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Commons Chamber

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 16th May, 1961

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions


Reactors, Calder Hall And Chapelcross (Performance)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how the actual performance of the Calder Hall and Chapelcross reactors of the Atomic Energy Authority compares with their planned performance.

Operating experience and advancing knowledge have resulted in a steady increase in the heat output of the reactors to about 20 per cent. beyond the original design figure. The point having now been reached at which more steam is being produced than can be converted into electricity, the turbines are being rebladed.

May I ask my hon. Friend to indicate how this information compares with improvements in conventional power stations?

The difficulty here is that we are in the middle of the process of reblading the turbines. Therefore, we are not yet in a state of having reached the maximum production of electricity for which we hope.

Nuclear Reactors (Research)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress is being made with the research being conducted into the production of nuclear reactors to be used for research and teaching purposes.

Several small reactors suitable for research and train- ing are available from British firms. Research into their development and production is primarily a matter for the firms which make them.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there is a feeling that from the point of view of exports we are losing this race to the Americans? Can he give an assurance that every firm will be encouraged, along with the Atomic Energy Authority, to produce this type of reactor for export?

Certainly we fully desire to encourage the production of goods which may be exported, but equally I think it must be left to the judgment of the individual firms whether or not there is a sufficient market for them to be justified in devoting any given sum to research and development.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many reactors of this type have been exported, in view of the fact that the Americans, I understand, have twelve in countries throughout the world?

Will the hon. Gentleman say how this coincides with the Prime Minister's statement when he went to the F.B.I. imploring those people to get on with the job of increasing exports?

Geological Survey


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress has been made towards the completion of the primary and revision Geological Survey of the United Kingdom.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science when the Geological Survey for the United Kingdom is expected to be completed.

In 1960, 392 square miles of primary six-inch survey were completed, as well as 317 square miles of revision survey. Rather more than threequarters of Great Britain has been surveyed on this scale. At the present rate of progress, the primary six-inch solid and drift survey will be complete in about fifty-five years. It is hoped to reduce this to thirty-five to forty years.

Is the Minister aware that there has been considerable delay on this project? That is not the fault of the Department concerned, but we need more geologists and there are plenty of geologists who would love to be recruited for this purpose. Will he see that the staff of the Geological Survey is increased? Will he use his initiative to do that?

The hon. Member will recall the Answer I gave him a week ago today with regard to the difficulty the Geological Survey has in recruiting geologists, although I agree that this is one of the few disciplines in which we appear to have sufficient graduates. At the moment there are two difficulties which prevent quicker progress on the primary survey. The first is that we are doing nearly as much secondary survey as primary survey. Secondly, we are now working on the most difficult mountainous regions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House appreciate the magnificent work done by the surveys and by the men engaged in them? We appreciate that probably this is one of the finest geological surveys in the world. Nevertheless, will he assure the House that he will do his utmost to speed up this survey, because the search for minerals and extractive non-ferrous ores is most important to this country?

I agree that this survey is important. I think we can say that progress has been speeded up in recent years. The hon. Member will recall that my noble Friend, in another place, gave an Answer in November, 1957, in which he said that he expected the primary survey not to be completed for seventy years—that is, sixty-six years from now.

Department Of Technical Co-Operation


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what action is being taken or is proposed to be taken by his Department for the supervision and employment of scientific personnel in the Department of Technical Co-operation.

None, Sir. My noble Friend has no responsibility for the supervision and employment of scientific personnel in Government Departments which are responsible to other Ministers, as the new Department of Technical Co-operation will be.

Diseases Of The Tonsils


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether he will request the Medical Research Council to consider the problem of disease of the tonsils, and, in view of the 200,000 tonsillectomies undertaken each year, to report on the value of this operation.

No, Sir. The Medical Research Council has already considered the problem of diseases of the tonsils and has advised on the planning of two investigations which are now in progress on the value of tonsillectomy. It will give sympathetic consideration to any other promising lines of research in this field.

Will the Minister give any view about when we may expect the information to which he has referred? How long will it take?

Frankly, I do not think that either the Medical Research Council or the Office of my noble Friend would yet be prepared to forecast a date when these researches will reach a satisfactory conclusion. But I can assure the hon. Member that the Council tells me that they are going ahead satisfactorily.

Arterial Disease


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research is being conducted on an optimum dietary for the population as a whole, and on the deficiencies in the average dietary which may have a relationship with arterial disease.

The Medical Research Council is supporting an extensive programme of research on problems of nutrition which should lead to a better understanding of optimum dietary requirements and the relationship between diet and arterial disease.

May I thank the hon. Member for his Answer, especially in view of the fact that it appears that almost every affluent society in the world is digging its grave with its own teeth?

I am glad that it is doing work with its own teeth. I can assure the hon. Member that these investigations will continue.

Industry (Scientific Research)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are his proposals to improve existing arrangements for the application of scientific research to industry.

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is seeking to help industrial firms to apply the results of research by constantly improving and extending technical liaison with industry. This will be done by its own stations: by the grant-aided research associations: by grants to regional technical information centres: by ensuring early publication of, and adequate publicity for results: and by making the world's scientific literature accessible through the new National Lending Library for Science and Technology.

While thanking the Minister for that comprehensive reply, which revealed that a lot of good work is being done, may I ask whether he is aware that many hon. Members consider that this Department of State in the second half of the 20th century is far more important than the Treasury? Is he aware that British light engineering industry, dependent as it is on machine tools, is being frustrated in its competition with the light engineering products of other countries all over the world because we are so backward in our machine tool industry? Will he intensify his efforts in getting the British machine tool industry to keep pace with light engineering techniques?

The Question refers to industry as a whole and raises particularly the problem of communications and how, so to speak, we can inspire the pagan to pay for his own conversion. The Department recently had two very successful conferences on this aspect of the matter. Many excellent ideas were brought forward, and we are working on a number of them.

While the Parliamentary Secretary has given a very good reply, as my hon. Friend said, may I ask whether he is satisfied that research is being used properly by small firms, in view of the Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy which takes the contrary view?

Certainly one is not satisfied. That is one reason why there was recently a conference in London, which I was able to attend, of the research associations on the application of research in industry, and a very successful conference in Swansea on "Science and Industry—the Problem of Communication", which was opened by my noble Friend, Lord Brecon.

Coal Utilisation


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what type of research into coal utilisation is carried out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research into coal utilisation is being conducted by institutions for which he is responsible or which are in receipt of Government grants for such purposes.

Three of the research associations which are grant-aided by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are primarily concerned with coal utilisation. These are the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, which deals with coal as an industrial and domestic fuel; the British Coke Research Association, which is concerned with the production from coal of coke for metallurgical and, to a much less extent, domestic use; and the Coal Tar Research Association, whose problem is to get the greatest value from the tar produced as a by-product during coal carbonisation.

In view of the fact that in the best interests of our national economy there is a need for further improvement and expansion in coal utilisation methods, will the hon. Member impress on his noble Friend that there is a need for D.I.S.R. to be given extended authority in order to widen its range in scientific research in this very important field? Will he draw his attention to this?

These three research associations are doing very valuable work. The hon. Member will realise that the adequacy or inadequacy of the total effort on coal utilisation is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power as part of his general responsibility under the 1945 Act.

Will the hon. Member bear in mind the alternative sources of heat energy which are becoming more readily available and particularly the desires of the Tory Central Office and certain of his hon. and right hon. Friends about the importation of cheaper fuels, including imported coal, and remember that the nation's great asset of its coal resources should be utilised to the fullest extent and our mines not allowed to become derelict? Is he not aware that we need a still greater measure of research into coal utilisation, regarding coal not just as a heating agent but for all possible processes? Will he ask his noble Friend to consider the co-ordination of the efforts of all people concerned to bring this about?

There is a great deal of co-operation between the research associations which I mentioned, and between the National Coal Board, the Central Electricity Generating Authority, the Gas Council and the appliance and equipment makers. We have gone a very long way towards bringing about the state of affairs which we should like to see. I assure the hon. Member that the Coal Utilisation Research Association has very much in mind the kind of points which he raised.

Is the hon. Member aware of the figures given by the recent Wilson Report on this very subject, showing that the amount of money spent on coal research is inadequate? The figure for D.S.I.R. is only £253,000, which is small. We need more expansion.

The figures which are quoted for D.S.I.R. in relation to the research associations can be fairly misleading because one of the aims of the research association movement is to try to get private enterprise to pay a larger proportion towards research. The total income of the Coal Utilisation Research Association last year was just over £450,000, that of the Coke Research Association just over £150,000 and that of the Coal Tar Association just under £113,000.

Will the Minister give an assurance that there is the fullest possible co-ordination between the Minister of Power and his noble Friend on this matter?

Mineral Resources


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research is being conducted into the better use of United Kingdom's mineral resources.

The Geological Survey and Museum of the D.S.I.R. produces maps and memoirs which give basic information on the United Kingdom's mineral resources. The Warren Spring Laboratory and the National Chemical Laboratory undertake research on processing ores and extracting metals from them. Research into the better use of minerals is also undertaken by various grant-aided Research Associations, industrial firms and universities.

In the latter part of his Answer the Minister spoke of research into the better use of minerals. As many other countries, especially small countries, have a limited supply of rare and non-ferrous minerals and metals, are the Government and the hon. Member's Department encouraging the use of other materials instead of using some of our rare and scarce mineral resources for the production of ornaments and other utility articles in the homes?

If the hon. Member means plastics, there is a Plastics Research Association. The British Ceramics Research Association does a great deal of investigation into various types of raw material suitable for the production of pottery, for example. If the hon. Member wishes to ask any question in particular about plastics and other substitutes for minerals, perhaps he will put it down.

Office Of Minister For Science (Scientific Staff)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science by how much it is expected to increase the scientific staff of the Office of the Minister for Science during the year 1962–63.

I am not at present in a position to announce plans for the year 1962–63.

Does not that Answer indicate that we are not able to expect any considerable increase in the number of scientific staff at the Office of the Minister for Science? Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the most recent figure we had was, I think, that eight qualified scientists were employed there? Are we to take it that this reflects the importance the Government attach to the Office of the Minister for Science as a means of planning the scientific and technical resources of the country?

The hon. Lady has been mislead by an article which appeared in the magazine Today dated 6th May. She must remember that the Office of my noble Friend is in fact an administrative and co-ordinating Office, and a great deal of the work which would be done in the type of Ministry of Science which the Socialist's Party's pamphlet suggests is done by the administrative staffs of the research councils.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that not all of us read the same magazines as him, and I certainly never saw the one he mentioned? Is he further aware that we want the Office to be rather more than a channel for conveying information, valuable though this may be?

On the first point, I naturally apologise to the hon. Lady. I hope that she will have more interesting reading matter in the future. On the second point. I do not accept her definition of my noble Friend's Office.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there is a feeling that the new Office, of which he is a Minister, should be strengthened? It can be strengthened only by more science graduates being used in the administrative field. How many science graduates are employed in his Office?

Out of about sixty persons in my noble Friend's Office, eighteen are in the administrative grade. Of the latter, half have a degree in science or mathematics.

Domestic Equipment (Fire Hazards)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science in what way the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research contributes to the formulation of standards for domestic equipment with which there is associated some danger of fire.

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, jointly with the fire insurance companies, runs and finances the Fire Research Organisation, with a Research Station at Boreham Wood, Herts. The Organisation, through its membership of Committees of the British Standards Institution, advises on the fire hazard of domestic equipment, and also undertakes any research or investigations required by the Institution for this purpose.

How much time is spent studying these problems affecting domestic fire hazards? There appears to be some unfortunate and wrongful thinking in the country that in fact great attention is not being paid to this matter. It would be helpful if my hon. Friend could give us a little more information.

The Fire Research Organisation devotes a considerable amount of its time and money for this purpose. I am not prepared in answer to a supplementary question to give the actual percentage. If my hon. Friend cares to table a Question, I will do my best to answer it, though it may not be possible to reach it until after the Whitsun Recess.

National Physical Laboratory


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what steps the National Physical Laboratory is taking to increase its contacts with the universities and colleges of advanced technology.

Contacts between the National Physical Laboratory and industries and colleges of advanced technology are being increased by the placing of research contracts; by providing practical experience for students on "sandwich" courses; by taking undergraduates as vacation students and postgraduates of proved research ability as research fellows; by the employment of university staff as consultants, and by the organisation of frequent joint discussions.

Road Accidents


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research aimed at reducing road accidents the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research expects to carry out on the new road research track at Crowthorne.

The Road Research Laboratory intends to research into many factors affecting road safety. These include skidding, the behaviour of vehicles during emergency braking, and when colliding with kerbs of various types and with fixed barriers or with other vehicles; also such traffic engineering problems as the layout of road junctions, the timing of traffic signals, control systems for junctions, and the design of road signs.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what investigations have been made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research into the effectiveness of speed limits in reducing road accidents.

The Road Research Laboratory has analysed data from a number of countries on the speed of traffic and on accident frequency before and after speed limits were imposed.

It was found that speed limits, although exceeded by a high proportion of drivers, produced a major effect in reducing very high speeds. Their imposition in urban areas was usually followed by a marked reduction in serious accidents, but had little effect in reducing speeds just above the limit or on the number of slight accidents.

Can my hon. Friend confirm that this significant information will be made available to those authorities which have the duty of approving applications for the imposition of speed limits?

The information that I have given the House is based upon a report presented by Dr. R. J. Smeed at the Fifth International Study Week in Traffic Engineering, at Nice in 1960, and it was reproduced in the January, 1961, issue of Roads and Road Construction. I believe that this is readily available, but I will look into the matter and if it is not I will have a copy sent to my hon. Friend.

Coast Erosion


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what advice and guidance the Hydraulic Research Station, Wallingford, of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, is providing on the prevention of coast erosion.

The Hydraulics Research Station has recently published a general paper on coast erosion and defence, covering engineering questions on which information is most frequently required. It also undertakes on repayment the investigation of specific problems and has recently examined in model experiments designs for sea walls at Dymchurch, the Humber, Herne Bay, Portobello and Kirkcaldy; and in each case was able to recommend improvements.

How is the information available to river boards and other coast protection authorities? It is up to them to apply for it or is it made available when they are submitting specific schemes? What is the exact machinery?

The paper to which I referred is published by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research through the Stationery Office and may be purchased for 1s. 3d. Any specific question which local authorities, river boards and others may care to send either to our Office or direct to the Hydraulics Research Station will meet with the promptest of attention.

Beaches (Oil Contamination)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what arrangements have been made to keep coastal local authorities informed of progress in the research being carried out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to help to solve the problem of cleaning beaches which have been polluted by oil.

The Warren Spring Laboratory has sent to all coastal local authorities in England and Wales interim suggestions for dealing with oil contamination of beaches.

Like my hon. Friend, I was somewhat surprised when I learned that in fact it had not automatically been sent to Scottish local authorities. Should any Scottish local authority be afflicted with this very difficult problem of oil contamination of beaches, if it will let me know I will certainly see that it receives a copy of this interim report.

How far has this research gone towards solving the problem of pollution of beaches? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that enough research is being carried out into this problem, which is causing great distress in coastal areas?

I was at Warren Spring on Friday and was very impressed by the enthusiasm with which the Laboratory is approaching this problem. We certainly have not yet got a satisfactory solution to all the three forms which oil pollution takes on beaches. We still have a long way to go, but we have at any rate made a little progress.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that enough money and energy are being devoted to the study of this problem, which is causing tremendous distress in coastal areas? Will he press forward with the utmost vigour to ensure that a solution is arrived at as soon as possible?

The suggestions made in the recent letter to local authorities will prove fairly helpful. My hon. Friend will realise that scientific research can take a considerable time, because one cannot demand of scientists that they produce a result by Thursday.

Natural Resources


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he has yet received a report from the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy on research into natural resources.

No, Sir. The Council is setting up a special committee to look into this matter.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, if the nation is effectively to face its competitive struggle over the next decade, a knowledge of our natural resources is a priority? Will he undertake to expedite the research necessary for this information?

The hon. Gentleman will remember that in the recent A.C.S.P. Report the Council said that it was inviting its Biology and Allied Sciences Committee to consider the problem. It was because of the extent of the problem and the importance placed upon it by the Advisory Council that the Council has now decided that the appointment of a special committee to look into the problem is warranted.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give us any information as to when the committee is likely to report? This is urgent, especially the problem of water conservation and land utilisation. Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that it may be necessary to create a separate research organisation to deal specifically with the problem? Will he consider this?

On the second part of the supplementary question, I assure the hon. Member that we have all thought very much about the desirability of setting up a Natural Resources Research Council, which was not as such mentioned in the Labour Party's pamphlet. I cannot possibly answer the question contained in the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question.

Atomic Energy Authority (Research, Development And Design Contracts)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science why the Atomic Energy Authority in the current financial year are reducing the value of research, development and design contracts placed with industry, universities and other organisations.

The Authority's expenditure on these contracts in the current financial year is expected to be about £1 million more than that actually incurred last year. The published estimates show an apparent reduction in expenditure partly because the estimate of expenditure last year was not achieved and partly because there has been some re-allocation between Subheads.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in evidence before the Select Committee on Estimates in 1958–59 the Authority said that there would be a substantial increase in the proportion of work given out to industry? The Select Committee took the view that this was very much in the interests both of economy in Government expenditure and of efficiency of scientific policy?

Yes. I remind hon. Members of figures which are strictly comparable since the date of the Committee's reporting. The figure of £2·2 million in 1958–59 had risen last year to £3·7 million and we believe that in the current year it will be about £4·7 million.

Island Of Rhum (Deer)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many stags and hinds were culled by the Nature Conservancy on the Island of Rhum in the 1960 stalking season; what was their average weight; and what the total deer count was in the summer of 1960.

One hundred stags and 139 hinds were killed in the 1960–61 season—shooting of hinds continued into the New Year. The average weight was 12½ stone for stags, and 8½ stone for hinds. There was no count of deer made in the summer of 1960, but the spring census up to mid-May 1960 was 1,446 adults.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the only way in which this stalking can be efficiently done is by experienced stalkers? Is my hon. Friend further aware that the weights quoted by him are well below the average for that part of Scotland? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that by not letting stalking the Nature Conservancy is losing income to the extent of about £1,000 a year? Subject to the normal safeguards which are imposed on any sporting rights, will my hon. Friend arrange for stalking to be carried out for the 1961 season?

On the question of the weight of these deer and the extent to which the Nature Conservancy can be held responsible, I will make further inquiries. With regard to my hon. Friend's substantive point, the Nature Conservancy informs me that it does not consider that stalking could be let for a sufficient sum to justify the disorganisation which would inevitably result to the scientific work, particularly as it could be let only to a person with experience of deer, and not to the richest sportsman bidding for it. I understand that for scientific reasons it may, on occasion, be necessary even to cull certain animals.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) says about underweight stags and hinds, but can the hon. Gentleman indicate whether, in Rhum, any arrangements are made, as used to be the case in years gone by, for winter feeding in order to keep the deer population in the way it should be kept?

I have no doubt that the Nature Conservancy is doing all that should be done for the proper management of the deer, in the light of the scientific reasons for its being there at all.

Nature Conservancy (Research Station, Wales)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what was the total cost of the Nature Conservancy's new headquarters building and research station in Wales; and if he is satisfied that work done there does not duplicate similar research by other Government Departments.

The final cost, including purchase of the site and the office and scientific equipment, is not expected to exceed £47,500. I am satisfied that there is no duplication of research work by other Government establishments.

Is my hon. Friend aware that at the opening of this white elephant one of the most distinguished scientists said that it was primarily concerned with grassland research? Is the Minister entirely satisfied that adequate grassland research is not already done at Aberystwyth, and by the Hill Farming Research Station?

Yes. I am so satisfied. This station is studying such things as the influence of variations of rainfall and geology in Snowdonia upon the vegetation and productivity of the land, mainly at altitudes in excess of 1,200 ft. The Grassland Research Station is concerned in scientific research concerned with the economic utilisation of lowland grassland, and the Welsh Plant Breeding Station deals primarily with the breeding of grasses, clovers and some cereals. The Conservancy's Research Station is not concerned with any of those subjects.

Will the Minister resist any attempt on the part of his back benchers to persuade him not to carry out this important scientific research? He mentioned what this body is doing. We accept that the research carried out at Aberystwyth is first-class, but we must have still more research. Will he send the Labour Party's pamphlet on science to his hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) so that he can be educated?

I must not deprive the hon. Member of the joy of sending his pamphlet to whom he will. I will consider the point raised in the supplementary question. As for the other point, it is never a bad thing for hon. Members behind the Government to be careful of the expenditure of public money.

Machine Tool Industry


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what action he is taking to apply scientific development to the machine tool industry in England and Wales.

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research supports the Machine Tool Industry Research Association, which was set up last year following negotiations between D.S.I.R. and the industry, and the Production Engineering Research Association, both of which carry out scientific development work. Research of direct value to scientific development of the machine tool industry in all parts of the country is carried out at the National Engineering Laboratory, and also in the National Physical Laboratory. In addition, twelve grants totalling over £170,000 have been awarded in the last two years to six universities and two colleges of technology in England and Wales for research and development work in this field.

That, again, is an excellent reply. But our difficulty is that in the last five years the British producers of consumer durables have been forced, to an increasing extent, to buy their machine tools abroad. The imports of machine tools are rising tremendously rapidly. Money is being spent on research and development, but it is obvious that the British machine tool industry is not expanding scientifically to the extent that it should do in order to compete with foreign manufacturers. Will the Minister do something about this?

If I attempted to answer that supplementary question I should be trespassing upon my answer to Question No. 33.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will make a statement on the Government plans to further research into the machine tool industry.

The Machine Tool Advisory Council, which is fully representative of the industry and is under Board of Trade chairmanship, meets regularly to examine all matters affecting the machine tool industry other than labour matters. In particular, the Council is reviewing the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Mitchell Sub-Committee, the full report of which was published last November.

Are we ever likely to reach a position in which the importation of special-purpose tools will be prevented, and when those tools can be made in this country? What is the position of the smaller type of firm, with particular reference to the sub-contract firms? Do they seek advice? If so, how do they receive it?

Only at the end of last year we set up the new Machine Tool Industry Research Association, and the volume of research now is definitely improving.

That is not the answer to my supplementary question. May I persist, Mr. Speaker?

When are we likely to reach a position when the importation of special-purpose machines into this country will stop, and we are able to manufacture them ourselves? I take it that that would be the point of research. When are we going to reach that position?

When we start research we can never say when we are going to reach a final conclusion. The hon. Member must remember that if other nations are working hard on research into machine tools, from time to time one nation will have the benefit of a new discovery, but it may be that other nations will make similar new discoveries in relation to different types of machine tools. The state of affairs which the hon. Member postulates may be impracticable on a world-wide basis.

Tectonic Map


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what part the Geological Survey and Museum is playing in the preparation of the pro posed tectonic map of the world; and what progress has so far been made in the construction of this map.

The tectonic map of the United Kingdom has been prepared by the Geological Survey as part of a co-operative scheme for a tectonic map of Europe, which it is hoped will in due course form part of a similar map of the world.

Can my hon. Friend tell the House what the word "tectonic" means?

A tectonic map portrays major deformations and dislocations which have affected the rocks since their formation, changes resulting from earth movements, and what I am informed is called volcanicity.

Gear-Cutting Machines


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what contribution the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has made to the problems of increasing the accuracy of gear-cutting machines.

Research and development work at the National Physical Laboratory and the National Engineering Laboratory has contributed to a tenfold increase in the accuracy of large modern gears over the past twenty years. Gears up to 16 feet in diameter can now be made with an error of one quarter of one-thousandth of an inch from the true form and spacing of the teeth.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his statement will be greatly welcomed by industrial interests in Birmingham? Can he state what further developments are taking place?

Yes. The automatic error-correcting system recently developed by the National Engineering Laboratory has been applied to a gear-cutting machine. As a result of collaboration with a British firm, gears of exceptionally high precision can now be produced economically by industry.

Lung Diseases


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will investigate the cause of the high incidence of bronchial diseases among industrial workers.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will consider appointing a committee to carry out medical research into bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases.

This is the function of the Medical Research Council, which already has a number of committees advising it on research into the causes and treatment of bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases, including the effect of occupation and air pollution.

Does not the Minister realise the seriousness of this matter and that there are no objections to his Department carrying out some survey or scientific investigation into the causes, in addition to the study being made by the medical committees that are already in existence?

The whole question of future industrial health surveys, particularly in relation to bronchitis, is at present under consideration by a subcommittee of the Ministry of Labour's Industrial Advisory Committee, on which the Medical Research Council is represented.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary make certain that his Department does something further about this matter? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are 30,000 deaths from bronchial diseases every year in Britain, and that 26 million working days are lost each year? Is he also aware that four of every five of that figure happen to be in the industrial North, and that, therefore, hon. Members who represent that area are especially interested in ensuring that research into these diseases is carried out? Will the Parliamentary Secretary assure hon. Members that he will do something more in this matter?

The Medical Research Council is doing a very great deal of work on this subject. It has no less than ten committees actively engaged in research work in this field.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the Medical Research Council is paying special attention to those industries where workers are subjected to the inhalation of irritating dust, such as miners, pottery workers and foundry workers? If not, will the Parliamentary Secretary urge the Medical Research Council to pay special attention to this matter?

As has already been announced, the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance is undertaking an inquiry into the incidence of incapacitating diseases in different occupations and areas. This will, to some extent, cover the problem, although the Medical Research Council covers research into causes such as occupation and air pollution.

Multi-Purpose Pipelines


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether his Department or the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research have sponsored any research into the use and operation of multi-purpose pipelines for the transport of both liquids and solids.

Would not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that research into this subject would be extremely valuable, and that an appreciation of what is, and what may be, possible would be of value to the Minister of Transport and Minister of Power and a guide to hon. Members when considering future legislation?

The D.S.I.R. is doing a great deal of research into the problem of transporting various sorts of liquids and solids by pipelines. With regard to the question of multi-purpose pipelines, it is not always possible to include all conceivable projects in any given research programme, but the Department is always willing to discuss with industry the part it can play in assisting research and developing techniques in every field.

Air Pollution


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress is being made towards obtaining figures to show the degree of air pollution in various parts of the country and as a national average.

The Warren Spring Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is organising a national survey in collaboration with local authorities. By October this year, measurements should begin to become available which will eventually enable reliable national averages to be calculated for various types of locality and will thus provide a yardstick for assessment of local measurements.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the inquiries being made by local authorities will include local circumstances and will take into account the possibility of fumes being directed by the prevailing winds into concentrated areas, such as my own constituency, in the district of Wilmington, in which one factory is concentrating all its fumes into one confined area, to the annoyance of the local inhabitants?

The siting of the apparatus, and the apparatus itself, is under the direction of the Warren Spring Laboratory, and I can assure the hon. Member, from my visit there on Friday that they are actively concerned about the difficult problem of the acute concentration of air pollution in one small area of a community.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary taking steps to help local authorities to get the pollution officers they need?

That is a question for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Science Teaching (Technical Colleges And Universities)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what consultations he has had with representative bodies concerning the need to expand science teaching in technical colleges and universities.

The Committee on Scientific Manpower of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy has a general responsibility for reviewing the need to expand teaching resources in science in relation to other demands for scientific manpower. Consultation with representative bodies on the need in technical colleges is a matter for the Minister of Education, and in universities for the University Grants Committee. Both are represented on the Manpower Committee.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some hon. Members believe that the recent Report was very complacent in this respect? In view of the disturbing shortage of scientific personnel at all levels, will the Parliamentary Secretary himself initiate some of these consultations? In particular, when the consultations take place will he have discussed the matter of raising in Britain a project of launching new syllabuses and text books, as has been done in the United States by the Physical Sciences Sub-Committee?

The actual curricula are not matters for which my noble Friend is responsible. With regard to consultations with representative bodies, naturally one fully supports that, but it should be kept to the constitutional channel, which in this case, is the Manpower Committee.

This is probably the whole key to our scientific effort. In view of the dreadful answer the Parliamentary Secretary gave to a previous supplementary question about public expenditure, may I ask whether he realises that we want much more public expenditure on education of this type?

The hon. Gentleman is getting more money spent on education of this type. The output of qualified manpower was 10,000 in 1955 and it is now 16,500. It will be 20,000 by 1965 and it might conceivably be 30,000 by 1973. This is a substantial increase.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary know that Japan is producing 130,000 technicians a year, and will he do something more to increase the number produced in this country?

I think that the hon. Gentleman should be careful when talking about technicians, because I am talking about qualified manpower, in the sense of the Manpower Committee's report. It is so easy to campare unlike with unlike.

What does the Parliamentary Secretary mean by "qualified manpower"? It is accepted that in Britain we are short of qualified engineers and that we are lagging behind almost every country in Western Europe, and the United States. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to be less complacent.

I was not being complacent. I fully agree that we need more engineers and that anything we can do to encourage people to choose engineering when they go to university or technical colleges is effort well spent. On the other hand, even though we may not have the number we want, it is a little ungracious to suggest that we have not done very well.

Civil Research And Development (Expenditure)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will give a breakdown, by Departments and principal items, of the figure of £42,900,000 for Government expenditure on civil research and development, excluding research councils, in 1958–59, given in Table I of the Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy.

As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Put in this way, a great deal of useful information is obviously being concealed from the public. Will the Parliamentary Secretary consider splitting up future Reports in a more intelligent fashion?

If the hon. Gentleman will do me the justice of reading my reply, he might then, if he thinks fit, criticise the form in which it is given.

Following are the figures:

An analysis of the source of funds is given in Table V of the document to which the hon. Member refers, and is as follows:

Funds from


Defence Departments2·9
Civil Departments34·7
Private Industry4·5
Other Organisations0·8

It would not be in the public interest to give further details.

Regina V Blake (Transcript)


asked the Prime Minister if he will cause a full transcript of the case of Regina v. Blake to be placed in the Library.

No, Sir. For the reasons which required part of the trial to be held in camera, it would not be right to make a full transcript available in this way.

Would the Prime Minister explain what useful purpose is now served by continuing this secrecy? Is it not perfectly clear that the damage is already known, that such mischief as could be done by the disclosure of the information has already been done in all the quarters where the mischief was most likely, and is it the Prime Minister's sole intention now to prevent the British people, and their representatives in this House, from knowing the facts?

No, Sir. I think that the same reasons for which the court decided to hold part of the trial in camera still apply. The hon. Gentleman has stated too generalised a view.

Can the Prime Minister tell me, in the simplest possible language, why this is such a heinous case of treachery, while for the Prime Minister and his Ministers to give military secrets to the Germans seems perfectly all right? The Germans were our enemy in the last two wars, while the Russians were our ally. Who decides which nation should be set aside as being in receipt of traitorous reports, and which friendly reports?

In the first place, this did not deal with military secrets. In the second place, I understand that Germany has been our ally under the guidance of several Governments since the war.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Council Meeting)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government as stated in the speech of the Foreign Secretary at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council meeting in Oslo on 9th May.

No, Sir. Statements made in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council are confidential.

Is it not the case that Lord Home, in Oslo, offered to help the Portuguese Government to get out of their difficulties in Angola? Would it not have been better if he offered to help the Africans in Angola to get out of their difficulties with Dr. Salazar?

No, Sir. As I say, the conversations are always in private. There is a communiqué and general statements are made, I think, by the official spokesmen, but, of course, it would be in order to raise this matter in the debate in the next two days.

Is it not a monstrous breach of the requirement, or apparent desirability, of having confidential discussions at a conference of this nature that the British Foreign Secretary should have engaged in discussions with the Portuguese representative on the question of Angola?

No, Sir. As I say, these sessions of all the allies are held confidentially. There is a communiqué made and there are some statements made, normally by the spokesmen. I am not prepared to refer to what took place otherwise, but if there are any points which hon. Members wish to raise no doubt they can raise them in the debate tomorrow.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the question of Angola was discussed and whether, as reported in some newspapers, complaint was made in the N.A.T.O. Council at the behaviour of the Portuguese Government?

No, Sir. If I went into all that in question and answer, I should be in breach of the proceedings of the Council.



asked the Prime Minister to what extent he discussed the situation in Cuba during his recent talks with President Kennedy.

As I have already said, I do not think it would be proper for me in answering Questions to go beyond the points contained in or arising out of the joint communiqué issued by President Kennedy and myself after our meeting.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us read with great approval his remarks the other day about the importance of not "going it alone"? Does he not agree that it is most important for the solidarity of the Western Alliance that none of its members should take action anywhere in the world which is likely to have grave international repercussions without consulting its allies, and that this applies particularly in the case of Britain and the Cuban affair in view of Britain's great responsibilities in the Caribbean area?

I think that as a general proposition that is unexceptionable, but I still prefer to hold to my Answer.

Can the right hon. Gentleman at least tell us whether Her Majesty's Government are still satisfied that the United States had nothing what- ever to do with the affair in Cuba, since the Foreign Secretary said that he was satisfied when the matter was discussed in the United Nations? If the answer to that question is "No", will he ensure that our representatives at the United Nations change the attitude which they mistakenly based on that false assumption?

No, Sir. All these matters, including our position in the United Nations, have been discussed in question and answer, and I understand that they are to be debated in the next two days.


asked the Prime Minister, in view of the importance of events in Cuba, if he will visit Cuba in order to gain first-hand information about the position there.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, even in America, there is not complete confidence now in the "man in the White House" owing to the conflicting statements? Is he aware that there is strong criticism of United States' action in Cuba in Canada, India and many other countries of the Commonwealth? Does not he think it would be a good thing if he went and had a look himself?

No, Sir. It is quite a task for the man in No. 10, or No. 10 temporarily under repair. I cannot answer also for the occupant of the White House.

If the Prime Minister has full confidence in our man in Havana, can he tell the House whether our man in Havana advised the British Government that the attempted invasion of Cuba would be repelled and whether he passed on that information to the United States Government?

Korean War


asked the Prime Minister if there is to be an official history of the war in Korea.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain when it is thought necessary that the history of a war should be written? Is not the history of Korea and some recent developments in connection with Korea a most interesting phase in history? Why should not there be a history of Korea and why does the right hon. Gentleman propose to be as silent about Korea as he was about Suez?

A history of the operations of the United Kingdom force in Korea has been published in the United Nations Security Council records. I did not feel, and I think that the Government do not feel, that, since the British forces formed only a part of the international forces, although they played a great role, it would be appropriate to have a separate account of the operations of the British force itself.

Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting (Statement On Disarmament)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will now lay as a White Paper the declaration on disarmament adopted by the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth at their recent meeting.

The statement on disarmament was fully reported in the Press at the time. I doubt if there would be advantage in publishing it as a White Paper now.

May I ask the Prime Minister whether I have been right in regarding this as a very important declaration of policy or whether, as some people have suggested, it is only an exercise in propaganda?

No, Sir. I think that it was a very important declaration of policy in the sense that it represented the common view of all the Prime Ministers collectively. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will wait for the next Question. I did not feel that it received very wide publicity nor that it was appropriate to lay it as a White Paper then, and it is a bit late now. There are other methods by which it can be made known.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman say that disarmament was the most important question now before the world? Is it right that hon. Members and others should not be able to obtain a copy of this document without buying a back copy of the Guardian?

I will arrange for copies to be put in the Library. On the other point, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would wait for a moment, because I think that we might be able to do something to help him.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will propose to the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers that the Commonwealth Governments should send their recent declaration on disarmament to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as a jointly sponsored document, with the request that he should circulate it to members of the United Nations.

The statement on disarmament has received wide publicity, but I will consider—and for this I must consult the Prime Ministers who are concerned—whether they would think it valuable to take steps to publish it and send it collectively to the other members of the United Nations.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer. I hope that it will be done, because I am sure that he realises that the question of disarmament will play a great part in the next Assembly. Since there is a common policy, it would be of advantage to all members of the United Nations to know about it.

If the Prime Ministers at the conference agreed, I would certainly have it done.

In view of the importance of this document, will the right hon. Gentleman consider circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT? That would make it much more accessible to hon. Members than putting it in the Library.

Following is the statement:


Annex to Final Communiqué—March 17, 1961

Statement on Disarmament


  • 1. The aim must be to achieve total worldwide disarmament, subject to effective inspection and control.
  • 2. In view of the slaughter and destruction experienced in so-called "conventional" wars and of the difficulty of preventing a conventional war, once started, from developing into a nuclear war, our aim must be nothing less than the complete abolition of the means of waging war of any kind.
  • Principles

    3. An agreement for this purpose should be negotiated as soon as possible, on the basis of the following principles—
  • (a) All national armed forces and armaments must be reduced to the levels agreed to be necessary for internal security.
  • (b) Once started, the process of disarmament should be continued without interruption until it is completed, subject to verification at each stage that all parties are duly carrying out their undertakings.
  • (c) The elimination of nuclear and conventional armaments must be so phased that at no stage will any country or group of countries obtain a significant military advantage.
  • (d) In respect of each phase there should be established, by agreement, effective machinery of inspection, which should come into operation simultaneously with the phase of disarmament to which it relates.
  • (e) Disarmament should be carried out as rapidly as possible in progressive stages, within specified periods of time.
  • (f) At the appropriate stage, a substantial and adequately armed military force should be established, to prevent aggression and enforce observance of the disarmament agreement; and an international authority should be created, in association with the United Nations, to control this force and to ensure that it is not used for any purpose inconsistent with the Charter.
  • 4. On the basis of the above principles, it should be possible, given good will on both sides, to reconcile the present differences of approach between the different plans put forward.


    5. The principal military powers should resume direct negotiations without delay in close contact with the United Nations, which is responsible for disarmament under the Charter. Since peace is the concern of the whole world, other nations should also be associated with the disarmament negotiations, either directly or through some special machinery to be set up by the United Nations, or by both means.
    6. Side by side with the political negotiations, experts should start working out the details of the inspection systems required for the measures of disarmament applicable to each stage, in accordance with the practice adopted at the Geneva Nuclear Tests Conference.
    7. Every effort should be made to secure rapid agreement to the permanent banning of nuclear weapons tests by all nations and to arrangements for verifying the observance of the agreement. Such an agreement is urgent, since otherwise further countries may soon become nuclear powers, which would increase the danger of war and further complicate the problem of disarmament. Moreover, an agreement on nuclear tests, apart from its direct advantages, would provide a powerful psychological impetus to agreement over the wider field of disarmament.
    8. Disarmament without inspection would be as unacceptable as inspection without disarmament. Disarmament and inspection are integral parts of the same question and must be negotiated together; and both must be made as complete and effective as is humanly possible. It must, however, be recognised that no safeguards can provide one hundred per cent. protection against error or treachery. Nevertheless, the risks involved in the process of disarmament must be balanced against the risks involved in the continuance of the arms race.
    9. It is arguable whether the arms race is the cause or the result of distrust between nations. But it is clear that the problems of disarmament and international confidence are closely linked. Therefore, while striving for the abolition of armaments, all nations must actively endeavour to reduce tension by helping to remove other causes of friction and suspicion.

    European Common Market


    asked the Prime Minister if he will order an examination by the Departments concerned of the effects on industry, agriculture and the Commonwealth of an entry by Great Britain into the Common Market.

    These matters have been the subject of close study for a considerable time.

    If that is so, could the result of these close studies be published in the form of a White Paper so that we may know what they are? As the studies have been going on for some time, can the right hon. Gentleman indicate when a decision will be reached? The more we have delay in this matter, the worse it will be for this country.

    I am not sure about the truth of the second part of what the hon. Gentleman has said. With regard to the first part, I think that it would not be a very wise step to publish prior to any negotiation the whole of the problems which would arise in those negotiations.

    Could the right hon. Gentleman clear up some confusion which has been created in many people's minds by his answers to questions on this subject last week, when he said that there was no question of our joining the Common Market, and that what the Government were considering was some form of association? Is that the Government's view this week?

    I am afraid that I have been misquoted. I said that there was no question of joining the Common Market by just walking down the street and buying a ticket and joining a club regardless, but that what we were considering was whether we could join subject to protocol, which would give us the necessary conditions for the Commonwealth, British agriculture and other special considerations. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman if he has given me the opportunity of putting right any false impression. It has sometimes been said that we can simply walk in, ask to be elected and then join on payment of a subscription. I say that our position, with all the complications of agriculture, the Commonwealth and other things, is not that and that we must consider it in a much wider field.

    I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for at least stating Government policy on this matter again. Is he aware, however, that what he said last week was quite different? He talked then about association and said in so many words that it was not a question of joining the Common Market. "That is not the question", he said.

    Has the Prime Minister noticed the amazing omission of the fishing industry from this Question by a Member who represents a fishing constituency? Will he see that in the inquiry, the fishing industry is not neglected?

    The hon. and learned Member is quite right to point out that the Treaty of Rome covers fishing as well as agricultural questions.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that his statement last week caused great consternation on the Continent, especially among the French, who at first were probably against the Treaty but who now suspect the Prime Minister of dragging his feet and finding reasons for not proceeding to investigate the problem further?

    No, Sir. I do not think that there is any real misunderstanding. We are proceeding carefully in conjunction with all those to whom we owe great allegiance. We are also having bilateral talks among officials with the French, the Italians and the Germans. We are having a further meeting with our E.F.T.A. comrades and we are, of course, in close touch all the time with the Commonwealth. That is the position. I am not able to take it further today.

    Will the Prime Minister, however, elucidate the matter a little further by answering this question: is it the principal object of Her Majesty's Government at present to try to seek some closer association with Europe which does not involve going into the Common Market, or is it their intention to try to find a way by which, while safeguarding the three major principles which the Prime Minister mentioned—agriculture, Commonwealth and the other E.F.T.A. countries—we nevertheless eventually enter what is called the Common Market?

    It is not only a question of entering the Common Market, but of signing the Treaty of Rome, which is a little different. It is not really for us to say. What I hoped to do was that we would find a way in which—[Interruption.] We do not decide it ourselves. The Six also discuss it. What I had hoped was that it might be that the Treaty could be amended. That is asking a great deal. It may be that we can be admitted as full members subject to a protocol or a derogation of the full Treaty application in respect of certain considerations. In that sense, we would become full members.

    It is not for us, however, to make that sole decision, because the other countries must decide first whether they are ready to give us these various conditions which we must have and, then, whether that is to be regarded, as I hope they may feel it regarded, as full membership, or whether it would be regarded as something less than full membership and merely association. That does not yet arise until we know whether the Treaty-can be amended or dealt with by a protocol attached to it.

    May we take it from what the Prime Minister has just said that we are now willing to enter the Common Market if our difficulties can be successfully negotiated? Can the right hon. Gentleman also tell us who suggested that we could walk into this matter without negotiation?

    Every day, I see suggestions that all we ought to do is immediately to sign the Treaty. That is what I was trying to repel. The ultimate object, whether membership or association, rests with the present members of the Treaty. What I hoped was that we would be able to form a partnership in Europe while fully carrying out our duties to the Commonwealth, to agriculture and, of course, to our partners in E.F.T.A.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a widespread view on the Continent, which has been frequently expressed by leading spokesmen of Continental Governments, that it is difficult for them to make up their minds what to do unless they get a clear statement of intention from Her Majesty's Government as to the sort of solution they desire, and that so long as Her Majesty's Government define their aims in contradictory terms almost every week it is difficult for anybody to take a decision?

    It is for us to take the decision whether and under what terms we would suggest that a formal negotiation be opened. That is the situation. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman wishes to score party points on this matter or to make an attack on me. The whole House, I think, regards it as something of great importance for the future of our country and it is something on which there are a variety of shades of view in all parties. As I have said before, what I am anxious about is that we should not have, as we unfortunately had on the Free Trade Area negotiations, a formal negotiation which fails. That would be fatal for the future of Europe from many points of view and, indeed, of the whole alliance. Therefore, what we are trying to see is whether, by these preliminary contacts with, of course, a lot of people concerned—all the Commonwealth countries, European countries, the E.F.T.A. countries and our own agricultural interests—we could get near enough to propose a formal negotiation with a very good chance of its success. It would be a terrible mistake to have a formal negotiation which broke down.

    Power Failure, South-East England

    asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement about the power failure in the South-East Region on the evening of Monday, 15th May, 1961.

    I am told by the Central Electricity Generating Board that the extensive interruption of power supplies in South-Eastern England at 9.30 last night was probably caused by failure in the 132,000-voIt transmission system. This appears to have tripped off the automatic switches on a number of circuits to prevent danger and damage from overloading. All supplies were restored by midnight, and some much earlier. I have had no report of any damage or injury.

    The Board has set up a committee of inquiry and its first meeting will be held tomorrow morning. The technical aspects are complicated, and the full investigation will take some time. Meanwhile, all the lines and the cables which had been taken out of service for routine maintenance have been temporarily put back, in order to give the greatest possible security of supply until the investigation is complete.

    While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that there is a great degree of urgency about expediting the report on this matter? I am sure he will appreciate that it was a matter of public concern last night, when the circumstances were somewhat frightening.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great public concern which has been felt when circumstances could arise in which miners were trapped in the coalfield in Kent, buses were brought to a standstill because of the failure of traffic lights, and hospitals were plunged into darkness? Will he, therefore, treat the matter as one of urgency and make a full statement to the House as soon as possible about the steps which are to be taken to prevent any recurrence?

    The whole House is well aware of the dangers and inconvenience that can be caused by this kind of failure. The Board is well aware of the necessity of making its investigation with great speed and I hope that it will be able to complete the inquiry fairly soon.

    Orders Of The Day

    Finance Bill

    Considered in Committee [ Progress, 15th May].

    [Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]

    Clause 2—(Rebate On Heavy Oils)

    3.40 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 18, at the beginning to insert:

    "Subject to the next following subsection".

    I think that it would be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the following Amendments, in page 2, line 18, after "oils", to insert:

    "(other than heavy oils to which the provisions of this subsection do not apply)".
    In line 30, at the end to insert:
    "except in the case of diesel fuel and tractor vapourising oil sold for use by tractors and other implements for agricultural purposes, where a rate one-halfpenny a gallon less than the rate at which rebate of duty is allowed under section one hundred and ninety-nine of the Customs and Excise Act, 1952, shall apply"
    In line 30, at the end to insert:
    (2) (a) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing subsection or in section two hundred of the Customs and Excise Act, 1952 (by which rebates are not allowed on heavy oils used as fuel for certain vehicles), or in section seven of the Finance Act, 1959 (which amends the application of the said section two hundred), section two hundred and four of the said Act of 1952 (which provides for the relief from duty of oils used as fuel for ships in home waters) shall apply in relation to heavy oils used as fuel for agricultural vehicles and to the owners and hirers under any contract of such vehicles as it applies in relation to heavy oils used as fuel for such ships and to the owners of such ships and to their charterers by demise:
    Provided that for the purposes of this subsection references in the said section two hundred and four to the relanding of oil shall be disregarded;
    (b) for the purposes of this subsection "agricultural vehicles" means vehicles such as are mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of section four of the Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, as amended by the Finance Act, 1950 (or as would be mentioned in the said paragraph as so amended if the references therein to the said Act of 1949 included references to the law as to the registration of mechanically propelled vehicles for the time being in force in Northern Ireland); and in relation to the phrase "fuel for agricultural vehicles" subsection (1) of section seven of the said Act of 1959 shall apply as it applies for the purposes stated in that subsection.
    In line 30, at the end to insert:
    (2) (a) The provisions of the foregoing subsection shall not apply to heavy oils delivered for use and used as fuel for agricultural vehicles;
    (b) section two hundred and two of the Customs and Excise Act, 1952 (which empowers the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to make regulations for giving effect to certain sections of that Act and imposes a penalty), shall apply in relation to agricultural vehicles and for the purpose of giving effect to this section as it applies in relation to heavy oil vehicles and for the purpose of giving effect to sections two hundred and two hundred and one of that Act; and the Commissioners shall have power to make regulations accordingly and the provisions as to a penalty shall apply accordingly;
    (c) for the purposes of this subsection "agricultural vehicles" means vehicles such as are mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of section four of the Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, as amended by the Finance Act. 1950 (or as would be mentioned in the said paragraph as so amended, if the references therein to the said Act of 1949 included references to the law as to the registration of mechanically propelled vehicles for the time being in force in Northern Ireland); and in relation to the phrase "fuel for agricultural vehicles" subsection (1) of section seven of the Finance Act, 1959 (which defines the use of fuel for vehicles), shall apply for the purposes of this section as it applies for the purposes stated in that subsection.
    There can be separate Divisions on the first two Amendments.

    I am obliged to you for your suggestion, Sir Gordon.

    The first two of the five Amendments are paving Amendments for the last two, which are alternative ways of trying to arrive at the same conclusion—that the tax on fuel oil should not be imposed.

    Yesterday we had an entrancing debate on the tax on television advertising. It was full of ambiguities about whether it was the intention that the programme companies should pay the tax, or that the advertisers should pay the tax; whether the tax was for social purposes, or whether it was a revenue tax.

    Fortunately, there will not be any ambiguities over this tax. In his Budget speech the Chancellor referred to the changeover to the use of oil from coal, particularly since 1947 and made it quite clear that as conditions had changed, he considered that for revenue reasons heavy oil should bear some tax.

    The Committee should understand clearly what iit is that the Chancellor has proposed with this new tax. He is hoping to get £48 million this year and £50 million next year by a tax of 2d. a gallon on fuel oil, gas oil and kerosene, and 2d. a gallon more, making 3d. a gallon in all, on lubricating oils. There is no problem of meeting competitive fuel such as coal. This is for purely revenue purposes, and it is clear that derv, which is the gas oil used in the running of lorries, is not in any way affected because it already carries a tax of about 2s. 6d. a gallon. This proposed tax affects iron and steel, railways, and a variety of industries, in particular agriculture, and it is in that context that I want to address the Committee.

    I have been favoured with some figures, as I am sure other hon. Members have, from the people who know what the consumption of oil is in this country. These figures make it clear that there will be a heavy imposition on agriculture, and we have here the situation that, contrary to the view expressed yesterday by the Government that they were not in favour of discriminatory taxes, a discriminatory tax will be levied on the agricultural industry.

    Let us itemise what this tax will cost. First, it is estimated that the owners of agricultural drying machines will have to find another £182,000 in tax. This is at a time when a barley marketing scheme is to be introduced, the purpose of which is to keep barley off the market in the early part of the year and to induce the farmers to store their barley, which means that they must dry it and see that it is kept dry. For this purpose alone they will be called on to pay another £182,000, and they have already been treated rather roughly by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, by the cuts he has imposed on barley prices in the Price Review.

    Farmers who use agricultural power machines, tractors in particular, will have to find an extra £1¼ million. I cannot quote the accurate figures, but in addition to that sum the farmers will have to find many thousands of pounds to meet their fuel costs for running stationary and mobile machines such as balers and chaff cutters. All this amounts to about £2 million, but that is not all.

    Here is the discriminatory tax. The farmers who use tractor vaporising oil, which is no good for any machine but a tractor, will have to pay an extra 2d. a gallon, and the extra cost is estimated at £623,000. The cost to other industries will be £32,000, which means that the agricultural industry will pay twenty times as much as other industries in extra tax on tractor vaporising oil. The figures I have quoted are based on consumption in 1960, and I think that the Chancellor will agree that he expects an increase in consumption of fuel oil in 1961.

    What happened when the Chancellor had his famous meeting, which all Chancellors seem to have, with his fellow members of the Cabinet when he disclosed to them the terms of the Budget? Did he receive any criticisms from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Did his right hon. Friend make any complaints? It would be very odd if he did not, because in the White Paper. Cmnd. 1311, which announced the terms of the Price Review, he said, in paragraph 31:
    "The net income of the industry depends on many factors other than the level of the price guarantees and production grants."
    This Budget is an illustration of that.
    "But the Government consider that the present determinations, which increase the value of the guarantees by £14 million, will, together with the new guarantee and marketing arrangements, enable the industry to face the coming year with confidence."
    3.45 p.m.

    At almost the moment when this White Paper was printed, the Chancellor decided to take away £2 million to £2½ million from agriculture. This is about one-seventh of the £14 million which the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food so triumphantly announced would be the extra revenue provided for the agricultural industry. Was there no complaint from the Minister of Agriculture? Has there been no complaint from the 80 Conservative Members who represent agricultural constituencies? For purely discriminatory purposes, and to provide money which the Chancellor can give to Surtax payers, the farmer will have to find what, in many cases, will be a heavy impost.

    The Chancellor has introduced a poll tax. It is the sort of poll tax that we have had from the Minister of Health. The Government are fond of putting on a tax without considering whether the taxpayer will be able to bear the burden. It has been our proud boast that we have the most heavily mechanised agricultural industry in the world. As a result, we have developed the tractor, and as the tractor has taken over a lot of the arduous and heavy labouring work, we have developed heavy agricultural equipment which can be towed only by a diesel engine. The tendency, therefore, has been to have more and more diesel-engined tractors on the farms. In that way agriculture has been able to give support to the diesel industry, which, in turn, has led to an increase in the export of diesel engines. It is the owners of these engines who will have to pay so much more in tax.

    When one talks about £2 million or £2½ million spread over an industry it is difficult to relate these sums to the individual farmer. Therefore, I take the liberty of telling the Committee what my own experience will be on my own farm with each tractor. I calculate that a diesel tractor working for 250 days a year, and using approximately 15 gallons of diesel oil a day, will cost another £31 a year. It will attract in tax about £30 a year more than at present.

    How many hours a day does the hon. Member work the tractor and what size of engine does he use? He must be using the most highly-powered tractors ever made to obtain figures like that.

    I am working on the basis of using a Fordson Major diesel tractor and a Fordson Countytrack tractor for ten to twelve hours a day in the summer months. In the winter months, as the hon. Member knows, they cannot work more than eight or nine hours a day. They work five days a week in winter and six or sometimes seven days a week in summer. I can only make a very rough calculation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Very rough."] I am prepared to have my figures checked.

    It looks as if the extra cost is about £30 per tractor, which is a great deal of money for a small farmer. On the figures produced by some university research workers in agricultural economics that is the profit on ten acres. That is a very heavy impost on a man who has only one or two tractors, particularly after an undertaking has been given that the Price Review figures were to be inviolate.

    The same argument applies to the combine harvester, which is a very expensive machine and works only five or six weeks a year. It is an avid drinker of fuel, which will cost £9 or £10 a season more as a result of the tax.

    I will not deal with the horticultural side of this question. Several hon. Members opposite have a considerable interest in that industry. If any section of industry is let down it is horticulture. Those who engage in horticulture were encouraged between 1955 and 1958 to go over to using oil. They cannot now go over to coal, or at least it will be extremely difficult to do so. They were, in fact, subsidised to go over to oil. They do not receive any benefits from the Price Review system in the way other farmers do and they will be even more heavily hit by this tax.

    If the Chancellor had wanted to look for extra revenue he could have found it in a variety of ways without making this quite penal impact on agriculture at a time when farmers were told that the extra £14 million as a result of the Price Review was something which had been earned. The Tory Party is always breaking faith with the farmers between General Elections and then trying to make it up at election time. I hope that hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies, and who have been made well aware of how their constituents feel about it, will support my Amendment.

    The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) drew attention to the fact that hon. Members on this side of the Committee perhaps would not support him, or at least would not agree with his arguments for the Amendment. I would point out to the hon. Member that I and several of my hon. Friends tabled an Amendment, probably before he did, seeking to exempt tractors from the diesel oil duty and the duty on tractor vaporising oil. People who feel as strongly as my hon. Friends and I do would not have taken that action if we had not meant it.

    Some of the hon. Member's arguments were couched in excessive terms. I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking now, but I do not think that this is the time to go into the varous merits of my Amendment and the hon. Member's Amendment. Suffice to say that the aim is to help the agricultural industry at this time.

    I entirely agree with the hon. Member that the total sum that the industry will be required to pay by the impost of this duty will be about £2½ million. That is correct, but in his additions the hon. Member has gone a little adrift when he talks about the amount used per tractor and what the duty on diesel oil and tractor vaporising oil would cost the industry. I do not intend to weary the Committee with details of tractor hours per day or per year, but the tax would mean about £12 extra per tractor, taking on a reasonable basis the average small farm in my part of the country.

    Even so, the principle is exactly the same. This is an increased tax on the small farmer and the large farmer alike and it is an extra cost on the industry. The hon. Member for Deptford made a valid point about agricultural drying plant. Farmers who operate that plant will also suffer because most agricultural drying machinery uses this oil. The industry will undoubtedly suffer from a heavy additional burden.

    It may well be argued that that amount of £2½ million is not a tremendous sum to bear in the face of the amount of assistance given to the industry from taxation, price support and guaranteed subsidy. It may well be true that £2½ million, compared with £265 million, is not an enormous sum, but it is the principle that matters.

    If we are to talk about the principle there are plenty of precedents whereby the agricultural industry could and should be excluded from the imposition of this tax. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer used these precedents in his Budget statement when, for instance, he spoke about what happened in 1947.

    At that time, my right hon. and learned Friend said:
    "The duty on them"—
    "them" being heavy oils—
    "of 1d. a gallon was then withdrawn, at a time of acute shortage of coal and when every inducement was being offered to get people to change from coal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c. 818.]
    In 1947, the duty on heavy oils was withdrawn because there was need at that time to help the coal industry, which was having difficulty in supplying the nation's needs. The oil industry, therefore, had to take the lion's share.

    4.0 p.m.

    The Government are supporting the agricultural industry to the hilt, telling it to increase its efficiency and production on the right lines and, in general, to strengthen its output and structure. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was generous, in the recent Price Review, in enabling that improvement to take place. Yet within a short time of the Review, he takes away £2½ million from the industry. Is it to be expected that the industry should not ask exactly what the Government intend to do, and how it can have confidence in the Government's intentions to strengthen and support the industry?

    We must view this in the light of what is liable to happen in the next few years. Whether or not we decide to join the Common Market, enormous changes are looming. They will have to be faced both by the Government and the industry. Is it sensible, therefore, that at this time the Government should undermine the industry's confidence in them by this small, stupid act of taking away £2½ million from the amount given to the industry at the recent Price Review?

    The hon. Member for Deptford made great play of the Price Review, but this matter goes back further—to the talks in 1960, between the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the National Farmers' Union, when there was tremendous accord between them and when, indeed, the future of agriculture looked much brighter. Confidence had been restored and it looked as though agriculture would continue to go forward with confidence in the Government's intentions. Now, however, we have this proposal. Unless we can find some way out of this dilemma the industry will no longer have confidence that we and the Government will play square with it.

    I said just now that the amount of money involved is not enormous. I am prepared to accept it if my right hon. and learned Friend says that, at this juncture, it is impossible to give any rebate, but, if that is the case, I beg him to consider a method whereby the £2½ million, or £2 million, can be reimbursed to the industry in the coming year. Perhaps it can be done by an addition to the production grants. Could he consult with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and work out a method whereby an extra £2½ million could be made available to him to offset the amount of money being taken away by this proposal?

    I have heard my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and others say that, in the coming Price Review for 1962, they are prepared to take this tax into account in a more favourable review. Is that not accepting the principle—I think it is—that it is not right to wait a whole year for action to be taken to offset this tax? It was, after all, the efficiency of the industry which caused the Minister of Agriculture to allow it to keep an extra £14 million of its own money at the last Price Review. I ask the Chancellor to consider a method of giving back this new tax to the industry during the coming months, so that it will not have to wait until the next Price Review.

    If my right hon. and learned Friend says that this is impossible, I should find it difficult not to support Members opposite in this matter. Therefore, I hope that he will listen to those of us on this side of the Committee who, sincerely holding the interests of agriculture at heart, want to see it built firmly and strongly so that it can face the future, with whatever changes may happen in Europe, and, at the same time, have confidence that the Government will not niggle it or let it down by giving £14 million and taking away £2½ million a few weeks later. The industry would then have confidence that the Minister of Agriculture would give justice to it. It is striving for the nation at all times to the best of its ability.

    I, also, oppose this tax, and I infer, from what the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) has said, that we will get support in the Division Lobby from some Members opposite. I hope that that fact will weigh with the Chancellor.

    The reasons for opposing the tax have been explained. They are rather simple. It will put up costs. In particular, it will put up agricultural costs and put up the price of a great many things in rural areas. The last thing which this country wants to do at this time is deliberately to increase its costs. This is a tax on production and on efficiency; and this is not the moment to penalise efficiency.

    Small farmers, if they are to make a reasonable living, must employ machinery such as tractors and use heavy oil. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government ever introduced the tax, unless it is simply a bonus to the coal industry. If that is the reason, then the Government had better make it explicit and carry it out another way, for it is no reason to penalise the rest of industry.

    We deserve a fuller explanation from the Government about this tax and about their motives in proposing it. It is not enough to say that this fuel has not been taxed for a long time—which is one of the Government's favourite arguments when pressed to the wall about a tax proposal. For horticulturists, the tax will be disastrous to some and a great handicap to most. They may not be able to change now to other forms of heating, even if it were desirable to do so, and it will put them at a great disadvantage compared with foreign competitors who do not have to pay as much for fuel as our horticulturists will have to pay if the tax is imposed.

    Arguments against the tax have been put from both sides of the Committee. It will take the profit out of many small farms and will deter farmers and others from being efficient. I trust that the Chancellor will think again, in view of the protests which have reached him from all parts of the country against his proposal.

    On a point of order, Sir Gordon. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has referred to the horticultural industry. Is it in order, in speaking to these Amendments, to talk about that industry, or must we wait until a later Amendment?

    It is in order to talk about it now in so far as these Amendments affect the industry, but the industry as such is more specifically dealt with when we reach the Amendment to page 2, line 30, at the end to insert:

    Provided that this section shall not apply to heavy oils used for heating glasshouses growing in commercial quantities horticultural produce as defined in subsection (1) of section eight of the Horticulture Act, 1960.

    Far be it from me, as a farmer, to give my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer any praise in extenuation of this change. All farmers, naturally, deprecate it to the extreme, but I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins). I feel that it is wrong that we should discriminate in any way in the introduction of this tax, if a tax is imposed by the Chancellor then, however unpleasant it may be for the farming industry, that industry should bear it for a year and then be compensated in the next Price Review.

    This would give a strong ground for the industry to say, at that Review, "We had to bear this extra cost for a year, and we did not complain unduly because we think it right that everyone should bear it equally, but now we want fail compensation for it". I feel that is a much more genuine approach than trying to create a sectional interest and a sectional change affecting agriculture and leaving the buses, or whatever industry hon. Members like to mention, to bear the tax—there are a lot of other industries which will have to bear it.

    We have had some extremely exaggerated statements about the effect of this tax. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said that it is a tax on production and efficiency. I could not agree less about that. I cannot believe that any farmer will stop using his tractor because he will have to pay another 2d. a gallon in duty. It does not make sense. Does the hon. Gentleman mean that because of the increase in tax we shall go back to using horses? I do not believe that for one moment and I cannot see that this will be a tax on efficiency or production.

    Surely the more tractors and mechanised equipment a farmer has the more efficient he will become, but the more machines he uses the more oil he will use and, consequently, the more tax he will have to pay. I think that is what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland had in mind.

    The hon. Member may have meant that, but does he honestly believe, and does my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North believe, that the introduction of an extra 2d. per gallon on the duty will stop the use of these machines? Although we do not like this tax at all, I think it is one that we shall have to bear. The exaggerated claim of the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer), who said that it will cost another £30 per tractor, is pure nonsense. The hon. Gentleman should get a fresh agricultural engineer to look at his tractors to see why they are burning so much oil, or else use his tractors more efficiently.