman should reflect carefully on the wisdom or unwisdom of attaching political conditions to such a loan. I think that is a wider issue which I suggest the hon. Member should carefully consider.
Will the Foreign Secretary do me the courtesy of saying whether he will consider the suggestion contained in my supplementary question, that United Nations observers might well be put on Israeli ships, and that the situation is such that United Nations observers should be put on the borders of Israel and the United Arab Republic? Will he consider that?
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will absolve me from any desire to be discourteous. I will consider carefully any suggestions which he may put forward.
Egypt (Sequestrated Property)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many sequestrated properties have now been returned to their owners under the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian Financial Agreement; how many properties are still in the hands of the Sequestrator General; and if he will make a statement.
As my answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
In view of previous statements, and in advance of any opportunity of seeing the reply, may I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will bear in mind the undertaking of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if sufficient funds are not available to pay British business men who have lost their property, the Foreign Secretary will bring the matter before the House?
Certainly we shall bear in mind previous statements which have been made.
Following is the answer:
According to the latest figures supplied by the Sequestrator General to the British Diplomatic Mission in Cairo, the position was that, by the end of February, 4,716 applications for desequestration had been submitted, 2,655 had been accepted; release agreements had been signed, or were ready for signature, in 1,526 cases (1,346 individuals and 180 companies); while 253 of the remainder were cases where the applications submitted had been found to be incomplete or insufficiently documented, or where further information was required from the claimants. The normal interval between the signature of a release agreement and the actual return of the property to its owner or his representative is between three days and six weeks according to the complexity of the case. But unfortunately it has not been possible to obtain detailed or reliable figures regarding the number of properties actually returned.
Holy City Of Jerusalem
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when, and on what occasion, he last requested Her Majesty's Government's representative at the United Nations to draw attention to the fact that the United Nations resolution calling for international status for the Holy City of Jerusalem has not been implemented.
I have not instructed our representative at the United Nations to raise this.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is all very well to ask our representatives to raise matters concerning the Suez Canal and Israeli shipping passing through it, but that Israel has been condemned by the mixed Armistice Commission over the recent incidents in Syria and also branded as an aggressor? Would he, therefore, consider carefully asking Israel to honour one or two of her obligations under the United Nations Charter?
That goes very wide of the Question of the Order Paper, which deals with the international status of the Holy City of Jerusalem. The United Kingdom voted against that Resolution —I think it was on 9th December, 1949 —because we said we could not vote for any solution which was not acceptable both to Israel and Jordan. That remains our position.
I find the replies given by the Foreign Secretary about the Resolution of the United Nations concerning Israel and the Arab States to be unsatisfactory and beg leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on Cyprus.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the progress of the Cyprus negotiations.
The discussions in Cyprus, in which my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies is taking part, are continuing.
Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House why he is not prepared to make a declaration on the Cypriot administration of base areas which will be legally irrevocable, and why he will not agree that the bases should revert to the Cyprus Republic in the case of Britain having no further use for them? Would he agree that the position taken by the Government on these issues seems to be based entirely on considerations of national prestige and is actually damaging to national interests?
I have tried to suggest to the the hon. Gentleman that it does not further the success of the negotiations when the Opposition constantly take a view inimical to that of the Government— [Laughter.]—it does not; it delays the results. The discussions are proceeding and a measure of progress has been made. The last time I referred to some part of their content I was rebuked for revealing confidential discussions and, having received that rebuke from the hon. Member, I have no intention of saying more than I have said, which is that discussions are continuing and some progress is being made.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, judging from the supplementary questions from hon. Gentlemen opposite, it would appear that there are sources of information open to the Opposition which, are not open to back bench Members on this side of the House? Will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange to make an equal division of the intelligence regarding confidential negotiations now going on so that we on this side of the House may ask intelligent supplementary questions as well as hon. Members opposite?
There was an important inference in my hon. Friend's supplementary question about intelligent supplementary questions from hon. Members opposite, but I do not control all the sources of information.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Exercise)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has received regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's recent exercise, Big Deal, by the Portuguese and United States air forces on 9th and 10th February, for the defence of the Iberian peninsula.
That was not a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercise.
The information is that there was an important exercise for the defence of Western Europe outside the control of N.A.T.O. in which forces of the Portuguese, American and Spanish Armies participated. Is not it an important matter for this Parliament that the defence of the West is supported by Fascist forces which do not accept de- mocratic principles? Does this mean that West Europe is now expendable up to the Spanish Pyrenees?
I do not think that any of the inferences drawn by the hon. Member are correct.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will consider supporting at the ten-nation disarmament commission the new proposals of the Canadian Government for the ending of nuclear tests.
The Canadian Government's opposition to further nuclear tests is well known to Her Majesty's Government but we have no knowledge of any new Canadian proposals in the sense implied in the Question.
I was referring to those made by the Prime Minister of Canada two or three weeks ago. In view of the 18 months' deadlock at Geneva and the innumerable series of evasions and objections both by East and West, does not the Foreign Secretary think that these new Canadian proposals, to stop all nuclear tests without becoming involved in a long series of qualifications, are sensible?
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has got the point of view of the Canadian Government correctly In a statement I have read, the Minister of External Affairs said control was an important part and that stopping tests is important. That is exactly our position. We wish to have tests stopped, but we wish to have proper control. I do not accept that there has been 18 months of delay. Although the conference has proceeded slowly, it has made steady progress towards objectives which, I think, will meet our point of view and that of the Canadian Government.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent agreement has been reached between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers on the disarmament proposals to be put before the ten-nation disarmament commission on 15th March.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement on the disarmament proposals which Her Majesty's Government intends to put before the ten-nation disarmament commission on 15th March.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what level the armed forces of the five permanent members of the Security Council are to be reduced in the first stage of the proposals to be submitted by Her Majesty's Government to the forthcoming disarmament conference.
These proposals are still under discussion between the Five Western members of the Ten-Power Committee (United States, France, Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom), and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is going to Paris tonight to continue these discussions.
While thanking the Foreign Secretary for that reply, may I ask if he has seen the report in some of today's newspapers about the discussions in the American Senate criticising the lack of clarity and the confusion between departments about Western disarmament policy? Considering that there is only one week to go before proposals have to be prepared, may we be assured by the Foreign Secretary that some proposals will be put forward at any rate by the United Kingdom on 15th March, and that they will be comprehensive proposals for all-round disarmament?
I think the hon. Member can be assured that proposals will be put forward. I have a very clear idea of the nature of the proposals I should like to see put forward, and the Minister of State, who goes to Paris tonight, is fully in my confidence in this matter.
On the specific point in regard to the level of armed forces, could the Foreign Secretary say just a further word? Is it not the case that we are aiming at a reduction to 489,000 by 1961, which represents a big decrease from the figure of 625,000 originally canvassed in these discussions? Could we not seek to secure among the other four members of the Security Council a proportionate reduction?
Pending the outcome of these discussions, it would be unwise for me to get involved in consideration of a particular matter such as that. The hon. Member will, I know, draw consolation from the fact that we have declared our purpose of bringing down the armed forces of all countries to the level necessary for internal security purposes.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what conclusions he has reached regarding the advisability of publication of the proceedings of the forthcoming conference on disarmament.
Automatic publication inevitably leads to propaganda speeches. It would not, therefore, in my provisional view help the Committee to a successful result if its full proceedings were made public day by day. I am inclined to prefer the procedure, adopted in the nuclear tests negotiations, of a brief daily communiqué. This is, however, a matter upon which we must have regard to the views of the other participants and it will, no doubt, be discussed as soon as the conference convenes.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware, from what work he has seen of the recent proceedings of the nuclear test conference, that this procedure leads to leakages with a much distorted version of what actually takes place? Would it not be far better to have full publication of all full meetings so that the people of the interested countries know what is being said and proposed in their names by their Governments in sufficient time to be able to intervene if necessary if things are not going on well?
I fully admit that the present procedure adopted in the nuclear test conference is not perfect. There are disadvantages, but on the whole I think it is better than having a debate in public from day to day. I am not at all certain that all the interventions that we should get from various people, whom I will not now specify, would always be helpful.
Even if the meeting is held in private, will there not be a great advantage in the rapid publication of the speeches as corrected by the delegates? Is there not great force in what my hon. Friend has said? With ten delegations in the room—probably 80 people—there will be leaks and angled versions from many quarters, with inevitable misunderstandings and probably rancour.
I think there is force in what the right hon. Gentleman said. It is, in many ways, a choice of evils. For example, the debates which take place in the United Nations in public which are fully reported—I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would say that they have really advanced the cause of agreement in these matters. We have to get some kind of procedure going which will be capable of being a negotiation, and that means an element of privacy. I think, therefore, that we had better stick to this idea in which a certain amount is said. There are, I am afraid, inevitable leakages, but it does admit still of there being negotiations. Whatever has leaked from the nuclear conference, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there have been considerable periods when genuine negotiations have been going on.
While everyone would admit that there must be private conversations, as there are conversations behind your Chair, Mr. Speaker, is it not also true that there are great advantages in the people knowing what their delegates are saying in their name? How can the full United Nations Commission be properly informed unless the records are published at regular intervals?
I should like to consider carefully what the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. I think myself that contemporaneous or simultaneous publication would be a mistake, but that is different from what he is suggesting, that periodically there should be a resume or statement on what has been going on. I will look at that.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at what stage he proposes that the People's Republic of China shall be associated with the discussions on general disarmament under international control.
This is an important point, but it would be premature for me to make a public statement on the matter.
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman go so far as to agree with me that we cannot expect China to accept the rules of the conference if we are not giving her admission to it, and that association would not serve the purpose that full admission would?
I have said that the hon. Gentleman has put forward an important point which I think is very relevant to this discussion, but it would be premature to say anything more about it today.
Spanish Foreign Minister (Visit)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements have been made for the visit of Senor Castrella, the Spanish Foreign Minister, to the United Kingdom; and what is the purpose of the visit.
I hope that the Spanish Foreign Minister will accept my invitation to visit the United Kingdom this year. No definite arrangements have yet been made. The purpose of the visit will be to improve relations between the two countries.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that this gentleman received the Iron Cross from Adolf Hitler and that he fought in the Blue Division against Allied Forces? Would the Foreign Secretary not agree that had Spain not been technically neutral this man would have been tried as a war criminal? Will the Foreign Secretary read the book by this man in which he states that the Second World War had been planned during the Civil War in Spain? If he reads the book, he may take a different view about 1936?
The hon. Member is talking about things which happened a long time ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] —indeed, that is so—and we have to live in the world as it is today. This gentleman is the Foreign Minister of Spain, and it is my duty to do the best I can with him to improve relations between our two countries, an objective I should have thought hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish to attain.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the visits of Foreign Ministers from friendly countries of Western Europe will always be welcomed by the people of this country?
Bbc Overseas Services
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the British Broadcasting Corporation's Overseas Service is being cut, including broadcasts to the Far East; and whether he is satisfied that these cuts are in the national interest.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to reduce the overseas broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Departments of Her Majesty's Government prescribe the languages and hours of broadcasting of the British Broadcasting Corporation's External Services. The cost is met by a grant-in-aid which is included in the total sum authorised for expenditure on overseas information services. Within this sum, it is necessary to adjust our overseas information effort, including overseas broadcasting, from time to time as circumstances change. The adjustments include some small decreases and increases. I believe that the action decided upon is right in the circumstances.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that one of the decreases he mentioned is the Thai service, which is to be totally abolished? Is he further aware that Chinese Communist broadcasts to Thailand are being increased? Will he reconsider the decision in this matter in view of the fact that the overseas services of the B.B.C. are our best form of overseas publicity?
I have every sympathy with the point of view of my hon. Friend, but one has to try to cover one's expenditures—one's commitments— within the level of expenditure agreed. Having regard to that fact, I think we have taken the best course open to us, and I do not believe there will be the serious consequences which my hon. Friend considers possible from the ending of the Thai service.
Is not the first point in the reply of the Foreign Secretary a little misleading? Is it not a fact that there has been some inescapable rise in cost in the B.B.C. and, as a result, these services have been considerably reduced? Is there not rather a lack of balance in trying to save a few thousand pounds in this country on something which is effective when we are spending hundreds of millions on defence projects of much less real value to us?
That is a point of view for which hon. Members would expect me to have considerable sympathy. In fact, there is to be a considerable increase in the ceiling for information next year. One has to have regard to the nature of the increases and decreases, but, on balance, this is a reasonable solution.
Is it not a false economy not to have more broadcasts in Thai when there is keen interest in this country in Thailand and a desire for knowledge of British views? Is not the money we spend on Far Eastern broadcasts some of the best-spent money out of the national expenditure? Will my right hon. and learned Friend look again at this matter?
One has to try to come to a balanced view on this. I should like to spend all the money available and have constant broadcasts twenty-four hours a day, but I am not sure that that would improve our interests. We want to have the maximum benefit, but one has to have some regard to what is financially possible. We have to strike a balance and I think I am right in saying that the broadcasts to Burma are being increased. We have to consider other ways of bringing our influence to bear, and I think that on balance this is a fair decision.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the estimated cost to public funds of the British Broadcasting Corporation's transmissions to Persia, Japan, and Thailand.
I am informed by the British Broadcasting Corporation that the direct cost of the Thai Service was £8,940 per annum and the direct costs of the Japanese and Persian Services are at present £14,829 and £15,700 per annum, respectively. But a realistic gross figure would have to take into account the overheads which are difficult to apportion among the individual vernacular services.
Are these not comparatively small sums? Is the Foreign Secretary aware that on both sides of the House there is a feeling that these broadcasts are effective at comparatively small cost? Why should we not develop and expand, instead of cutting them in this way?
The cut in the Thai services amounts to about a quarter of an hour per day. We have to look, as I think the hon. Gentleman in his time had to look, at the whole of the budget to try to fit it into the financial ceiling available to make the best balance between the various services that one may run. That has been done in this case.
International Security Force
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of discussions with other countries regarding the establishment of an executive body of high calibre, with an international security force answerable to it, to keep the peace when general disarmament has been effected.
Not yet, Sir.
When putting forward proposals for the important idea of the International Police Force to keep the peace when total disarmament is effected, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman avoid prejudicing the idea by confusing it with the rôle of the International Control Commission for disarmament, or attempting to substitute for the executive organ of the United Nations some other executive body which is not under their control?
I think that the hon. Gentleman has made two valid points. What we want is not a body which is completely hamstrung by the veto, or a question of a two-thirds majority, but a body which has enough executive authority of its own to take certain action. At the same time, one must not frighten people that that body will take too much on itself. All these matters have to be worked out in discussions, because different points of view are held by the leading nations.
Czechoslovakia (Reverend Odrich Trnka)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to obtain the necessary permission from the Czechoslovak Government for the wife and children of the Reverend Odrich Trnka, a British subject, to leave Czechoslovakia and join him here.
Her Majesty's Embassy in Prague have urged the Czechoslovak authorities on humanitarian grounds to permit Mrs. Trnkova and her children to join Mr. Trnka in this country.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that this couple have been separated for about ten years? As she is a British subject, will he see that these representations are continued so that they may be reunited?
As my hon. and learned Friend knows, the trouble is that the lady is question has Czechoslovakian as well as British nationality, and that the children are not British. However, we will continue to do the best we can to help.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will oppose the admission to, or association with, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or Western European Union of the Spanish Government, either as a condition for granting Germany firing range, storage, etc., facilities in Spain or for any other purpose.
No, Sir. Membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Western European Union, or association with them, is a matter for all the member Governments not just for Her Majesty's Government.
Can the Foreign Secretary give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will vote against any such proposal? We have our responsibility, and in fact we have a veto power on it. Does he propose to use it?
I am certainly not going to make any such declaration in advance. We will judge any such application or suggestion from the point of view of military necessity and political wisdom. I can promise the hon. Gentleman that, but I am not going to specify in advance what particular action we shall take.
Can we not keep a sense of balance on this matter? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it was this country—Spain— through its leader General Franco which resisted the blandishments and threats of Hitler and thereby saved the Mediterranean for the Allies and made the North African invasion possible and successful?
I think that my hon. Friend is quite right in saying that the arguments are not all on one side.
I put this question quite seriously to the Foreign Secretary. Is he aware that the admission of Spain to either N.A.T.O. or Western European Union would, in the view of an overwhelming number of people in this country and outside, destroy the political validity of those organisations?
I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. It would be very foolish for anyone holding my position to say that in perpetuity he is going to exercise a veto on an application by a particular country.
|NUMBER OF ACCIDENTS AND DEATHS REPORTED TO THE FACTORY INSPECTORATE|
|—||1958||1959 (provisional figures)|
|January-September||Whole Year||January-September||Whole Year|
|Works of engineering construction||1,675||2,329||51||2,122||2,886||41|
|The figures for deaths are included in the number of accidents for the whole year.|
Building Workers (Casualties)
asked the Minister of Labour how many men employed in building operations and in work of engineering construction were killed or injured in 1959 and 1958; and whether he will give comparative figures for the initial nine months of each year.
As the reply contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would it be fair to say, however, that the trends have been for the figures to rise in the last few years? If that be so, will the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend seriously consider increasing the number of fully trained inspectors over and above the seven now engaged to see to this work, because they are obviously very much needed?
In answer to the last part of the supplementary question, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are keeping that matter under very close observation. In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, which dealt with numbers, there has been some increase in the number of accidents over the last year, but I am happy to say that the number of fatal accidents is down.
Following is the table of figures:
asked the Minister of Labour how many appointments have been made under the scheme of the Industrial Training Council to appoint training officers to help with the organisation of group apprenticeship schemes.
The number of posts for training officers created so far under the Industrial Training Council Scheme is five; and four appointments have already been made. These posts are concerned not with group apprenticeship schemes alone but with the setting up of training schemes in industry generally.
Are not five training officers hopelessly too few to perform the tasks which need to be performed in the field of group apprenticeship schemes and the other matters which the hon. Gentleman mentioned? Will he say if and when further appointments are likely to be made?
Further appointments are likely to be made as soon as the demand for this service from industry grows.
Youth Employment Service
asked the Minister of Labour what proposals he has to improve the training schemes for new entrants to the Youth Employment Service.
I understand that discussions will take place shortly on this question between the Central Youth Employment Executive and the local authority associations.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary agree that the recent Report of the National Youth Employment Council emphasised the need for much better training facilities for members of the Youth Employment Service?
In particular, can he say how many places the Ministry is now taking for the excellent one-year course organised by the Kent County Council?
The Ministry gives at the moment five scholarships to students at that course.
asked the Minister of Labour how many youth employment offices still remain below the standard considered to be proper by the National Youth Employment Council; and when these sub-standard offices will be modernised.
No definite standards have been, or could be laid down, and the process of inspection and modernisation is a continuous one. I cannot therefore give a precise answer to the Question, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that progress is being made, though not so rapidly as I should wish.
In view of the very considerable unemployment amongst juveniles, especially boys, and the very great pressure that is sometimes brought to bear on them to take any sort of job, can he not bring very strong pressure to bear to see that at least the bureaux are brought up to standard in order to attract the maximum use from parents, employers and juveniles?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this matter is being considered all the time.
The Minister's own people have reported that a proper standard should be devised for the bureaux. The hon. Gentleman knows what the standard is. Can he not indicate those bureaux which fall below standard?
asked the Minister of Labour what steps he has taken, since the issued of the National Youth Employment Council's Report, to increase the number of his inspectors so that formal inspections of youth employment bureaux can be maintained at the previous 6–7 year intervals.
One additional appointment has been made to the Inspectorate of the Central Youth Employment Executive since the end of the period covered by the National Youth Employment Council's Report. Although my right hon. Friend and I are not in favour of a rigid timetable, we are anxious that the average interval between formal inspections of Youth Employment Offices shall not increase, and we are keeping the inspection programme under review.
In view of the Minister of Education's considerable loss of power over local education authorities through the institution of the general grant, does not the hon. Gentleman think that recourse to more inspection would be a very good way of getting the more reactionary authorities to bring their service up to date? Will he not, therefore, do much more about this question of producing inspectors and sending them round, especially to the more reactionary authorities, much more frequently?
As I said to the House, we are anxious that there should not be a lengthening of the interval between inspections. We are keeping the inspection programme under review.
asked the Minister of Labour how many visits were made in 1959 by factory inspectors to building operation sites and to works of engineering construction; how many of these inspectors had recognised technical or professional qualifications in building construction or civil engineering; and how many visits by such qualified inspectors were made in 1959 to building operations and works of engineering construction.
Thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and eighty-one visits were made to building sites and 1,718 visits to works of engineering construction. Eleven of the visiting inspectors had recognised professional, technical or equivalent academic qualifications, and 551 of the visits to building sites and 43 of the visits to works of engineering construction were made by them.
Has the Parliamentary Secretary noted from his Answer that it is apparent that only a small proportion of the visits were made by inspectors who were technically or professionally qualified? Is not that unsatisfactory, in view of the changes which are occurring in building construction and civil engineering works? They are becoming very much more dangerous to the men who are at work. May we have an assurance on the lines of my last Question that we shall have more inspectors who are fully trained for this type of work?
Experience of the present system shows that the great proportion of building work and much civil engineering work can be inspected effectively by experienced inspectors with knowledge of the Regulations and their practical application. Qualification by membership of a professional institution is not necessary for this work. It may be, however, that more specialisation on it in the general inspectorate would be desirable, and this is being considered
Is it a fact that accidents in building and in constructional engineering are still increasing, although industrial accidents generally are decreasing? In view of that, is it not urgent to consider the need for more inspectors with the technical and professional qualifications to which my hon Friend referred?
I think that it is very important to consider all aspects of safety in the building and civil engineering industries.
asked the Minister of Labour how many women were registered as unemployed at the Blackburn Employment Exchange on the latest available date.
Eight hundred and ninety-three on 15th February, 1960.
Is the Minister of Labour aware that that is an increase of 100 over four weeks? This figure is expected to rise as the cotton reorganisation scheme comes into effect. Will he, therefore, make representations to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that it is quite absurd for Blackburn to be removed from the D.A.T.A.C. list, or list of areas to be helped under the Local Employment Bill, when there is this mounting problem of the unemployment of married women over 40 who need alternative work?
It is, in fact, an increase of 74 over the last four weeks, but I understand that probably about 200 more women will become unemployed as the result of further closing of the mills. On the other hand, about 400 more women have been taken into employment in the mills remaining open, and about two-thirds of the 1,200 new jobs which employers estimate will be provided in Blackburn will be for women.
House Of Commons Catering
asked the hon. Member for Holland with Boston as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee if, for the information of hon. Members now participating in the boycott of South African goods, he will circulate in HANSARD a list of the articles of South African origin supplied by the Refreshment Department, and identify them on the menus, wine-lists, etc., in the rooms in which they are served.
To ascertain the country of origin of all goods supplied by the Kitchen Committee would be to impose a substantial burden on a limited staff. It is not likely that menus or lists indicating this would be accurate for very long.
I did not ask the hon. Member to do it for very long, and I did not ask him to indicate all the countries of origin. Is he aware that this information would be useful to hon. Members taking part in this boycott, which is supported by members of all the political parties represented in this House, and that it would also be useful to those hon. Members who prefer to follow the example of Mr. Randolph Churchill and Sir Oswald Mosley and consume as much as they can of South African produce?
The hon. Gentleman will find that South African wines supplied by the Refreshment Department were already differentiated on the wine list. I would further advise him, if he desires to practise the boycott, to avoid fruit salad for the near future.
Will my hon. Friend recognise the great importance of the Question on the Order Paper, which represents the highest common political factor of Members on the benches opposite?
From movement, I understood that the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee desired to answer. If that is not so, I will call another Question.
I was only going to say, Sir, that I think it is wise to allow the general manager of the Department to purchase supplies from the best sources available, irrespective of pressures from constituents for political purposes.
Will not my hon. Friend agree that the Socialist-proposed boycott of South African goods is about as stupid as their vendetta in regard to Spain?
I rather doubt whether that is a question for the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee.
Jolly good question, though.
I think that the best solution for hon. Members who wish to take part in this childish business would be to bring sandwiches with them from home during the month of March.
Oil Heaters (Report)
A Report by the Joint Fire Research Organisation of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Fire Offices' Committee on the effect of draughts on the burning of portable drip-feed radiant oil heaters is being published this afternoon. Copies have been placed in the Library.The main conclusion is that these heaters are safe in a house with the outer doors and windows closed, but that all the heaters of this type tested are capable of starting a fire very quickly if exposed to a draught such as can be caused by an open outer door. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education stated last Thursday in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Lady Gammans), copies of the Report have been sent to the Government Departments concerned. Copies have also been sent to the manufacturers, and immediate consultations will be undertaken with a view to the adoption of a safe standard of performance for the future, and of any other measures that may be found desirable and practicable. Meanwhile, it is important that portable oil heaters of the drip-feed radiant type should not be used unless it can be ensured that they are not exposed to a draught.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a very alarming and unsatisfactory statement? It is difficult to understand how firms have put such dangerous appliances on the market. The right hon. Gentleman was rather complacent when he said that they are safe in a house with the outer doors and windows closed. It surely would be easier to say that they are very dangerous if there is a window open. Would he not agree that he has an obligation to start very quickly making regulations, and ought not the Government also to embark, because these appliances are so widespread and dangerous, on a really vigorous propaganda compaign to bring to people's attention the danger of these appliances, which they have bought in good faith?
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That is the reason why I took the exceptional course, on a Monday afternoon, of making a statement to the House, so that the public should be aware immediately of the danger directly the Report of the D.S.I.R. is published, which will be this afternoon. As I have said, copies will be placed in the Library.I trust that all means of propaganda, the wireless and other methods, will follow the remarks made in the House this afternoon. I do not agree that there is any complacency about the matter. What I have said comes as a digest from the Report of the D.S.I.R. and I cannot exceed them in precaution or knowledge. I shall be having immediate consultations with the manufacturers with a view to finding a safe standard of performance for heaters in the future and any modifications, where possible, of existing heaters. After that, I shall decide what is the quickest possible method of remedying the situation which has come to our notice and about which I think we are quite right to tell the country immediately.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these heaters have been demonstrated to hon. Members by experimental laboratories and that they have three serious dangers which must be looked for? One is the threat of their bursting into flame in a draught; the second is their not going out if knocked over by chance by a child, or dog, or for any other cause; and the third is that if there is the slightest damage to the burner they give out large quantities of carbon monoxide which could prove fatal and which has, in fact, proved fatal in some cases. All these three dangers have to be looked at in consultation.
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will read the full Report, in which he will see that some of these points are mentioned.
Will any attempt be made to withdraw these types of apparatus already in use and to get people to return them for suitable modification at the proper time?
That is precisely the object of the consultations which we are immediately undertaking.
Does not my right hon. Friend recall that last December I questioned him as to what powers he had within existing Statutes to specify a minimum standard of proficiency and safety for these very dangerous oil heaters and he replied that he had no such power? Would he not agree that it is wholly insufficient to rely on optional British standards of minimum proficiency and safety and that he should legislate to give the appropriate Minister powers to require these safety standards for all new appliances from a very early date?
Yes, Sir. That may well be a necessity. The question of taking legal powers must follow upon the immediate consultations which my Department is undertaking.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that each year the Royal Society of Arts has a competition for the examination of devices with a view to preventing fires in such cases as this? Would the right hon. Gentleman consider getting in touch with the Royal Society of Arts to see whether it cannot consider this matter in one of its next competitions?
Yes, Sir; certainly. I should like to have advice from whatever sources will help me in this problem.
To get this matter in true proportion and to prevent undue alarm, and to cause the necessary measures of precaution to be taken, can my right hon. Friend tell us how many fires or accidents have taken place from this cause during the last appropriate period?
The most serious outbreak of fire occurred at Ware, in November, 1959, which was caused precisely by such an oil heater as this. The Director of Fire Research gave evidence at the inquest. I am glad to say that in co-operation with the manufacturers the Fire Research Station undertook a series of tests of the effect of draughts on 34 different oil heaters of the drip-feed type, and it is arising from that that we now have the Report of the D.S.I.R.
How many accidents?
That is the main one of which I have knowledge in recent times.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a fire took place in my house about five weeks ago, caused by one of these oil burners? Will he look at the very intensive propaganda of the oil companies? It may well be that because of the financial advantages people who would not otherwise take these risks are being induced to take them.
Yes, Sir. I think that we must be quite definite in dealing with what might otherwise be a very serious problem in all our homes, and many homes with children in them.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that about 3 million portable radiant oil heaters have been supplied up to the present? Will he see that the widest possible publicity is given to his statement? Will he also take steps to ensure that manufacturers cease immediately from supplying any more of these heaters and see that no more are imported?
Yes, Sir. The latter points are very much in my mind in the consultations which my Department is undertaking. The figure quoted by the hon. Gentleman is correct. There are about 3 million heaters of the drip-feed type and there would be approximately 10 million of a variety of types, but this dangerous type in respect of outside draught numbers about 3 million.
While I agree that there are many of these dangerous appliances about, will my right hon. Friend confirm that very active research is going on at the moment, and that there are modifications that can be quickly applied to new stoves? Would it not be possible soon to be able to put a stamp of approval on stoves safe to use even where there is a draught?
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. In fact, the Director of Fire Research has drawn attention to this in some of his annual Reports—not in detail, but in general warning. The Fire Research Station has now produced a wind-producing apparatus, believed to be unique, which has, as a matter of fact, been in operation for only a few months. It is in this way that science catches up with danger. I am glad to say that we now have the equipment at the Fire Research Station necessary for dealing with this sort of difficulty, and we shall be able to take the necessary action.
In view of the danger to which consumers are subject, would not this be an appropriate occasion to advise consumers to use gas, electricity or even coal fires? Has it not occurred to the Home Secretary that he might advise his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power in this direction?
Naturally, we should wish those who have heard of my statement to be very careful about their existing stove and, alternatively, to consider other sources of supply.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman be a little more specific in answer to the suggestion that he should stop free sales of these dangerous appliances while various consultations and considerations are being undertaken? These things really are very dangerous. Clearly, the House is worried about them.
The trouble is that under our Constitution there are certain limits to the powers one has, but I shall be very glad to keep the House informed of the steps that I have in mind and, if I need further powers, to come to the House for them.
Order. Clearly, we cannot debate this now.
Orders Of The Day
[5TH ALLOTTED DAY]
Considered in Committee.
[Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
Navy Estimates, 1960–61
VOTE A. NUMBERS
Motion made and Question proposed,
That 102,000 Officers, Seamen and Juniors and Royal Marines, who are borne on the books of Her Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine establishments, and members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, be employed for the Sea Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1961.
Before I come to the Navy Estimates for 1960–61, I should mention the Supplementary Estimate required for the current year. I am glad to say that this is for a token amount of only £10. An explanation as been published in the usual way, and all I want to say is this. For the two previous years we had to ask for fairly large supplementary Estimates; and last year I spoke of the measures that we were taking to improve our control of production expenditure. It is in the production Vote that expenditure largely exists. Although I would not claim that we had solved all our difficulties, these measures are having some success—as our need for only a token £10 shows.I have seen a good deal of comment, more, I must admit, in the newspapers than in Parliament, concerning the load which the defence budget is putting on the economy. The amount spent on the Service Estimates depends on three factors: the nature of the threat, the strength of the friends and allies who share our task, and, thirdly, the resilience of the economy. My right hon. Friend, when he opened the defence debate, showed clearly that defence is placing a reducing load on our economy. The proportion of the gross national product which is steadily from the peak it reached in being spent on defence has fallen 1952–53. Over the same period, the Navy's share of the defence budget has remained roughly constant at about 25 per cent., so that the Navy is taking about 2 per cent. of the gross national product. For the next financial year, we are asking for a total net grant of £397·5 million. This is nearly £27 million more than the grant for the present year. About a third of this increase is due to our having to provide more for naval and civilian pay and pensions. As a result, out of the gross Estimates we shall be spending about 40 per cent. on our naval and civilian personnel. I notice that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air said, when opening the debate on the Air Estimates, that this item represented 41 per cent. of expenditure in that Service, so we are roughly comparable. This is nearly £5 million more than last year, and it is being spent on fewer people. We shall also be spending substantially more on the material side. Page 4 of the printed Estimates shows that the gross estimate of what we shall be spending, under Vote 8, Section III on naval production by contract is more than £121 million. This is over £12 million more than last year's total. The net estimate for new ships, aircraft and associated equipment amounts to just over £100 million—about £9 million more in real terms than in the present year. These figures are unmistakable evidence that our production drive is increasing, and that our plans for modernising and re-quipping the fleet are producing the goods. Our warship programme is also making, at a time when it is most needed, a very useful contribution to the shipbuilding industry. Although I would not want to exaggerate its benefits in terms of jobs in the shipyards, the facts are that Admiralty work is spread over 46 firms in all the main shipbuilding areas, and that the total value of our present orders is nearly £200 million. I should like to make an announcement here about the contract arrangements for our new ships. Before the last war, competitive tendering was standard practice for all classes of warships, even battleships. In the war, the practice had to give way to arrangements which made the maximum use of all available building capacity. Subsequently—with the shipbuilding industry at full stretch, and commercial orders, specially export orders, getting priority—we have used, for the most part, a system of negotiation with the shipbuilders, both for placing orders and for fixing prices. For some time, however, orders for small craft such as ships' boats and L.C.A.s and, more recently, tugs, have been placed by means of competitive tendering. From now on, we are reckoning to restore this actice for the larger warships, such as frigates and destroyers. In doing so, the main considerations will be price and delivery dates; but we shall, naturally, take into account the employment factor. We are confident that the effect will be to encourage the building of our ships as quickly, and that means as economically as possible, and we are confident that the shipbuilders will respond to the challenge that this healthy competition will provide. My noble Friend has tried, in this year's Explanatory Statement, to give as much information as possible, and to present it in as striking a manner as possible. The Statement shows that the Navy is continuing to protect British interests, show the flag, and collaborate with Commonwealth and allied navies all over the world. This is the traditional rôle of the fleet, and it makes a significant contribution to the maintenance of peace. Before I come to examine the progress we have made in re-equipping the Navy, I should like to say a word about the size and quality of the fleet. This year, we have 147 ships in the operational fleet, and a further 42 ships engaged on trials or training. Of course, we cannot match in size the navies of the economic giants—the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.— but we are the third biggest Navy in the world, and a growing proportion of our ships are new and of high quality. Of the 1960 fleet, all the carriers, two of the five cruisers, 22 of the 34 frigates, and all 37 minesweepers, have come into service since 1950. In addition, among ships on trials and training or in operational reserve, 140 minesweepers, 30 coastal craft, and 12 destroyers or frigates were also completed during the last ten years. There is a higher proportion of small ships than in the past, but the capability of individual ships is much greater and, in some instances, very much greater. This is also something which we have brought out in this year's Explanatory Statement with the chart. It is our continuing policy to replace our older ships with new, better equipped and more powerful ships, though I can assure the Committee that we do not cast off any ships on grounds of age or obsolescence alone so long as they can continue to serve a useful purpose in the Navy. As I recently told the House, the total tonnage we are now launching is above the annual average of the post-war years; and the total of 25,500 tons for 1959 is more than 7,000 tons better than the average for the last five years. But it would be wrong to think that our total naval strength alone could match the Soviet Navy. Much is being made of the threat which 500 submarines pose to the supply lines of this country and Western Europe. Our efforts are directed to countering this, not single-handed, but with the dozen other N.A.T.O. navies. That is why my noble Friend has this year, on page 22 of the Statement, put more fully than before some details of the extensive exercises which we have undertaken with our N.A.T.O. allies. The anti-submarine field is one in which Britain plays a unique part because her experience is unique. Here is a sphere where interdependence can, and simply must, be a reality. I hope to visit soon the N.A.T.O. Anti-submarine Warfare Research Centre at La Spezia, which opened last year. It concentrates on basic and applied research, as distinct from development and has made a promising start on tackling a number of the problems of anti-submarine warfare. Close and continuous collaboration of this kind—at the planning level, in exercises, and in research and development— is essential to N.A.T.O. if this vital alliance is to remain strong. Because the N.A.T.O. shield is effective, it is not surprising that the Soviet Union are deploying considerable effort on strengthening some of the countries on N.A.T.O.'s flank. Their policy has been to provide Soviet instructors, Soviet technicians, and Soviet armaments to their satellites and to their friends. This process is continuing in the naval sphere. Nine Soviet submarines are now working with the United Arab Republic under President Nasser's control, and Egyptian crews have been trained. The number of Soviet submarines based in Albania has increased. There are now eight there, and their ship-borne support has been strengthened by a modern submarine tender which was recently seen sailing into the Mediterranean past Gibraltar. I am not surprised at this. What I find a little surprising is that there has been so little criticism of this further example of Soviet bases overseas. Now let me turn to our own submarines. They have several tasks today of the greatest importance. They are warships of attack and defence, and they are essential to the fleet for training our anti-submarine forces. Submarine philosophy is more and more turning towards their use in the anti-submarine rô1e; and this is likely to grow in importance as nuclear submarines come into general use. We launched five submarines last year; they totalled 8,000 tons—a figure exceeded only once, except in the war, during the last forty years. The quality of our "Porpoise" and "Oberon" Classes as conventional submarines, is second to none. Five of the "Porpoise" Class are with the fleet; two more are expected to complete next year; and two of the "Oberon" Class have been launched. These submarines are most effective warships, with a capacity for silent stalking which has shown up well in recent exercises, even against nuclear submarines from the U.S.A. Conventional submarines have a further asset in relation to nuclear submarines; they are very much cheaper. One can build about half a dozen conventional submarines for the capital cost of one nuclear submarine. Their running cost is about a seventh of a nuclear submarine's. Their refits will be much less expensive, though exact figures of comparison are not at present available. Of course, the nuclear submarine, with its high speed and underwater endurance, has an immeasurably greater all-round capability; but finance and other factors point to a policy of having some nuclear and some conventional submarines for many years to come. No fewer than 11 "Porpoise" and "Oberon" submarines are now building. I now come to one of our more exciting projects: the "Dreadnought." The deliveries of machinery to this country from the U.S.A. have begun, and we are getting all the information we want. Staff from the Admiralty, and our own contractors, have had courses in reactor technology in the U.S.A. Officers and ratings selected to serve in the "Dreadnought" have been having training in nuclear technology at Greenwich and Portsmouth, and in operational techniques in U.S. submarines; and I hear that they have been showing up pretty well. The electrical officer designate for the "Dreadnought" and two chief petty officers have just made a submerged crossing of the Atlantic in the U.S. nuclear submarine "Skate," which arrived at Portland last week. We shall have the first party ready to stand by the "Dreadnought" as soon as she is launched. Although we have met difficulties in the use of some techniques in hull construction which are being used for the first time, we plan to launch the "Dreadnought" in the autumn, and this will meet the programme. As the Committee will already know, fortified by the experience we are gaining from the "Dreadnought", we plan to order this year a second nuclear submarine which will be British made. To remove any possible misunderstanding, I should like to emphasise that, like the "Dreadnought", she will be equipped to hunt and kill enemy submarines and surface warships; and she also will be designed to carry an asdic that can detect at much greater ranges than those at present fitted in our conventional submarines. She will not carry ballistic missiles—I wish to underline this—and could not be converted to do so. Ballistic missile submarines are of a different size and design. To take the U.S. Navy, the "George Washington", their first Polaris submarine, has a displacement of something under 6,000 tons. The "Skipjack"—to which the "Dreadnought" can be compared—is a little over 3,000 tons. Both these types are, of course, nuclear propelled, but the missile-carrying submarine is twice the size—and, incidentally, about twice the cost. I should say that we have very full information about the U.S. Navy's progress with "Polaris" and we are in continuous touch with them. "Polaris" has already reached the stage of exhaustive trials by the U.S. Navy, and the First Sea Lord had a detailed tour of the "George Washington" when he visited America last November. Our second nuclear submarine will be British made. Its hull will be broadly of the same Admiralty design as the "Dreadnought's". Its reactor core will be made in this country, and its machinery will be of British design and manufacture, after the pattern of the shore prototype now being installed in the Admiralty Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay. This is why we are pressing ahead as fast as we can at Dounreay. The prototype is urgently required for testing the British reactor design and the components of the British-made machinery. It will also be essential for training our submarine crews and others in nuclear propulsion techniques. I should perhaps stress, in passing, that submarines are not the end of our interest in nuclear propulsion. Although the sponsorship of merchant shipbuilding has now passed to the Ministry of Transport, we continue to take a close interest in the possibilities of applying nuclear propulsion more widely. To turn to surface ships, next year we shall have over 50 frigates in commission, of which more than half will be less than five years old. These are efficient ships, whether employed as policemen on the beat or showing the flag or on fleet escort duty. The Type 12 "Whitby" class anti-submarine frigates are proving particularly successful. Ten of these will be in service in 1960, and we have decided to exploit their good qualities in an improved and more versatile ship. This improved Type 12 will be known as the "Leander" class. The hull and steam turbine machinery will be substantially the same as for the "Whitbys". The main new features planned are a long-range air warning radar, the "Seacat" anti-aircraft guided missile, improved anti-submarine detection equipment and a light-weight helicopter armed with homing torpedoes. We shall also introduce air conditioning and better living conditions. As far as possible, these improvements will be extended, during refits, to the "Whitbys" now in service as well as to those still building. In all, we have some 17 frigates under construction for ourselves and eight more for Commonwealth countries. This brings me to the Commonwealth. We have had a particularly good year for naval co-operation within the Commonwealth. Last August I spent a week visiting ships which were taking part in the Commonwealth manoeuvres —Exercise Jet. This involved the navies of Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and with the largest contribution coming from Britain. At the start of the exercise, we assembled at Karachi. Never, not even in wartime, have so many warships been seen in Karachi Harbour. As we steamed down the west coast of the Indian subcontinent, it was a stirring sight to see nearly 50 warships working and exercising together. Each day I transferred by jackstay— quite a stimulating experience, even in a relatively calm sea—to visit two or three different ships. One cannot help being struck by the tremendous progress which the Commonwealth navies are showing. Every year now they are growing in strength, experience and efficiency. There is a common bond between seamen all over the world. There is a much stronger bond between navies of the Commonwealth. The officers speak the same language, use the same expressions, enjoy the same jokes—salty ones—and share the same naval traditions. This is only to be expected since the great majority of them were educated and brought up at Dartmouth. We have another task with the youngest Commonwealth countries. Last year Ghana established the nucleus of a navy with two of our new inshore minesweepers and some of our officers and ratings to help them with training. The Royal Nigerian Navy has now taken over an Algerine minesweeper and a seaward defence motor launch and is planning to add other vessels. This process of technical assistance and training is continuous, and with older Commonwealth countries it is certainly not all one way. I believe that the close relationship which is being increasingly developed with the twelve navies of the Commonwealth is one of the most important activities of the Royal Navy in peacetime. Twenty years ago the Commonwealth navies, other than the Royal Navy, amounted to only four cruisers, 14 escort vessels, and a few smaller ships. Now, in escorts alone, they have nearly 100 between them. Since the last war some 70 warships and 30 miscellaneous craft have been transferred from the Royal Navy to Commonwealth and Colonial navies. Nor should we forget that these navies have modern warships designed by the Admiralty, ordered by them and built in British yards. The Commonwealth countries are all sovereign and independent, but should the occasion arise where our common traditions and freedom were threatened, then the close bonds between the Commonwealth navies might well stand us all in very good stead. To return to our own ships: there are now four guided missile ships of the new "County" class being built—on the Mersey and the Clyde, and the last two have just been laid down on the Tyne, and in Northern Ireland. We expect to spend about £12½ million on them in the coming year. It is planned that the "Devonshire" will be launched at Birkenhead in June. That is the first. These four ships will be fitted with the Seaslug missile, for which a production order has now been placed. The development of the close-range guided missile Seacat is also going well and ships are being fitted to take it. We are particularly glad that Sweden has placed an order for the Seacat system and missile in order to evaluate this British replacement for their own very famous Bofors gun. To turn to aircraft carriers, the accent is also on first-class equipment. H.M.S. "Hermes", which commissioned last November, is one of our smaller carriers. When I visited her last month I was very struck by the skill in design and construction that enables her not only to operate the latest generation of aircraft—the Scimitars, and the new Sea Vixen squadrons—but also to provide the most up-to-date living accommodation. She shares with the "Victorious" the distinction of having what is at present the finest air defence equipment in the world; and this was splendidly tested last July during an exercise with the U.S. Navy, Exercise Rip Tide, off the coast of Virginia. Over 90 per cent. of some 150 aircraft dummy attacks on her were intercepted by fighters directed by the "Victorious", and our American friends could not have been more generous in acknowledging the outstanding success of the 984 radar and comprehensive display system which goes with it, which have proved to be a triumph of electronic ingenuity. I was associated with radar for about twenty-one years of my life and I can say without doubt that these two equipments are absolutely outstanding in their way and a great credit to the British electronics industry and naval design. The introduction of new types of aircraft is going ahead steadily. The first Sea Vixen squadron, which formed in July, 1959, embarked in the "Ark Royal" last week. The second squadron formed five weeks ago. The gas-turbine powered Wessex helicopter enters service next month and the first squadron, should join the fleet next year. I have said something about N.A.T.O. and Commonwealth collaboration. We have also had a year of especially close association with the United States. H.M.S. "Victorious" went on from Rip Tide to visit Boston and New York; following the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the 5th Frigate Squadron visited ports in the Great Lakes; and H.M.S. "Adamant" and 10 of our submarines exercised with the United States Navy and other N.A.T.O. navies before visiting the United States submarine base at New London. In marked contrast, we tried something of an experiment in the United States by showing something which has been seen here many times and has become almost traditional. We accepted an invitation to send two field gun crews of the Fleet Air Arm to the United States after their success at the Royal Tournament. They travelled 15,000 miles and performed in Portland, San Francisco and Chicago before over 100,000 people. Having read a complete report of the tour, I have no doubt that it left a great impression. I gather that a typical reaction was that of the American who, at the start, was resistant to what he thought would be another piece of ancient British pageantry. Very soon he was yelling his head off in enthusiasm, and at the end of the show he said, "If they'd all been like this, George Washington wouldn't have had a hope in hell." He had put his finger on the point. Field guns are not part of the Navy's fighting potential, but the men who manned them are. I should like to pay tribute to the fine qualities of skill, toughness and particularly team work which they, and many others of them, in the fleet, show. Those Fleet Air Arm gun crews were nothing if not versatile, and I would like to end what I have to say about our new ships by emphasising the growing versatility and mobility of the Navy. From the operational point of view, 1959 was a quieter year than the years immediately preceding it; but there has been no letting up in our plans to strengthen the capacity of the Navy to provide well-equipped forces at short notice in any part of the world. The growth of nationalism in many countries and its effect on our overseas bases and air routes underline the value of the high seas—across which, in an emergency, our ships can still move freely and, perhaps even more important, discreetly. This is the background to three developments to which we attach great importance. First, H.M.S. "Bulwark," our first Commando Carrier. She will embark No. 42 Commando next week and sail east of Suez later in the year. With her ability to accommodate a complete commando of 600 men and to carry a second commando or battalion when necessary, with her helicopters and assault landing craft, she will be ready to play a major part in any emergency in any climate. But, if we are not to lose this capability whenever H.M.S. "Bulwark" is due for refit, there will have to be at least a second Commando carrier before very long.
Hon. Members said that in the House two years ago.
What is perhaps even more important, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said it last week, and I was delighted to hear it.
The difficulty is that he did not say when.
Nor did I.Secondly, amphibious craft. We have been giving a lot of thought to how we can best replace our amphibious warfare vessels. We envisage the amphibious craft of the future as being a larger vessel than in the past—one capable of transporting at high speed a considerable force and its equipment. Design studies for a ship of this type are well advanced. It would be complementary to the Commando carrier, and would carry a number of smaller amphibious craft for landing troops and heavy equipment over exposed beaches. But these projects lie quite a few years ahead, and we have, therefore, overhauled the ships of the present amphibious warfare squadron and installed air conditioning, so that they can operate wherever they may be needed in the meantime. Lastly, afloat support. Our ships cannot be poised for or engaged in operations indefinitely without needing fuel, food, ammunition and the other necessities of Service life. Many of the fleet maintenance ships and depot ships are gradual