House Of Commons
Tuesday, 18th July, 1961
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Questions To Ministers
On a point of order. I know, Mr. Speaker, that obviously you cannot interfere with the Table in the transference of Questions, but, as it concerns the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, I wonder if it could be explained why a Question on space research which was put down on the Order Paper has been transferred to another Department. I should have thought that the Minister for Science is the Minister responsible. I do not want him to be a post-box for another Department. I want him to be concerned with space research.
I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, the Chair cannot accept responsibility for transfers, and at the moment we have to deal with Private Business.
River Wear Watch (Dissolution) Bill Lords
Read the Third time and passed, without Amendment.
Shakespeare Birthplace, &C, Trust Bill Lords
As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.
Devon County Council Bill Lords (By Order)
Read a Second time and committed.
British Transport Commission (No 2) Order Confirmation Bill
Read the Third time and passed.
Oral Answers To Questions
Questions To Ministers
May I raise a short point of order, Mr. Speaker? Yesterday I put a Question to the Minister of Aviation—Question No. 36—which is recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT with the words:
Could I have it made clear which Mr. Harris it is? The House is fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate, in having two of us. Is it possible to put in "Mr. Reader Harris"?"Mr. Harris asked the Minister of Aviation".
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I will do my best to retain his name for him.
Non-Ferrous Mineral Reserves, Cornwall
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science when the last survey of the non-ferrous mineral reserves of Cornwall was carried out; what was its nature; and what were the results.
The results of a comprehensive study were published in a Geological Survey memoir on the Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England in 1956. Airborne geophysical surveys were undertaken in 1957, 1958 and 1959 and at present airborne magnetic surveys are being extended to the offshore areas.
Will the Minister take into account that the 1956 volume which he has mentioned has been described by a mining expert as a tiresome recital of past mining activities and, worse still, that it contains literally hundreds of gross errors of fact? Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the results of the aerial surveys have been published and where they can be found?
I think that I had better write to the hon. Gentleman in order to tell him exactly where, in fact, he can get them, because they have been published in a number of different ways.
In view of what was sad in the Finance Bill debate in the House, will not my hon. Friend agree to look again to see if a further survey can now be carried out?
We are at the present time still continuing with the airborne magnetic surveys.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will list those projects which, the, cost of which being too great to justify an entire independent programme in the United Kingdom, are considered by his Department to justify international cooperation specifying the nature of such projects and the other countries concerned.
The United Kingdom is participating in the European Organisation for Nuclear Research; and in the Dragon and Halden atomic reactor experiments of the European Nuclear Energy Agency. I will circulate with the OFFICIAL REPORT lists of the participating countries.The Anglo-United States Scout satellite programme is a further example. A project for European co-operation in space research is under consideration. High cost is an important, but not the only factor in deciding whether an international project is desirable.
While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he would not agree that at present co-ordination is desirable, and whether he would say to what extent his Department is in touch with other departments in Europe about this matter?
We are, of course, pleased to work on a basis of international cooperation on scientific matters wherever it seems either possible or desirable.
Would the hon. Gentleman give details of the Anglo-French-German programme on space research? I put a Question down about this and it has been transferred, but, perhaps, in view of the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn), the hon. Gentleman will be able to give the details.
If the hon. Member is referring to the European space research organisation project, there we are waiting for the two sub-committees to report back to the preparatory commission. If he is referring to the proposed launcher organisation, I have nothing further to add to what has already been said.
Following are the lists:
Dragon and Halden experiments.
United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Euratom Commission.
European Organisation for Nuclear Research.
United Kingdom, France, Federal German Republic, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Greece and Yugoslavia.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will make a statement regarding methods for assisting the development of the results of research in the civil field.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether he is satisfied that the existing administrative machinery for applying science to industry is adequate; and if he will make a statement.
The Government must necessarily play a more restricted part in civil than in defence research and development because they are not, in the main, the consumers of the products of civil industry. Nevertheless, in the novel and costly field of atomic energy, civil research and development is mainly conducted by a Government-financed organisation. The N.R.D.C., financed by the Government, supports research and development projects which it judges will, in the long term, give an economic return. The D.S.I.R. is currently working on a number of proposals for civil development contracts and is concerned in a variety of other ways to stimulate the dissemination of research results and their application to industry. Co-operative research associations are financed by industry with supporting grants from D.S.I.R.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that this adequately follows up the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy in its Annual Report last year?
My noble Friend and I are never satisfied, but we are pressing on.
Machine Tool Industry Research Association
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many companies have joined the Machine Tool Industry Research Association; and whether any companies have refused to take part.
Membership of the Machine Tool Industry Research Association, which was incorporated in November. 1960, amounts to sixty-four machine tool manufacturers, representing about half of the output of the industry, and twenty manufacturing firms in allied industries. Further efforts will be made to secure the membership of those firms which have not yet responded to invitations to support the research association.
Can my right hon. Friend suggest any reason why other firms are not co-operating in this?
I think that possibly they do not as yet fully appreciate the benefits which co-operation in research can bring them, if they are small firms, by enabling them to get the benefits of research they could not finance by themselves; and if they are large firms, by getting research done in the research association and thereby relieving their own resources to be devoted to the more competitive aspects of the industry.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in Russia, to quote but one example, there are some 10,000 to 13,000 graduate designers in the machine tool industry as against some 130 or 150 in this country? Will my hon. Friend see, therefore, that the machine tool industry increases the effort it is now trying to put into research?
I fully accept my hon. Friend's desire to get more research and development in the machine tool industry, and it was, of course, with that in mind that the Machine Tool Industry Research Association has been but recently set up.
Agricultural Research (Pigs)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether the Agricultural Research Council is considering what is the best pig for the British bacon curing industry; and what are the results.
No, Sir. The Council organises and co-ordinates research with a view to acquiring scientific knowledge on such matter as the breeding, nutrition, housing and management of pigs, bearing in mind the problems of the pig industry. The results of experiments are published and are available to the farmer to help him in producing the most appropriate type of pig for his own particular circumstances, and also to the advisory services of the agricultural Departments.
Would not my hon. Friend agree that it is vitally important that we should in fact grow the right pig in this country, and that there is no point, in view of the extremely heavy competition in the pig industry, in not developing the best pigs for our particular needs? Will he get the Agricultural Research Council to look at this question again, because it is vitally important?
On the question of who should do research into what is in fact the right type of pig, my noble Friend and I take the view that this is primarily a matter for the pig producers. The Pig Industry Development Authority is actively engaged in research in trying to find the best type of pigs for the various sections of the pig-meat trade.
Diesel-Engined Road Vehicles
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what recent assessment he has made of injurious effects upon health and road safety of the increasing volumes of dark and black smoke from exhausts of diesel oil-powered road vehicles; and, in view of this continuing pubic nuisance, what remedial measures he proposes.
Repeated studies by the Medical Research Council have shown no evidence of a higher incidence of lung cancer or respiratory disease among persons exposed to greater amounts of diesel exhaust fumes than the general population. No figures are at present available to indicate the effect of diesel smoke on road safety. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is collaborating with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in his efforts to ensure the correct maintenance and operation of vehicles which will satisfactorily eliminate the nuisance from this source.
Will not my hon. Friend agree that, though there may be no evidence of lung cancer from these fumes, they are none the less asphyxiating, highly unpleasant, and a grave menace on our roads? As this is a scientific problem which has now engaged the attention of D.S.I.R. and other agencies for up to ten years within my knowledge, does not my hon. Friend agree that the efforts being made to provide a practical solution are evidently inadequate?
I would remind my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport made new Regulations on 10th July, which will be laid before the House within a few days, in order to prevent misuse of the excess fuel device to obtain extra power, thereby creating extra diesel smoke.
Apart from getting scientific information, would the hon. Gentleman use a little common sense about this? Does he not appreciate that these diesel fumes obscure the view on the roads and add to the slipperiness of the roads in wet weather, and that that is extremely dangerous? Will he not see that something is done to ensure that this nuisance on the roads is done away with?
The hon. and learned Gentleman's question is really for the Minister of Transport.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress has been made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and other research institutions and agencies, in the filtration of exhaust fumes from diesel oil-powered road vehicles, with a view to de-colourisation and decontamination: and whether he will make a statement on the progress of tests by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of American equipment for this purpose.
The Warren Spring Laboratory of the D.S.I.R. has examined methods for removing smoke from the exhausts of diesel powered road vehicles, but no device yet tested has proved satisfactory. A Swiss device is at present undergoing tests. No commercially-produced American device is yet available for tests.
Following my supplementary question on Question No. 6, could my hon. Friend say whether research in this important field is confined only to D.S.I.R.? Are the motor industry research bodies co-operating? Are there any other agencies co-operating with D.S.I.R.? Can my hon. Friend take more purposive steps to get a coordinated and co-operative research effort in this very grave matter?
D.S.I.R. is, of course, working very closely with the Ministry of Transport in this matter, and, in addition, I am informed that the British Internal Combustion Engine Research Association is undertaking a programme of fundamental studies of the combustion process in diesel cylinders, and we hope that this may lead to remedial measures being possible.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that friends of mine who are experts in the manufacture of engines of this kind, namely, Gardner's of Eccles, Manchester, inform me that if these engines were decently maintained there would be no trouble? Would the hon. Gentleman consult the Minister of Transport rather than sidetrack the issue, so that a solution can be brought about to this serious matter?
Yes. Get something done.
I would accept the information which the hon. Member has been given by his constituents. It is a fact that correct setting of the injectors and their proper maintenance and operation provides a simple and effective remedy. I would point out to the hon. Member, however, that regulations are a matter for my right hon. Friend, not my noble Friend.
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is no use blanketing this problem with a smoke-screen of words and that what is really needed is action which will make our highways livable on and drivable on?
That is also a question for my right hon. Friend.
Whatever scientific aspects this question may involve, is the hon. Gentleman aware that this infernal nuisance, of which hon. Members in all parts of the House are now complaining, is an actual, legal offence against the Clean Air Act and the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, and will he consult not only the Minister of Transport but also the Home Secretary to see if some power can be applied to this problem so that the police will take more forceful action in enforcing the laws which exist—
That is a long way away from the Question and from the questions which can properly be put to this Minister.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he is aware that an intensive survey is needed to prove or disprove the hypothesis that the incidence of cancer is associated with geological formation; and if Her Majesty's Government will increase the scale of their grants for cancer research to provide, inter alia, for such a survey.
Work on geographical variation in cancer incidence is already being supported by the Medical Research Council and will be extended if any promising new lead is found.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the scale of grants is not enough for this purpose? Is he aware, for example, of the statement made at the annual meeting of the British Empire Cancer Campaign and does he appreciate that the remarks in the Press from Professor Alexander Haddow indicate that the hon. Gentleman was talking complete nonsense when he said a few weeks ago in the House that it was ideas and not money that were needed for research? Will the hon. Gentleman change his mind?
No, Sir. I said in answer to a Question in the House and in the debate on 10th July that I am informed by the Medical Research Council that when any promising lead on cancer and similar diseases arises this will not be held up through lack of Government funds. My noble Friend has not at any time refused the Medical Research Council money for which it has asked to promote promising leads of this nature.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will state the amount of money spent by the Government on cancer research during the years 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960; and what is the estimated expenditure for the next five-year period.
The Medical Research Council's expenditure from public funds on cancer research was approximately £327,000 in 1955–56; £400.000 in 1956–57; £486,000 in 1957–58; £499,000 in 1958–59; £583,000 in 1959–60; £650,000 in 1960–61, and it will amount to about £783,000 in 1961–62. No estimates can be made for periods beyond the current financial year.Research relevant to cancer is carried out in the universities and medical schools with funds provided by the University Grants Committee, as well as in the National Health Service during the normal course of the treatment of patients, but it is not possible to make a reliable estimate of the sums involved.
While welcoming the increase over the years, may I ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary will assure the House that he will resist any possible inroads which might be attempted into this amount of money because of the economic stringency in the country?
I am certain that the Medical Research Council would never submit to any reductions in work on a vital subject such as this which was leading to exploration of lines which were definitely promising of a final result.
Can the Minister assure the House that in his opinion the discovery of a cure for cancer is not being held up by lack of funds?
That is the information which I have been given by the Medical Research Council, which is responsible over the whole field. The Council's grants are used to ensure that the total effort from all sources is adequate and balanced, not the other way round.
Social Sciences (Research Council)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what consideration he has given to the need for a social sciences research council.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is reviewing the support given by the Department in this field. One aspect of the review is the desirability or otherwise of a separate human or social sciences research council. My noble Friend will consider carefully the views of the Research Council when he has received them.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary ask his noble Friend to seek the views of leading social scientists and sociologists in this country about the contribution which a continual search unit might be able to make to Government policy and Government research?
I hope that such experts in this field will either send their views to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research or to my noble Friend, who will pass them on so that a full and proper survey of the desirability or not of having a social science research council can properly be made.
Why wait? Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that there is a need for it. Everybody accepts that. Why not action now?
My noble Friend put his finger on it when he said in a previous Session in another place that it is possibly premature to have a research council for the social sciences and that if one wishes to encourage the social sciences there may well be other means of so doing, in the universities for example, without the need to set up a special research council.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is not a question of encouraging the social sciences but of enabling them to make the contribution which they can make?
The hon. Lady has made up her mind. My noble Friend will await the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on this problem.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress the Atomic Energy Authority has made in the conversion of radioactive wastes into glass for easier and safer disposal.
I am advised by the Atomic Energy Authority that its work on the fixation of highly radioactive wastes in solid glass-like materials is progressing satisfactorily. A pilot scale plant for the further development of the process is being constructed.
Would my hon. Friend indicate where it is proposed to dispose of this glass-like waste when the process has been completed?
The Atomic Energy Authority aims to bury the glass cylinders in concrete pits to eliminate any risk of contaminating local surface water. It will also be necessary for the storage caverns to be equipped with cooling devices to remove the heat caused by radioactive decay during the first years of storage.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will state the annual output of graduate scientists in the United Kingdom.
The annual output of qualified scientists, which was under 5,000 in 1956, will be approximately 6,900 in the present academic year. In the same period the annual output of qualified technologists has grown from 6,200 to over 9,600.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in 1958, the last year for which I have figures, there was an output of 96,509 graduates in scientific and technical faculties in the United States and that in the same year in the U.S.S.R. there were 114,600 graduates in the same subjects, whilst in Brit tin in 1957 there were only 10,879 graduates? I understand from information provided by H.M. Stationery Office that the present aim of Her Majesty's Government is to increase the annual output from 10,000 to 20,000 in the next ten to fifteen years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Is the hon. Gentleman aware that even if this aim is achieved we shall be still seriously lagging behind the two Powers mentioned? Will not he urge upon his noble Friend the need for co-ordination of all the powers available to make up this leeway?
I think that the hon. Member in his speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—slightly tended to compare like with unlike. It is not always fair to make a comparison with the United States and U.S.S.R., because standards differ. I would remind the hon. Member that the Statistics Committee of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy is presenting a report—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—that is what I am meant to make—is presenting a report in the fairly near future estimating the output of graduate scientists over the next ten years, and the needs of the nation.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what proposals he now has for improving and increasing medical research.
The whole field of medical research is kept under review by the Medical Research Council which takes every opportunity of promoting new and promising lines of study. The Council's programme of research is continually expanding and its expenditure has more than trebled over the last ten years. There is every reason to believe that expenditure will continue to rise.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that that Answer is totally unsatisfactory and that the United States are now spending about 4,000 million dollars on medical research? Is he aware that this is costing this country quite a lot in its bill for imported pharmaceutical products? Would the hon. Gentleman do something a little more than is indicated in his Answer?
The hon. Member should recall that the Medical Research Council does not have a monopoly of medical research in this country. A great deal is carried out in the universities and the hospitals and by private organisations. Therefore, the expenditure by the Medical Research Council does not cover all the money that the nation spends on this research?
In view of that, would not the hon. Gentleman arrange for some planning and co-ordination instead of having this ramshackle arrangement for research?
The duty of the Medical Research Council, which it carries out satisfactorily, is to review the nation's efforts in this field and make good the gaps which otherwise might be there.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he is aware that almost £20 millions a year is being paid for farm building subsidies; and if he will establish a research programme for farm building.
My information is that the annual total of grants towards the cost of farm buildings in the United Kingdom is about £7 million. With regard to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) on 16th May last.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the Report of the Farm Building Association, there is a dire need for some research? Is he aware that my information is that half of 1 per cent. of the subsidies given to agriculture, if devoted to this, would provide a first-class research organisation that might bring a great return to the country? I do not want to elaborate on it, but would the hon. Gentleman look into the problem?
I am grateful to the hon. Member far bringing the whole question to the notice of the House. The Agricultural Research Council is advised by the Farm Buildings Research Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Walter Drummond. The hon. Member no doubt will have noticed the report issued to the Press last week about progress in the first year of the experimental farm building scheme. We have great hopes of this.
Research Results (Publication)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what contribution the Government makes towards the cost of publication of the results of research undertaken at its own institutes.
The Government contribute in many ways, both directly and indirectly, to the cost of publication of such research, though full details are not readily available. The research councils for which my noble Friend is responsible have made provision for spending about £250,000 in the current year on printing, publication and other forms of publicity.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the great numbers of magazines which we are receiving from other countries, revealing the vast amount of research work going on there compared with the meagre allowance that his Department is making for the publication of students' papers, which is resulting in delay? Will he speed up the research work so that industry and all other Government Departments can take advantage of this scientific age?
A great many scientific publications are not the direct responsibility of my noble Friend, but the research councils for which he is responsible go out of their way to see that the results of their research are published in all the relevant leading journals.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will make a statement upon the effect of the shortage of mathematicians upon the British scientific research effort.
Scientific research depends quite as much on quality as quantity. In quality, our mathematicians are second to none, and I do not, therefore, fear for our progress on this account. It is, however, difficult to obtain mathematicians for research and teaching. For the action Her Majesty's Government are taking to increase the number of mathematicians, I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education's speech in this House on 10th July.
Will not the hon. Gentleman recognise that that reply is based upon a scientific research programme which hon. Members on both sides of the House consider is not good enough? Unless this programme is speeded up and increased, the position will become infinitely worse. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that it is his responsibility to have discussions with the Minister of Education and not merely to wait for Questions from this side of the House? Will not he accept his responsibility?
The hon. Gentleman knows that there is, naturally, very close contact at all levels between Government Departments, but the steps which can or should be taken, or which are being taken, to increase the number of mathematicians are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and of the universities.
Will the hon. Gentleman jerk the Minister of Education into action? It was obvious from the science debate last week and from the education debate yesterday that both sides of the House recognise that there is a crisis in the supply of mathematics teachers at all levels. When are we to have action?
The hon. Gentleman obviously missed the Answer which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education gave to one of my hon. Friends only a little while ago at the end of Question Time.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are his proposals for increasing research into geophysics.
The D.S.I.R. at present operates thirteen research grants with six different universities or colleges, and six further grants are contemplated. In addition, it is intended to extend the use of seismic methods by the Geological Survey. Geophysical (research is also carded out in other establishments for which my noble Friend is not directly responsible.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are familiar with the annual report of the Geological Survey? To the best of my knowledge, however, there has never been a geophysical survey in Britain. Will he recognise that at this stage—again, this is to the best of my knowledge—there are singularly few chairs in our universities catering for this vital branch of research? Will he consider this more closely in the interests of our future development?
As I have said, there are a large number of other establishments, such as the Meteorological Office and the Astronomer-Royal at Hurstmonceaux, where geophysical research is undertaken. But, as I said in reply to a question last May, we are having difficulty in recruiting the necessary qualified manpower.
Industry (Co-Operative Research)
asked the Parliament Secretary for Science what are his proposals for encouraging more cooperative research in industry.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will continue to give co-operative research associations full support. The Council plans to increase its overall annual grant contributions, provided that industry continues to give an increasing measure of support. My noble Friend and I lose no opportunities of explaining the benefits which industry can obtain from a greater use of co-operative research.
Marine Nuclear Propulsion
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will make a statement on his Department's research into marine nuclear propulsion.
The Atomic Energy Authority collaborated fully with the Ministry of Transport Committee which assessed the suitability for marine propulsion of various reactors now in an advanced stage of development. Since the Committee reported, the Authority has begun a study of more advanced reactor systems.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that Answer does not give anyone a clear idea of what is being done? Would he say whether or not basic research by his Department on the attempt to get a suitable reactor system has now been abandoned, or is being abandoned altogether, despite the fact that savings in operating costs by the use of nuclear propulsion, compared with present costs, would be about 80 per cent.? Would not that present a serious future for shipping?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Atomic Energy Authority will continue to spend fairly large sums of money on the development of reactors which could have a sea-based application as opposed to a land-based application only.
Was it upon the advice of the hon. Gentleman's Department that the Minister of Transport took the lamentable decision not to proceed at the moment with any of the designs that we have already?
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has not yet announced any decision to the House.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are his proposals for encouraging meat research.
The matter is still under consideration, but it is hoped to make a statement shortly.
Can the hon. Gentleman prevail on his noble Friend to see that "shortly" really means "shortly"? Is he aware that we have a mission buying French cattle in France, that we have the growth of baby beef under the broiler system in this country, and that we have competition from chickens? Surely something should be done to instruct housewives and farmers about exactly what is needed in the country's interests?
I agree that it is desirable that the proposal to set up a meat research institute should have a final decision as soon as possible, but for some time a great deal of research on meat has been taking place at the Low Temperature Research Station at Cambridge, which I visited last Friday.
Imperial College (Low-Power Nuclear Reactor)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will now state when the London University Imperial College of Science and Technology will be allowed to commence building a low-power nuclear reactor.
The discussions to which I referred in my reply to the hon. Member on 9th May are not yet concluded and I am not yet in a position to make a further statement.
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that this situation is rather deplorable? Are not we lagging further behind other countries in not having low-powered reactors at our universities? Will he do something to speed this matter up, so as to enable our undergraduates to study the building and use of a low-powered reactor?
It is only within the last few days that London University has made its final views known to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which is now awaiting the revised application for a grant, with full supporting details and up-to-date estimates of costs.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are his proposals for improving biological research.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are his proposals for implementing 'the recommendations contained in the Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, 1960, on taxonomy.
At the request of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, a Committee of the Royal Society is considering existing arrangements for supporting fundamental research in biology, and I am awaiting the outcome of its consideration.
Are not the hon. Gentleman and his noble Friend delaying these matters instead of getting on with the job? The medical profession is doing excellent work in biological therapy, but is having to neglect certain research because of lack of finance. Will the hon. Gentleman again believe in the old adage that prevention is better than cure?
A very high standard of biological research is being carried on in a number of institutes and institutions, and it is not a bad thing to get a body of expert opinion such as the Royal Society to tell us where the gaps lie, if there are any.
Private Industry (Research)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will give the percentages of research, and cost of work, carried out by private industry working partly on Government contract.
According to calculations published in last year's Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, private industry carried out research and development costing £266 million in 1958–59, of which £154 million or 58 per cent. was financed by Government.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will now announce Government proposals for encouraging food research.
A considerable amount of research on food is at present being undertaken at the research stations under the control of the A.R.C. and D.S.I.R., by research associations under the auspices of the D.S.I.R., and elsewhere. The possibility of extending this work is kept under review.
Does not the Parliamentary Secretary think, having regard to the large amount of work which he says is being done and, I presume, the enormous amount of money which is spent in this field, that it would be well to publish same findings of the organisations which are busy in this work?
When they reach a stage at which publication would be useful, all the findings are published in the appropriate journals. The research associations do their best to see that the firms which might benefit from the researches made are aware of what is being discovered.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he is aware of the contribution the computer machine would make to the prosperity of British industry; and what research he is undertaking in order to secure the maximum benefits from an increase in the scale of its general use.
Yes, Sir, I am fully aware of the variety and importance of the contributions which computer techniques can make to the prosperity of British industry. Government agencies are supporting a great deal of research and development in this field and encouraging its application. Support is also being given to the British Conference on Automation and Computation, one of whose aims is to extend the use of these techniques throughout industry.
I cannot say that these efforts are in any way successful, and I wish to add—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] I am coming to my supplementary question. In the meantime, I hope that hon. Members who interrupt me appreciate the time that they are wasting. The point is that this makes a tremendous contribution—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] I should like to ask the Minister, as a supplementary question, how many meetings he has had with British industry in order that the benefits of this machine may be made known, for the truth is—
Order. Question Time is not the time for giving information, as I must remind the hon. Member.
Is the Minister aware that this machine is under-employed?
The National Physical Laboratory, which is one of the stations of the D.S.I.R., provides an advisory service to industry and assists individual firms with programming problems and the application of computer techniques. In its research into the application of computers it has paid particular attention to a number of industries in which computer techniques, we believe, can be of benefit.
Nuclear Explosions (Detection)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science to what extent the Atomic Energy Authority is concerning itself with the development of instruments and systems to detect nuclear explosions both underground and in space; what form these developments are taking; and what prospects there are of a fully effective detection system being devised.
The Atomic Energy Authority is pursuing two main lines of approach: seismic studies for earth-based explosions, and studies of the ionic and optical changes in the upper atmosphere which would occur as a result of explosions in space. Progress towards a fully effective detection system would be faster if all three countries taking part in the Nuclear Tests Conference were pooling their efforts in a coordinated programme of research, as Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government have repeatedly urged.
Is the Minister aware that the Atomic Energy Authority seems to have stepped up its research in this field? Is this due to Government optimism in expecting a test agreement soon or is it that they suspect that Russia has tested underground or in space and that we have to speed up our efforts to try to detect these tests?
Naturally, the Government still hope that it will still be possible to make progress in the Geneva talks, but research of this kind is equally essential if we are to have an adequate system of international inspection.
Questions To The Prime Minister
The House will have observed that the Order Paper today indicates that the Prime Minister will answer his Questions at 3.15 p.m. The Prime Minister has informed me that he is at the service of the House in this matter and is willing to try this experiment for the remainder of the Session, if that be the wish of the House, as I understand it is.
Ambassador To South Africa
asked the Prime Minister to which Minister the United Kingdom Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa will be responsible.
A decision will be made when the review of our relations with South Africa, now in progress, has been completed. Meanwhile the Ambassador will continue to be responsible to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.
May I express our appreciation of this new arrangement for answering Questions and the hope that it will be convenient for the Prime Minister as well as useful to the House?How long does the Prime Minister expect it will be before a decision is reached on this matter of South Africa? Is he aware that very many of us take the view that, since the Union of South Africa has withdrawn from the Commonwealth, the Ambassador should be representative of the Foreign Office and not of the Commonwealth Relations Department?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said about the arrangement of Questions. I can assure him that this arrangement suits me much better because I know when to come here.Answering the second part of the supplementary question, under the standstill agreement there will be a considerable period before we can negotiate all the many problems which arise. I think that we had better wait to see what progress we make under the standstill arrangements.
Cyprus (Common Market)
asked the Prime Minister which Minister will conduct discussions with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus regarding the effect on the Republic of an association between the United Kingdom and the European Common Market; and where and when these discussions will take place.
My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has visited Nicosia for this purpose, and had talks with Cyprus Ministers.
Many of us are very grateful to the Prime Minister for the new arrangement of Questions. Can he add anything about the character of the talks and the outcome and whether they were satisfactory or unsatisfactory? Can he make any comment about them?
A communiqué has been issued summarising the discussions.
Prime Minister (Speech)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange for the full text of his speech about national policies at Calne, Wiltshire, on Saturday, 1st July, to be placed in the Library.
It would be unusual to place in the Library a copy of a speech made on a party political occasion, but it would give the Conservative Central Office great pleasure to send the hon. Member a copy of the speech that I made at Calne on 1st July.
Is the Prime Minister aware that while parts of that speech are unexceptionable, there was a section which referred to the fact, which the Prime Minister claims, that this country had never been more prosperous in its history? Is he aware that there is a growing feeling in this country that he has consistently, reverting to his Answer just now, put party interests before those of the nation? At what time in this century has there been a Prime Minister who has been more gorged by his own words?
Answering the first part of the question, I think that the best thing would be to put the hon. Member on the permanent list of subscribers to Central Office publications. Answering the second part of the question, if he will search his heart, I will search mine. I remember no time when the people of this country have been better housed and better clothed and more fully employed.
Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the very fair and objective examination of his policy in today's Daily Mirror?
Yes, Sir, but I do not serve Mr. King.
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the outcome of the discussions with the Commonwealth countries on the possibility of Great Britain entering the Common Market, and on the steps which he now proposes to take.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a further statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the Common Market following the visits of Cabinet Ministers to Commonwealth countries.
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the views communicated to Her Majesty's Government by the other countries of the European Free Trade Association as to the desirability of Great Britain joining the European Common Market.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the Ministerial consultations with Commonwealth Governments about relations with the European Economic Community.
asked the Prime Minister, following the recent statements of Commonwealth leaders on the question of Great Britain's entry into the European Economic Community, if he will announce forthwith Her Majesty's Government's decision to open formal negotiations with the European Economic Community.
asked the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the French President has officially refused to consider any of the concessions, in relation to the Rome Treaty regarding the European Free Trade Association, agriculture and the Commonwealth, which are necessary in order to enable the United Kingdom to join the Common Market, whether he will discontinue consultations with Commonwealth Governments on this matter; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Prime Minister if he will make available to the House the evidence advanced to his Ministerial colleagues by Commonwealth Governments concerning the immediate and ultimate economic consequences to the Commonwealth countries if the United Kingdom joined the Common Market; what assurances were given to those Governments in respect of this; and whether any Commonwealth Government made any proposal for the substantial improvement of trade and commerce between its own country and the United Kingdom.
As I said in reply to a Question on 13th July, I hope to make a statement on these matters before the House rises. The House will understand that the Government must first hear the reports of the Ministers who visited the various Commonwealth countries, and discuss the whole question in the light of these reports.
There was so much noise that I did not hear. Might I ask the Prime Minister whether he was answering more than one Question?
Mr. Speaker, I should have said that, with permission, I would answer Questions Nos. 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13 with Question No. 4.
Is it not already manifest that the Government's travelling salesmen have returned with virtually empty order books? Will the Prime Minister say how many of the dozen or so Commonwealth countries visited have shown positive enthusiasm for Britain's entry into the Common Market?
I think that the hon. Gentleman has given a quite false account of these very valuable discussions. If the hon. Gentleman's comments came from any other quarter I would pay more attention to them.
Will the Prime Minister, when making his statement, deal in detail with the views of the individual Commonwealth nations, and not make a general statement? With regard to Question No. 8 which deals with the European Free Trade Association and not with the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister remember that we owe a duty to those countries who have gone in with us to see that they come along with us into the Common Market? If we do not succeed in the Common Market, we can form a stronger association with them and possibly with the Commonwealth as well.
On the first part of the supplementary question, perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will await my statement. With regard to the second part, we have all through been in the closest touch with the E.F.T.A. members, and indeed we had a meeting on this very subject only a few weeks ago.
While agreeing with what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said about E.F.T.A., may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will respond to the challenge so forcibly issued to this colleagues by the Commonwealth Governments and give new priority to the expansion of Commonwealth trade, with the aim of a Commonwealth freer trade asociation able to associate with Continental Europe, and will he therefore keep in mind Mr. Diefenbaker's call, echoed from Pakistan and elsewhere, for a Commonwealth Prime Minister' s conference?
These are all relevant questions. My hon. Friend will remember the offer that we made to Canada two or three years ago.
Can the Prime Minister clear up one point? As the Common Market has been growing for some years, can the Prime Minister tell us when the Commonwealth was first consulted about our relations with it?
The hon. Gentleman will remember that the first effort we made was a long negotiation—which at one time looked hopeful—for the formation of a European Free Trade Area. That very nearly succeeded. I do not regret that negotiation. I think that it was well worth undertaking. It was only when it broke down that we had to consider the situation resulting.
Will the Prime Minister give a guarantee that there will be not merely a statement on this subject before the House rises for the Recess, but an opportunity for a full debate on it? Would not it be wrong to have a statement on which only questions could be put to the right hon. Gentleman?
That is another matter.
In view of the statement made this morning by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations that there was a likelihood of a high-powered Commonwealth conference being held, may I ask the Prime Minister whether that has been considered by the Government?
I do not understand that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations made any such statement.
Will the right hon. Gentleman admit what is obvious to everybody else, that the purpose of these visits to the Commonwealth was to sell the Common Market idea rather than to obtain the views of the Commonwealth? Will the Prime Minister do two things before he enters into any negotiations with the Common Market? First, will he have a meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers so that they can all together, jointly, discuss the political as well as the economic implications of the Common Market? Secondly, will be enable this House to have a debate on the subject before he enters into any negotiations?
With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, the object of these visits was to consult and to explain, and I think that it would have been a great mistake not to have done that. I think that they have been very valuable. In the light of them I will make a statement, and in the light of that statement the House must decide what it wishes.
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my supplementary question?
Reverting to the question of a debate, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to make a very important statement next week, following which I imagine some opportunity for debate is bound to be provided, will the Prime Minister consider whether it would be convenient to incorporate the statement on the Common Market with the statement on the Commonwealth visits?
It might be convenient to the Opposition, but I do not think that it would be at all a good thing to mix up two quite separate subjects.
Does the Prime Minister really regard the subjects as totally separate? If he refuses to deal with the matter in the way I have suggested, will he give a guarantee that there will be an opportunity for the House to discuss this matter before we rise?
That is not a matter for me, but we will take into account the wishes of the House.
asked the Prime Minister if he will now publish a White Paper setting out the main paints raised in discussions between Commonwealth Governments and the Ministers who visited them to discuss the problems which would be raised by British entry into the Common Market.
asked the Prime Minister if, after the return of the Ministers now visiting Commonwealth countries, he will issue a White Paper giving the views expressed by those countries on the question as to whether Great Britain should join the European Common Market.
asked the Prime Minister if he will publish the detailed observations of the Commonwealth Governments visited by the various representatives of Her Majesty's Government on the question of the Common Market.
I do not think that it would be right to publish a White Paper giving an account of private discussions between British Ministers and Commonwealth Ministers. I am, however, arranging for all agreed communiqués issued to be published together.
Is the Prime Minister not aware that in addition to the agreed communiqués a great deal has been put out in the various Commonwealth countries in newspapers? Is the right hon. Gentleman not yet aware that this is a vital decision one way or the other for the whole country, for the whole nation, and for the whole Commonwealth? Will he stop treating this as though it were a private thing to be decided at a country house party?
The second part of the supplementary is quite worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the first part, whatever newspapers may say, I still hold the view—perhaps it is old-fashioned—that one should not put out statements about private discussions with Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
Is the Prime Minister-aware that if he makes a statement to the House it will receive the same amount of publicity as the White Paper will receive?
Is the Prime Minister aware that there has been considerable criticism in the Canadian Press and also in our Press that he has become entirely subservient to the strategic policy of Mr. Kennedy and the United States of America? Can the Prime Minister assure us that he has not succumbed to pressure from President Kennedy on the Common Market?
Whatever may be the hon. Gentleman's views about that, and of course he is well-informed, it is certainly not the view of the American Press.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the Conservative Party took office ten years ago 50 per cent. of our exports went to the Commonwealth, whereas today the figure is only 40 per cent.? This is an unfortunate situation, and it is not enough to cast away as an aside, as my right hon. Friend did a few minutes ago, a remark about an offer made to Canada a few, years ago. What is now needed is a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference to bring together Commonwealth trade interests and to promote them.
That is another issue, but I think that the broad picture which we have to take into account is that for the maximisation of world trade the growth of the wealth and strength of Britain is of Commonwealth interest.
In view of the criticism that comes from both sides of the House, the criticism in sections of the Press, and criticism from Commonwealth countries and elsewhere, does not the Prime Minister think that he might display a little common sense and abandon the whole idea?
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, with his natural courtesy, will be good enough to await the statement that I propose to make.
Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to see that one way or another the House is made aware not only of the reactions of the Commonwealth to the possibility of Britain joining the Common Market, but of their reactions to any proposals which Ministers may have put before them for the review and revision of the Ottawa Agreement and the Commonwealth trading arrangements so as to make them fully effective in the context and conditions of 1961?
Of course, that is relevant to this issue.
Mr. Gourlay—Question No. 12.
Mr. Speaker, may I ask Question No. 11?
It has been answered.
I was not aware that it had been answered. Unfortunately I was not called to ask a supplementary question to the Answer to a lot of Questions, and that is why I thought that my Question had not been answered. May I ask this supplementary question—[HON.MEMBERS: "No."]
Order: This is my fault. Might I ask the Prime Minister whether Question No. 11 was answered, and if so, with which Questions?
Mr. Speaker, it was answered with Questions Nos. 4, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 13.
Then I apologise. The mistake is mine. I cannot save the matter for the Hon Member. I am afraid.
May I ask a supplementary question now?
I am afraid not.
German Forces (United Kingdom)
asked the Prime Minister when he received the letter from Kirkcaldy Town Council opposing the training of German troops in this country and the possible use of Rosyth Dockyard for German submarines; and what was the nature of his reply.
I have sent the hon. Member a copy of the reply sent on my behalf to the letter to which he refers. I received the letter on 13th July.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the contents,of the letter mentioned in the Question express clearly the sentiments of the majority of Scottish people? Will he give an assurance that he will consult local authorities before any further facilities are granted to German troops?
I do not know about consulting local authorities. In my letter I tried to give a reply to the paint made to me, and I think that it was a fair and satisfactory one.
Business Of The House
With permission, I should like to make a short statement on business.Tomorrow, Wednesday, to allow adequate time for the debate on the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, it would seem to suit the convenience of the House for it to be taken as second item of business after the Lords Amendments to the Rating and Valuation Bill. The Exchequer Advances (Limit) Order will, therefore, be deferred. It might be convenient for this Order to be debated in the context of the statement which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make next week. If the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order is concluded at a reasonable hour tomorrow, we shall seek to complete the Second Reading of the Suicide Bill [Lords], which was adjourned last Friday. The Bill will then go to a Standing Committee. In regard to the business on Friday, of this week, as proceedings on the Bristol, South-East petition are still continuing, and it may well be that judgment will not be delivered this week, it is thought preferable to postpone consideration of the Motion to set up a Joint Select Committee on House of Lords Reform. It is proposed, therefore, that the following business should be taken next Friday: Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Covent Garden Market Bill, and to the Land Drainage Bill. Afterwards, we propose to proceed with the Consideration of Motions to approve the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations, the Patents (Fees Amendment) Order, the Insurance Contracts (War Settlement) (Germany) Order, and five Cotton Industry Orders.
Will the Leader of the House elucidate the Government's intentions and motives in deferring the debate on the Motion dealing with House of Lords reform? Was it always their intention that this debate should not be held until after the judgment had been delivered? If so, could not the right hon. Gentleman have foreseen that it was likely to take a little longer? Finally, if the judgment is delivered before the Summer Recess, is it the Government's intention to proceed to debate the Motion before then?
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he made a special request that this business should not be taken on a Friday, and I undertook, across the Floor of the House, to pay attention to what he said. Now that I have paid attention to what he said, perhaps he will express his gratification.We had not anticipated that the petition would take so long in the hearing, and that the judgment would take so long in being delivered. We cannot be certain, but we are under the impression that it is taking longer than we had anticipated. It would be unwise—in fact, improper—that a debate should take place when opinions expressed in it might have their effect upon the judgment. I am advised that it would, therefore, be wiser to postpone the debate, and to take, instead, the business that I have stated.
I appreciate that the Government are in a stickier spot than they thought they would be, but will the Leader of the House say that this matter will be taken, not on a Friday, before the House rises?
I cannot give any undertaking, as we have very important business next week. It remains our intention that this matter should remain on the Order Paper and be taken at the best possible opportunity.
Is the object of deferment a kind gesture on behalf of the Leader of the House to allow Mr. Benn to take part in the debate?
As usual, the hon. Member has raised a substantive point. We cannot tell what the judgment will be in this case. I think that it would be unwise to hold this debate if there is any doubt about the judgment not being delivered this week—and as there is, I think it much better not to have the debate.
Burial Of Offenders
I beg to move,
I hope that it will not be thought presumptuous of me to seek leave to bring in this Bill at this stage, when we are about to debate the burial of the Government. [Interruption.]That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend section six of the Capital Punishment Amendment Act. 1868.
Order. In courtesy to the hon. Member who is asking leave of the House to bring the Bill, I hope that hon. Members will make less noise.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.Section 6 of the Capital Punishment Within Prisons Act, 1868, says:
Putting the matter briefly, I wish to amend that provision to allow the Home Secretary, where he thinks fit, and under such conditions as he considers desirable, to give back the body to the next of kin, where that is desired. Although I am not directing my remarks at the recent discussion of the Evans case, in that debate the Home Secretary left the House with the impression that he could not give back the body of Timothy John Evans to the next of kin, on the basis that there was no Royal pardon. That difficulty would go if my Bill were passed. There are substantial reasons why we should do this. I am having a good deal of trouble owing to the oratory of hon. Members opposite. There was a time when one of your predecessors, Sir, said that he could not hear me, Mr. Speaker. I am sure hon. Members opposite cannot, at the moment. We have now altered the form of sentence of death. The judge now no longer delivers the old form of sentence of death, which is a rather long one, in which he says:"The Body of every Offender executed shall be buried within the Walls of the Prison within which Judgment of Death is executed on him; provided that if One of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State is satisfied on the Representation of the Visiting Justices of a Prison that there is not convenient Space within the Walls thereof for the Burial of Offenders executed therein, he may, by Writing under his Hand appoint some other fit Place for that Purpose, and the same shall be used accordingly."
That rather ghoulish form of words has gone out, as the Royal Commission recommended it should, and judges now say:"I will content myself now with passing upon you the sentence of the law, which is, that you be taken hence to the gaol …; and that you be taken thence to a place of execution and be there hanged by the neck until you be dead; and that your body be afterwards buried within the precincts of the prison in which you shall be last confined after your conviction; and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul."
In pronouncing sentence the judge now says nothing about a man's being buried within the confines of the prison. The 1868 Act was brought in to do away with public hanging, and when the House decided to do away with public hanging it thought that it would also do away with public burials. The last public hanging in this country was the hanging of Barrett, the Fenian, in 1868. There was a demonstration by the Fenians at that time, and one can understand that. Reading through the old debates, it is curious to discover that people thought that both private execution and private burial, and certainly the ignominy of burial such as this, would be a great deterrent. Nobody would take that view today. We would look upon the burying of a body in quicklime within the precincts of a prison wall rather as something completely ghoulish and out of keeping with our time. In many countries now such bodies are restored to the relatives when that is desired. I am not arguing that in this country it should be done in every case. I am asking that it be done only with the discretion of the Home Secretary and where the right hon Gentleman considers it convenient, and even under conditions which he could lay down. Obviously, one would not want a public exhibition of the body of a man who had been buried following his execution for murder. My attention was called to this matter by Dr. Charles Brook, a medical historian well known to hon. Members on this side of the House. He is sure that there is something in the contention that it is a contradiction when, having changed the form of the sentence of death to a more civilised form, we should not change this matter with it. I referred to the case of Evans. It would not be appropriate for me to dwell on that now, but in so far as the Home Secretary appeared to think that the law was an impediment for him to perform even a half-hearted act of justice, my proposed Bill may serve to underline that. I cannot say that it is with pleasure that I move this Motion relating to this comparatively small matter, but I think that this is one of those things which is more in tone with the state of civilisation in our time. I have said before that the degree of civilisation in a country is not determined by what is done about big things, but about the smaller things of life which sometimes affect those people who are friendless, alone or cast out. I cannot believe that, having executed a man, we should necessarily render such great harm and hurt to his relatives."You have been convicted of capital murder and by the law of this country the penalty is that you suffer death in the manner authorised by law."
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. C. Pannell, Miss Bacon, Sir Beverley Baxter, Mr. Dodds, Mr. Grimond, Mr. Cledwyn Hughes, Mr. Roy Jenkins, Mr. Mayhew, Dr. Barnett Stross, Mrs. Thatcher, Mr. Tiley, and Miss Joan Vickers.
Burial Of Offenders
Bill to amend section six of the Capital Punishment Amendment Act, 1868, presented accordingly and read the First time: to be read a Second time upon Tuesday next and to be printed. [Bill 154.]
Orders Of The Day
[23RD ALLOTTED DAY]
Considered in Committee.
[Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
Civil Estimates And Estimates For Revenue Departments, And Supplementary Estimate, 1961–62
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £45, be granted to Her Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962, for the following Services connected with the Economic Situation, namely:
|Civil Estimates and Supplementary Estimate, 1961–62|
|Class I, Vote 3, Treasury and Subordinate Departments||10|
|Class VI, Vote I, Board of Trade||10|
|Class II, Vote 1, Foreign Service||10|
|Class II, Vote 2, Foreign Office Grants and Services (Revised Estimate)||10|
|Class II, Vote 2, Foreign Office Grants and Services (Supplementary Estimate)||5|
Next week we shall hear the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for dealing with the economic crisis. Today, we propose to examine the reasons for the crisis, 'both the short-term and the long-term one. The immediate reason is in no doubt. As in all such crises it is the run on sterling which has developed. Too much sterling is being offered in relation to the amount being purchased, and consequently, in the three months, April, May and June, there has been a loss of approximately £160 million from our gold reserves. This would have been very much higher but for the support of the European central banks. We do not know exactly how much sterling they have acquired in the last three months, but it is noticeable that in April alone, the first of those three months in which there was a decline in the gold reserves, the holdings of Western Europe in sterling balances rose by £85 million.Why is there a run on the £? Part of the answer, of course, is that our current balance of payments is in deficit. In the first quarter we were "in the red" to the extent of £56 million. We may be somewhat less "in the red" in the second quarter, but that there was also a deficit seems highly probable. This is not a very large figure. It would not matter so very much if it were something to be taken on its own. But it cannot be considered on its own, for it follows a long and substantial deterioration in our balance of payments. In 1958, we had a substantial surplus of £291 million. This fell in the following year to £51 million and it developed into a deficit, on a massive scale, of £344 million in 1960. But there is more to it than these figures suggest, for normally we invest abroad substantial sums on long-term—on the average, say, about £200 million a year. We have to do this so long as we are providing capital for the Commonwealth and for other countries. So that, in any event, we need a surplus on our balance of payments of that amount in order to finance the overseas investment. If we have no surplus at all, we have to borrow not only to cover the deficit, but also to cover the long-term investment. Last year, we must have borrowed on short-term something like £600 million to cover both the deficit and the overseas investment which took place. It was not difficult that year because there happened to be a flight from the dollar. Indeed, we borrowed more than £600 million, because our gold reserves actually rose during the year. We go on trying to maintain a world banking business on totally inadequate reserves. In such conditions I think that most bankers would say that it would be wise to reduce short-term liabilities and to increase short-term assets. In fact, we have done nothing of the kind. During the last six years, according to Mr. Barna, in his article in the Financial Times Revew, we have lent abroad on long-term about £1,000 million and borrowed short almost exactly the same amount. I can hardly feel that this is a very sensible way of conducting a banking business. Even this increased vulnerability—it is increased vulnerability—would not perhaps be so serious if the prospect ahead of us were more favourable. But it is not. We must expect another balance of payments deficit on current account in 1961. It will not, I think, be as large as last year, but it will probably be about £150 million. This means that if we continue to lend abroad our normal £200 million, we shall once again, if we can get it, have to borrow another £350 million, or lose at least the equivalent from our gold reserves. Finally, and most important of all, there is now conclusive evidence—which even the Government cannot ignore—that in comparison with other industrial nations we are doing exceedingly badly in the rate of expansion of our production and our exports. Continued failure in this field makes it impossible for us as a nation to enjoy the higher living standards which others have, and which we expect, and to pay our way at the same time. It is the widespread conviction that we are failing to compete in, productivity, design, salesmanship and, price, either at home with imported products or abroad with other countries' exports, which leads, and has led, and is leading, to a profound lack of confidence in the future of sterling; and, therefore, it is this which is the underlying cause of the crisis today. The facts and figures have often been given. They should be blazoned in the country in place of those other posters which so conveniently lulled the British people into a false confidence and complacency. These are the facts. Our exports in 1959 and 1960 rose by only half as much as our imports. Last year; France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Japan and the United States all increased their exports more than twice as fast as ours. Between 1951 and 1960, we had the smallest increase in exports of any industrial nation; and if anybody says; "Ah, but there were other nations which had not recovered so far by 1951, and you should take a later date," I will do so. I will take the progress since 1955, and, again, the same story is true. We had the smallest increase in exports between 1955 and 1960 of any industrial nation. The United States increased her exports half as much again as ours. France, Holland and Sweden all increased their exports three times as fast as ours. Western Germany increased her exports five times as fast as ours, Japan six times and Italy eight times. These are the facts of our record between 1955 and 1960. Our share in world markets of manufactures has fallen from 25½ per cent. in 1950 to 20 per cent. in 1955 and to 16 per cent. in 1960. Nor is this decline confined to European or non-Commonwealth markets. It is not a matter of the sterling area markets having expanded less rapidly than others. It is a matter of our having lost in the fight for sterling area markets, for there, in the last six years, our share has fallen by over a quarter. In Australia, Malaya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Ghana and Rhodesia—in evey single country—the share of our exports is falling. Our invisible exports have dwindled from £400 million a few years ago to practically nothing today. Part of this, of course, is due to the failure of our shipping industry to achieve any net earnings at all. Part of it is due to the higher interest rates which we pay on the money we borrow, and it is estimated that this alone has cost us £50 million. Part of it must be due to the amount we pay out in dividends on foreign investment abroad. Here perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the President of the Board of Trade can tell us why it is that, despite the fact that we have invested so much abroad—£1,000 million in six years—we seem to get very little back from it. Can it have something to do with that change in tax law made by the present Minister of Aviation, when he positively encouraged business firms with subsidaries abroad not to remit dividends home? That is the story of our trading activity in these last few years. It might be supposed that our problem of selling abroad had been made difficult—indeed, that the whole difficulty had been created—because we were trying to expand too fast at home. We are all familiar with the theoretical argument that if we expand too fast at home, imports go up, exports go down, we get into a balance of payments crisis and we must then clamp down. But this theoretical picture is also not borne out by the facts. Our record of growth in this country, as compared with others, is just as bad as our record of exports. Again, the figures speak for themselves. I take the period from 1955 to 1960 again, because it might be said that an earlier period would not be a fair comparison. During this period, in Germany, France and Italy, production has risen three or four times as fast as it has in this country. It has risen twice as fast in Holland, and nine times as fast in Japan. It might also have been supposed that, since we neither had an expansion in exports nor an expansion in production, we might have had stable prices in Britain, or at least, prices that rose less rapidly than those in other countries where production was rising faster, but, again, the exact opposite is the truth. Only one country—France—has a record of more rapidly rising prices in the last nine years than Britain. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said on Saturday:
I agree. And these are the facts, unpalatable as they may be. There is a run on the £. Our gold reserves are falling. For eighteen months, at least, our balance of payments has been in the red. We have been spending more than we are earning. We have the worst export record in the past ten years, or the past five years, of any industrial country in the world. We have a steadily declining share of world trade. We have almost the worst production record, and we have almost the highest rise in prices. These facts make some past statements look a little odd. I have another quotation:"The paramount need is that, as a country, we should face the facts."
The Prime Minister said that in September, 1959, when our balance of payments was already declining fast and we were moving over into deficit. But he said something much more recently than that. Only at the beginning of this year he was still blandly cheerful."The result of all these measures taken together is that today the British economy is sounder than at any time since the First World War. Sterling has been established as a strong and respected currency. Our balance of payments is strong."
It also makes some posters look a little sailed, and I cannot help wondering what the new instructions to Messrs. Colman Prentis and Varley are to be. Perhaps they will be told to introduce a new slogan, "For service and sacrifice, vote Conservative", and combine it with a picture of the Home Secretary disdaining port and over-ripe pheasant, and, at the same time, saying,"Production should start moving again soon. Broadly speaking, you know, we are still in a big boom. … We have got it good; let's keep it good."
"Good may yet come from our economic difficulties, especially if our party gives a lead to the country in asking for moral values to emerge instead of materialistic appetites."
It has destroyed all the moral values, anyway.
I turn to remedies and fundamental causes. We shall hear the Chancellor's proposals next week. I suppose that there will be presented to us the dreary collection of expedients or, as the financial correspondent of the Guardian called them this morning, the "familiar stage properties"—a rise in Bank rate, an intensified credit squeeze, cuts in investment, particularly in public investment, a closer scrutiny of Government expenditure, the restoration of hire purchase restrictions.These are the familiar short-run remedies introduced to save the £. Some of them may be inevitable in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today, but, let us also be clear, they have not—either singly or collectively—given us in the last ten years whenever they have been introduced, either growth or competitive power. They have given us, on the contrary, the record which I described to the Committee just now, a record which includes long periods of stagnation, a brief burst of expansion conveniently timed to fit in with General Election's, a crisis which comes fairly soon afterwards, then the cuts and then a long period of stagnation again, which leaves us where we are today. This policy, in so far as it has not been simply determined by political considerations, is based on a theory that the Government do not need to take any positive initiative in the economic field. All they have to do, runs the theory, is to remove specific controls, to leave private enterprise to itself, bolstering it up, of course, every now and then with specific loans, and even grants, but otherwise letting it get on with the job. In so far as any general controls have to be used these are to be principally of a monetary character and they are to operate over the economy as a whole. The doctrine, I suppose, was most clearly put by the present Minister of Aviation. He made no bones about it. The whole object was to put the soundness of sterling first on the assumption that if we had a sound currency we would get growth, stable prices and a favourable balance of payments. We have none of these things today and we have Dot sound currency, either. What is even worse, is that all this is known. Precisely because these remedies have been tried so frequently and failed to prevent another crisis, fewer and fewer people believe in them today. Fewer and fewer people include foreigners, who are looking and wondering what is to happen here and whether or not they would be wise to hold sterling at present. The Government may, perhaps, make same reference to wage restraint. Certainly, the Chancellor in his speeches in the last week or two, has mentioned it. Is it to be resuscitated? Does he really expect that he will get any response from the trade unions after his record as Chancellor of the Exchequer? Did it occur to him, and to the Government, when they decided to increase the Health Service contribution and the Health Service charges, when he decided—presumably with their support—to concentrate tax reliefs entirely on Surtax payers, that there might be same difficulty a little way ahead and that perhaps, in those circumstances, he might find it rather harder to get the co-operation of the trade unions and the workers? I do not know, but it seems that either he must be convicted of the most appalling lack of foresight, or he imagined that human beings are very different from what they really are. After all, wage restraint means, by and large, accepting the distribution of income as it is. It means that one does not make changes, that one does not go out to get more for oneself or for one's group. Therefore, if there is to be any chance of succeeding in persuading people to follow policies of this kind you must at least convince them that if the present distribution of income is not fair, you are doing your best to make it so. You cannot get their co-operation if, on the contrary, both by what you do and by what you refrain from doing you are making it more unequal. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, answering a Question the other day, gave these figures:
If we turn from the comparison of dividends and wage increases to the effect of Conservative policy on taxation it is the same story. If we take the effects of the period since 1956 of a series of different Budgets and combine both the Income Tax changes and the changes in insurance contributions, assuming that we are dealing with people who have contracted out so that they are not paying the higher graduated contributions, this is what emerges. Below the level of £1,250 a year the actual effect on people's incomes is to worsen them. A married couple with two children on £600 a year lose nearly £13 a year. The £1,000 a year man loses nearly £5 a year. Then the improvement begins. It goes up slowly until we get to £3,000 a year—well over the Surtax level—when the net gain is £257 when we reach the £20,000 a year level the not gain is £3,000 a year. That is the way in which Conservative policies have quite deliberately made the distribution of income more unequal. It has been suggested in some newspapers that the Chancellor is to freeze wages and salaries in the public sector. I hope that he will do nothing of the kind. In my view, such a policy would be both unfair and foolish. It would be unfair because it is precisely these wages and salaries which lag continuously behind others. It would be foolish because at least in some notable cases there is an acute shortage of personnel in these public services. If, for instance, it were determined to freeze teachers' salaries at a moment when we can all agree on the desperate need for more teachers in order to get the educational expansion going—which itself is a very necessary condition of our economic expansion—this surely would be the height of folly. The third point is that we in this country should be able quite easily to afford the kind of wage increases we have had in recent years. We have had a rise in money wages which is broadly the same as it has been in Western Germany, but there is one big difference. Prices have not gone up nearly so much, because there, of course, there has been a greater rise in productivity. Admittedly, if we get no rise in productivity and a rise in wages we are heading for trouble. That is bound to be the case."Between 1958 and 1959 total wages are estimated to have risen by 3½ per cent, total salaries by nearly 7 per cent. and ordinary dividend payments before deduction of tax by 12½ per cent. Between 1959 and 1960 wages and salaries together … are estimated to have risen by 7½ per cent, and gross ordinary dividend payments by 24½ per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1961; Vol. 643, c. 186.]
That is the whole problem.
That is the whole problem, but the question is whether the Government are to concentrate on trying to hold wages down, or to do something to increase productivity.I turn to the long-term position. The Chancellor has rightly said—here I agree with him—that this is essentially a long-term rather than a short-term problem. But there are two different attitudes which one can adopt towards long-term policy. There are those who say—and there has been reference to this in the newspapers recently—that what is really needed for the long term is to create a permanently higher level of unemployment, to get away from the full employment which we have had to something less than that, on the assumption and in the belief that, starting as it were from this lower level, we will then be able to obtain a steady expansion. I very much hope that the Chancellor will not follow that advice, because there is no evidence that it would, in fact, produce that result. It remains a fact, if it be an unfortunate fact, that the fall in production which is called for by such a policy itself causes costs to rise, and must do so. There is no reason to believe that when we have got down to that level we will have the necessary expansion, or will provide British industry with the necessary incentive to expand. If we reject, as I hope we shall, those negative remedies, and all of them are based on the idea that there is nothing positive that the Government can or should do, we have to turn to the positive possibilities, the actions which the Government could take. I hope very much that next week the Chancellor of the Exchequer will concentrate upon these. This afternoon I shall mention four things which I believe should be done. The word "planning" for some years has been a dirty word in Conservative circles, something associated with the Labour Government and something connected in people's minds with austerity and controls. It is high time that the word was rehabilitated, and not only the word. Perhaps it will be easier for the Government to do this now, because the Federation of British Industries is asking for planning. Perhaps it will be easier for them to do it because, if they look across the Channel, they will see an example of planning in France which, so far as one can see from the experience—and over here recently there was an interesting conference about it which was attended by business people and economists—has been of great importance in the drive for expansion which has been so successful in France. What the French do, and what I am thinking of, is not laying down to each industry what it should do. What I am thinking of is the way the French do it. In effect, it is a co-operative effort, a planning commission with a staff of highly qualified experts, working out with the various major industries of France what their rate of expansion should be—
What about agriculture?
—co-ordinating the plans for the different industries concerned and indicating to them what they should do.
The hon. Member knows that I mean him no discourtesy when I do not give way, but I still have a great deal to say and I hope that he will allow me to continue my speech.The reason why this has worked in France—and this is certainly the evidence given by the French themselves—is that it has given French industry a purpose and direction which it otherwise would not have had, and which is now badly called for here. The second thing which should be done is to adopt a much more positive attitude towards individual industries. We have one or two very striking examples of things which should have been done and which have not been done. Last week, we had a debate on the shipbuilding industry and the gloomy story of the Minister of Transport shocked the whole country. But it was not a new thing. It is at least two years and perhaps more since a report on the shipbuilding industry was produced. It was hushed up by the Government in case it caused trouble. We have the same thing with the machine tool industry. When it is believed that an industry is clearly not doing its job properly, certainly let us have reports by the D.S.I.R., or whatever other expert body is most appropriate, but let us have them published so that the whole country can understand. Another matter which should have been looked into long ago—and perhaps the President of the Board of Trade can tell us about it—is why we have had such a sharp rise in imports over the last years. It is not due, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, to an increase in imports of basic materials, or even food. It is principally an increase in manufactured goods. If one studies which these are, some remarkable facts emerge. I will not weary the House with this, because I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade knows of the article in the National Institute Economic Review for May, but there is one instance which I will mention. Taking the cotton textile industry, both yarns and fabrics, and taking with that grey cloth and man-made fibres and clothing; if you add those items together, both on the export and import sides, it is a distressing and I would say astonishing figure that between 1957 and 1960 the balance of payments in these commodities alone—broadly speaking, the textile industry, including clothing, but leaving out wool, where there has been no big change—has deteriorated against us to the tune of no less than £130 million. That is an extraordinary figure. It shows that a great deal of imported clothing is pouring into this country. I am not criticising the Government for allowing that to happen. It would be possible to argue that they should not have liberalised so soon, and so on, but the distressing thing is that somehow or other our own textile and clothing manufacturers do not appear to be able to produce the kind of articles which our people want to buy, and that, consequently, they buy Italian and French and American clothes.
At the right price.
No doubt price is important, but I would say that design is equally important and, for women's clothing, far more important.The third thing the Government must do is substantially to increase the degree of professionalism in business and in exporting. I feel that too many of our exporters treat the whole thing as an amateur's job. Comparing their record and their attitude with that of the Germans or even the Americans, we find that the Germans and Americans have a far higher degree of training. When all is said and done, we train engineers and we train miners and we train craftsmen of all kinds and we train doctors and we train lawyers. Is it not about time that we began to take rather more seriously the urgent need for more regular training for management and for selling? Is it not about time that the Government considered why we have never had anything comparable with the Harvard School of Business, for instance? That is a matter in which action by the Government is urgently needed. The fourth thing that the Government must do is to abandon what I call the "sealed lips" policy. This is not only a matter of hushing up reports that should have been published and, therefore, of deliberately stimulating interest—and, if hon. Members like, controversy—about what has gone wrong but a question of a different attitude altogether in the Government's relationship with the public and with the House of Commons. For a long time, the Prime Minister, in particular, has made it a virtue to evade Parliamentary Questions when giving his Answers. He positively prides himself upon his success in refusing to give the House information. He thinks that the clever answer which evokes the regular cheer from those behind him is a substitute for statesmanship. Well, it is not. This kind of thing has to stop, and a totally different attitude has to be adopted. Incidentally, is it not rather surprising that the Prime Minister has made only one speech in the House of Commons since 1st November last, and that on South Africa? I should be surprised, indeed, if any Prime Minister in recent history had refrained from addressing the House of Commons for such a long time. Finally, what has to be done—and this is the hardest thing of all—is to create a change in the whole climate of opinion in this country. A great attack has to be made on the soggy complacency of some managements, and the appalling indifference of some workers. People should feel it wrong, as they do not, that, for instance, it is not here but in Italy that motor scooters are developed; that it is Japan, not Britain, that developed transistor radios; that the better clothes are produced in France and Italy, and not here—
That is not true.
Well, all I can say is that the women of this country appear to think so, judging by the import figures—that it is in America, and not here, that the big developments in jet aircraft have taken place.People should feel ashamed when export orders are lost through bad delivery or high cost—
Or by unofficial strikes.
Yes, or by unofficial strikes, but this is all part of the whole climate of opinion that hon. Members opposite have created.The first thing that has to be done is to drop the positive encouragements to complacency which Conservative speakers and Conservative propaganda have laid on so thick. Incidentally, we had better also discourage "Operation Britain" from putting up posters such as the one it had a year or two ago bearing the phrase, "British Shipbuilding Leads The World." It looks a little sad today. Something else is needed if we are to have co-operation between different people, between workers and management, between different sections, instead of their striving against one another all the time. There has to be, deep down, a feeling of fairness; a feeling that such differences in living standards as exist are justified and, plainly, they are not justified at present. This is not a matter of austerity; there is no need for any of us to become killjoys. It is not high living standards, or better conditions or more leisure that are wrong. It is that these things are wrong when they are not earned—and they are not all earned today. The most obvious example of these things not being earned today is provided by those who obtain them from capital gains. Despite the fall in Stock Exchange prices in the last few weeks, it is still true that a man who invested £10,000 in 1951 would find his investment worth about £22,000 today—
Not if he had put the money into "Daltons".