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Commons Chamber

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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House Of Commons

Monday, 10th July, 1961

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the chair]

Death Of A Member

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of James Watts, esquire, Member for Manchester, Moss Side, and I desire on behalf of the House to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the hon. Member.

Private Business

City Of London (Various Powers) Bill Lords

Read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.

Eyemouth Harbour Order Confirmation Bill

Considered; to be read the Third time Tomorrow.

Glasgow Corporation Order Confirmation Bill

Consideration deferred till Monday next.

Oral Answers To Questions

Government Information Services

Overseas Visitors (Tours)


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many tours for visitors from Commonwealth countries, respectively were arranged by the Central Office of Information during the last twelve months; and how many of these included visits to Tees-side.

For parties of Commonwealth and colonial visitors, 101 tours, and of foreign visitors, 218. Five tours included visits to Tees-side.

While I welcome the remarkable increase in the number of these tours arranged by the Central Office of Information, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would not agree that a proportion of 5 per cent. is a very low one for so important an industrial area as Tees-side? Will he ask the C.O.I., when arranging such tours, to remember that the North-East Coast includes, besides the great rivers Tyne and Wear, the very important River Tees?

Had the right hon. Gentleman put that question in relation to the north-east area, the answer would have been 26 tours.

Even so, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that represents a very small proportion when one bears in mind that the North-East Coast is the most important part of this country?

The question related to C.O.I. tours, which do not include Board of Trade tours or tours by Service Departments. We should have to add all these together to give the whole picture. There are some 7,000 visitors to this country under British Council arrangements, including many visiting the North-East.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there have been expressions of appreciation from visitors to Tees-side? Have they not been pleased with the warmth of their welcome?

I cannot, without research, find out what expressions of appreciation there have been about Tees-side.

Low-Priced Books


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the consortium of publishers assisting him with his scheme of low-priced books for overseas is considering the establishment of warehouse facilities overseas for the more effective distribution of these books; and what assistance from public funds is involved.

I understand that the consortium is considering various aspects of book distribution overseas, but has not yet reached conclusions.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the latest figures of the flood of English language books from Communist countries into Africa and parts of Asia? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise the urgent need for much better progress than he and his advisers among the publishers seem to be achieving? Is he aware that there would be considerable support for the kind of proposal contained in my Question? Is he further aware that we should like a great deal more information about what he is doing about this.

The hon. Member's Question relates to the consortium and I am answering it in that sense. I am aware of the figures he has referred to, but there is now steady progress after a slow start, which was due to the emphasis on text-books, and this progress is being maintained.

I gave the figures for the volumes printed a fortnight ago in answer to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Thomson). The figures of those sold are coming in all the time, but I can tell the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) that some of the textbooks have been quite sold out and second printings are now being arranged.


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will now consider extending the list of low-priced university text-books and making them available in a larger number of countries.

I cannot yet add to my replies to the hon. Member last week. The Advisory Committee is examining many further titles, and we hope to extend supplies to further countries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the universities text-book scheme for India has been an outstanding success? Is he also aware that there are demands for these books in East Africa? Will he do his best to ensure that this spreads to other parts of the world?

I am glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman said about the success in India. That is primarily due to the fact that the Indian university authorities gave great help in the selection of textbooks. Other universities have other ideas, but with the increase in the number of text-books coming under this scheme we shall have an opportunity in other universities in other countries.

Drogheda Committee (Report)


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how far he has implemented the recommendations of the Drogheda Committee that all overseas information work should be based on a long-term plan not subject to short-term financial fluctuation.

Our policy on Overseas Information was set out in July, 1957, White Paper, Cmnd. 225, which took full account of the Drogheda Committee's earlier Report. In that White Paper we set out a plan of expansion expected—as the Paper showed—to take some years. Later on, we reappraised our effort, and the March, 1959, White Paper again looked forward for a considerable period. We have continued the rapid expansion of these services since then, and compared with 1957's £13 million, have provided £20·2 million this year.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great harm done in the past by sudden cuts in the budget of the British Council, the British Broadcasting Corporation Overseas Services, and the Information Services? Can he give us an assurance that it is the Government's policy to increase the effectiveness and scale of these services?

I think that the record of the last few years is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, whether it be the B.B.C., for which expenditure has increased from £5·9 million to £7 million, or the British Council, for which expenditure has increased from £3·4 million to £6·4 million.

Pensions And National Insurance

Graduated Pensions Scheme


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will arrange for the total earnings of an employee in any one week to he aggregated for purposes of assessing this right to participate in the graduated pensions scheme.

Aggregation of payments made in the same tax week is already provided for unless the earnings are from different employers, where aggregation would involve both practical complications and the disclosure of the employee's earnings with one employer to another.

Does not the reply mean that a number of people who would like to take part in the graduated pensions scheme are denied the right to do so? Is not this just another example of the many flaws in the scheme? If an employee earning from two different employers wants those earnings aggregated and is willing to have them revealed, why should he not be allowed to do so?

Because it would involve one employer knowing at the time what the employee was also getting in that week from another employer, and from the practical point of view that really does not make sense. However, I appreciate the hon. Lady's enthusiasm for the scheme.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this suggestion has been put forward by the Blackburn Chamber of Trade, which, being an employers' organisation, is aware of the difficulties? Is the Minister aware that the Chamber of Trade still thinks that his arguments are invalid and that this point ought to be met?

I note the views expressed, but I must say that I should find it difficult in general to come to the Dispatch Box and justify a general system under which I disclosed a man's earnings from one employer to another.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will consider the possibility of remission to retiring workers of their contributions under the graduated scheme, where the aggregation of their contributions does not qualify them for any addition to their pensions.

Does not the Minister admit that this feature of his scheme is the one which causes the greatest grievance to the retiring worker, who has to pay for the last three, four or five months something for nothing?

No, Sir; I do not. It is the essence of this part of the scheme that if one has contributed half a unit or mare it counts as a whole unit, and if one has contributed less than half it does not count. All in all, I think it is pretty fair.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that a person whose aggregate payments do not come to half a unit is still paying something for nothing?

That person is also, as a matter of definition, drawing a first-rate pension towards the total value of which, if he has contributed from the beginning of the scheme, he can hardly have contributed one-tenth. In those circumstances, I do not think that a nugatory contribution of at most £3 14s. 6d. is a very high price to pay.

Prescription Charges


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the number of cases, at the latest date, in which refunds of prescription charges have been made to applicants not in receipt of National Assistance since the higher charges were imposed last March; and whether he will make a statement on the working of existing arrangements for refunds in this type of case.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many persons, not in receipt of a weekly allowance from the National Assistance Board, have claimed and how many have received repayment of prescription charges since 1st March until the latest available date.

I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the answers which my right hon. Friend gave on Friday to their hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson).

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the number of pensioners who are just above the poverty line, and, therefore, do not come within the scheme for receiving repayments for the charges, is reaching such proportions that the Minister in charge of the well-being of pensioners ought to urge his colleagues in the Cabinet to give all pensioners prescriptions free of charge, or at any rate not apply to them the increase which is operating this year?

The question as to on wham the prescription charges fall is for my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland and not for me, but I certainly do not draw the same inference from the facts disclosed in the answer to which I made reference as the hon. Gentleman appears to do.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will estimate the cost to the National Assistance Board of administering the repayment of prescription charges and other National Health Service charges, respectively, in the current year.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree, in the light of what we know about the position so far, that this might not be the best way to bring relief to people who need medicines and prescriptions? Is he further aware that there are a number of people who have saved all their lives, thereby enabling themselves to have a small additional private income, who now feel very bitter because they are completely excluded? Would it not make more sense and save time and trouble to abolish this type of scheme and to make all prescriptions free of charge to old-age pensioners in general?

This is not a matter for me. I answered this Question only because the system of refund is through the National Assistance Board for whose operation I am answerable to the House.

Local Offices (Closures)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many local offices of his Department have been closed during the last three years; in how many cases he received representations against closure; and what are the conditions of location, size and volume of business which decide these closures.

In the three years ended 30th June, 1961, six local offices were closed and nineteen reduced to caller offices. Twenty-five caller offices were also closed. Representations against closure or reduction were received in most cases. These decisions are based on the facts of each case bearing in mind both the reasonable needs of the public and the need for economy in the costs of administration, and are generally made after consultation with the local advisory committee.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say that it is the number of callers at the local office which is the primary consideration in keeping an office open? Would he also say whether this is a continuous process and how much further it will go?

The number of callers is one of the factors that have to be taken into account, but there are many others—the accessibility of another office, means of transport to it, the general volume of work, suitability of premises, working conditions and so on. It is my policy to keep the system of local offices throughout the country under close review in the light of the considerations of principle which I mentioned at the end of my main answer.

National Assistance (Blind Persons)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by what percentage the National Assistance scale rate for a husband and wife, one of whom is a blind person, has increased over the period from 5th July, 1948; by what percentage the ordinary scale rate for husband and wife has increased over the same period; and what is the difference in shillings and pence necessary to establish the same rate of increase.

The figures are, respectively, 105 per cent., 125 per cent. and 11s. 3d.

Does not the Minister think that a difference of 11s. 3d., which the blind person is suffering, is a very great difference for such people? Is it not mean that the Government cannot at least bring the standard of the blind person up to that of the ordinary person? Will not the Minister think about this again and spend the 11s. 3d. to ensure that blind persons get at least as great an improvement as has been given to ordinary sighted persons?

The 11s. 3d. relates to the differential, but the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the standards of both have been very substantially increased. The category mentioned in his Question is receiving on the assistance scales now in real terms about 24s. 6d. more than in 1951, and in any event, as I explained to his hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) last week, these differentials have in some degree lost their significance in view of the much wider use by the Board of its discretionary powers.

Nevertheless, does not the Minister agree that if the blind person were to receive now as much proportionately as he received in 1948 he would require 11s. 3d. more than he is getting now? Is not that the case?

What is the case is that he is receiving 24s. 6d. more than he received in 1951. The hon. Gentleman's figure relates only to the differential, which comparison is vitiated by the fact that both rates have risen.

Payroll Tax


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will estimate the expenditure that will be incurred preparatory to the introduction of the payroll tax.

If it were decided to impose a surcharge on employers under Clause 30 of the Finance Bill, the preparatory expenditure would be likely to be something under £30,000.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not been given any warning by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this is very likely in the very near future, and can he say, in those circumstances, whether any estimate has been made of the number of additional employees that his Department will be likely to need as a result of its introduction?

I do not think that either question arises out of the main Question. In any event, the hon. Gentleman is too old a Parliamentary hand to assume that I am so young a Parliamentary hand as to fall for that one.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what changes will be necessary in the present method of payment and recording of employers' contribution under the National Insurance schemes on the introduction of the payroll tax.

16 and 17.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) what preliminary arrangements he has made for the administration of the payroll tax, as far as it affects his Department;

(2) if his departmental arrangements for the administration of the payroll tax have been completed.

If it were decided to introduce a surcharge on employers under Clause 30 of this year's Finance Bill, the procedure so far as my Department is concerned would not differ significantly from that followed when rates of contribution are increased. No special arrangements would, therefore, be necessary.

Are we to take it from that answer that the right hon. Gentleman has made no provisional arrangements, and are we to assume, therefore, that the Government will drop the scheme?

If the hon. Member studies my Answer, he will appreciate that if such a decision were to be taken no provisional arrangements would be required. Therefore, the second part of his supplementary question does not arise.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether higher value stamps are now being printed and, if not, how long it will take to get the new contribution stamps into circulation from the date of an announcement about the operation of Clause 30 of the Finance Bill?

The time required would depend on the circumstances at the time. I know nothing of any printing of stamps.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the usual time lag between an announcement of increased contributions and the actual stamping on the existing card?

It varies very widely, as the hon. Member may recall, dependent, among other things, on the time of year.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the estimated cost to his Department, in respect of all employed persons, of a payroll tax at the maximum rate.

A surcharge on employers under Clause 30 of the Finance Bill would cost my Department virtually nothing extra to collect. About £7,900 a week would be payable for the surcharge in respect of our own staff.

National Insurance (Departmental Staff)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the cost to this Department of employer's contribution to the National Insurance schemes in respect of all staff in the year 1951–52; and what is the latest estimate for the current financial year.

It is estimated that the cost in 1951–52 to the Ministry of National Insurance and the former Ministry of Pensions in respect of staff engaged on work now undertaken by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was about £434,000. My Department's estimate for the current financial year shows a provision of £904,000.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an indication of the expenditure attributable to increase in staff and the proportion due to the increase in contributions?

It is mainly due to increases in contribution rates. I prefer not to tax my memory on the precise numbers of staff, but if the hon. Member wants to know perhaps he will put down a Question.

Prisoners (National Insurance)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will discuss with the Secretary of State for the Home Department the desirability of ensuring that men and women serving sentence in Her Majesty's prisons are given regular weekly National Insurance credits so as to permit them, when freed, to resume normal civil life more easily.

While I sympathise with the object, which the hon. Member has in mind, I do not think it would be justifiable to give National Insurance credits to prisoners, since to do so would be to subsidise them at the expense of other contributors to the fund, and to favour them unduly in comparison with other classes of people who are not able to, or do not, contribute.

Will the Minister bear in mind the great difficulty which faces any prisoner when he presents himself at the employment exchange to look for a job and is asked for his books, when it immediately becomes known that he has been in prison? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that that completely damns a man's chance of getting back into civil life? Will he not think again about this very small matter of giving these credits so as to enable men to fit into civil life more easily? Is it not worth thinking about?

No, Sir. Granting credits is no help, because either the credits given have to be entered on the card, indicating that they were credits given in prison, or not noted on the card, in which case the position would be precisely as at present. In point of fact, the presentation of a card with no contributions shown for some period is not necessarily an indication that the person presenting it has been in prison. He may have just come out of the Forces, or have been abroad, or have spent a long spell in hospital.

Ministry Of Power

Electricity Boards (Credit Facilities)


asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction to the electricity boards to offer the same credit facilities to consumers of electricity as are offered by private commercial companies to their customers.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend considers that such matters are best left to the electricity boards.

Is it not rather an abuse of their monopoly position that the area electricity boards should threaten to cut off a customer's supply, and indeed do so? Is it not rather using their special position?

No, Sir. The boards are most reluctant to disconnect and do so only when there is no alternative. They are always willing to make reasonable arrangements with consumers who have special payment problems. However, when a board decides to disconnect there is usually a further delay of 7 to 14 days, so that the total delay between sending the bill and disconnecting for nonpayment is 42 to 49 days.

Is my hon. Friend aware that if an electricity board is minded to give longer-term credit the customer who gets the credit should pay for it in full rather than that the burden should fall on other customers or on the taxpayer?

I understand that the area boards consider that their credit facilities compare favourably with those generally allowed by private commercial concerns. Any extension of credit would require additional working capital in millions rather than thousands of pounds. For example, if consumers on average delayed payment by two weeks, the industry would need a permanent increase in its borrowing of no less than £25 million, on which it would have to pay interest.

Iron And Steel Board (Chairman)


asked the Minister of Power whether he will define the new responsibilities and the extent of the duties of the Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board now that he is part-time; and what consideration has been given to the salary now to be paid.

There will be no change in the responsibilities or duties of the Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board now that he is devoting less than his full time to the work of the Board. With the approval of the Treasury, my right hon. Friend has fixed his salary at the reduced rate of £6,000 a year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is rather odd that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, who is responsible for iron and steel, electricity, gas, coal and the whole range of power industries, should now be receiving a smaller salary than the part-time Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board?

The office of Chairman is not part-time in the ordinary sense of the word. The Chairman of the Board will be doing exactly the same work as he did when he was full-time, and he will be devoting only less than his full time to the job. The salary paid for the job is commensurate with the importance of the work which he undertakes.


Miners (Certificates Of Competency)


asked the Minister of Power what steps he proposes to take to guarantee equal opportunity to all mine workers to obtain a first class certificate in mine management or second class certificate in mine management.

The opportunity to obtain first or second class certificates of competency is open to all who can reach the standards required.

Is the Minister trying to suggest that these new examinations will make the mines safer, or more prolific? Apart from that, is he quite sure that this statutory body is independent and will give the right to every mine worker to take the necessary qualifying examinations?

What the hon. Member has in mind is the fact that the Mining Qualifications Board, which is appointed by the Minister and is statutorily responsible for determining standards, announced in 1957 its intention after the end of 1961 to require certain minimum academic qualifications, not hitherto obligatory, from all men wishing to obtain certificates. To give effect to its decision, the Board must change the existing statutory rules and submit them to the Minister for approval. The Minister's approval has not yet been sought.

I draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that no proposals are yet before the Minister. He will consider all aspects and the views of many parties before he decides whether to allow the regulations to be altered.

On a point of order. In view of the uncompromising attitude of the Minister, I wish to avail myself of the first opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Ministry Of Aviation

London Airport (Passenger Delays)


asked the Minister of Aviation what is the average number of minutes between the time that arriving passenger aircraft from abroad come to a standstill at London Airport and the completion of immigration formalities and the clearance by Customs of passengers and baggage.

Thirty-five minutes at the North Terminal; less than twenty at the Central Terminal.

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that this compares appallingly badly with the speed and efficiency with which passengers are handled in many foreign airports, particularly in Western Europe. Recently the average in Copenhagen was 11 minutes from touchdown to getting out of the terminal building. While appreciating that the British traveller and taxpayer are saddled with old-fashioned and inefficient airports, cannot the Minister now do something to speed up this anachronistic procedure?

I do not accept either the comparison or the comment. I do not think that the time is unreasonable. Many factors have to be taken into account, including the number of passengers, the type of aircraft, whether clearing Customs with baggage, and so on. Those are only average figures.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any improvements will be made at the new terminal when it is ready? Will he look at the immigration procedure which sometimes causes a hold-up?

I think that times at the new long haul building should be better. Immigration is not a matter for my right hon. Friend.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figures he has given are somewhat misleading, because at the peak hour—between six and seven o'clock—the figures are very much worse at the Central building? Will he impress on hon. Gentlemen opposite that they rushed into this business in 1946 in a desire to leave a lasting monument to themselves, without showing any imagination at all?

I do not think that I need offer any comment on the second part of the supplementary question, which speaks for itself. I was asked for the average figures, and I gave them. No doubt there are lots of other statistics, useless and otherwise, which we could give if requested.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if someone had not rushed in at that time there would not have been an airport building at all?


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will take steps to improve arrangements for the handling of passengers at London Airport.

Yes, Sir. It is a continuing process. At Heathrow the new long haul building will start being used this autumn. Alterations to the short haul building are in progress and an extension of the accommodation for domestic flights has already been completed.

We all very much wish it was a continuing and visible process. Is my hon. Friend aware that, unlike the natives of this island, tourists do not have to come back? The first impression made by London Airport is, therefore, of the highest importance. Far too often, quite apart from the limitations of buildings, the handling of passengers is slovenly and discourteous, and it is high time that this was polished up.

I think that that is an exaggerated comment. We are always trying to improve the position, and we accept that the way of handling passengers is extremely important. The trouble is that air traffic business has grown very rapidly, perhaps in some ways more rapidly than our ability to cope with it effectively, but I am sure that this new building and the new arrangements which are continually being brought into force are easing the position all the time.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the opinions expressed this afternoon are not wholly shared by everyone? The reception of passengers by our Customs authorities is a good deal better than in most parts of the world, and some people who complain might like to consider what happens to passengers in New York.

Will my hon. Friend look into one difficulty? When passengers arrive by taxi or private car they have to get out on the other side of the road and hump their bags across in between moving vehicles. This is rather disgraceful and it could be put right if the Minister got down to it.

London Airport (Advertisement)


asked the Minister of Aviation how much money he has received in rental for the site of the large whisky bottle advertisement at London Airport.

It would be contrary to established practice to disclose the details of a particular contract.

The hon. Gentleman cannot shelter behind that Answer. Are we not entitled to know what his right hon. Friend has sold our birthright for? Is he not aware of the disgust expressed by arrival and departure passengers at London Airport at this monstrous vulgar advertisement? Finally, may I ask whether this is the thin end of the wedge? Are we to expect monstrous advertisements such as this springing up all over London Airport? Why does not he pull it down?

What? London Airport? I cannot be drawn on the details of a particular advertisement or contract. I agree that this advertisement is not to everybody's taste.

Southampton-Jersey Service


asked the Minister of Aviation when he anticipates it will be possible to resume a direct passenger air service between Southampton and Jersey.

An air service licence would be required for this service. The decision whether or not to grant such a licence to any applicant is entirely a matter for the Air Transport Licensing Board and my right hon. Friend can express no view.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a considerable demand for direct flights from Southampton to Jersey by reason particularly of the cessation of the steamer service between those two points? Will my hon. Friend co-operate in helping to remove the obstacles, including the lack of Customs facilities, which have hampered operations at Southampton Airport?

The first part of the supplementary question relates to matters which are the concern of the Air Transport Licensing Board. Customs are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is the most convenient air route to the Channel Islands, and that its restoration would be a great boon both to Jersey and to holiday passengers to Jersey?

I have no doubt that this and all other relevant factors will be put to the Air Transport Licensing Board.

Space Vehicle Launchers (European Co-Operation)


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now announce the terms on which European Governments have accepted Blue Streak.


asked the Minister of Aviation what decision has been reached concerning the use of Blue Streak as a satellite launcher; and what replies have been received from West Germany and other European countries concerned.


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's proposals for a European organisation for the development of space vehicle launchers, in view of the Federal German Government's willingness in principle to participate in such an organisation.


asked the Minister of Aviation what stage has now been reached in the development and production of a satellite launcher on a co-operative basis; and if he will make a statement.

The Federal German Government have informed Her Majesty's Government that the Federal Republic is prepared in principle to take part in a European organisation for the development of space vehicle launchers. The final replies of the other Governments represented at the Strasbourg Conference are expected shortly. I hope that it will be possible soon to call a conference to draft a convention to establish an organisation along the lines of the Anglo-French proposals.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether this is the start of an organisation which will provide a much bigger market for British scientists and industrialists who are engaged in developing this sort of vehicle? Secondly, can he give an idea how far it is primarily a military and how far a civilian enterprise?

This is entirely a civilian enterprise. As regards the first part of the supplementary question, if the organisation comes into being I hope that it will provide new fields and new opportunities for our scientists and those of the other members.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this opens up an attractive prospect, but will he assure the House that the financial cost to this country of the scheme will be borne in mind? As I understand it, we are contributing Blue Streak which has cost in the region of £60 million already. It is said that we propose to take on about one-third of the burden of the remaining programme. Will the hon. Gentleman see to it that our collaborators bear at any rate an equitable part of this cost?

Under the Anglo-French proposals it was envisaged that the initial programme would cost about £70 million spread over five years, and that Her Majesty's Government would contribute one-third of the cost of the initial programme.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the other Governments concerned think that that amount of money over that period of time is adequate to start a worth-While space programme? Can he also say what steps will be taken to avoid any duplication of effort? Also, what is the future of Spadeadam and Woomera as a result of this?

We think that this will be sufficient to launch a worth-while programme. Other Governments will be contributing an appropriate percentage—for instance, the French Government 20·6 per cent. and the Federal German Government 19 per cent.—on the proposals as they now stand. I imagine that there will be considerable discussion about details at the conference and the precise percentage may depend on how many of the other Governments eventually contribute. I do not envisage duplication with any other organisation or any other work. We assume that Spadeadam will now carry on its good work. We certainly envisage the use of the Woomera facilities for the trials, and we also envisage Australia being a full member of the organisation.

Cheap Night Flights (Belfast)


asked the Minister of Aviation what applications the Air Transport Licensing Board have received for the operation of cheap night flights to Belfast; and if he will make a statement.

The Air Transport Licensing Board is an independent body, not responsible to my right hon. Friend. I understand that the Board will be pleased to supply my hon. Friend with this information if he asks them.

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the application to this Board by B.E.A. on the London-Scotland route at the rate of approximately 2d. a mile for off-peak flights? Is he aware that the cheapest for the Belfast run is almost 3½d. a mile for off-peak flights? Is he aware that B.E.A. has tremendous goodwill on this route? Will he draw the Board's attention to the need for such a service?

The need for this service is entirely a matter in the first instance for the operators. They make their applications to the Board and the Board fixes the fares. I do not think that there is anything more I can say at this stage.

Supersonic Aircraft


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on the progress being made by the British Aircraft Corporation in the research contract for supersonic aircraft.

The British Aircraft Corporation is making satisfactory progress on the design study contract announced by my right hon. Friend on 27th October last. The contract covers about a year's work and so still has some time to run before the study is completed.

May we hope that we shall get a further announcement as a result of the completion of this contract at not too distant a date because, as I think the Parliamentary Secretary should agree, it is very important to reassure the industry that there is a real prospect of this major project going forward?

I am afraid that I cannot say when it will be possible to say anything further.

Ministry Of Health

Habit-Forming Drugs


asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to promote research into prescribing patterns with particular reference to habit-forming drugs such as the amphetamines and phenmetrazine, as suggested by the Brain Committee on Drug Addiction.

I have asked the Standing Committee on Operational Research in the Pharmaceutical Services to advise me on this.

Is the Minister aware that his reply is very satisfactory in view of the fact that these drugs now constitute about 2½ per cent. of the total prescriptions, that they are addiction-forming drugs and may lead to serious psychosis? Is he further aware that there is a view that the Brain Committee took a rather too complacent attitude about the dangers of drug addiction in this country, and will he keep a close watch on the situation?

I do not like to express an opinion on the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, but I think this a natural extension of the work of the Standing Committee on Operational Research in the Pharmaceutical Services.



asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that his advice to pharmacists with regard to prescribed items with a retail price of less than 2s. is in conflict with their professional duty neither to alter a doctor's prescription nor to discuss it with the customer; what discussions he has had with representatives of the profession on this matter; and how he proposes that the conflict should be resolved.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No". The remainder therefore does not arise.

Is the Minister aware that a very large number of pharmacists think that they are in conflict with their professional duties in following his advice and that they believe it is not within their power to alter a doctor's prescription or even to discuss the contents of them with patients? Is he satisfied that the present arrangements are ensuring that patients do not pay 2s. for drugs which they could get for half that price across the counter?

Nothing I have said requires or involves the alteration of prescriptions or their discussion with patients. As the arrangements are only a continuation of what has been in force for nine years, I do not think that they can involve any difficulty for the profession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the gap between himself and the pharmaceutical organisation has now become extremely narrow? Will he do his utmost to see whether it can be bridged in the very near future as a matter of urgency?

Yes. My officials and I myself have been in touch with representatives of the profession throughout. I have found these contacts valuable and I hope that they have.

Is the Minister aware that his answers reveal an admission on his part that there is some difficulty in this matter, otherwise there would not be the gap referred to by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead)? Does not the Minister appreciate that in a number of cases people are required to pay 2s. under the National Health Scheme for articles which do not cost as much?

No. This is simply a question of continuing arrangements with the 2s. charge which have hitherto been in force on 1s. charges.

Orange Juice Supplies, Willesden


asked the Minister of Health what was the last date on which it was possible to buy orange juice at the old price at St. Martins Hall Clinic, Purves Road, N.W.10.

30th May, 1961.

Is the hon. Lady aware that many mothers went prior to 1st June to get their orange juice but could not get it because of the failure of the Ministry to have supplies available, and so they were penalised? Is he aware that these mothers were informed that if they called on the following day supplies would be available at the old price? Is she aware that this order was countermanded? Who countermanded the order and why? How mean can a Ministry get which asks for the last 5d. on a bottle of orange juice from expectant mothers?

This clinic is not normally open on Wednesdays, which would have been the following day. In fact, supplies ran short on Tuesday, which is the date I have given—30th May—and latecomers were unable to procure their orange juice. There was a considerable demand for orange juice in the last few days of May, but in this respect mothers could have gone to two other centres within a mile or a mile and a half of the clinic in Purves Road.

Is the hon. Lady aware that my constituents were not informed of that fact? Is she aware that they were told that if they came back, as they had made the journey before the due date, they were entitled to receive it at the old price, but the Ministry failed to supply it?

Ferrous Sulphate Tablets


asked the Minister of Health to what extent there has been any marked decrease since 1st March, 1961, in the number of ferrous sulphate tablets dispensed to ante-natal clinic patients attending hospitals in the northwest metropolitan region.

Complete information is not available, but I understand that at some clinics the use of these tablets has been, or is being, discontinued.

Is the hon. Lady aware that one of the most frequent prescriptions which is dispensed is for eighty-four of these tablets, which is a prophylaxis against anaemia and, as a consequence, mothers are not aware of the medical desirability of this service? Is she aware that a thousand tablets cost 2s. and that by retailing eighty-four for 2s. a sum of 22s. is made on every 2s.-worth sold? Is not that profiteering?

The hon. Gentleman must have been misinformed, because 100 of these tablets would retail at 1s. 9½d. Though in the case of hospitals they cannot do other than make the standard charge of 2s., there is no reason why doctors should not advise patients to obtain the tablets privately.

Is the hon. Lady aware that hospitals purchase these tablets in prepacked cartons of a thousand for 2s.?


Mental Patients (Reclassification)


asked the Minister of Health how many patients, up to the latest convenient date, have, under Schedule VI of the new Act, been reclassified as informal patients; and how many of these have subsequently been discharged as patients.

Comprehensive statistics will only be available from the end of the six months transitional period, but a small sample relating to subnormal patients suggests that rather more than half the patients detained on 1st November last were made informal during the period and that about 1 in 20 of these had left hospital by the end of it.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that information. Can he confirm that under the Mental Health Act no patient who is compulsorily detained needs to be reclassified as informal for discharge if there is the slightest risk that there will be a danger to themselves or to someone else? Does he not agree that if some reasonable risks were not taken large numbers of people leading useful lives in the community would be locked up in mental hospitals and possibly there would be more mental hospitals?

In principle, the reclassification required by the Sixth Schedule to the Mental Health Act was subject to the requirements both of the patient and of the public with regard to security, among other considerations.

Ronald Derek Sowle


asked the Minister of Health if he will now make a statement on the result of his inquiries into the reclassification of Ronald Derek Sowle.


asked the Minister of Health if he will now make a statement on his investigation into the case of Ronald Derek Sowle.

The South Western Regional Hospital Board is conducting an inquiry. I must await its report.

May I ask how long the Minister thinks it will be before the report is complete because, as he knows, there is a great deal of public interest in view of what was said by the judge?

It does not depend on me, but obviously it is desirable that the report should be available as soon as practicable.

When the Minister receives the report of the regional board will he give an undertaking that the whole of it will be made public?


asked the Minister of Health, in view of the evidence given in the Sowle case, whether he is satisfied that the medical staff available to do the work of reclassification of patients required under the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1959, is adequate to the requirements of the south-west region; and if he will make a statement.

I wonder whether the Minister is aware of the inference of my Question? I am not so much concerned with the speed of the reclassification but whether there is an adequate staff to give sufficient time for a thorough examination of these patients to arrive at a clear decision whether they are fit to be restored to liberty in the interests of the general public.

There was a statutory requirement that this review should be completed by the end of April. I think I ought not to answer the remainder of the hon. Member's supplementary question in view of the Answer I have just given.

Could it not be made clear to the House by the right hon. Gentleman that this man, far from committing the crime immediately on his release as has been suggested, had been travelling across Bristol for many weeks going to and from a rehabilitation centre by public transport and had city parole for at least a year? Does not the Minister think that these facts should be made known in this case?

I think it right that the facts should be made known as a whole as a result of the inquiry which is taking place, at any rate as far as I am concerned.

Crimes Of Violence (Mental Patients)


asked the Minister of Health if he will now make a statement on his inquiries into crimes of violence committed by mental patients.

No inquiries are in progress apart from that to which my reply to the hon. Members for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) and Brixton (Mr. Lipton) refers.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that unfortunately this is not the only case? There has been one in my constituency. Does he not agree that the last thing we want to do is to put the clock back in regard to the treatment of mental patients, in which progress has been made? Does he not agree on that account that we must carry public opinion with us in this respect and give reassurance in regard to the very small number of mental cases with potentialities for violence? Will he look into each of these cases in detail with that in view?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's objects. I am considering with the Home Secretary whether there is any way of getting information which would bear on this matter.

House Of Commons Catering


asked the hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, what conditions his Committee lays down for the letting of Dining Rooms in the House for private parties.

Sir, I am arranging to have printed in HANSARD the full rules for the booking of Private Dining Rooms. Perhaps the most important of these is No. 3, which is as follows:

"No booking shall be made for a private dining room except by a Member, who shall be solely responsible for the full settlement of the account and shall attend the function."
If when the hon. Lady has considered these she feels they could be amended in the interest of Members, I am sure my Committee would be glad to consider her suggestions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Private Dining Rooms of the House of Commons have become a happy hunting ground for public relations experts seeking to organise pressure groups on behalf of commercial interests? Does not he think that the dignity of this House is suffering as a result, to say nothing of the services to hon. Members who are trying to pursue more disinterested Parliamentary duties? Will he, therefore, exercise more discrimination in these lettings?

I would not agree in any way with what the hon. Lady says. I am aware, of course, that some use of the rooms has from time to time given occasion for criticism, but my Committee is eager to do everything it can to maintain the dignity of the House and to meet the convenience of hon. Members. We could not expose hon. Members to be examined by members of the staff of the Kitchen Committee on the purposes for which they want a room.

In view of the serious allegations which have been made in some newspapers recently in the sense referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), has the Chairman of the Committee made any investigations to see whether those charges have any basis or not? Does he not think it is part of his duty to find whether the allegations are true and to clear up the matter?

Yes, in the light of certain observations in certain newspapers, I particularly asked the management of the Catering Department to look into the matter and pay the greatest possible attention to all functions taking place in June. I hope it is right to say that there is a responsibility on hon. Members just as there is on the Kitchen Committee.

Is not this the result of the determination of the Conservative Party to make a profit out of the Kitchen Committee's affairs at any cost, even at the cost of using the rooms for such activities as have been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle)?

No. The Committee is an all-party committee which is determined to do the best it can to give a good service to the House. I believe that most of the functions held in the Private Dining Rooms are welcomed by hon. Members who are responsible and by the genuine bona fide guests who attend them.

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

Following are the rules:

  • 1. Any advertisement or publicity in connection with the functions must be submitted to the Manager of the Refreshment Department for the approval of the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee before publication.
  • 2. All invitation and admittance tickets must bear the name of the Member in whose name the room is reserved.
  • 3. No booking shall be made for a private dining-room except by a Member, who shall be solely responsible for the full settlement of the account and shall attend the function.
  • 4. The approximate number of diners shall be notified to the Department on the Friday of the previous week and the exact number, which shall be charged, shall be given on the previous day.
  • 5. No room shall be booked provisionally for more than two dates at one time for any one function.
  • 6. No provisional booking shall continue for more than ten days, after which period, if confirmation is not received, the reservation shall be automatically released.
  • 7. If rooms which have been definitely reserved are subsequently cancelled, allowing insufficient time to permit the room to be re-let, a booking fee shall be charged, in the event of the room not being re-let.
  • 8. Advanced bookings are subject to confirmation not more than six months before the date.
  • Geneva Conference On Nuclear Tests


    asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a further statement on the Geneva Test Conference.

    The Conference has discussed the Soviet Aide Memoire of 4th June and the United States reply of 17th June. On 5th July the Soviet Government sent a further communication to the United States Government which restates the Soviet position and appears, I regret to say, to be totally uncompromising. Nevertheless, it is our wish that the Conference should continue in hope that progress might still be made.

    In these circumstances, can we take it that Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government intend to carry on with the Conference?

    Can the hon. Gentleman confirm the statement made by an American authority that the establishment of control stations for a test ban and the provision of the instruments would take up to three or four years?

    United States (Immigration Quota)


    asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the United Kingdom immigration quota into the United States of America; and what percentage has been taken up for the years 1960 and 1961 to the latest convenient date.

    The United Kingdom immigration quota, as established by the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, is 65,361. In the American fiscal year to the 30th of June, 1960, 43 per cent. of the quota was taken up and it is provisionally estimated that between 35 and 40 per cent. was used in the year ending 30th June last.


    asked the Lord Privy Seal if West Indians, resident in the United Kingdom, qualify for entry into the United States of America under the immigration quota from this country.

    Since the United States quota system is based on national origins, only people of West Indian origin who were born in the United Kingdom would qualify for entry under the immigration quota for this country.

    In view of that, would the hon. Gentleman consult with the United States authorities? Does he not think that this might be one way of alleviating the present concern about West Indians in this country? Since West Indians are British subjects, will he ask the United States if they will make up this quota out of West Indians in this country?

    As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 2nd May, certain representations on immigration were made to the United States Government. They have shown sympathy and understanding towards the Federation. As the hon. Member may know, there are certain Bills before Congress at the moment. It obviously would not be proper for me to say anything further about this matter while those Bills are before Congress.



    asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a further statement on the situation in Kuwait.

    The Resolution proposed by the United Kingdom representative in the Security Council, which called on all States to respect the independence and territorial integrity of Kuwait, was vetoed by the Soviet Union after obtaining seven affirmative votes; no other member voted against the Resolution. A Resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of British forces, proposed by the United Arab Republic, received only three affirmative votes and consequently failed.

    I reaffirm the determination of Her Majesty's Government to stand by their obligations to Kuwait. Her Majesty's Government will continue to work for a solution which will satisfy the Ruler that the threat to Kuwait no longer exists and which will therefore permit the withdrawal of British forces. At the same time I reaffirm the desire of Her Majesty's Government to maintain and continue to develop their friendly relations with Iraq.

    Is it now the view of the Government that an attack by the forces of Iraq is most unlikely? If they take that view, what is their policy in relation to the retention of the present forces of this country in that area?

    I think it a little early to say that we take the view that an attack is unlikely. We are not sufficiently clear on this as yet. We had definite information in Kuwait that a tank regiment was moved from Baghdad to the Shaiba area near Basra. We have to wait a little while before we can come to any conclusion, but at the same time we have already removed some of our troops from the area, and we certainly have no intention of keeping them there longer than is necessary.

    Will my hon. Friend give consideration to inviting at the appropriate stage contingents from Commonwealth countries which are themselves members of the United Nations to assist us in our duties in Kuwait?

    We have considered various propositions, particularly that the United Nations might be brought in. My hon. Friend's proposal could be considered in that context.

    Have the Government reached any conclusions about the desirability of associating other countries with the defence of the independence of Kuwait, and, in particular, are the Government yet prepared to invite the establishment of some sort of United Nations presence or force in that country?

    We have not reached any definite conclusions about this. I remind the hon. Member that Kuwait is an independent State and that anything we did would have to be done in complete agreement with the Ruler, but we do not rule out any such move as he suggests.

    May we be told a little more about what proposals the Government have for enabling us to withdraw from Kuwait? Presumably they have something in mind to enable us to do this. Is it to be a United Nations force or do they propose perhaps to get sufficient assurances from Iraq? Are we in touch with the Iraqi Government on this subject?

    We are not yet in a position to state any definite terms under which we would withdraw. As I said in answer to earlier Questions, we are considering the possibility of bringing in the United Nations if that could properly be done, but for anything else it is still a little premature. I have indicated that we have withdrawn some of our troops, but I do not think that we can go further than that at the present stage.

    If the Ruler, who is very much concerned with this affair, comes to the conclusion that the time has arrived withdraw our troops, would that end the matter?

    Certainly. We have acted precisely at the request of the Ruler of Kuwait, and if he desired us to withdraw our troops, of course we should take very immediate steps to take account of his wishes.

    Will the Government at the appropriate time publish a White Paper giving the evidence on which they made their statement that an Iraqi attack was expected?

    I am prepared to consider that, but I could not go any further at this stage.

    Have we had any private communication with the Arab League about this matter? If not, would the Minister consider getting in direct touch with the League to see whether we can find a way out?

    We shall certainly be happy to have consultations with the Arab League. I remind the House that Kuwait is not yet a member of that League, and that could pose some difficulties in that respect.

    Before going into Kuwait did the Government take into consideration the fact that they were sending men there when the temperature was likely to the 120–130 degrees in the shade? Is he aware that the withdrawal from Kuwait would be gladly welcomed by those men?

    Of course, we were aware of the difficulties under which our men would serve, and I pay tribute to what they are doing in those circumstances, but surely when we have obligations to fulfil our men are not afraid to undertake them.

    Bechuanaland (Un South-West Africa Committee)

    (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations on what grounds permission to the United Nations mission to South-West Africa to visit Bechuanaland had been suspended.

    The South-West Africa Committee of the United Nations asked us for facilities to enter Bechuanaland for the purpose of gathering information in the Protectorate.

    In my reply to the hon. Member of 6th July, I explained that we had informed the Committee that in granting these facilities it was Her Majesty's Government's understanding that the members of the Committee did not intend to enter South-West Africa from Bechuanaland without the permission of the South African Government.

    The Committee have again been told that if that understanding is confirmed, Her Majesty's Government remain fully prepared to provide the facilities. It has, however, declined to give this confirmation, and we have, therefore, regretfully had to inform the Committee that entry into South-West Africa from Bechuanaland without permission would be an illegal act irrespective of the terms of the United Nations resolution upon which the Committee was acting; that Her Majesty's Government have a primary responsibility for the inhabitants of the Protectorate and for law and order there, and that, pending the receipt of the required assurance, the visas and the offer of facilities for visiting the territory must be regarded as being in suspense.

    Did the hon. Member expect the chairman of the United Nations Committee to disavow his instructions from the United Nations to visit South-West Africa? Secondly, if there were a technical illegality, would it not be the illegality of entering South-West Africa rather than of leaving Bechuanaland, and would it not then have been the responsibility of the Government of the Union of South Africa? Is not this whole policy one of appeasement of the Government of the Union of South Africa rather than of loyalty to the United Nations?

    May I deal, first, with the last of the three points which the hon. Member put to me? The answer is an emphatic "No". Our understanding of the situation was put to the Committee in a letter of 29th June before the reactions of the South African Government were known to our intention to grant there facilities for the Committee to visit Bechuanaland. In this context, I remind the hon. Member that we had earlier made clear to the Committee the willingness of the Tanganyika Government to offer it facilities to interview South-West African refugees in Tanganyika. In other words, we have been fully prepared throughout to grant facilities.

    Turning to the first question, while we have been willing to co-operate with the Committee in carrying out the task of gathering information, for which task alone facilities were requested, Her Majesty's Government refuse to assist the Committee to break the law of a neighbouring territory. Apart from the fact that we abstained with 15 other countries, including Canada and Australia, on this paragraph of the United Nations resolution, which is a quite unprecedented paragraph, a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations is not, in any case, binding.

    Let me make it plain that while we were glad to provide facilities for the Committee to visit Bechuanaland to see there whom it chose to see, we could not be party to anyone entering our territory with the purpose of breaking the law of a neighbouring country and creating a situation which must cause embarrassment and possibly even distress for the inhabitants of a territory for whom we in this House and in the country have a responsibility.

    Why does the Minister assume that the Committee has an intention of breaking any law? Why not content himself with giving permission, as he said last Thursday he was ready to do, for the Committee to visit Bechuanaland? Why assume responsibility for what might happen later? In view of his apparent fear that some illegality may occur, has he instructed our Ambassador to take up with the Union Government the desirability of using our good offices to ensure that this Committee is allowed to go into South-West Africa?

    We were advised by our High Commissioner in Ghana on 4th July that the Committee had published a Press statement

    "reaffirming its determination to go to South-West Africa with or without the co-operation of the South African Government".
    That naturally led us to seek confirmation of our understanding that the Committee would not enter South-West Africa from Bechuanaland without the permission of the South African authorities. Our understanding was implied in the Committee's request to us in the first place for the facilities which, as I say, we were perfectly willing to grant.

    As for representations to the Union of South Africa, that is not the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government at this stage. We have informed the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the position and I am still hopeful—this is the answer—that the Committee may reconsider its decision.

    Have not the Government shown any reactions to the conduct of South Africa? Have they made no comment upon the action of the South African Government which, even if it is strictly legal, is totally against the spirit of the United Nations or the international obligations of that country? Are we to make any protest to the South African Government about their conduct over this matter?

    That is quite another question. In so far as the United Nations Committee asked us for facilities to interview refugees from South-West Africa or Herero residents in the territory, a colony of whom have been there since before the First World War, we were quite willing to grant those facilities. Beyond that I cannot go.

    While acknowledging that there is something in what the hon. Member said about this being the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, will he not approach the Secretary-General and offer the Government's good offices to try to persuade the Union of South Africa to do what the Secretary-General wants done?

    We have not yet had any response from the Secretary-General. I will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman said.

    In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), the Minister said that the United Kingdom had voted against the part of the United Nations resolution that lies at the back of the desire to enter this territory. Can he say whether the Government's attitude would have been different if we had voted for that paragraph? If so, is he telling the House that our support for United Nations positions depends on whether we are in favour of them or not?

    Unless I misheard the hon. Gentleman, the question is entirely hypothetical—what would have been the position. I am not in a position to allow that.

    With respect, Mr. Speaker, it is not hypothetical in any disorderly sense. The hon. Gentleman made it one of his grounds for the Government's attitude that the Government had taken a particular attitude at the United Nations. Surely, therefore—