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Written Answers

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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Written Answers To Questions

Thursday, 23rd November, 1961

Commonwealth Relations

Commonwealth Disaster Force

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what consideration has been given to the proposal by the Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, a copy of which has been sent to him by the hon. Member for Chigwell, of a Commonwealth Disaster Force equipped, and maintaining a Commonwealth inventory of resources, to deal with earthquake, famine, flood and other calamities.

The proposal to which my hon. Friend refers is contained in a letter which appeared in the Sunday Times of 19th November. This does not appear to be a practical proposal if only because the organisation suggested would cut across the work already performed in this field by the Red Cross. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Red Cross for the speed and efficiency with which they are able to mobilise relief when disasters occur and to express the Government's gratitude in particular for the help which they have so willingly given within the Commonwealth.

Education

University Students (Loans)

21.

asked the Minister of Education if he will give the number of students who, over the last three years, have applied to the local education authority for a university award, and have been refused, but have been offered an interest-free loan.

University students assisted by loans from local education authorities in England and Wales in the three years 1957–58, 1958–59, 1959–60 numbered 105, 95 and 119, respectively. I cannot say how many of these students had been refused an award or how many of the loans were interest free.

Grammar And Comprehensive Schools (University Entrants)

23.

asked the Minister of Education what reports he has received showing the percentage of pupils at grammar schools and comprehensive schools, respectively, who secure entrance to universities.

In 1960 11·6 per cent. of the leavers from grammar schools and 1·3 per cent. of those from comprehensive schools intended to enter a university.

Teachers (West Riding)

asked the Minister of Education what is the percentage of unqualified teachers who are working in the schools of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

In January, 1961, out of a total of 21,441 full-time teachers in primary and secondary schools maintained by the eleven local education authorities in the West Riding of Yorkshire, 715 or 3·3 per cent. were unqualified. About half of these were uncertificated and supplementary teachers; the remainder were mainly temporary teachers, most of whom were waiting admission to training colleges.

Nubian Monuments

asked the Minister of Education when he intends to make an announcement on Great Britain's contribution to the United Nations project for the saving of the Nubian monuments threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I have given today to the hon. Member for Poole (Sir Richard Pilkington).

Ballroom Dancing Classes

asked the Minister of Education how many students of ballroom dancing were among the women students attending evening institutes in the years 1949–50 and 1960–61.

Figures for enrolment in ballroom dancing classes were not asked for before 1952–53, and were discontinued after 1957–58 as part of the policy of confining detailed information about further education classes to those which led to a recognised qualification. In the period 1953–54–1957–58 enrolments in ballroom dancing classes of both men and women fell from 69,000 to 32,000.

Malta

Constitution

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if he will initiate discussions with the leaders of the previous Government of Malta with a view to breaking the existing deadlock over a new election; and if he will give an assurance that further steps, beyond those contemplated in the report of the Blood Commission, will be taken towards ensuring self-government of the island.

I am not aware that a deadlock exists and, as I informed the hon. Member on 9th November, arrangements are going ahead for elections to be held from 17th to 19th February. It has never been suggested that the new constitution represents the final stage in Malta's constitutional advancement, and I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) on 7th November.

Hong Kong

Electricity Supply Companies

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Hong Kong Government have yet made a decision on the main recommendation of the Hong Kong Electricity Supply Commission's Report, dated January, 1960, to take into public ownership the two electricity supply companies in the Colony; and whether some alternative arrangement has been concluded.

Kenya

Famine Relief

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how much dried milk has now been supplied by the United Kingdom for famine relief in Kenya.

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to supply British-produced milk products to alleviate famine in Kenya; how much has been despatched to date; and how much he intends to despatch in the foreseeable future.

Kenya's immediate requirements for dried milk are being met by 400 tons from the Agency for International Development of the United States Government now en route from Alexandria and a further 600 tons which are being sent from the U.S.A. The Kenya Government have also gratefully accepted a gift from the Oxford Committee of 5 tons of dried milk from British sources for its immediate requirements, and a gift of 200 tons from the Milk Marketing Board for its longer-term needs.

Land Settlement Scheme

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultations during the past month he has had with Mr. Michael Blundell, the Minister of Agriculture in the Kenya Government; and whether he will make a statement.

After discussions with Mr. Blundell, acting on behalf of the Kenya Government, Her Majesty's Government have agreed to the following principal changes in the provision of the land settlement scheme announced in September. Land will now be bought on the basis of one half down payment in cash plus three equal annual instalments, and when the contract of sale is entered into, the vendor may have a "once for all" option to receive payment of the instalments in sterling. If the vendor opts for payment in sterling the promissory notes will be expressed in sterling.I hope that these changes, which will involve discharging H.M. Government's commitments to the schemes over a much shorter period than was originally thought, will contribute to the success of this very important scheme.

Secretary Of State (Tour)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will visit the Northern Frontier Province during his forthcoming tour of Kenya.

No; I am afraid that I shall not have time to visit this Province, but I shall be seeing in Nairobi delegations from that area.

British Honduras

Famine Relief

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to supply British-produced milk products to alleviate famine in British Honduras; how much he has despatched to date; and how much he intends to despatch in the foreseeable future.

Fifty tons of Dried Milk, provided free by the Milk Marketing Board, and 10 tons supplied free by the "War on Want" organisation, have been shipped to British Honduras. The supplies of milk products which have been sent from this and other countries are, I understand ample to meet the situation until normal trade channels are restored.

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Fowl Pest (Report)

42.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will publish the Report of the Committee under Sir Arnold Plant on Fowl Pest.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave him on 6th November. My right hon. Friend will publish the report as soon as he can after it has been submitted to him.

Fishery Protection (Soviet And Polish Trawlers)

43.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action is being taken to check poaching by Soviet and Polish trawlers off the Yorkshire coast.

Fishery protection vessels have been patrolling the area throughout the main fishing season, but I have had no evidence of such poaching.

Trade And Commerce

Hire Purchase

46.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, if he is aware of methods of canvassing for the sale of hire-purchase goods, which result in documents being signed for goods not required, on which the conditions of payment are often impracticable; and if he will introduce legislation to make it a condition of hire-purchase contracts that they can be revoked within four days and that, in default of payment, the recovery of the goods and the loss of instalments paid will be the sole penalty.

I am aware of the feeling that some individuals are tempted into over-committing themselves in hire-purchase agreements. I understand that the Committee on Consumer Protection has announced its intention of reviewing certain aspects of trading by bire purchase. When I have the Committee's report I shall be in a better position to see what, if any, action is needed.

National Finance

Wages, Salaries And Dividends

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now give a date for the ending of the pay pause.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement on 21st November by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Excess Rents

50 and 51.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury (1) why returns for excess rents made for the forthcoming year during the financial year are not accepted on the basis of subsequent amendment at the end of such financial year which is the first time when actual figures are available;(2) why returns for excess rents requested in the preceding April and provided during the subsequent year are not accepted without the issue of assessments considerably in excess of the returns made, which necessitates appeals against such assessments.

The practice referred to by my hon. Friend has been found convenient in some cases, as a means of avoiding a 12-month delay in assessing any liability in excess of that for the previous year. If my hon. Friend will send details of any case he has in mind I will look into it.

Income Tax And Surtax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give the total Income Tax and Surtax payable by a married man earning £2,000, £3,000 and £5,000 per year in 1951 and 1960, respectively.

If the man had no other income and no dependants other than his wife the tax would be £613 10s. 0d., £1,201 0s. 0d. and £2,551 0s. 0d. for 1951–52 and £454 5s. 6d., £855 13s. 4d. and £1,891 5s. 8d. for 1960–61.

New University (Lancaster)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now state the location of the fourth new university.

Yes. The Government have accepted the advice of the University Grants Committee, who considered a number of possibilities with great care, that this university should be established at Lancaster.

Home Department

Nuclear Warfare (Civil Defence)

52.

asked the Secretary a State for the Home Department what he estimates will be the cost to the average householder of providing protection in or near his home against the dangers of nuclear warfare, in accordance with the advice made available by his Department; and whether any grant will he made towards such expenditure.

The reply to the first part of the Question is that no worthwhile estimate can be given, since the individual circumstances would vary so much, and the work would be carried out in emergency with the materials most readily available. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir".

Spectacle Frames (Flammable Material)

55.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that highly inflammable material is being used for spectacle frames; and if he will take action to prevent its use in the interests of safety.

I am aware that cellulose nitrate is used in the manufacture of some spectacle frames, but I am advised that for practical reason it is not in all circumstances possible to use a non-inflammable substitute. Only one other case of spectacles catching fire besides that recently reported by my hon. Friend has come to notice since 1957. I am writing to my hon. Friend.

Middlesex Fire Brigade

56.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent the Middlesex Fire Brigade is below strength; and what steps are being taken to remedy the deficiency.

The Middlesex Fire Brigade is at present 236 men short of its whole-time establishment of 1,461. Responsibility for remedying this rests primarily on the Middlesex County Council as fire authority. I know that they are fully alive to it.

Immigrants

57.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the not inflow of immigrants for the 10 months ended 31st October, 196; from which countries they principally came; and how the figures for the respective countries compare with those for the corresponding period of 1960.

The following are the figures:

ESTIMATED NET INWARD MOVEMENT DURING THE FIRST TEN MONTHS OF
19601961
West Indies43,46057,700
East Africa2302,300
West Africa— 1555,045
Cyprus2,5505,820
Gibraltar— 300— 330
Malta— 1,230500
Aden240120
Hong Kong3651,650
Malaya— 440530
Singapore— 60850
India4,13018,300
Pakistan1,31019,280
Ceylon— 920480

NOTES

1. A minus sign denotes a net outward movement.

2. Figures are not available in respect of other Commonwealth countries.

Anti-Semitic Literature

58.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to check the importation, by postal services and otherwise, of anti-semitic literature emanating from the continent of Europe; and whether he will make a statement.

A careful watch is kept on the distribution of literature of this type. I do not think, on the information before me, that any further action is called for at present.

Prisoners (Strait-Jackets)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will detail the general circumstances in which strait-jackets are used in Her Majesty's Prisons; and whether appropriate treatment by tranquillising drugs is used as an alternative.

In accordance with Rule 49 of the Prison Rules, 1949, a loose canvas restraint jacket, of a pattern approved by the Secretary of State, in which the arms are held down the sides, may be used in prisons when it is necessary to restrain a prisoner suffering from a mental disturbance to avoid his injuring himself or others, or damaging property, or creating a disturbance. It may only be used on medical grounds on the written order of the prison medical officer.If the jacket is kept on for a period of 24 hours (apart from short temporary releases) it must then be removed for at least one hour and may not be reapplied without the authority in writing of a member of the visiting committee or board of visitors, or a commissioner or assistant commissioner. Standing orders enjoin that every effort must be made to avoid recourse to mechanical restraints, and full particulars of each occasion must be recorded and reported; these are summarised in the Commissioners' Annual Reports.Tranquillising drugs may be used as an alternative in appropriate cases.

Local Government

Gypsies

59 and 60.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (1) in what way his Department is informed of the position in England and Wales of people living in unsatisfactory conditions in caravans, shacks or motor vehicles; and if he will take steps to obtain more detailed information, as the situation is now deteriorating;

(2) if he will request all local authorities to supply him with details of problems involving gypsies and other travellers with a view to securing co-operation where necessary to find a satisfactory solution.

So far as my right hon. Friend is aware, there is nothing in the present situation which makes investigations of this kind necessary. This is essentially a problem to be dealt with locally. My right hon. Friend thinks he can rely on the local authorities to let him know if they encounter any special difficulties.

Wireless And Television

625-Line Television System

61 and 62.

asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether a decision has yet been reached on the introduction of 625-line television; and, in view of the fact that a private firm T.R.A. Electrical Ltd., in a document, a copy of which has been sent to him by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, have published official information regarding the date of introduction of this system, which is still confidential pending his decision, what action he has taken to ascertain whether special information reached this firm as a result of the work of the Television Advisory Committee;(2) to what extent the question of sites for 625-line ultra high frequency transmitters has been considered by his Television Advisory Committee; and, in view of the fact that a private firm, T.R.A. Electrical Ltd., have issued a statement, a copy of which has been sent to him by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, in which it is claimed that sites for such transmitters have been purchased in many large cities, what action he has taken to ascertain how confidential information on this matter was made available to this firm.

As I have already said to the hon. Member in my letter of 10th November, no decisions have been taken in regard to the future of television pending receipt of the Pilkington Committee's Report. The Television Advisory Committee have not considered the detailed siting of U.H.F. transmitters, or a starting date for a 625-line system. While some existing television station sites may be suitable for U.H.F. transmitters on either 405 or 625 lines, neither the B.B.C. nor the I.T.A. have bought U.H.F. station sites. There is thus no official information on which the statements referred to by the hon. Member could have been based.

Treaty Of Rome

63.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what consideration has been given to the range and extent of the repeal and amendment of existing legislation which would be necessitated by adherence to the Treaty of Rome; and if he will make a statement.

A detailed examination of the legislation which would be necessary is being made. This cannot be completed until the outcome of the negotiations is known.

Parliamentary Commissioner

asked the Attorney-General what proposals he has, following his study of the report of Sir John Whyatt, concerning the need for a Parliamentary Commissioner; and if he will make a statement.

The report has only recently been published and the Government need more time before they can reasonably be expected to be in a position to define their attitude towards the far-reaching proposals contained in it.

Pensions And National Insurance

War Pensions (Leaflets)

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the numbers of leaflets recently issued by his Department to war pensioners explaining their various entitlements, the numbers of inquiries which he has received to date directly as a result of those leaflets, and the numbers of such inquiries which have resulted in the award of some increase in assessment or supplementary allowance.

About 632,000 leaflets have been specially issued to war pensioners, and by 31st October some 13,000 pensioners had made inquiries. The great majority of these inquiries which relate to benefits are still under consideration, but by 31st October 58 increases of assessment had been made and 234 new or increased supplementary allowances awarded.

National Assistance, Middlesex

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what were the numbers of weekly payments of benefit made from each of the offices of the National Assistance Board in Middlesex in October, 1961, as compared with October 1960.

I presume that the hon. Member is referring to weekly grants of National Assistance. At the dates given the numbers of such grants current in the administrative areas of the National Assistance Board situated wholly within the County of Middlesex were as shown in the table below. These areas do not cover the whole of the county: other small parts are served, along with parts of the counties of London and Hertfordshire, respectively, by offices in Hampstead and Barnet.

Area OfficeNumber of weekly grants current
End of October, 1960End of October, 1961
Acton3,7793,861
Ealing5,1075,101
Enfield6,9556,955
Finchley3,6273,604
Harrow4,2804,282
Hendon4,2364,218
Hounslow4,7354,825
Tottenham5,4885,689
Twickenham3,6103,554
Uxbridge4,6664,784
Wembley5,5695,805
Wood Green4,5194,504

Science

Ussr Nuclear Tests (Statement)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether he will now issue a statement explaining in simple terms the nature and extent of the hazards expected as a result of fallout caused by recent Russian tests of nuclear devices.

The nature of a nuclear bomb explosion

When a nuclear bomb explodes in the atmosphere it creates an intense fireball which behaves rather like a vast hot air balloon and rises at high speed taking with it much of the debris of the bomb and possibly some earth from under the bomb, depending on the height and size of the burst. When the debris comes down, possibly adhering to particles of atmospheric dust, it is called fallout. Fallout contains many radioactive materials, and the two which have given rise to the greatest concern for the health -If the individual are Strontium 90 and Iodine 131. Both these materials are liable to become concentrated in certain parts of the human body, Strontium 90 in bone and Iodine 131 in the thyroid gland. Iodine 131 gives off radiation, but after a few weeks this becomes negligible. Strontium 90 continues to give off radiation for many years. In addition, the possible genetic effects of the radioactive materials in fallout, particularly Caesium 137 and Carbon 14, need to be considered.

The deposition of fallout

The amount of fallout from a particular bomb and where and when the fallout is deposited are governed by a number of factors. These include the kind of bomb, the height and location of the explosion, and the wind and weather conditions both at the time and for some time afterwards. A 50-megaton bomb does not necessarily produce fifty times more fall-out than a 1-megaton bomb. The height reached by the debris is important. Debris left in the lower atmosphere will be swept along by prevailing wind and weather and will fall to earth near the explosion in a few hours, and at greater distances in a matter of weeks. Debris which reaches very great heights, however, may take years to come down. Most of the debris from very large bombs is likely to reach great heights so that when it comes down most of the Iodine 131 will have disappeared. It is difficult to predict how much Iodine 131 will reach us from any bomb. This depends very much on the weather pattern, especially the direction of the wind during the few weeks when Iodine 131 is important. Because of its long life most of the Strontium 90 will, however, eventually come down, though over a period of years; the most rapid deposition from the present series of tests is not expected before the spring of next year.

Health and genetic risks

On reaching this country fallout shows first in samples of the air. It is, however, so much diluted that it is relatively harmless to breathe.

Fallout is deposited on crops, grass, soil and open water, and the rate of deposition is increased by rainfall. For practical purposes, it is the radioactivity which finds its way into fresh milk which is of the greatest importance. This is because for much of the year cows obtain their food by grazing large areas and, therefore, consume relatively large quantities of radioactive material. The risk is much reduced in late autumn and winter; even in those parts of the country where cattle remain on pastures, grass is a less important part of their diet, and other foods are much less contaminated by any fallout which has recently arrived.

Iodine 131

The possible risk from Iodine 131 in cows' milk is likely to be limited to children under one year old. This is because the thyroid uptake is greatest at the age of six months and because Iodine 131 is concentrated in their very small thyroid glands. As they grow older the size of the thyroid increases so that Iodine 131 is less highly concentrated. For this reason the risk to older children, even the one to five year olds, is very much less.

Strontium 90

Strontium 90 also gets into the body largely in milk. Once in the body it finds its way into the bones where it remains many years. This is why particular attention is paid to levels of Strontium 90 in milk and in the bones of young children who are growing rapidly.

Genetic effects

Radiation exposure may produce genetic effects, that is effects which may show up in succeeding generations. So far as these genetic effects are concerned, the most important components of fallout are Caesium 137 and Carbon 14. These may give rise to general irradiation of the body, including the reproductive cells, both from outside and from within after ingestion in food.

The effect of the Russian tests

During the current series of tests the Russians have so far exploded over 30 bombs in varying sizes up to about 50 megatons. From this series the total energy released is greater, but not much greater, than that of all tests in the years 1957 and 1958. Thus the yield of radioactive materials which produce fallout may well be comparable with the total yield from all tests in those years. The actual fallout may be less for many reasons such as the debris from very large weapons rising to such great heights.

Monitoring programme

The situation is being carefully watched. Fallout is analysed thoroughly and frequently. Samples of air and rainwater are analysed at an Atomic Energy Authority laboratory at Harwell and public drinking water supplies by the Government Chemist. Some of the air samples are collected by aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

Milk samples are collected at more than two hundred centres throughout the British Isles which handle over 40 per cent. of the country's total milk supply. This milk is analysed for radioactivity at the Agricultural Research Council's Laboratory near Wantage, which also monitors samples of other foodstuffs.

The forms of analysis described above together enable timely warning to be given of any likely risk to health. Reports are made frequently to the Government and the advice of the Medical and Agricultural Research Councils is always available.

Levels of risk

Leading scientific authorities advise the Government on the levels of Iodine 131 and Strontium 90 which the human body can carry without undue risk. These authorities do not believe that the recent bomb tests, including the 50-megaton bomb, will cause Strontium 90 in human bones to reach the level of risk. There is, therefore, no need to avoid milk because of Strontium 90. An equal assurance could not at first be given regarding Iodine 131 because the amount which reaches the earth's surface depends so much on the nature of the explosions and on the weather in the ensuing few weeks. The Government therefore prepared plans to make dried and evaporated milk available for all young children under one year of age should the need arise, and the monitoring of Iodine 131 in milk was intensified.

No special measure would be called for unless, in any large area of the country, the average concentration of Iodine 131 in milk were to reach 130 micro-microcuries per litre over a period of any year, of 260 micro-microcuries per litre over six months and so on. This means that if the level on any one day reached 130 micro-microcuries per litre it would have to stay at this level for a whole year before the milk created a risk to health, even to a child of one year or under. This level has been set so as to give a margin of safety both in the most vulnerable age group in the population (children under one year) and for people in places where the Iodine 131 is above average.

Throughout the country the quantity of Iodine 131 which has so far entered milk is less than one-sixth of that which would give rise to the level specified by the Medical Research Council, and it has not reached one-quarter in any major region. More Iodine 131 must be expected to arrive during the next few weeks; changes in the weather may even cause the levels for a short time to exceed the average for the past weeks. However there is now no likelihood that the bomb tests which have so far occurred will cause the quantity of Iodine 131 in milk produced in any part of the country to reach that which could make it unsafe even for very young children.

It is not yet possible to predict the total additional dose of genetically significant radiation to which the population will be subjected by the current series of Russian tests, but from what we know of those which have already taken place this dose might be comparable to that incurred from the test explosions which had taken place up to the end of 1958. In 1960 the M.R.C. assessed this dose for the current generation of thirty years as being just over one per cent. of that received from natural background radiation, and concluded that the genetic effects of such a dose would be likely to be very few by comparison with those spontaneously arising in the population from other causes. The genetic effects of natural background radiation are themselves believed to be very few.

The present situation

The Government are satisfied that no special measures are necessary to protect the health of any section of the population from the fallout from nuclear weapons which have so far been exploded. Milk throughout the country is safe for children of all ages. The Government will, however, maintain in readiness their plans to give the public ample warning if danger threatens in the future and to provide safe milk for babies should the need ever arise.