Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Monday, 20th November, 1961

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Pensions And National Insurance

War Pensions

1.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will give the total number of applications during the last 10 years for pensions by widows of disabled 1914–18 war Service men, and the percentage of successful applicants.

About 18,500, of which some 37 per cent. were successful.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that this is a very small percentage out of the total? Would he consider some further machinery to make applications more simple? Is he aware that war widows claiming under the Royal Warrant, 1919, Article 17 (a), and trying to show that the war injuries of the deceased materially hastened death, have no appeal from his Ministry's decision? Would he consider allowing some sort of appeal after this period of time, or, alternatively, in cases where the deceased suffered from a 50 per cent. war disability, granting the pension automatically?

I do not think that the figures show a low percentage when one remembers that one is now dealing with deaths which have taken place at least 43 years after the receipt of injury and when the people concerned are in an age group in which inevitably there is a high death-rate from the ordinary causes of death in that age group. As for a formal appeal, while it may be argued that it would have been a good thing if that had been introduced at the start, it is not practical to job back and do that now.

Is the Minister aware that unsuccessful applicants for war widows' pensions are women who have devoted the best part of their lives to caring for almost totally disabled war heroes? Does not that simple fact mean that the question of eligibility wants looking into again?

I do not think so. If eligibility for war widows' pension is to have the priority and preferential rate which I am determined to preserve, the deaths must have some connection with war service. The hon. Member, I know, will recall that although in many of these pathetic cases to which he refers it is necessary because the death had nothing to do with war service to refuse war pension, this does not mean that the widow is denied the benefit of other provisions in our social services, and ill the overwhelming number of cases such provision is made.

6.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the numbers of 1914 to 1918 war pensioners who have died during the past twelve months, their average age at date of death, the numbers of them who left widows, and the numbers of those widows who qualified for a war widows' pension.

In the twelve months to 31st March, 1961, 12,763 disablement pensioners of the 1914–18 War died, their average age at the date of death being about 71 years. Of these, 7,728 left widows. In the same period 596 awards of pension were made to widows of the 1914–18 War.

Is the Minister aware that we appreciate his sympathetic consideration for all the problems affecting war-disabled pensioners? But will he look again at the possibility of including as a war widow a woman who has cared for her husband who has been totally unemployable and has had to have constant attendance throughout his life but who does not get the war widow's pension because the cause of death cannot be directly attributed to war wounds?

That is the type of widow for whom I and, I am sure, all hon. Members have the greatest possible sympathy. I should like to be able to do something additional for her, but I am quite sure that that something ought not to be to treat her as a war widow when in fact she is not one. If one erodes the doctrine of direct causation between war injuries and death or disablement, one is getting on the slippery slope which will deprive the war pensioner of his preference, and that I am determined to resist.

7.

asked the Minister of Pensioners and National Insurance if he is aware that the accumulated effects of severe disabilities are factors contributing to the onset of cardio-vascular disorder; and whether he will state the numbers of war pensioners of the 1914 to 1918 war who have died as a result of cardiovascular disorder during the past twelve months, showing those numbers according to the assessment of war pension in payment prior to demise together with the numbers of such cases in which war widows' pensions were granted.

The hon Member will be no doubt aware that the medical theory expressed in the earlier part of his Question received no support from the expert Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Ernest Rock Carling, which reported in 1954. I am afraid that the figures asked for in the second part of the Question are not available.

Is the Minister aware that ex-Service men's associations and especially B.L.E.S.M.A. are anxious now about the number of limbless, amputees and other war disabled who died of cardiovascular diseases, and will he consider the question of setting up again a similar committee to the Rock Carling Committee to examine this question and report in the same way as did the Rock Carling Committee? It would be a comfort to the ex-Service men, who are very anxious about this question.

I know that there is anxiety on this question and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, that the medical views thrashed out before the Rock Carling Committee give little, if any, support to it. I will certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, but it is in fact only seven years since this very expert Committee composed of very high level medical men reported, and I am bound to say that I am rather doubtful whether any purpose, perhaps other than the raising of false hopes, would be helped by setting up another such committee; but I am perfectly prepared to consider it.

Retirement Pensions

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will ensure that when persons are notified that they may claim a retirement pension in three months' time they shall also be notified that where the qualifying number of insurance stamps has not been obtained they have certain opportunities to make up the number of missing stamps and thus avoid reduction in pension.

No, Sir. We do better than that. We inform insured persons whose contributions are deficient in any year of the exact amount of the deficiency soon after the end of that year, and warn them that this deficiency may affect their right to benefit. As the hon. Member I am sure knows, there are time limits for the payment of contributions in arrear, and it would be dangerous to foster the illusion that payment of arrears can safely be left to the time when pension is claimed.

Would not the inclusion of such a note assist people who may not have clearly understood the consequences to know what their rights are? Is the Minister aware that the Conference of the National Old Age Pensioners' Federation, which made the request, was not asking for a record of arrears so much as a simple reminder of the rights to which old people were entitled?

If the hon. Member studies my main Answer, he will see that a notice of deficiency is sent in respect of and very soon after each year in which the deficiency arises. That, particularly when one remembers the time limits, provides a far better precaution against trouble than leaving it until the time when the pension is claimed. But if a pensioner at that time wants to make inquiries, my office is at his disposal and is anxious and willing to advise him.

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by how much the £2 17s. 6d. retirement pension falls below one third of the present average wage in industry; and if he will consider raising it by this amount.

I assume that for the purposes of this comparison the hon. Member has in mind the figures which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour publishes in respect of the average earnings of manual workers in industry. On the basis of the latest of these figures, the difference for men is 42s. 11d. in respect of the single rate of pension, and 7s. 11d. in respect of the married. In respect of women, the single rate of pension is 6s. 8d. more than one-third of their average earnings. I have no proposals for legislation in this matter.

Is not that a striking admission? Does not the Minister feel that it is a catastrophe for most workers when their previous earnings drop to less than one-fifth? Is he aware that the drop outlined in the Question is sharper than in almost any country in Europe, East or West?

The hon. Member confines the Question to the single rate of pension, whereas in the case of a very large number of married couples that is completely irrelevant. In the second place, the hon. Member is ignoring a fact, which I have often mentioned in this context, which is that no citizen is required to live on the basic rate of retirement pension alone.

Is the latter part of the main Answer the answer to a question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman on Second Reading of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill? I then asked, in view of the fact that the pay pause is now visibly collapsing, what proposals the Government had to make to bring pensioners somewhere into line with the rising incomes, in view of the fact that the general rise in wages in the next few months appears inevitable. Do I understand from the reply that the Government have no proposal to save pensioners from being left in the lurch?

That question, being founded on a wholly false hypothesis, leads the hon. Member nowhere.

Ministry Of Power

Electricity Supply Meters

8.

asked the Minister of Power how many applications he received during 1960 and the first six months of 1961 for the determination by independent meter examiners of disputes occasioned by consumers' complaints concerning the accuracy of meters supplied by electricity boards.

Two hundred and ninety-nine, Sir.

In spite of the figure which my right hon. Friend has given, will he, none the less, ask the Board to make this facility or right more widely known than it is at present? I personally have had many complaints about meters in the correspondence of constituents who have just not known that this right of appeal exists?

The Board already has standing instructions to tell consumers individually if they dispute the accuracy of their meters of their right to have a meter determination, but Boards are often able to settle cases satisfactorily without resort to determination. I think that this is the most practical way of dealing with the matter.

Methane

10.

asked the Minister of Power what estimate he has made of the effect upon coal consumption by the gas boards of the importation of natural gas from North Africa during the next 10 years; when supplies will commence; whether he is authorising capital for further Lurgi plants as well; and whether he will publish the objections to natural gas importation of the National Coal Board.

Imports should begin in 1964. In the year 1965–66 it has been estimated that about 800,000 tons of gas-making coal previously allowed for in the industry's development plans will, in consequence, not be needed. But if the methane scheme had been rejected, alternative oil products would have displaced most of this coal. No proposals for the erection of a further Lurgi plant have yet been put to me. The objections of the National Coal Board to the methane scheme have already been published in the Report and Minutes of Evidence of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that two deductions might be made from his Answer: first, that the imports of methane, his new policy, cannot have any substantial influence on coal-mining matters in the early future certainly not within four years; and, secondly, that even when the impact is felt after 1964 it will be restricted to less than 1 per cent. of the annual output of mined coal in this country?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to explain. The Select Committee gave the opinion that approval of the methane scheme would reduce the proportion of coal used to make gas from 71 per cent. to 69 per cent. Therefore, I think that my hon. Friend should have said 2 per cent. instead of 1 per cent.

My right hon. Friend's arithmetic is clearly faulty. He has not accurately related the 800,000 tons per annum figure with the assessed output of coal mined in this country of 200 million tons per annum, which he stated himself a few weeks ago, relating to the period 1964 to 1966. If he directly relates these two figures, he will find, will he not, that my figure of less than 1 per cent. is indeed strictly accurate?

To clear up the confusion between my hon. Friend and myself, let me say that he was relating it to the total coal production and I was relating it to the total production of coal used for gas making.

Does the estimated reduction of 800,000 tons in 1964 mean that there will be more pit closures?

14.

asked the Minister of Power on what dates his Department had consultations about the extent of the natural gas deposits in Holland; and with whom those consultations were held.

My Department has kept in touch informally with the Dutch authorities about the recent discoveries of natural gas in North Holland. At present there is no question of the gas being available for export.

How does the right hon. Gentleman account for the Council of Europe stating in April, 1961, that these deposits were of very considerable significance? At what date did he start investigating them, and how far has he taken consultations on the matter?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have made considerable investigations about this in a number of quarters over a long period. The hon. Gentleman is quite right: the deposits are of considerable importance. I am convinced from the inquiries that I have made that there is no present possibility and no future certainty of natural gas being available for export from Holland. I should not like to go further than that.

17.

asked the Minister of Power if he will issue a White Paper on the importation of methane from the Sahara, showing with respect to those companies with whom contracts have been entered into for the importation of methane, the location of the deposits concerned, the financial and commercial details of the companies and the terms of agreement between the Gas Council and the companies, details of the capital investment proposed by the Gas Council in Britain, the alternative arrangements if supplies are interrupted and the objections of the National Coal Board to the proposals.

No, Sir. I am not responsible for the commercial arrangements and I have made a statement to the House on the factors which affect the public interest.

The right hon. Gentleman's answers to Questions No. 10, 12 and 13 show that there is considerable mystery about this matter. If he says that he must take responsibility for an economic answer, then must not the Government take responsibility for a political and military answer? Surely we need all the facts before deciding whether the right hon. Gentleman's economic answer is correct?

I do not regard it as my responsibility to give to the House facts about commercial negotiations and arrangements reached by the nationalised gas industry. I regard it as my duty to give information where my responsibilities are involved but, as the hon. Member will agree, this question goes much further than that and asks for a White Paper about all sorts of matters which are outside my responsibilities.

Would it not be wise to go a little slowly until the future of Algeria and the control of natural resources in the Sahara are decided?

That is obviously a matter which I took very carefully into consideration before taking my decision. Having considered it, I decided that it was right for the Gas Council to go ahead.

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

Gas Supplies (Consumption)

15.

asked the Minister of Power what estimate his department has made of the increase in demand for gas over the next five years; and to what extent this will reduce the demand for coal.

The Gas Council thinks the demand for gas may increase by about 8 per cent. over this period. The effect of this on the demand for coal is quite unpredictable.

As the Government recently decided to import liquid methane, will not this prove a strong contributory factor to the slow strangulation of the pits? As the Government have given the green light to imports of oil and gas, is not the Minister undermining what the National Coal Board is trying to do?

Perhaps this is my fault. I had the greatest difficulty in understanding the hon. Member's Question. He asked to what extent the expected increase in the demand for gas will reduce the demand for coal. I do not think anyone could answer that.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman encouraging this process? Quite apart from the difficulties of the National Coal Board in trying to solve its own market problem, is he not encouraging imports of oil and gas and, therefore, making it easier for some such imports to be made, although it is from politically unstable areas that we are importing them? Is not this process making it easier for the gas and electricity industries to undermine the National Coal Board?

I am not encouraging imports of gas and oil. If I had not given my assent to the Gas Council's proposals to import liquid methane, the likely alternative would have been imports of oil. I would think that it was wrong to refuse to the nationalised gas industry what I should not refuse to private industry. I could not refuse to allow it to import oil to take the place of methane.

Coal

National Coal Board (Finance)

9.

asked the Minister of Power whether he will now make a statement upon pending legislation to deal with deficit financing of the National Coal Board; what increase in the deficit of £75½ million at 30th June, 1961, he anticipates at 31st December, 1961; and what further borrowing by the Board from his Department is taking place in the current half-year.

A Bill has been introduced to deal with finance for the Board's deficit, and I cannot at present say anything further about this. The present rate of the Board's net borrowings accords with the estimate of £12 million for the financial year 1961–62, given in the White Paper published last April on Government Expenditure Below the Line.

Is it not a fact that the Coal Industry Bill at present before the House is a further palliative involving merely an extension of the Board's borrowing powers and dealing only with an immediate situation, and cannot my right hon. Friend assure the House that he proposes to proceed in the present Session of Parliament with a major reform of the disastrous consequences of the existing coal industry Statutes, and proceed with such a reform within twelve months?

My hon. Friend's judgment of the Bill as it stands is perfectly correct. It is to deal with an immediate situation. There is, as he knows only too well, a fundamental situation which I am now examining. I cannot promise when proposals will be made to take account of that, but I am very much aware of it and of the urgency to deal with it.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that he will resist all forms of pressure from behind him.

Secondly, will he give an undertaking not to take notice of the suggestion made to review the National Coal Board, and particularly that he will not introduce legislation this Session?

I note the hon. Gentleman's point, but I resist pressure from all quarters.

When the right hon. Gentleman makes his calculations about the future economy of the coal industry, will he take into account the theoretical saving that might have been achieved by the coal industry if there were taken into account the savings on the balance of payments that have been lost due to the Government's oil import policy?

That is a consideration that must be taken into account in the future, but it does not make sense to ban imports of oil if the alternative fuel is not being produced economically.

Smokeless Fuels (Scotland)

11.

asked the Minister of Power if he is aware that certain local authorities in Scotland have had to delay the application of certain provisions of the Clean Air Act, 1956, because of the shortage of smokeless fuels; and if he will make a statement.

No application for a smoke control area has been rejected because of shortage of smokeless fuel. Supplies in Scotland are at present adequate, and I understand that the Gas Board can increase its output of Gloco to accommodate a considerable expansion of smoke control areas.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that certain local authorities, without making application to higher bodies, are themselves, because of the local shortages, taking these decisions, which I am sure he will agree are rather unfortunate? Can he give us any information at this stage about the proposal made two or three years ago to have a manufacturing plant located in Scotland which would be sufficient to meet many of these shortages?

I cannot have any knowledge of what local authorities have not done. I can hold out no prospect that the new premium fuel to be manufactured by the National Coal Board will be available in Scotland before 1965 or 1966. I would also point out that the plant will be built only if the demand at that time justifies it. Therefore, it is very unwise for local authorities to do nothing but merely await the arrival of the new premium fuel.

New Borings

12.

asked the Minister of Power how many experienced mining engineers are on his staff; and what technical consultations take place between his department and the National Coal Board before new borings and reorganisation are undertaken.

13.

asked the Minister of Power what technical consultations have taken place between his Department and the National Coal Board about new borings for coal seams; and whether he will make a statement.

Except for the Mines Inspectorate, there are no mining engineers on my staff. Responsibility for new borings and other individual projects rests with the National Coal Board and there is no technical consultation with my Department about them.

In view of recent events, including the decision to abandon the major part of the production in some Scottish pits, is it not unwise not to have previous technical consultations between the right hon. Gentleman's Department and the National Coal Board before embarking on these adventures? Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the National Coal Board has to be relied upon exclusively in matters of this sort in spite of the extraordinary expenditure involved?

My appraisal of new projects suggested to me by the National Coal Board or other nationalised industries must be essentially an economic one. If I were going to attempt a technical appraisal of the project, I should have to duplicate the whole staff of the National Coal Board. In fact, the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries endorsed this view with the following words:

"Your Committee are in no doubt that the Ministry are right in their refusal to attempt any kind of technical reconsideration."
I would just like to add that this lack of technical staff, right as I think it is, flows essentially from the organisation set up by the right hon. Gentleman when he held my present office.

Can my right hon. Friend say what success the Board has had in boring new coal seams on the edge of my constituency in recent weeks? Will he bear in mind that I have the highest unemployment figure in the North-East and treat the matter as very urgent?

I will certainly take note of what my hon. and gallant Friend says. I do not know offhand what is the answer to his question, but I will find out and let him know.

How does the right hon. Gentleman arrive at an economic assessment—by himself, apparently—without paying some regard to the technical considerations involved?

I manage to do it in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman managed to do it when he was in my office. I do it by taking the advice of the technical experts advising the National Coal Board, and making my own economic assessment of whether the technical appraisal is correct.

Pit Closures

16.

asked the Minister of Power to what extent the Plan for Coal, visualising more than 200 pit closures in the next five years, will affect production and reduce manpower; in particular, what estimate has been made by his Department of the resulting unemployment, with a view to informing the Board of Trade; and if he will make a statement.

The Revised Plan for Coal envisaged a higher level of output and manpower in 1965, than at present. The Board is able to absorb elsewhere most of the men from the closed pits. Because of this and the close liaison between the Government Departments concerned, the closures do not, and should not in future, give rise to widespread unemployment.

"Should not"—does that not imply that the Government have no plan and that it is just a "wait and see" attitude which they are adopting? Secondly, bearing in mind that some of the areas will suffer unemployment and all the social consequences that flow from it, is it not about time the Minister tried to create a fresh image in the minds of the miners instead of the existing one—that of an octopus extending its tentacles throughout the coalfields and squeezing them to death?

The image that exists in the minds of miners whose pits may or may not be closed is that very few miners who have been displaced by closures have remained unemployed.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that every pit closed means so many more jobs disappearing—in Scotland, not just out of the area but out of the country—and that it means that job opportunities for younger people are disappearing? What are the Board of Trade and the Government doing to help?

I agree with the hon. Lady that the closing of pits means a reduction in jobs, but they may be replaced in other ways. That is what the Board of Trade is trying to do. I suggest that the hon. Lady puts Questions to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade about the activities of that Department, which, in my opinion, have been extremely successful.

Ministry Of Aviation

Aircraft Noise

18.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will propose an international agreement on the limitation of noise around airports and under the flight paths of aircraft.

Her Majesty's Government are taking an active part in the work of the international bodies now studying this question. The International Standards Organisation and the Organisation for European Co-operation and Development are engaged on fundamental research into the problem, and other aspects are regularly considered by the Western European Airport Authorities' Conference. This work will provide, I hope, a basis for an international convention in which Her Majesty's Government will participate through the International Civil Aviation Organisation, but it will take some time.

Whilst expressing appreciation of that answer and the information in it, may I ask whether the very serious nervous effects, particularly upon old people in residential areas near to airports, are not likely now to be increased by the permission which is to be given to jets to journey by night? Is it not very desirable that there should be the utmost pressure to secure not only international co-operation in research but the laying down of international minima for noise that is allowed to these aircraft?

Yes, Sir. We agree entirely that this noise is a nuisance. As I said in the recent debate, we are doing everything we can to mitigate and contain noise. We are working towards an international convention on this subject, but, as London Airport is one of the most difficult airports in the world at which to control this matter, it will take some time to arrive at a satistfactory agreement with all the other countries concerned.

Will the hon. Gentleman not lose sight of the question of noise from small light aircraft as well? Such an aircraft low down may cause more noise than a big, heavy aircraft high up. This is an important aspect which is often lost sight of.

We shall certainly not lose sight of that, but the main matter of concern at the moment is jet aircraft taking off and landing.

Aircraft Industry And Civil Airports (Assistance)

19.

asked the Minister of Aviation what was the total of Exchequer assistance to the aircraft industry, including the development of new types of civil aircraft, during the last financial year; and what was the total Government subsidy to civil airports.

The expenditure in 1960–61 on assistance to the development and proving of transport aircraft was about £7¼ million. Expenditure in support of municipal airports was approximately £1·1 million.

Can my hon. Friend say whether these figures are likely to rise with the increasing cost of research, or will co-operation with European countries keep these amounts stable?

I am sorry that I cannot give predictions on that at the moment. We do receive something back from the support which we give to the aircraft industry, and during the year to which my hon. Friend's Question refers we had £2¼ million back, a sum we would expect to increase.

What was the total assistance, both military and civil, particularly as the civil programme is to 4 large extent dependent upon military expenditure? What was the total allocated to airports, and not only municipal airports?

I am sorry, but it is not possible to distinguish the figures for military and civil aircraft because, in many cases, an aircraft covers both purposes and it is our aim to try to harmonise the two uses. As regards airports in general, the figure for the cost of State airports, as distinct from municipal airports, during the year in question was £3·8 million.

Is the figure of 7½ million the total for the aircraft industry, or is the hon. Gentleman dividing it into civil and military?

Charter Companies (Aircraft)

20.

asked the Minister of Aviation, whether, in the interest of safety, there is an age limit imposed on the use of aircraft owned and operated by air charter companies; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir; but the system of airworthiness, control includes annual examinations for airworthiness, annual performance checks for individual aircraft, and the setting of safe "lives" for parts of aircraft which are subject to fatigue. No recent accident to a British-operated aircraft has been attributed to failure of the aircraft itself.

Should not the question of the safe life of the whole aircraft now be considered? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there must be Dakotas which, in two or three years' time, will be 20 years old? Is there anything to stop an operator from buying a pre-war aircraft like an Imperial Airways Hannibal—if it could be found—and operating that commercially?

Very elaborate procedures are laid down for maintenance, and I should not like it to be thought that some of the older aircraft are less safe. Some of them have a very fine safety record. Probably the scientific and best method is to lay down definite "lives" for various parts and for maintenance procedures to see that those parts are replaced at regular intervals.

Would it not also be in the interests of safety if more and more people travelled by the nationalised airlines, whose safety standards are not exceeded by any airline in the world?

No, Sir. Safety standards are precisely the same for both independent and nationalised airlines.

Belfast Air Terminal

21.

asked the Minister of Aviation why his staff at Belfast air terminal refused to allow passengers travelling on Flights BE6017, 6025 and 6039 on Saturday 11th November to carry personally their own small and medium-sized baggage; and what warnings he gave to air travellers as to the nature of the baggage that could be carried.

Passengers leaving Belfast on 11th November were not stopped from carrying their own baggage, but there may have been a misunderstanding, which we regret, of the warning given to them that, owing to the strike at Heathrow, the airline was accepting hand baggage only. B.E.A. issued a Press Notice on Friday, 10th November, about the nature of the baggage it could accept.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the confused and conflicting Press and radio announcements caused great hardship to passengers, as it was not clear what could be carried? Is he further aware that his statement today as to the nature of the luggage which passengers on these flights were able to carry is incorrect? I will send him details from my constituents.

I shall be very glad to receive details from my hon. Friend. I repeat that we regret the misunderstanding. But what is baggage that can be carried or not varies for different people, and it was defined in a notice, finally issued on the Sunday morning, as a maximum of 22 lb.

Will my hon. Friend also take into consideration that the personnel at the airports have done extremely well in coping with the strike situation and enabling passengers to fly, at any rate on the domestic routes?

I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend's remarks will be appreciated.

In view of the criticism, will the hon. Member accept our congratulations on sending the men back to work with a higher settlement than the wage for which they originally struck?

Supersonic Airliner

22.

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he has now reached a decision on the production of a supersonic airliner; and whether he will make a statement on his discussions with the aircraft industry and foreign Governments on this project.

Design studies are proceeding, but we have not yet reached the stage where a firm decision to go ahead with production could be taken. The possibilities of collaboration with other countries are being fully explored.

In view of the fairly authoritative statements which have appeared in the Press in the last week, can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that a decision has been taken that this project will be shared by the French and British industries? Is consultation going on about the relative costs to be borne by each country?

No. Sir. I do not think that I can confirm any statement that has appeared about supersonic aircraft in any section of the Press. The situation is as I have stated it. All the countries, as far as I know—and those which I know of include France, the United States and the United Kingdom—are in the design study stage, and none of them, either singly or collectively, has taken a decision to proceed with the production of an aircraft.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last week a hyper-sonic aircraft flew at over 4,000 miles an hour? Is he further aware that if he does not get a move on quickly with a supersonic aircraft he will soon be out of date?

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would find that one a little uncomfortable.

Hurn Airport

23.

asked the Minister of Aviation what is his policy in regard to future operations at Hurn Airport.

The air services operated from Hurn are primarily a matter for the operators themselves, provided they can secure the necessary air service licences.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the advice which he has received about the transfer of operations from Southampton to Hurn? In view of the trend of traffic back to Southampton, will he look at the situation very carefully before any further expenditure at Hurn is incurred.

The question of where aircraft should operate from is now a matter for the Air Transport Licensing Board and not within the responsibility of the Minister. We are now planning new terminal buildings at Hurn, and, of course, they will be planned in relation to the expected traffic.

Oil Companies (Leases)

24.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he has studied the Report of the Select Committee of Public Accounts for Session 1960–61 with particular reference to the criticism in paragraph 96 of his Department's action in granting to oil companies, without going to tender, fixed price leases guaranteed to 1991, irrespective of the amount of fuel sold or profit made; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

Yes, Sir. The criticism relates to leases, negotiated some,, ears ago which provided for predetermined increases in rent at intervals during the earlier part of the term. Agreements already made cannot be altered unilaterally, but my Department will seek to relate rents of new leases directly to the growth of business.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these agreements were very strongly criticised by two Select Committees of the House in the last Session? While we welcome his belated statement that agreements entered into by the Government cannot be broken unilaterally, does he not think that there is a rather extraordinary contrast between agreements with these rich oil companies, who are able to carry on for 35 years without any revision of the agreements, and an agreement with £9-a-week airport employees, which is broken unilaterally by the Government without any further thought?

If the right hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to inform himself, he will find that no agreement was broken in the case of the airport workers.

How came it that the right hon. Gentleman, or one of his predecessors, was so daft as to enter into these agreements? Can they really not be revised when by implication he admits that they ought now to be revised?

I would not suggest that a lease entered into by the Government ought to be torn up just because we think that we, or somebody else, might have arrived at a better agreement. There is substance in the suggestion that new agreements should be related to the volume of sales, and our agents are discussing that in the case of Prestwick.

The right hon. Gentleman advised me to inform myself before putting a question, but is he aware that I have fully informed myself on both the Public Accounts and the other Select Committee? Is he saying that there are no M-class employees at the airport when he says that no agreement has been broken? If there are any M-class employees at the airport, had he not better admit that an agreement has been broken?

The right hon. Gentleman is rather drawing this one in, but I assure him that no agreement was broken at London Airport, and I took the trouble to inform myself in detail.

Vertical Take-Off Aircraft

25.

asked the Minister of Aviation what orders he has placed for British vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Limited orders have so far been placed for research and development purposes.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this development we are way ahead of the rest of the world and that in all probability it will be adopted by N.A.T.O.? Does he not think that it is therefore worth while placing firm orders with our manufacturers for this machine so as to give R.A.F. personnel a chance of becoming acquainted with its operational utilisation, and also to stimulate the industry at a time when it needs it very badly?

I agree with the hon. Member that we are ahead of any other country in this development, but, as I informed him in an earlier reply, it is our intention to seek to develop the P.1127, which is a light reconnaissance vertical take-off aircraft, and we are hoping to do so in conjunction with the Germans. Discussions to that end are now going on.

Can my right hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to promote further research and development into the Short S.C.1 system for V.T.O.L. aircraft?

In the case of that aircraft, the Rolls-Royce vertical lift engine is being jointly developed by ourselves, the Germans and the French. It is just the typical joint development which makes sense in this type of project.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that while it may be right to make a joint development of this aircraft, vertical take-off aircraft are probably to be N.A.T.O.'s most important requirement of any type of aircraft? Will he pay great attention to this crucially important matter for the whole British industry?

Yes, Sir, certainly. I share the right hon. Gentleman's view. I think that we are in a leading position, and I shall certainly do my best to see that we maintain it.

European Satellite Development Organisation

26.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on his plans to develop a European space launcher.

A Convention for the establishment of a European satellite launcher development organisation was prepared at a conference held in London from 30th October to 3rd November. In addition to the United Kingdom, the following countries were represented at the conference: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and Spain. Observers representing Norway, Sweden and Switzerland were also present. The Convention has been sent to the Governments concerned for consideration.

At this stage, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is true that the European launcher development organisation does not propose to launch an operational satellite? If it does not propose to do it, can he say within his plans who is to do it?

I am not quite clear what the right hon. Gentleman means by "operational satellite". The objective of this organisation would be to develop a launcher capable of putting satellites into orbit, and, in the process of that development project, it would put up a number of trial satellites.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any comment to make on the latest reported move of the United States to offer launchers for the use of European countries, with the result that both Italy and Germany have withdrawn from this organisation?

I have no information about Germany or Italy or anybody else withdrawing from this organisation. They have not joined it. At the moment we have agreed a convention. We have agreed the technical proposals. These have been circulated to relevant Governments, including those two, and we are hoping to have an answer from them before the end of the month.

Commercial Aircraft Companies (Pilots)

27.

asked the Minister of Aviation how many pilots, formerly employed by British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways, are now employed as pilots by commercial aircraft companies; if, with a view to ensuring maximum safety in civil aviation, he will ascertain and state how many of these were dismissed by the public corporations, or required to resign; and for what reasons they were so treated.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer to the second part of his Question on 23rd October, 1961.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer was merely that the information was not available, so that it is not very helpful to refer me to it? While I entirely accept that pilots move from one job to another for all sorts of reasons, and that most of them are doing a first-rate job, whether for the Corporations or the companies, is it not rather disquieting if a pilot is sacked by a Corporation for sheer incompetence and then turns up a few weeks later in charge of a charter aircraft, as has happened in at least three cases? Is not that directly relevant to the general question of air safety?

If the hon. Member would like to send me particulars of individual cases, I will look at them. But I think that the House might take the view that we do not want to start a witch hunt, so that every time a pilot changes his employment he has a black mark against him.

A man may reasonably wish to change his employment. He may wish to get promotion to captain. It is not right in those circumstances to say that he should carry some blot upon his character.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to find out the information? Will he also find out how many independent charter airlines are running charter services and inclusive tours and bringing in part-time pilots and crews in the summer period, often from other jobs, to operate aircraft and equipment with which they are not conversant?

It would not serve a useful purpose to criticise British aviation in quite such sweeping terms. In point of fact, with the full approval of the House, we lay down the most stringent rules about the testing of every pilot, whether he flies for the Corporations or the independent airlines, and the tests are precisely the same for both.

Is it not a fact that every pilot is licensed by the Ministry of Aviation to fly particular types of aircraft and is not allowed to fly other aircraft unless he undertakes proper conversion which is properly checked, and that every pilot is medically tested twice a year by medical officers qualified to carry out these tests?

I think that our British pilots are the equal of any pilots in the world today.

Order. There are a number of Questions still to be answered. We really must get on.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to delay you further, but may I seek your guidance on a matter arising out of the Minister's answer to me? He used a customary formula in asking me to send him particulars of individual cases. Am I right in believing—and I think I am, because I have taken the advice of the authorities of the House in respect of another case—that I am not protected against a possible action for defamation in a case like, this, since the decision of the House on the case of my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss)?

I will look at that. I would rather not say anything about it straight off. I do not at present think that there is an exact parallel, but I would rather like to see how right the hon. Member is.

Mr. Speaker, this is a question to which you ought to direct yourself. Due to the case to which my hon. Friend referred, Ministers have many times stated that they wish particulars to be sent to them, being fully conversant with the rule that Members cannot do that because of qualified privilege. It is therefore very hard on these occasions to have the inquiries which we many times request.

Ministry Of Health

Midwives

28.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that, bearing in mind the sometimes arduous character of the work of midwives, especially in country districts, the disparity between their wages and those received by district nurses is equitable; and whether he will make a statement.

Salaries are a matter for the Whitley Council, but district midwives in fact are paid substantially more than district nurses.

I am aware of both those facts, but is the Minister aware that it is the opinion of responsible people attached to or working with this profession that there should be some stimulus to recruiting district midwives? Is it not a fact that there is relatively little difficulty in recruiting district nurses but substantial difficulty in recruiting midwives? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into this?

Yes, Sir. It is important that the district midwives should be up to strength, but the number of midwives coming into practice is steadily increasing.

Chemists, The Hartlepools

29.

asked the Minister of Health how many pharmaceutical chemists are operating under the National Health Service in Hartlepool, West Hartlepool and Seaton Carew.

Five, 21 and none.

Can my hon. Friend say how many have closed down because they have opted out of the National Health Service, because the pharmaceutical chemists are thoroughly fed up with the present attitude of the Ministry? For weeks and months they have been trying to get a reasonable increase. Will my hon. Friend look into the matter again?

I take it that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to Seaton Carew, which is a small seaside resort. In that case, I know that one pharmacist has closed down due to lack of business, but as regards the general question of pharmacists, I would prefer my hon. and gallant Friend to put down a Question on that.

Leprosy

31.

asked the Minister of Health how many cases of leprosy have been notified in this country during the past five years; and how this figure compares with the previous five years.

One hundred and ninety-three in England and Wales from mid-1956 to mid-1961. This was 17 fewer than in the previous five years.

Does not this reduction in the number of cases of leprosy in the past five years make absolute nonsense of the scandalous propaganda adopted by both Fascist and Conservative candidates in the Moss Side by-election, designed to frighten people into supporting the Government's measure to control immigration on the grounds that leprosy was on the increase in this country due to the increase in the number of immigrants?

Order. I do not see how the Minister of Health can be responsible for propaganda.

In order to allay public anxiety on this matter, may I ask the Minister to make sure that a public apology is made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. F. Taylor) to his constituents?

Doctors (Emergency Service)

37.

asked the Minister of Health how many emergency night call services for general practitioners are now operating.

Is it not time that the Ministry had a policy with regard to emergency night services for general practitioners? If these are good things, ought not the Minister to sponsor them through local executive councils so that they can be organised by the medical profession? If they are bad, should not the Ministry make a statement to that effect?

I agree that some form of control is necessary, and I am considering with the profession what form it could best take.

National Health Service (Expenditure)

40.

asked the Minister of Health whether it remains his policy to limit the annual increase of expenditure on the National Health Service to 2½ per cent. for the next four years.

42.

asked the Minister of Health what plans he has to limit the expenditure on the public-financed health services by a fixed amount; and over what period he is planning such a limitation.

The Government's intentions regarding increases in Health Service expenditure remain as announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 26th July.

Did not the Minister, in the course of his Lloyd Roberts lecture, state that the increase in the expenditure on the Service should be limited to 2½ per cent. for the next three or four years? Does not this mean that had this limit been imposed in recent years there would in fact have been a progressive annual cut in the Service? Is it his intention that the Service shall be cut during the next four years?

No, Sir. The statement that I made was a repetition of the statement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The increase in real expenditure on the Service in recent years has been broadly of this amount, but, as the hon. Member knows very well, the real increase in the effectiveness of the Service is by no means to be measured by the total sum spent on it year by year.

If the Minister is to adhere to this ceiling of 2½ per cent., will it be in terms of real money, and will he make some adjustment for it, or will it be a straight 2½ per cent.?

Will the Minister make clear whether the 2½ per cent. includes any increases there may be in wages and salaries? He talked in one breath about the real increase and in another breath about the overall increase. Which is it to be?

The words used by my right hon. and learned Friend, in the passage which I quoted, are "in real terms".

Hospitals

Mental Hospitals (Children)

34.

asked the Minister of Health, if he is aware of the general concern aroused by the case of a 10-yearold girl, who, instead of being placed in a special school for maladjusted children, has for seven months been the only child in a mental hospital with 1,200 mentally ill adults; and, in view of occurrences in the past of a similar character, where boys and girls have been detained with mentally ill adults, how many further cases there are of children under 13 years of age being kept with adult patients in mental hospitals.

I am aware of this case. As regards the second part of the Question, figures are not available in this precise form, but at 1st April there were 202 mentally ill children under 12 in psychiatric beds and about 260 places in wards for mentally disturbed children under 13.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the sorrow suffered by parents who have children of this sort? Does he not think that it is a terrible indictment that these parents have to go to such lengths and to the courts before something is done to take their child out of this hospital? As he knows, there is a great shortage. Is it not right that in this affluent society something should be done to change this great shortage of accommodation for children of this type?

On the particular case, the hon. Gentleman has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for whom—

I am referring to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. He has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about the particular case to which he referred. If he looks at the figures I have given, he will see that there can be only a very few instances—though I agree it is always undesirable—when a child of this kind is in an adult ward.

Is there not one important lesson to be learned from this unhappy case, which is that there is in this country a serious shortage of accommodation for psychotic and grossly maladjusted children? Will the Minister do what he can to see that regional hospital boards meet this provision better than they have done hitherto?

I must repeat that the evidence is that it is very rare for a child of this kind to need to be accommodated in an adult ward. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will look at the figures.

Handicapped Children, Sheffield

35.

asked the Minister of Health, what are his proposals to help the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board to find permanent hospital accommodation for the 100 mentally handicapped children who require hospital treatment.

Accommodation for 126 children is now being built at Balderton and for 80 at Aston-on-Trent.

I do not know whether the Minister has the wrong district. The Question relates to the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board area. Does the Minister realise that the parents of these children, with the best will and greatest amount of love in the world, are unable to cope with them at home, especially when there are other children? To say that the accommodation will be found in the near future is most unsatisfactory. Will he do something now—never mind the future—to find this accommodation for these children?

I told the hon. Member that over 200 places are now being built in the region.

I am certain that throughout the region there will be a greater number of cases than the number of places to be found, and I therefore impress on the Minister again that he must do something in this matter, otherwise there will be quite a big noise created by the people concerned.

Senior Registrars

39.

asked the Minister of Health what immediate proposals he has, following his acceptance of the Platt Report and his discussions with the medical profession, to solve the problem of the time-expired senior registrars.

The Joint Advisory Committees on Senior Registrars, which Boards are to set up, will be asked as a first charge to review existing time-expired registrars in the light of the recommendations of the Report.

Questions To Ministers

On a point of order. May I ask for your advice, help and guidance, Mr. Speaker, with regard to Question No. 44, addressed to the Minister of Labour, and in my name, which I put down when this Parliament started its new Session three weeks ago? Week after week it has been on the Order Paper, but it has not been reached. As you can see, it concerns the question of unemployment among dock workers. Cannot something be done to see that Questions of this kind, addressed to important Ministers, are given a better chance than they are being given at the moment? The Minister of Labour answers in this House only on Mondays, and for the last three weeks—and this will make a month—he has not answered a single Question in this House.

Two matters are involved in the hon. Member's request. The first concerns the arrangement of Questions. We usually do this by virtue of what is thought to be the consensus of wishes of the House. Directly one Minister is promoted, in the same way another is de-promoted, and there is trouble all round. The present arrangement was arrived at in that way.

The other point is that the House should get on a little better with Questions. I acknowledge my own continued failure in the matter, and I ask hon. Members to do better at being brief in asking questions.

Orders Of The Day

Transport Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

3.34 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if I say which Government speakers will take part in the debate. Tonight, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will wind up the debate; tomorrow, the Financial Secretary will open the debate and will concentrate, naturally, upon the financial provisions, and tomorrow night my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will finally wind up the debate.

On a point of order. Am I to understand from what the Minister has just said, Mr. Speaker, that a Scottish Minister will not take part in the debate?

I regret to say that I did not hear what the Minister was saying, because I was engaged on other business.

The hon. Member is quite right; a Scottish Minister will not take part.

The Bill deals with the reorganisation of the British Transport Commission.

I do ask for the indulgence of the House. This is a very large Bill, and it will take a long time to explain.

It is a major Bill, of some length and complexity, but its main provisions were in the White Paper which was approved by this House last January. There is no doubt that the heart of the problem is British Railways. They are in serious financial trouble. Last year, their gross receipts were £478 million, but they spent £546 million, leaving a loss of almost £70 million on revenue account alone, which is 15 per cent. on turnover. But there are other problems as well. For example, the canals are not viable in their present form.

Do the figures to which the Minister has referred include Scotland?

Canals are not viable in their present form. The docks are being inquired into by the Rochdale Committee. London Transport also has special problems.

To all these questions there is no easy or quick solution, but it is quite clear what must come first. The task of running all these activities at present is too big a job for any single authority. The British Transport Commission is overloaded with work. Reorganisation, financial reconstruction, and a different climate of operation are urgently needed. To provide for these is the purpose of the Bill.

Even though there are 91 Clauses and 142 pages, three clear principles run throughout the Bill. The first is that each main field of the Commission's present activities must be placed under a separate authority. Each authority must have clearly-defined responsibilities and be equipped to concentrate on its own set task.

The second principle is that each of the new undertakings must have a separate financial constitution and identity. Each will, therefore, be vested with its own assets and be responsible for its own capital debt and financial performance. The third principle is that there must be greatly increased commercial freedom. This will not come about only from organisational changes: outdated statutory restrictions must be removed. There must be greater freedom to fix prices, and there must be more scope to develop and make the best use of publicly-owned assets.

I now come to the new structure, set out in Part I. British Railways, London Transport, Inland Waterways, and British Transport Docks will each be a separate statutory authority, with appropriate powers and duties. The rest of the Commission's undertakings are different, because they are ordinary commercial companies operating road haulage, buses, shipping and travel agencies. They are generally in competition with similar companies in private hands.

On a point of order. This is very important. Here is the Minister, opening a debate dealing with the whole of these islands, and telling us that a Scottish Minister is not to speak. I want to know whether Scotland is to have a separate authority—whether one of the authorities to which the Minister is now referring will be a separate authority for Scotland.

On the matter of the point of order, if the Minister does not give way the hon. and learned Member may not remain upon his feet.

As for the rest of the hon. and learned Member's intervention, in the interests of the House and in view of the fact that other hon. Members desire to speak, I venture to put forward the view that we should get on better with fewer interruptions.

But is not there an anomaly in a situation where a Minister is dealing with a Bill referring to the whole of these islands and has said explicitly that a Scottish Minister will not speak? Surely he should give way in order to deal with that point.

I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not usurp the time of the House by urging, in the form of a pretended point of order, that which does not raise a point of order.

Does the Minister appreciate that there is very deep feeling in Scotland at the fact that over 200 trains are being withdrawn and many branch lines threatened with closure? Can he give us some Scottish figures so that some of us will be able to talk intelligently to our constituents on the matters he is dealing with?

If I were allowed to make my speech it might be found that I shall be mentioning something about Scotland. I did not wish to mention this point, but perhaps I may point out that the Opposition do not have a Scottish Front Bench speaker for this debate. Therefore, I do not think that it lies with the Opposition to criticise the Government in that respect. [Interruption.] The Leader of the Opposition is making sedentary interruptions, but he has not arranged for a Scottish Opposition Front Bench speaker.

Because I have been given the list of hon. Members who are to speak from the two Front Benches.

Does the Minister realise that it is not the Opposition who are responsible for closing down all these lines in Scotland?

The right hon. Gentleman is being too disingenuous. If he had Scottish interests at heart he would have arranged for one of the Opposition Front Bench speakers to be a Scotsman. All the Front Bench speakers represent English constituencies, one being on the North-East Coast. There is nobody from Scotland. It is clear that some of the complaints ought to be directed against the Leader of the Opposition.

We ought to try to dispose of this point now. The Leader of the House will be aware by now that there is a feeling that a Scottish Minister should speak, as I think the Leader of the House will find he has spoken on previous occasions.

May I put this point to the Leader of the House and to the Minister of Transport? The present Secretary of State for Scotland is a former Minister of Transport. There can be no one who knows better than he what the effect of this Bill will be in Scotland. May I, therefore, repeat the plea that we should hear from the Secretary of State for Scotland what the effect of the Bill will be on Scotland?

Mr. Speaker, could you confirm that an Act of Union was passed about two centuries ago? I raise this because we are too frequently subjected to these sorts of interruptions which upset the flow of debate. Surely we are now one kingdom.

I suspect that points of order which are not points of order are a nefarious form of interruption.

Further to that point of order. Did not the Act of Union guarantee certain rights to Scotland?

It was not a point of order, so there is nothing further to it as a point of order.

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, you will be aware that the question of the rights of front benchers as against back benchers was raised with you the other day. Is it not anomalous that the Minister should give way to one of our front benchers and refuse to give way to back benchers?

If the hon. and learned Member again rises to a point of order which is not one, I shall be compelled, in the protection of the common interests, to consider my disciplinary powers.

If I may be allowed to continue, I was talking about the ordinary commercial companies.

Will the Minister allow me to interrupt him again, to press this matter? There is a genuine feeling about this. All I ask at this stage is that the Minister should consult the Leader of the House and tell us later today whether we are to hear from the Secretary of State for Scotland on this important matter?

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is present and will no doubt have heard the exchanges which have been going on.

If the Minister does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

I think that it would be the general wish of the House that I should continue.

The ordinary commercial companies, which operate road haulage, buses, shipping, and travel agencies, are similar to the private companies in the same fields. I think that they would thrive best in a commercial climate which is the same as that of their private enterprise competitors. Therefore, these commercial companies will be grouped under a Holding Company which will operate, as Clause 29 says, as if it
"were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise".
I now propose to deal with each of the four statutory boards and then with the Holding Company. I shall try to show the way in which my three principles apply to them. I will deal, first, with British Railways. Preparing the Bill has made me more than ever convinced that the railways should be controlled and managed by an authority solely devoted to them. This was the conclusion at which a Select Committee arrived. The new British Railways Board must be free to concentrate on those matters vital to the railways as a whole. The Board will, however, need to be relieved of the pressure of those day-to-day matters of management and operation which can best be carried out down the line. That is why Clause 2 provides for regional railway boards.

Let me get one point quite clear. In practice, getting the right balance between central control and effective devolution of authority is not an easy matter. The central Board must control directly those matters which are vital to the railways as a whole—for example, national wages negotiations, price policy, investment, modernisation, and the purposeful reshaping of the railway system. On the other hand, there must be some effective devolution—quite a lot, in fact. This will free the central Board for its main task and it will also give management and workers responsibility and opportunity.

I am positive that it would be wrong to write into a Bill a rigid definition of the relative responsibilities of the central Railways Board and the regional railway boards. There really must be flexibility and not a rigid blueprint. But one thing is clear. The central Railways Board must decide what it will delegate to the regions and when. Therefore, the Bill so provides, subject only to the general approval of the Minister.

We must bear in mind that although the new Board is taking over a unified system of railways, the shape and balance of this system is not under the Bill fixed and rigid for all time. The future of British Railways depends upon its ability to adopt itself to modern circumstances. As the Prime Minister indicated on 10th March last year, sweeping changes will be needed. The duty to be placed upon the Railways Board has been drawn with this in mind.

This Board will also be responsible for other services closely connected with railways operations, such as the railway collection and delivery services, the packet ports and those shipping services which are really extensions of the railways. All these will continue to be treated as part of the railway system. The Board will also inherit certain other powers contained in existing legislation. But these powers must not lead to the development of services not necessary for the efficient conduct of the railways as a whole. Therefore, their use beyond their present point will be subject to the Minister's consent.

One of the ancillary activities will, after all, be hotels.

The White Paper proposed that hotels should be placed in a separate company under the Holding Company. Further study has shown that the balance of advantage lies in putting the hotel company under the Railways Board. Not only are some hotels bound up physically with the railway system, but economies can be secured by running the hotels alongside the railway catering services. The hotels will still be separately incorporated with their own set task. Thus we shall, amongst other things, be able to assess their financial performance.

I turn now to commercial freedom. All fares and charges, except for passenger fares in London, will be removed from the control of the Transport Tribunal. Railways, like most industrial enterprises, will now, in the main, be free to shape their own commercial and price policy. They will also be freed from a number of statutory restrictions and obligations, which oblige them to provide certain facilities and services regardless of whether they pay. The railways will also be freed from their common carrier liabilities. They will also have new powers to make better use of their assets.

At present, they cannot develop their land for sale or lease. Therefore, the Bill provides that not only the Railways Board but also the other boards shall be able to develop land which is not required for the purposes of their business. This does not mean that the railways will be able to go in for general property development on a scale likely to distract them from their main task. A formidable task faces them. They will not be able to acquire additional land for general development by compulsory purchase, and they will need the Minister's consent to any substantial expenditure.

The Railways Board—and the other boards—may construct and operate pipelines on their own property and also on the property of the other boards. Railways and Inland Waterways possess between them long stretches of land very suitable for pipelines. But the development and operation of pipelines is to be the subject of general legislation. Therefore, the exercise of this power will be subject to the consent of the Minister.

I now turn to London Transport. Clause I of the Bill provides that there is to be a quite separate authority. Its task, set out in Clause 7, is
".. to provide or secure the provision of an adequate and properly co-ordinated system of passenger transport.."
for the London area. This is a big job and surely merits a separate and independent organisation.

The main operating pattern of London Transport was laid down in 1933. It would be wrong not to have considered at this juncture whether any changes are necessary in the interests of the travelling public. I have reached the conclusion that the main running powers of London Transport should continue as at present and that the London passenger transport area should remain un-changed. But at present the London Transport Executive operates beyond that area, although within established limits. These services may continue but, of course, however, within these established limits passenger demands may change.

Therefore, the Bill provides that the Board shall have rather more freedom to seek the approval of the Traffic Commissioners to meet new public needs, subject always to suitable protection for other operators. In addition, if there are really exceptional circumstances, the Minister will have power to enable the new Board to seek authority from the Traffic Commissioners for particular extensions of its services.

On the other hand private operators to whom the Board has refused consent to run in the London area will now have a right of appeal to the Metropolitan Traffic Commissioner. To get fuller use from London's buses in the general public interest, the Bill enables the Board to hire out to other operato