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Written Answers

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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Written Answers To Questions

Tuesday 16th May 1961

Science

Radioactive Isotopes

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what plans the Atomic Energy Authority have for expanding their production and sales of radioactive isotopes.

The Atomic Energy Authority has advised my noble friend that it has a five-year plan for extending the processing facilities at the Radiochemical Centre at Amersham and it proposes to continue and extend its vigorous sales and customer service activities. The general development and use of radioisotopes will, as in the past, be supported by the work of the Wantage Research Laboratory and by the training of potential users in its Isotope School.

Farm Buildings

7.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what action is taken by his Department regarding research into farm buildings.

The Agricultural Research Council is conducting a survey of farm buildings in this country and is issuing a bibliography of farm buildings research publications. In addition, the Council, in co-operation with the farmers concerned, is organising experiments with buildings on farms and contributing towards their capital cost; and much research supported by the Council in agricultural research institutes and elsewhere has important bearings on farm building design. Further, a great deal of the experience and research of the Building Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is applicable to farm buildings.

Water Supplies

5.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will give details of the scientific personnel engaged in official research into the conservation and utilisation of water supplies.

Research into the conservation and utilisation of water supplies necessarily involves many organisations and technologies. Within the D.S.I.R., the A.R.C., and the N.C. the total number of scientific personnel engaged, part time or full time, on these problems is 238.

11.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress is being made with scientific study of methods of preventing flooding and shortages of water.

As stated in answer to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) on 18th April, the Committee on Hydrological Research is now examining current research and future research requirements. The Hydraulics Research Station of the D.S.I.R. carries out investgiations on specific problems of flooding in this field on repayment terms.

Space Research (European Organisation)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science for what specific purposes in space research the preparatory commission in Europe, in which the United Kingdom Government is cooperating, is being formed.

The Preparatory Commission is studying the constitution and functions of a possible European organisation for civil scientific research in space. The purpose of the organisation would be to co-ordinate scientific experiments in space by European scientists, and make joint use of satellites, sounding rockets and any other appropriate devices. It is not envisaged that this organisation would engage in commercial applications of space research, or itself develop satellite launchers. As the hon. Member will be aware, separate negotiations are in progress for the formation of a European Organisation to develop a launcher.

Ministry Of Works

Royal Palaces (Expenditure)

49.

asked the Minister of Works when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Fife, forwarding to him 112 letters from all parts of the country on the question of expenditure on Royal Palaces; and whether he will take steps to re-examine this expenditure.

I returned the letters to the hon. Member on 28th April, and I hoped that he would consider this, coupled with my replies to his Question and supplementaries on 25th April, a sufficient reply. All expenditure on Royal Palaces is subject to the normal controls.

Holyrood House, Edinburgh (Railings)

50.

asked the Minister of Works what reasons led to the decision to spend £6,000 this year on the replacement of railings at Holyrood House, Edinburgh; and whether, in the interests of economy, he will reconsider the decision.

These railings have deteriorated to a state where further repair is impracticable.The details of the scheme for replacement have not been finally settled, but naturally it will be carried through as economically as is consistent with the situation.

Tower Of London (Jewel House)

51.

asked the Minister of Works what progress has been made to wards building a new Jewel House at the Tower of London to enable visitors to see the Crown Jewels.

I cannot yet add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) on 6th December, 1960.

Temple Of Mithras, London

52.

asked the Minister of Works whether the Temple of Mithras in London has yet been re-erected and opened to the public.

I understand that work on this part of the site is not yet sufficiently advanced to allow the remains of the temple to be re-erected but that it is now hoped to do this by about March 1962.

Victoria Tower Gardens

53.

asked the Minister of Works what action he is taking to deal with the unsanitary condition of the sandpit and grass in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.

The sandpit is sprayed with disinfectant once a fortnight, and the sand is changed when necessary; it will be changed again very shortly. I am also examining the possibility of providing a fence round the sandpit to keep out dogs. My parks staff are under instructions to keep the grass in as clean and tidy a condition as possible, and this is done as far as the staffing position allows.

Royal Wedding

asked the Minister of Works how much his Department expects to spend in preparation for the Royal Wedding in York next month; and if he will give the details of such expenditure.

My duty will be to mark the presence of Her Majesty The Queen by the flying of flags from some public buildings for which I am responsible and by their decoration. The cost will be a few pounds.

Local Government

Sewage Disposal

54.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will seek powers to increase Government financial assistance to local authorities for urgent modernisation of sewage disposal.

No. I know no reason for increasing the assistance already available to local authorities through the rate deficiency grant and, in rural localities, the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Acts.

Council Meetings (Police)

55.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will introduce legislation to amend the Local Government Act, 1933, so as to control the powers of local authorities to employ the police to enforce order at meetings.

Derelict Land

56.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how much his Department has spent on improving amenities and acquiring and improving derelict land under the Local Employment Act.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer that I gave on 9th May to the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).

57.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how much his Department has spent on improving amenities and acquiring and improving derelict land in the Bishop Auckland constituency under the Local Employment Act.

One application for grant has been made by the Durham County Council under Section 5 of the Act. I regret that it could not be approved since it could not be said that the scheme appeared likely to enhance the prospects of additional employment in the district.

Local Government Commission (Report)

62.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he has received the Final Report of the Local Government Commission covering the East Midlands Area; when he proposes to present this report; and if he will make a statement.

I understand that the report of the Local Government Commission on the East Midlands General Review Area will be sent to me later this summer. I intend to publish it as soon as practicable after I receive it.The publication of each of the Commission's reports will be followed by a period during which representations may be made to me. If objections are lodged by any of the local authorities concerned, I shall normally hold a local public inquiry. It will clearly be several months before I am in a position to decide whether to bring orders before Parliament affecting the East Midlands.

Open Spaces, Newstead

67.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs why he granted planning permission for the development of an open space on the Regina Crescent Estate, Newstead, in view of the opposition of the local planning authority and of the owners of the adjoining property.

The first question in this case was whether the land was incapable of reasonably beneficial use in its existing state. My right hon. Friend concluded that it was; and his alternatives then were to force the local authority to buy it or to allow development. The authority had made it clear that they did not wish to buy, and my right hon. Friend did not think it a case in which it would be right to make them do so.

Rent Tribunals

68.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how many rent tribunals now operate in England and Wales; how many persons have applied to those tribunals and secured redress during the past 10 years; and if he will consider taking steps to grant wider powers to those tribunals in order to enable them to deal with complaints of excessive rents other than those within their present powers.

The number of rent tribunals in England and Wales is now 41. There have been considerable changes in their jurisdiction between 1951 and 1960, but over those ten years they decided some 42,500 first applications to fix the rents of furnished lettings. The Government do not propose to extend control to property which is now exempt from it.

Greater London (Report)

69.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what further developments have taken place in respect of the Report on Local Government for Greater London; and what alternative proposals have been submitted to him.

The Government are still studying this report and the comments on it by local authorities and others. These included many suggestions, too numerous to detail. The commonest alternative proposal was that referred to in my answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) on 28th March.

Housing

Housing Standards (Committee)

61.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether the inquiry of the Central Housing Advisory Committee into housing standards will cover houses provided by private enterprise.

Yes. The Committee's terms of reference expressly cover accommodation provided by private enterprise as well as that provided by public authorities.

Immigrants

64.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what representations have been made to him by local authorities about the effect that in creasing immigration is having on their housing programmes.

Cesspits

65.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs in view of his public health responsibilities, what guidance and advice he gives to local authorities regarding the regularity with which cesspits should be cleared, and the extent to which this should be a free service.

New Towns

66.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs how many houses had been built in the new towns in England and Wales up to 31st December, 1960, stating the proportions built by the development corporations and by private enterprise, respectively; and what steps he is taking to increase the proportion of houses built by private enterprise in these new towns in the future.

Up to 31st December, 1960, new town development corporations had completed 77,775 houses, and private enterprise had completed 3,483 houses on land sold or leased by corporations, a total of 81,258 houses. Houses have also been built by the local authorities in the new town areas and by private enterprise on land not sold or leased by corporations, but detailed figures for these categories are not readily available.All the development corporations are aware of my wish to encourage private house-building in new towns and, subject to some necessary safeguards, are ready to make available suitable land for development as private estates or for houses to be built to individual requirements.

Demolition Orders (Rehousing)

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what action he takes to assist in the provision of new accommodation for people living in houses which are subject to demolition orders under the Housing Act.

Whilst the Housing Act, 1957, does not expressly require local authorities to rehouse people living in houses subject to demolition orders, in practice they recognise a moral obligation to do so, and I fully support them in this.

Kenya

Mr Jomo Kenyatta

70.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what discussions the Governor of Kenya is proposing to have with Mr. Kenyatta regarding the latter's views on constitutional development in the territory, the maintenance of law and order and the guaranteeing of individual rights.

71.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what representations he has received from Dr. Nkrumah, Mr. Nehru, Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Banda regarding the release of Mr. Kenyatta forthwith.

Her Majesty's Government have received expressions of view about this matter from time to time from a number of persons, including leaders of some Commonwealth countries. These were not formal representations. In reply, the position of the Governor of Kenya and of Her Majesty's Government has been fully explained.

Mrs Osborne (Murder)

72.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Mrs. Osborne on 5th May; if he will instruct the Governor of Kenya to consult with all political leaders with a view to the issue of a joint declaration condemning such violence; and if he will make a statement.

A man has been charged with Mrs. Osborne's murder and remanded in custody. Intensive investigations are continuing. As regards the remainder of the hon. Member's Question, I would refer him to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) on 11th March.

Mau Mau Activities

73.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent reliable evidence available to the Governor of Kenya indicates that recent crimes of violence are attributable to Mau Mau or other organised gang activities; and if the Governor has considered it necessary to take further measures to strengthen inner security.

No possible line of inquiry is being excluded. There is no evidence to confirm that the perpetrators of recent crimes of violence are inspired by or owe allegiance to Mau Mau or any similar centrally directed illegal organisation. A dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed in the Njoro, Mau Narok and Elburgon areas of the Rift Valley as part of an intensive campaign on the part of the administration and the police to secure increased respect for law and order. Two companies of the Kings African Rifles are assisting the police in sweeps of the forest areas. The Governor will not hesitate to take further measures to strengthen internal security if he considers it necessary.

Visitor's Pass (Cancellation)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why he is not prepared to intervene with the Principal Immigration Officer for Kenya who has cancelled a visitor's pass issued to Mr. Lance Samson, an accredited representative of a British newspaper, who wished to visit Kenya for journalistic reasons.

This is a matter for local judgment and decision by the local authorities under the discretion vested in them by local legislation.

Northern Rhodesia

Security Regulations

74.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is now in a position to make an announcement on the security regulations in Northern Rhodesia.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to the security regulations introduced in May, 1960. These apply only to the Western Province. The Governor is satisfied that they remain necessary for the preservation of public security in the Province, but is keeping the matter under constant review.

Scotland

Education (International Relations)

75.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the present arrangements for dealing with international relationship in the field of education, in so far as they affect the Scottish Education Department.

My Department maintains close contact with the Ministry of Education, other Government Departments and the British Council, and takes such action as is necessary in relation to the work of such bodies as U.N.E.S.C.O., Western European Union and the International Bureau of Education.

Fishing Industry (Research)

76.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the need of the fishing industry for developing research into new methods of preserving fish at sea, particularly deep freezing, he will give an assurance that sufficient funds will be quickly put at the disposal of the White Fish Authority, as recommended in the Fleck Report, Command Paper No. 1266, to extend the relevant aspects of research without further delay.

Extensive research has already been carried out into freeezing at sea, the results of which are being followed up by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the White Fish Authority and the industry. I am not aware that further research into this or other methods of preservation is held up by lack of funds.

Road Communications

77.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the bridgebuilding now in progress in north-east Scotland, if he will now announce the details of his plans to improve the relevant roads and co ordinate them with the new bridges there.

I am not aware of any bridge building now in progress in north-east Scotland which calls for coordination of road plans with the new bridges. North of the Forth Road Bridge I am giving priority to the reconstruction of the Perth/Inver-keithing Trunk Road (A.90), because it carries heavy traffic which will increase when the Forth Road Bridge is open and because it serves a number of traffic movements, e.g., to Perth, to Inverness and the North and to Aberdeen by the favoured route via Forfar. Traffic to the Tay Road Bridge would proceed by the improved A.90 to Milnathort and then by A.91 and A.914 to Newport. Traffic from Kirkcaldy and the surrounding area would proceed to Newport by A.92 and A.914.

Salmon (Drift Net Fishing)

78.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further evidence he now has concerning the prevalence of drift net fishing for salmon; and whether he has come to a decision as to whether to prohibit or control it.

I have evidence that drift net fishing has been continuing in the Tweed area and to some extent elsewhere on the east coast. A deputation representing salmon fishing interests in Scotland was received on my behalf on 12th May and I am considering the whole matter urgently in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Shipyard Berths (Rates)

79.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will introduce legislation to free berths in shipyards from liability to rates for all periods during which they are empty, in the same way that domestic property is freed from liability while empty under existing legislation.

No. The provisions that exempt unoccupied property from rates apply to all types of property, including shipyards, though they would not apply to individual berths. It is too soon to know whether the effect of revaluation in the shipbuilding industry would justify any special measures.

Legal Documents (Signature)

82.

asked the Lord Advocate which classes of legal documents issued in Scotland have to be signed in the presence of two witnesses; and why one witness will not suffice for receipts.

As a general rule formal documents, particularly those which deal with the sale of heritable property or which are of a testamentary character, require to be attested by two witnesses. There is a relaxation in favour of holograph documents (i.e., those in the handwriting of and signed by the grantor) which are normally effective without the signature of any witness. Mercantile documents (including receipts) which are granted in the course of an ordinary commercial transaction and which do not relate to the sale of heritable property are also normally effective without being witnessed.

Housing

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has yet considered the resolution of the Convention of Royal Burghs in Scotland passed this April, a copy of which has been sent to him by the honourable Member for Aberdeen, North, concerning the difficulties and hardships arising in certain cases of eviction and rent demand; and when he will reply.

I understand that the Convention did not pass this resolution but that the subject is to be considered by their Housing and Health Committee.

Trade And Commerce

Films

84.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in respect of first feature and supporting programme films, what proportions of films given a national release in the year ended 30th September, 1960, were British; and what are his estimates of those figures, based on the current level of British film production, for the year ending 30th September, 1961.

In the year ended 30th September, 1960, approximately 33 per cent. of the first features given a national release, and 24 per cent. of the second features, were British. The proportion of British material, shorts as well as second features, available for the supporting programme, as a whole will have been in excess of 24 per cent. I cannot estimate what the corresponding figures will be for the year ending 30th September, 1961.

Polish Eggs

85.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if the shipments of Polish eggs to this country have now been reduced to 11,000 boxes a week; and what precautions he is taking to ensure that there will not be a repetition next spring of sales of Polish eggs at a price that involves dumping likely to cause material damage within the meaning of the Act.

Polish sales on the shell egg market last week amounted to 10,320 boxes and I understand will be less than 11,000 boxes this week. As regards the future, the Board of Trade would, of course, be ready to consider an application from producers for action under the Act if some evidence were forthcoming that dumped imports were causing or threatening material injury.

Hire Purchase And Credit Sale Agreements

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that a deposit of 20 per cent. of the total purchase price has to be paid when buying a television set on hire purchase, but when renting the same set a customer need only pay an amount equal to 13 weeks of the hire-purchase charge, or approximately 10 per cent. of the purchase price; and if he will review these charges and either decrease the hire-purchase deposit to 10 per cent. or increase the rental deposit to 26 weeks.

I am aware of the terms of the Hire-Purchase and Credit Sale Agreements (Control) Order. I am satisfied that the difference between the amount of rental payable in advance and the deposit payable in respect of hire purchase reflects fairly the difference between hiring and buying by instalments.

Dairy Products (Imports)

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the total figure of imported butter, milk powder, cheese and fresh cream up to the latest convenient date; what percentage this is of the total national consumption; and what was the country of origin of these imported commodities.

The following is the information available:

UNITED KINGDOM IMPORTS OF BUTTER, MILK POWDER, CHEESE AND FRESH CREAM
Country of Consignment (a)January-March, 1960January-March, 1961
cwts.cwts.
Australia848,181656,293
New Zealand1,776,4191,558,290
Irish Republic14,178173,492
Finland91,63544,294
Denmark501,356469,212
Poland103,43359,952
Netherlands109,522119,718
France10,949145,843
Argentine Republic88,680175,949
Other countries152,065140,284
3,696,4183,543,327
Imports as a percentage of imports plus home production (b)per cent.per cent.
78·275·3
(a) Statistics are collected on a basis of country of consignment and do not, necessarily, relate to country of origin.
(b) Total consumption figures are not available for periods of less than a year.

Ministry Of Power

Gasification Of Coal

86.

asked the Minister of Power what arrangements are made by his department for research into the gasification of coal by the Lurgi process.

The Lurgi process has already been developed to a commercial stage. One plant in Scotland is now producing gas and a second is being built in the West Midlands. Valuable experience will be provided by these plants and the Gas Council will pursue any promising lines of investigation as part of its general programme of research and development.

Research And Development (Advisory Council)

88.

asked the Minister of Power if he will appoint a committee of scientists whose duties would be to co-ordinate research and development in the whole field of energy.

My Advisory Council on Research and Development exists for this purpose. The terms of reference of the Council are:

  • 1. To advise the Minister of Power on research and development in relation to his statutory duty of securing the effective and co-ordinated development of coal, petroleum and other sources of fuel and power in Great Britain, and of promoting economy and efficiency in the supply, distribution, use and consumption of fuel and power, whether produced in Great Britain or not:
  • 2. To advise the Minister of new scientific and technical knowledge or applications of knowledge throughout the world, which in the opinion of the Council should be taken into account in the performance of his statutory duties;
  • 3. To keep the whole field of fuel and power under continuous review with the object of identifying problems needing research and development and advising the Minister of these problems with a view to discussion with the industries concerned.
  • The members of the Council are:

    Chairman

    • Lord Fleck, K.B.E., F.R.S.

    Deputy-Chairman

    • Captain (E.) W. Gregson. C.B.E.

    Members

    • Mr. M. A. L. Banks, Managing Director, British Petroleum Company.
    • Dr. C. M. Cawley, C.B.E., Chief Scientist, Ministry of Power.
    • Mr. T. B. Clark, Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.
    • Sir Josiah Eccles, C.B.E., Deputy-Chairman, Electricity Council.
    • Mr. W. K. Hutchison, C.B.E., Deputy-Chairman, Gas Council.
    • Dr. W. A. Macfarlane, C.B.E., Managing Director, National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service.
    • Sir Harry Melville, K.C.B., F.R.S., Secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
    • Mr. L. Rotherham, Member for Research, Central Electricity Generating Board.
    • Professor M. W. Thring, University of Sheffield.
    • Dr. F. A. Vick, O.B.E., Director, Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell.
    • Mr. A. H. A. Wynn, Scientific Member, National Coal Board.

    Coal

    Coal Technology

    87.

    asked the Minister of Power what action is taken by his Department in respect of research into coal technology.

    At present my Department undertakes research into mine safety and slagging gasification. General research into all aspects of coal technology is undertaken by the industries and other organisations. I am at present carrying out my annual review of their research programmes with the assistance of my Advisory Council on Research and Development.

    Missile Tests

    90.

    asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will appoint a small committee to consider how, in the event of complete prohibition of missile tests, a surveillance system of world-wide coverage can be worked out, by using such techniques as aerial photography, radar, airborne infra-red detection, acoustic detection, detection of fuel products, and satellite-based infra-red detection.

    No. The suggested studies could better be carried out by an international committee of experts as proposed to the General Assembly of the United Nations last autumn by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

    Burma (Mandalay Regalia)

    asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government will return to the Government of Burma the Burmese regalia, now under their control, which formerly belonged to the Kingdom of Burma.

    The matter is under consideration and no decision has yet been reached as to the future of the Mandalay Regalia.

    Education

    School Curriculum (Science)

    91.

    asked the Minister of Education which research bodies for which he is responsible are carrying out research into teaching methods concerning science in the school curriculum.

    Methods of improving the teaching of science are under constant study by Her Majesty's Inspectors, the associations of science teachers and by some of the teacher training institutions. I am not directly responsible for the work of any research bodies.

    Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

    Milk Production

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the latest available weekly or monthly figures for liquid milk production; and how they compare with the same week or month in 1960.

    The latest month for which figures of sales of milk off farms in the United Kingdom are available is March, 1961, when sales are provisionally estimated at 204·79 million gallons, compared with 192·88 million gallons in March, 1960.

    Home Department

    Junior Detention Centre (Vacancies)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what is the greatest number of vacancies for juvenile prisoners that have been available at a junior detention centre during the 12 months to the last convenient date; which was the junior detention centre; and what area is served by it.

    Twenty-one at Foston Hall, which serves Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Staffordshire and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

    Hospitals

    Fuel Tax

    asked the Minister of Health what consideration he has given to the effect on hospital authorities of the extra 2d. tax on fuel.

    This will fall to be considered, along with other factors affecting costs, as the financial year proceeds.

    Pensions And National Insurance

    National Assistance

    asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to what extent the power of the National Assistance Board to adjust weekly allowances paid by the Board to take account of special circumstances is used to reduce the weekly allowance below the amount that would otherwise be paid; under what circumstances such reductions are made; and how many weekly allowances in payment in December 1959 were so reduced.

    At December, 1959, such adjustments were being made in about 2 per cent. (37,000) cases of the 1,766,000 assistance grants then in payment. The majority were made under the provision of the Regulations which directs the Board to limit assistance by reference to normal earning capacity: among the other circumstances in which a reduction may be made are those where there is a home-saving by reason of a long stay in hospital, and where unemployment benefit is disallowed under the provisions of Section 13 (2) (a) of the National Insurance Act, 1946.

    asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many of the 1,213,000 weekly allowances in payment by the National Assistance Board in December, 1959, to men aged over 65 years and women aged over 60 years included discretionary additions; and how many of the remaining 553,000 weekly allowances in payment in December, 1959, included discretionary additions.

    European Free Trade Association

    asked the Prime Minister if he will publish the correspondence between himself and the Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada and New Zealand relating to their joining the European Free Trade Association.

    National Finance

    Members (Travel Expenses)

    asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he will make a statement about refunding expenses incurred by Members of Parliament and Peers when travelling by road on parliamentary duties as an alternative to the present arrangements for travel by rail, sea and air.

    Yes. Following representations from hon. Members there have been discussions between the Authorities of the House and the Government. It has been agreed that the time is ripe to alter the existing arrangements by which the reimbursement of travel expenses incurred on Parliamentary duties is confined to journeys by rail, air, and sea, and it is proposed accordingly to make it possible for certain expenses of journeys by road to be claimed as an alternative. The appropriate Resolution will be laid before the House shortly.It is intended that the scheme should cover only those journeys in the triangle Westminster-home-constituency for which provision is already made under the existing rail, air and sea scheme, and that the maximum amount that may be claimed should be the cost of the corresponding first-class railway journey. While the Resolution to be laid before the House will be in general terms, it is proposed that the expenses claimed should be confined to the petrol costs personally incurred in the use of private cars, and that these should be assessed on mileage by the most direct route and the average fuel consumption of the car used. Details of the scheme will be made available to Members individually by the House Authorities as soon as possible.As payments in respect of this allowance will be cash allowances paid to salaried officers, they will, in accordance with the ordinary Income Tax rules, be liable to tax to the extent that they relate to journeys between Members' homes and Westminster or between their homes and their constituencies.If the Resolution is approved by the House in time, it is proposed that the scheme should come into operation when the House resumes after the Whitsun Recess.The cost of the scheme cannot be closely estimated until the extent to which Members make use of it is known and the extent to which it will be used in substitution for journeys by rail. It is not, however, expected that it will add a substantial proportion to the cost of the existing scheme. A Supplementary Estimate would be submitted as necessary later in the year.It has been agreed that this principle should appropriately be extended to Members of the House of Lords and that the arrangements of the two Houses should be brought as closely in line as the differing circumstances permit. This will be provided for in the Resolution to be submitted.