House Of Commons
Friday, 29th July, 1960
The House met at Eleven o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Redmayne.]
India (Boac Stewards)
The matter to which I and some hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to draw attention today is the rather curious story of some stewards, employed by B.O.A.C., who were dismissed. I shall try to point out the injustices that, in our view, have been committed in this matter.It is a curious and rather unsavoury story. For some months in the earlier part of this year, there were in various newspapers, particularly in the Daily Mail, stories of a smuggling racket on a large scale which had been taking place in gold between Hong Kong, India and certain cities in the Middle East. I saw these cuttings, and then my attention was drawn to the matter by a constituent, who complained that he had been dismissed with a month's notice by B.O.A.C. after fifteen years of loyal service. I was convinced of his innocence when I had had an interview with him, and I shall come back to his case later. I want, first, to deploy some of the facts regarding the whole situation, and then to come back to the case of my own constituent, and I hope that others of my hon. Friends will be able to amplify the points that I hope to make later. My constituent has suffered dismissal, as others have, and he has forfeited all the experience that he gained in fifteen years of working for this Corporation. He has been very hard put to it to find other suitable employment. On his behalf, I made representations to the Commonwealth Relations Office and to B.O.A.C. Later, I found that there were many others involved, and since then I have been working in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James), who has been most active in this matter, and other hon. Members. The news story finally broke in The Times of 30th May, under the heading, "How B.O.A.C. Caught The Gold Smugglers." It is a fantastic story. It reads like the very best holiday readings in a paper-back, and the story that is told tends to redound to the credit of B.O.A.C. and the activities of its security officers. Most of us are not concerned with the whole of the story, and I do not propose to go into the full details, as our case is based on what was stated in a report, inspired, I think, by B.O.A.C. It contained this paragraph:
So far, so good. Everyone will be delighted that those guilty men have been given the fate that they deserve. But between the two sentences which I have read out was another one, which read as follows:"Summary dismissals have been given to 49 stewards, one navigator and one engineer officer … It is pointed out that a dismissed official has the right of appeal to the highest authority, and it is significant that none of the men summarily dismissed has availed himself of this right."
Those are the 27 men—now 23—with whom we are concerned. That paragraph was most misleading, because those 27 men—and not the ones who were summarily dismissed, and who, therefore, have a right of appeal, which they have not chosen to exercise, for obvious reasons—are the persons against whom there is no evidence of guilt, but who have been dismissed with one month's pay. The others forfeit the dubious privilege of one month's pay, and get away with the loot, but the men with whom we are concerned, who are not guilty, in our view, have only one month's pay. There have been no prosecutions against these 23 men. They were dismissed because the Indian Government have chosen to declare them persona non grata. This means that they cannot fly to India and, owing to the organisation of B.O.A.C., they cannot comply with the terms of the contracts tinder which they were engaged. We allege that, as a result, a substantial injustice has been done to a number of British subjects. Throughout this matter we have had the greatest difficulty in pinning down the responsibility. We have seen B.O.A.C.; we have seen the Indian High Commission, and the C.R.O. and, quite frankly, we have been pushed from pillar to post. We could not pin anyone down. They all said, "It is not our fault; it is the fault of someone else." We have had many interviews, with little or no satisfaction. In fairness, I would say that B.O.A.C. and the Indian Government are within their legal rights. No one can gainsay that. Further, I have some sympathy with the difficulty in which B.O.A.C. finds itself in trying to staff its world-wide routes, although others view the matter differently. I am more concerned to deploy what I consider to be the case against the Indian Government. We approached the Commonwealth Relations Office to find out what steps it had chosen to take to defend the interests of these British subjects. Incidentally, the Indian Government have insisted throughout on dealing with B.O.A.C. and not direct with the High Commission. Our High Commission in India had discussions with the Indian Government connected with certain petitions, and I received a letter from the Minister of State, which was cold comfort, and in which he set out what was virtually the case of the Indian Government, and stated that our High Commissioner was satisfied that the Indian Government had acted knowing that it might jeopardise the livelihood of these men. Throughout this correspondence there has not been a word to say that the Commonwealth Relations Office was dissatisfied, and I need hardly say that the word "protest" has never entered into the correspondence. I cannot help feeling that if this had been concerned with a foreign country there would have been far more vigorous protests from the Foreign Office. The fact is that the Indian Government are in a position to hamstring the operations of B.O.A.C. by not admitting its staff. I think I am right in saying that if the converse were true, and stewards of an Indian airline were implicated in such a matter, it would not be possible for us to refuse entry to their employees. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would confirm whether or not this is a fact. If it is it becomes a very gross misuse of the privilege of Commonwealth free entry. The whole existence of the Commonwealth involves reciprocity, and I cannot accept that there is reciprocity in this matter. After stating what I feel about the Indian Government, I want to deal for a few moments with the case of my constituent. As I said, I was and am convinced of his innocence, but I said that I was not prepared to take up his case unless I had from him a sworn affidavit stating what he knew. I have that in my hand. I must remind the House again that there has been no evidence against this man in any court of law. None of us has been able to find any evidence in the hands of B.O.A.C. or the Indian Government, and I am, therefore, prepared to proclaim my complete faith in his innocence on this sworn document alone. Some measure of the injustice which has been done by a man being dismissed like this will be shown if I read certain sentences from his affidavit. Mr. Casey, my constituent, states that he"A further 26 stewards and one engineer officer have had their contracts terminated with appropriate notice."
Mr. Wang is the spider in the middle of this web."first came in contact with Mr. Wang Fie Liu through the medium of a crew member "
My constituent met this man over a period of years. He last met him in this country in December, 1958, in the course of normal social acquaintanceship. My constituent has not flown to India since April, 1957, and he was not interviewed in this matter by B.O.A.C. until early this year. He goes on to say:"I was introduced to him, and entertained to dinner. Subsequently over a period of about four to five years I met him on five or six separate occasions in Hong Kong, each time I was entertained, together with other crew members, to dinner and tours round Hong Kong Island. He took my name and address, which was entered in his diary, and yearly I used to receive Christmas cards from him. At no time was I approached by him to engage in any illicit activities. …"
If this were not a very serious matter one would be inclined to make a few flippant comments. If I were to be banned from a country because I received Christmas cards from someone in it, or because my name was in the address book of someone who might have been implicated in crime, I can only say that I should find it difficult to leave this country at all. That is the only evidence which can be produced against this man—that his name is in someone's address book. I am, therefore, convinced that a very great injustice has been done to this man, and, I feel, to many others. I can think of no course in which the House of Commons can be better employed than in trying to obtain redress for injustice from another Government."At no time whatever during the fifteen years I was employed on world wide routes by B.O.A.C. have I engaged in any illegal activities whatsoever."
This is a matter about which hon. Members on both sides are concerned. I want to express my appreciation of the close co-operation which there has been on this issue between hon. Members on both sides.I, too, am interested in this because one of my constituents is among the 27 men who have been dismissed by B.O.A.C., although there has been no evidence whatsoever that they have been guilty of participation in this smuggling racket. The constituent of the hon. Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) served with B.O.A.C. for fifteen years. My constituent is a younger man and served only five years, but during that time there had never been any complaint against him. Indeed, when he was dismissed by B.O.A.C. the cabin services officer under whom he served wrote to him and expressed appreciation of his loyalty and co-operation during the five years they had worked together. I have seen this steward more than once. I have gone very thoroughly into his case, and I am convinced that this man is absolutely innocent of any participation in this smuggling racket. The headquarters was at a jeweller's premises in Hong Kong, and the only evidence against my constituent is that he visited this jeweller's shop and his name is in the address book of the jeweller who appeared to be the head of this racket. When my constituent came to me I made three approaches. First, to B.O.A.C.; secondly, to the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who has been a personal friend of mine ever since he was at the university; and, thirdly, to the Transport and General Workers' Union, of which this steward is a member. I agree with the hon. Member for Reigate that one is entitled to make some criticism of the Indian Government. I do not think that they had the right to exclude all these men from their airports unless they had evidence that these men were guilty. In a considerable number of cases no evidence of their guilt has been provided. In reply to my letter to the Indian Prime Minister, he stated that they would have the right of personal appeal through B.O.A.C., and that the Indian Government would consider individual cases on their merits. As a result of petitioning the Indian Government through B.O.A.C., five of the men have now been cleared by the Indian Government. I want to concentrate my remarks mostly on B.O.A.C., but let me say, first, that we have all had the greatest co-operation from the officer of the Transport and General Workers' Union who has been particularly involved in this case. The union has helped these men to appeal to the general manager of B.O.A.C. I will refer to the result of that appeal in a few moments. I do not know whether hon. Members appreciate the depth of feeling which has been aroused among these men by the fact that they have been dismissed under what must, inevitably, be a suspicion of guilt. They say that they are innocent, and, in the cases we know personally, we are convinced that they are innocent. One of these men has been involved in two air crashes while serving with B.O.A.C. After the second air crash B.O.A.C. paid him the highest tribute for his service in saving lives. This man is now in a condition of mental collapse. One of the factors which has led to that mental condition is the deep feeling in him that his family and those around him know that he is suspected of having participated in this smuggling racket. He has been dismissed without any evidence against him whatsoever. When the men appealed to the management of B.O.A.C., the answer was that it was necessary for them to be dismissed because it was a world-wide service, and that if the Indian Government did not permit them to use Indian airports a world-wide service could not retain them. I was with hon. Members on the other side who saw the chairman of B.O.A.C. and the highest officials. Some of us put to them very strongly that these men, even if they could not serve the Far East route through India, could be employed on other routes. They could be employed on B.O.A.C. routes to South Africa, West Africa, the United States of America, and South America. The reply we received from the officials of B.O.A.C. was that in a worldwide service it was impossible to employ men who were not allowed on a particular service. I can give two instances where B.O.A.C. staff, although they have been declared persona non grata by another Government, or have been prevented from travelling on particular routes, are still employed by B.O.A.C. One of these two cases rather astonishes me. The United States Government have objected to a member of the B.O.A.C. staff touching the United States of America, on political grounds. I am glad to find that B.O.A.C. has been broad enough in its political approach to maintain the services of this man even though he is not permitted to go to the United States. The second case is interesting. It is that of a Jewish member of the staff of B.O.A.C. He is not able to visit Arab countries, and is not able to serve B.O.A.C. on routes which enter Arab countries. Again, in this case, B.O.A.C. has agreed to retain him in its service although he is not able to work on the routes which pass through Arab territories. I put it very strongly to B.O.A.C. that when there is no evidence of guilt whatsover against these 27 men—now reduced to 23 men—it ought in its great organisation to be able to find a place where they can continue to serve instead of being dismissed in this way. I wish to conclude by raising a matter of broad principle. I am very proud of B.O.A.C. It is possible that hon. and right hon. Members opposite may not regard me as a patriot in all respects, because I am very critical both of the foreign policy and often of the colonial policy of Her Majesty's Government. But I am certainly a patriot in my great admiration for our national services, and I want to see them outstanding for the way in which they treat members of their staffs. It hurts me to think that B.O.A.C. should treat men in this way. It seems to me absolutely intolerable that a great national service should dismiss men because a foreign Government, even though that Government are a member of the Commonwealth, declare them to be persona non grata—that a national service owned by our people and serving our people, one in which we have great pride, should act in this way because a foreign Government have declared members of its staff persona non grata and when that foreign Government have provided no evidence, as, indeed, has no one else, as to the guilt of those people. I plead with the Ministry of Aviation to use its influence with B.O.A.C. to reconsider the matter. I ask it to do so on the point of principle. I ask it at the very least to write to these men and to say, "So far as we are concerned your Character is clear; so far as we are concerned we have no evidence against you at all; so far as we are concerned your service in the B.O.A.C. has been good; so far as we are concerned your character is absolutely untarnished." If B.O.A.C. would do that, it would contribute a little to enabling these men to recover their sense of dignity and personal pride. But I repeat my plea on the broader ground that no national service in this country ought to dismiss members of its staff on the action of a foreign Government unsupported by evidence. It ought to have a greater sense of our national sense of fair play than to do that. I hope that through the new Minister of Aviation there may be a reconsideration of the problem so that justice may be done to these men.
I think that it is clear from the two speeches to which we have listened this morning that in this somewhat tangled story, beyond which lies a quite simple principle, the position of the constituents of hon. Members who are involved in this affair is really very far from satisfactory. We are anxious that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, should approach the matter in the same serious vein as we do ourselves.Let me say at once that I accept that there has been a large-scale smuggling racket and that it is obvious from the scale of the activities that quite a number of people must have been involved. It was high time that an end was put to it. The culprits were caught, and it was quite right that they should be dismissed. I accept all that straight away. Secondly, I accept the right of the Indian Government, on legal grounds and within the terms of international law, to declare anyone persona non grata without necessarily giving any reason for so doing. Of course I accept that. Thirdly, I accept the fact that by the very terms of contract with B.O.A.C. its employees are required to have clearance over all routes throughout the world. Here, I must confess, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), because I believe that unless, save in very exceptional circumstances, that rule is enforced it is quite impossible for any international airline operating on all routes, as does the B.O.A.C., to operate satisfactorily. Once you agree that 27 employees of B.O.A.C. who have been declared persona non grata on Indian territory shall be taken off almost all routes to the Far East, and then double that number because there will be other people who will want to be taken off the Far East routes for compassionate reasons, because they have uncles, aunts or sweethearts living, say, in South Africa, you would bring the airline to a standstill. Therefore, I accept straight away that the essential condition of service in B.O.A.C. must be that its employees should have clearance over all routes throughout the world. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) pointed out, the story is not as simple as all that. We are dealing not with what I might call the black category of people who have been summarily dismissed presumably because the charges against them were clear and who were obviously implicated in smugging; we are dealing with another category against whom suspicion rests, though it only rests, as far as we can discover, within the knowledge of the Government of India. B.O.A.C. has absolutely nothing against them. Nevertheless, for the very reason that they have been declared persona non grata, their terms of contract have been terminated and they have been given notice. My constituent has been given three months' notice and has since got another job. Here we come up against a conflict of evidence. My hon. Friends and I have seen the Deputy High Commissioner in London. We have also seen, accompanied by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, the management of B.O.A.C. with which we had a long amicable and frank discussion. But whereas the Deputy High Commissioner assured us that to the best of his knowledge such information as was in the possession of the Government of India had been made available to B.O.A.C., the Corporation flatly deny it. Frankly, the attitude of the Government of India is a little strange. The Deputy High Commissioner wrote a letter to The Times on 8th June, and I will only detain the House by reading to it the last paragraph of that letter. He said:
But, with respect to the Deputy High Commissioner, that is distinctly impracticable. Who would determine when the probationary period was over? Not the Government of India, for they would have no idea how the suspects were behaving. Not B.O.A.C., because so long as the suspects continue to be suspect they are banned from the Far Eastern routes and could not be employed by B.O.A.C. I take the simple view that a man's character should not be besmirched, nor his career endangered, on suspicion alone. He ought to be given a chance to clear his character and, if he does so, to stay in his employment. Or, on the other hand, if he fails to clear his character, he should be dismissed. I quite see that the Government of India security authorities might well not wish to disclose various sources of information. That is something which I think applicable to security services the world over. None the less, I should have thought it possible, under these rather peculiar circumstances, that the Government of India security authorities could at least give the B.O.A.C. security authorities some idea of the evidence on which the suspicion rests regarding these 23 or 24 stewards whose period of employment with B.O.A.C. has had to be terminated. I now wish to come to the position of the Commonwealth Relations Office in this affair. What has been done? Did the C.R.O. do anything until some of my hon. Friends and myself started writing letters to them? If I understand the position correctly, those individuals against whom suspicion rests, but against whom nothing has been proved, have the right to put forward a petition to the Government of India deploying their case, and this has been done. In one or two cases the petitions have been allowed and, therefore, the employees are being taken back into the employment, or the notices of dismissal withdrawn. In other cases, I understand that the petitions have been dismissed. Are these petitions a sort of written statement, a kind of affidavit, a sworn statement of the kind written by my hon. Friend's constituent and which he read out to the House? Are the Government of India security authorities not allowed to be cross-examined on behalf of the petitioner? Is any representative of the High Commission's office present when these cases are reviewed? Has each individual case been taken up in some detail? These are the things that we should like to hear from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. As my hon. Friend rightly said, if we were dealing with a foreign Government the ambassador in the country in question would be instructed to find out what was happening. I should have thought that in dealing with a Commonwealth country the principle of what I might call most-favoured-nation treatment might be taken into account. I ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House frankly whether anybody from the High Commissioner's office has pointed out to the Government of India that if B.O.A.C. personnel is declared persona non grata, the inevitable consequence is that B.O.A.C. is bound to dismiss those individuals. It is quite unfair, at the same time, to refuse to disclose, even in private to B.O.A.C. security authorities, the grounds on which suspicion rests, and then to say, "It is nothing to do with us; it is all entirely a matter for B.O.A.C." That is not the way in which a Commonwealth country should treat subjects of the mother country. I do not think that this improves Commonwealth relations. It puts B.O.A.C. in an extremely difficult position and it has put hon. Members representing the various constituents involved in this affair and against whom suspicion rests, but nothing has been proved, in an even more difficult position. I beg my hon. Friend to take this matter seriously as involving a question of principle."It may also be emphasised that, excepting such persons in respect of whom there is absolute evidence of complicity in smuggling operations … the others will not for all time be viewed with suspicion, and their cases will be reviewed from time to time on the basis of their proved good conduct. This is a matter for the B.O.A.C. to take up with the Government of India if there are adequate grounds for such review."
This deplorable story has been so well deployed by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) that there is no need for me to cover the same ground twice. Nevertheless, having a constituent whose innocence I am convinced has been greviously mishandled by this whole matter, I should like to make one or two points. I agree with what has been said about the Indian Government, but I think that, in fairness, it should be put on record that on the wider issue the Indians have behaved extremely well. Their very security was threatened by a most widespread smuggling racket and they would have been fully within their legal rights had they impounded the planes and refused B.O.A.C. any rights of transit whatsoever.Having behaved as well as they have over the wider picture, it is all the more strange that they should besmirch their own good name by a refusal to give evidence in these 24 cases. I suspect that the reason is the only evidence so far as my constituent and others are concerned—and they make no bones about it—is that they did go along and have supper with Mr. Wang Fie Liu. But there can be few people who, having known the thrill of going abroad for the first time, under the circumstances would not take advantage of any offer of hospitality which they receive. I think it a great pity, and I made this point particularly, that my constituent was never warned during his training course of any dangers of hospitality in foreign ports. I wish to refer only briefly to the rôle of the Commonwealth Relations Office in the matter, because everything has been said on that point. I feel that the C.R.O. should be as responsible and alive to the need to protect the reputation of United Kingdom citizens in the Commonwealth as the Foreign Office should be regarding similar people in foreign countries. I hope they will take up this matter with renewed vigour. All our constituents will want to have their names cleared. Finally, I come to the rôle of B.O.A.C. I accept, of course, the very difficult position in which B.O.A.C. has been placed, but I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), who suggested that these people should have been kept on. However, were there no alternative courses of action available to B.O.A.C. other than giving loyal servants a month's pay and telling them to pack their bags and go? No attempt was made to offer them a job on the ground catering staff at London Airport. No attempt was made to secure their transfer to B.E.A. or possibly Air Lingus. I think that a good employer should have taken such steps. I believe that underlying this matter there is a far more important proposition, that we shall not get the increased production which alone can solve our political and industrial problems in this country unless there is a radical improvement in labour relations. This involves, I believe, the acceptance by top management of the proposition that when a man is employed, they are not only responsible for getting £15 worth of work, for £15 per week, but that they assume a certain responsibility for the employee's career structure, for his wife and children, for the instalments on his house, and, in fact, everything which makes life worth living for everyone of us. By that criterion it would be admitted that B.A.O.C. has failed. I believe, moreover, that some of the better sections of private industry have accepted their responsibilities, and if for any reason they have to get rid of people they make proper provision for tiding them over until they get another job. I should like to see our nationalised industries not only following an example in such matters but setting one. I wish to make plain that, as a result of our representations, B.O.A.C. is now looking sympathetically at these questions, but I believe that they should do so without being prodded by Members of Parliament. I want to acquit the present top management of B.O.A.C. in a personal sense. They have treated us with extreme courtesy in our negotiations on these matters. I believe they have been engaged in following out rigidly a policy set by successive Ministers of the Crown which has laid down that it is all important for B.O.A.C. to make a profit. I am an unashamed believer in profits; they are the lifeblood from which industry can recreate capital, but I do not believe there is any fight between high profits and the highest possible form of human relationships. Only when we have the right human relationships can people give the loyal services whereby profits can be made. I have a constituent who I believe has been very aggrieved in this matter. He has suffered both in health and financially. He was ill when given notice and was not even fit to look for another job after his twenty-eight days' notice had expired. I hope that as a result of this debate these matters will be gone into again most carefully, that the C.R.O. will press the Indian Government to divulge any information they have and that B.O.A.C. will give its employees such a letter as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough suggested, if it cannot re-employ them. I hope they will be given some compensation for the loss they have suffered. On the wider issue, if this debate plays only a small part in getting nationalised industries at large to look at human relations again, may-be we have not raised this story in vain.
My intervention will be very brief because, clearly, hon. Members on both sides of the House are wishing to hear the reply and I do not wish to trespass on the time of my hon. Friend unduly. It would be right to start by saying how grateful I personally, and I believe all hon. and right hon. Members, feel to you, Mr. Speaker, for permitting us to raise this matter at this particular time.Before I became a Member of the House, which was quite recently, I had realised what a remarkable place of contrasts this is. It seems to me that this little debate illustrates that. Only a matter of hours ago the House was packed to overflowing and party feeling was at its very highest. This morning the world might say that the Chamber is almost empty and there is close co-operation between hon. Members whose views are widely different on certain matters, yet I venture to think that this discussion is more important even than the historic one of last night, I have always believed that when the House and individual Members are seeking to right an injustice suffered by constituents we are performing our greatest function. Because I speak with great depth of feeling, although I express myself very shortly, I venture to trespass on the generosity of the House. As a practising, although inefficient, lawyer I feel deeply that when one of my constituents has a shadow of suspicion cast upon him with no ability to stand his trial and no ability to have his guilt proved, but rather to seek to struggle in some way to prove his innocence if he can—the very negation of the system of justice as we understand it—it is right and proper that such a man should look to his Member and that hon. Members interested together should seek to raise the matter here. I am bound to say that, equally, I differ slightly—it is a matter only of degree—from the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) as to what B.O.A.C. could have done. I agree equally with my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James), as I cannot feel that B.O.A.C. will look back on its industrial relations and what it did to these men with any great sense of pride. I should not feel happy if I were in the top management of B.O.A.C. and subsequently, as I hope will happen, took a more lenient view because I had been brought into that attitude through the matter having been raised by hon. Members in the House. It should be said that all hon. Members concerned in this matter have a large number of constituents who serve B.O.A.C. in one way or another. That applies to my constituency, which is near London. I am confident that other employees of B.O.A.C. are watching this matter as a test case with anxiety. It concerns us deeply. In my case, as in the case of other hon. Members, only one constituent is concerned, but other employees of the Corporation feel that if this matter is allowed to go by without protest or murmur they may be put in jeopardy should they ever find themselves in a similar position. Therefore, I suggest to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that there is far more in this than just the case of 20 men although I make no apology for saying that the innocence of 20 men, or only one man, is a matter which properly should be raised in this House. When he replies, I hope that my hon. Friend will take seriously the determination of all hon. Members concerned in this matter to prosecute it to a proper conclusion. I hope that if, this morning, he has been impressed by the most eloquent arguments put forward from both sides of the House, he will deliberately say so and, if necessary, ask for time for further consideration, which I am sure the House would give him. If he attempts, as I am sure he will not do, merely to brush us off, he will entirely misunderstand the determination of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
May I have the indulgence of the House for a moment to say that I have constituents directly affected by this matter who feel deeply that they have a genuine cause for grievance? They feel deeply aggrieved by the action that has been taken, and I wish to endorse the requests made to the Minister to have this matter reviewed again from the beginning to see if what appears to be an injustice can be set right.
This debate is the culmination of much correspondence, Parliamentary Questions and deputations by hon. Members both to my Department and to B.O.A.C. It reflects the very great interest which has been aroused, not only in this House but outside, by this affair of the B.O.A.C. stewards which we have been debating.I say at the outset that there is not the slightest disposition on the part of anyone to take this matter lightly. The presence throughout the debate of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation is an indication that, although it is not possible for more than one Minister to wind up a debate of this kind, he recognises the depth of feeling which this affair has engendered on all sides. Of course, it is entirely reasonable and proper that hon. Members of this House and others should be concerned with the situation that arises when a man loses his employment in a case where, as here, he is suspected of complicity in smuggling but when no actual charges have been made against him. That is what we are all worried about. I am obliged to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the temperate and very reasonable manner in which they have raised this difficult problem. Perhaps for a moment I may be allowed to sketch in the history of this affair. Hon. Members will recall that early in 1959 two B.O.A.C. stewards were convicted in India of gold smuggling offences. Gold smuggling in India is a traditional activity. It is exceptionally serious for the Indian Government and they take a very grave view of it. The inquiries that were made in connection with these cases revealed the existence of a widespread smuggling ring based on Hong Kong in which many B.O.A.C. employees were found to be involved. The Indian authorities started to interrogate those concerned as and when they returned to India in the course of their employment, and this resulted in those people being unable to continue their flights and it caused considerable dislocation in the B.O.A.C. services to or staging through India. In those circumstances, B.O.A.C., which was itself liable to very heavy financial penalties and confiscation of aircraft as a result of the action of their employees, discussed the situation with the Indian authorities, with the result that the Indian authorities agreed to take no further action against those concerned provided that B.O.A.C. on its part undertook not to employ them on routes passing through India and also took appropriate disciplinary action.
Does my hon. Friend really think that the Indian Government were likely to impound the aircraft of B.O.A.C. and deprive themselves of the services of the major air carrier in the country?
I am not discussing that. What I am saying is that that was a penalty which could have been exacted in this case. It is a very serious penalty indeed, and I think it must have borne some weight in B.O.A.C.'s consideration of these matters.The Indian authorities then went on to send B.O.A.C. lists comprising some eighty to ninety names, and they said that
They reminded B.O.A.C. of the penalties to which it would be liable under Indian law in the event of a recurrence of smuggling. As a result of this, B.O.A.C. carefully considered the individual cases involved. In 50 of these cases—a pretty large number—B.O.A.C. was satisfied that there was conclusive evidence of complicity, and those concerned were summarily dismissed. Of course, I accept at once that it is not about those 50 that we have been concerned today. But it does give some indication of the size of the operation which was going on. There were 31 other cases on the India list where B.O.A.C.'s inquiries showed that there was suspicion but not conclusive, proof of complicity. The Indian authorities had said that they were prepared to consider appeals submitted by individuals through B.O.A.C., and 23 such appeals were submitted. While they were under consideration by the Indian authorities their position was discussed with those authorities by a representative of the United Kingdom High Commissioner in New Delhi accompanied by senior officers of B.O.A.C. I shall return to that point in a minute, but it is a matter on Which my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) required assurances and I am very glad to give them to him. As a result of these discussions, the High Commissioner was satisfied that the Indian authorities were fully aware of the serious consequences to the individuals of the request that they should not be employed in aircraft transiting India and that their petitions would be considered fully and fairly. The Indian authorities were not, however, prepared to reveal the evidence in their possession against the individual employees. In the event, five of the petitions were accepted and the names withdrawn from the Indian list. In the remaining cases the Indian authorities stated that they had given very careful consideration to the petitions but were not prepared to withdraw their request to B.O.A.C. to cease to employ the individuals on aircraft transiting India. That was the result of this further approach to the Indians in New Delhi on these residual people against whom there was suspicion but no more. As hon. Members have pointed out, since B.O.A.C.'s terms of employment of air crews stipulate availability on any route served by the Corporation, the latter had no alternative but to terminate the employment of those 26 who could no longer fulfil this requirement, and this the Corporation did, giving a month's notice of termination."the transitting of the aforesaid crew members through India is not considered desirable."
Was there no alternative? Could not representations have been made to B.O.A.C. to employ these 26 stewards on other routes besides the Indian route?
I do not think the hon. Gentleman can have heard all of the debate. That is a point which has already been made by one hon. Member.As a result of all this, I think two points of cardinal importance emerge. Certainly they have come up in all the speeches that I have heard today. First, why is it not possible to produce the evidence against the stewards who are in the position of losing their livelihood, as it seems, on suspicion only? That is the first paint. Secondly, have we really pressed the Indian authorities sufficiently energetically in this matter? I have given some thought to these two points because they are absolutely cardinal to the whole subject that we are discussing today. On the evidence, the uncovering of this international gold smuggling ring was an extremely com- plex, long-drawn out and difficult matter. The Indian Government—and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor recognised that this might be the case —understandably, I think, are not prepared to disclose the information at their disposal which might easily compromise their sources of information in a situation where we know that this smuggling is still going on. For instance, hon. Members will have observed recent events in Pakistan which suggest that this smuggling racket has not been completely defeated, notwithstanding the action taken in the case that we are debating today.
I do not see why disclosure at confidential level either to B.O.A.C. or to the High Commissioner's office in New Delhi should in itself compromise the Indian sources of information.
That is very much a matter of opinion. It is really impossible to give a definite view on that one way or the other unless one knows precisely what would be involved in providing this information. But in any case, whatever view one takes of that, the Indian Government have a sovereign right to exclude anyone they choose from India without giving reasons. It is for them, and them only, to be satisfied that they have sufficient grounds for their action. Even if they were to produce the evidence against the remaining stewards, they have in fact already taken their decision and this has had the effect which we have been hearing about of preventing these men from plying their normal avocation.
Would my hon. Friend answer the question which I put? Could we do the same thing to the Indian stewards if they indulged in the traditional industry of smuggling which my hon. Friend mentioned?
I was going to reply to that point at length later on, but if my hon. Friend would like me to advert to it now I will do so. The United Kingdom could not refuse entry to Indian nationals. That is perfectly correct but, without wishing to appear to split a hair, I must say that the Indian Government have not in terms refused entry to B.O.A.C. employees. They have asked B.O.A.C. not to employ them as air crews while transiting India. It may be said that that has the same effect, but they have not, in fact, said that these people must not go there. There is no reason why the United Kingdom should not make similar requests to Indian National Airways if one of the employees of that airline were suspect, and if such a request were made I have no doubt that the airline concerned would co-operate. It is true that the Indian Government can declare a United Kingdom citizen a prohibited immigrant if they wish to, but, so far as I know, they have never yet done so.
If the Indian Government are to refuse to disclose to the B.O.A.C., even on a security level, the nature of the information on which suspicion rests, what type of reference can the B.O.A.C. in all,honesty possibly give to its employees? It does not know whether it is recommending someone who is absolutely innocent or someone who may be completely dishonest.
I see my hon. Friend's point. What I am concerned with is the reasons, as I think they are, for the Indian Government refusing to give this information. I quite accept the possibilities for the employees concerned. My point was to explain why this information had not been available.The second very important point is whether sufficiently energetic representations have been made. Having gone into this case personally, I can honestly tell my hon. Friends that I am satisfied that this is so. On 12th April of this year a meeting took place in New Delhi. It was a specially convened meeting. The B.O.A.C. flew out appropriate people for it. The Counsellor of our High Commission attended. The Indian authorities were there. It was an ad hoc meeting to discuss the additional 31 names. The whole question, including the appeals put in by the stewards, was thoroughly discussed. Considering the Indian Government's legal rights, I do not feel that there has been any failure or reluctance on our part to put the facts before them and express our very grave concern at the turn that events have taken. The Indian Government have in fact, as hon. Members have acknowledged, been extremely co-operative all along. Had they chosen to deal with the matter differently, they could have arrested these men during the course of their transit through India, as a result of which the B.O.A.C. would have suffered complete dislocation of its services, the possible impounding of its aircraft, and a liability to fines totalling £3 million. This has been avoided by the action which the Indian Government took. I am convinced that the B.O.A.C. is satisfied that the Indian Government have acted responsibly. In conclusion, I assure my hon. Friends that it is my honest belief that everything possible has been done in this case. But if any of them has any further relevant information on any individual cases which has not been disclosed or vouchsafed up to now, I shall be perfectly prepared, in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation and the B.O.A.C., to see that it is brought to the attention of the Government of India. That is the maximum that I can say at this stage. I am obliged to hon. Members for raising this very important matter, because it deserves to be ventilated. I assure them that there has been no failure on our part to take it seriously and to pursue it energetically all along.
Will the hon. Gentleman reply to the point made by hon. Members? Could not the B.O.A.C. employ these stewards on other routes or other duties outside India?
I hate to say this, but that is a matter for the B.O.A.C., for whom I have no responsibility. I do not know how transferable these people might be. I am sure that the point will be looked into.
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners:
The House went:—and, having returned;
reported the Royal Assent to:
Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.
In April last year, when I raised the subject of space research on the Adjournment, my plea was for a small research programme built round the firing of Blue Streak either in development or in training the R.A.F. At that time, Blue Streak was still accepted by the Government as a weapon. Since last year, the Government have been forced to see wisdom and abandon Blue Streak as a weapon. My concern today is that the money sunk in Blue Streak shall not be wasted but shall be used instead as the basis of a British space programme.The Government have an appalling record in their lack of concern for space research and development, but the Government can truthfully say that most of us in Parliament were slow off the mark in becoming interested. Five years ago I found no support for starting an all-party committee on this subject. I know now that there were hon. Members whom I should have asked about it, but at that time I could not find them. That, however, does not excuse the Government. In any case, by any standard, the Government should be ashamed that 15 months after this Adjournment debate there is still little sign of recognition by the Government that we are living in the second half of the twentieth century and that, whether we like it or not, this is a space age. There is about us a revolution on a scale which will make the Industrial Revolution seem like a mere technical readjustment. One of the problems is that so many of the senior members of the Government are drawn from a world in which it is still fashionable to boast of their ignorance of even elementary physics. It is difficult to get across the importance that must be attached to this subject. In the last year, there has been some lip service to science. We have had a Ministry of Science set up, but I think it is accepted that that Ministry is of little significance and that it is really just a play on words. The problem is that if for the first time since the Industrial Revolution we contract out of the major engineering and scientific adventure of our time the Government will be serving notice that within a decade we shall cease to be among the leading industrial and technological countries. It will be a first step in a retreat. If the retreat continues in the 1970s and 1980s, the Persian or Peruvian who wants to order electronic equipment, computers, television sets and the products of other new industries will not look to this country as he does today. He may still look to it for the products of the old industries, for tractors and ships and so on, but for the products of new industries he certainly will not. If that happens, we shall be on the way to becoming one of the great "has-beens" as a country and there will be the danger that in the lifetime of some of us in the House that we shall be forced to earn a poor living dancing round the maypole to the delight of the rich Russian and American tourists who will come to see our quaint folk ways. I regard national prestige, in the sense that I have defined it, as the chief argument for space research and development, and after national prestige comes national pride. It is not only how we look to the outside world but of how we look to ourselves. The morale of the engineers and scientists is very much at stake today, because they must feel that they belong to a country in which modern technology is stimulated and new industries are encouraged. The Government must recognise that the challenge of space is a challenge which we cannot afford to ignore. Fifteen months ago in the Adjournment debate I used nearly the same words as I have used this morning, and I am shocked that it is still necessary to make many of the same arguments. Hardly anything has changed. Blue Streak at long last has been abandoned as a military weapon and it is incredible that the Government are still undecided as to what use they should make of the many millions sunk in this project. I have spoken of the relation of a space programme to national and industrial prestige and national and industrial pride. I could speak at length on the advantages of such a programme to pure science, but I am anxious that other hon. Members should have a share in this shortened debate, so I shall discuss only three topics: first, certain predictable advantages to be derived from using space vehicles; secondly, certain unpredictable practical advantages from the by-products of space technology; and, thirdly, suggest what the Government should do. As to the certain predictable practical advantages from using space vehicles, the most obvious reason for satellites is for communication. For speech, and later for television, they have a far greater capacity and economy than ordinary terrestrial radio or cables. During the next ten years, communication satellites will largely replace conventional methods of worldwide communication. Timing is critical. Unless we in this country assert ourselves now, we shall lose the great opportunity that we have of being first in the field with such a system. I need not emphasise the advantages that there are for us if we are first in the field. It is a fact that communication satellites launched by a system of Blue Streak, Black Knight and a third stage make commercial sense. I have some figures here, and if they are wrong I should like to be told. A modern twin cable going round the world—the traditional method of world-wide communication—costs about £88 million and lasts about 25 years. I am told that a seven satellite system will give more widespread service at competitive cost. Furthermore, although there is still a great deal of development work to be done, an enormous amount of it has already been done and paid for in the Blue Streak project. People in the communications industry believe that even if an ordinary telephone call to Australia, using this system, costs £1 per minute for the first three years, within four years they would be making a profit if they charged only 10s. a minute and within twenty years anywhere in the world could be reached for 6d. a minute and be highly profitable. Why should we throw away the lead that we have when there is a real chance of having a profitable British world-wide communication system? I mention this as one obvious practical use of space vehicles. Another less obvious practical use of these satellites is for navigation and weather forecasting. I need hardly remind the House that in a few years when we have aircraft crossing the Atlantic at 1,600 m.p.h. there cannot afford to be the errors in navigation which are relatively unimportant today. I have referred to certain predictable practical advantages. I now want to refer to the unpredictable practical advantages from by-products of space technology. The British Interplanetary Society, in a recent memorandum, points out the tremendous possibilities of the stimulus given by space technology to other fields. It does not overstate the case. It does not suggest that the development of space vehicles is unique in this respect, but it stresses two points: first, space technology probably embraces a wider range of disciplines than others and will, therefore, have more side-effects. Secondly, it probably presents the most difficult and challenging problems and will therefore produce the greatest stimulus. Again, as in the use of space vehicles, there are certain obvious benefits such as in the field of electronics. Already we have transistors and potted or printed circuits which were developed for space projects being widely used for other purposes. But space technology has also brought advances in other fields which to the layman are not so obviously related, for example, fabrication techniques, detailed mechanical engineering, and materials. What are at first specialise plastic materials nearly always turn out to have other uses. I believe that polythene was developed as an insulation for radar tubes. It has certainly come a long way since then. Of course, we cannot compete with the vast American and Russian programmes. That does not mean, however, that we should sit back and do nothing. France and Germany are not sitting back. Only last Sunday, the chief engineer of the German project was reported in the Sunday Dispatch as saying:
The date for the launching there is October. Earlier this summer two of my hon. Friends joined with three hon. Members opposite in tabling an early day Motion on European co-operation on space research. Alas, the Government have not shown any interest in it. What should the Government do? The first step clearly is to co-operate with Australia in developing Blue Streak and Black Knight as a satellite launching vehicle. Yesterday, at Question Time, I put a supplementary question to the Prime Minister asking which Minister would be going to Australia to discuss this problem. I was not impressed by the fact that the Prime Minister said that it had not been decided yet which Minister would go. When Blue Streak was cancelled as a military weapon over £65 million had been spent—if we include the development of the Black Knight test vehicle and the engine test vehicle. It will probably cost another £65 million to bring Blue Streak and Black Knight to the stage of a space launching vehicle. That is a lot of money, but it is only about one-tenth of what the Government were prepared to spend on Blue Streak as a military weapon. The key to everything is, surely, not to stop work on Blue Streak now or on its ancillary equipment. To do so would save money on paper, but can it possibly be argued that it would make any real economic sense? In many of our largest firms whole departments are fully committed to the project. This is highly specialised work. It would take months, and perhaps years, before their skill could be effectively redeployed. We must maintain the present effort if we are to lay the foundation of the civil space programme. This is the time for decision. To those who say—many hon. Members in the House say so privately to me when we discuss this—that we had better use the money on building hospitals, houses and roads and not on space research and development, I reply "I, too, want hospitals, roads, houses and all the rest, but I also want to have them in the 1980s and the 1990s. Above all, I want to lay a firm basis for this country's wealth in the future. We could always have more chips with our fish in the spring if we fried all the potatoes, but the wise man plants some of the potatoes in the ground so that in the summer he may harvest a crop. In other words, he looks to the future." To me, it is tragic that I find myself using so many of the same phrases as I used in the Adjournment debate fifteen months ago, but the appalling fact is that nothing has been done by the Government to meet the criticisms about their indecision and their nineteenth century thinking. The Government have another chance today. I hope they will take it."We feel it is better to carry out our own programme rather than rely on the Americans, as Britain does."
There is no doubt at all about one thing, and that is that space research, and particularly if it involves space travel, is something which has caught the imagination of the country. For that reason alone, I am sure that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has done a service in selecting this subject for debate today in order that, at any rate, our constituents will be able to appreciate that we occasionally pause from other more mundane matters to talk a little about this very important question.The hon. Member's speech really amounted to an appeal to spend more money on space research. In particular, he suggested that the money that has already been sunk in Blue Streak should be diverted to space research. That sounds a most attractive proposition, although one has, no doubt, to consider—I am sure the Government have considered it—what dividend in knowledge or in any of the other material benefits to which the hon. Member referred would be obtained were we to do this. All I would say about that just at the moment is that if we are to resume work on Blue Streak I am certain that we must rethink the methods by which the enormous development contracts which were involved are co-ordinated and financed. One has only to read the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, which was published the day before yesterday, on the difficulties into which some of the other missile research programmes have run to see that we should be very careful before we just give the green light again to the various research teams and the various firms and the methods which were being used with Blue Streak. I do not want to develop that further. For one thing, I think I should get out of order in this debate. Another reason is that in case I am again a member of the Public Accounts Committee next Session, I should not like it to be thought that I was approaching this issue in any biased and unjudicial manner. None the less, the Report which has just been issued makes one pause and think very carefully before one gives the green light again. There are three certain things about space research. One is that it is intensely interesting. The second is that if it involves space travel it will be intensely exciting. The third is that it will be intensely costly. But there are also three great doubts about space research. The first is what the material prizes are likely to be. That is something that we must consider when deciding how much money can be allocated to a programme of this nature. There is nothing new about speculation on space travel, and so forth. I well remember that when I was a small boy—fifty years ago, I regret to say—I was ill in bed and a kind lady came and read me a book called Honeymoon in Space. It was about a man who had had the good fortune to discover a means of overcoming gravity, and, as he became engaged at about the same time, what was more natural than that he should design and build a small space ship and spend his honeymoon travelling round the solar system? During a short stay on one of the moons of Jupiter this man and his bride found that it was composed of a spongy alloy of gold and platinum which could be dug up quite easily and defrayed the whole cost of the expedition. However, I think that we should be unwise to assume that any such piece of good fortune would attend our own space travellers in the future. As I have said, I am not at all clear what will be got out of space research in terms of its effect upon our standard of living. The hon. Member mentioned communications. It is true that there may be some marginal advantages in communications by using satellites instead of cables, but, as was pointed out in a Government reply only yesterday, we should still need the cables for secret communications. Then there is the possibility of using satellites as navigational aids. There again, the advantage is marginal. There are very effective radar navigational aids in existence already. Even before the invention of radar it was possible to navigate the oceans with fair accuracy. Although these things are of great advantage and convenience, the amount of their advantage has to be very carefully weighed against the cost. There are those who say that the military importance of space research alone justifies it. There again, I am very doubtful. On Tuesday night, when talking about disarmament, I tried to expose what I believed to be some of the fallacies about the so-called nuclear explosive satellite. I see from reading the OFFICIAL REPORT that I made a slight mistake in what I said. I said that the weight of the rocket that fired it would have to be ten thousand times the weight of the satellite. That is not true, of course. What I meant to say was that it would have to be ten thousand times the weight of the missile, not the intermediate satellite. That is not something which is practical in the foreseeable future. In the same way, in spite of what the American military spokesmen occasionally tell us, I take leave to doubt whether any very valuable reconnaisance will be done by satellites. Such calculations as I have been able to do in my head lead me to doubt whether the amount of definition that one would obtain from an actual photograph and still less from a televised picture taken from a satellite whizzing round in orbit would be of very great value to the people who were trying to make use of it. A third, and even more important, question of doubt is as to the advantages of being first in the field in these matters. Are the advantages of being the first people to achieve this or that development commensurate with the enormous cost of pioneering? That is another matter which requires very detailed study and thought. I do not pretend to have the knowledge which would enable me to express an opinion on it. I merely express the doubt. There may well be indirect advantages inasmuch as space research, particularly where it involves the firing of missiles into orbit, promotes a great deal of engineering and general scientific development. The hon. Member pointed to some of the dangers that would follow to our trade and industry if we entirely neglected this field. I full take his point. I have heard the point made before. Here again, I confess that I do not pretend to have the scientific and engineering knowledge which would enable me to be sure that I am not being "bounced" when I am told this by scientists who want to have another few million pounds to devote to this or that project. However, I should be inclined to suggest that if the Government intend to turn down the request for great expenditure on space research—it may well be that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation will say that we are going to go ahead, but if he is not going to say that and if it is to be turned down, I make this suggestion I think that it would perhaps be a good plan to appoint a small scientific and engineering committee of an entirely impartial nature which could recommend to the Government to what extent it is necessary to go ahead with various projects which the hon. Member for Lincoln had in mind if we are to keep up to date in our general scientific development.
The Government have done precisely this in asking Sir Edward Bullard and Sir Harrie Massey to report.
I am aware of the appointment of these distinguished scientists, but I have in mind a more factual report, couched in language which we can all understand, about what is to be gained or lost if we do or do not go ahead in this.I want to say something about space travel, for it is that which is really interesting and exciting to the younger generation. I believe it was the Astronomer Royal who said that space travel was utter bilge, but that is not quite true. It is not, however, in sight by any existing method and we should recognise that fact. I am sure that adventurous people will be found who will be prepared to be shot off the surface of the earth in rockets, and I expect that their names will go down in history—the first man to go up in a rocket to range round the surface of the earth, and, in due course, the first man to do it and come back alive. I doubt whether a great deal will be achieved on these lines, or whether the little timetable published in The Times today, concerning a journey to the moon and back, is something on which we should place great reliance. Space travel will not become a reality, or a reality in which I myself would like to participate, until some means have been discovered whereby a spaceship can be given constant acceleration of approximately 1g. indefinitely, so that one does not have the difficulties and the inconvenience of enormous accelerations followed by periods of weightlessness. Presumably one could revolve the ship on its axis about halfway so that, with luck, the accelerating force would bring it to rest at the same time that it reached its destination. That is in the future, and it is an indefinite distance ahead because the basic principle on which this force could be provided is as yet unknown. Even when this does come about, and it is possible to contemplate seriously voyaging about the solar system, the position is not quite comparable in the possibility of new discoveries with that which confronted Columbus. He had no idea what he would find, whereas we have many ideas about what is likely to be found in the planets of the solar system, and most of them are very disagreeable. Nevertheless, this quest is one of extraordinary interest and importance, because one of the great unknowns is what form of life may exist in other planets. We think that we know that they cannot support the same form as we have, but there is reason to believe that other basic forms of organism may be capable of existing. My general conclusion is that we should be wise, bearing in mind our present financial position, to let other nations do a good deal of the pioneer work, watch it carefully and then try and cash in when there is something to be made out of it. That sounds unheroic, but it is precisely what this country did at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries.
Did not our rise to greatness as a country come in the Industrial Revolution because we went ahead and pioneered?
That is a matter of opinion, but I feel that this country's rise to greatness dates from the time of the first Elizabethan age, when we took advantage of the preliminary steps which had been taken, at great expense, by other nations, and, in the end, collected most of the benefits of what had been done. That may sound an immoral line of thought, but I am not sure that it is not the most prudent one.On the other hand, I would strongly support this country participating in a genuine European programme for space research. I notice that we are to have a debate on this subject at Strasbourg at the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Europe Assembly in September, and if I get an opportunity to take part I shall press strongly that such a programme should be undertaken and that this country should play its full part.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Croydon, North-East(Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) began by saying that space research would be exciting and also extremely costly. He then went on to give a vision, which he has apparently retained since he was a small boy, of what space research entailed. He questioned whether the prizes to be gained from it would be more than marginal advantages, and he also questioned the marginal advantages of the telecommunications aspect and the value of the navigational aids as opposed to those that we have now. Then he expressed doubts about the military potentialities of space.All these things can be summarised in a few sentences. In considering the telecommunications aspect, I do not know whether he has cared to acquaint himself with the various proposals put forward by the electronics industry about the practical possibility of satellites. Provided that these things are successful, by 1970 these will show a substantial profit, and by 1980 a profit of several hundred million pounds. We are moving into a new era of extremely fast-moving aircraft, and the Ministry of Aviation is considering an aircraft to fly the Atlantic at 1,500 or 2,000 miles an hour. The present naviga- tional aids will be stretched to their limits merely to see that these aircraft are pointing in the right direction. If we are to fly at these speeds instead of sailing at 15 m.p.h., as the hon. and gallant Gentleman did, it is important that we should be pointing in the right direction, and some of the more primitive navigational methods will be quite unsatisfactory and the existing systems will be inadequate. The military application is way beyond the realms of what we are able to envisage now. In a debate last Tuesday, when you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, had such difficulty in keeping me within the rules of order, I pointed out that military control and political influence depended on control of the land and the sea. It may well be that the whole future of the world politically will be determined by those who can break the present nuclear deadlock by control of outer space. It is an important aspect that no one concerned with our national security can afford to ignore.
What does the hon. Gentleman mean he talks of breaking the nuclear deadlock by control of outer space?
There are various possibilities. One can contemplate the possibility of neutralising inter-continental ballistic missiles when they are projected through outer layers of the earth's atmosphere into space. It may be possible to explode them harmlessly in outer space. There may be ways of erecting space platforms which could be used as kinds of Swords of Damocles going round the earth and a deterrent to whatever anyone else has in the way of valuable land forces. For instance, the vulnerability of Blue Streak now is because it has a fixed launching site on earth which can be easily attacked. It would be different with a space platform. All I am saying is that this is a vast and limitless field, in which we are now only just beginning to see through a glass darkly, but in ten years there will be a revolution that we shall see face to face.I support the very powerful plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to state the Government's view of proposals on the telecommunications aspect which have been put forward by the electronics industry, especially about the economic viability of such a project. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary the Government's view about the specialist report which they have prepared for them by Sir Edward Bullard and Sir Harrie Massey. As the House may know, that specialist report, by two very distinguished Fellows of the Royal Society, recommends the granting to such research of a priority similar to that given to atomic energy, and that is a very high priority indeed. The third question I want to ask is about the morale of scientists. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, since the cancellation of the Blue Streak programme many scientists have been approached by competitive firms in the United States of America to do this kind of work—for which they were assembled in this country—in the United States of America. If these people are allowed to go and these teams are dispersed, the opportunity may never again occur for this country to embark upon this specific space research. It is all very well for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that we should sit back on the side lines and see what somebody else does and then cash in, but that is not the way technology works. It may work in the Conservative Party, with the limited ideas which it has available, but in technology one has to know the groundwork, and I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not do his homework before he came here today. I hoped that he said that he had been considering the calculations which he had been able to do in his head. That was an admirable example of how one cannot put a quart into a pint pot. The important thing is that these scientists must not be allowed to disperse and the Parliamentary Secretary must make a statement today to allay the present lack of morale in this industry.
Will my hon. Friend tell me how he would prevent anybody who wants to go to the United States of America from going there?
The last thing I want to do is to prevent them from going, as my right hon. Friend knows. What I want to do is to offer them the opportunity to do the job here. The fact is that if they are not given the opportunity to do the job here they will go somewhere else, and I do not want the decision delayed so long that, if a positive decision to go ahead is made, the birds will have flown.My final question concerns the importance of our having our own rockets. If we do not, this programme and any commercial programme will always be at the mercy of any commercial lobby in Washington, as the atomic energy programme was also limited at a rather important period. With those questions, I conclude by saying to the Parliamentary Secretary that his new Minister, who was not mentioned yesterday, does not give us a great deal of hope about this project. His reputation as being a penny-wise and pound-foolish exponent of Government finance makes one wonder what the Parliamentary Secretary will say today which will remove some of the fears which have been created by this most unfortunate appointment.
We can all agree that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has raised, cogently and forcefully, a subject which is of great importance and interest. No one can doubt the great scientific, technological, commercial and other benefits which might be derived from space research. As my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Aviation told the House earlier this week, the Government have been studying these benefits together with—and this is not an irrelevant or unimportant consideration—the cost, both in terms of money and resources.The hon. Member for Lincoln had some fairly severe strictures to pass on the subject of what he called "the unnecessary and unreasonable delays". I can assure the House that the only factor which is causing delay is the need to consider all the implications. As the hon. Member pointed out, this is very much a long-term project and we are looking far into the second half of this century. This is also a very complicated matter. As he said, we are having, as we must, full consultation on all aspects of this problem with our Australian partners, with whom we have worked together on the Blue Streak and Black Knight projects and whose facilities at Woomera are of the greatest value. There are several courses of action open. We can, if we choose—there is no doubt about this—develop our own satellite launcher based on Blue Streak, designing our own experiments and satellites and conducting our own trials. It is no great secret that scientists are divided on this question. There is no one objective which clearly justifies an affirmative decision and no formula through which we can derive a coldly logical conclusion. Space research is a most challenging proposition to many hon. Members, but it is also true that the Government would be open to charges of irresponsibility if they undertook a programme of this magnitude without considering and most deeply pondering all its aspects. In all this thinking, we will bear very much in mind the advantage of wider Commonwealth co-operation. It is also true, to deal with the question raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), that there is a growing interest in Western Europe in space research and we are very interested in the discussions which are to take place in the Council of Europe, and among various European scientists. Many suggestions have been put forward, but, as the hon. Member for Lincoln said, there is a first step which must be taken. Sympathetic as we are towards all aspects of international co-operation in this matter, we must, first, discuss the position in all its aspects with the Australian authorities and then decide whether or not to develop our own satellite launcher. Meanwhile, as the House will know, and as I stated in an Adjournment debate on 22nd February, we have been co-operating at the United Nations level and very closely with C.O.S.P.A.R. on a private level. Although this debate has concentrated on the question of the development of Blue Streak as a satellite launcher, I wound not like to let pass the observation of the hon. Member for Lincoln about the "appalling" record to date in space research. That is not true. In any event, whatever decision may be taken on this aspect of the problem, British scientists have made and are continuing to make a significant contribution to space research programmes of several kinds. I described some of them in our Adjournment debate of 22nd February. They include the highly successful Skylark and Black Knight projects; the unique part played by Jodrell Bank as the most powerful radio telescope; and the work of the Radio Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This is a field in which we are already co-operating with the United States and there is the joint United Kingdom-United States Scout rocket programme, under which the United States has most generously agreed to launch a series of satellites containing instruments devised and made in this country. This is a programme on a different scale. The Scout rocket will only carry a pay load of 150 1b. in a near circular orbit of about 300 miles. I am not suggesting that that in itself is an alternative to the rather more ambitious programme which is now under consideration.
On that point about the Americans being generous in this matter, is that really so? Do not they derive an enormous commercial advantage in knowing, as they have to, some years in advance, the types of experiment which we want them to carry out? Have we not put ourselves right in their hands, because they can at one moment by commercial lobbying in the United States cut off our opportunities for this research?
It is certainly true to say that they derive advantages from what I called, deliberately, "co-operation" in this matter.I will try to say as much as properly I can about the present position in regard to the development of our own satellite launcher. The abandonment of Blue Streak as a military weapon was announced by the Minister of Defence in the House on 13th April, and I do not think that I can, or need to, recapitulate the reasons which led the Government to this decision. What is important is that, following that decision, all work on the military aspects of the missile was promptly cancelled. Since then, to keep the position open, work has continued on those parts of the project which are necessary to its adaptation as a space satellite launcher. These steps have been taken to enable the Government to achieve desirable economy consistent with the preservation of the scientific and technological skills and teams needed to develop a satellite launcher. I appreciate what the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) said on the subject of morale. It is important, at this stage at any rate, not to exaggerate the difficulties, and there really is no evidence to show that these important design teams are splitting up or disintegrating, although I appreciate that certain consequences may flow from excessive delay in coming to a decision on these matters. Meanwhile, important work has been done to thrash out the technical problems associated with a future space programme of the kind to which hon. Members have referred. This work confirms that a launcher can be developed from our abandoned military project which will be capable of putting into orbit a worthwhile array of satellites. The design studies have shown that at least three types of satellite could be launched, as the hon. Member for Lincoln indicated he knows already, by a launching vehicle using Blue Streak as the first stage, a modified Black Knight as the second stage, and a new third stage based on an existing motor. This is the sort of thing which could be done, and about which hon. Members have asked in this debate. For example, we could launch a satellite which could carry a payload of between 1,500 and 2,000 1b. in a circular orbit at a height of 300 miles. This satellite may be stabilised relative to the stars, and would be suitable for astronomical observation. The second type of satellite could carry a payload of between 300 and 500 1b. in an orbit of a maximum height of between 8,000 to 12,000 miles, and this type of satellite would be used for observations of the earth's atmosphere. The third type could carry a payload of 50 to 100 1b. in an orbit with a maximum of about 100,000 miles for investigation of the properties of space beyond the earth's influence. The scientific programme using such satellites would cover a number of fields. I have here a list of the sort of things which might be done in the fields of astronomy, meteorology, the study of corpuscular radiation, radio astronomy and the ionosphere, but the list is too long for me to go into in any detail. There is no doubt that there are many worth-while things in the scientific field that we can do. What we have to decide, as my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Croydon, North-East said so clearly, is, first, what is the benefit of a programme using such satellites, and, secondly, is it, in any event, worth while having regard to the other demands upon our resources? So far as the benefit is concerned, it is said by some people that we cannot compete with the United States of America or Russia, and that we should not attempt to do so. There are a number of arguments against that view. The first is that there is no need whatever to rival either the United States or Russia in terms of payload or distance, because there is a great deal of research to be done, and a great deal of benefit to be derived, without attempting to be the first to hit Venus or honeymoon on one of the moons encircling Jupiter. Secondly, it is true that if we deny ourselves the opportunity of entering this field, we may be cutting ourselves off from what may be important growing points of the future for the physical and engineering sciences of a similar character to those provided, as the hon. Member for Pembroke illustrated, in the fields of radar and nuclear energy. Even if we accept those arguments for an independent programme of our own, with an independent launcher of our own, we have still to consider carefully what the hon. Member for Lincoln described as "the predictable practical advantages". It must be emphasised at the outset that this cannot, generally speaking, be evaluated at this stage in financial terms. Indeed, the full potentialities of space research are not foreseeable. This may, indeed, be one of the arguments in favour of such a programme, if one accepts what the hon. Member for Lincoln had to say about some of the by-products which emerge in these developments. However, there are a few specific applications which are already evident, and they have been referred to in this debate. There is little doubt that space research will be opening up, or is already opening up, a new field of human endeavour which may have in itself great significance in the fields of communications and so on, to which hon. Members referred but the decision whether or not to have a national investment on a fairly substantial scale in such a programme to develop launching vehicles must necessarily be to some extent an act of faith. I am sure that hon. Members would agree that one of the lessons of scientific history is that one cannot forecast the practical benefits of new and revolutionary techniques. For that reason, I have a great deal of sympathy with those who claim that we should not expect to be able to draw a neat profit and loss account at this stage of the pros and cons of undertaking a space research programme. I should like to deal briefly with some of the specific benefits to which hon. Members have referred. In regard to telecommunications, earth satellites might well play an important part in the future development for both civil and military purposes of reliable world-wide communications and navigation services. The congestion of the high frequency band is now so great that further appreciable expansion of long-distance communication by this means is impracticable. Submarine cables, while providing high quality communications, have limited capacity and are susceptible to accidental or deliberate interruption. International telecommunications traffic is expanding rapidly, and satellite communication systems, because of their high potential capacity and great flexibility, could undoubtedly provide a valuable additional means for meeting these increasing requirements, in a field in which this country has always played the leading rôle, and in which the Commonwealth has a great interest. As the hon. Member for Lincoln pointed out, it is also true that satellite communications systems offer the most promising means yet available for the worldwide relaying of television. The hon. Member gave some figures of the possible commercial operating costs. I cannot confirm those figures. The diffi- culty is that until a pilot scheme has established the practicability of the scheme, and satellite lives have been determined, the cost of providing and operating a satellite communications system cannot be known. Speaking in the House a few days ago, my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Aviation said that if such researches as we are now undertaking substantiate the fact that important commercial advantages can be gained we would certainly hope that industry would play its part in these developments. Reference has also been made to meteorology. Earth satellites could be used to improve meteorological observation and might increase the accuracy of local short-range weather forecasting and enable long-range weather forecasting to be undertaken. We in these islands are not quite so interested in short-range work, but there is a possibility that meteorological research, using satellites, may provide a unique opportunity for a scientific break-through in long-range forecasting, which might prove of substantial value. The hon. Member referred to supersonic aircraft and the difficulty of navigating across the Atlantic. I do not want to divert from the subject of space research, but I would point out that there are great advantages in a navigational system such as that developed by Decca. A good deal has been said on the subject of the technological benefits which may derive as a by-product. There is little dispute among hon. Members on either side of the House that new ideas, stimulated by these projects, may have relevance outside the limits of space research. Some examples are novel power systems and the development of special materials, of which the hon. Member gave one example in another context—polythene—in conditions of low temperature or high vacuum. In the United States, where the programme is admittedly on a much larger scale, these benefits have already begun to emerge. The hon. Member for Pembroke referred to the military aspect of this matter. Telecommunication and meteorological satellites may prove to be of considerable military importance. I do not want to go over all the possibilities mentioned by the hon. Member, but they could, for example, be used as a ballistic missile early warning system, as a guard against surprise attack. Having considered, as far as we can, the potential benefits, it still remains to count the cost. In view of the many choices and uncertainties that lie before us it is clear that any final estimate of the cost of undertaking a space research programme cannot be made at this stage. On the other band, even now it is true that the cost of developing a launcher based on Blue Streak must be very substantially less than the cost of developing it as a weapon. We hope that in the coming months, as our scientists gain more experience and understanding of what is involved, and as our plans crystallise, it will be possible to form a more accurate estimate of cost. The present indications are that the cost will be considerably less than some estimates I have seen, but any figure must depend on the scope of the programme to be undertaken. The hon. Member for Lincoln tried to look at this question in the broad perspective, putting the cost against our total national resources and the demands made upon them. Considered in isolation, the cost of such a programme may be considered not excessive in relation to the total gross national product over a decade, which must be at least £200,000 million and ought to be considerably more; but we cannot consider this in isolation. We have considerable commitments at home in the spheres. For example, of education and medical research. We have great responsibilities abroad, which necessitate a high level of defence expenditure. We are also providing about £100 million of public money in aid to underdeveloped countries, apart from the services we provide, and last year we invested about £300 million in private money across the exchanges. All these factors must be weighed carefully. This debate has shown that, whatever may be the ultimate decision in this matter, hon. Members on both sides of the House have a great faith in the future of this country and believe that we can and must remain in the vanguard of scientific and technological and, flowing from that, industrial progress.
Can the Minister say when we may expect a decision on the question whether we shall proceed with the Blue Streak project?
I cannot give a precise date, but it will not be very long.
When is the new Minister—this great man—going to Woomera?
As soon as possible.
How does the hon. Member define that?
Hotel And Tourist Industry
When rising for the Summer Recess, it is not inappropriate that the House should have an opportunity of discussing the hotel and tourist industry. There has been no opportunity for raising this subject during the present Parliament, and as some of my hon. Friends may wish to take part in this debate, I intend to limit myself to two aspects of the present problems. My first object is to draw attention once again to the importance of the tourist industry to our national economy, and I want to emphasise the need of pursuing its development by stronger leadership and awareness by Government Departments, and especially by the Board of Trade. Later, I shall have something to say about the future of our traditional seaside resorts.It requires little reference to figures to place the tourist industry in proper proportion to the national economy. A labour force of over 650,000 is employed in the industry. This is more than the total number employed in the aircraft and motor industries combined. The total import value of this industry in 1959 amounted to £220 million, including payments to airways and shipping companies. The figure for the total value of new vehicles exported in the same period was £215 million—or £5 million less than was introduced by the tourist industry. During 1959 the tourist trade was the second largest earner of dollars after the motor industry. These imposing figures underline the potentialities of this source of export trade. A previous Secretary of State to the Board of Trade estimated that by 1968 we could expect 2,300,000 visitors, bringing in that year about £300 million in foreign currency to be spent in this country, £120 million of it being in dollars. World trade in personal travelling has increased enormously since the war, and the practice of taking holidays abroad is now the annual habit of millions of people of quite modest income groups, especially from North American countries. An important situation is now arising through the ever-increasing competition for this world trade. Some of the latest figures seem to show that this country is not maintaining its percentage increase in comparison with other European countries. The May returns for this year indicate that the United Kingdom is sixth in terms of increased figures over May, 1959, and stands after Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Austria and Norway. There is enough evidence that in the face of strong European competition we cannot afford to take the laissez faire attitude on tourism. In fairness, I do not think that the Board of Trade proved itself to be complacent in this matter. In fact, my hon. Friend's enterprising predecessor organised a conference at the Board of Trade in 1958. During the conference delegates from various specialised branches contributed most valuable suggestions and information. From that date, however, little action has been taken on the recommendations that were made. It is true that some general reduction in Purchase Tax has reflected some benefit on the hotel industry, and the monopoly licensed payment has been abolished. There are also signs that concessions are to be made regarding short-term non-passport visitors. Again, an extension of summer time from before Easter to the end of October would e of great help to the trade, but these are small points of very little assistance to the industry as a whole. Many small hindrances to happy travelling remain. The traveller to Britain is still subjected to a number of irritating pinpricks which are spared him by our European competitors. Our puritanical laws on alcoholic refreshment and our restrictions on Sunday entertainment still puzzle and annoy the foreign visitor, and I think it is ridiculous that visitors' pets should be removed from them and locked up for six months even though the animals come from countries which are clear of hydrophobia. One factor of all which affects us and puts us at a disadvantage with our European competitors is that of adequate hotel accommodation and up-to-date plumbing, equipment and decoration. We have a number of first-class hotels. The Savoy group and Grosvenor House and others in London can hold their own in competition with any other set of hotels in the world. They cannot be bettered, and such enterprises are reflected in healthy profits. It is also true that a number of first-class hotels are being built or are projected in London and others of our principal cities. However, these ventures, though an encouraging factor, are for a specialised class of traveller and in volume only scratch the surface of a much wider demand throughout the United Kingdom. The immediate need in this country is for small medium-priced bedrooms with bathrooms in smaller hotels, and of a class that can be provided by modernising existing hotels and boarding houses. The Governments of our foreign competitors recognise that funds cannot be raised from ordinary sources to support the building and equipment of this class of hotel. Consequently, the industries in those countries enjoy preferential treatment, and, in some cases, direct subsidies. Even the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have instituted cash grants, State guaranteed loans and special Income Tax allowances for the use of the hotel and boarding house industries. Only this week there was a report from Ireland of a new Irish company which intends to build three new hotels, in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. This is what the Financial Times said about that item of news:
In principle, I am not in favour of subsidies which carry with them Whitehall direction and control, but I think that in regard to the value of the export potentiality and the long-term advantages to the national economy, the Government should make available some financial resources to provide, at an early date, an increase in accommodation. Also, I think that something could be said for the case that hotels, which are forms of production units, should be treated the same way as factories and enjoy the same de-rating relief which has been afforded to factories for the last thirty years. Factories are also granted, so far as the productive part of their business is concerned, capital allowances in modernising. Hitherto, the Government's attitude has been that they cannot single out one particular industry for special financial favours. Was it this consideration which influenced them upon deciding to agree to loans to the British Motor Corporation of £9½ million; to the cotton industry of up to £30 million since 1948; and to the film industry which has had loans approved amounting to £16 million? Of course, the overriding factor in granting such facilities to those industries must have been that they were expected to make a contribution to the national economy, and it is the case of many of those concerned with the fortunes of the hotel and tourist industry that similar facilities granted to it by the Government would be a sound, long-term business proposition to the Treasury. I should like now to turn to the specialised problems of the tourist resorts. Here we have the paradox that whilst the national need for hotel rooms is increasing, hotels and boarding houses in certain seaside areas are closing down. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, the holiday habits of their one-time clientele have changed. Many people—about half the population—today take their holidays away from home, and of these many take their holidays in a different form than was the case five or ten years ago. The development of caravan sites is an instance, and the growing popularity of holiday camps is another. Many families who today enjoy spending power greatly in excess of those of previous generations take their holidays abroad. In consequence, there are areas and districts where hotels and boarding houses have lost custom. The other factor is that the holiday season is confined to two or three months of the year. What industry can possibly prosper if its equipment is used for only one-third of the year and it has to recoup its overheads in a competitive business in three months' trading? The repercussions of this falling off of clientele is having a marked effect upon the prosperity of certain areas. The Government would be fulfilling an urgent and valuable duty if they took upon themselves the task of studying this problem of the short holiday season. Some coastal areas are looking towards light industries to recoup their dwindling revenues, but I am not optimistic that this in itself will solve their problems. Some coastal areas—and I have visited a number recently—cannot be said, geographically, through ease of communications, or from their available pool of labour, to be attractive areas in which to start a factory. If the proposition is not naturally attractive to private enterprise, I doubt if any amount of ratepayers' money will make it a success. Some of the demand for light industries comes from factors outside purely commercial considerations. Part of it, I think, has political roots in the belief that owners and workers in the catering industries are non-union and predominantly Tory, whereas if sufficient workers could be attracted to local industries there would emerge a strong local labour pattern. I might add that there is nothing in recent elections to support this view. Again, perhaps, there is some idea that industry represents a progressive and dynamic basis of going ahead, whilst hotels and boarding houses represent an out-moded way of life. I think that to a certain extent the latter is true, but I am certain that the needs of the country for resorts is no less now than it was fifty years ago. These areas have today a wonderful opportunity to resurrect themselves. Each year the number of people able to afford both leisure and entertainment is increasing enormously. The resorts have unlimited areas for expansion. They are generally easily accessible by road and rail, and there is no point in this country which is more than seventy miles from the sea. We are moving away from the habit of a fortnight's sole holiday a year to excursions from home of shorter periods and more often. With the increase of families owning cars, with the increase of leisure time and the money to enjoy it, here is an expanding potential market for the resorts. But the spirit and enterprise to attract the present day visitor must be alert, far seeing and enterprising. Light industry may play a part in their economic growth, but I believe that basically today, as before, their industry is hospitality, to entertain and to welcome. Within their own resources these areas have made a wonderful recovery since the war. Just a little more encouragement and understanding from Government Departments could help them to share the prosperity which the rest of the country now enjoys."It is probable that an important factor influencing the decision by these interests to invest extensively in hotel construction at this time has been the decision by the Irish Government earlier this year to supplement its 20 per cent. free grants for hotel construction by a 10 per cent, annual depreciation allowance on new hotel buildings or hotel extensions."
I endorse much of what the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key) has said, but there are other hon. Members who wish to take part in this short debate and, therefore, I will be briefer than I intended.I wish to stress something which was printed in Reynolds News last Sunday, a newspaper which I commend to the House, although I expect that very few Members apposite read it. It was a reference to a wonderful joint organisation of employers and employees in the building and civil engineering trades. In 1942, it set up a joint scheme for providing facilities, or, at least, the money, for the workers in the industry. Indeed, the amount has now grown to about £20 million a year. That, I think, is symptomatic of the modern trend. As the hon. Member for Hastings said, there are millions of people today with money to spend on holidays and with the time in which to spend it, because holidays have increased from one week to two weeks and, in many cases, are increasing to three weeks. I do not believe that the Government have been alive to this great transformation of the scene in industry. I represent Falmouth and Camborne. Most hon. Members opposite with seaside constituencies represent the big resorts in the South and South-East. But Cornwall, after all, is a very attractive county in which we have seen many of the quick changes that have had to be made by the hotel and tourist industries. I am bound to say that I consider that the hotels have done a wonderful job in adapting themselves to the new conditions. There are, as has been said, caravan camps, and an article in last Sunday's Observer dealt with the trend throughout the country of famous hotels becoming bed and breakfast hotels. Indeed, with the coming of the motor car the hotel industry has had, to a great extent, to turn over to bed and breakfast. A couple of years ago I stayed at an hotel in mid-Wales where, undoubtedly, almost the whole of the custom came from motor coaches. It did a very good job. The motor coach is an integral part of the modern holiday. I will leave to other hon. Members to talk about the question of the industry catering for overseas visitors, but everyone in London must be aware of the vast amount of money brought to the British Isles by visitors from the United States, Europe and, indeed, the rest of the world. London is probably the biggest holiday centre in the country. In places like Cornwall we have to take into account, more perhaps than elsewhere, the changing seasons. A wet season can make a very great deal of difference to us. We suffer perhaps, with many other areas, from the effects of oil pollution on the beaches. The Minister of Transport told the House this week that five cases had been notified to him of tankers discharging oil just outside our territorial waters. That oil can foul our beaches almost overnight. It can ruin expensive carpets in hotels and boarding houses. I appeal to the Government to take this matter seriously. If it becomes necessary to boycott the countries whose tankers are fouling our waters irresponsibly, then let the Government do that. I wonder how far these tankers are flag of convenience ships, which are a menace to British shipping and to decent standards. The Truro Rural District Council decided a day or two ago to appeal to all Cornish Members of Parliament to try to get the Government to move in this matter and to get something done to prevent oil pollution. I am bound to add that at Falmouth we have a very far-sighted corporation which deals with the oil pollution on the beaches as it comes about. But in many rural areas there may be miles of beaches where that may not be possible at all. This oil can ruin the holidays of visitors. Another matter of which the Parliamentary Secretary must be aware is the traffic congestion on the roads. We dealt in detail yesterday with the road system. Hon. Members opposite must be aware as I am of the appalling backwardness of our roads. Nowhere is that more evident than in the West Country. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) will know that hold-ups of traffic stretching for 30 miles can occur near his home.
The hon. Gentleman is quite right. We in the West Country do suffer in this way, but I should like to make it quite clear that the experts have gone into the question of the traffic jams which have had unfortunate publicity as far as Honiton is concerned. That town is always mentioned, although, in fact, the source of the hold-up of the traffic is to be found elsewhere. I understand that the Government are to do something about it. The suggestion that it is the fault of Honiton is not correct, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear that the fault lies elsewhere and outside my constituency.
Honiton is a small town and this build-up of traffic is 30 miles long. It is true that the main roads from the West come through Honiton. That is the gravamen of my complaint. The Minister has done almost nothing recently to improve the 200 miles of road from Gloucester to where I live, at Redruth. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary really to see that something is done either by his Department or by other Departments to ensure that the people of this country and the visitors who come to it from abroad can enjoy their holidays in reasonable conditions.
I, also, wish to spend a few minutes on this important subject and to take matters in their logical sequence. In the case of overseas visitors, the first question is that of Customs. I apprehend that one of the difficulties of the Board of Trade in this matter is that it does not have control over some of these issues relating to overseas visitors. I invite my hon. Friend to ensure that his Department makes representations to the Departments concerned with those questions closely affecting the tourist trade. The first of them is at the port of entry and exit, namely, Customs.Today, there are many complaints about the discourtesy of Custom officers and about cross-examinations of overseas tourists which are carried out at great length. Only this week I have had two examples, one relating to an Italian girl, aged 25, who was cross-examined for over an hour at the port of entry. The other involved an Italian boy of 16. They were the son and daughter of well-known professional people in Milan. The cross-examination related to whether they were to take up employment in this country. These matters are causing a great deal of disquiet and put off people from coming here as tourists to enjoy the pleasures of the country. There is also the question of motor car traffic. Later this afternoon the problem of triptyques will be dealt with, and I hope that we shall get a satisfactory reply from the Minister. Matters regarding Customs may not be the responsibility of the Board of Trade, but it is responsible for seeing that there is contentment in the tourist industry, and I invite my hon. Friend to keep these matters under careful surveillance. I do not propose to deal with the question of road, rail and air travel this afternoon, although it is closely affected. One is led straight on to the question of licensing, which will become a matter for the Home Office next year through legislation which may then be forthcoming. But there are certain matters of great importance to the Board of Trade, and I invite my hon. Friend to make strong representations to the Home Secretary that those who stay at hotels, and their bona fide guests, should be able to obtain drinks at any time. I strongly urge that any customers in restaurants should be entitled to have a drink with a meal whenever a meal is being served. These things are of the greatest possible importance in relation to the future of the licensing laws and the contentment of the tourists. Accommodation in London is appallingly scarce, as it is in most of our important cities. It is the responsibility of the Board of Trade to act in liaison with the Minister of Housing and Local Government to ensure that there is adequate space planned to provide for the need for modern hotels. I support what has been said on the question of dirty hotels. There is a case for the modernisation of hotels and boarding houses to bring them up to the standard of the best accommodation of that class anywhere in the world. The way to do that is to enable loans to be made at reasonable rates for the modernisation of this accommodation. A matter of equal importance is good food. If visitors to this country can obtain good food, they will not feel the necessity to go to France. The standard of food in this country has risen remarkably; it is very much better than was the case a few years ago. But it will not improve, and it will not attain the standard which it should unless there are good technical schools of catering. I hope that my hon. Friend will press on with the work in this regard. This matter is not often mentioned and almost never in this House, but it seems to me essential that chefs and hotel staff should be properly trained in technical establishments. In Thanet we are losing one of these to Folkestone, but I should have liked to have kept the one in Thanet and had another one in Folkestone as well. I think that we should train our own waiters. I cannot understand why we should continue to employ a large number of Italian waiters. Why do not we train our own staffs in this country up to the best standard? There is big money to be made as a chef if one is properly trained. I hope that the catering schools will be extended and expanded to enable us to provide really first-class food and catering. Customs, licences, hotels and technical schools are all matters of fundamental importance, but to me it seems that the duty of the Board of Trade is to try to achieve something that will be by no means easy—to look at the whole problem of the tourist industry and to secure that every Department concerned does its duty as it affects that industry. This task will be difficult in that Departments will be inclined to suggest that the Board of Trade should mind its own business, but they must be told that it is the business of the Board of Trade to do everything to ensure the contentment of our overseas visitors and I ask my hon. Friend to bear this factor in mind.
As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key), it is appropriate that we should discuss this subject on the eve of the Summer Recess. Without taking issue regarding what has been said, I should like to mention that there have been several occasions in the last few months when this subject has been raised.We are all glad that there have been expressions of appreciation at the vast improvement in the hotel and catering industry in this country. Our hotels can hold their own with any hotels in any country in the world. I have had much evidence of that in the last year or two since tourism has been one of my responsibilities at the Board of Trade. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) mentioned the schools of catering. I saw a first-class catering school in Torquay, a really magnificent school, and I can assure my hon. Friend that at the Board of Trade we appreciate the importance of these schools in raising the standard of the hotel and catering industry, and we shall do our best to promote them.
The Cornwall Education Committee has co-operated fully with the Torquay authorities in providing that school.
It caters for the whole area and it is a magnificent school. There are others in the country which are equally as good.
Would my hon. Friend say how many of these schools there are in the country? I believe I am right in saying that the total is over one hundred and that under the Hotel and Catering Institute they are doing a very good job.
I am glad that point has been made by my hon. Friend. I have not the exact number of the schools, but there are more than most people realise and I think the total is over a hundred.Before I come to the subject of the debate, I should like to answer questions which have been raised on other points. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) referred to the problem of oil pollution which, as he recognised, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport. That Ministry is much alive to the importance of the matter. There is an international agreement on the subject but, alas, not all countries subscribe to it and it is difficult for the Government to control what happens outside our territorial waters. But I will draw the attention of my hon. Friend to what the hon. Member has said. The question of roads, which was referred to by several hon. Members, is another subject which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport. I join issue over one thing which was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings. He drew a parallel between the amount of Government assistance given to Fords, B.M.C. etc., and what he thought should be given to the hotel industry. That is a travesty of the facts. Government assistance is available in development districts under certain conditions for providing new employment, and hotels qualify for assistance just as much as the British Motor Corporation. A great many hotels have benefited from loans and grants under B.O.T.A.C. and D.A.T.A.C. schemes.
Can my hon. Friend give instances?
Not without notice, but I will send my hon. Friend details.I make no apology for the Government's attitude on the tourist trade. When the war ended Britain did not rank as a tourist area in any sense of the word, but today we earn more from our overseas visitors than any Western European country, with the exception of Germany and Italy. There is no doubt that we owe this in large measure to the excellent work of the British Travel and Holidays Association, the Government's chosen instrument. The Association, however, would have been quite unable to achieve this had it not been for the very large Government grant which it receives. I assure hon. Members that we are not lacking in appreciation of the potentialities of the invisible export earnings of the tourist industry. Indeed, as a Government we are proud of our record of help to the tourist industry. The help is not confined to one Department, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings suggested. Since the conference on tourism which was organised by the British Travel and Holidays Association and held at the Board of Trade in 1958, the following steps have been taken: first, the grant to the British Travel and Holidays Association has been increased by the not inconsiderable sum of £¼ million; secondly, arrangements have been concluded with a number of European countries under which citizens of those countries can visit the United Kingdom without a current passport, but simply with an identity card; thirdly, passport-free trips by air between Britain and France have been introduced and have recently been extended to 48 hours' duration; fourthly, arrangements have been made to sell duty-free liquor to departing visitors at some of our main airports. I say "departing visitors" lest some hon. Members may think that they could visit London Airport and get duty-free liquor; fifthly, there has been the further abolition of visa requirements from various countries. All these developments were sought during the 1958 Conference, and this is by no means the end of our efforts to assist the trade. As the House knows, the Government have announced a review of the licensing laws and of the period of Summer Time, and we have also set up an official Committee to consider how the summer season can be extended. Any change in the present situation with regard to these matters would require fresh legislation. Therefore, I should be out of order if I pursued that topic, but certainly a change in the licensing laws has been represented in the past as one of the most outstanding needs of the tourist trade if it is to go on attracting more overseas visitors. Already the measures which have been taken are showing results. In the suggestions which have been made, it might have been pointed out that the tourist traffic for the first five months of this year was 20 per cent. up on the traffic for the comparable period of last year, despite the rather filthy weather which unfortunately our visitors have been treated to. This gives the lie once again to the dismal Jimmies who have for so long prophesied that lack of accommodation would make further expansion of our tourist earnings impossible.
On this important question of licensing and drinks, can my hon. Friend say that the President of the Board of Trade would think it right to make representations to the Home Secretary as to what he feels would be suitable measures designed to secure the flexibility we would wish for tourists?
Consultation is going on all the time between the various Departments and I can assure my hon. Friend that our views are made known to the Home Office in this regard.
Before my hon. Friend concludes this part of his speech, as he referred to the Committee considering the extension of the holiday season—I thought rather in parentheses—does he realise that this is the key to the extension of the tourist industry? It is all very well to say that 20 per cent. more have come in, but that can be a rather diminishing return. It is not the weather, but traffic conditions and over-full hotels during part of the year which, in the long run, will act as a deterrent. Whatever the Committee reports, the Government and my right hon. Friend's Department should give a lead because, throughout every holiday area in the country, there is growing agitation to get the season extended in the interests both of holidaymakers and of those who cater for them.
As my hon. Friend knows, we debated this matter for a whole day not long ago. As a result, we set up an inter-departmental committee to go into ways and means of achieving the undoubtedly desirable end of extending the holiday season. Further, we are undertaking a social survey to find the reasons why people choose the time they do to go on holiday. From that we hope to be able to see what influences and changes can affect the situation.We are hoping to have a report on the whole subject by October. It will cover such questions as school holidays and examinations, industrial holidays, the possibility of moving Bank Holidays and the question of extension of Summer Time at either end. I do not want to go into this in detail, although I would be happy to do so. I can assure my hon. Friend that at the Board of Trade we do all we can to bring about an extension of the tourist trade, but I thought it a little premature, before the Committee reports, to go into that question in great detail.
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for that assurance.
Now I wish to say a word or two about the hotel trade. It has been pointed out on behalf of the hotels that if they were to get fiscal concessions and interest-free loans they would be able to carry out improvements and extensions which would make them more attractive to the foreign visitor and in this way increase our earnings of overseas currency. I am sure that an extremely strong case would have to be made for discriminating in favour of hotels and against all other commercial undertakings before it would be possible to yield to arguments of this sort. No doubt a similar case could be made for subsidising other forms of commercial enterprise which earn foreign currency—insurance and shops, for instance. Shops, after all, do a great deal of trade with foreign visitors.
Will my hon. Friend allow me—
I should like to be allowed to finish this argument. Every industry which thought it needed assistance in economically desirable investment in new fixed assets would be encouraged to ask for special taxation reliefs or cheap capital. Let us get the case for discriminating in favour of hotels into its true perspective. Only 5 per cent. of holidaymakers in the United Kingdom represent overseas tourists, of whom many will not stay in hotels at all and those who do will mostly be confined to the well-known tourist centres and particularly to the excellent hotels in London.Secondly, any concession to hotels and boarding houses in general—most of which seldom see an overseas visitor—would be an extremely expensive and wasteful way of improving our balance of payments. I can imagine the sort of outcry there would be if Government help were limited to the sort of hotel which derives most benefit from the overseas traveller. These are the very hotels which seem to be showing the best results, judging from published figures. The figure of £153 million earned from our overseas visitors in 1959 was a very substantial figure. It is, however, important to maintain a sense of proportion when advocating Government intervention which would cut across all normal fiscal principles on the grounds of the alleged importance to our national economy of the additional overseas earnings which such action is thought to secure. It has been said by those who are seeking these concessions—and here I refer not only to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings but also to the B.H.R.A. Annual Report—that if granted they:
To such people the Government failure to concede to their demands has seemed worse than foolish. How can the Government, they argue, for the sake of a few scruples about fiscal principles, stand between the nation and "a new era of prosperity"? To such people I would point out that the earnings in 1959 to which I have referred represent less than 1 per cent. of the gross national product. Although I hope very much, and indeed believe, that our travel trade is going on expanding as it has done every year since the war, I think it too much to claim that, even if we doubled our overseas business, it would"could open a new era of prosperity and expansion, not only for our hotels and restaurants but, more important, for the country at large."
"open a new era of prosperity … for the country."
On the subject of fiscal principles and investment in industry, will not my hon. Friend agree that the film industry is in a similar category to the hotel industry?
This is getting rather broad of the subject. It is true that we gave assistance to the National Film Finance Corporation. That was to protect the British film industry from the threat of extinction by competition from the Hollywood film industry. I do not think the two cases are at all parallel. No one has suggested that the British hotel industry as a whole is threatened with extinction. What we are saying is that there are not enough hotels and it has been urged by hon. Members that there should be more hotels. That is hardly the same thing as an industry threatened with extinction. Therefore, I do not think that the parallel which the hon. Gentleman has tried to draw holds water.
Would my hon. Friend say how many new hotel rooms are now being built in London?
Without notice, I cannot give the actual figures. One or two hotels have gone up, as my hon. Friend, who is an expert in this matter, knows. He manages one of our finest hotels. As he knows, a certain number of hotels have already gone up and some are projected in the West End. Progress is being made, although there is much to be done, and I would like to see more hotels constructed and more accommodation provided.In the remarks that I have made about the need to preserve fiscal principles, I do not mean that the hotel industry or our tourist earnings are unimportant—quite the reverse. We must do everything possible to expand our invisible exports of every kind. But what I have said puts the matter into better perspective. I am not arguing against the case of the hotel industry. In many European countries special fiscal concessions have been made for hotels, but in many of these the tourist industry plays a much more important part in the economy of the country than it does in the United Kingdom. A good deal of righteous indignation has, I know, been generated by people who say that the Government are discriminating against hotels which are asking not for concessions but for their rights. That is what they say. But let us be quite clear about this. Hotels get exactly the same treatment as all other commercial enterprises. "Ah," say the protagonists of hotels, "but what we want is to be treated like industry." But why should the hotel trade be singled out from other commercial enterprises, some of which also earn overseas currency, for special treatment? I know that there are others who think there is a case for treating all commercial undertakings on the same footing as industry, but surely there can be no case for singling out hotels on their own. I hope this explanation will help to remove what I know has been a very real, though misguided, sense of grievance on the part of many hoteliers. If so, and if it has been possible to allay some of these apprehensions, this debate will have served a most useful purpose. I should like to say a word about the smaller hotels. It is sometimes said that the Board of Trade has been misled by the published figures of hotel profits into thinking that the whole of the hotel trade is prosperous, whereas in fact the vast majority of hotels which do not publish their figures and are in small units, are barely keeping their heads above water. We at the Board of Trade are certainly not going to believe that there is a great gulf fixed between the profitability of hotels which publish their trading results and those which do not. We are ready to acknowledge that there are types of hotels and boarding houses where, owing to changes in public taste, business is very poor. Indeed, in some parts of the country there are whole areas where this may be the case. But the Government are not going to compensate such hotels or areas because the population is tending more and more to take its pleasures elsewhere or in holiday camps and caravans. It is no part of the Government's duty to try to put the clock back on social changes or to freeze the pattern of hotel and holiday habits. Still less, because a section of the hotel trade is suffering, are the Government going to pour oil and wine over the entire industry. This would be going beyond even what was demanded of the good Samaritan. I would be happy to go into the whole question of capital allowances, deprecia- tion, investment allowances for new hotel businesses, the reason why we cannot give relief from taxation for modernisation expenditure, and the question of rating, but time does not now permit me to do so. However, I should like to write to any hon. Member who may be interested, giving our views in great detail on any of these subjects. We are told that what is wanted is a lead from the Government and a greater sense of appreciation by the Board of Trade of the importance of this industry. It seems to be suggested by some of my hon. Friends that we are preventing our getting our fair share of the increase in tourism that is taking place in Europe. What are the facts? In 1958, according to the figures collected by the Tourism Committee of O.E.E.C., our total earnings from tourism were only exceeded by France, Italy and Germany. In 1959 we improved our position in the league table by one place, which left only Italy and Germany above us in this respect. When we think of the condition of this country and its attitude to the tourist trade only ten or fifteen years ago, I think all hon. Members, whatever they have said today, must admit that this is an impressive record for a newly emerging resort country. It is made much more impressive by the fact that our increase in earnings last year was greater than the increase recorded by any other member of O.E.E.C. In circumstances such as these, and bearing in mind that the British Travel and Holidays Association calculates that the home holiday traffic increased last year by 6 per cent. over the previous year, it seems to me that the tourist trade can be said to be enjoying a very fair wind at present. I do not wish to minimise the troubles which same sections of the trade are meeting, but, generally speaking, it must surely be conceded by all that this is an expanding trade. This is a prosperous trade at bottom. I can therefore invite hon. Members with confidence to leave for their summer holidays in the knowledge that the tourist trade, to which they will be contributing, is far from the downtrodden Cinderella which it has been made out to be, but that it is enjoying an unprecedented period of expansion and, encouraged by the Government, this period seems likely to go on for some time ahead. I would only hope, on behalf not only of the tourist industry but also of hon. Members in all parts of the House, that there will be one great improvement, namely, in the weather.
I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I wonder whether at the end of the Recess it would be possible for him to send to the secretary of the all-party tourist and resorts group a memorandum setting out some of the points with which he said he would like to deal?
If it is for the convenience of hon. Members on both sides of the House, that might be the best way of treating the offer that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings. I will send a memorandum to the all-party committee which can then distribute it to all members ready for when they return from their well-earned Recess.
Would my hon. Friend include in that memorandum the amount that the Government have loaned directly to hotels?
I am not sure that I can go into the figures, but I will certainly see that a note is included.
In that memorandum will my hon. Friend answer some of the questions which he has been unable to answer today?
Certainly, I shall study the questions, of which I might say I was given no previous notice, and see whether answers can be furnished.In conclusion, I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings for raising this important and interesting subject.
Juvenile Offenders (Accommodation)
It is an honour and a privilege for my colleagues and myself that the subject selected for discussion at this hour should be the provision of secure accommodation for offenders under the age of 17 years. May I be permitted to express my sincere appreciation of the fact that we have this opportunity of discussing a subject which has already proved to be of considerable public interest?I desire, also, to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Vosper), who, in his important capacity of Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, has at all times during this, my first Parliamentary year, unfailingly accorded to me the utmost courtesy, consideration and assistance during the many meetings I have had with him on the many diverse matters inseparably connected with the subject of child care and the welfare of children and young persons. This subject raises issues of the gravest importance not only to oursleves, but to all concerned with the treatment of the juvenile, and, in particular, the juvenile offender. The measure of this concern is reflected in the almost fantastic number of letters which I have received during the past few months, not only from private citizens, some of whom themselves were obviously once juvenile delinquents, but from organisations, both official and unofficial. Therefore, on behalf of all these interested persons I express my thanks to you, Sir, for allowing me to initiate this important Adjournment debate today. We are most hopeful that when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate he will make known to us the intentions of the Home Department in relation to the serious problems confronting us in considering the subject now before us. That it is a subject of the utmost importance to the public, to the Press, and, indeed, to all of us, has been made manifestly evident by the widespread publicity which the national Press has repeatedly and heavily given to this subject in the past few months. Crime has reached a peak never before known in this country. Further, it is still rising. That is shown by two important crime reports issued this week. I refer to the Report of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, concerning both the Metropolis and the Counties, which was issued on Wednesday, and the Home Office Report for 1959, which was issued yesterday. They are horrifying, and it is no exaggeration to say that society is alarmed. The increase in the number of juveniles found guilty before the courts from 67,724 in 1956 to 99,559 in 1959, for which the figures have just been published, is without parallel in the history of this country. Even the difficult war years produced nothing compared with this disastrous increase. For the sake of those interested, I will state that the figure was 55,511 in 1938 and 62,355 in 1946. I have not time—nor is it appropriate to this debate—to dwell upon the reasons, but I hope that next Session the Leader of the House will make time available for the House to debate the reasons which may possibly lie behind this increase in delinquency. There is little comfort to be gained from the knowledge that not all of the 99,559 children found guilty before the courts during 1959 were guilty of indictable offences. In fact, 53,183 were found guilty of serious and indictable offences. The inescapable fact is that over the past four years each succeeding year has seen no fewer than 10,000 more children brought before the courts than occurred in the previous year. In 1955, the figure was 60,666. In 1959, it had risen to 99,559. It is terrible to think that, last year, 53,183 children were found guilty of indictable offences and, all told, no fewer than 99,559 children appeared in courts on various charges. Can anybody deny that such a rake's progress is a social evil which, if not halted, must affect the future well-being of the nation? That the incidence of juvenile delinquency is higher in the large cities than in country districts is self-evident. The Manchester Children's Committee revealed in its report that last year one out of every 25 of the city's eight to 16-year-old population appeared before the courts. The fact that the figure of 1,290 children who appeared before Manchester courts in 1956 had increased to 2,075 in 1959 has caused the deepest concern and alarm to the Manchester authorities. The only comfort I can offer to those Manchester citizens who have so kindly written to me is that, while their increase in the incidence of juvenile delinquency is greater in proportion than the national average, it is not, after all, so much greater than that experienced in other large conurbations, as a study of the national figures will show. Manchester has ample cause for alarm, but the fact is that we all have cause for alarm. The whole nation has cause for alarm. However, one important fact has emerged as a result of all the publicity which this subject has recently evoked. The modern adult generation has at last displayed a very real interest in modern youth. In this respect, the national Press is to be congratulated, because it has led the way. We must admit that genuine appreciation of other people's children is one of the rarer virtues. Up to at any rate last week this interest had been centred upon the type of "secure accommodation" which in this modern day and age the country has seen fit to provide for juveniles classed as offenders. The knowledge that even now our prisons are the only institutions to which juveniles on remand, who, for their own good, sometimes need to be held in secure accommodation, can be sent has shocked the nation generally. The provision of secure acccommodation for certain classes of children and young persons who have been found guilty before juvenile courts is a matter of considerable interest to society. But to those persons who have a special interest in the welfare of children and young persons it is a matter of the gravest concern. I refer to the children's officers of the local authorities who include superintendents of remand homes, headmasters of approved schools, case workers and welfare workers in the field; also, the police officers and the officers of the probation service, and prison officers. In addition, I must mention our school teachers and the leaders of youth clubs. From representatives of all these categories of workers I have had opinions and viewpoints expressed to me which have greatly supplemented my own knowledge and experience in this field. Upon many of the aspects we have discussed we are in full accord, and one of them is this, and it is most relevant to the subject now before us: no person can possibly improve in any company for which he has not respect; and further, parents should ever be mindful of the fact that by the character of those we allow our children to have for friends their own character is likely to be formed and will most certainly be judged by society. To the men and women I have mentioned falls the difficult task of administering the numerous laws which this House has passed from time to time which relate to children and young persons, many of them going back to 1908. If these laws have failed, either wholly or in part, to produce the desired effect for which they were introduced, no blame can attach itself to these administrators. For good or evil, they can only administer the law as it stands. If there has been failure to halt the ever increasing incidence of juvenile delinquency no blame can attach itself to these administrators because in like manner they can utilise only those services which we make available to them to use. In this respect, I will ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State conscientiously to ask himself if, in fact, we really have made such services available to these administrators. There are many who do not think so. As one senior police officer remarked to me:
Many persons with specialist knowledge are of the opinion that another contributary factor in our failure is that we still seek to perpetuate a system of treatment of the young offender which contains both methods and penal sanctions long since outmoded. I shall not dwell at length on this since there will not be time. I just make that opinion known. I would refer hon. Members to the Answers made at Question Time in the House on 17th March by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, for they still remain vividly in the minds of all who heard them. They amounted to two admissions: first, that during January, 1960, two girls only 15 years of age had been imprisoned in the notorious Holloway Gaol; and, secondly, that the alarming disclosure published in that same day's edition of the Daily Mail was quite true. This was the story which the Daily Mail, courageously, if I may say so, headlined, revealing that a 14-year-old schoolgirl sent to Holloway Gaol had been placed in a ward with women accused of the gravest offences. It was further reported, and accurately so, that this child's offence was only that of a breach of a probation order in that she had played truant from school. It is no exaggeration for me to say that the admissions which the Joint Under-Secretary of State had to make on that memorable day, 17th March, caused a sensation. As one national newspaper commented:"In my opinion a contributory factor to the failure successfully to combat the increasing juvenile delinquency lies in the failure to provide the services necessary for the work, not to a failure on the part of the personnel engaged."
I think that it will be agreed that society has already arrived at at least one important conclusion on one important issue which this subject raises. Their condemnation of that feature of our present system is based upon the knowledge that our prisons, and frequently notorious ones, are the only institutions which afford accommodation which can be described as secure accommodation, apart, of course, from certain mental institutions. The public, busily engaged upon their everyday affairs, have little time to ponder on such social evils as delinquency, or to realise that one of the many factors in this field is that persons classed as delinquents can range in age from eight to 80 and over. We must bear in mind that the age of criminal responsibility in this country still remains at eight and is the lowest in the whole of the civilised world. But society, and rightly so, expects those who govern to keep an ever watchful eye on such matters and to ensure that if there be a need for secure accommodation to be provided it be not only secure but, far more important, it be suitable. Even to attempt to vindicate a system which holds that prison is a suitable place in which to accommodate children and young persons is, in my view, to disclose an abysmal ignorance of child psychology, but, happily, no attempt at such vindication has been made, at least by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, although I have my suspicions that there are some permanent officials who stubbornly resist a change. In such surroundings as a prison a child must inevitably mix with older youths and young adults most of whom are more hardened and experienced in criminality. Adolescent children under 16 are particularly susceptible to criminal indoctrination, and such treatment, far from acting as a deterrent, can have only the opposite effect. Further, as delinquent children are, in most cases, the victims of bad social background, or act under their own retarded or morbid mental development or immaturity, it is quite useless to imprison such children—a penalty which has no educational value and does nothing to discover or destroy the root of the evil. Unless this is done there is no hope of preventing further development of criminal tendencies, let alone effecting the social rescue of the child. The unfortunate compromise of attempting, for lack of suitable secure accommodation, to house the new spirit of education within the old prison system is deplorable. That is not my opinion alone but that of everyone of those officials whom I mentioned earlier, who have a great interest in the welfare of children and with whom I has discussed this matter at considerable length. I do not think that there is need for me to say a great deal more on the subject of accommodating children in prison. Because the case of the little girl at Holloway Gaol, to which I have referred, received widespread publicity, there are, inevitably, many people who believe that hers was but an isolated case. Unfortunately, this is far from being true. The pernicious practice of imprisoning children is growing. I reveal, with absolute horror on my part, that during the first half of this year, from 1st January to 30th June, no fewer than 382 boys and 20 girls were sent to prison and that not one of these youngsters had reached his or her seventeenth birthday. Many of them were only 14 or 15 years old. Such figures are both appalling and alarming. Again and again we have been told when we have criticised the sending of a child to prison that the decision of the court was proper and an Act, usually the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, is quoted. My reaction to that sentiment is simply that nothing should be legally right which is morally wrong. Anybody who suggests that justice cannot be executed without wrong should beware, for surely his own words will condemn him. Do we need the provision of secure accommodation for offenders under 17 years of age? Unfortunately we do, but I do not think that any new legislation is required to make such provision, though no doubt I and all of us will be advised on that when my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate. Had the provisions made in past Acts of Parliament, and particularly in the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, been more fully implemented there would have been no purpose in my speaking today. There are, however, many children who just will not stay put in an ordinary remand home or in an approved school. As hon. Members may know, such institutions are open buildings where one may come and go more or less as one desires. Why do youngsters abscond? Youngsters do many inexplicable things. Why do they sometimes put a sprig of holly in father's bed? The point is that they do, and the headmaster of an approved school once said to me, "It is fine to reason with a child if you can reach the child's reason without first destroying your own." This is part of the process of growing up. Sometimes when a child absconds the most undesirable incidents follow and they are almost invariably detrimental to the child. I should like to quote two examples. There was the recent case of the 15-year-old girl, whom I shall call "Miss X", who absconded from a remand home near London. She was picked up by a strange man in a cafe. Unfortunately, there are plenty of creatures of this type in London. She spent the night with him. The girl, like all youngsters who abscond, was an easy prey for villains, because almost invariably these girls are penniless. They have nowhere to go and nowhere to sleep. The girl had been put on the streets by this man for purposes of prostitution. Happily, she was arrested by the police within a short time and was returned to the authority concerned. It is unfortunate, in many respects, that since the Street Offences Act came into operation recovery by the authorities of girl absconders has become much more difficult, because the ponces into whose hands they so often fall keep them under cover and out of sight, possibly in dubious nightclubs. The other case was that of a 15-year-old boy who was sent to prison on 9th June at Middlesex Sessions, having pleaded guilty to no fewer than 47 offences. The chairman of the sessions was reluctant to take this step but, as he said,"It is a ghastly thought that the means that have been devised for a child's protection can be a stepping stone to a rake's progress. A system which means that children can be bundled together with possibly hardened criminals should be smashed."
This boy's father came to see me. He told me that the boy is a persistent absconder. On at least eleven occasions he has absconded from remand homes and approved schools. The trail of offences for which he was sentenced at Middlesex Sessions were committed between the time that he absconded from an approved school early in May this year and the time that he was arrested by the police later the same month. His father thinks that if the boy had been held in suitable secure accommodation these offences would never have happened. I must agree, for the boy's record at Kidlington Detention Centre, which provides such accommodation, was good. I have no doubt that the provision of more junior and senior detention centres would go a long way towards solving this problem. Their atmosphere is quite different from that of a prison. Furthermore, no prison stigma attaches to a youngster who receives this treatment. As for the provision of suitable secure accommodation for children of a certain type on remand, I see no reason why a, certain number of closed remand homes should not be provided. I suggest, also, that many of the present open-type remand homes could be easily and readily adapted to provide a few units of secure accommodation. I do not believe that time is any longer on our side. There is overwhelming evidence that present-day methods of treatment of the juvenile are marked by two disquieting characteristics. First, there is a most notable inefficiency in deterring from delinquency, as evidenced by the alarming increase in the incidence of delinquency and, secondly, a most remarkable efficiency in still further corrupting those children who undergo the treatment. A complete overhaul of these methods is urgently needed. Where children are concerned, we surely have both moral obligations and grave responsibilities. The children of the present will be the nation of tomorrow. In the knowledge that the future is purchased by the present, there is sound wisdom in the old saying, "The best way to elevate the nation of tomorrow is properly to raise the children of today.""It is impossible to send you to Borstal until you are 16."
I think that the whole House will agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. A. Brown) has rendered valuable public service by drawing attention in our Adjournment debates today to this very serious subject. His speech, on which I congratulate him, has covered a very wide field and has drawn attention to an aspect of social conditions which is causing very considerable disquiet in this country. My hon. Friend has not only drawn attention to the increase in juvenile delinquency, but he has also had some very valuable suggestions to make with regard to the remedial measures necessary to deal with it. I hope that we shall hear from the Joint Under-Secretary of State with regard to the far from satisfactory conditions which exist today for dealing with young offenders.First, may I stress the seriousness of this subject? There is no doubt that juvenile delinquency is increasing and becoming a serious social evil. It is particularly increasing, as my hon. Friend said, in urban areas. That is not unnatural. In many ways urban life is unreal. There are not the same outlets for healthy, outdoor activity as exist in country districts and even in provincial towns. There is the inevitable tendency among numbers of young people to find an outlet in rowdyism, hooliganism and so forth, and things have now reached a very serious pitch. I think the limit was reached in the incident which occurred in my constituency only two nights ago. Then, in the evening, five car loads of youths drove out from the neighbourhood of Hoxton and entered Highbury Quadrant, a quiet, peaceful, residential part of Islington. They were armed with choppers, bicycle chains, bayonets, crowbars and knives. Within a few minutes a violent intergang warfare between these two sets of young gangsters had broken out, with the result that the peaceful inhabitants were completely terrified, left the streets, and shut themselves up in their houses. Fortunately, a number of police cars arrived on the scene and some of the offenders were arrested and will be dealt with. The fact that this kind of thing can happen in a peaceful residential part of London is a very serious commentary on the lengths to which delinquent youths will go. I am repeatedly hearing accounts of vandalism done to public property. One knows what happens on the railways. The same kind of thing is happening in our public parks and open spaces. It is a situation with which the authorities really must deal. I agree with my hon. Friend that education can do something. The provision of a better and larger youth service can do something. Probably nothing can do more than an enlarged police force. I know that the Home Secretary is aware that with our depleted police force at present there is a certain inducement to juvenile delinquency. My view is that nothing would do more to restrict it than a greater likelihood, and, if possible, a certainty, that this kind of vandalism will be detected and punished. One of the great dangers today is that so much of it goes undetected and is, therefore, encouraged. Consequently, I would put over and above all as a social necessity in this field the urgent need to bring the police force up to strength. I would reinforce what my hon. Friend has said. The certainty of detection and punishment is all-important. Treatment is another matter. I do not think that our present methods are anything like as effective or as modern or as satisfactory as they should be. Obviously, for treating juvenile offenders we require different methods from those used for treating adult offenders and hardened adult criminals. I think the whole country was shocked by the revelation in March that a 14-years-old girl had been incarcerated in the same ward as a number of women convicted of criminal offences. I admit that there is the problem of how to deal with the perhaps unusual, but not all that unusual, case of the boy or girl who is always absconding from remand homes, and one must face the fact that there are instances in which such a person must be placed for his own sake, as well as for the sake of society, in secure accommodation, but it seems to me that what has come to light in recent months, much of which has been explained by my hon. Friend, shows that our present arrangements are not satisfactory. There ought to be an adequate number of remand homes with adequate security provisions so that persons of that type can be properly dealt with and not sent to prison. I hope we shall hear that in future whatever legislative or administrative arrangements are necessary will be made to ensure that we do not have the possibility of young boys and girls of tender age, however vicious their tendencies may be and however many offences they may have committed, finding themselves in a gaol side by side with adult criminals. That can only make the matter worse and cannot improve the possibilities of their being given adequate remedial treatment. One knows that this will call for a certain amount of expenditure. However, the problem is an alarming one, and the country must face the fact that during recent years we have not spent very much on modernising our prison service. It has suffered, I suppose, probably more seriously than any other social service from the enforced economy, or the chosen economy, of the last 15 or 20 years. Probably no one would have wanted to give it a high priority over education, houses, hospitals, roads and so forth. But we must now face the fact that there is a very long backlog of modernisation to be overcome, with all the necessary expenditure involved, in bringing our prison service and our remand homes up-to-date. We are suffering from our neglect by this increase in juvenile delinquency and also by the fact that because of that delinquency we have instances of children having to be sent to prison. I welcome what my hon. Friend has said and hope that he and I between us have said enough not only to stimulate the Home Office into action but to enable the right hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State to tell us something about the Home Office's plans for the future.
The subject chosen by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. A. Brown) is one to which he has devoted much study. I am grateful for the kind words he used about me, and, in return, I may say that I have benefited from his very considerable experience in child care.The House will recall that earlier this Session he introduced a Bill intended to restrict the powers of the courts to remand young offenders to prison, but that there was not time to discuss this matter. The subject of this debate, however, goes a little wider, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity of stating the Government's attitude towards this problem. It is, as he says, one of considerable importance. The hon. Member and the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) talked about crime and juvenile delinquency in general. Neither the Home Office ministers nor anyone else can afford to be complacent about this, which is one of the greatest social problems at the present time; the figures which were published this week emphasise that. It is not crime by hardened criminals which worries me so much as the considerable amount of crime committed by those under the age of 21. There is, however, one scrap of comfort to be derived from the figures published this week. It is true that crime committed by young offenders is increasing, but that is not generally true of those under the age of 14. That could be significant. The hon. Members said that crime amongst young people is much higher than in the war years. That is true. People who have given considerable study to this problem believe that one of the causes relates to the year in which a young person was born. If that is true, then those born during the war may be in what one might call the "delinquent generation," and there may be some relation between that and the present decrease in the rate of crime at the age of 12 and 13. The evidence of this week's figures suggests that we are now getting away from that generation. There is a scrap of comfort to be derived from that but, of course, it is no reason for relaxing other methods which are needed to deal with this problem. I agree with the hon. Member for Islington, East about the importance of the Youth Service, about which I have always been much concerned. I agree, also, that nothing is more important than an adequate and strong police force. The fear of being found out is much the greatest deterrent which we can have for young people. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary hopes to have in the autumn the interim report of the Royal Commission on Police, which may help in this respect. The question of the juvenile court system is within the terms of reference of the Ingleby Committee. The House and the Home Office have waited patiently for the Report of the Royal Commission, which will tell us much, and when the House resumes in the autumn it should have something to study. The main issue of the debate is the remanding to prison of young offenders under the age of 17. Unintentionally, the hon. Member may have given the impression that all this number of young persons under 17 were sentenced to imprisonment. That is not true, of course. We are concerned with those remanded for a short period to prison. Practically no child under 17 is committed to prison and, by law, no child under 15 can be sentenced to imprisonment. A person under 17 can be sentenced to imprisonment, but only by the higher courts. In fact, the average number of children so sentenced is about six to eight a year. Proposals which my right hon. Friend will introduce to the House next Session may reduce that figure still more. However, we are concerned with the children who are received for two or three weeks, possibly less, in prison on remand as being the only secure place where they can be accommodated. That is the case of the girl who was in Holloway Prison. As the law stands, a child under the age of 17 who is remanded in custody by a court normally goes to a remand home, of which there are many and which are run by local authorities. If the court considers that a child who has reached the age of 14 is so unruly that he or she cannot safely be detained in a remand home, or so depraved as not to be fit to be detained there, it may commit him to a remand centre, if one is available, and otherwise to prison. As the House knows, there are as yet no remand centres, so all young offenders who are too unruly or too depraved for remand homes have to be remanded to prison. I say right at once that in the Government's view that is not a desirable state of affairs. We deplore the fact that it is necessary to send any young offenders to prison, even for these short periods and I hope to show what we are doing and what action we are taking to make other provision for their custody. Hon. Members may be interested to know how many young offenders are remanded to prison and what kind of children they are. The hon. Member for Tottenham gave some figures, and I have some which are more detailed. First, I should make it quite clear that they are children who have been charged with or found guilty of an offence. Where a child has been brought before the court as being in need of care or protection, other provisions apply. These are cases where such proceedings are adjourned, the court making an interim report for the detention or continued detention of the child or young person in what the Act calls a "place of safety". A remand home is a place of safety within the meaning of the Act, but a prison is not. The point is that we are concerned here not with care or protection cases, but with cases of young persons who are on remand because they have committed some offence. Let us take the figures for last year, 1959. These are the numbers who were received into prison under those pro- visions: boys aged 14, but not yet 15, 43; girls aged 14, but not yet 15, 1; boys aged 15, but not yet 16, 125; girls aged 15, but not yet 16, 4; boys aged 16, but not yet 17, 412; girls aged 16, but not yet 17, 21. That is a total of just over 600. For the first six months of 1960, the total was just over 400. Taking those numbers as a rough guide, we can assume that each year between 600 and 800 children under 17, nearly all of them boys, are certified by the courts as being either too unruly or too depraved for the normal remand home. Fortunately—and this is most important—only one-third of the numbers are under the age of 16. The House will have understood from the figures which I have given that the bulk of the numbers are over 16, but under 17. I should make it quite clear that there is nothing new about this and that it has been going on, certainly since the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, and presumably for many years before that. It so happens that cases occasionally hit the headlines, but this has been the procedure for many years in the case of children who are too unruly or too depraved. What kind of children are they? There has been a great deal in the newspapers about this, and what I read there sometimes gives the impression that these children are no more than being mischievous or are children with high spirits. The hon. Member knows that this is not true. I only wish it were. If it were, there would be no problem. Unfortunately, a small proportion of the many thousands of children who come before the courts always present a serious problem, and always will. It may be that the children of young parents, to whom he referred, in his constituency, may be in this category. There are, unfortunately, a small proportion of extremely delinquent children falling into three categories. First, there are those who are already so depraved that they would be likely to corrupt other children if they mixed with them in remand homes. This is most important, and in the interests of the other children they must be kept separate. There are those who may be violent in their behaviour, or who are liable to hurt other children, assault members of the staff or do serious damage to property and who have to be sent to a remand home. I have seen some of this damage for myself. They must be kept in conditions in which they cannot harm any other children or members of the staff, or perhaps property. The third group comprises those who are liable to run away if given the slightest opportunity. They may crash cars or commit other offences in so doing, and, therefore, in the public interest, they must be confined in some state of security which the normal remand home simply does not provide. Members of all three groups are liable to be placed among children of their own age and may lead others into wrongdoing, to revolt, or to escape. To some, this may seem unbelievable. When I read the newspapers, I sometimes get this impression myself. They are represented as being young innocents. I know that the hon. Member has great experience on this matter, and he knows that there are these really difficult children. I have met some of them in recent months myself. Many thousands of ordinary children who, unfortunately, pass through remand homes must be protected from this small number of unruly or depraved Children, many of. Whom have to be protected from themselves. This is the problem, and I think the hon. Member and I are agreed on that. The question is: what is to be done about it? In framing the subject for today's debate, the hon. Member possibly adopted a more positive note than he did in presenting his Bill some months ago, because this is not a question of legislation. It is a question of solving administratively a problem which has confronted us for some time. It is a problem of finding places of security and safe custody to which children unsuitable far remand homes can be sent. I should, therefore, like the House to examine the possible solutions to this problem, and the difficulties that must be overcome. I think that the hon. Member would accept that the young offenders now remanded to prison could not be looked after in remand homes as they are now staffed and equipped. Most of these remand homes, admittedly, have detention rooms, and can cope with the moderately bad child, but depraved and unruly children of the kind we are talking about are a different matter. Merely to lock them up away from other children in solitary confinement for two or three weeks would be no solution. That kind of treatment has been criticised for adults in recent weeks, and I am quite certain that solitary confinement during the period of remand would be unacceptable in the case of children. On the other hand, we cannot allow them to associate freely with the other children in a remand home, who include not only young offenders, but also those in need of care or protection. The Criminal Justice Act, 1948, envisaged a remedy by the provision of remand centres, to which all young prisoners under the age of 17 should be sent. If this proposal is carried out, it certainly will avoid the stigma of prison, but there are still some objections to it, in that the remand centres now envisaged will be for children of all ages and it will be imposible completely to segregate young people by age groups. Nevertheless, the remand centre was the accepted solution and remains the main plank in our programme. Even so, it does not meet the other objections which the hon. Member has raised.
Surely it is possible to construct remand centres solely for juveniles, if so required.
I shall be dealing with that point.The nine or ten which this country needs will, as at present envisaged, be all-purpose remand centres, and although segregation will be possible it will not be as complete as one might require. But, in fairness, I must say that at present there are no remand centres. It is easy to stand back, as one national journal did some weeks ago, and criticise their absence but can we say that we have got our priorities wrong? Should we have built remand centres instead of houses or schools and should we, two years ago, have built remand centres instead of dealing with overcrowding in prisons? I do not think that our priorities have been wrong. I think that it was inevitable that remand centres had to take a low place in the programme. The provision of remand centres is a vast and expensive project. To give the House an example, the remand centre that is now being built at Risley, in Lancashire, will cost about £1¼ million. As the Prison Commission's building programme stands, remand centres form an urgent part of it and, as I have said, the first centre, in Lancashire, which will cater for the north-west of England, is now in the early stages of construction. It will be a large, all-purpose establishment, designed to accommodate men and women as well as young offenders. It will contain 400 men, 150 boys and 60 women and girls, and will have a hospital in addition to all the normal facilities. A site in Durham is about to be acquired for a second centre, and others will take their place in the programme as suitable sites are found. At this second centre in Durham—and this bears on the point made by the hon. Member for Islington, East—it is planned to provide accommodation for young offenders in the first place and for adults subsequently. This is a significant and very recent change, which will accelerate the provision of secure accommodation for young offenders. Remand and observation centres, therefore, with the priority now being given to young offenders, remain the ultimate solution, with the limitations that I have mentioned. But we must do something more than this. I accept the plea that the hon. Member made. The Home Office is urgently examining what might be at least a partial solution—the provision of specially secure wings of blocks at existing remand homes. There are difficulties in this proposal, the principal one of which is that the children for whom this special accommodation is needed are few in number, and come from all parts of the Kingdom. For example, during a recent period of about three weeks, 22 boys were remanded to prison from 17 different courts. Some of the courts were in or near London and other big cities, but others were in remote parts, as far away as Yorkshire and the South-West. They are the ones who present the real problem. When they are on remand they must be kept reasonably close to their homes and to the courts before which they are to appear. It would not be practicable to provide special staff and secure accom- modation of this kind in Cornwall, for instance. But at the request of my right hon. Friend the London County Council has considered whether it can provide secure accommodation at the Stamford House Remand Home, to take some boys who might otherwise be remanded to prison. The Council has agreed to make suitable arrangements for acccmmodating up to seven such boys of 14 and 15 years of age at any one period. Seven may not sound very many, but "at any one period" means that a considerable number can be accommodated during the course of the year, and this should be sufficient for the London and Home Counties area. On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I should like to say that he is most grateful to the London County Council for its co-operation in this matter. It will impose an additional strain on the council, and we are considering what help we can give the council financially and in other directions. It may also be possible to make similar provisions at one or two other remand homes serving large urban areas. That would go some way towards reducing the number of children sent to prison on remand, although it would not provide a complete solution. Girls present a much more difficult problem, because, although there are fewer of them, they are more apt to hit the headlines when they are received into prison. However, this aspect also is to be discussed with the London County Council shortly in an attempt to find a solution. I do not want to delay the speech of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), but I should say that I visited Holloway where this child was remanded, and I visited the hospital ward where she was accommodated. I should have thought that there could be much worse conditions under which young girls could be accommodated. I accept, however, that that is not the right solution and I hope that we shall find something better. Perhaps I might briefly summarise our proposals. First, remand and observation centres remain the principal provision, but now with priority for secure accommodation for young persons.Secondly, separate secure remand home accommodation in London for boys under 16. Thirdly, consideration will be given to similar proposals in one or two other cities, and for girls in London. Over and above that, the provision of extra places in approved schools and detention centres may also ease the pressure. Nevertheless, the House must accept as inevitable that for some time to come a number of young people will continue to be received into prison. This will be essential in the interests of other young people. It is not a matter of legislation, it is a question of resources, and my right hon. Friend is just as anxious as the hon. Member for Tottenham to deal with this along with the other proposals he is making in the interests of penal reform.
South-West Africa (Rev Marcus Kooper)
In the short time available, I shall not be able to give a full account of the treatment meted out to the Rev. Marcus Kooper. Hon. Members who are interested will find the whole story in the official records of the General Assembly of the United Nations in Supplement No. 12 for both 1958 and 1959. The Rev. Marcus Kooper was born in South-West Africa. He is a member of the Red Nation tribe, or the Rooinasie tribe as it is known in Afrikaans.As the House knows, South-West Africa was brought under German rule at the time of the grab for Africa in the nineteenth century. Though the German treatment of the native people of South-West Africa was anything but admirable, they did at least recognise the right of the Red Nation tribe to 50,000 hectares of land. They put the education of the native people and their introduction to the Christian religion in the hands of the Rhenish Mission. As we know, after the First World War the League of Nations entrusted its mandate for South-West Africa to the Union of South Africa. At the same time it entrusted the mandate for Tanganyika, which had also been German territory during the nineteenth century, to the United Kingdom. What a contrast there is between the history of Tanganyika under a mandate directly administered by the United Kingdom, and the history of South-West Africa administered, on behalf of His Britannic Majesty at that time, by the Union Government of South Africa. Tanganyika is rapidly approaching independence and has in charge of its affairs today an African, Mr. Nyerere, who is universally admired for the way in which he is handling his responsibilities.
An inter-racial group.
An inter-racial administration and Government Assembly in Tanganyika.How different it has been in South-West Africa. Again, there is no time to tell the whole story of the administration of South-West Africa by the South African Government. I can refer only very briefly to what the South African Administration in South-West Africa have done to the Red Nation tribe and to the Rev. Marcus Kooper in particular. The Administration informed the Red Nation tribe in 1945 that the activities of the Rhenish Mission, which had been in charge of their general education and their education in Christianity, were to be taken over by the Dutch Reformed Church. It was not long before experience of the Dutch Reformed Church as an educating authority and as a so-called Christian church caused the Red Nation people to break away. They could not for very long put up with the ministrations of the Dutch Reformed Church. They broke away in 1946. Nobody who knows the doctrine preached by that church will be really surprised about this. They broke away and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, which is well-established in the United States of America, and by this they established communion and contacts with their brethren in the United States of America. Mr. Kooper is a minister of that church. This is how it has come about that this man living in South-West Africa is a pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church. After this separation from the Dutch Reformed Church and adherence to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Red Nation people were divided. Some of them remained attached to the ministration of the Dutch Reformed Church and the remainder adhered to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Those who adhered to the Methodist Episcopal Church had to carry on as best they could the education of their children and their religious work without any help from the Administration in South-West Africa. After a time, however, the policy of the present South African Government—the Nationalist Government now in power in South Africa—of the deliberate incorporation of the.mandated territory into the Union of South Africa reached its culmination. One of the results of this was that instead of the 50,000 hectares of land which the Germans had regarded as belonging to the Red Nation people, they were now allowed to occupy only 14,000 hectares. The remaining 36,000 hectares were taken away from them and given to the white settlers as part of the deliberate policy of the South African Union Government of incorporating South-West Africa into the Union itself. I will now quote from one of the documents of the United Nations Committee on South-West Africa—on the administration of the mandate from the old League of Nations, which should now really have been fully entrusted to the new United Nations—to describe the sort of thing which went on during the period from 1956 to 1959 when, as I say, the South African Union Government's policy reached its culmination and when that Government proceeded to carry to a final conclusion the application of their policy of apartheid in South-West Africa. It is a very short extract and all that I can reasonably give in the time available to me. It is a quotation from a petition put forward by the leaders of the Red Nation to the United Nations Committee:
that is, the people of the Red Nation—"The state-police was the executives of the horrible barbaric and unchristian devil's business. The members of the Dutch Reform German Rhenish Mission was their tools. They were beaten"—
This is one short extract from a long account which, in their wretchedness, these people took to the United Nations Committee hoping for relief from the treatment they were receiving. In these circumstances, the Rev. Marcus Kooper, as was indeed his duty and right, did his best to protect them. He took the lead in petitioning the United Nations on their behalf. Several petitions were sent until at last Mr. Kooper himself was arrested. A petition dated 18th February, 1959, from the leaders of these people described the event in these words:"by the police, tortured, strangled and dictate to say what is not true."
Later documents show that this was a desert place in which it was extremely difficult for him to look after his injured family. Subsequently, he sought refuge in Bechuanaland, one of the High Commission Territories for which the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is responsible, and he is there now. Little wonder that the United Nations Committee wants to see Mr. Kooper and that it wants him to come before it to testify. Quite recently it has met to consider its application for him to be received by the Committee. I quote now from the official Press release of the United Nations dated 13th July, 1960:"A detachment of police headed by Colonel N. J. Dorfling, South West Africa Police Chief, armed with rifles and bayonets, a machine gun, spears and batons was marched upon us demanding the arrest of Marcus Kooper and members of his family. We strongly objected to the arrest after which the police attacked us injuring 18 men and 7 women. Thereupon Mr. Kooper and his family were forced into a lorry and driven to Itsawises."
The chairman of the Committee"Committee on South West Africa Discusses Report to Assembly. The Committee Secretary … informed the Committee that he understood appropriate authorities in the United States were ready to provide the usual visa for the Reverend Marcus Kooper, a petitioner granted a hearing before the Committee, as soon as he called at the nearest consulate. It was announced in the Committee on 5th July that Mr. Kooper was unable to leave Bechuanaland for New York because of the absence of the necessary travel documents."
"asked the Secretariat to keep the Committee informed of developments in this matter. He said it was 'intolerable' that a man could not come to the United Nations when the United Nations wished because he had no passport."
My hon. Friend says, "Hear, hear", and I believe that the whole House will feel that it is intolerable.I am told that the Committee met again last Friday—I spoke to a member only this afternoon—and decided to approach Her Majesty's Government with a request for travel documents to be provided so that the visas promised by the United States could be affixed, and that he should go before the United Nations. Therefore, we were shocked to hear yesterday from the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations that a travel document would not be given. He said—I quote from the OFFICIAL. REPORT—
He is, of course, not a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, but he is a citizen of a territory of which the mandate was given to His Britannic Majesty after the First World War. At the moment he is in a territory administered in the name of Her Britannic Majesty by a Government which itself is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and which itself is a member of the United Nations, which contains in its Charter a Declaration on Human Rights. Surely, Her Majesty's Government can find a way to enable this refugee now within their control to go to the United Nations, and so fulfil their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, with which our dependent territories are associated under the Charter of the United Nations, which guarantees and pledges every member to uphold elementary human rights? Surely it is the duty of our Government to find a way round a technical difficulty, whether a man is or is not an actual citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. So far the movement of this persecuted man, this heroic pastor of a persecuted people who wishes to go to the United Nations to plead their cause, has been prevented and he is refused facilities to go to protest to the United Nations. Surely Her Majesty's Government can find a way of doing this. So far he has been debarred by a decision made by the former Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. In this House a few hours ago, we discussed the question of whether or not he was an appropriate Foreign Secretary. The Prime Minister told us that one of the reasons—not the only reason, of course—for selecting him for his post was that he would find it easier as a member of the House of Lords to absent himself from Parliament to attend meetings of bodies like the United Nations. What is to happen when the Foreign Secretary goes to the United Nations Assembly next autumn, as undoubtedly he will? Is the new Foreign Secretary to defend the actions taken by the former Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations? Surely he cannot possibly do that. He will have to get up in the United Nations Assembly and say, "At the time I was Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations I had to take a difficult decision. It was one which vexed and worried me a great deal. I felt I was hampered by certain legal obligations, but I now see as Foreign Secretary of Great Britain appearing in the United Nations General Assembly and trying to uphold the Charter of Human Rights incorporated in the foundation of United Nations, that it would be wrong to impede this gentleman whose whole story is heroic and who is trying to stand up for the rights of an oppressed people. We must no longer impede him in coming to the United Nations." I hope that is the attitude the Foreign Secretary will take when he goes to the United Nations. I hope that today the Under-Secretary of State will assure the House that a way will be found for doing that. If that cannot be done, the Government will stand disgraced in the eyes, not merely of this House, but of the whole of the United Nations."The problem is that the man is not a citizen of the United Kingdom oar the Colonies or a British protected person, and, therefore, the problem about providing him with travel documents does not rest with the United Kingdom Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 1847.]
I shall be very brief in my speech on this matter, but I realise how important it is. I think it should be said from both sides of the House that it is intolerable that refugees in one of our British-protected administrative areas, who look to this country, as they have all looked to this country even while living in South Africa and considered to be South African citizens, for protection, it is absolutely crazy that refugees in British Bechuanaland, some of them causing a problem of unemployment, should be able to get out of Bechuanaland only if they obtain an Indian laissez passer, or are smuggled aboard a plane to fly to Ghana.I realise, as, I am sure, the whole House realises, that my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend have tricky legal problems to cut through in dealing with this matter, but it seems to me that this gentleman and many more of the refugees in the British Protectorates should have the support of this House and that we should urge Her Majesty's Government to cut through the legalistic red tape in order to provide these people with travel documents. I am in many ways somewhat upset. I put down a Question for Written Answer on 18th July, not giving merely three days for a reply but in the expectation of a reply on 25th July. I allowed a full week, and I am told that the reply is on its way to me today. This is not good enough. This would appear to be symptomatic of the Department's approach to these matters, and they should be rather more prompt and definite in dealing with the problem of providing travel facilities and documents to these refugees if they desire them.
I speak again with the leave of the House. The main subject matter raised by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) was the question of a travel document for the Rev. Marcus Kooper. I am bound to say, as the House knows, that there was an answer to a Parliamentary Question by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) yesterday on this subject, to which I have not a great deal to add, although I can perhaps add something today.First, I should like to reiterate the point which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations made yesterday. There is no intention whatsoever on the part of Her Majesty's Government to prevent Mr. Kooper travelling to New York or anywhere else if he wishes. Let that be quite clear. He is perfectly free to leave the Bechuanaland Protectorate at any time. That is not quite the same thing as say- ing that we should give him a passport or a travel document. Before that is done, various questions have to be settled about his status, and I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery) that there is no question of a delight in red tape and making difficulties. All this depends on certain legislation which has to be interpreted, and, the situation being what it is, it is nothing like as easy as perhaps he thinks it is. Let us spend a minute considering the status of Mr. Kooper. So far as we know, he did not enter the Bechuanaland Protectorate to get away from the emergency regulations in the Union. Nevertheless, he has been issued by the Bechuanaland Protectorate authorities with a temporary residence permit precisely similar to those issued to people who claim to be political refugees. As the hon. Member for Eton and Slough said, he was born in South-West Africa and his father was believed to have been born there also. While his exact status is doubtful, it is clear that he does not belong to the United Kingdom for passport purposes because he is not a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, nor is he a British protected person under the protection of the United Kingdom.
The Minister said yesterday that the Rev. Kooper had not applied for recognition as a refugee. We have now heard that he is in the same position as refugees. Is it not the case that refugees in Bechuanaland have been able to get certain travel documents to leave the High Commission Territory? If this is so, is it really impossible to enable the Rev. Kooper to obtain a travel document—not necessarily even from the United Kingdom; it has been done from other sources—so as to enable him to go to the United Nations to state his case?
What my right hon. Friend said yesterday was that he was treated as other political refugees have been treated. To my knowledge, he has not made an application for a travel document. As far as I know, that information still stands.
If I am wrong, I will accept the hon. Gentleman's correction, but he has not been treated any differently from other political refugees.
The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that Mr. Kooper had not even applied to be treated as a refugee and he did not regard him as such.
No, but he has a temporary residence permit, as other political refugees have.The general rules underlying the citizenship legislation of Commonwealth countries were worked out at a conference of officials held in London in 1947. It was on that that the British Nationality Act, 1948, was founded. It is a highly complicated subject and not suitable for discussion in this debate, but clearly one in connection with which one ought not to take exceptional steps without very close study indeed. Reference has been made to the position of the United Nations. The situation is that the Rev. Kooper has not been invited by the United Nations to appear before them. What has happened is that the South-West Africa Committee has told him, in reply to his own application, that it would be ready to give him a hearing whenever he arrives in New York. As recently as Tuesday of this week, the chairman of the South-West Africa Committee asked the United Kingdom delegation to assist Mr. Kooper on his journey. In view of the doubts about his entitlement to get a travel document from us, for the reasons which I have briefly tried to explain and which are valid reasons, the request is being discussed further in New York. We are in touch also, as we naturally should be, with the High Commissioner for Basutoland, the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland. That is as far as I can possibly go today. I think that what I have said will show that we have done our best to help Mr. Kooper. He is definitely not one of our people for passport purposes, but we are exploring the matter to see whether in this situation any constructive step can be taken.
Will the Under-Secretary undertake that when the discussions take place in the United Nations our representative will not say, as he himself has said this afternoon, that the Rev. Marcus Kooper is free to leave? Does this not merely amount to saying that rich and poor alike are free to sleep under bridges at night?
No. I do not accept the implications in the right hon. Gentleman's statement. It is true that the Rev. Kooper is free to leave the Protectorate at any time. We are naturally anxious to co-operate with the United Nations and its committees, but we have to pay regard to the accepted international practice in the matter of issuing travel documents. We should find ourselves in great difficulty if in any and every case we drove a coach and four through the existing legislation. I repeat what I said earlier. We are in touch with the United Nations about this, and I think we had better wait and see what eventuates from that.
Frontier Formalities (Simplification)
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the problem of the reduction and simplification of frontier formalities, and, in general, the delays at frontiers. I shall do so with particular reference to Western Europe and to the arrangements we have or should have with our fellow-members of the Council of Europe. A number of the matters that I wish to mention do not come within the direct purview of the Foreign Office, but rather of other Departments, in particular, the Treasury and the Board of Trade, but, nevertheless, they are matters—
It being Four o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Noble.]
Although these matters come under other Departments they have all been raised with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and raised with the Foreign Office.During the next three days many thousands of foreign visitors will be streaming into this country through the ports and airfields, and likewise, on the Continent, many more thousands of our fellow-countrymen will be travelling to and from their holidays as well as on business, and they will be crossing frontiers. Many hours will be wasted and many tempers will be lost as the result of the cumbersome and unduly prolonged and, in many cases, unnecessary formalities at frontiers. In 1914, it was possible to travel without documents throughout most of the world, and currency restrictions were virtually unknown. Only the criminal and the subversive agent had any reason to fear frontiers then. Today, many more travel on business and pleasure than ever before, and it is possible to go, as we know, from Peking to London between dawn and dusk of one day, but whereas the scientists have mightily reduced time and space in travel the administrators and functionaries have placed a hundred and one unnecessary formalities and hindrances to add to the discomfort and annoyance and delay of travellers. The chief hindrances at frontiers are passports, Customs and currency formalities. As for passports, largely as a result of the great work done in Europe by the Special Committee of the Council of Europe which sat under the chairman-ship of a distinguished former French Transport Minister, M. Pinton, a large number of countries have now dispensed with the use of these documents for the nationals of member States. I would remind the House that before 1914 no nation, except Russia and Turkey in Europe, demanded a passport or, indeed, any other travel documents. Today, as a result of the work of that Special Committee, and the pressure put on the Governments by the Council of Europe itself, France, for instance, has an agreement with six other countries and Western Germany has an agreement with five other countries to dispense with passports—for short visits by the nationals of other member States—and to substitute identity cards or other minor documents. The United Kingdom in this is, once again, the odd man out. It is true that we have an arrangement with the Republic of Ireland to dispense with passports. I will certainly concede to my hon. Friend that the Foreign Office has made temporary arrangements for this summer and the holiday season with respect to citizens of the Benelux countries. Therefore, I would ask him if there is any real reason why we should not adhere to the European Agreement on regulations governing the movement of persons between member States of the Council of Europe. The passport is a singularly costly and inefficient document. I suggest that it is not really any security document. Criminals and spies have no difficulties with passports. After all, the Government who are to send a spy abroad will provide him with a passport or probably with several passports. It does not give the receiving country any opportunity at all to select whom it receives. I would suggest that the magic which officialdom attaches to passports is an illusion. I wish to ask why the Government are not willing to come into line with other member States of the Council of Europe and recognise some other minor identity document which is very often already in the possession of a traveller and already used by citizens, such as a driving licence, or certain types of insurance certificates. Many of these documents look very impressive in themselves. I myself once, prior to 1939, managed to cross over the Bavarian-Austrian frontier with the help of my gun licence, which was printed on very fine paper and bore the Royal Arms. My hon. Friend may know the case of John Alan Zegrus, who is at present being prosecuted in Tokio. In evidence, he describes himself as an intelligence agent for Colonel Nasser and a naturalised Ethiopian. This man, according to the evidence, has travelled all over the world with a very impressive looking passport indeed. It is written in a language unknown and it has remained un-identified although it has been studied for a long time by philologists. The passport is stated to have been issued in Tamanrosset the capital of the independent sovereign State of Tuarid. Neither the country nor the language can be identified, although a great deal of time has been spent in the attempt. When the accused was cross-examined he said that it was a State of 2 million population somewhere south of the Sahara. This man has been round the world on this passport without hindrance, a Passport which as far as we know is written in the invented language of an invented country. I would stress, therefore, that passports are not very good security checks. I therefore ask my hon. Friend why we are being so reluctant to co-operate in this instance with continental neighbours in the abolition of passports. I suggest that one of the reasons is that when Ministers in all countries come to deal with the problem they take advice at a relatively low level and there is among the functionaries of the world a sort of vested interest in the complications of administration—a vested interest in their jobs and in inertia. Pending the introduction of the European passport which the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe proposed in 1949, is there any reason why a cheap and easily procured identity document cannot be accepted? I suggest that it should be similar to the international certificate of vaccination which is accepted throughout the world. That identifies the traveller and is signed by a doctor. The new document could be signed by a vicar or a chairman of a local council, or someone of that sort of status, and it could be stamped with the stamp of the local council. If my hon. Friend says, "Ah, but what about security?" I would reply that the onus would be on the council stamping the document to send information to the Passport Office, where it could be recorded. As for Customs, the only two countries in Western Europe which still demand the antiquated expensive and totally unnecessary tryptyque, or carnet passage en douane, are Britain and Spain. Today, one can travel on a visit of up to three months with one's motor car from the north of Norway to the southernmost tip of Sicily and the only Customs document required for the car is a green card or international certificate of insurance which any insurance company in this country is able to issue. In July last year I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why we could not remove this hindrance to the British tourist trade. The reply was that it was not an unnecessary formality and that import duties and Purchase Tax must be protected. I ask my hon. Friend why France with its much higher tariffs on motor cars can afford to do this while we cannot. I suggest that more respect is paid to the tourist industry in France and that it is realised there what a hindrance this document is. This great mass of documentation in a tryptyque required of someone coming into England or someone going by motor car to Spain is seldom checked. The system is really a haven of red tape for the functionary and has no meaning at all. My constituency, in Devon, is an important holiday area where we do not have as many foreign motorists as we should. I have asked a number of foreigners visiting resorts in my constituency why this is so. I have had the answer that it is too much trouble to bring a motor car on a short visit to England because of the demand by the Treasury that these documents must be produced. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to tell me that the introduction of the green card for visitors to the United Kingdom will not be long delayed. I would also ask, concerning Customs, whether there is any reason why visitors and British people returning to this country should not have an allowance of, say, £5 of goods to bring in duty-free. This concession, with a higher upper limit, limit, already applies in the United States. I suggest that if there were a £5 limit it would prevent a great deal of time being wasted at ports and airports. Most tourists bring back souvenirs. They have to be questioned about them, and the Customs officer has to exercise his discretion. Both Customs and passengers would be relieved if there were this little concession. Also, in connection with Customs, is there any reason why there should not be a spot check system, whereby instead of examining every passenger, one passenger in, say, every two hundred is examined? If that system were introduced, as it has been at a number of the frontiers abroad, it would be just as efficient and lust as much a deterrent to the potential smuggler and would speed up the process. In view of the general relaxation that there has been in recent years, I would ask whether currency restrictions are really necessary here any longer. If they are, surely the right course to pursue is not to question every individual but to introduce a system of spot checks. I myself had the experience, not long ago, of leaving this country at London Airport at a time when there was a great deal of publicity and correspondence in The Times about delays at London Airport I was going abroad with a number of other hon. Members. I was asked by the Customs how much money I had. I told the Customs official, and he said, "Can I see it?" All this took time. I produced my money and he counted it very slowly. It was about £5 less than I had told him. It was handed back, but by that time my colleagues were practically in the air. I suggest that that is an unnecessary procedure. Surely some discretion must be used. I would say that in my experience and that of everyone to whom I have spoken the Customs officials, who have a very difficult task to perform, act with the greatest courtesy and are extremely reasonable and polite in all cases. Another question in regard to airports—my hon. Friend has no direct responsibility for this—is that of the smooth movement of passengers through our air terminals. I am certain that this matter must be restudied by those responsible on a time and motion basis so that we do not have the terrible traffic jams which we had, in particular, at London Airport this summer. I know one of the reasons for the congestion is that the long-range air terminal has only just been started, or is about to be started. But the fact that aircraft very often land far away from the air terminal where the passengers have to go through these formalities causes appalling delays, and this adds very much to an already extremely difficult position. I hope, especially, that my hon. Friend will draw the attention of the Minister of Aviation to this matter and to the very perturbing letter from Lord Harvey of Tasburgh which appeared in The Times on 9th June dealing with this very point. I ask, therefore, that the Foreign Office should study the whole question of unnecessary delays at our ports and airfields with a view to simplifying the whole process of passing travellers in and out. I suggest that the ultimate aims must be: first, the complete abolition of passports for travel between member States of the Council of Europe, but, pending that, the substitution of some cheaper, ordinary document which would be just as acceptable as the expensive and elaborate passport; secondly, the introduction of spot checks instead of examining all travellers, whatever the type of examination; thirdly, the aboli- tion of the ponderous and expensive system of Customs documents for motor cars—it is high time that Britain came into line with the rest of Europe on this matter; to my knowledge no case has ever been made out why this country should maintain this archaic and elaborate system—and, fourthly, a complete streamlining of the present administrative arrangements at airports for dealing with all kinds of examinations and the passing of passengers in and out. Europe has been making attempts to do something about this matter for a long time. For about ten years the Council of Europe has been working on it. But Europe, in 1960, has a very long way to go to get back to the freedom of movement which it knew before 1914. I know that some progress has been made since 1945, but I suggest that this is as a result of pressure of public opinion and pressure by Members of Parliament who belong to European organisations. Pressure by the members of the Council of Europe on the Committee of Ministers has had less result than that achieved by individual members like Mr. Kiesinger and Mr. Pinton, the French ex-Minister, pressing in their own Parliaments and on their own Governments. It is public opinion which has made the progress, and not officialdom, because officialdom has consistently resisted every move forward. As I say, officialdom has a vested interest in inertia. I urge my hon. Friend himself to take the initiative now and make a real effort to cut away the jungle of documentation and formalities. In conclusion, may I say that that great Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, was once asked by a foreign diplomat what he regarded as the most important object of his foreign policy. He replied, "Just to be able to go down to Victoria Station and take a ticket to where the hell I like without a passport." I trust that that will also be the object of the new Foreign Secretary.
No more topical subject could have been chosen for discussion in the House on the verge of our departure for some three months during the Summer Recess. I merely wish on behalf of the Opposition to support what the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) has said.I should like to say how much I agree with the hon. Member about passports and their being a burdensome nuisance in the tourist trade. The Joint Under-Secretary knows as well as I do, though he will not agree with me, that the British passport system is really a lot of mumbo-jumbo. I think he will confirm that it is quite unnecessary for a British subject to have a passport for the purpose of leaving the country and returning to it. That being so, why is it necessary to subject British citizens—unless, of course, they intend to stay abroad for years or to settle down permanently somewhere else—to all the tiresome formalities required in obtaining passports, plus the expensive fees charged? I shall not dilate on that, however, for the Joint Under-Secretary of State has been in trouble before in connection with these excessively high fees for passports. Hon. Members know of frequent cases in which constituents come to them at the last moment because their doctor is away or their parson is ill. They ask their local Member of Parliament to sign the forms of application for them. If the family is a large one, and separate passports for each member is obtained, then the cost is excessive. I hope that it will be possible for the hon. Gentleman to be more forthcoming than he has been on former occasions, and to say that there is no reason why British tourists leaving this country should not be able to do so, and to come back, with a simple identity document Foreign countries do not care two pins what kind of document a British subject will present, because most of them realise that most British subjects travelling abroad do not want to stay but to get back home. A simple document would suffice. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is so imbued with the holiday spirit that he will be able at this late hour to announce some beneficial concession.
I must, first, apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) and the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) for coming in a moment late. As the hon. Member for Brixton said, this is indeed a topical occasion. He indicated, or inferred, that we were going away for three months' holiday. I do not believe that he is really going on holiday for three months, and I shall be lucky if I get three weeks.My hon. Friend began his remarks by recalling the ideal expressed by Mr. Ernest Bevin. Every Foreign Secretary from all parties has subscribed to that policy, and I have no doubt that my noble Friend will also do so. The question of frontier formalities has been considered and reviewed by interested Government Departments time and time again, but we must, I fear, admit that this ideal has not yet been realised: it is not possible to jump on a train for any part of Europe without a passport at the present time. By no means all of the difficulties are within our control. In the present state of the world, many people feel that they would rather travel in certain areas with, rather than without, the protection afforded by that much maligned document, the British passport. On the other hand, I doubt if there is any State in the world today which would agree to the entry into its territory of aliens without some form of document showing their identity and national status. The British passport is accepted everywhere as such evidence, and in its present durable, if slightly more expensive, form it is ideal for general international travel. My hon. Friend suggested various alternative methods of identification. But owing to the variation in the form of the documents produced in and required by different countries, a traveller might well have to carry a sheaf of documents unless he was going to only one country, whereas the passport is a single document which is universally accepted. My hon. Friend mentioned cost, and as the hon. Member for Brixton said, I have been in trouble about this subject before. I cannot believe that the 5s. a year which we pay for a 10-year passport can be considered a financial burden to the Continental traveller. My hon. Friend pointed out that travel nearer home is rather different from international travel. As he knows, being interested in and serving so conscientiously on so many organisations, Her Majesty's Government have worked on several bodies with the object of removing all unnecessary formalities. We have taken part from the beginning in the work of the Tourism Committee of O.E.E.C. and in the Group of Customs Experts in the E.C.E. and we are also a member of the Council of Europe's Special Committee on Frontier Formalities. I admit, as my hon. Friend said, that we have not yet signed the European Agreement on the movement of persons, but the main obstacle to our doing that is that, unlike almost all other Continental countries, we have no national identity card which could be substituted for a passport. I very much doubt whether there would be much support for the idea of reintroducing an identity card in this country, particularly when a photograph would have to be added to it. I can say, however, that at the moment we are considering whether or not it is practicable to introduce some form of tourist card for British nationals making short holiday, or what are called "social", visits to O.E.E.C. countries. In the meantime, we are in the process of negotiating bilateral agreements with members of O.E.E.C. under which their nationals may use national identity cards when on short visits to this country. Discussions have already began with a number of countries and we have concluded agreements with the three Benelux countries and with the Federal Republic of Germany. We have approached three of our E.F.T.A. partners and will shortly approach the other three. My hon. Friend came down very heavily against carnets and tryptiques. He said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out that the revenue must be protected and that, of course, is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Protection is given by the system set out in the New York and Geneva Customs Conventions which provide for the use of those documents and to which we and a number of other countries subscribe. I know that many countries in Continental Europe have discarded this system, but that is because conditions are very different. There, the flood of vehicles wishing to cross land frontiers has made the carnet system virtually unworkable. Furthermore, the risk of some loss of revenue can be offset by increases in receipts from tourism resulting from what is called, in the jargon of the business, "impulse travel" at week-ends and on fête days and so on. In the United Kingdom, however, incoming traffic is much smaller, owing to the sea crossing involved. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is making certain alterations about circulation tax and vehicle registration which have reduced still further the time taken over formalities. My hon. Friend mentioned the so-called green card system. That involves certain problems, but we will consider it. However, there is a proposal before E.C.E. which, if accepted, would modify the international insurance scheme in such a way that the green card would not be carried. My hon. Friend also referred to currency restrictions. These, including checking procedures, are watched all the time and relaxations are made whenever practicable. In February, the limit in sterling notes for out-going United Kingdom residents was increased to £50. The procedure of counting money is not adopted in the case of every traveller, so that my hon. Friend was somewhat unlucky, and in practice what he suggests is already being done. I want finally to refer to general delays at airports. I remind my hon. Friend of the long and detailed investigation carried out two or three years ago by the Air Transport Advisory Council. Its Report, which has special reference to London Airport, was that the chief delaying factor was not Customs and immigration facilities, but the physical arrangements for handling passengers and, above all, baggage. This is a matter for the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation.
The Question having been proposed at Four o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER, adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order, till Tuesday, 25th October, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 26th July.
Adjourned at half-past Four o'clock.