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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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

Royal Air Force

Malta (Service Men's Wives)


asked the Secre of State for Air whether there are any restrictions on wives of airmen joining their husbands who are based at Malta.

Apart from the normal rules there are no restrictions on wives of airmen joining their husbands in Malta at public expense.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am very happy to have that reply? I had heard that it was otherwise.

Belfast Aircraft


asked the Secretary of State for Air when he anticipates the Belfast aircraft will come into service.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Aviation told the House on 21st December last, the Belfast is due to come into service in 1964.

Does the Minister still think, in view of the time that it has taken to get this aircraft into service and the fact that originally it was to some extent intended to be a commercial proposition as well and also in view of the other prototypes which are now emerging, that it is still likely to be anything other than obsolete when it comes into service?

No, Sir. We do not think that it will be obsolete at all. We think that it will fulfil the task allotted to it.

Is it not clear that there are not sufficient freighters for Her Majesty's Forces and that when this plane comes into effect there will be the need for a great many more? Will my right hon. Friend consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation about placing more orders for this plane?

I see my hon. Friend's point, but he will realise that the number of planes which we order is related to staff plans and other considerations and that it is not just a number drawn out of a hat. We think that this is the number we need. It may be that subsequent events will show that we need more. If so, I have no doubt that we shall take the right course, but, at the moment, it is the number that we need.

If this aircraft is to have some commercial potentialities as well, surely the number of ten is rather small to be of real value?

It is not for me to discuss the commercial potentialities of the aircraft. The military requirement is for ten.

Troop Transport, Middle East


asked the Secretary of State for Air what improvements have now been made for the transport of troops and equipment by air in the Middle East.

There have been no recent changes in the composition of the theatre transport force based in Middle East Command.

Even with the British Forces in the Middle East so thin on the ground, is it not becoming increasingly obvious that the Government's ability to transport them has been woefully inadequate? With the situation in the Middle East becoming increasingly unpleasant, this is a highly dangerous situation, and does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he should do something to improve that situation?

As I cannot accept either of the assumptions in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I am sure that he will not expect me to accept his conclusion.

Officers' Wives (Overseas Accommodation And Travelling Expenses)


asked the Secretary of State for Air what would be the approximate cost to the Exchequer if facilities for accommodation and travelling expenses were granted to enable wives to join their husbands who are officers of the Royal Air Force stationed abroad, and whose ages range between 21 years and 25 years.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that this amount is rather small in comparison with the total cost of conveying officers abroad? In view of that fact, will he not now consider accepting the principle of equal travelling and accommodation allowances for equal responsibility?

No, Sir, I am afraid not. The consideration in our view has never been a financial one. As the hon. Gentleman points out, the sums at stake are relatively small. We take the view that in the early years of an officer's service it is better for him to be unmarried, and we do not therefore want to give an incentive to early marriage.

But does not the Minister realise that young men today are getting married earlier, that they have the responsibility of married life and that they would be far happier than they are at the present time if their families were transported abroad with them?

We have very carefully considered all the considerations at issue here, and, while I see the hon. Gentleman's point, I am afraid that we have reached a different conclusion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give further serious consideration to this? Hon. Members on both sides have indicated that they are disturbed at this brutal separation of newly married officers from their wives. Under present conditions they are left with a thoroughly harsh choice between celibacy and impoverishment.

I see the hon. Gentleman's point, but we have looked at this carefully and we came to a different view.

Children (Education Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will consider the introduction of a flat rate of education allowances for assisting officers, airmen and airwomen in the education of their children when serving abroad or liable to frequent changes of station in the United Kingdom, instead of the present system of maximum allowances of £150, £175, and £200 a year for the first, second and third and subsequent children at boarding schools, and only £50 a year for children attending day schools.

No, Sir. Education allowances are intended to help Service parents to meet the extra cost of ensuring continuity of education for their children. A flat rate would not take account of the difference in the cost of boarding and day schools.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a private decision of parents whether they send their children to a private school, either a boarding or a day school? How can the right hon. Gentleman defend this kind of discrimination against parents who choose to send their children to day schools and in favour of parents who choose to send them to boarding schools? Surely this is a private decision which they ought to finance themselves?

It is not altogether a private decision. Discrimination is sometimes not of human origin. There are quite a number of families who have no relatives or guardians with whom they can leave their children, and for them a boarding school is the only choice.

How can the right hon. Gentleman defend a flat rate of £50 for the parents who have their children at day school with no distinction between the first, second, third and subsequent children, while there is this discrimination for parents who send their children to boarding school?

The problem which arises with a day school is that to an existing household is added an individual, or it may be more than one individual. The allowance given in respect of that child is intended as a contribution to the upkeep of the child at home. In boarding schools it is very difficult to discriminate or differentiate between the educational and maintenance costs. The maintenance cost plus the education cost collectively becomes rather high, and the added burden to the individual family is considerably greater.

Does not this amount to a direct subsidy from the Air Ministry to private fee-accepting schools?

Exercise Mayflight


asked the Secretary of State for Air why the Valiant bombers proceeded to dispersal airfields in the recent exercise Mayflight before taking off on a simulated operational mission.

One of the objects of the exercise was to practise the dispersal arrangements.

Are we to understand that the strategic nuclear deterrent of this country, or at least most of it, which has cost an enormous amount of money, depends largely on receiving sufficient notice to proceed to its dispersal airfields before proceeding on operational missions?

No, Sir. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that there are many different situations in which the strategic force could be called on to operate. Some of these would allow for dispersal, and it is therefore important to have good dispersal arrangements. The exercise was an attempt to test every feature of the strategic force, including its dispersal capability.

Armoured Cars (Air Transport)


asked the Secretary of State for Air what facilities the Transport Force now has for moving armoured cars by air.

The Beverley can carry all types of armoured car at present in service with the Army.

As the armoured car is a particularly valuable weapon for dealing with the brush war type of campaign, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that Beverleys are available in sufficient quantities in all the possible theatres where they might be (used?

Aircraft Factory, United States (Members' Visit)


asked the Secretary of State for Air what assistance was given by his Department to certain hon. Members to enable them to accept an invitation to visit the Lockheed aircraft factory in the United States of America.

If as reported in the Press, a public relations organisation has stated that it obtained Parliamentary authority, does the right hon. Gentleman's Answer mean that so far as the Air Ministry is concerned that is incorrect? Does the right hon. Gentleman know what is meant by obtaining Parliamentary authority, other than from the Air Ministry?

Order. The Minister cannot be asked to explain a statement by a public relations agency for which he is not responsible.

What I want to know from the Minister is whether consent was given or authority obtained before hon. Members were invited to go to the United States to inspect the Lockheed aircraft factory?

As I said, the Air Ministry had nothing to do with this and I am, therefore, not in a position to say whether anybody else gave authority. No authority was given either by me or to me by the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If you prefer it, I can raise this matter at the end of Questions, but it seems to me that we are entitled to ask about the movements of hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That is what I intend to do whether hon. Gentlemen like it or not, even if there is resentment when we inquire into their movements, particularly When the movements are unofficial in character but in some respects related to their Parliamentary duties. Are we not entitled to do that?

I do not know what is the point of order. The point of order in my mind was merely that in accordance with the rules and practice of the House an hon. Member cannot ask a Minister to comment by way of denial or otherwise on statements for which there is no Ministerial responsibility. I was not objecting to the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question after he re-framed it. I only stopped the right hon. Gentleman from asking his question in its original form. That was all.

May I thank my right hon. Friend for the authority he gave me to visit Middleton St. George and to fly in a Javelin aircraft?

Ministry Of Defence

German Troops (Training, Pembrokeshire)


asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement on the agreement reached by the British and German Governments regarding the training of German troops in Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire.

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add at present to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on 30th May.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as my constituency is involved, so far as I can tell there is no local feeling about this? Nevertheless, may I ask him for some explanation? Will he explain why it is essential for these Germans to come here instead of having training facilities in Germany? Secondly, will he say what is actually involved, the numbers, and so on? Thirdly, will he say whether these German troops will be under the general command of the tank range commander?

As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I think that the answer is because the present demand for training areas is so great that it would otherwise be impossible for the Germans to fulfil their N.A.T.O. commitments. The second part of the supplementary question was, I think, about the extent to which this proposal runs. It is still, of course, only a proposal, but the proposal is for one battalion in the first instance. The hon. Gentleman is right in the assumption in the last part of his supplementary question. It will, of course, be under the range authorities.

As there seems to have been some misunderstanding about this, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is anything new about German soldiers serving and training in England? For how many years has it been going on?

There is something new in this proposition, to the extent that we are considering according German armoured units some facilities for training at Castlemartin, but I do not think that there is any difference in principle. The principle is the same as allowing our American allies to have facilities in the Hebrides.

Commonwealth Defence Installations, Kenya


asked the Minister of Defence what sums have been spent on Commonwealth defence installations in Kenya during the past five years; and what sums are necessary to complete these projects.

I have been asked to reply.

Three million pounds and about £7 million respectively. These figures do not include installations for local defence.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this place is of great importance to the whole Commonwealth, and will he therefore give consideration to transforming it into a Commonwealth as opposed to a purely British base? Also, does he agree that it is particularly important to these East African territories which may soon become independent and which are unlikely to be able to afford adequate defence installations of their own?

I think that the arrangements we have for the present are adequate for what I might call Common wealth purposes. We are constantly in touch with Commonwealth members to see what is required as circumstances change, and I agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

West German Defence Minister (Visit)


asked the Minister of Defence whether he will make a statement as to his negotiations with the Defence Minister of the West German Republic.

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on 31st May.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication when something could be added to it? We have been led to believe that negotiations took place as to the co-ordination from both a financial and an arms point of view of the N.A.T.O. forces, particularly in respect of Germany and the balance of payments problem there. We have been told that there were some orders, including 200 guns. Surely at some convenient point we should have a better statement than that.

If the hon. Member is not wholly satisfied with the statement made at the time, perhaps it would help him and other hon. Members if I give an undertaking that I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the official Press communiqué which was released after the talks. That might make it easier for hon. Members to see the matter in perspective.

Following is the communiqué.



At the invitation of Mr. Harold Watkinson, the British Minister of Defence, Herr Franz Josef Strauss, the Minister of Defence of the German Federal Republic, paid a brief visit to this country this week and had discussions with Mr. Watkinson in the Ministry of Defence. The Minister of Aviation also took part in the discussions.

This was one of the regular series of meetings between the N.A.T.O. Ministers of Defence. On this occasion one of the main reasons for the meeting was to examine progress made in co-operation between Great Britain and the Federal Republic in the development and production of military equipment and German procurement of conventional weapons from British production.

The meeting also took account of the recent Anglo-German staff talks which it was agreed served a useful purpose for Anglo-German co-operation.

Herr Strauss confirmed the firm intention to take the British 105 mm tank gun for the German standard tank. An order for the first 200 guns and ammunition would be signed very shortly; another 300 guns would be contracted for later and would probably be followed by a further two thousand to match Germany's eventual need for tanks. Herr Strauss also confirmed that the contract for 50 Seacat missiles was about to be completed and that it was the intention of his Government to buy two prototypes of the British mortar spotting radar Green Archer. Direct orders for the Orpheus engine are being increased and substantial orders for Rolls Royce "Tyne" engines are in prospect for the "Transall" transport aircraft which is under joint Franco-German development.

The Ministers decided to conclude an early agreement for the joint development of a VTOL light-weight Strike fighter aircraft on the basis of the Hawker P1127 and also agreed to develop jointly, in association with France, the Rolls Royce RB162 engine.

Technical and industrial teams will meet in the very near future to carry on this work.

Armed Forces (South Africans)


asked the Minister of Defence whether arrangements will be made to enable South Africans who are presently members of Her Majesty's Forces to remain in those forces.

I have been asked to reply.

For the time being there is no difficulty and in any case authority does exist for the Services to recruit limited numbers of men who are not of British nationality. It is unlikely therefore that any special arrangements will be necessary.

Germany (Destroyers)


asked the Minister of Defence what consultations have taken place within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as to the rôle within the organisation to be performed by the 6,000-ton destroyers that West Germany is proposing to build.

I have been asked to reply.

The force requirements, to meet which the Federal Republic has now been permitted to build eight 6,000-ton destroyers, were recommended by the Military Committee of N.A.T.O. and approved by the North Atlantic Council.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication as to what they are for? How is it imagined that surface ships could be used in the Baltic for war against the East or indeed in any German waters? If the ships are not to be used in German waters, where are they to be used? It seems an odd reply.

This was done through N.A.T.O. I understand that these ships are required for assignment to SACEUR in accordance with approved N.A.T.O. plans. The Question asked what consultation took place and in my answer I addressed myself to that. If it was not the answer which the hon. and learned Member had in mind, perhaps he will put down a more specific Question.

As these ships are twice the size of a British destroyer, should not they be classified as cruisers?

I am not sufficiently conversant with all the niceties of the Royal Navy to answer that supplementary question. I have tried to answer the Question on the Order Paper.

Nato (Conventional Forces)


asked the Minister of Defence if he will set out in tabular form an analysis of the conventional Armed Forces which Her Majesty's Government contribute to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and of the proposed contribution of the Federal German Government to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to which he has consented.

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. Information about the force levels of our allies in N.A.T.O. is derived from N.A.T.O. classified material which is passed on to us on the understanding it is not divulged.

As quite a lot of information is divulged, may I ask this question: in view of the fact that the Foreign Office automatically agrees to every recommendation by Western European Union to raise the limits on German rearmament, is it the policy of the Ministry of Defence that any limits on the German armed forces should be maintained, or are we to regard that as a dead letter? Is it part of the Government's set policy to make Western Germany the dominant military Power in Europe?

It is part of the Government's policy to see that the Federal Republic plays a full part in N.A.T.O. That is all that is happening, and it is happening only with the agreement of the authorities concerned.

That does not answer the question. Is it the Government's policy, in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, to agree to Western Germany becoming the dominant military Power in Europe?

If the hon. Member looks at what I have said, he will see that I have answered that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I certainly have, and I shall go no further than that answer. It is the Government's policy to see that Western Germany plays her full part as a full partner in the N.A.T.O. alliance. I have said nothing about a dominant part. We are all partners in this, and we all play the part which we are required to play by N.A.T.O.

Is it not true that neither we nor the French are fulfilling our obligations to N.A.T.O. and that, therefore, we are in no position to do anything except to slay "Thank you kindly" to one who is?

No. I entirely repudiate that. We are all playing the part which we are asked to play. The forces contributed by the Federal Republic are in accordance with the force requirements approved by the N.A.T.O. Council.


asked the Minister of Defence if he is satisfied that the conventional forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are adequate to en sure that an accidental or minor incursion would not lead to full-scale nuclear war.

I have been asked to reply.

Yes, Sir. The purpose of the current review by N.A.T.O. of its strategy is to ensure, among other things, that they remain so in changing circumstances.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the increased emphasis which his right hon. Friend placed on conventional weapons is very welcome but that it arouses great questionings in many minds as to where these conventional weapons are? For instance, will he confirm or deny that most exercises down to brigade level in Germany presuppose the use of atomic arms? Has there been any improvement in the N.A.T.O. forces, other than the Germans now serving on German soil?

I answered a similar question in another connection the other day and perhaps I should paraphrase it. All the exercises for which we are responsible which are carried out in Germany are carried out in accordance with the directive of SACEUR. They all presuppose some nuclear attack because in our view it would be wrong to overlook this. In that view I am very much borne out by what the United States Deputy Minister of Defence said in Washington yesterday. Our allies agree. But if we have an exercise which is set for that purpose, we also start by assuming conventional warfare, and we are therefore constantly training in both roles. The present N.A.T.O. reappraisal is designed to see whether we are right. For the time being my right hon. Friend and I are sure that we are on the right lines.

Nuclear Weapons


asked the Minister of Defence, in view of his speech to Western European Union on 1st June, if he will say in what circumstances Her Majesty's Government would decide to use the nuclear weapon first.

I have been asked to reply.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has made clear on a number of occasions, we do not think it in the best interests of defence to disclose to a possible aggressor the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might be used.

Did not the Minister of Defence say at Western European Union that in the event of an attack by an aggressor with superior conventional forces we should retaliate with a nuclear weapon? The Minister has mentioned the statement made by the Deputy Defence Minister of the United States. Has he not said that if conventional forces of a superior character are used against them they intend to unleash the nuclear weapon? Do I understand that that is the policy? Does it indicate a change?

I will answer the last part of the supplementary question first There is no change in the Government's policy. If the right hon. Gentleman studies my reply, I am sure that he of all people would agree with it. I am not willing to discuss hypothetical matters nor to disclose information which might be of value to a potential enemy.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be the height of folly, having possessed ourselves of a deterrent, to say that we would not use it until that event which we seek to deter had taken place?

Why does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that I am asking him to disclose information when, if the Press reports are correct—and as far as I know they have not been challenged—his right hon. Friend said categorically at Western European Union that in the event of an attack by an aggressor with superior conventional forces we should unleash the nuclear weapon?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would read my right hon. Friend's speech.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has one, I imagine. If not, I will send the right hon. Gentleman a copy. My right hon. Friend made no mention of this at all in his speech. In answer to a question after his speech, my right hon. Friend gave a reply which was purely a repetition and similar to many previous statements which he has made on this subject.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that we could defend Berlin by conventional weapons? What would be left of Berlin if we tried to defend it with nuclear weapons?

I do not think that this was a question of defending Berlin. We are here discussing the Western European Union and the speech which my right hon. Friend made in the context of N.A.T.O. strategy. That does not affect Berlin.

According to the Press, what the right hon. Gentleman said is fairly clear. But does it matter in these days what one says, because nobody will believe what is said one way or the other? What seems to be important is the posture taken. We have forces which are being trained, disposed and organised to operate with atomic artillery, and have not adequate artillery for any other purpose, and which are quite inadequate in numbers for a conventional rôle. By that are we not saying very much more emphatically what my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) suggested was said by the Minister of Defence?

I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it does not matter what one says because no one is going to believe it. But it does matter that I shall say nothing, and I am not going to say anything.


Victoria Line


asked the Minister of Transport whether he has yet authorised the construction of a new Victoria underground line.

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) on 31st May.

Is not this becoming a ludicrous situation? Is not the traffic in London getting worse? Obviously this line is eminently desirable from every point of view. Why cannot the Minister take a decision about it?

The real point is that this line has to be considered with the requirements of the railways as a whole. There is now a new Chairman of the B.T.C. and naturally there will be a reassessment.


Colchester By-Pass


asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has for the improvement of road safety on the Colchester by-pass, with particular reference to the entrance to Arclight Works.

Our engineers are discussing this problem with the management of the Arclight Works and the Borough Council.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Would not he agree that it is an alarming situation when there are 900 men pouring out on to an unrestricted road? Will he give this matter close attention and, see that action is taken at an early date?

We are fully aware of the problem outside these works. A similar problem is encountered in a great many other places where a large number of people are leaving or arriving at work almost simultaneously, but we will certainly go on trying to find a solution in this case.

Carriageway Markings


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that lane markings and directional arrows painted on the roadway are more prevalent in Scotland and the North of England than they are in the South of England, especially the London area; and, as they have proved their advantages as a guide to traffic, if he will speed up their provision all over the country.

These carriageway markings are already in general use on trunk roads throughout the country. In the London Traffic Area for which my right hon. Friend is the traffic authority we intend to increase their use wherever it is practicable and advantageous.

As regards other roads, we have no evidence that local highway authorities in the South of England are lagging behind those in the North and in Scotland in the application of the markings.

Whether or not there is any evidence in the Department, there is plenty of evidence on the roads that we are lagging behind in this problem in the South compared with the North and also compared with abroad. Will my hon. Friend try to speed up the provision of these markings, because they are an invaluable help in directing traffic to the right lines?

I am sorry, but I must disagree with my hon. Friend. I have asked for an inquiry to be made. The use of carriageway markings is fairly uniform over the country and there is no evidence to show that in the North or in Scotland they are more generally used than in the South. I think hon. Members will agree that their use is extending rapidly throughout the country.

King's Lynn By-Pass


asked the Minister of Transport if he will now state in which year it will be possible for work to start in connection with the King's Lynn by-pass.

As my hon. Friend will know, we were unable to include the classified road section of this by-pass in the three-year programme which we announced recently. I cannot at present say when it will be possible to authorise this scheme or the trunk road section to the south.

Will my hon. Friend take particular note of the reports which must be reaching him, and to which I have drawn his attention, of very great congestion in the town of King's Lynn? In case he thinks that this is a question only of holiday traffic, will he bear in mind that for many days of the week industrial and commercial traffic in the town is paralysed? As the Norfolk County Council is anxious to include one section of the road in its programme, will he give sanction for it at the earliest possible moment?

We shall give sanction to it as soon as we practically can, but I should emphasise to my hon. Friend that we have now agreed on a grant of £91,000 in 1962–63 for the railway-road extension scheme in King's Lynn, which I think he agreed some time ago should be the first of the routes to be dealt with in this area.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in recent weeks this area in King's Lynn has had the unenviable record of having 7 miles or more of stationary traffic on its roads? Norfolk County Council for many years has pressed the importance of this bypass which has now become an urgent necessity. Is it not time we had some action in this connection? We welcome people to Norfolk, but do not want them to have to stay in their cars all day long because we want them to come back again.

I think the fact that there are so many cars shows that the welcome is being responded to cordially.

Parking Meters, London


asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement of his present policy regarding the use of parking meters in London.

Parking meters have made a large contribution towards solving the traffic problems of central London. There are already 5,380 meters there and there will be nearly 6,300 by July. I expect a number of other areas to be metered by the end of 1961.

Outside the central area, I welcome the initiative of Woolwich and Croydon in introducing parking meters. I hope that other local authorities—outside as well as inside the central area—will soon follow their example.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that many of these parking meters are allied to traffic wardens. Will he make a comment on the statement of magistrates in London that there is a state of chaos in the courts because of the present set-up? Does he contemplate the traffic warden situation alongside parking meters as a system which has to go on?

The hon. Member has put down a series of Questions about traffic wardens to the Home Office. I hope that he will direct his inquiries there, because this comes under the jurisdiction of the Home Office.

As the Minister was himself responsible for the Bill which was introduced about traffic wardens and parking meters, providing that traffic wardens must be there, he should not push me off on to the Home Secretary. That is the oldest trick in the world.

Wrexham (By-Pass)


asked the Minister of Transport what plans have been made for the construction of a road by-passing Wrexham and the industrial villages of the area, thus relieving the traffic on the dangerous stretch of the A.483 between Pulford and Whitehurst; and whether he will make a statement.

An Order laying down the line of a by-pass for Wrexham and Ruabon was made in April, 1958. Proposals for a new line further north are under consideration.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that A.483 between Pulford and Whitehurst has been black-listed by the A.A. for its bad accident record? Is he also aware that in the past six years there have been 1,156 accidents on that section of the road, 19 of which have been fatal? Is the Minister further aware that certain widening schemes along this road are increasing the danger at well-known dangerous bottlenecks?

We are well aware of some of these facts. I ought to point out that before we can proceed with improvements to this road and with the building of a new road there, we shall have to go through the statutory processes that are laid upon us by Parliament, and the provision of the land for the new road north of Ruabon is one of the things we have to do. That we are getting on with now.


Great West Road (Right Turns)


asked the Minister of Transport if, for an experimental period, he will ban all right turns on the Great West Road.

No, Sir. Our engineers are studying various means of reducing traffic delays at the junctions on this road. At some, an improved layout may be desirable. At others, the right turn may be banned and an alternative route indicated. It would be wrong to ban all right turns without considering the traffic requirements at each junction.

I am sorry to have to say that I find that reply very disappointing. Is not my hon. Friend aware, and has not he been aware now for some time, that the congestion on the Great West Road is becoming quite intolerable? Is not he aware that this suggestion at least contains the germ of something which might make it possible to get along this now very dangerous road where the problems and hazards are not in any way cured by the imposition of a futile speed limit which nobody observes?

We are well aware of the problems on this road. That is one reason why we are looking forward to a considerable improvement when the London-South Wales motorway is completed—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]—fairly soon. The London Traffic Management Unit is making a comprehensive survey of traffic conditions, and I can tell my hon. Friend that we are not just dealing with the banning of right turns here. There are a number of other devices and methods which it is intended to use and which are tailor-made for each individual junction. It would not do simply to ban all right turns and leave it at that.

London-Essex Coast (Holiday Traffic)


asked the Minister of Transport whether, with a view to speeding up the flow of traffic from London to the north-east Essex coast, he will consider making a series of one-way routes to deal with peak-time holiday traffic.

No, Sir. A one-way traffic system in a rural area, even if it would help holiday traffic, would be likely to cause grave inconvenience to the local users of the roads. The local authorities responsible are, however, arranging for alternative routes to the Essex coast to be signposted, and for the police to divert traffic from main roads when necessary.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I regard that as a very unsatisfactory reply? Is he aware that until he can expedite the work on the Stanway by-pass and the Brentwood bypass and at Gallows Corner more radical schemes are needed to overcome the serious problems arising from the increased flow of traffic to the north-east Essex coast? Will my hon. Friend please stop being so complacent about it?

These are pretty hard words for my hon. Friend to use. I tried to answer the Question on the Order Paper which suggested that my right hon. Friend should make a series of one-way roads in rural Essex. I have given reasons why we do not think that a suitable method for dealing with the problem. I can assure my hon. Friend that there are many other things that we are trying to do, including looking into the problems on the various roads which he mentioned. I hope that these will have some alleviating effect.

Will my hon. Friend realise that nothing could be more inconvenient to people living near that road, and that it is quite impossible over many hours of the weekend to get across it or to get on to it? Is he aware that something must be done either by way of by-passes or by the adoption of the idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale).

Perhaps my Answer was not quite so discouraging as was thought by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale).

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

South-West (Alternative Routes)


asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made with the re-signing of routes to the south-west in order to encourage holiday traffic to use alternative routes.

With the co-operation of the highway authorities and the motoring organisations, eighteen routes in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset and Devon have been signposted as alternatives to main routes which are liable to congestion in summer.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the importance to the West Country of the holiday industry? Does he appreciate that this alternative route business is a palliative and that what we really need is a higher priority of Government spending on roads in the West Country?

Yes, Sir. The large deputation from many local authorities in the West Country which I recently saw on behalf of my right hon. Friend impressed that point upon me very forcibly.

Commission's Employees (Trade Unions)


asked the Minister of Transport what general directions he has given to the British Transport Commission with regard to membership by their employees of appropriate trade unions.

None, Sir. I do not consider that this is a matter in which a general direction would be appropriate.

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been directed to damages awarded to an employee of B.O.A.C. dismissed by the co-operation of the trade unions and the Board of B.O.A.C? May I have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the British Transport Commission will not get itself involved in politics or involved in any controversy about trade unions? May I have an assurance that the Commission will be fair, strong and resolute in trying to look to the interests of the Commission as a whole and not in getting rid of employees on grounds for which it probably has no reason?

I realise that my hon. Friend has strong views on this subject, but membership of trade unions within a nationalised industry is a matter of management and not an appropriate one for the Minister to intervene in.

Vehicles (Direction Indicators)


asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the larger type of road transport vehicles which are not fitted with trafficators; and what consideration he has given to this matter in his efforts to reduce road traffic accidents.

The fitting of direction indicators is not yet a compulsory requirement for any class of vehicle; I do not expect to decide whether or not to make direction indicators compulsory until we have had experience of the working of new regulations affecting indicators, where these are already fitted, proposals for which I have circulated for comment. The proposals are based on the recommendations of a Working Party of the Economic Commission for Europe. Detailed comments are now being received and studied.

Will the Minister of Transport, when looking at this problem of trafficators, also consider the problem of the size of the vehicles now being produced for our roads, and the size of the cabs, as well as the difficulties of following traffic in observing the signals given by the drivers of these very large vehicles, and also the danger which these vehicles constitute on the roads today?

Yes, Sir. That will be one of many considerations which we have in mind. These regulations have been circulated, and I am now awaiting comments. It is very important that we should make absolutely certain before we make anything compulsory that it is the right signal. I very much hope that we can get an international standard, so that cars going to the Continent will have to comply with the same standards as here.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the problem of trafficators on these large vehicles—these outsize vehicles, I might say. Some articulated vehicles are over 100 feet long, carrying weights of up to 150 tons. Is the Minister aware that for the past three years I have been constantly assured in this House that the Ministry has an inter-Departmental committee considering the whole question of out size vehicles on the roads, but that nothing emerges from the consideration of this committee? Is it not time that we got some definite lead from the Government as to what we are to do about these monstrosities?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is misconceived. I can send him details of quite a lot that has been done on heavy vehicles.

Motor Vehicles (Construction And Use) Regulations, 1955


asked the Minister of Transport if he is yet in a position to make a statement as to the early amendment of Regulation 21 of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, 1955.

We hope shortly to make and lay before the House an amendment supplementing Regulation 21 by requiring the excess fuel device to be so placed that it cannot be used while the vehicle is in motion.

Can the Minister say what he means by "shortly"? Is he not aware of the very great deal of feeling about this matter, which has been the subject of endless delay and excuses from the Ministry? May we have an assurance that we shall have a debate before the Summer Recess?

I hope so, but I cannot say for certain, and I cannot give an exact date. The work on this is very far advanced now, and I hope that it will be settled before very long.

When my right hon. Friend is considering amending legislation, will he include in the Regulations the words "annoyance or inconvenience to the public", because it is a strongly held feeling that the police would have a much easier task in prosecuting offenders if these words were in the Regulations?

I will have a look at that, but this is a somewhat complex and technical matter. I would not like to give a firm, categorical assurance, but we will consider that technical point and we shall take advice on it.

London Traffic Survey


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement about the London traffic origin and destination survey that he announced a year ago; by whom it is being conducted; when it commenced work; when its report will be available; and whether he is satisfied that its scope is comprehensive enough to provide the information necessary for the long-term flowing of London traffic.

Messrs. Freeman, Fox and Partners were appointed by the L.C.C. and myself in December last, to advise on the form and organisation of this survey. Their report has been fully considered by my advisers and by those of the L.C.C, and I hope that the contract will be let this month. The field work can then begin with the ending of the holiday season.

The final report will probably take eighteen months to two years to prepare, but it will be preceded by interim reports. It will be the largest study of its kind undertaken anywhere in the world, and I am satisfied that it will provide us with the information we require.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two supplementary questions? Will the survey provide all the information necessary for planning the road system of London twenty or thirty years ahead, or is it not a survey on too small a scale for that? Secondly, why has there been all this delay? It was in the summer of last year that this important survey was announced, and now it is to be many months before it is to be started. Surely, this is wholly unnecessary. Is it not just another example of the delaying methods of the Ministry of Transport?

I do not think so at all. First, as to the scope of the survey, it will be wide enough. In terms of the population to be covered, it is already the largest traffic survey in the world, and to increase its size would make it unmanageable. Therefore, I think that it will give us all the information we want. There has been no delay, for this reason: it was necessary for the consultants themselves to consider the terms of reference to see whether they could make suggestions, and for the L.C.C. to make its own suggestions, so that the actual terms of reference, when they started work, would ensure that we get the right sort of report. I hope that the L.C.C. will consider it in its Roads Committee on 9th June, and get it through the full Council by the 20th, so that we can move straight away.

Will the survey assist the Minister to consider the effect of dual carriageways in the central areas of large cities like London, having regard to the very strong criticism made and the probability that the creation of dual carriageways in central areas merely brings in increased traffic and ultimately adds to the congestion?

The main objects of the survey are, outside the L.C.C. area, to establish the design capacity of main motorways and trunk roads leading into London, and to enable the design capacity and optimum general location of main crossing or ring roads to be decided; and, inside the L.C.C. area, to allow the best general location and design capacity of the main new and improved roads to be decided.


Nuclear Power


asked the Minister of Transport if he will now make a statement on the application of nuclear power to merchant shipping.


asked the Minister of Transport what decision he has made on the proposals to build a nuclear-powered tanker.


asked the Minister of Transport if he can now make a statement about the award of a contract for the construction of a nuclear-powered tanker.


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now make a statement on the building of a nuclear-propelled merchant ship.

I regret that I am still not in a position to announce the Government's decisions in this difficult matter. I will make a full statement to the House as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that this Answer must be added to the growing list of Answers which have given something less than complete satisfaction to the House? Is he aware of the anxiety being caused at the mounting delay in this matter? Can he give a firmer indication when this statement will be made?

I am afraid that I cannot. It raises complex and very complicated issues. We want to make absolutely certain that we are using our limited resources to the best possible effect.

Is the Minister aware that the problem is not in designing a ship which might be most economical in use but in giving the British shipbuilding industry some experience of the technique of building ships capable of using a nuclear reactor? Is he aware that if we do not make progress soon British shipping will be even more backward than at present?

I cannot accept that from the hon. Gentleman. The matter was more clearly put in a leader in The Times which stated that the truth is that a truly promising reactor for merchant shipping has not yet been developed anywhere and that we ought to use our limited resources for developing one.

After all the steps have been taken with the contractors to get estimates and so on, is there really a possibility that no contract at all will be given? Is it a matter of delaying for a short time to see which contract should be given or whether the contract should be amended, or is there a possibility that no contract at all will be awarded by the Government?

Is not the important thing here not the question of building a ship but of designing a commercial nuclear-powered reactor which is suitable?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and that is one of the things which has been exercising my mind.

Is not the Minister aware that his inability to take a decision is disturbing the shipping and shipbuilding industries? May we assume from the fact that his hon. Friends have withdrawn their Questions from today and transferred them to next Wednesday that he will make a statement next Wednesday?

The hon. Gentleman must ask my hon. Friends about their intentions. I cannot tell him what they are. The real point in this matter is that we should make the correct decision, not necessarily a speedy decision.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the number of occasions on which he has told us that he is going to give us an answer "quite shortly"? Can he define what he means by "quite shortly"? Why has he altered his technique and when will the answer be given?



asked the Minister of Transport what action he proposes to take arising out of the Report of the Sub-Committee on Prospects in the Shipbuilding Industry and the Report on Research and Development Requirements in the Industry made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.


asked the Minister of Transport what action he has taken about the Report of the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee.

Most of the recommendations in the Report of the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee are addressed to the industry, and I will keep in touch with the industry about their implementation.

The further improvements in the services of the Export Credits Guarantee Department announced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in April are relevant to the recommendation about credit facilities. I am considering the other two recommendations addressed to the Government, which relate to possible scrapping schemes and to orders for Government ships.

My Department and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are pursuing the studies recommended in the latter's Report.

Does the Minister not agree that both these Reports were compromise documents, not objective studies? Is he aware of the facts behind the Reports, on which they were based? Particularly, is he aware of the very severe criticisms made of the marine engineering industry in the Report by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research? What action does he propose to take to make improvements in that industry?

I am aware that to some extent they are bound to be compromise documents with all the interests on the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee, but we are holding discussions with both shipping and shipbuilding interests and the D.S.I.R. on the question of research, which I think most important.

One again, will the right hon. Gentleman try to face taking decisions on these matters? Now that he is scrapping a large section of his legislative programme, will he give more time to these urgent problems of British shipping and shipbuilding?

The question of a decision in this case does not rest with the Minister alone. For example, one of the recommendations of the General Council of British Shipping is that more research should be done. Therefore, I asked it for a list of the research it had in mind. So far I have not received a list. When it comes it will be studied straight away.

Can the Minister say in particular what is likely to be the future of P.A.M.E.T.R.A.D.A., which has been criticised as an organisation which is more likely to restrict than to promote new ideas?

I cannot say what the outcome will be, but that is one of the things being considered by both sides.

When my right hon. Friend talks about scrapping shipping, will he be careful not to engage in a policy which will lead to a decline in the gross tonnage of the British Mercantile Fleet?

That is one of the things which the shipbuilding employers have asked me to discuss with them and I am discussing it with them.

Will the Minister look back over his record and that of his predecessor in this matter and realise that it is some years since the Government promised to give precedence to consideration of this problem, which affects not only the prestige of Britain but also employment in Britain's shipyards? Will he say why the Government are dragging their feet? Is it the scientists or the Government who are dragging their feet in this matter?

Government Assistance


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the fact that the Government have decided that aid to the Cunard Steamship Company in relation to the maintenance of an express passenger service on the North Atlantic is desirable in the national interest, he will consider other cases where equally cogent reasons can be shown for Government help.

The Government's view is that the circumstances which impelled them to help in the maintenance of the British trans-Atlantic express passenger service are unique.

Is the Minister aware that the suggestion in this Question is one of the recommendations of the General Council of British Shipping? I think it is also supported by his own sub-committee on shipbuilding. Will he not agree that it would be helpful if he could say to the other shipping areas, Belfast and Tyneside, that when the new Cunarder comes to Clydeside, as already promised, they too will have his attention with regard to this sort of development?

In reply to the second part of that supplementary question, the new "Queen" has not been promised to any particular yard. It will go according to merit. In regard to the first part of the supplementary question, if the General Council of British Shipping has any application to make no doubt it will make it, and we shall look at it when it is made. I do not think it can find comparable circumstances.

Goole (Dock Appliances And Machinery)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the complaints from all sides of the industry that the dock appliances and machinery at the port of Goole are inadequate and unsatisfactory and that in consequence there is a loss of efficiency and trade; and whether he will advise the Rochdale Committee to extend its investigation so as to include the port of Goole, the only port in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

I am aware that the British Transport Commission has received certain representations about the maintenance, improvement and further development of the port of Goole. Such matters are primarily for the Commission's own commercial judgment and decision It is for the Rochdale Committee to decide whether to extend its inquiries at a later stage to include the port of Goole.

Is not the Minister aware of the importance of the port of Goole, not only to existing Continental and coastal traffic, but also in the framework of the Common Market negotiations and discussions?

Yes, Sir, I am; but it is common sense and logic that the Rochdale Committee will go to those ports which have the heaviest volume of foreign dry cargo traffic, and thereafter, I have no doubt, they will look at Goole.

Government Policy


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now make a further statement of the Government's policy towards British shipping.

My discussions with the General Council of British Shipping on the recommendations made in its Survey Report are not yet complete.

While recognising the difficulty of pursuing this matter at Question Time, and also recognising that it is not strictly the responsibility of my right hon. Friend, may I ask him if he can give an assurance that he will support the idea of a debate on shipping and shipbuilding before the Summer Recess?

I would rather leave that to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Cannot we have something more specific from the Minister? He is to leave the question of traffic wardens to the Home Secretary and the question of a debate to the Leader of the House. When is he going to do something himself? Cannot we have a debate soon?

I accept the implication, and, as the hon. Gentleman has Supply Days at his disposal, no doubt he could put that subject down for debate.

Post Office

Correct Address (Advertising Campaign)


asked the Postmaster-General what effect the Post Office "Put the Correct Address" advertising campaign has had on the public; and if he will make a statement.

I assume that my hon. Friend has our Press advertisements in mind. So far, we have been concerned with measuring, through readership and comprehension surveys, the impression these advertisements make on the public. From this point of view a survey on the campaign in February and March this year is encouraging.

How are the Postal Code experiments going? Is it planned to extend them to the rest of the country in the near future?

At present the experiments are going very well indeed, and we hope that in time we shall be able to go much further with this plan.