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Commons Chamber

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1961

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 8th November, 1961

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Message From The Queen

The VICE-CHAMBERLAIN OF THE HOUSEHOLD reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:

I have received with great satisfaction the loyal and dutiful expression of your thanks for the Speech with which I opened the present Session of Parliament.

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Defence

Kuwait

1.

asked the Minister of Defence what British troops are left in Kuwait;and what was the total cost of this operation.

The withdrawal of British forces from Kuwait has been completed. The extra cost falling on United Kingdom Defence Votes as a result of the operation is provisionally estimated at about £900,000. There were in addition some local costs which were met by the Kuwait Government.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he is satisfied that British troops are available if the independence of Kuwait should be again threatened, and how much of this very satisfactory operation has been paid for by the Kuwait Government?

As to the first part of the supplementary question, I would say that, of course, we intend to keep our obligations to the Ruler of Kuwait. As to the second part, the Kuwait Government were generous in paying a lot of the local costs, but I do not think that I can give an accurate figure.

Was it not stated earlier that the Kuwait Government were to pay the whole cost of this operation? Does that mean that £900,000 will now fall on the British taxpayer?

I said in a previous Answer to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that the cost of the operation would be about £1 million, and the revised figure, which is the nearest that we can get at the moment, is about £900,000.

There may be some point in that, but, on the other hand, we did what we thought we should do to fulfil a treaty obligation. I do not think that one always sends in a bill for doing that.

Armed Forces (Recruitment Overseas)

2.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on the proposals to recruit outside these islands for the Armed Forces.

Arrangements already exist under which recruits from overseas can, under certain conditions, join the Armed Forces. Special arrangements have been made for recruitment to the Army in Fiji, the Seychelles and in Jamaica.

Why has this taken so long? We have been asking for this for the last seven or eight years. Why do we have to run into a very foreseeable recruiting crisis before we take what seems to some of us a rather obvious measure?

I do not disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that this a good thing to do, and we welcome these men. As to why this was not done before, I would say that this has been in preparation for some time and some of this recruiting has been going on for quite a long time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that these men can join any arm of the Service?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to put down a Question. I believe that they can, but if he wants a detailed answer, perhaps he will put down a Question.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that there was little point in asking these people to join the Army while we still had conscription, and that it is only now that we have not conscription that their coming in is so valuable?

Nuclear Tests

3.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will undertake no more nuclear test explosions for at least twelve months.

I have nothing to add to the full statement by the Prime Minister on this subject during the debate on the Address.

Would not the declaration of such a halt help towards the agreement which the Prime Minister said that he desired? Secondly, would not the Minister agree that there is a growing danger of more countries beginning to make the bomb, and how can the British Government ask others not to join the club if they continue to make and test the bomb?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister described in detail the considerations which govern our policy in this field, and I have nothing to add.

In view of our relations in this matter with the United States and the exchange of information, what useful purpose would a British series of tests serve now? Has the right hon. Gentleman's Department made any estimate of what would be gained of military value from 30 megaton and 50 megaton explosions?

14.

asked the Minister of Defence to what extent he has studied the recent Russian megaton bomb tests and the effect of megaton bombs upon the operation of Polaris submarines.

The implications of these tests are, of course, being studied, but it would not be in the public interest to disclose any conclusions of a military character that we may draw.

But is the Minister aware of an article in the Economiston this question in which it was pointed out that the megaton bomb could affect a Polaris submarine and result in the cracking of its hull? Is it not time now that we realised that this Polaris strategy has also become obsolete?

United States Deputy Secretary For Defence (Conversation)

4.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on his recent consultations with the United States Deputy Secretary for Defence.

11.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a statement on his recent conversations with Mr. Gilpatric, United States Deputy Secretary of Defence, regarding a common policy on the supply of nuclear weapons to the West German army.

My meeting with the United States Deputy Secretary for Defence was one of the series of informal meetings between N.A.T.O. Ministers dealing with the defence field in which we exchange views on questions of common interest. On this occasion the main item of our conversation was interdependence in the weapons and equipment field.

The question of the supply of nuclear weapons to the West German army did not arise.

In the course of his conversations with Mr. Gilpatric did the right hon. Gentleman tell him that Great Britain was bearing a disproportionately high share of the total burden of Western defence, as pointed out in the White Paper of 1957? If the right hon. Gentleman still believes that, why is he going to call up those conscripts who are the youngest and the least able to resist conscription?

That is quite a different question. Mr. Gilpatric. no doubt, had taken note of the recent statement by N.A.T.O. that this country's foreign exchange burden, as a result of our fulfilling our N.A.T.O. commitments, is a very heavy one indeed.

The right hon. Gentleman says that his conversation with Mr. Gilpatric was informal, but is he not aware that the week before conversations had taken place between Mr. Gilpatric and the West German Government and that announcements were made about agreements reached about the supply of nuclear weapons to the West German Government? The right hon. Gentleman says that this matter did not arise in the conversations, but does he not think it was his duty to raise such an important matter and to report to this House what proposals the Government agreed to about the supply of nuclear weapons to Germany? Does he not realise that the peace of the whole world may depend on this subject?

I do not accept at all the hon. Gentleman's view of what arrangements have been made between the American Government and the West German Government as necessarily the correct one. Anyway, my Answer was perfectly correct;that is to say, this matter was not discussed.

Nato (Aircraft)

6.

asked the Minister of Defence whether there is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requirement for the development of a vertical take-off and landing fighter and/or strike aircraft;and whether such an aircraft would be equipped to deliver conventional, or tactical nuclear, weapons in the first instance.

The N.A.T.O. authorities, and a number of N.A.T.O. countries, are considering the application of the vertical take-off and landing principle of future aircraft. The details of any such aircraft are classified N.A.T.O. information which I am not able to divulge.

But would not the Minister agree that the development of this type of aircraft is of critical importance for the supply of our forces in a conventional role, and that if we are going to take the doctrine of the pause seriously, then tactical aircraft of this type and others would become the most critical arm?

I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman at all on this. N.A.T.O. does need conventional backing in aircraft as in other things, but what I cannot say is the actual detailed specifications which N.A.T.O. is discussing. What I can say is that our own vertical take-off aircraft, the Hawker, I hope, is one of the ones N.A.T.O. will consider very seriously.

Would my right hon. Friend, having mentioned the Hawker 1127, take into account the fact that this aircraft is flying now? Would it not be advantageous, not only to the British aircraft industry but also to the Royal Air Force, if a limited number at least of them could be supplied now to the Royal Air Force to give operational experience? Is it not possible that an improved version of the 1127 could well fit the bill for N.A.T.O., far better than any new and alternative aircraft?

No. I think there is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says. As he knows, the West German Government have already joined us in the development of this aircraft. I take careful note of what he says about the support for this project which would arise from a reasonably early order from the Royal Air Force.

As there is a general feeling that the claims of the British aircraft industry have been by-passed in relation to supplies to N.A.T.O., can the right hon. Gentleman push not only the claims of the Hawker aircraft but of Short's, too, on the question of V.T.O.L. aircraft?

Certainly. I mentioned that aircraft only for the very reason that it is the first one flying, but the lift-engine type to which the hon. Gentleman refers is just as important and will be pushed just as hard.

7.

asked the Minister of Defence whether Valiant aircraft allocated to the support of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces are equipped to deliver conventional weapons while Canberra aircraft allocated to the support of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Europe are equipped to deliver tactical nuclear weapons, and while there is no North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requirement to equip them for any other role;and whether he is satisfied with this arrangement.

All the Valiant and Canberra aircraft in the bomber force assigned to SA.C.E.U.R. can carry either nuclear or conventional weapons. Most of this force is held immediately available to use nuclear weapons as required by NA.T.O. but, as circumstances require, elements of it are equipped for conventional weapons. I am satisfied with this arrangement.

Does not this arrangement suggest that we are doing very little more than paying lip-service to the doctrine of the pause? After all, the Canberra aircraft is the immediate strike aircraft and, even if there is no requirement, would it not be possible to use this initially in a conventional role? Is that not a very serious situation and does it not show that the NA.T.O. doctrine has not been revised at all? Surely this is something which ought to be given very serious attention?

I quite agree, and perhaps I may just add that at the present moment there is an element of the Canberra force—not a very large one, but an element—which is in fact equipped for the conventional rôle.

British Forces, Germany

8.

asked the Minister of Defence to what extent the cost of maintaining British forces in Germany will increase during the coming year.

Does that take into account the application which the right hon. Gentleman has made to the N.A.T.O. assistance board for a supplementary grant, and does not the fact of this application having been made show that we have bitten off more than we can chew? Large bites without teeth seem to be a permanent feature of our defence policy.

I do not think I follow the hon. Member's views of our defence policy. I would only say that after a fair and impartial examination NA.T.O. has accepted what is true, and that is, that we play our full part in the alliance and that it is a very heavy burden on our foreign exchange.

9.

asked the Minister of Defence if he will now withdraw British forces from Western Germany, in view of the refusal of Britain's allies to begin negotiations with a view to coming to a reasonable settlement of the Berlin crisis.

I do not accept the implication in the second part of the hon. Member's Question. The answer to the first part is "No, Sir."

Is it not a fact that the West German Government refuse to accept any recognition of Eastern Germany or of the Polish frontier or any form of disengagement, or to change the status quoin West Berlin? Are we really to be dragged into war by allies who do not agree with us on how to make peace?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. In any case, that type of question should be put down to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, not to me.

Neutron Bomb

10.

asked the Minister of Defence what plans Her Majesty's Government have for the manufacture of a neutron bomb.

It would not be in the public interest to make any statement on plans for the manufacture of specific types of nuclear weapons.

Has the Minister seen the report which came from Washington on 2nd November, that rays from the neutron bomb can penetrate through three feet of concrete? What is he going to do to strengthen 10, Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence?

That is quite another question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put it down.

Does what the right hon. Gentleman has just said apply also to preparations for the manufacture of chemical and bacteriological weapons?

18.

asked the Minister of Defence what proposals have been submitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by the United States Government concerning the testing of a large neutron bomb whose principal new contribution to nuclear strategy is its alleged capacity to kill people without damaging property.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen frequent and quite authoritative statements that the United States is preparing at this moment to test such a bomb? Does he not think it worth while to make some inquiry to see whether this is so? Does he realise that, if such a test were made, this would be represented in many parts of the world as the final triumph of capitalist priorities? Will he undertake that the United Kingdom would never undertake itself, or be associated, with genocidal mania of this kind? Will he inform the United States, or ask his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to do so, that we would not regard such a weapon as compatible with the maintenance of our alliance with any Power that tested or used it?

I have no knowledge of all the allegations the hon. Gentleman is making, and our general position on tests was clearly set out by the Prime Minister the other day.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the terrifyingly unsatisfactory Answer given by the Defence Minister, who seems quite unable to appreciate the importance—

Order. I have had repeatedly to ask the House to confine notice to the traditional phraseology. We experience great difficulty in getting on with Questions, and I need the help of the House in these matters.

I apologise, Sir, if I was improperly disturbed by the Minister's callousness, but what I want to do is to give notice to raise this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

Strategic Mobility

12.

asked the Minister of Defence what plans he has for increasing the strategic mobility of United Kingdom forces.

This is one of the factors which is being examined in the preparation of next year's Defence White Paper.

Is the Minister of Defence not yet aware of the chronic shortage of suitable transport aircraft of all kinds, and, in particular, of the lack of suitable strategic air freighters for use now? Is that something about which he will do nothing while waiting for the Estimates next year?

I think that the hon. Member knows of the Government's decision to place an order for five new transport jet aircraft.

Nato Strategy

13.

asked the Minister of Defence to what extent paragraph 12 of the White Paper on Defence, 1958, remains the basis of Her Majesty's Government's defence policy.

The paragraph to which the hon. Member refers accurately describes N.A.T.O. strategy at the time the White Paper was written. Since then N.A.T.O. strategy has been under review but so far no changes have been agreed.

Does the Minister say that this is still the policy, or is it not? As I understand the statements of the President of the United States and of leading N.A.T.O. statesmen and generals, they cannot square the present N.A.T.O. policy and never could square it with the terms of this paragraph.

That is quite a different matter. What I have said is that there has been, of course, a long and detailed discussion of N.A.T.O. policy to seek to bring it up to date with current strategic and technical considerations. We joined in that and I said in the House the other day that, as I understand General Norstad's new plans which are not yet approved, they are very close to current British thinking.

The right hon. Gentleman has made a serious statement which must be interpreted as meaning that the old ultra-nuclear strategy is still in force. There has been discussion on it but no revision of it whatsoever. Surely this is the gravest possible statement. Cannot the right hon. Gentlemen tell us that the British Government are now pressing very hard indeed for a revision of this? Is he not aware that the strategy of paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper does not square at all with all the statements of President Kennedy and Ministers here and many other public statements? Surely it is high time that there was a revision of this strategy.

I quite agree that discussions in N.A.T.O. ought to be concluded as quickly as possible, and we are certainly not holding them up.

Does the right hon. Gentleman thus confirm that the present strategy of N.A.T.O. is that in certain circumstances we should use the H-bomb first? Does he really mean to say that this is also one of the subjects which perhaps he did not discuss with Mr. Gilpatric when he was in this country? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government should do something about it instead of committing themselves to this absurd proposition?

The Government have made plain on many occasions that we will never be the aggressors. That is perfectly clear to everybody. The Government have also made it perfectly plain, and I must make it so now, that the degree of retaliation to aggression is a matter which must be settled in the circumstances of the time, and we are not going to announce beforehand any particular degree of retaliation.

Nato (British Forces)

15.

asked the Minister of Defence what further redeployment of the air, sea and land forces of the Crown he is proposing in order to strengthen Great Britain's contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware, from measures already announced, that a carefully prepared plan for reinforcing our N.A.T.O. forces is in hand. I have no statement to make at present about further redeployment.

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "in hand"? The only thing that we could discover was in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday which seemed to indicate that it was weaker still.

There has been a clear announcement of the various reinforcing measures that we are taking. For example, we have already sent our first guided missile regiment to Germany to reinforce B.A.O.R. It is being followed by two of our most modern anti-aircraft regiments and there are a good many other measures as well.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the antiaircraft regiments that went to Germany were fully equipped with the most modern equipment?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that both regiments were equipped with"Yellow Fever"?

That is quite a different question and I have no intention of answering it off the cuff.

Royal Air Force (Transport Aircraft)

16.

asked the Minister of Defence what consultations he had with the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air before approval was given to the order for five Vickers VC 10 aircraft for the Royal Air Force Transport Force, having regard to the present limited ability of this Force to move heavy equipment for the Army over long distances.

There were full consultations before the order was placed. The VC 10 is required primarily to transport men. The Belfast has been ordered to transport heavy equipment over long distances.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not sufficient authority to prevent air marshals from ordering luxury jet aircraft to transport themselves round the world when the desperate need of the transport force is for freight-carrying long-distance aircraft such as the Belfast and the Lockheed CI 30? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that freight-carrying aircraft can also carry passengers, though not in luxury?

I agree with the hon. Member's last point. The VC 10 is not ordered to carry senior officers about but to carry a very large number of men very quickly, which is exactly in accordance with need.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the country requires both types of aircraft as soon as it can get them, and with particular emphasis on freight-carrying?

I agree, but the VC 10 is ordered as a quick and massive transporter of large numbers of armed men quickly about the world.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not a sense of priority? While all additional transport aircraft are welcome, we are reaching the point when we can carry men but not arms. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his present policy will mean that the men will find that they have neither the weapons with which to fight nor the additional support and that their transport will move men only?

I do not agree. The Britannia is valuable as a long-haul heavy aircraft.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that it has far too small a cargo cross-section?

Personnel (Hong Kong)

17.

asked the Minister of Defence what consideration he has given to reducing the number of Service personnel stationed in Hong Kong.

As the House knows, the deployment of our forces overseas is at present under review as part of the re-examination of the defence programme.

Will the Minister bear In mind that Hong Kong is probably indefensible by any number of troops that employ conventional weapons against determined Chinese aggression, and that a large part of that very large garrison kept in Hong Kong could be used more profitably in defending Western Europe against Russian or East German aggression?

That is the hon. Member's view, but we have no intention of scuttling out of any bases.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that any withdrawal of our troops from Hong Kong would have a very grave effect on the morale of our people out there? Would he not agree also that our friends in Australia and New Zealand would be very upset if that took place?

The answer to the Hong Kong question is that there is a very serious internal security problem there, as the House knows, and we must make sure that we keep forces there to deal with that problem. I agree that we cannot hope to keep enough forces there to fight the whole Chinese Army.

Apart from internal security, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these forces have an operational role, and if so, what it is?

I am not going to say in the House exactly what role any forces have anywhere. I have given the general indication that we must certainly keep forces in Hong Kong to handle the internal security problem efficiently, and that is all I intend to say.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the maintenance of forces there is a most valuable guarantee of security and stability there? At the same time, while maintaining a constant force, would he give consideration to the possibility of requiring a shorter length of stay for most Service men in the territory?

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the primary purpose of troops in Hong Kong is solely for internal security and that there are far too many there merely for that purpose? What is the purpose of the surplus in Hong Kong?

Will the right hon. Gentleman resist pressure from his hon. Friends to keep British forces in places for purely prestige reasons where there is no operational role for them and maintain only those forces for which there is a rational role for internal security?

What I hope to do is —having taken the best military and political advice I can get—to take what I think are the right decisions.

Scotland

University Students (Grants)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that substantial differences exist between grants to university students in England and Scotland respectively, and that these differences are to the disadvantage of Scottish students;and if he will take steps to rectify this and to improve the position and prospects of Scottish students in these respects.

It has not been found possible to eliminate entirely disparities in students' maintenance allowances over the whole of Great Britain until the completion of the full-scale review of students' expenditure at present being undertaken by the Standing Advisory Committee on Grants to Students. It is hoped that, as a result of this review, equality of treatment over the whole of Great Britain will be secured by the introduction of new rates in October, 1962.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the recommendations on this subject in Cmnd. 1051, and will he reconsider them, in consultation with the heads of the Scottish universities, with a view to achieving better co-ordination, and more justice for Scottish students?

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate from my reply that we are moving in the direction he wants as fast as we reasonably can.

In reconsidering this matter, will the Secretary of State be very careful to see that any change made does not reduce the number of Scottish students who are able to go to Scottish universities by not allowing the amount to be spread over the maximum number of students available?

Mobile X-Ray Units

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state to the latest convenient date the number of mobile X-ray units for the detection of disease in operation in Scotland; where they are located; and what steps he is taking to increase the number.

:There are at present nine mobile X-ray units in Scotland. Four are in Glasgow, two in Edinburgh and one each in Aberdeen, Dundee and Motherwell. With the drop in the incidence of tuberculosis, there are limits to the effective use of these units, and the present number is adequate.

Does not the Secretary of State agree that the number and distribution of these mobile units does not accord with the present distribution of population in Scotland, and will he reconsider the whole matter on that basis?

:I do not think that the distribution of population is necessarily the right way to dispose of the units. What we are trying to do now is to dispose of them where their need is still visible, and there are certain sections of the population on whom we want to keep a close watch through this method.

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether he has studied the position of the whole of the West of Scotland being covered by the Glasgow units? We know that, in the past, there has been a high incidence of tuberculosis in the western and southern counties; is he satisfied that that cover is sufficient?

Sheriff Court, Dunoon (Prosecutions)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many persons appeared before the Sheriff of Argyll during the period January-September, 1961; what were the charges against them; how many were convicted; and what were the penalties imposed.

:The hon. Member is, I understand, referring to cases taken in the Sheriff Court at Dunoon. I regret that detailed information of the kind which he desires is not readily available, but I am ready to discuss with him what it is practicable to obtain.

Bonnybridge-Larbert Bypass

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what measures he has in mind to speed up the flow of road traffic between Fife and Glasgow, particularly on the section from Larbert Cross to the new dual carriageway at Cumbernauld.

:I hope to authorise a start on the Bonnybridge and Larbert bypass in about two years' time. The necessary trunk road Order has been made.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that there is a tremendous lack of urgency evident in his Answer? Does he not agree that the frustration created among car drivers who are compelled to do "the creep" behind the modern "desert caravans" of slow-moving lorries is one of the major factors in creating serious road accidents? Will he not, therefore, do something to get a speedier start made to this very necessary development?

I am aware, from very personal experience in recent weeks, of the problems on this section of road to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I am afraid that this must take its place amongst the other priorities. We cannot do everything we should like to absolutely simultaneously.

Apprentices (Day Release)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the decision of Glasgow Corporation to ask contractors tendering for building work valued at £10,000 or over to supply details of their apprentices attending day-release classes so that it can be determined whether they are properly fulfilling their obligations for apprentice training;and if he will ask other local authorities and public bodies to do the same so as to encourage increased use of day-release facilities.

This is a suggestion which has been made to a Committee of the Scottish Technical Education Consultative Council, and I would prefer not to anticipate its report.

Is not this a perfectly simple question? Is not this also a very effective if simple way of encouraging day release? Why should we have to wait for a report which, I understand, deals with other matters as well? Why cannot we have action on this matter now?

There are arguments on both sides in this matter. For example, there is some doubt whether a practice of this kind would, normally speaking, be consistent with the general rule that contracts should be awarded after open competition. It is not so simple as it appears at first sight.

The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, agreed that day release is a good thing. Should he not, therefore, take every step to help it?

The hon. Gentleman knows that I do think that day release is a good thing but, as I have tried to point out, this matter is not quite as sample as it would appear at first sight. I thought it was simple until I studied it very carefully.

Glen Nevis Hydro-Electric Scheme

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the names of those objectors to the Glen Nevis Hydro-Electric Scheme who represented to him that the public inquiry should be delayed until the publication of the Mackenzie Committee Report.

The National Trust for Scotland and, through it, nine amenity and recreational organisations— whose names I shall, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could the Secretary of State say why he accepted these representations? Is not the question of amenity a separate one from that of the economics of hydro-electric generation? Why could not the important question of amenity have been disposed of one way or the other, even though the final decision on the scheme could not have been taken until after the Mackenzie Committee had reported. Why must the decision be delayed?

Originally, I was under the impression that the amenity arguments could be treated on their own merits, but it was later made clear to me by some of the amenity organisations that their arguments could not be fully deployed without reference to the Report of the Mackenzie Committee, and in the light of the principles underlying the Franks Report. I came to the conclusion that the Glen Nevis inquiry must be delayed.

Following is the list:

  • The Co-operative Holidays Association.
  • The Grampian Club.
  • The Lomond Mountaineering Club.
  • The Scottish Council for National Parks.
  • The Scottish Mountaineering Club.
  • The Association of Scottish Climbing Clubs.
  • The Scottish Rights of Way Society.
  • The Scottish Youth Hostels Association.
  • The Youth Hostels Association (England and Wales).

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the Glen Nevis Hydro-Electric Scheme is being delayed until after the Mackenzie Committee has reported.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on 23rd October.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is a very unsatisfactory reply? The holding up of these hydroelectric schemes is preventing the development of the country's natural resources to deal with these problems of peak-load through the ever-increasing demand for electricity. Thermal stations can never replace that, apart from the wider issue of retarding the development of Highland economy.

My hon. Friend is entering highly technical arguments. I understand that the Board's proposal to bring forward the 120 megawatt oil-fired steam set at Dundee will met the Board's generating programme.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say to what extent the plans of the Hydro-Electricity Board for future development have been dislocated as a result of the halt in capital expenditure? What costs will this involve for the Board?

The arrangements to enable the Hydro-Electricity Board to proceed with the preparatory work on further schemes mentioned in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire, should obviate delay in proceeding with any further hydroelectric developments which may be approved after the Mackenzie Committee has reported. I cannot answer the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question without notice.

I am informed that it may not be possible to report to me until the middle of next year.

Hydro-Electric Capital Projects

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether all Scottish hydro-electric capital projects are to be held up until the Mackenzie Committee has completed its investigations; and when he expects its report.

I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on 23rd October.

Is not the Secretary of State aware that this little body of brewery and distillery people who raised the original objections has really no standing in Scotland sufficient to cause the hold-up of a scheme like this? Is he not aware that the Mackenzie Committee is being flooded out by a mass of material, all of which is already known to and understood by the right hon. Gentleman's own advisers; and that it has become a quite superfluous investigation, which is holding up the development of essential Scottish electricity supplies?

I cannot accept, for once, almost anything that the right hon. Gentleman has said. The representations that have led to the postponement of the Glen Nevis inquiry have come from the large number of amenity organisations which I have just described, and I just could not accept the right hon. Gentleman's implications in any part.

Milk (Iodine Content)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will authorise the immediate distribution of dried milk for children since the concentration of iodine in milk in Scotland has now far exceeded an acceptable dose as defined by the Medical Research Council.

The recommended limit of 130 micro-microcuries per litre relates to the radiation dose that is acceptable in milk consumed over a period of a year. For shorter periods, I am advised by the Medical Research Council that proportionately higher doses are not dangerous, and that a situation giving rise to concern has not been approached anywhere in Scotland or anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

Is the Secretary of State aware that in the first report we were given here the dose was 190 in Scotland and in the second report, 178; and that the Medical Research Council has said that higher doses over a shorter period could cause damage? Can the right hon. Gentleman really assure us that these higher doses in Scotland, particularly for babies, are not already causing damage? Is he quite certain of that?

The figure of 178 micro-microcuries per litre of milk in Scot- land, to which the hon. Lady refers, referred to a period of only three weeks and therefore represents a radiation dose which is very much less than that given by a level of 130 micro-microcuries per litre over a whole year, and I am assured that no harm need be feared from present levels of contamination observed in Scotland.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that everything possible is being done to watch the level of iodine in milk, and to warn parents? Does not he agree that alarmist statements on this subject do very great harm to the entire Scottish dairy industry?

A very close watch is being kept on the position, and the Government will not hesitate to act if, on the advice of experts, any occasion for action should arise. I am glad of the chance to make the statement that at the moment I am advised that there is no danger.

What is the most northerly point at which testing for radiation is being carried out? A certain amount of anxiety has been caused by a statement that there has, for instance, been no testing in Shetland, which is believed to be an area in which comparatively high levels have been reached.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this high figure for Scotland is not very reassuring, bearing in mind that it is the average? Would it not be better and more realistic to break the figures down into the various regions? This would give a truer picture of the varying levels in Scotland.

I must be advised by scientific experts on the best way to make a technical presentation of information which is difficult to present technically and accurately. I am informed that the averages normally used make full allowance for the variations there can be in different areas.

Fall-Out (Shelters)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state the number of shelters in Scotland now available for protection against fall-out.

No shelters have been built at public expense specifically to give protection against fall-out, but about 14,000 last war shelters still exist in Scotland, which would give some degree of protection.

That is a terrible answer. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have seen the shelters he is talking about. They are in such a state in my division—

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman's Answer provoked me. Is the Secretary of State aware that the Minister of Defence, who was recently with us, depends on the massive deterrent to make shelters unnecessary? Did not he hear the Minister declare that the massive deterrent is something which he is now thinking about again? Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that the Government's policy is to offer no protection whatever to the people of Scotland against the dangers of fall-out of which we have been hearing so much?

The hon. Member is trying to drag me into debate on the principles of defence policy. If he studies my Answer carefully, he will find that it answers the Question on the Order Paper.

Law Of Intestacy

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to introduce legislation to amend the law of intestacy.

As the hon. Member is aware, there was not time to introduce a Bill on succession in either of the last two Sessions of Parliament, and, in view of the claims of other Measures in the Government's programme, I can give no undertaking to do so during the current Session.

Can the right hon. Gentleman at least give an undertaking that it is still his intention to introduce this Bill, even at some far distant date?

I know that this matter has been under consideration for a considerable period, but it is not of the very highest urgency and it represents changes in very long-standing laws. I could not undertake at this moment to say when it would be possible to introduce it.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that, two years ago, in the Gracious Speech, he promised this legislation? Will not he come clean with the House of Commons and tell us that he has shelved this legislation at the request of the Scottish Landowners' Federation?

Not at the request of anybody. There are difficulties, and this is a subject on which there are profound differences of view. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, time in the Scottish Grand Committee for Measures of this kind is not too plentiful at the moment.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why, when I brought in a Bill on this subject last Session, the Government blocked it?

I am afraid that, offhand, I cannot remember any details of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Bill.

Housing (Interest Charges)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what would be the total interest charges on a house costing £1,500 built in October, 1951, with money borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board; and what would be the corresponding figure for a house built today.

If the authority concerned raised a 60-year loan at Public Works Loan Board rates, the annual charge for the October, 1951, loan would be £54 4s., compared with £106 17s. for the same loan raised today.

In view of the intolerable burden that this places on local authorities, due to the high interest rate policy of the Government, when is the right hon. Gentleman proposing to do something about it instead of attempting to compel tenants of municipal houses to carry the burden, not of the houses, but of the interest charges which must be paid back to the moneylender?

These matters were debated recently and will, no doubt, be debated again. It is not easy, in Question and Answer, to deal with matters of this kind.

That is not an answer. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, even judging by the figures which he has given, in a year the interest rate on these houses has doubled for every year they have to be paid for? What policy has he for dealing with this problem instead of always compelling tenants to pay more?

The hon. Gentleman knows our subsidy policy very well. He is also aware that we do not believe that artificially low interest rates for one section of the people is the right way. We believe that there should be housing subsidies, and that these should be fully debated on the Floor of the House.

Hospitals (Houses)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has made to the Treasury Valuer on the assessments of houses attached to hospitals.

As the Treasury Valuer is willing to consider any representations put to him by hospital authorities, there is no occasion for representations by me.

Is it the case that in no instance has the Secretary of State or the Joint Under-Secretary of State made representations to the Treasury Valuer? The people concerned are intensely worried about the future amounts they will have to pay. Can the right hon. Gentleman say when they will be told whether or not a change is to be made in the assessments of these houses?

In answer to the first part of that supplementary question, to the best of my knowledge no individual representations have been made by myself or by my hon. Friend to the Treasury Valuer. If I am wrong in saying that, I will inform the hon. Lady. I could not say when the Treasury Valuer will be able to come to his conclusions on some of the cases put to him.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows whether the answer is "Yes" or "No". I asked a specific question: what representations has he made? Surely there should be no doubt in his mind about whether or not he has made representations.

I am sorry. I am afraid that I misunderstood the hon. Lady. My original answer was correct. I was not certain whether there was some other implication which I did not grasp from her original Question.

Royal College Of Science And Technology, Glasgow

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the general public discontent with his proposals for the Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow; and what steps he is taking to allay the discontent.

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that his draft scheme for the management of the Royal College of Science and Technology, Glasgow, has created general discontent; and what action he proposes to take to have the matter reviewed.

No, Sir. Since the draft scheme was published on 19th September, only the Scottish Trades Union Congress has sent me any observations on it. If anybody has objections to the scheme, they should send them to me as soon as possible.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable correspondence in Scottish newspapers, together with well-informed answers, from a large body of well-informed opinion in the country, which takes the view that, if we are to make a breakthrough in our educational techniques, particularly in science and technology, the time has come for him to recommend an improvement in the status of this college to that of university?

This matter is out-with the draft endowment scheme, which is without prejudice to further developments on the academic side, which are for the University Grants Committee in the first instance.

Strathclyde Hospital, Motherwell (Out-Patient Department)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now give the date of commencement of building at Strathclyde Hospital, Motherwell, of the new out-patient clinic.

The Western Regional Hospital Board now proposes, that the new out-patient department should be provided as part of a new general hospital at Strathclyde Hospital. I have still to approve the siting of the new general hospital, and it is, therefore, too early yet to forecast when building work on the hospital or on the out-patient department will begin.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that the original starting date for this out-patient clinic was 1962? Does he also recall that he sent me a letter, dated no later than last November, stating that the plan had not been changed? Is he aware that in eight years the number of patients using this clinic has doubled, and that every specialist who has to use the buildings says that it is deplorable for that purpose? Will he ensure that the original starting date of 1962 is maintained?

I appreciate the hon. Member's concern, but this has been a most complex problem for a great variety of reasons. I think that the hon. Member will agree that if the final decision is that the main hospital should be on that site, it will obviously be right for the new out-patient department to form an integral part of the new hospital, as it will be a major user of the main diagnostic and other services of the hospital.

I was assured that there was no question but that the polyclinic, or out-patient clinic, would go there irrespective of the decision about the hospital. May I take it that there is no question of a change of opinion about whether the out-patient clinic is to be built?

There are two separate problems, depending on whether the hospital goes there. I will write firmly to the hon. Member giving the latest position on both points.

Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1954

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the difference in severity which may result between a fine and the period of imprisonment imposed in default of payment, he will take steps to amend the periods of imprisonment laid down in Section 49 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1954.

The periods of imprisonment laid down in Section 49 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1954, are maxima within which the sentencing court may decide what period should be imposed in default of payment of a fine in the circumstances of each case before it. I have no proposals for amending legislation at present.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider some of the periods of imprisonment which have been imposed in the Dunoon area? For instance, is he aware that in a recent and not untypical case, when a fine of £15 was not paid, the imprisonment awarded was sixty days? Is not that, on the one hand, an open invitation to anyone seeking martyrdom and, on the other, an inequitable amount of imprisonment for anyone genuinely concerned with conscience?

It would not be proper for me to comment on decisions of any court of law. However, I understand that in some of the cases the court has exercised its discretion and has imposed various periods within the statutory maxima.

Transport

Piccadilly Area (One-Way Working)

39.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is now in a position to state his conclusions on the experimental one-way working carried out in the Piccadilly area.

Yes, Sir. I have reviewed this experiment and consulted both the Metropolitan Police and the local authorities concerned. We are all agreed that it was valuable, and I propose to try a further experiment, with a number of improvements based on experience. It will start on 27th November and continue over the Christmas period. It should assist the heavy Christmas traffic. It will also help me, in deciding on longer-term arrangements for this area, to see how this scheme stands up to so severe a test.

I am placing in the Library copies of a plan and a Press notice giving some further details of the new experiment.

Visitors From Overseas (Driving Licences)

41.

asked the Minister of Transport why, under his regulations, a visitor's driving licence can be issued without it being ascertained whether the holder is proficient in driving by United Kingdom standards.

A licence of this kind is only issued to a visitor from overseas arriving in this country without a foreign driving permit or international driving permit who is prepared to sign a declaration that he is authorised to drive in his own country.

I have these arrangements at present under review.

I am not quite clear about how in a recent case someone who arrived in this country was given a driving licence after only ten hours' experience of driving in this country, with the result that there was a fatal accident. Will my right hon. Friend look into the whole question of reciprocal agreements with other countries on this very important matter?

I am looking into it, but it is obligatory on this country, under an agreement reached at the United Nations Conference on Road and Motor Transport, in 1949, to which we are a party, to provide such facilities. British visitors to other countries receive reciprocal advantages. In the case my hon. and gallant Friend mentions, which received great publicity, the girl in question knew that the declaration which she made in order to get a visitor's licence was false. However, I agree about the importance of agreements on the matter and I am looking into it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a man who has obtained a driving licence in a foreign country, or in one of our Colonies, is permitted to drive here without passing a test in this country?

Perhaps the hon. Member will give me details, when I will consider them.

Goods Vehicles (Brakes)

42.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will take steps to revise and increase the statutory requirements regarding tests of lorry brakes and similar vehicles.

The law requires all vehicles to have brakes sufficient under the most adverse conditions to bring the vehicle to rest within a reasonable distance; I am at present reviewing these requirements to see whether any further strengthening is necessary. My officers have authority to examine goods vehicles at any time, and can therefore check brake efficiency as well as other factors affecting road safety.

Railways

Electrification, Kent

40.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made with the electrification, under the capital development plan, of railway lines in Kent in the past year; and what improvements to railway fences were made at the same time.

:The British Transport Commission tells me that by last month all railway lines in Kent had been electrified, with the exception of the lines from Tonbridge and Ashford to Hastings, and the Isle of Grain branch, which are not included in the scheme for electrification. The fencing has been brought up to the standards required by our Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the news about electrification. Is he aware that the farming community and every parent in Kent is extremely perturbed about the state of the fencing? Does he know that his statement about the fencing being brought up to standard is not in accordance with the experience of the National Farmers' Union? Further, is he aware that the fencing within half-a-mile of where there was a fatal accident earlier this year is still said to be in a deplorable state? Will my hon. Friend go into the matter more closely as soon as possible?

I am informed that we have not recently received representations from the National Farmers' Union about the fencing of the electrified lines. As I said in my original Answer, the fencing adjoining the electrified lines in Kent has been brought up to the standard required by our Chief Inspecting Officer. However, if there is a particular case which my hon. Friend would like me to look into, I will certainly do so.

Will my hon Friend look into not one case but a list of at least twenty which I have in my hand?

In view of the general concern about electrification as a whole, will the hon. Gentleman consider preparing a graph, or some other indication, showing the state of progress of electrification compared with the last reappraisal of the modernisation work of the railways?

I will consider that, but I doubt whether progress in electrification lends itself to graphical presentation in the way in which the hon. Member suggests. However, I will look into it.

Roads

Highway Construction And Maintenance (Grants)

43.

asked the Minister of Transport what action has been taken by him, in accordance with the recommendations made by local government organisations, to set up a working party to examine the whole subject of grants for highway construction and maintenance, including their adequacy.

In March of this year I set up a working party to consider certain proposals about highway grants which had been put to me by the local authority associations. The working party includes representatives of the associations.

When does the Minister expect the recommendations of the working party to be made? Will he seriously consider the points raised by the organisations concerned?

I have given such serious consideration that we have set up this working party. The matters involved are of considerable complexity and detail. The present state of play is that a meeting has been held and the working party has agreed on its terms of reference, discussed several of the proposals, and agreed that the next step should be for the associations to prepare a memorandum on two of the items. We are now awaiting that memorandum from the associations.

Shipping

Nuclear Propulsion

44.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement about the proposed construction of a nuclear-powered merchant vessel: what is the earliest date on which such a vessel could be launched; and what would be the approximate cost.

The tenders received by my Department from industry for a nuclear reactor suitable for installation in a merchant ship have been examined in detail by the Committee on the Application of Nuclear Power to Marine Purposes and also by its Technical Committee, and the Government have carefully considered the matter in the light of the advice received from these Committees.

This advice shows that while it would certainly be technically feasible to build a nuclear-powered ship now, nuclear propulsion for marine purposes does not offer sufficient economic promise to justify building a merchant ship at the present time. The Government have, therefore, decided that the right course in present circumstances is to authorise a vigorous programme of research, aimed at a reactor system which is economically attractive to a wide range of shipping. The programme will be carried out by the Atomic Energy Authority in conjunction with industry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a considerable body of opinion which feels that little more progress can be made until a prototype is at sea? Will not the decision he has announced make Britain even more backward in this new research? Will he publish a White Paper setting forth the arguments for and against a prototype?

I will consider the last suggestion of my hon. Friend, but at the moment no country in the world has a nuclear reactor which is economic as far as shipping is concerned. I am sure that the major break-through will be to the country which first finds that reactor.

It is very difficult for laymen to come to any judgment on these highly technical matters, but can the right hon. Gentleman say why there has been so much delay in coming to this decision? Is it not the fact that tenders were first sought about two years ago? Surely we could have had some decision about the value of the tenders long before now?

As the right hon. Gentleman said, this is a matter of great complexity, and it is for that reason that the decision has been delayed.

Is it not regrettable that in the present depressed state of the shipbuilding industry this decision has been arrived at, and is not this the very development which would put us once again in the forefront of world shipbuilding? In view of the failure of the Cunard order going to the North-East, is it not time that something like this was given in the North-East to take its place?

I do not think that it will help shipping or shipbuilding in this country unless we can make it economically viable. If we start having marine propulsion which is not an economic proposition, I do not think that it will help us in our competition against countries abroad.

In view of the long delay which has occurred, can the right hon. Gentleman say how long he expects it to be before some conclusion is arrived at? This continuing delay is very serious, and it appears that there is to be further delay, inevitable perhaps, but has the Minister any idea how long it will be?

I am afraid that it is never possible in scientific research to say when a conclusion will be reached. These are primarily matters for my noble Friend the Minister for Science.

Ghana (Visit Of Her Majesty The Queen)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now make a statement about the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Ghana.

I told the House on Monday that I thought it right that my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary should pay a second visit to Ghana. This he has done and he returned to this country this morning. My colleagues and I have now had from him a full appreciation of the position based on his personal inquiries on the spot.

As I told the House on Monday, Her Majesty's safety is and must be our first consideration. Of course, no Royal tour is without risk. Her Majesty knows this as well as any Member of the House. She has never been deterred in undertaking previous tours because of the personal risk to herself, which is inevitable, especially when great crowds are assembled. Happily, she has come triumphantly through these trials with the enhanced affection and admiration of all.

After considering carefully and anxiously all the information before us, collected and assessed by those best qualified to do so, the Government have reached the conclusion that the degree of risk attaching to this tour is no greater than that which has been present in many of her previous journeys.

There are those who will ask how this conclusion can be reconciled with the explosions which have taken place in Accra during the last few days. That was one of the questions which was in the forefront of my mind when I decided that it would be right for my right hon. Friend to visit Ghana again. He has given us his first-hand assessment of the significance of these incidents. While he was in Accra he took the opportunity to tour the Royal route in company with President Nkrumah and he saw for himself the unmistakable friendliness of the crowds. We have also had throughout, as I have said, the expert advice, based on thorough investigation on the spot, of those in this country best qualified to do this sort of work. We have had the ready co-operation of the Ghanaian authorities.

I can assure the House that on the information and advice available to them the Government have formed the view that the explosions do not indicate any intention by those concerned to perpetrate acts of violence during the Queen's visit which would endanger Her Majesty's safety. We have, therefore, no reason to fear that this journey will involve any special and additional risk to Her Majesty's safety.

On the other hand, there can be no doubt the cancellation of this visit, so long promised and so eagerly awaited by the people of Ghana, would seriously impair the invaluable contribution made by Her Majesty's journeys towards the strengthening of the ties which bind together the many peoples of the Commonwealth.

Her Majesty's Government have, therefore, advised the Queen that she should proceed with her visit to Ghana. We are, of course, at once informing other Commonwealth Governments, with whom we have been in touch throughout.

May I, therefore, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the whole House, send Her Majesty our warmest good wishes for the success of her West African tour and a safe return.

The decision as to what advice to offer Her Majesty in connection with her visit to Ghana is one which can be taken only by Her Majesty's Government, and all that the Opposition, and, indeed, the rest of the House, can do is to be sure that every possible inquiry has been made. It is, I think, perfectly clear from the Prime Minister's statement and the visit of the Secretary of State for the Colonies that this has been done, and in the circumstances all that remains for us to do is to join the Prime Minister in wishing Her Majesty a very happy and very successful tour.

Is it not peculiar that the Commonwealth Governments have not been asked to approve the decision, which many people throughout the Commonwealth will regard as subjecting Her Majesty to unnecessary risks? Can the Prime Minister explain the procedure under which Her Majesty, as Head of the Commonwealth in this matter, has to accept the advice only of the Prime Minister of this country? May I, at the same time, join my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman in wishing Her Majesty god-speed on her journey.

We have been in touch with all the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I have sent them personal messages, and I think I can say that no Commonwealth Government has expressed a contrary view.

The purely constitutional question, which is somewhat involved, I set out last Tuesday. The House will remember that the original visit was to have taken place in 1959. At that time Ghana was a monarchical State and Her Majesty would constitutionally have been advised by the Ministers of that State. Ghana has since become a republic and, therefore, the responsibility was assumed by Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom in this case, as in the case of India and Pakistan, and that procedure has been followed, and, as far as I know, accepted by all Commonwealth Governments.

Is the Prime Minister aware that even those of us who have been most anxious that the Queen should not go to Ghana are now foremost in wishing the best for her safety, and have always been convinced that the great majority of the people of Ghana would give her a most tumultuous welcome, the warmth of which could not be exceeded anywhere?

I am sure that what the House has said will give the greatest pleasure to the Queen. Of course, we have all been anxious, as the right hon. Gentleman properly said, and the risks have to be weighed as best we can. All the life of royalty and the tours of Her Majesty involve considerable risks. She accepts them proudly. I am sure that the House will give her the greatest sense of strength in her task.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we all appreciate the responsibility that lies on his shoulders for giving advice, and the responsibility similarly lying upon the shoulders of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations? Although criticisms may be voiced in this House about particular features of the Administration in Ghana, is it not now clear that, both in this House and in the British Press, very inaccurate statements have been made about the support of the people of Ghana for the Administration there? In view of those circumstances, is it not desirable that upon the occasion of the visit of the Queen it should be made clear that all the people of this country wish well to Ghana in her future and in her relationship to this country?