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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 649: debated on Monday 13 November 1961

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Pensions And National Insurance



asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what research he is conducting, under the Industrial Injuries Act, into the causes, incidence and methods of prevention of accidents.

None, Sir. Responsibility in respect of such matters lies in general with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and in respect of particular industries with my right hon. Friend concerned with that industry.

Am I wrong in assuming that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions has statutory opportunities to do research in this field? Is there any reason why he is not doing it?

I think the hon. Member has in mind Section 73 of the Industrial Injuries Act. I am, in fact, operating those powers at the moment, not in respect of accidents, as mentioned in the Question, but for financing two research projects relating to diseases which might have some bearing on prescription.

In that case, is there any co-ordination with the Ministry of Labour or the Minister of Power in this matter?

Of course I keep in touch with my right hon. Friends, but no good would be done, and a great many wires would be crossed, if I were to try to enter into their responsibilities in respect of accident prevention.

As a great deal of information must come to the right hon. Gentleman's Department in connection with these claims—which run into vast numbers—is there not some advantage in direct liaison with the Ministry of Labour in regard to information collected in the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Of course there is close liaison, and, as the hon. and learned Member says, my Department collects a lot of information that is useful to other Departments as a result of dealing with these large numbers of claims.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will state the number of successful claims in 1959 and 1960 under the National Insurance (Industrial injuries) Act, in respect of accidents causing at least three days incapacity to persons subject to the Factory Acts; and what was the number of working days lost as a result of such accidents.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mr. Richard Sharples)

In dealing with claims for injury benefit, no distinction is made between persons covered by the Factories Acts and the many other persons whose injuries arise out of and in the course of their employment. I regret, therefore, that the information requested is not available.

Is it not desirable to try to obtain this information if only for one reason—that many reportable accidents are not so reported and that the right hon. Gentleman's Department is paying out in many more cases than the numbers which are reported? For example, the numbers reported last year were 190,000-odd, and it may well be that the number of claims which are made are greater than this. Should we not know the actual facts?

The Factories Act, 1961, Section 80, places the responsibility for reporting accidents to the Factory Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labour on occupiers of factories. The industrial injuries scheme covers a very much wider field, and we do not collect separate statistics of the accidents covered by the Factories Act.

Is it possible to say what proportion of the persons injured are subject to the Factories Act, because a number of hon. Members on this side of the House feel that there is a large area of industrial activity which is not protected and which ought to be protected.

Perhaps the hon. and learned Member would like to put down a Question on that.

Owing to the fact that the answer is not entirely satisfactory, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Graduated Pension Scheme


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance approximately how many persons are paying graduated contributions; what proportion this is of the total number of persons insured in Class I; how many persons have contracted out; and what is the current flow of applications to be granted certificates of non-participating employment.

The number paying graduated contributions will not be known until employers' P.A.Y.E. returns for the year 1961–62 have been received and analysed. A total of 4,385,280 employees have been contracted out. The number of employees covered by certificates issued since 3rd April of this year is 92,832 and certificates have been issued in the last few weeks at a rate increasing this number by an average of about 1,200 per week.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what difficulties he has encountered in the launching of the graduated pensions scheme; what steps he is taking to overcome them; and whether he will make a statement.

I have so far encountered no special difficulties and the arrangements seem to be working well; but it would be premature to try to make a comprehensive statement before the returns for a full year's working have been made and examined.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there appears to have been a good deal of difficulty about wrong National Insurance numbers supplied to the Inland Revenue, that thousands of them have come back for verification and correction and that the staff of the Inland Revenue have gone on overtime to do this job? Is that a local difficulty or is it more serious than some people suggest?

When a new and radically different scheme such as this starts there is always this sort of problem, but I am happy to say that the staff of the Inland Revenue, as one would expect, have been most helpful over this and that the problem is on the way to being overcome.

By what amount has the number of people who contracted out exceeded the Minister's estimate? How near is it to the danger point at which the number contracted out would make the scheme unworkable?

The figure put in the White Paper as long ago as 1958, although it could hardly at that stage, before the Bill had even been published, be called an estimate and was in fact no more than a guess, was 2½ million. The figure I have just given was 4,300,000-odd. The assumptions, financial and otherwise, on which the scheme was founded were highly conservative—with a small "c"—and contracting out of this sort does not of itself do other than indicate that there was a real demand for it and that the purpose of the Measure, to stimulate the development of good private schemes, is well on the way to fruition.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware of the grievance of those who have been compelled to make contributions towards a graduated pension which prove to be insufficient on retirement to enable them to gain any benefit; and if he will refund the contributions to those concerned.

I do not think there is a grievance here. The basis of the scheme is that, on retirement, any odd graduated contributions which amount to a half unit or more are treated as a whole unit producing 6d. a week graduated pension; amounts of less than a half unit do not count. I think this is fair.

There is a grievance on the part of those who find themselves in the position of having made contributions of less than half a unit and being unable to get any benefit from it. Since it was known that this would happen, will the Minister review the position of those who are obviously going to retire before any benefit can be gained for them and who therefore make contributions which, as far as they are concerned, are worthless?

No. Looked at broadly, the chance of somebody getting a whole unit for contributions of less than a whole unit must work out at about the same as the chance of someone who contributes less than half a unit and gets nothing. Broadly, that is surely a sensible arrangement. In any event, the hon. Member will recall that the graduated pension is paid jointly with the flat-rate pension, in respect of which no one who retires now or for many years to come will have contributed anything like the actual cost.

Is the Minister aware that I am not talking about partial benefits or portions of benefits, but about those who get no benefit from the graduated scheme at all because their contributions have been so small that they cannot qualify in any way? It is only to those cases, in which there is a natural sense of grievance, that I have referred.

I fully understand the hon Member's point, and I understood it originally. He must bear in mind that the small, nugatory, contribution made comes in the overwhelming majority of cases from people who will get the full flat-rate pension for which they have by no means fully paid.

National Assistance (Kennington And Brixton)


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many allowances are on issue by the Kennington and Brixton area offices of the National Assistance Board; and what was the corresponding figure last year.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

The number of weekly National Assistance grants current at 31st October last in the area served by the Kennington and Brixton offices of the National Assistance Board was 9,466. The comparable figure a year before was 9,404.

What inference does the hon. Lady draw from those figures? Is it not clear that there seem to be more people in need now, at any rate in these areas, than there were a year ago?

I draw the inference that Brixton goes contrary to the country as a whole where nearly 9,000 fewer people are receiving National Assistance grants than a year ago. If Brixton is contrary to the country as a whole, I suggest that it is very suitably represented in the House.

Ministry Of Power



asked the Minister for Power what general directions he has given to the Gas Council concerning the distribution of imported methane gas.

When this takes place, will it have any bearing on the installation of Lurgi plants, and, if so is there not danger of this leading to wasteful capital expenditure?

No, Sir. The plans for distributing this gas are to take it by trunk main across the centre of England to the North-West, and the North-Western Gas Board is one of the boards which will benefit. It will therefore pass very close to the present Lurgi plant at Coleshill near Birmingham, and no doubt if the Lurgi study group showed that the process was fully economic a plant would be built somewhere in that area where methane would be available to enrich the lean gas made by that process.


asked the Minister of Power what alternative plans have been placed before him by the gas industry to ensure a safe supply of natural gas whatever might happen to supplies from North Africa.

If methane imports were interrupted, gas supplies would be maintained by increasing gas manufacture at other plants and by running the methane reforming plants on other raw materials.

Are alternative measures being put to the Minister if North Africa proves to be—as our oil importing areas have proved to be—a politically unstable area? Is the Minister not aware that when the first full year's gas imports are brought into this country they will be equivalent to the loss of 2,500 coal miners and that this plant, plus the uncontrolled import of oil, will have disastrous consequences to the mining industry?

It is difficult to say with certainty how much coal will be displaced and, therefore, how many miners' output will be affected, because much depends on the extent to which gas sales increase. If they increase substantially because of this new cheaper fuel, the coal displacement may be less than we expect at present.

Is the Minister aware that the first year's operation intends to bring into the country the equivalent of 800,000 tons of coal, which is the equivalent of the annual output of 2,500 miners? If this is coming in, displacement is bound to occur and, in addition to the oil imports, it will have a very bad effect on the mining industry.

The point which I am trying to convey is that the displacement of coal depends on the likely demand for gas in the future, and if methane had not displaced that amount of coal I would probably have been asked to agree to other imports of oil-based feed stock, so that the position would have been much the same.


asked the Minister of Power what inquiries were instituted by his Department with regard the importation of supplies of natural gas from Holland rather than from the Sahara.

The extent of the natural gas deposit in Holland is, I understand, still uncertain, and the possibility of gas being available for export even more so.

Is my right bon. Friend aware that the Council of Europe, in its last report, stated that there were large reserves of natural gas in Holland and the cost of transporting gas was 80 per cent. of the cost of selling it? Surely it would be worth while thoroughly investigating the Dutch position, since, if methane has to be imported, it might be much cheaper and more reliable than importing methane from the Sahara?

Certainly, I think that all these possibilities ought to be explored very closely indeed. I am told that the possibility of gas being available from Holland in the near future for this country is not certain enough to justify me in turning down the concrete proposals I accepted last week.

If the Lurgi proposals are being proceeded with, would it not be better to leave the decision on methane for a while until we get a definite decision on Lurgi and Dutch supplies?

The decision that I took a few days ago does not in any way compromise the Lurgi development. If Lurgi is shown to be economic, it will go forward just as if the methane proposals had not been approved. The methane proposals will, I believe, help the Lurgi cases because the gas for enriching will then be readily available.


asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction to the Gas Council that, in constructing pipe-lines necessary for the transmission of methane, they should at the same time provide for the parallel construction of high pressure pipe-lines to carry Lurgi gas from the Midlands.

No, Sir. The Gas Council is keenly interested in any possible development of the proposed national gas grid.

Will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Gas Council to provide the same facilities for the development of the Lurgi process as it intends to provide for the distribution of methane?

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is on the right Question here. He has another one on this subject. This Question is about pipe-lines. Perhaps I can give him the answer to his supplementary question when I answer his next Question.

With due respect, my supplementary question was directed to this Question. I want the same facilities given for the development of the Lurgi process as will be given for the development of methane.

This is a hypothetical question at the moment. It depends or what the Study Group discovers. When the Study Group has made its report, the Gas Council will no doubt consider it. If Lurgi is competitive, the Council will no doubt decide to go forward. I think I can give the hon. Gentleman further information in a later Question.


asked the Minister of Power whether he has received an assurance from the Gas Council that if the Lurgi study shows that a large plant would be competitive with imported methane, they will proceed immediately to erect such a plant.

No Sir: but if an additional Lurgi plant appears to be the best means of providing a cheap, clean and reliable gas, the Council will certainly go forward with it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread disquiet in the coal mining industry that the Gas Council intends to dispose of the Lurgi process and concentrate on importing methane gas? Can he give a definite assurance this afternoon that that is not so and that the Gas Council will proceed with the Lurgi process?

I cannot give that definite assurance without knowing the facts which the Lurgi Study Group will disclose. I do not think that any of us would want the Gas Council to go forward with a Lurgi plant if the plant were not competitive. However, if the Lurgi plant is shown to be competitive by the Study Group and fulfils the conditions of my Answer, I am certain that the Gas Council will want to go forward.

When is the Study Group, which has been broody for so long now, likely to submit its report?

It has not been broody for all that long, but I imagine that it will not sit for a great deal longer. On the other hand, I do not think that it will report quite as early as some people seem to expect because it still has a great deal of work to do.

As the report is expected in two or three months' time, why did the Minister take the decision to assist the Gas Council now? Could he not have waited for two or three months longer to see if the economics of gasifying coal through the Lurgi process were even better than this importation plan?

The hon. Gentleman is continually making the mistake of thinking that these two projects are alternatives. I do not see them as alternatives. I believe they supplement one another.

Oeec (Report)


asked the Minister of Power, to what extent the recommendations of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation's Report, entitled Towards a New Energy Pattern in Europe, have been adopted by Her Majesty's Government.

This valuable report by experts was intended to give to member Governments general guidance rather than specific recommendations for action. I think the policy of Her Majesty's Government is fully consistent with the views expressed in it.

Is the Minister aware that the report very much under-estimates the social responsibilities of the fuel industry and is also very weak on the side of conserving energy and coal for future use, and is this to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

In so far as the report deals with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, we are in line with it. It recommended that the paramount consideration should be a plentiful supply of low cost energy with freedom of choice for the consumer, and it also said about coal:

"The future market will depend primarily on the possibility of producing coal at a competitive price."

New Power Stations (Sites)


asked the Minister of Power what recent consultations he has had with the Central Electricity Generating Board regarding the building of a power station, or power stations, on or near the Durham coalfield.

As my right hon. Friend explained in answer to the hon. Member's Question on 1st May, the choice of sites for new power stations is a matter for the Central Electricity Generating Board. The Board tells me it has the question of a new station in the Durham area under review.

This is of supreme importance to the Durham coalfield particularly in view of the decision which has been taken to import liquid methane into the country. Would the Parliamentary Secretary advise his right hon. Friend to do everything he can with the C.E.G.B. to speed up this matter and see if we can have a new power station in the County of Durham.

The C.E.G.B. plans its power station commissioning programme five years ahead, and even if it were decided to build a station it would be some years before construction could begin.


Pit Closures


asked the Minister of Power whether he has completed his revision of the general programme for coal mine closures; to what extent he anticipates a speeding up of closures of uneconomic mines; and if he will make a statement.

My Department is in close contact with the National Coal Board about colliery closures. Decisions on closures are a matter for the Board, which is trying to improve the efficiency of the industry by letting new and reconstructed collieries take the place of old capacity. The amount of old capacity to be replaced in 1962 is in line with what was anticipated in the Revised Plan for Coal.

Would it not be possible to interpret the words "in contact with the National Coal Board" as implying pressure on the Coal Board in view of the comments of his hon. Friend, during the National Coal Board debate a fortnight ago, when he referred to carrying dead weight of high cost areas? Why is the Minister being so ruthless with the National Coal Board—first allowing uncontrolled imports of oil and gas, and, secondly, proceeding to close far faster than is necessary many of these mines? It is like sending the coal mining industry to Coventry.

I cannot accept any of the hon. Gentleman's imputations. The Revised Plan for Coal, of which the hon. Gentleman has been aware for two years, talked about the closure of 205 to 240 collieries up to 1965. The closures, including concentrations, last year were 44 and this year 32. That is rather below the figure that appeared in the Revised Plan for Coal. Therefore, there has been no pressure by the Government on the Coal Board.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that every time he closes an uneconomic mine, as it is called, and transfers the men elsewhere, there is a loss of manpower of 10 to 20 per cent., and that this is becoming very serious? Is he also aware that this loss on transfer from old to new pits is likely to become much greater and very serious unless the Government revise their policy, particularly with regard to methane and the rest, because if the men think there is no future in the industry that will be very disastrous for the country?

I am aware of the problem brought about by closing pits and the loss of manpower concerned, but there does not seem any possible sense in keeping men underground in pits producing uneconomically and leaving under-manned other pits which could produce more economically.

I can understand that. The men and the Union have co-operated with the Coal Board, but if the prospects of the industry are felt generally to be bad, because of Government policy, the men will feel that this is the time when they wish to get out rather than be transferred to another pit.

I think that the prospects of the industry are in the industry's own hands, and if productivity increases in the industry then the prospects will be very bright.

Why does the right hon. Gentleman rely exclusively on the decision of the National Coal Board in respect of closing? What about the social consequences? Are the social consequences a matter for the National Coal Board, or ought the social consequences to be considered by the Government, and, if so, why does not the right hon. Gentleman issue directives to the National Coal Board in view of the possible consequences?

The right hon. Gentleman has great experience of these matters. I do not think that he will argue that it was really a sensible course to keep men underground in a pit where the economic reserves had been exhausted. It seems to me to be only sensible that any social consequences should be faced; in fact, in the past, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the National Coal Board has been extremely successful in re-employing displaced miners in other pits.


asked the Minister of Power what additional plans he has for capital development in the gas and electricity industries, with a view to providing work for the men who will be unemployed as a result of pit closures.

None, Sir. The capital development programmes of the gas and electricity industries must be determined by the prospective demand for these fuels.

Does that mean that the Minister has absolutely no plans for dealing with a problem of probably 5,000 unemployed miners in Scotland? What is the position?

On the contrary, the National Coal Board has, as my right hon. Friend has just said, always been extremely careful to deal with the social consequences. It has always been very successful, and it will be none the less successful this time. In addition, prior to closures taking place and after they take place, continuous discussion goes on between my right hon. Friend and his colleague the Minister of Labour.

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of what the National Coal Board achieved, there have been serious detrimental social consequences as a result of previous closures in Scotland? Is he also aware that the Scottish National Union of Mineworkers and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, representing all the workers in Scotland, and hon. Members on this side of the House are asking for a public inquiry? Is he aware that we are asking for it because his right hon. Friend said that jobs will be found in new and reconstructed collieries, and that it is in some of those that we are running into difficulty? What is the Minister going to do about this position?

With regard to the last part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I think that will be dealt with in answer to a later Question. It raises a matter quite different from the one raised in this Question. I can only repeat that the greatest possible care is taken to avoid hardship. Some hardship is inevitable when one closes collieries—isolated collieries in particular.


asked the Minister of Power to what extent he was consulted by the National Coal Board about the closure of pits in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on the recently announced pit closures in Scotland; and whether, in view of criticism of the management of the industry, he will institute an independent inquiry into these closures.

Exceptionally difficult geological conditions have led to disappointments in the results obtained from some of the Board's major capital development projects in Scotland and the output at a number of other collieries has been substantially less than was expected. I do not under-estimate the serious nature of these setbacks, but I do not consider that an inquiry would serve a useful purpose.

Nearly all closures planned in Scotland are of old capacity where reserves have been exhausted or where the output can be obtained more economically at neighbouring pits. The closures are being discussed in detail with the unions concerned and the Board has advised me that alternative work will be available within travelling distance of their homes for the great majority of the men affected.

Is the Minister aware that there is a growing opinion in Scotland that the Government and the National Coal Board regard Scotland as an expendable area? Will he give us an assurance that Scotland will not be wiped off as redundant but that every effort will be made to find alternative work for the 5,000 men who are likely to lose their jobs?

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. In fact, that has been the objective of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade for quite a long time, and with considerable success. They will continue to do it. The National Coal Board is also actively concerned in trying to place in other mining employment those who have been displaced by these closures.

The Minister said that he did not think that there was any great point in holding an inquiry. Is he aware that he will find few people in Scotland who will agree with him? Will he reconsider his point of view, if only to reassure the people of Scotland that they have been dealt with fairly and also to reassure the miners in Scotland that they have been dealt with fairly in the extent of the closures announced?

I never see much point in an inquiry when there is nothing to find out. [Interruption.] If I may just be allowed to finish, there was a very careful inquiry by Lord Robens before he decided on these closures. Lord Robens has himself said on several occasions, and certainly would be happy for me to say, that he is perfectly prepared to discuss with any hon. Member the reasons for the closures which have just been announced. For that reason, I do not think that an inquiry could possibly disclose anything which has not been disclosed already.

Is it not remarkable that the closing of these two modern collieries, which were reconstructed at great expense, was advised by the Board? Does not that indicate that its technical advisers were at fault? Does it not begin to dawn on the Minister that his own technical advisers, as in the case of his predecessors, should be consulted before a decision of this kind is taken?

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, with his experience not only of his constituency but of my office in the past, will be well aware of the highly speculative nature of mining and the complete impossibility of being absolutely certain when a shaft is sunk that conditions below will be exactly as they are expected to be before the shaft is sunk.

I do not see any point in holding an inquiry. The facts have been disclosed by the workings underground and an inquiry would serve no purpose of any kind.

Are we to understand from the Minister that the sole reason for the closing of these pits was geological and that no other reason entered into it?

Certainly. I think we are mainly talking about the pit at Glenochil, which was one of the closures discussed the other day. There the sole reason was the very disappointing geology and results since mining began there, which have led the Board to the inevitable conclusion that the pit must be closed.

Is it not important to realise that two of the pits concerned are Glenochil and Rothes? It also involves another mine in Ayrshire which was just at the point of reconstruction but where not one ton of coal had been produced. Does not the Minister realise that people in Scotland who will suffer as a result of these mistakes want a public inquiry? It would be for the good of the whole industry and for the Government if a public inquiry were held in order to give us all the facts of what seems to us to be a very great lack of judgment on the part of somebody in the National Coal Board. Has the Minister had consultation with the other Ministers concerned to ensure that something will be done about all these jobs which we in Scotland are losing, because we are indeed losing them?

I can assure the hon. Lady that I am in constant touch with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade, because I know of their responsibilities in this matter. As regards an inquiry, I do not quite understand who it is particularly that the hon. Lady has in mind who will suffer. If it is the mineworkers, Lord Robens has already given the undertaking that he will explain either to any hon. Member or to the National Union of Mineworkers the exact reasons which led him and the Board to this decision. Therefore, I cannot see what other facts would be disclosed to the public or to the mineworkers by a public inquiry.

Due to the wholly unsatisfactory nature of these replies, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.


asked the Minister of Power what information he has received from the National Coal Board regarding its intention to close down pits; how many it intends to close in the next five years; and what consideration is being given to the social consequences of any future plan.

The National Coal Board keeps me fully informed about prospective colliery closures and my Department co-operates closely with the Board of Trade and Ministry of Labour in trying to mitigate any adverse effects. The Revised Plan for Coal estimated that during the period 1960–65 between 205 and 240 collieries would be closed. The actual number will depend upon the circumstances of individual collieries and the fluctuations in the demand for different types of coal.

Is it not desirable, on the basis of its technical advice, that the National Coal Board should make a clear and definite declaration of the number of pits that are to be closed in the period, and where those pits are now situated, so as to remove the suspense that now exists among members of the mining community in various parts of the coalfield? Why cannot the Board undertake that task and inform not just the right hon. Gentleman but the miners also, through their organisation? Lastly, would the Minister reply to the latter part of my Question about the social consequences—who is to be responsible for dealing with that aspect?

The Revised Plan for Coal, which was published about two years ago, did give a general indication of the number of pits that would be closed over this period. It also, therefore, painted some picture of the social consequences that would result. My right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour are aware of the kind of problems in the various areas in Britain with which they will have to deal over the next five years, but it really would be quite impossible to give any accurate specification quite so far ahead of exactly which pits will close, because that clearly depends on the working results and trading results that take place from day to day. It also depends on what the demand for certain coals is likely to be, and that is extremely difficult to foresee more than a very short time ahead.

Arising from that reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), is the Minister aware that what is happening is that an extension of hours is being imposed indirectly upon the miners who have been transferred from one district to another while still living in their former district? It means that in many instances they have to travel about two hours a day which, indirectly, is an increase in their time factor.

I think that the benefit conferred on those miners is in knowing that, although they have further to travel, they are working in a pit which is producing coal very economically instead of in one that is producing it uneconomically.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a danger of our reverting to the old days when the miner had to spend the greater part of his working life in darkness, either at the coal face or when he got back home at night? In those days he had little opportunity of seeing daylight. Is that where we are now drifting?

There is a choice in front of each miner: whether he wants to travel to new work in the coal mines, whether he wants other work, or whether he wants to be unemployed.

Ministry Of Aviation

Bahamas Airways


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he is aware that British Overseas Airways Corporation associated companies sold and then within two years bought back their interest in Bahamas Airways; why he approved this action; and what was the loss they incurred in the following years acounts.

Yes, Sir. The repurchase of these shares was primarily a matter for British Overseas Airways Corporations commercial judgment. The considerations affecting its decision are set out in its annual report and my right hon. Friend accepts both the validity of its arguments and responsibility for the action taken.

Is it not the case that the Minister of Aviation has and has had for some time a special report on this matter, and does he propose to publish that report with full details for the information of this House? Is it not also the case that Bahamas Airways paid £200 an hour to Skyways for the aircraft engaged; and that that went on for two years and resulted in a total payment of between £700,000 and £800,000 which B.O.A.C. now has to pay?

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is that all the necessary information has already been published in B.O.A.C.'s annual report. The answer to the second part is that the trading loss that B.O.A.C. had to bear for the year 1960–61 was not as high as the figure the hon. Gentleman gave. It was £405,728.

Provincial Airports


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will give financial assistance to local authorities in control of provincial airports.

Yes, Sir, but only to those local authorities whose applications meet the criteria described in the White Paper on Civil Aerodromes and Air Navigational Services.

When giving financial consideration to the revised list of airfields, will the Minister consider the north Midland and north-eastern areas, where we are almost without an air service at all? We think that they have a right to some serious consideration.

My right hon. Friend will certainly consider any application that is made to him within the terms of the White Paper, which also lays down the criteria which he will apply to any such application.

Is the Minister aware that there was recently a conference in Goole to consider the establishment of a new airport at Pollington; which would serve the north-eastern area very well? Is he giving financial encouragement to that scheme?

Under the terms of the White Paper, any municipal aerodrome is entitled to apply for financial help. Whether it will get that help or not depends on whether it satisfies the criteria in the White Paper.


Medical Staffing (Report)


asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in establishing the review machinery to advise on hospital medical staffing.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has completed his discussions with the medical profession on the Report of tile Platt Working Party on Hospital Medical Staffing; whether he has yet asked hospital authorities to review their consultant establishments, as recommended by the Report; when he will announce his decisions on the Report; and if he will make a statement.

Following the acceptance of the Platt Report announced in my reply to my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) on 9th November, the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will shortly be issuing circulars to boards for the purpose of establishing the review machinery and implementing the Working Party's other recommendations.

Whilst thanking the Minister for at last getting on with the job after twelve months' delay since the publication of the Platt Report, may I ask him whether he is aware that there is a considerable amount of anxiety among time-expired registrars and S.H.M.O.s about this, and will he do all he can to put them out of their present anxiety?

I am anxious to get on with this as fast as possible, but I have only just received the profession's agreement to the Report.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say another word about the nature of the review machinery? is it to be entirely within the regional boards themselves, or is it to be done by a national body imposed from outside on the regional boards? In short, are the boards to do their own reviewing, or are they to have it done for them?

There is a regional board stage, although there will be a national review of the results of the regional boards review. I will give the hon. Gentleman particulars as soon as the machinery is settled, which I hope it shortly will be, with the profession.

In order to speed up the machinery, are boards of governors to be asked to submit their reports sectionally according to individual occupations, or are they to await a general review before submitting their reports to the regional boards?

Regional Appeals Committee


asked the Minister of Health to what extent, under his regulations, a decision of a regional appeals committee can be reversed by a recommendation subsequently submitted by staff inspectors to a group hospital committee.

Not at all.

Is the hon. Lady aware that some staff inspectors have recommended the down-grading of posts after up-grading has been passed by the regional appeals committee? Is this not a grave interference with the ordinary arbitration machinery, and does it not amount to an undermining of the competence of staffs in the Ministry's machinery?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is not correct in saying that down-grading was recommended. The inspectors may have recommended, in a particular case, that there should be no change while the present holder has that post but that the question of grading should be reconsidered when a new appointment has to be made.

Is that not tantamount to the same thing—if a recommendation has been passed by the regional appeals committee and a staff inspector considers that at the end of the incumbency of that occupant this post should be down-graded, is not this overriding the opinion of the regional appeals committee?

No, Sir. An appeal relates to that man and the work he is doing. While he occupies that post he enjoys what grading has been agreed by the appeals committee.

Maternity Beds, Middlesex


asked the Minister of Health what immediate action he proposes to take with regard to the shortage of maternity beds in hospitals in Middlesex.

Arrangements have been made for better selection of hospital cases and reciprocal help between hospitals.

Is the hon. Lady aware that it is still impossible for many mothers having their first babies—some of them with bad home conditions or on medical grounds—to get into hospital and that at Perivale hospital, if admitted, they are liable to be sent home after 48 hours?

I am aware that there is great pressure for maternity beds in Middlesex, but 74 per cent. of the confinements take place in hospital, which is well above the Cranbrook recommendations. We hope that with better selection of cases for admission to hospital, some of the pressure will be relieved.

New Hospital, Huddersfield


asked the Minister of Health when he expects the building of the new hospital at Lindley, Huddersfield, to be completed.

Is the hon. Lady aware that Huddersfield has been waiting a long time for this hospital and that there is a real need for it? Can she give an assurance that the recent restrictive measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not in any way affect the completion of this building?

Work is proceeding on this hospital and, if all goes well, we hope that the first phase will be completed by the end of 1962. It is our intention that the second and final phase shall be started before the first phase is finished; in other words, that it shall go on continuously.

Broadcasts (Football Matches)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the present system of broadcasting football matches to patients in hospitals may be discontinued; and if he will consult with the Postmaster-General to ensure that this service to patients is continued.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answers given by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General on 6th and 7th November.

Is the hon. Lady satisfied with the ridiculous reply that was given? Is she not prepared in the Ministry of Health at least to push the Postmaster-General into providing something which is beneficial for the health of those in hospital? Why on earth does not her Ministry wake up to the fact that if she accepts without protest what the other Ministries are saying she will be in trouble?

It is a service which is essentially for voluntary effort, and, in fact, a great contribution has been made, as I well know, by the Leagues of Friends and the free moneys of hospitals. My right hon. Friend has already said that the increased charges will be reduced by about one-half.

Is the hon. Lady not aware that this matter, which some of us raised several weeks ago, has only had the result that the Ministers concerned have fixed a figure far above that which pertained last July, and that all they have done is to stop squeezing the service quite as badly as they were going to do?

The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to comment on the work of another Department. I know something about this service because I had a hand myself in establishing the pioneer venture in Birmingham. I know it is a good service, and I am satisfied that it can continue, particularly with the voluntary help that is forthcoming.

Ministry Of Health

Homeless Families


asked the Minister of Health if he will arrange for an urgent and comprehensive report from county welfare authorities on the numbers and conditions of homeless families in their care.

Figures are published annually; individual authorities make special reports where necessary.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there is grave public concern about families with children being turned out of their homes and being bandied about between hard-pressed housing authorities and welfare authorities, the luckier ones getting into institutions that are bleak and barrack-like, and sometimes insanitary, and the very unlucky ones having to sleep where they can, like a family in my constituency which is sleeping in a lorry? If the hon. Lady is suggesting that a report is not necessary because all the facts are known, when is the Minister to get together with the Minister of Housing to take emergency action in this matter?

Temporary accommodation is inspected by my Ministry's officers, but I think that the question in the hon. Lady's mind is almost entirely confined to London—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The situation in London is unique, I think—and there I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government received a deputation from the L.C.C. on the 1st of this month.

Salk Vaccine Supplies, Blackburn


asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to remedy the shortage of Salk vaccine in Blackburn.

I understand that Blackburn has recently received all the vaccine that was asked for.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that anxieties have been expressed in the Lancet about the safety of the Sabin vaccine and that these doubts are shared by some medical officers of health and others? Will he see that at least 70 per cent. of the eligible groups receive two doses of Salk vaccine before the new Sabin live vaccine is introduced into the community as a whole? While appreciating that steps have been taken to help Blackburn in the current month, may I ask the Minister to give an assurance that supplies of Salk vaccine in Blackburn and elsewhere will be maintained in future at a level to enable two doses to be given to at least 70 per cent. of the eligible groups?

The hon. Lady's supplementary question relates largely to an entirely different question. What she said is different from the advice my right hon. Friend and I have received from our advisory committee on this subject, but I will certainly do my best to ensure that no local authority is short of Salk.

Is the Minister aware that this is not only a problem for Blackburn but for the whole of the North-West? Is he aware, for instance, that the position in Warrington is that the new inoculations were virtually brought to a standstill? Will he deal with this more urgently, as I mentioned when I requested additional supplies and pointed out that only a quarter of the amount required for Warrington had been sent there? How urgently is he dealing with this, and will he make sure that supplies are sent to areas where there are polio epidemics?

I understand that since the hon. Gentleman wrote to me about Warrington a further supply has been sent.

Bone Tumours And Leukaemia

37 and 42.

asked the Minister of Health (1) how many children between the ages of two and four, inclusive, have died in the last two years with bone tumours and leukaemia; and what were the similar figures for 1937–38;

(2) how many adults aged 21 years or over have died in the last two years from bone tumours and leukaemia; and what were the similar figures for 1937–38.

In view of the great importance of this subject, cannot the hon. Lady at least give the figures for Question No. 37? People in Britain want to know the facts, and the information should be given so that it can be known, for instance, in Russia and America.

I am not sure that I understand the hon. Gentleman. I am prepared to circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to know the figures, I can tell him that leukaemia shows an increase over the decades, and I can go back further than the period 1937–38, which is asked for in the Question. 1927–28 compared with 1917–18 still shows an increase. Part of this is probably accounted for by improved diagnosis. But, in the case of cancer of the bone, the 1938 figures are higher than those for 1959–60.

Can the hon. Lady say whether the situation is worse for children than for adults; for the group mentioned in Question No. 37?

Following are the figures:

Leukaemia and aleukaemiaCancer of the bone
YearAged 2–4(1) Aged 20 and over(3) Aged 1–4(1) Aged 20 and over


(1) Figures for 21 and over not available.

(2) Excludes deaths assigned to Hodgkin's disease, included under this title in the published Tables until 1939 inclusive.

(3) Figures for aged 2–4 not available

(4) Comparable figures not available before 1938

Overseas Treatment (Medical Costs)


asked the Minister of Health what attention his department has given to the introduction of legislation to authorise the provision of additional assistance against medical costs for persons taken ill abroad; and what the estimated cost of such assistance would be.

Would not the Minister agree that a large number of people go abroad without making provision against the possibility of illness? If the Minister is not proposing to introduce legislation on this matter, will he not at least see that when passport information is given or other information is supplied by travel agencies and so on people should be informed of the dangers and given opportunities of knowing what provision they can make for insuring themselves against this? This is a real burden, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

I do not think that the lion. Gentleman's suggestion is primarily for me, but I shall be glad if the publicity given to this Question and answer emphasises the desirability of getting insurance cover for this purpose.

Professional Staff (Pay)


asked the Minister of Health if he will set up a committee to consider the remuneration of qualified professional staff, other than doctors and dentists, in the National Health Service, and, having regard to the staffing needs of the service, to recommend what relationship the salary scales of the various professions should bear to each other and to the remuneration of doctors.

Why not? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these groups include such people as physiotherapists and radiographers who are in such short supply in the Service and are bringing it grinding to a halt, to quote The Times? This proposal is in line with the kind of wage policy which the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to be yearning for and, in those circum- stances, how can the right hon. Gentleman resist this proposal?

No, Sir. To do this would be inconsistent with the working of the normal wage negotiation machinery. It would be quite impossible for that to be worked if there were to be special inquiries, save in the most exceptional circumstances.

But has the right hon. Gentleman not already intervened in the wage machinery by imposing the wage pause and interfering with the arbitration arrangements?

No, Sir. The machinery continues in existence and is being worked at this moment.